Paulcast: Paul and Women: Episode 1

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Kurt Willems, founding pastor of Pangea in Seattle, has a podcast exploring the theology of the Apostle Paul, author of 8-13 books in the New Testament (definitely 8, some others are ascribed to him but there are theories of other possible authors) and pillar of of our faith.  He has begun a series on Paul and women, from the position that Paul was an egalitarian, believing “that women have all of the possible skill, gifts, and mandate from God to serve the church in any leadership capacity” and that “women are also called to lead from their strengths in their marriages, family, and anywhere else in society.”

You can listen to episode 1: Intro and Junia here.

Here are some of my favorite bits from the episode:

  • We have perpetually limited/excluded the influence of our daughters in our church cultures
  • Could it be that you have been conditioned by a culture that says women operate this way and men operate that way, that perhaps what you feel about gender roles is more culturally conditioned than it is from Scripture
  • In the ancient world, women were almost universally considered inferior to men – temptresses, weaker, limited to the household, worthy mostly of submission to men
    • Rabbinic Tosefta: man prays in gratitude that he was not born a woman (t. Ber. 7.18)
    • The apocryphal book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (from about 180 BCE) states: a man’s wickedness is better than a woman who does good
  • Following the lead of Jesus, who elevated the role of women in his ministry, Paul seems to also elevate women
    • Galatians 3:28 – all are one in Christ Jesus
  • Sarah Bessey quote from Jesus Feminist: “In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates women. Women were a part of Jesus’ teaching ministry, part of his life.  Women were there for all of it….Jesus made a feminist out of me.”
  • Dan Kimball quote from They Like Jesus, but Not the Church, from a conversation with a woman outside of Church – “I feel the Church is very sexist, but I don’t believe Jesus was a sexist.  From what I have observed, women in the Church basically sit on the sidelines and are only able to work with children, answer the phones, be secretaries, and serve the men.  They seem to be given no voice.  The Church seems to only be a Boys’ Club but for adults.”
    • This opinion is highlighted by many who Willems talks with

On Junia: Paul says in Romans 16:7 “Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners.  They are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me.”

  • For a very long time, Junia became Junias in the manuscripts because of a patriarchal concern.  The earliest manuscript evidence we have shows that Junia was a woman.  Scot McKnight has an eBook Junia is Not Alone that Willems recommends.
  • Junia is called prominent among the apostles, and many say this means the apostles thought a lot of her, she was great.  But really, she was an apostle!  In the fourth century, we have these words from John Chrysostum:

“Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7): To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.

  • By this time, women had already lost their place in leadership roles.  The world had already imposed its patriarchal lens on the Bible.  Even John Chrysostum, who did not recognize women in ministry, recognized that Junia was an apostle.
  • It is a curious case that they were so threatened by Junia’s role that they changed her name in the manuscripts.  Chyrsostum is probably just scratching his head, saying, “Wow, maybe this is an exception to the rule.”

In upcoming episodes, Willems will be discussing particular passages in which Paul discusses women in ministry.  Subscribe and give him a positive review so others will come across this great podcast!


tumblr_m6jj46ZG9n1qak0uxo1_500Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  We love sharing egalitarian resources with you.  Fight the good fight with us by passing along our posts to your friends and followers!

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You are enough, your voice matters, and we love you!

The Transformative Power of Good Leadership

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There is a Ted Talk that I have watched several times over the past few years, and again this weekend.  While Benjamin Zander shares the transformative power of classical music, I am thinking of the transformative power of good leadership in Christian ministry.  Zander, a conductor, teacher and speaker on The Art of Possibility, is an inspirational example of true leadership – one who draws out the potential of others.  He shares this on his website:

“The best review I ever got was not from a music critic, but from my father. He was 94 years old at the time and completely blind. He attended a Master Class I gave in London and sat there in his wheelchair for about three hours. When it was over, I went to speak with him. He lifted up his finger in his characteristic way and said, “I see that you are actually a member of the healing profession.” It seemed to me the highest accolade.”

These 20 minutes may change your life:

 

d371f4e1531201afc673ceb8744e8040What moves me to tears when watching this is Zander’s belief in the beautiful potential in each person.  I cannot agree more.  We all are made in God’s image and have the capacity to rule over Creation, in His good design.  We were made to have dominion, to be powerful.  Jesus said that His followers would do greater things than He Himself (John 14:12).  There is so much possibility in each of God’s image bearers.

