Lost Women of the Bible: Eve Part I

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The Serpent Beguiles Eve. - Genesis 3:1, "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

Before I go into Carolyn Custis James’ perspective on who Eve was, let’s get a dose of some early church fathers’ view of her(and all women who came after):

Tertullian (c. 155/160-220 CE):

 Do you not believe that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives on even in our times and so it is necessary that the guilt should live on, also. You are the one who opened the door to the Devil, you are the one who first plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree, you are the first who deserted the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the Devil was not strong enough to attack. All too easily you destroyed the image of God, man. Because of your desert, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die.

(The Apparel of Women, Book I, Chapt. 1)

Tertullian (160?-220?): “Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.”

“God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error.”Luther

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
— Saint Augustine of Hippo, Church Father, Bishop of Hippo Regius, 354 – 430

Ambrose (339-97): “Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam… it is right that he whom that woman induced to sin should assume the role of guide lest he fall again through feminine instability.”

These quotes demonstrate the not-so-nice perspective Christians historically had of Eve, and therefore women.  I’m so glad there’s more to Eve than her sin of disobedience to God.  Let’s see what James says about Eve in Lost Women of the Bible.  She begins by acknowledging that we have lost sight of who Eve really was ~

 “The original Eve was lost in Paradise.  Sadly, instead of remembering her in those earlier days, the world’s memory of her was frozen in time at the worst possible moment – back in the Garden of Eden just as she swallowed a piece of forbidden fruit and served some to her husband.”

“A bite of fruit, and everyone forgot God’s stunning sixth-day assessment: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone'(Genesis 2:18).  We forget the woman he created as the perfect remedy for man’s lack.”

It rings true that  Eve has been viewed as a temptress who is responsible for bringing sin into the world.  This view has been over-emphasized and is unquestionably bad for women.  James goes on ~

“On the downside, we’re left with the impression of Eve as a temptress, which leads to the belief that women are morally weak and, if given the chance, will bring men down or seize control.  This is a fallen view of women.  On a more positive note, Eve is remembered as a wife and mother.  Yet even this poses something of a problem.  It means little girls must grow up before becoming what God created them to be.  Moreover, it excludes women without husbands or children.”

So being a “real” woman of God cannot consist of the definitions that have been popular recently; that you must be a wife, mother, and homemaker to be a biblical woman.  So how can we know the true Eve?  We have to start at the beginning with the reason the woman was created.

“If we want to recover Eve’s true legacy, we must begin where the Bible does – with her creation. ” 

God created Eve to be His image-bearer.  He also created her to be the man’s ezer – his strong helper.  She also shared the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth.  The dominion of the earth was given to her and the man together(Genesis 1:26-28) ~

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”


I love reading these verses.  There’s no question about it; God made men and women to work together.  Men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus; we’re from earth, created in God’s image.  There’s nothing in these verses about the woman being easily deceived, more emotional, or more suited to childcare and housework.  What is clear is that men and women were created to work together in what James calls, the “Blessed Alliance”.  James comments on this in her blog post, The Blessed Alliance ~

“At creation, God created his image bearers—male and female—to serve Him together as a Blessed Alliance in every sphere of life. The scope of their mission encompassed ‘all the earth’ (Genesis 1:26). Therefore God’s special blessing rests uniquely on this male/female partnership both in marriage and everywhere else (Genesis 1:28).

This divine mission is much deeper than deciding which view we hold on the role of women in ministry. It goes beyond logistical issues or efforts to figure out better ways of dividing the workload and getting along. The mission is bound up in how well we represent God to our fractured world.”

Eve was made because “It is not good for the man to be alone.”(Genesis 2:18).  The woman is the ezer kenegdo to the man, as in an ezer – strong helper/protector  kenegdocorresponding to/counterpart to.

There’s more to come about Eve in Part Two.

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The Gospel and Homemaking

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Here’s an interesting quote from the blog Girl Talk on the career of homemaking~

“Homemaking is a vocation often filled with mundane tasks and repetitive chores, most of which are performed in obscurity. It demands a colossal amount of serving and sacrifice. Sometimes between scrubbing toilets and laundering dirty clothes, we can lose sight of the significance of our calling. We look around and perceive everyone engaged in meaningful work. Everyone, that is, except us. And our vision for working at home begins to flag.

What we need is a biblical perspective. For in God’s economy, homemaking is a high and noble calling. By “working at home” we can present the gospel as attractive to unbelievers (Titus 2:4). Our homes can actually be a showcase for the gospel.”

