April 2007

I’m finishing grad school in less than two months, and I was telling someone recently how glad I am to have spent the time there. This is for a lot of reasons: I’ve enlarged my perspective, I’ve met people who work in my field, I’ve gained valuable knowledge and sharpened my skills. But, most of all, I was surprised to say that I’ve enjoyed being challenged—even being challenged about what I believe.

At the Catholic institution I attend, religion has not been even an afterthought in my classes. Few, if any, of my classmates are Catholic, and most of my professors aren’t either. But ethics and Truth—in the form of discussions about postmodernism, relativism, humanism—has been a recurring theme. So many times in these discussions, I’ve caught myself struggling, wishing I could return to a Christian environment where at least no one vocally questions Creation or the authority of Scripture or the sanctity of life. Yet, it is also in these discussions that I’ve learned to wrestle with difficult concepts that are increasingly prevalent in today’s world.

In a particular class I took this year, I was the only person who believed rules of English should be taught and one of two who believed professors shouldn’t use classrooms to push political agendas. I was the only one who admitted a belief in absolutes and the only voice of Biblical Christianity. If I, a Christian woman, hadn’t been in that class, there would have been no representation of what we know is Truth. I wonder how many American college classrooms are like that. Should not that alone make Christian young people—Christian young women—consider the mission field of secular education?

I recognize that academia is not the only place to come against these ideologies: as Christian women, we interact with the world around us through work, clubs, etc. But the classroom is the training ground for so many Americans; it is where they receive their fundamental beliefs. How can we impact that world without going to it?


Chewymom has recently posted some great thoughts over at her blog. After reading Finally Feminist, she asks the question, “What if we’re wrong?,” considering the negative outcomes of both the egalitarian and complimentarian views.

 She writes:

For each viewpoint–egalitarianism or complimentarianism–what if they’re wrong? If the egalitarians find out one day that they were wrong, what has ultimately been the consequence? I guess you could say it has resulted in an inaccurate portrayal of Christ and His church, since marriage is a picture of that. What else? Too much freedom has been given. Women have been allowed to do things that biblically, they ought not to do, like preach. Or maybe they have been allowed to serve communion. Or hand out bulletins. All in error.

What if the complimentarians are wrong? Then they have been guilty of oppression. They have held back an entire people group–half of the population of the earth, in fact. Not only have they kept women silent who may have a gift of preaching, which is the most obvious example of what women are currently not allowed to do, but they have not allowed women to hold the office of deacon, or to serve on committees, or in some cases to even hold certain jobs outside the church. Some take it so far as to treat women almost as property of the men they married.

Clearly I am not God, and I do not presume to be. I don’t want to sound like I know how He would react to any sin. But in my feeble human mind, I can’t help but think that the sin of oppression would be viewed a lot more seriously than the sin of granting too much freedom. In Jesus’s earthly ministry, He spoke against those who would oppress–the Pharisees. I wonder if my own denomination, the PCA, is going to find one day that they were guilty of oppressing women unbiblically? I don’t know. I’m still thinking through the issue. And for now, I’m wondering if one or the other view is in error, which is the most or least Christ-like?

Read more of her conclusions here.

 Personally, I tend to think that granting freedom would be the most Christ-like. However, at this point in my journey I consider women to have freedom within boundaries– I believe that Scripture forbids women from ordination and proclamation of the sacraments (though I know there will be some who will disagree), though I do think that women may teach and speak and sing  in church and hold jobs and be leaders outside of the church. But again, in that view, am I not granting women some freedoms they rightly deserve? I’m still not sure.

Christ came to set free the captors, and in the first century as well as in many societies today women were oppressed and considered little more than property. Jesus’ interactions with women in the gospels lead me to believe that though he had to work within his cultural boundaries, He knew that the Kingdom was coming in which there is no male or female, and that over time women would be released from certain bonds, though I’m still uncertain as to exactly what that means. What are your thoughts? What does freedom in Christ mean for women? As others have noted, is it something in between the two views mentioned above? And if both turn out to be wrong, then what is the right answer?