This vision of empowering others in ministry is not always present in our churches.  Our  leaders can be blind to the potential of others sometimes.  They see their own calling and gifts and understand leadership in terms of authority and corporate paradigms.  In our Western world, this may be the only model of leadership that we have ever been exposed to, limiting our ability to imagine a better way.  But the New Testament shows us an early church model of mutuality and inclusion. Paul, James, and the other NT authors teach us to consider others greater than ourselves, to lay down our lives in servant leadership, to each bring a contribution to corporate worship as the priesthood of all believers.

img_8124May more leaders emerge who view their communities not as followers but as fellow image bearers with their own callings, gifts, and the powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  May we not doubt the potential each believer has to spread God’s light and love in ministry.


The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors believes that you have a unique calling from God.  He has prepared good works for you to do.  Your voice is powerful and every voice matters.

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Naghmeh Abedini’s New Year’s Exhortation to the Church

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“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus

On New Year’s Eve, Naghmeh Abedini (who we posted about here and here) shared this exhortation on her facebook page:

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The full message says,

Happy New Year! May this be the year that the daughters of the Most High and the church rise up in one accord and say “Enough is Enough.”

May this be the year that we discover who we truly are in Jesus and that the knowledge of His Great Love for us sets us free and brings much healing to us and to the body of Christ.

I implore you church leaders to stand up for the abused and oppressed and say that it is not acceptable for daughters of the King to be used and abused in such a way . I implore you church leaders to stand up and keep leaders and heads of families accountable and say in one accord that it is not acceptable for those who call themselves Christians to be in such bondage to pornography, adultery, control and abuse. I implore you church leaders to bring back the discussion and the importance of repentance. I implore you church leaders to call the church to repentance and that we would turn from our wicked ways, and turn to God.

May this be the year that as the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we show the world what a true model of marriage looks like and that many would see the light and beauty of Jesus in our transparency and brokenness and that many would be saved.

Love you all! We serve a mighty King and He is in control.

 

Amen!  May it be so!!

Naghmeh links to an article by Gary Thomas, “Enough is Enough,” in which he denounces the abuse many women face in Christian marriages.  For instance, he says,

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and financial abuse are a silent epidemic in our country and around the world.  In the comments under Naghmeh’s post, she elaborates to say she believes that 70% of Christian wives are living with one form of abuse or another in their marriages.

10653672_540932686036868_4005151008959911077_nUnfortunately, most pastors are unequipped to respond appropriately to abuse.  My husband and I went through seminary and hardly heard a word about domestic violence in our classes.  Because women suffer in silence, trying trying trying to pacify their controlling husbands with submissive and meek obedience, pastors may never hear anything from a woman until she is reaching hopelessness and desperation.  And he will likely encourage her to do more, be more, suffer more for the sake of saving her marriage.  He will not understand the psychological impact of living in an abusive relationship for years.  He may bring both in for couple’s counseling, without personal expertise in abuse, and further damage the woman through treating this as a marriage issue rather than as the husband’s sin.

In conservative churches, where headship and submission are taught, women can be subjected to abusive relationships with no hope of relief.  Men have full reign to lord authority over their wives, controlling them rather than living as one with them.  The stigma of divorce leads to shunning of women who leave abusive marriages, and traditional gender roles leave women financially dependent on their spouse, unable to leave without a way to make a living.  The teaching that headship and submission image the relationship of Christ and the Church leads husbands and wives to strive harder to achieve cultural constructs of gender roles rather than becoming more the individuals that God created them to be.

In Rachel Held Evan’s post, “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?”, she says,

If scripture is not enough to convince you that patriarchy is a result of sin, you need only look at the world to observe its effects.

  • Worldwide, women ages fifteen to forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.
  • Every 9 seconds, a woman  in the US is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I wish I could say that all complementarians categorically condemn female submission to male violence, but John Piper has said that, in order to model godly submission, a woman may need to quietly “endure verbal abuse for a season” or “getting smacked one night” before “seeking help from the church.” (He says nothing about contacting authorities). Similarly, in Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl advises a woman whose husband pulled a knife on her to “stop complaining” and focus instead on not “provoking” her husband’s anger. This is destructive advice and reveals something of an assumption that the preservation of male hierarchy is more important than preservation of a woman’s dignity.
  •  At least 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.
  • Study after study shows that societies characterized by the subjugation of women are more violent, more impoverished, and more unjust than societies that empower women.  In their excellent book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”  Empowering women increases economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. Several studies from UNICEF suggest that when women are given control over the family spending, more of the money gets devoted to education, medical care, and small business endeavors than when men control the purse strings. Similarly, when women vote and hold political office, public spending on health increases and child mortality rate declines. Many counterterrorist strategists see women’s empowerment as key to quelling violence and oppression in the Middle East, and women entering the workforce in East Asia generated economic booms in Malaysia, Thailand, and China. (You can find all of these studies cited and analyzed in Half the Sky, which I highly recommend.)