I homeschool my kids.  I prefer to call myself a homeschooling mom rather than a homemaker.  If/when my kids go to school outside our home, I will get a job.  I’m here to homeschool, not to keep house; my husband and I share housekeeping duties.  I don’t view homemaking as my career, but if the Girl Talk ladies do, that’s their prerogative, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What I take issue with is this statement~

“By ‘working at home’ we can present the gospel as attractive to unbelievers (Titus 2:4).”

When I read this I think, Is that what Paul meant in his letter?  Did he really mean that homemaking is what makes the gospel attractive to unbelievers??  Probably not.  There’s evidence that because of the culture during this time, it would malign the gospel if newly saved women suddenly stopped working at home and went out in public and did whatever was deemed culturally inappropriate for their gender.  If women of the day behaved this way, the new and suspect religion of Christianity would get a bad reputation.

In our culture, it isn’t shocking for women to work outside their homes, to be homemakers, or to work from home.  I’m incredibly grateful to have this freedom to choose the kind of life I want.  But, if  I choose homemaking, I must remember this: homemaking doesn’t make the gospel attractive to unbelievers; love does.  Kindness does.  Gentleness does.  So maybe, instead of attempting to conjure up some June Cleaver duplicate, we should be thinking about what is appropriate behavior for respectable women in our culture right now.  What would make the gospel attractive in light of our modern culture?  That’s something to think about…

The ladies at Girl Talk have made their choice to be homemakers and I respect their right to do so.  What I challenge is the idea that homemaking is the way for Christian women to display the gospel to unbelievers.  There must be more freedom for us women than this statement suggests.

Lost Women of the Bible: An Introduction

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BIBLE WOMEN, Old and New Testament: stories, ideas, Bible study activities, historical background

I’m reading an excellent book written by Carolyn Custis James called Lost Women of the Bible.

Here is the book description from the Amazon page~

~”You know the women of the Bible, but you don’t know them like this… It’s easy for Christian women—young and old—to get lost between the opportunities and demands of the present and the biblical teachings of the past. They live in a confusing world, caught in the crossfire between church and culture. Although home and family still remain central, more women than ever, by choice or by necessity, are blending home, career, and ministry. They need strong biblical role models to help them meet these challenges. Building on solid scholarship and a determination to wrestle honestly with perplexing questions, author Carolyn Custis James sheds new light on ancient stories that brings the women of the Bible into the twenty-first century. This fresh look at the women in the Bible unearths surprising new insights and a powerful message that will leave readers feeling challenged, encouraged, and deeply valued. Rediscover and be inspired by: * Eve * Sarah * Hagar * Tamar * Hannah * Esther * Mary * and others”

Each chapter of the book is devoted to one Bible woman.  I’m going to write a summary of each chapter as I read, my purpose being to enlighten, encourage, and challenge us women to look deeper at what it means to be a “biblical woman”.  I hope to get a better understanding of the women of the Bible, whom I rarely hear about in sermons or in books written for Christian women.

In the introduction, James explains why she wrote the book.  To summarize, she grew up in a Christian home, a pastor’s daughter who attended church regularly.  James assumed, that as a Christian woman, she would become a wife and mom; this is what Christian women did, so she didn’t expect it to be different for her.  She would graduate high school, go to college, and find a husband.  But when she graduated college with no engagement ring, and a decade passed with Carolyn finding herself still single and childless, she began questioning her idea of what it means to be a Christian woman.  When she did eventually marry, she was surprised to find that her new husband didn’t want her to be submissive; he wanted a partner, a person with whom he could discuss ideas and make decisions.

James says as Christian women,

“we face a conundrum.  When we look at what the church is saying about women in contrast to the message coming to us from contemporary culture and from circumstances we can’t control, it seems that either we are out of step or the Bible is.  Given the vast opportunities, demands, and realities we face, not to mention our differing gifts and personalities, the Bible’s message for women seems wooden and limiting.  The pattern for women handed down to us in the church simply doesn’t fit all sizes and shapes that women come in these days.”

I can relate to this in my own life and in witnessing the lives of other Christian women.  When my marriage didn’t turn out the way I thought it would(it turned out better!), when motherhood wasn’t as natural to me as I thought it would be, and when I realized that I absolutely HATE cleaning and organizing(homemaker fail!), I thought, what’s wrong with me?  I questioned my purpose as a woman.  I read books, read the Bible and prayed.  I then realized it isn’t me; it’s the limited options I was presented with concerning what it means to be a Christian woman.  I have also seen Christian women’s personalities and gifts crushed in the role of homemaking, motherhood, and submission, as it is a limiting role they don’t fit into well.  The gifts of women are sometimes put to better use outside of the home and motherhood role, they just don’t know it because it hasn’t been presented as an option.