Columnist Kathleen Parker has an excellent article today about mothers in combat and she brings up something I think is worth pondering and discussing. Parker makes this statement:

“If our goal is to prevail, then shouldn’t we also consider other ramifications of putting women in combat and/or in positions of risk?  Those ramifications include women’s unequal vulnerability to rape and injury, as well as cultural attitudes toward women that may enhance their exposure to punishment or, alternatively, make them useful to our enemies…….Rape, though not a likely risk in this case, is a consistent argument against putting women in or near combat. While advocates for women in combat argue that men are also raped, there is an important difference. Women are raped by men, which, given the inherent power differential between the sexes, raises women’s rape to another level of terror.  What kind of man, one shudders to wonder, is willing to allow his country’s women to be raped and tortured by other men of enemy nations? None that I know, but our military is gradually weaning men of their intuitive inclination to protect women — which, by extrapolation, means ignoring the screams of women being assaulted.  At the point when our men can stand by unfazed while American servicewomen are raped and tortured, then we will have no cause to fight any war. We will have already lost.”

I agree with her assessment of women in combat and, truthfully, don’t think there is such a thing as a “noncombat job in the military” since every one in the military is trained to be a soldier and the ultimate purpose of the military in all instances is combat.  What I found really intriguing, though, are her comments on teaching young men to respect and protect women. 

I think she is making a valid argument and I am concerned as well.  But it seems to me that many Christians today react to this concern by saying that women need to be “protected” to the extreme, such as not going to college because of the physical dangers to young women or, as the teaching is in some Christian circles, to not allow a woman to go anywhere at all unaccompanied by a man.  The Islamic world believes that they are protecting their women by draping them in fabric and denying them basic human rights.  I am curious as to what this all says about women and men in the new milleninium.  Can women be expected to be protected by men today if they maintain some independence?  How does this work? As moms and sisters, how do we “train” young men for this?  Any other thoughts?   

Kimi asked some good questions while commenting about our mission statement.  Sallie and I think it deserves more discussion. 

This is what Kimi said: “I guess what I am trying to pinpoint is,what is it that makes you a woman? Does how you follow Christ look the same as your husband? Is the only difference biological? And, most importantly, how is that conviction based on scripture?  I do, by the way, agree that our ultimate calling is the same as our brothers-in-Christ. Like you said, Thatmom, “To me, there is one calling for all believers, to love God completely and others as ourselves. I suppose some would argue that that is a command rather than a calling. I think that the calling is the same for everyone, male or female, old or young, etc.”
I would agree with that. But do you feel that will look different in action in women and men?  I know that you don’t believe that woman should only stay at home, or never work. (I agree with you there. : ) ). But back to my question, what does it mean to be a woman, instead of a man? A big question, I know. But I think it is important one, because how we answer that shapes all of the smaller questions.”

Any thoughts?

All of the contributors have agreed to the following purpose statement:

The true woman of the new millennium seeks to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with her heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love her neighbor as herself. She is gifted by God with amazing and unique gifts and she is empowered by the Holy Spirit to use those gifts for His glory alone. As this true woman commits herself to the Word of God, she eschews the man-made stereotypes given to her in the past and delights in God’s distinctive calling on her life in her home, in the church, and in the world.

When I posted this purpose statement on my blog, one of my readers was curious as to the meaning of the part that I’ve bolded above. Rather than answer it on my blog alone, I thought it might be a good way for some/all of the TW contributors to “introduce” themselves a bit. By explaining why we believe this is true, the readers here can get to know us a little better.

So I guess that means I’ll start! But I’m only going to be brief and get the ball rolling instead of trying to thoroughly answer the question.

Everyone, both inside and outside of Christianity, has their idea of what a “godly” woman looks like. This has always been true. There has been the feminist, the sanctified soccer mom, the Victorian angel, the June Cleaver, the homeschooling and bake your own bread jumper wearing supermom, etc. Some Christians go so far as to make binding doctrine out of their view so that anyone who doesn’t live up to their (man-made) doctrine, obviously is less of a Christian.

Well, I personally eschew (avoid, shun) those ideas. Only through the leading of the Holy Spirit and through the written Word of God can I truly find out who God has intended me to be. I’m not interested in living any particular stereotype, whether Christian or not. Yes, there are small parts of all of those ideas listed above that I probably subscribe to on some level. But overall, I’m interested in being wise and discerning, making the best choices for my family whether they are popular in the church (or the culture) or not.

I refuse to be reduced to a label and a set of descriptive expectations when Christ has set me free for so much more than I can possibly imagine. While it might seem “safer” and that I am more “in control” of “doing everything right” if I “become” one of the stereotypical women so often lauded by others, I would much rather walk a thrilling and sometimes completely unexpected walk with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why would I want to settle for anything less?