Interestingly, John Piper discussed the unhappy dynamic of much of his marriage in October.  Piper is one of the most influential proponents of complementarian theology (the belief that God designed strict gender roles for men and women), co-founding The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and The Gospel Coalition, a massive coalition of churches which holds complementarian ideology as a core aspect of their beliefs.  In my experience and observation, couples that treat each other as equals (whether they are complementarian or egalitarian) are far happier than couples that function as a hierarchy with the husband at the top.

unsafe relationshipI truly believe that mutual submission between husbands and wives is the correct Biblical teaching.  Giving husbands authority over households rather than all living under the authority of Christ as equals leads to unhealthy and ungodly dynamics and often, abuse.

If your marriage is emotionally destructive and you need to establish boundaries as you work toward healing, here are some resources:

Immediate Help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  Crisis help or to develop a safety plan.
Family Renewal Shelter: 1-253-475-9010 (24-hour crisis line) or 1-888-550-3915 (toll free).  A Christian resource for crisis help and assistance developing a safety plan.
American Association of Christian Counselors

Support Resources:
Document the Abuse: Assists women who fear for their safety in developing an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.
Women’s Law: Provides state-specific legal information and resources.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday): Allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders.
Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565.  Assists individuals and their loved ones in finding effective treatment for drug, alcohol, psychological or emotional struggles, 24/7.

Books:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope – Leslie Vernick
Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

Other:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  Free resource page
Self Centered Spouse:  Series of blogs by Brad Hambrick
A Cry for Justice: A blog addressing the needs of the evangelical church to recognize and validate the reality of abuse in the Christian home.
Myths about Domestic Violence


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End of Year Rundown and Fun Stuff

Our top posts of 2016 were:

  1. Why are Women more eager missionaries?  John Piper’s opinions miss the mark.
  2. Twitter sheds light on non-physical forms of abuse
  3. Egalitarians on Twitter using #CBMW16
  4. Was Jesus really a complementarian???
  5. Q&A on Christian feminism

My favorite thing to watch is where people are reading from.  We had hits from 116 countries.  The most common search terms that bring newbies to our blog are related to sex and porn, and names of pastors, historical figures, and inspiring women we mention.

This is our third year blogging.  In year one, there were 88 posts.  Last year, we only posted 15 articles, and this year we doubled that and posted 30.  Our blog visitors and views have also doubled since last year.  My New Year’s resolution is to blog more regularly.  My favorite thing is sharing resources from more knowledgeable Egalitarians, so I will keep the links and book reviews coming and spatter in my own thoughts as the mood strikes.  I think one post a week is a reasonable goal!  I always keep resources and recent gender-related news coming on our Facebook page but don’t always remember to share the best things here.

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Introvert Doodles are my new fav. 🙂

I thought I would share some non-Egalitarian/Christian feminist stuff today, things I have enjoyed reading, watching and listening to this year.  I have only recently learned that I am an introvert!  Truly a surprise, I’m telling you.  I’ve always tried to be extroverted per our culture’s emphasis on honoring extraverted characteristics.  Now I give myself permission to read, Netflix and listen to podcasts as needed for necessary self-care.  This is my kindness to myself.

Fiction:

I once posted a Ted Talk by Isabel Allende here, so I picked up her novel A Daughter of Fortune at the library early this year and blazed through it.  So good!

A writer friend of mine encouraged me to read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  And now I encourage you to do the same.  Patchett somehow manages to humanize even the bad guys in this riveting story.

I’ve been hearing about Paulo Coehlo’s book The Alchemist for years, so I made it a priority to read.  I am telling you, fiction is powerful.  We should all be reading more novels.  Please share your recommendations in the comments!

Non-Fiction:

I always intend to write reviews for the non-fiction books I read, so I’ll just list them here and won’t elaborate for now.

The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper
Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton
Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile (I did review this one, the link leads to that)
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey

I have to admit, most of my “self-care” has not involved books.  I read tons of articles and share my favorite on our FB page, and I listen to tons of podcasts while I’m working.  It’s usually well after 9 before our children are put away, so Logan and I have had some favorite shows we watch at that point in the day.  I’ll just share my very favorite things to listen to /watch:

Christian Podcasts:

On Being with Krista Tippett – interviews with artists, theologians, writers, activists
The Liturgists – topical episodes including interviews, poetry, music, and more
The Bible Project – creators of The Bible Project have in-depth conversations about the theology behind their excellent videos
Woodland Hills Church – besides my own local church, I usually have one well-known pastor that I listen to regurlarly, and this year that has been Greg Boyd.
The Deconstructionist Podcast – their interviews are always fascinating, leaving me with a lot to chew on
Westminster Town Hall Forum – hosts incredible thinkers for a talk and q&a; archives go back decades and include Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, etc.
Split/Frame of Reference – an egal couple discussing Biblical interpretation of difficult passages that complementarians teach gender roles from.