Custis says of women in the Bible,

“Looking closer, I began to see many women who, like me, didn’t fit neatly into the traditional paradigm.  Strong women like Tamar, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Priscilla, and Junia have always posed problems for interpreters because biblical writers clearly admired these women and held them up as outstanding examples of godliness even though their conduct broke with accepted convention.  They were daring, took the initiative, and courageously exercised leadership, even in their interactions with men.”

I find this statement comforting and intriguing.  Christian womanhood(or biblical womanhood) is more than being a wife and mother(both wonderful things), and it’s more than being a submissive helper.  I’m excited to find out about Bible women who were “daring, took the initiative, and courageously exercised leadership”.  I believe the Church needs more women like this, who aren’t held back by a limited view of what it means to be a Christian woman.

The first chapter of the book delves into the life of Eve.  That will be the subject of the next post in this series, Lost Women of the Bible.

Towards Biblical Equality: A Guest Post by Margaret Mowczko

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Towards Biblical Equality – My Story

For the first 15 or so years of my life, like many people in Australia with a Dutch background, I belonged to a church that was part of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia.  All of my relatives attended this church; and, until year 4, I even went to a school started by the Dutch Reformed community.  Male primacy was continually modelled in church life and family life.  We were  taught that authority and leadership was for men only, and I largely believed it. [1]

Early Ministry

When I was about 10 years old, I made the decision to become a Christian.  From that moment I knew that I wanted to devote my life to serving God.  Nothing else seemed nearly as important or worthwhile.  Even though the desire to serve God was (and is) strong and persistent, I never once thought about attending a Bible college or seminary to become a minister.  The thought never entered my head – not even for a second.  I was a girl; and in the 70s and early 80s I had never seen or heard of a female minister.  The only examples I had seen of women in ministry were of missionaries in third world countries, or  ministers’ wives.  Neither of these options seemed appealing or appropriate to me.  I often talked to God about how I, as a female, could minister and serve him.

With a compelling and unrelenting desire to serve God, but with no personal ambition for “formal” ministry, I involved myself in whatever ministries were available to me.  From my mid-teens I volunteered at camps, taught Sunday School and played music in church services and small groups.  I was also fairly outspoken about my faith at school and work, even though in all other regards I was extremely shy.

Early Married Life

I started attending an Assemblies of God church when I was 21 years old.  I met my husband Pete there, and we were married when I was 22.  Even in this church we were taught that the husband was “the head of the house” and “the priest of the family”: two phrases that simply do not exist in Scripture.[2] I was perfectly content with these ideas, however, because I believed them to be Biblical.  And so I entered marriage with the full intention of being a good, submissive wife.  I was quite willing forfeit all leadership and decision-making to my future husband.[3]

Ironically, my desire to be a completely submissive wife was tested within hours of making my wedding vow.  Our Master-of-Ceremonies at the wedding reception had brought an axe wrapped in toilet paper to the reception.  He thought it would be a good joke if Pete and I cut the wedding cake with this axe.  Pete also thought it would be a good joke.  (We were all very young at the time.)

Our wedding cake had been a gift to us.  A lady in our church had made it herself as a loving gesture.   The work, the expense and most importantly her love, hacked into by an axe?  I simply couldn’t agree to this.  I was so disappointed that as a brand new bride I was already insisting that my husband not go ahead with something he wanted to do.  It wasn’t difficult to dissuade him; but I was very disappointed that my plan to submit to my husband “in everything” (Eph 5:24) had already been tested and I had failed.[4] (I actually find this story quite amusing in retrospect.)

I read lots of books during the first couple of years of marriage about how to be a good, submissive Christian wife; but my husband was not keen on my earnest efforts to be the perfect wife.  He just wanted me to be myself.  He also wanted to just be himself.

My husband felt the pressure to be the “priest” of the home, and I contributed to this pressure.  It was not a role he was comfortable with.  I, however, found it easy to pray and read the Bible with our young sons every night, and bring God into our family life.  At times I actually felt guilty about doing this because I thought that I might have been usurping my husband’s role.  I now realise how ridiculous my guilty feelings were.  Everyone in the family benefits when the father and mother share and allocate the responsibilities and chores of family life according to talents, temperaments and abilities, and not according to rigidly defined gender roles.

