Masters Thesis

The Masters Thesis I submitted during my graduate studies explains in detail my view of women and our place in this world and in ministry. Below is introduction. If you want to read the whole thing you can download it here.

INTRODUCTION

            The argument has grown tiresome, redundant, and frustrating: should women be allowed to hold leadership roles over men in the Christian Church? Many Christian leaders and biblical scholars have agreed to allow women in their pulpits, but many still cling to a view that makes the Apostle Paul look like a male chauvinist, who has given a universal principal that women are to be silent, and never hold a church office.   Many from the latter group are known as complementarians. Well known complementarian frontrunners, John Piper and Wayne Grudem, reason that the Apostle Paul taught that the husband/father figure of each family is ordained by God to lead his household, wife, and children. She and their children are to submit to his every rule, whim, and decision; life as they know it is a male dominated monarchy. Boys are taught to be strong leaders and providers, while girls are taught to be good followers and dependents. This may sound ideal to some, but families are not “cookie-cut” images of one another, and they certainly don’t always reproduce strong-willed boys and passive girls. Further, not all families have a father or a male figure in the equation. Therefore, if females are taught to be passive and dependent human beings, they will be unable to survive and provide for their families. Worse, many families endure the pain of an abusive father or male-figure who uses his power for evil, traumatizing both boys and girls under his “God-given” authority. These are all everyday, realistic scenarios that do not fit into the “complementarian box.”

Piper and Grudem justify their argument by pointing to various scriptures that designate God as “Father” to the universal Christian church, which is considered a complete “family in Christ.” Therefore, Christian families should mimic this same model at home. Dad gets to play God and be the king of the house, while mom represents the “Bride of Christ.” While the “Bride of Christ” is a beautiful expression of Christ’s love for His beloved Church, which is represented through His death, resurrection, and future return; it should not be forgotten that this heroic sacrifice was made for the sinful human-race, which desperately needed a Savior. Without it, all living beings are condemned to Hell. Jesus is coming back for His “Bride,” but do not be fooled into thinking gender will matter, because His “Bride,” which symbolizes the entire Christian church, is made up of broken men and women who were made pure and worthy by God’s grace, found in the atonement of Christ. In sum, Piper and Grudem challenge evangelical feminism with the notion that men and women are equal in value, but equipped by God to function in different roles. Male and female life-positioning represents an orderly and simple approach to submission; woman submits to man, man submits to Christ, and Christ submits to God.[1] While this argument may be appealing to some because it is clean-cut and logical to the human mind, there is an enormous amount of fault with this so called “biblical mandate;” mainly that God is not a man and men are not God!

While Jesus walked the earth as a male, He no longer has a gender. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all of one Spirit, representing both male and female attributes. Genesis 1:27 is clear that God created both man and woman in His image. God is just as much a Mother as He is a Father. Christ is not only a brother, but also the bridegroom of the Church. While this philosophy is less attractive and incomprehensive to the human mind, it is the truth of the Holy Bible. Complementarian point-of-view is clear-cut, but focuses only on select portions of Scripture. When studying the Bible as a whole, complementarian thought loses its validity and systematic attraction.

Since complementarians are responding to evangelical feminism, it is important to note what evangelical feminism is. Popular Christian feminist, Gail Ramshaw understands the dangers of the word “feminist” and defines healthy Christian feminism as “the wide range of theory and practice that affirms the full humanity of women.”[2] Understanding creation is crucial among Christian feminists. Genesis 1:26-27 represents no sort of subordination between male and female. Further, God states that He has created man in His own image. There is no indication that Adam had a specific gender before Eve entered the picture.[3] Though the Bible and this thesis uses masculine language, like “He” to write about God, it is simply a matter of writing style. While God is spirit and has no sexual gender, one can find imagery throughout scripture, which authors have used in an attempt to describe the “I am.”[4] While Piper and Grudem are correct that the Bible often calls God “Father,” one cannot ignore that God also sees Himself as a motherly figure as well. In Numbers 11:12, God is speaking of His chosen people, the Israelites, when He says:

Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that you should say to me, carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which you swore to their fathers (NASB)’?

 

Piper and Grudem have attempted to write a logical book, telling the world of a gender system, which to them, seems biblically sound. However, God does not hold a gender and any sort of biblical analogy that suggests He does, is simply intended to provide pictures to help the human mind conceive the vastness of God. Mary Evans states,

More explicit feminine terminology is used elsewhere with God being described as midwife, seamstress, housekeeper, nurse and mother. The fact that such feminine imagery is found at all in relation to God, means that we cannot really use the preponderance of the masculine imagery as an argument for differentiating between male and female in their relation to God, nor can we use it to support hierarchy in their relation to each other.[5]

 

While it is evident that men and women differ physically, emotionally, and intellectually, there is no data that supports men and women differing spiritually and in capability to lead. Regardless of gender, all individuals relate to God differently and encounter Him in unique ways.

Some Christian denominations refuse to ordain women based on certain Pauline passages in the New Testament, while other Christian denominations use Pauline passages to support the ordination of women in the Church. This is an obvious problem, not only in the Church, but also in the world, which often looks to the Church for life-answers. What kind of message is the Christian Church sending to the world in this ongoing and conflicting dilemma? While many Christ followers would argue that “women in leadership” is not a “salvation issue,” therefore it is acceptable for Christians to “agree to disagree” on this subject, it could be argued that “women in Christian leadership” is very much a “salvation issue.” Perhaps the belief, one way or another, does not affect an individual’s salvation, it does however, affect “the great commission” being spread throughout the earth.   It is a Christian’s duty to speak up for women who have felt a calling from God to be a leader within the Church over both men and women. This does not indicate that the Church should exalt female leadership over male leadership. Rather, it encourages women to do what God has called them to do. Within the first and second century, it is clear that females occupied every office of leadership within the Christian Church. Their ministry was vital in its foundations and remains strategically needed within the continuous growth of Christianity today.

Historically, it is important to recognize that as Christianity gained popularity in the Greco-Roman world going into the third century, more men became Christianized and the attempt to downgrade female leadership began. However, there is a substantial amount of evidence, which strongly suggests that the establishment and growth of the Christian Church is much due to first and second century women who were quick to take headship roles, even in the face of ongoing persecution.

[1] John Piper, Grudem, Wayne. Recovering BiblicalManhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 240-256.

[2] Gail Ramshaw, God Beyond Gender: Feminist Christian God Language (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1995), 3.

[3]Mary J. Evans, Women in the Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 12.

[4] Exodus 3:14.

[5]Evans, 22.