Non-Religious Podcasts:

Serial – I love investigative reporting.  I binged on season one about Adnan Syed and then agonized week to week for season 2 episodes on Bo Bergdahl.
Homecoming – six episodes aired this fall and were AMAZING.
Judge John Hodgman – this is just pure fun.
Real Crime Profile – this is not fun at all.  They discuss infamous crimes as behavioral analyists. I have learned a lot about domestic violence from Laura Richards.
The Moth – short stories told to live audiences

Favorite shows of 2016:

Madam Secretary
This is Us
Good Girls Revolt

Let me know what you enjoyed reading/listening to/watching in 2016!  See you in the New Year!

Why are Women More Eager Missionaries? John Piper’s opinions miss the mark.

On today’s “Ask Pastor John” episode, posted here, John Piper* is asked why so many single missionaries are women (80-85% of all single missionaries), and Piper responds that he doesn’t really know, but has a couple opinions, that are in short:

Single missionaries by and large would prefer to be married.  Proposing marriage falls on men, so the type of man that is single because he lacks the courage to propose marriage also lacks the courage to become a missionary, which takes grit, courage and strength.

One thing I agree with, is that missions work takes grit, courage and strength.  However, I have different opinions than Piper on this phenomenon of single women going into missions.  Mine are,

  1.  Conservative evangelical women who are gifted in leadership and teaching may only be permitted to use those gifts on the mission field.
  2.  Conservative evangelical men who are gifted in leadership and teaching may use those gifts anywhere, and are often funneled into local ministry as young men and so do not need to look so hard for opportunities to lead.

My opinions come from personal experience as a young woman who aspired to be a missionary, and as an approaching-middle-aged woman who has been thinking and reading about gender issues in the Church for several years now.

I grew up in a pastor’s family, and my father loved missionary work so he was always planning missions trips and inviting missionaries to come to our church, where we would personally host them in our home.  I remember as an 8 year old hearing about Amy Carmichael‘s missionary work in India in a Sunday School lesson.  I am not someone who remembers every detail of my life, so a snapshot like this is usually significant, an a-ha! moment in my identity formation.  Amy Carmichael is my earliest hero.

My family also spent three years living in Bolivia and Paraguay, South America, working in a boarding school for missionaries and filling in for missionaries on furlough in jungle and city locations.  We met many single missionaries, all female except for four males (two of which were dismissed for molesting children).

Having been raised in the Conservative Baptist denomination, I never saw women in pastoral leadership.  No one ever told me that with my leadership in the youth group and award winning speech contest record, that I could be a pastor one day.  If a young man had demonstrated these qualities, he would have been invited to preach and been encouraged to pursue pastoral ministry in his schooling.  When it was time for me to go to college, I only thought about two options – music ministry or missionary work.  These were the only leadership roles that I had ever seen women in, and it was the entire scope of my imagination for my own life.

I had great love for God’s Kingdom and wanted to participate in bringing God’s redeeming work to the world.  I studied music in college because I felt that was my spiritual gifting.  And then I went to seminary and started out with a missions degree, but let my aunt and uncle talk me into a more ‘practical’ degree that could be used anywhere, Educational Ministries.  I fell in love with my husband, a former missionary to Romania, and imagined us working overseas together.  I was devastated when this didn’t come to pass, as it was my entire identity.  I was going to be a missionary.  I couldn’t imagine how I could use my gifts for God here in the USA.

One day, God had to out-right spell it out to me in an audible voice: “Ruth, I want you to co-pastor with your husband.”  Logan had been talking about church planting, and I was saying, “OK, whatever,” but feeling zero passion personally about being involved in a church plant.  I knew I would be relegated to babysitting and cooking and would be left out of the dreaming, teaching, leading part of ministry.  Now I understand that dreaming, teaching and leading are aspects of my God-given design for co-dominion with my husband (Genesis 1:28).

I began reading voraciously about women in ministry.  God began introducing us to couples who co-pastor.  It was an exciting and enlightening time.  It was also hurtful to realize that I had catching up to do in preparation for pastoral ministry, because I had never been guided as a young person towards leadership.