More Ministry

The Assemblies of God church that we belonged to was very supportive of my ministry as a singer-songwriter.  I also began leading a women’s Bible study group there and I started teaching Religious Education in schools.  When my boys were still very young we moved to the Central Coast of New South Wales to help a new congregation that our church had started.

For the next two decades Pete and myself ministered at a more leadership level at different churches.  Pete was primarily sought out to be an elder or head deacon, and I would usually end up being the music director.  I would frequently, as a soloist, sing songs that had messages in them, but I still didn’t think that, being a woman, I should speak or preach messages, or teach or lead men.  I turned down invitations to lead Communion because of my gender.  It was only later that I realised that my thinking was illogical.

My thinking allowed me to sing and lead worship without any qualms, but it did not allow me to speak in a public setting.  Is there a difference between singing a message or speaking a message? I really don’t think so.  This confused rationalisation reminds me of people who have allowed women to minister and speak on foreign mission fields but not in their own home church setting.

Reading the New Testament in Greek

When I was in my mid-40s, I began to feel that God was leading me towards a more influential, leadership role in church.  My understanding was that this role was not open to women.  As I began reading the New Testament in Greek, I started observing that passages which spoke about ministry were gender inclusive; yet these same passages, in English, seemed to exclude women.

Reading Romans 12:6-8 in English, and then in Greek, was a real turning point for me.  I had read this passage in the NIV (1984 edition) which begins with, “If a man . . .”  It then lists some ministries (including leading and teaching) interspersed with eight masculine pronouns.  I looked at this passage in the English and thought, “No – leadership is for men only, not for women, not for me.”  I then looked at the same passage in the Greek and saw that there was no “man” mentioned at all, no masculine pronouns, and that there was no gender preference being asserted here.  I was truly shocked and saddened by the gender bias in the NIV (1984 edition) which made this passage seem to exclude women.  Romans 12:6-8 is in fact just as gender inclusive as numerous passages which speak about salvation; just as gender inclusive as John 3:16, for just one example. [The NIV 2011 edition translates Romans 12:6-8 more faithfully.]

Being able to read the New Testament in Greek was a real eye-opener for me in regards to how I viewed the topic of Women in Ministry.[5] I saw that scripture passages that spoke about spiritual gifts and ministry gifts were gender inclusive in the Greek: that these passages neither preferred men nor disqualified women in regards to leading or teaching, etc.[6]  I saw that the Apostle Paul actually loved and valued women ministers, and that he was not at all the chauvinist that some claimed him to be.[7]  I also saw that several women ministers and women house church leaders were even mentioned by name in the New Testament – names that I had previously overlooked: names that are rarely mentioned in most churches.[8]  Sadly, I also saw that most English translations of the New Testament are unfairly biased against the concept of women in ministry, and so this gender inclusivity, that is clear in the Greek, is obscured in many English translations.

Ministry and Marriage Now

The desire to serve God wholeheartedly has never left me, and, with my new understanding of equality in ministry, I decided to study for a degree in theology a few years ago.  [I’ve since completed this degree and am working on a second.]  I hope this will lead to more opportunities to minister.  This may be as a church leader, or it may not.  I am not sure where the next phase of my life’s story will take me.  In the mean time I continue to be involved in various ministries.  I feel a tremendous amount of freedom and joy as I continue to serve God without the constraints and complications of traditional gender roles.

Our marriage was not easy in the first few years, but, over the past decade in particular, our marriage has been very strong and very happy!  Both my husband and I believe in complete equality in marriage and we live in mutual submission to each other.  Our love, care and respect is reciprocal.  There is a lot of comfort, freedom and joy in our relationship. I have been very blessed in my husband!

I truly believe that the church[9], and even the world, would be in much better shape if godly Christian men and women could minister together as equals and be treated as equals.  If the western, Evangelical Church could embrace the counter-cultural values that Jesus taught, and lead the way in gender equality within the family, church and society, I believe that there will be some overflowing affect that will benefit women of other cultures where the subjugation of women is particularly oppressive and even brutal. I am personally very saddened that the Christian church is not leading the way in demonstrating and promoting full gender equality.


The following are some of my personal views on topics related to Christian Egalitarianism or “Casteless Christianity”:

Women in Ministry

At this present point in time, as I continue to study the New Testament in Greek, (and after having read numerous books and articles on both sides of the Women in Ministrydebate), I can see no scriptural reason for excluding a suitably gifted and called woman from any sort of leadership role, function or office. [My article on 1 Timothy 2:12 in Context here; my article on Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35here.]