For the first time, I began to see how women in the Bible were leading all along.  I began to learn about women pastors in the USA.  At one time, there were more female Baptist pastors than male.  However, they were serving in rural, impoverished churches while men had more desirable positions in cities and east coast towns.  As rural towns became more prosperous, denominations began tightening their belts on women in ministry so that men could take their churches.  Our own church in Maine had a history of female pastors generations ago.  There has been a steady move away from allowing women in ministry in recent decades.  It was not that long ago, 1987, that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was founded, and it was in 2000 that the Southern Baptist denomination stopped endorsing women’s ordination.

Of course, another avenue for women in ministry was mission work.  On the field, women could teach and lead even the [non-white] men.  There are aspects of classism, sexism and racism intersecting with the issue of women’s ordination.  While women may not teach men in  wealthy, white, Western churches, their work in Africa, Latin America or Asia is admired.  Women may not preach in many of our churches, but a visiting missionary woman may “share” her experiences on the field with her sending church, sometimes even from behind the pulpit.

I would be remiss to not point out that Jesus never married before beginning his ministry, and Paul taught us to remain single for the sake of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 7:7-38).  Too often, marriage is placed on a pedestal and given too much importance in the Evangelical tradition.  Certainly, married couples can work together as a “Blessed Alliance” for the sake of the Gospel.  But young people do not need to be married to serve the Lord.  And I would guess that 80-85% of single people serving the Lord right here in the USA are male.

Let me share some more resources for further reading on women in ministry on the mission field and in local congregations.

Missiologist Jenny Rae Armstrong wrote a powerful piece about our privileged Western cultural perspective on womanhood and gender roles in this piece, “On Being a Woman After God’s Own Heart.”

Founder of Youth With a Mission, Loren Cunningham, believes women should serve in ministry alongside men.  Here is a short video from the YWAM website:

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You can purchase “Why Not Women?” here.

Here are a couple articles on the History of Women in Missions, Women in Mission: A Protestant Tradition.

I saw this astute comment on the Desiring God FB post: image

God has gifted all of us for Kingdom work, and churches should be empowering the Priesthood of all Believers rather than setting a few up in a hierarchy of power in the Church.  We should be guiding all of our church family to uncover their giftings and callings and make room for them in our congregations.  It is a waste not to use each person to their full potential.


*John Piper is a pastor, theologian and co-founder of the complementarian organizations, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, The Gospel Coalition, and Desiring God.  He is an influential force in conservative, reformed, fundamentalist evangelicalism, with a large following.  On Facebook, he has 438,000 followers, 879,000 on Twitter, and his writings and sermons reach millions around the world.

Here are some rebuttals from Egalitarians to Tweets and sermons Piper has produced recently:

In 2012, John Piper said that Christianity had a “masculine feel” and Ben Witherington responded to his address with this excellent article: “John Piper on Men in Ministry and the Masculinity of Christianity.”

Spiritual Sounding Board tried to decipher some of Piper’s strange tweets and shared a particularly disturbing tweet.  Zack Hunt has written on The Monstrous God of John Piper.

Sojourners Magazine includes John Piper in their great article on Kissing Sexist, Racist Christianity Goodbye.

John Piper is not at the fore-front of this post by Tim Fall, but he is in the background and Fall’s piece is great, so you should check it out.  Silencing Women – the guaranteed way for men to stay in control.

Jory Micah responded to another Ask John episode about egalitarians and complementarians dating in this post.


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  We have a Facebook page where we share posts from around the web everyday dealing with women in ministry, gender violence, Beautiful Kingdom Warriors who inspire, etc.

Q&A on Christian Feminism

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On Christmas Eve, I received a comment on a post I wrote in 2015 responding to the Girl Defined article, “Why Christianity and Feminism Can’t Mix,” and I noticed this morning that I had received another comment on the same post that I promised to respond to and never did.  So I will post these two comments, my replies, and links to more resources.  I am very grateful for this opportunity to engage with women who come from different perspectives and want to say first of all, thank you, Nancy and Cassidy, for reading my original post and for taking the time to ask your questions!


Nancy

The ending quote was: “My advice to Christian women is to marry a man who will be a friend, not a ruler.” Why must it be *either/or*? Why not marry a man who will be a friend AND a ruler. After all, earthly marriage is the very image of the ultimate marriage which is between God and His bride, the church. God is our ruler AND our friend. Works beautifully. He, laying down His life for His bride, edifying His bride, lifting her up, purifying her, etc. While ruling the union with love, truth, grace, and strength… while she sees Him worthy of her love, trust, respect, service (help) and submission. Why not allow the earthly image God created (human marriage) truly reflect the ultimate heavenly reality? That’s the way it was designed by Him after all.

Nancy is quoting a pastor’s wife, Andrea, who had commented on the Girl Defined article and then I pasted her words at the end of my post.  After years of counseling Christian women in abusive marriages, she began to study the Bible to better understand God’s design for gender roles, and came to the conclusion that God designed men and women to be equals.  My initial response to Nancy was to share a link to this excellent article by Bob Edwards to learn more about the origins of the headship/submission marriage model:

Seeing Male Authority as God’s Design: Where Did This Idea Come From? 

Edwards shows us how Plato influenced Augustine, who influenced Calvin, who influences complementarian theologians today, like John Piper.  The pipeline of patriarchy in Christian scholarship.  Many are unaware of the Platonic lens that they are reading their Bible through, and the inferences these gender teachings come from rather than clear Biblical directives.  I highly recommend reading more of Bob and his wife Helga’s work!

Egalitarians believe that husbands and wives are created equal and are both called to love and submit to their spouse.  This involves treating each other respectfully, helping each other, trusting each other and all the other “one another” directives that Paul gives to all believers.  In the Ephesians 5 passage that pastors often teach “Men need respect, women need love” from, it is all part of a larger section that involves instructions to love one another and submit to one another, “…wives to their husbands” (the verb “submit” does not occur in verse 22 as a directive to wives but the idea is linked from the earlier verse saying “submit to one another”).

In the creation narrative, God created mankind (both man and woman) in His image and gave both dominion and authority over creation.  “Help” is an inadequate translation of the Hebrew word ezer, as it connotes a subordinate position in our English language but more literally means something like “counterpart”  God is often referred to as Israel’s ezer throughout the Old Testament, and is clearly not a subordinate in relationship to His people.  It is in the curse in Genesis 3 that the Bible says men will rule over their wives.  As Carolyn Custis James says, “Patriarchy is the cultural backdrop of the Bible–not the message of the Bible.”

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Love this image from Amber D’Ann Picota

Another word that is misunderstood in English is kephale, translated “head.”  The problem with this translation is that “head” has more than one meaning.  In modern English, we hear “head” and immediately think “CEO,” “boss,” or “authority.”  But in ancient Greek, kephale did not connote authority.  On a body, the head did not appear to have any use except as the place where we put food, the source of life.  In ancient Greek culture, husbands were the “head” in the sense that their households were completely dependent financially and socially on the patriarch, just as a body is dependent on the head to receive food.  The body metaphor also teaches mutuality rather than authority/submission because every part of the body is dependent on each other, and directives come straight from the head, who is Christ, and is not channeled from one part to another.  Jesus is our “umbrella” and women have direct communication and covering from our Messiah, not from any male human.  Marriage is often elevated as the glue of the Church but in fact, Paul teaches us not to marry for the sake of the Gospel.

There is a great podcast on mutuality in marriage by Nick and Allison Quient that I recommend checking out:

Split/Frame of Reference Podcast: Episode 4: Ephesians 5:18-33, Mutual Submission, and the Mystery of Marriage

And an article by Egalitarian scholar Marg Mowczko that I link to all the time on women as ezers:

A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

As Nancy points out, it is a common teaching in complementarian

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Um, no.

churches that Christian marriage is meant to mirror a heavenly relationship between Christ and His Church, so that the world can better understand the Gospel with this tangible metaphor.  We are taught by complementarian pastors that wives’ submission to their husband and to “Biblical gender roles” point the secular world to the Good News.  But the early Church was striking to ancient secular society as counter-cultural by defying patriarchal gender roles.  In a society where women were property, Christian husbands treated their wives as equals and loved their wives as their own bodies.  Women were elevated to equality in the early Christian Church and ministered alongside the men.  The modern conservative Christian Church has swung back to patriarchal teachings in reaction to the growing egalitarian values of our Western culture, who now look at the Church and do not see anything “good” in the way Christian women are subjugated.

Here are the “Biblical gender roles” for women that are actually in the Bible:

25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women – Marg Mowczko

And an excellent article from Kristen Rosser:

Is Marriage Really an Illustration of Christ and the Church?


Cassidy Shooltz

I must ask a question; you make an interesting statement at the beginning of the post:

“This is a testament to the diversity of thought within Christianity and how beliefs are shaped by personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, socialization and more.”

Do you believe it is God’s will for the foundation of our lives to be built upon personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, and more? I believe it is God’s intent for us to build our lives solely upon His word. If you are living and believing based on the whims and ideas of others opinions, then how are you distinguishing between right and wrong?

You stated in this post that you and the girls from Girl Defined are both followers of Jesus, but it is very clear that the core of feminism is self – not Jesus Christ. I really can’t see how someone can live a life that is both feministic and Christ-centered – because feminism is about the exaltation of the female (and not Jesus). The Christian life is all about Jesus, and no movement that works to defy His design will be able to stand before His word – the concept of feminism literally falls apart at the seems when our hearts are aligned with His word.