Christian Feminism

I avoid the word “feminism” and its unfavourable, militant connotations.  My greatest desire as a young woman was to be married and have a family, and I am very grateful that I was able to realise this desire at a relatively young age.  I am also very grateful that I could be a stay-at-home mum.

Even though my sons are now grown, my family remains the focus of my life, my prayers and my ministry.  I have never had strong ambitions career-wise, (not that having a career is necessarily a negative or unbiblical desire.)

I am only a feminist in that I believe that God’s ideal is for complete equality, affinity and unity between men and women, especially between husband and wife.  I much prefer to be labelled as a “Christian Egalitarian” or a ”Casteless Christian”.

Submission in Marriage

I believe that God’s ideal in marriage is mutual submission, where both the husband and wife treat each other with mutual love, care, consideration and respect.  [My article onSubmission here.  My article entitled Submission and Respect in 1 Peter 3:1-6 here.]

God’s Gender

I have a problem with some Christian Feminists and Biblical Egalitarians who over emphasise the feminine qualities of God.[10]  The God of the Bible is a genderless spirit; he is neither male nor female.  Yet it is important to note that both male and female human beings – together, more fully express the nature of God (Genesis 1:275:1-2).  (One of my friends describes God as being “gender-full”.  Perhaps he is correct.)

I am very happy to stick with the Biblical metaphors that describe God.  I have no desire to call God “mother”.  Nor do I think it is helpful to use feminine pronouns for any of the three persons of the Trinity.  [My article Is God male or masculine? here.]

Equality and Androgyny

One fear that the opponents of Biblical equality have is that if we allow the complete equality between men and women this will lead to gender differences becoming confused or indistinguishable.

I personally find this argument ridiculous.  I love being a woman.  I love being a mother.  I love being feminine.  And as a woman I see no reason why I can’t be an effective leader in my family with my husband, or an effective church leader, if that is what God has called me to.

Homosexuals in the Church

The connection of the issue of homosexuals in the church with the issue of women in ministry is something that annoys me no end!  There is very little relation between the two issues, except that they seem to have appeared at roughly the same time.[11]  The opponents of Biblical equality – Hierarchical Complementarians – often bring up the issue of homosexuals in the church and associate it with the issue of women in ministry.  This clouds both issues and brings confusion.

Defining Masculinity and Femininity

John Piper, perhaps one of the best known Complementarians, has criticised Christian Egalitarians for not defining masculinity and femininity.  However his definition is extremely narrow, inadequate, and, I believe, inaccurate.  Piper has defined masculinity and femininity purely in terms of male leadership and authority, and female responsiveness and submission to male authority.[12]

In reality, leadership is not an ability or  quality that is solely tied to the masculine gender. Not all men have leadership ability, whereas some women have obvious leadership ability.   Moreover, women can be very effective leaders and still be feminine.  [My article on Paul’s Masculine and Feminine Leadership here.]

There is no doubt that, generally speaking, there are some significant differences between the genders.  Defining these differences, however, is quite tricky.  I like this observation by one of my friends: “Men are more action and role oriented, while women tend to be more intuitive and flexible”.  While there are – no doubt – numerous exceptions to this statement,  I think this is just about the best general description of masculinity and femininity that I have come across.

Men and women are different in some ways.  That is why it is desirable and beneficial to have both as leaders in the home and in the church.  It is important to note, however, that men and women also share many similarities and it is divisive to separate the genders into two distinct categories.  In Christ we are one (Gal 3:28).


Endnotes

[1] I do remember one Sunday morning when the minister was speaking quite adamantly that women should be submissive.  I think I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time.  I remember looking around at the women in the congregation as the minister spoke.  The women were all sitting still, in their “Sunday best”, and looking very well behaved.  As the minister kept emphasising submission, I was wondering: What do the men want from these women?  How much more submissive can a person be?  Of course I had no way of knowing what was going on the privacy of people’s homes, and just how submissive these women really were in daily life, but I was already picking up on the injustice of being coerced into unilateral submission.

[2] Nowhere in Scripture does it say that the husband is to be the head or leader or authority of the house or household.  It does however say that the husband is the head of the wife.  In Hellenistic Greek (of which New Testament Greek is a subset), “head”  rarely has the metaphorical meaning of “leader” or “authority”.  There are several Greek words for “leader” or “authority” in the New Testament, yet  these words are never used for husbands.  Moreover, in reality, very few men, even Complementarian men, lead or run their house and family. [My article Kephalē and “Male Headship” in Paul’s Lettershere.]