I would not be surprised at all if the “Christian” feminists one day wake up and decide that they no longer agree with anything the Bible says. Someday y’all may very well wake up and go pro-abortion, fight for gay rights, and leave your walk with Him behind. Of course, I pray so very much that such will not be the case for you girls, and that you will instead turn to Him in this area of your life.

First of all, I am not saying that it is God’s will that we base our beliefs on things like the cultural norms of our “tribe.”  It is just a fact that this is how we come to most of our beliefs.  I have heard Tim Keller say this same thing.  The Bible is an ancient book that is not clearly and perfectly understood by any flawed human being.  Scholars fluent in Hebrew and Greek who study the Bible faithfully have different opinions on doctrines and the meaning of difficult passages.  I believe we should come to theological conversations with humility and grace for those who have different perspectives.  I am not saying that all perspectives are correct.  I am saying that your perspective and my perspective and our favorite pastor’s/theologian’s/author’s perspective is flawed in some way.  And so beyond core doctrines (i.e. The Apostles Creed), we ought to be gracious in our discussions.  Of course we should all seek faithfulness to orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  But we should also bear in mind that in issues like gender roles, we have been socialized to infer certain beliefs into the text because of the culture of patriarchy that we live in.  My biggest beef with the Girl Defined post (and honestly, your comment), is the demonization of Christian brothers and sisters who see things differently.  I was attempting then and now to demonstrate that a Christian identifying as a feminist probably is doing so out of love for those who suffer the most under the darkness of patriarchy.

I have already linked to Bob Edwards in my reply to Nancy, but here is another link to a transcription I did of a video he shared, and an excerpt of his description of the process of socialization:

Bob Edwards’ Fascinating Discussion on the Origins of Male Authority in the Church

Bob discusses how gender socialization impacts our perception/understanding of the bible.

Socialization is a process that occurs throughout our lives.  We are socialized by the cultural norms present in our environment.

People are socialized by three essential processes:
1. cultural norms are modeled for us
2. overt instruction
3. reinforcement – reward/withhold rewards, encourage/discourage behavior

Put these together, and people are socialized to make the norms of their environment their own internal norms.

Socialization takes place in regards to gender.  We have role models that show us what it means to be a man/woman in a particular society (leadership may only include men).  Often we are taught overtly (in Christianity, we are taught that men are leaders, protectors, providers, and that women are supposed to be helpers of men.  Men have authority and women do not, and must submit themselves to male authority.)  And there is reinforcement (if you don’t do what is expected of you in this environment, we’ll make that painful for you).

Socialization is sometimes affected by people who act as if certain things are simply true.  People may act as if women are less capable of leadership and decision making.  They act like that simply by not allowing women to make leadership decisions.

The end result of the socialization process is that the norms that exist in the culture around us become the norms that exist in our own minds.  The external norms become internal norms.

Some researchers, particularly in the field of social sciences, cognitive psychology and the psychology of perception, talk about cognitive lenses by which we make sense of the world around us.  If I’ve been socialized to believe  that men lead, women follow/submit, if I’ve been socialized to believe that men are more fit for certain positions in the church and home, then I am going to internalize those norms and I will automatically assign certain meanings to the word “man” and to the word “woman.”  And we do this by association.  I may automatically think “leader” when I hear “man” and “helper” when I hear “woman.”

These associations we make take place in the brain (according to researcher Milo Fridga) in .00007 seconds.  That’s fast.  And so, we don’t always realize that socialization is at work when we’re looking at the world around us.

In fact, socialization affects how we see, how we perceive, and how we make sense of the Bible.

Secondly, I do not believe that Christianity and feminism have to be at odds.  Certainly there are extremist feminists just as there are extremist Christians who I do not wish to be associated with.  I do believe that I did a decent job explaining this in my post.  Here are a couple pertinent quotes:

Christians can partner with environmentalists, humanitarians, economists, social workers, politicians, educators, health professionals, counselors, scientists, and even feminists, in the work of redeeming God’s creation to it’s pre-curse state.  A feminist, atheist, Democrat, you-fill-in-the-blank is a person created in God’s image and loved dearly by God…I personally couldn’t call any imago Dei “devoid of God.”  There is common grace among all of humankind.   And has the Bible already solved all of the world’s problems and restored us to God’s design and will for humanity?  Clearly there is much work to be done, and Christ has given us that work to do.  Do I agree on all issues that all feminists tout?  No.  Do I agree that patriarchy is from the curse and has no place in Christ’s redeemed Kingdom?  Yes.

I didn’t come to feminism through a desire to usurp the authority of men.  I came to egalitarianism (I believe through God’s direction) and some of my conservative Christian friends began cautioning me about the slippery slope that I was on, and began jokingly referring to me as a feminist.  Not because I was arguing for abortion rights or burning my bras, but because I was asking questions about gender roles in the Church.  “Feminist” is a slur in the context of my upbringing.  Looking back, I understand that this negative response can be a powerful deterrent to keep group members from challenging the status quo of patriarchy.  It didn’t take me long to adopt the title feminist, as I couldn’t shake it and I was becoming more and more impassioned to see change in the world for women who are marginalized and abused by systems of patriarchy.

President Jimmy Carter says that gender inequality is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation.  I am posting these two links again for more information on the desperate need of feminism to liberate women and girls around the globe from the worst forms of patriarchy.  I would love to see Jesus’ followers at the forefront of this battle:

Christian Compassion or Complicity: The Abuse and Gendercide of God’s Daughters – Dr. Mimi Hadad
We Need Feminism – Rachel Held Evans

Thirdly, is Christian feminism about elevating women?  Certainly.  Because women have been down-trodden and denied equality, justice involves elevating them to their dignified and rightful place alongside their brothers in Christ.  Is Christian feminism anti-male?  Certainly not.  God made men and women for dignity and dominion.  We bear His image as His representatives on earth, ushering His Kingdom in by shining a light in the darkness. Not as “girls” and “boys” but as Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.

I thank you for your prayers and leave off with a prayer for you as well:

love-may-abound


Thanks for visiting us here at The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  Check us out on Facebook too, where we share links from around the web pertaining to women in ministry, mutuality in marriage, the abuses experienced by disenfranchised women and girls, etc.

Egalitarian Christmas Wish List

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As I sit in devastated helplessness over the atrocities occurring in Aleppo, I think, what can I possibly do to help?  Beyond giving to organizations I believe in (like The Compassion Collective), I am convinced more than ever that the fight to end oppression of the vulnerable and disenfranchised is where it is at.

And how can the Church specifically address this?  Let’s start with our own disenfranchised–women, who experience varying degrees of oppression depending on their particular churches, but oppression none the less.  Being side-lined from using their spiritual gifts and working alongside their brothers in Kingdom building is oppression.

And who benefits from this?  I don’t think anyone actually benefits.  There are some men who hold inordinate power and influence (check out Malestrom, below, to see how many men are downtrodden by patriarchy), who would experience loss if they were made to share these things, to quiet their own voices to allow room for others’.  But it is really to their benefit as well to be humbled and to become a servant, just as Jesus Christ was humbled even to death.

There is intersection of issues to consider as well.  People of color are disenfranchised in Evangelical institutions of influence and power.  Low-income people are viewed negatively in our Western, wealthy society.  Finding our way out of patriarchal, racist and classist systems that sideline Kingdom warriors will involve a massive shift in the way that Christians view theological issues of authority, dominion, headship, and submission.  Christians have historically led the charge in freeing others from oppression – for instance, early abolitionists and suffragists were Christians.  Let us pick up our mantle of freeing others once again, and pray that the ripples spread throughout the world to ensure the abundant life of all humankind.

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And so, I offer you a Christmas shopping list for the Christians in your family, church staff, close friends, anyone who you buy a gift.  Using your voice and purchasing power to spread Egalitarian Kingdom values is money well-spent.

The links to purchase each book is in the caption.  In no particular order:

 

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Excellent essays from influential Evangelicals on their change from Complementarian to Egalitarian theology.  How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership

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One of my favorite theologians.  Love this.  Beyond Sex Roles

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Beautifully written, compellingly drawing us to Jesus and His daughters.  Jesus Feminist

egalbook6

Powerful scholarship on Paul’s letters.  Man and Woman, One in Christ

egalbook5

A seminal work from Egalitarian theologians on Kingdom gender roles.  Discovering Biblical Equality

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Grady looks at patriarchal cultural influences have snuck into the Church. 10 Lies the Church Tells Women

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Custis James is my favorite Ezer.  Read her many books!  You’ll be glad you did!  Half the Church

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An excellent treatise on the harm that patriarchal society inflicts on men.  Malestrom  

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From the founder of Youth with a Mission on the importance of commissioning women into ministry.  Why Not Women?

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Women are not the subordinate ‘helpers’ – we are co-leaders in marriage and Church.  Together: Reclaiming C0-Leadership in Marriage

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Egalitarians do not reject the teachings on submission – just exempting men.  As Christ Submits to the Church

 

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A marriage book for newlyweds and marriage veterans alike.  I studied under Mathews at Gordon-Conwell Seminary.  Marriage Made in Eden