[3] I’ve heard some say that Christian wives with overly romantic views of complete, unilateral subordination and service to their husbands are engaging in a form of idolatry.  I think they may have a point.

[4] Of course I did the right thing by not going ahead with the ridiculous idea of carving the wedding cake with an axe. I even have to smile that God was showing me a better way right from the very start of our marriage: mutual submission.

[5] I have had a long-held ambition to read the New Testament in Koine Greek.  About 10 years ago I started teaching myself Koine slowly – very slowly.  When free courses came on the internet, I did them.  In the past three years I have studied Koine and Classical Greek through tertiary institutions. Plus I annually attend a two-week summer school on advanced Koine run by the Macquarie Ancient Languages School, held at Macquarie University.

[6] Verses which mention Spiritual giftings: Ac 2:17-18Rom 12:6-81 Cor 12:7-11&27-281 Cor 14:26-33Eph 4:11-12Heb 2:4; and 1 Pe 4:9-11.  These verses do not exclude women.  Even 1 Tim 3:1ff is remarkably gender neutral, especially when compared to many English translations.  This passage begins with: “If anyone . . . ”  [My article on Paul’s Qualifications for Church Leaders here.]

[7] Paul mentions many women in his letters, often with fondness: Apphia (Phm 1:2), Claudia (2 Tim 4:21), Chloe (1 Cor 1:11),  Euodia (Php 4:2), Julia (Rom 16:15), Junia (Rom 16:7), Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1:5), Mary (Rom 16:6), Nereus’ sister (Rom 16:15), Nympha (Col 4:15), Persis (Rom 16:12), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Priscilla (Rom 6:3-51 Cor 16:192 Tim 4:19), Rufus’ mother (Rom 16:13), Syntyche (Php 4:2), Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom 16:12).  These women were actively involved in significant ministry, some as leaders. [My article on Paul’s Personal Greetings to Women Ministers here.]

[8] The following women are all church leaders mentioned in the New Testament: Philip’s daughters (Ac 21:9), Priscilla (Ac 18:26; Ro 16:3-5, etc)Phoebe (Ro 16:1-2), Junia (Ro 16:7), probably Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), Nympha (Col 4:15), Apphia (Phl 2), “the chosen lady” (2 Jn 1), “the chosen sister” (2 Jn 13), Euodia and Syntyche (Php 4:2-3), and possiblyLydia (Ac 16:40), etc.   Just as there have been good and bad male leaders, there were good and bad female leaders.  Sadly, the church in Thyatira was being corrupted by the teachings and false prophecies of a wicked and immoral female leader (Rev 2:20-24), as was, it seems, the church in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3-4 cf 2:12)

[9] I believe that the issue of equality has tremendous importance for the church and for individuals.  By greatly restricting ministry opportunities for women, the church has effectively halved the available personnel for its mission in the local community and in the world.  And by hindering (instead of encouraging) the efforts of women who have been called and equipped by God to minister as leaders, all women have felt constrained to remain in a limited, subjugated position within most churches.  Very few Christian women see beyond the boundaries prescribed for them by church leaders and denominations who have viewed New Testament teaching on women and ministry with a restrictive bias based on culture and tradition.

[10] In the Bible, the triune God is sometimes described with qualities that we associate more with masculinity (warrior, father, king) and at other times he is described with qualities that we associate more with femininity (a hen, the woman looking for her lost coin).  However God is neither male nor female, he is simply described in Scripture in ways that we can relate to, for our benefit.

[11] Throughout church history, whenever there has been a new move of God, women have been prominent in ministry along with men.  It is only when each new movement has become settled, institutionalised and conservative that women are deterred or removed from leadership roles.  Women in Ministry is not a new phenomenon!

[12] Piper, John, and Wayne Grudems (editors), Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Westchester, Il: Crossway Books, 2006.  Available online here. (Accessed March-May 2010) [This link is currently broken.]

© 18th of June, 2010; Margaret Mowczko

Why I Write This Blog

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I know I am misunderstood by some.  I know that some things I write and share might make some people wonder what in the world is going on with me, my husband, and my relationship with God.  I never wanted this blog to have a lot of personal things in it, like things about my family, but I think the time has come for me to open up a little bit.  I realize I am someone who thinks differently than many people around me.  I am grateful for my close friends who, despite perhaps not “getting” where I’m coming from all the time, have stood by me, loved me, and have even tried to learn along with me.

When I got married, I held to complementarian views, although quite loosely.  I was suspicious of the concept of submission, but was willing to at least attempt submitting to my husband’s leadership since this is what I was taught.  Through about the first five years of our marriage, I became a bit confused because our relationship wasn’t the “complementarian” ideal I thought it would be.  My husband is very easy-going and wasn’t “leading” me in all the ways I had been taught he would from books and at marriage conferences.  It’s not that he’s a bad husband(far from it), it just turns out that the submission/leadership model didn’t seem necessary for us.  Our relationship was shaping into a partnership.  We made decisions together, shared childcare and housework equally(when he wasn’t at work), encouraged each other to go out with friends and pursue interests without restraint or any emphasis on his “calling” over mine(we still function this way).  I began to question if the ideas of female submission to male leadership and the calling of motherhood and homemaking were really as biblically clear as I had been led to believe.

So I began to read, study, and ask questions.  I started to find that not all Christians adhere to these teachings, but they are still Bible-believing Christians.  I found out that the Bible has been translated and interpreted almost exclusively by men throughout history, and that the Church’s view of women was very bleak for a very long time.  I found out about the first wave of feminism, which was started by Christian women.  I began to wonder if what I had learned about women and men from a biblical perspective was as clear as some claim.  I also saw  how judgmental I had become of anyone who didn’t agree with my understanding of gender roles.

I have tried in the past to ignore my questions, to ignore the voice in me that says, “this isn’t right, this isn’t working for me”.  I’ve tried to ignore the pain I see other women enduring as a result of the doctrine of submission to their husbands, no matter what character flaws their husbands display.  But I cannot ignore these things anymore.  At some point I made a choice…I will ask questions and seek the truth.  I will pray, read, and study.  I decided to write about it so others who may be struggling with the same questions can see there is another view.  I chose to be vocal and put myself “out there” for all to see.

My motives are to seek the knowledge and wisdom of God, and to help women who are struggling with the effects of these teachings.   I want to know more, to dig deeper into the Word and find answers to my questions.

That’s where I’m coming from.  I’m not “losing my religion”.  I’m a concerned, loving person who wants all women and men to be free to be who they are in Christ.

I also welcome folks to ask me directly about what I think and believe.   You can contact me on facebook.  My only condition is that you are respectful and kind.  We might learn something from one another.

The Women in Combat Issue

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Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: Jeanne d'Arc,[2] IPA: [ʒan daʁk]; ca. 1412[3] – 30 May 1431), is a folk heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France.

Joan of Arc, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” (French: Jeanne d’Arc,[2] IPA: [ʒan daʁk]; ca. 1412[3] – 30 May 1431), is a folk heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France.

I have never been particularly concerned about women in combat.  I certainly don’t want to fight in any battles, but I’ve always thought that if a woman had the desire and ability to fight in combat, she should be able to.  Women in combat has been the talk of some blogs lately since the United States lifted the ban on women in combat.  Some complementarian evangelicals don’t like this at all.   Here’s an article written by Owen Strachan I came across last week.  I’d like to discuss a few highlights.

Strachan begins his article with an example of a woman who had a bad experience in combat.  She says she was physically unable to do the job, and suffered for it afterwards.  I find it valuable to listen to people’s experiences, but this is only one woman’s experience among the many who have already been in combat situations.  This isn’t enough to convince me it’s wrong for every woman who ever lived to not engage in combat.  (Many other countries have had women in combat for years, and here is a history of women in combat worldwide.)  Here are more links for women in combat.

Strachan continues with this assertion ~

~ “Scripture teaches that woman was made from man, a truth that grounds her dependence on him (Gen. 2:21-22).” 

Um, what?  Really?  So the logic is that since woman was made from man, she is forever dependent on him.  Women being taken from man proves no such thing.  Actually, I think it could be argued for men being dependent on women, since God made the woman because it wasn’t good for the man to be alone.   The truth is, we are all dependent on each other, and  it’s counterproductive for the Church to be arguing about which gender should be more dependent on the other.  But Owen Strachan doesn’t think so.  He asserts woman’s dependence on man as if there’s no argument whatsoever, as if this one verse in Genesis explains it all, when it actually doesn’t.  There’s no evidence in the Bible that women are supposed to be dependent on men.  There are examples of women who were dependent on men because of the patriarchal culture they were born into, but God never mentions this is the ideal in relationships for all time.  Strachan is reading something into the text that isn’t there, and passing it off as truth.

He goes on ~

~ “When Barak quails at the thought of battle against the Canaanites, Deborah promises that this abdication “will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9, ESV). We hear her scorn loud and clear, even as we hear the pounding of Jael’s tent peg into Sisera’s skull (4:21).”

Read the entire chapter here ~ Judges 4

Is the scorn “loud and clear”?  Maybe it’s just me, but this verse doesn’t necessarily convey scorn for women in leadership or in combat.  It’s possibly a rebuke to Barak for refusing to go without Deborah, whose counsel he obviously valued highly.  Or perhaps it’s part of the beliefs of an ancient culture that viewed women as property and baby-makers.  I really don’t know, and I question Owen Strachan’s assumption that this is God Himself showing scorn for women in leadership and combat for all time.  Strachan states this as if it’s an immutable fact and we don’t need to look any further.  He’s figured it out, because of this one verse in the Bible, that women should never be allowed in combat.  Look at Judges 5.  Where is the scorn for Deborah and Jael here??  You’d think it would be pretty obvious that if God was so upset about Deborah and Jael’s actions, He would have said something about it.  But no.  All we get is a poem of celebration and praise.

I honestly don’t know whether it’s right or wrong for women to be in combat.  It’s possible that the Bible doesn’t provide the answer to this question.  Some things aren’t “black and white”, as much we want them to be. The problem with Owen Strachan’s article is that he assumes things from the Biblical texts that aren’t actually there.  He reads his opinion into the text(which we all do at times), and then passes it off as a clear, Biblical truth, which can’t be argued with.

More from Strachan ~

~ “If men will not own this responsibility, then women will be forced to take it on as did biblical women such as Deborah and Jael (and the extrabiblical figure Judith).”

I find this statement degrading to women.  I have heard this idea before, that if a woman is in leadership it’s only because a man failed to take the position, so she had to step in.  It’s by default, not because she has leadership qualities and was the right person for the job.  God really wanted a man to do it, but He couldn’t find one, so He settled for a woman.  This devalues a woman’s efforts, gifts, and intelligence(not to mention what this says about the Sovereignty of God!).  It’s kind of like my husband saying(he would never say this, it’s just an illustration), “I really wanted to marry some other woman, but she said no, so I guess you’ll have to do.  How would I feel if he said this?  I would feel like I wasn’t wanted, not really.  I’m second choice.  He married me because someone else wouldn’t.  That’s what I think of when people say that God has only uses women in big ways because there are no obedient men around.

Again, it’s not that I particularly want to fight in a war, nor do I claim to know the correct answers to these questions.  I just think it’s wrong that this man(Owen Strachan) and probably others, are claiming to know the answers, absolutely, without question.  The Biblical evidence he presents is scant and could be subject to other interpretations.  He completely ignores cultural context, and in the case of women supposedly being created by God to be dependent on men, he actually adds to the text.  This is a dangerous game, and it should be exposed for what it is.

 

Concerns About John Piper

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John Piper has definitely written some great books, and many people have been blessed by his teachings.  Lately, however, John Piper is acting a bit strange.  He may lose support, with very good reason.  Go to the links, read, and decide for yourself.

~ The infamous, “endure abuse for a season” video.

~ His declaration that God gave Christianity a “masculine feel“.

~ His support for a faltering organization.

~ Or this post from 2007, which states that any man who endorses women in combat is a wimp.  Here’s a quote from the article ~

“Suppose, I said, a couple of you students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could. Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.” ~ John Piper

So let me get this straight…real “manhood” means letting someone get the tar beat out of him while someone who is competent to prevent the beating has to stand by and do nothing, because she’s a woman.  That’s  “Biblical manhood”?  Here’s a great response by Jenny Rae Armstrong on the subject ~

“The really interesting thing here is that while Piper acknowledges that gender stereotypes do not always line up with reality, and that clinging to traditional gender roles is not always the most efficient, effective way of getting things done, he insists that it is right to cling to them anyway, even at the cost of life, limb, and a competent woman’s conscience. It seems to me that this is because he views masculinity, femininity, and the relationship between men and women as symbolic, almost a Christianized version of Plato’s Theory of Forms. In this paradigm, the individual is subsumed by the ideal, the here-and-now human relationship by the eschatological one it points toward. It doesn’t matter if Sarah has a black belt, and Jason is physically handicapped in some way–the important thing is that they live up to some cosmic ideal of manhood and womanhood, as a way of representing God and humanity’s relationship with Him.”

I’m wondering, how many mistakes and missteps should we tolerate from prominent teachers and leaders before they lose credibility?  Are the things John Piper written and said in the past enough to cover the hurtful, even nonsensical things he has said lately?