Category Archives: Gender

A picture of women: from the Bible? or from 1950s American suburbs?

Earlier this year, Rachel Held Evans hosted a series of posts on her blog that looked at a variety of issues related to the role of women in the church. You can see links to the full series here. So there’s no confusion about my position, I believe that women and men are equal before God, and that all the gifts are available to everyone to use for God. Everyone is under some authority, and ultimately under God’s but gender is no issue in this.

The post I enjoyed the most in this series was one that looked at whether a conservative position on women is Biblical or cultural, and whether the roles of women laid out by those who do not allow women to lead or teach in church are from the Bible or from 1950s Western culture.

You can read the full post here, or an extract below.

There is one more myth regarding “biblical womanhood” that we really need to address as part of our series—and that is the myth that a true woman of God is defined by her roles as a wife, mother, and homemaker. I spend quite a bit of time exploring this in my book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, but it’s so important to the conversation surrounding gender equality in the Church, it’s worth discussing in an abbreviated format here. 

Continue reading A picture of women: from the Bible? or from 1950s American suburbs?

Child-like interpretations of the Bible

Over the past few days, I’ve been engaged in some interesting conversations that all began with a simple picture I posted on my Facebook status. It’s largely about same sex marriage, but the 60+ comments in the thread get very quickly to issues of how we interpret the Bible. If either topic interests you, I think you’ll enjoy the interactions on my Facebook timeline.

Then, this morning, the preacher at the church I attended made some excellent comments about how we understand the Bible. The basic message of the Gospel is so simple that a child can understand it. In fact, in order to understand it you need to approach it with child-like (not childish!) faith and trust. But there are parts of the Bible that are very complicated and complex, because they are talking about God. If they were easy to understand it would make a mockery of who God actually is: above and beyond us.

Our preacher was much more eloquent than this. And it’s a wonderful point to make. The simple parts of the Bible are simple enough for a child to understand and accept. And we need help with some of the other parts that are difficult to understand.

But it struck me that there is a corollary to this thought – and that is about what children might believe about God before we impose our doctrines on them.

In the Facebook conversation during the week, one of the common themes of those people arguing that homosexuality is wrong is that this is “the plain reading of the texts” on this topic. This sounds like a strong argument, but it is not – for many reasons. But here’s one more reason.

If you asked a 7 year old child if they thought that God hated two men just because they loved each other and wanted to be together, almost every innocent child in the world would say, “No”. Surely God doesn’t hate them just because they love each other? (By the way, this test applies to many self-evident truths: does God like it when people lie or steal? Is God happy when Daddies and Mommies divorce? I think children would provide the right answer to almost all “self evident” sins).

So, if children would not understand why homosexuality would be considered wrong by God, then it must be the case that this issue is one of the “difficult to interpret” parts of the Bible.

It’s a simple point, really, but an important one. The seven verses/passages that talk against homosexuality are definitely in the category of “difficult” and need careful interpretation. They cannot just be taken at “face value”. And they do NOT say what they seem to say at first reading.

The same, by the way, is true of Genesis 1-11 and the age of the earth, the sections on slavery, the instructions about nobody with disabilities being allowed to serve in church leadership, tattoos, levirate marriage, polygamy, war, sacrifices, and many other issues. It’s an interesting test, this child-like understanding of God. I like it.

The difficulty with defending Biblical Marriage

I am working on a blog about the current debates on the issue of marriage (which is really a debate on homosexuality by conservative Christians), but this infographic came across my screen and it’s too good to keep to myself for now. So, with apologies that this is my only post in the last few weeks, here’s a graphical portrayal of the problems with defending a “Biblical” view of marriage (click on the image for a larger view to read it more clearly):

Christianity: Essentially Masculine?

A few weeks ago, theologian John Piper made a most remarkable statement, claiming that Christianity has been revealed by God as essentially masculine in nature, and that one of the problems with it today is that it has lost its masculine feel. This is a most remarkable statement. I have spent the last few weeks reading many responses to this statement – the best list of these is available at Rachel Held Evans site here.

One of the best responses came from Paul Anthony on his Disoriented Theology blog. Read it here or a detailed extract below:

The Radical Femininity of Christ

by Paul Anthony
3 February 2012

Correlation may not equal causation, but I see a connection between this statement …

I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female… He does not intend for women to languish or be frustrated or in any way suffer or fall short of full and lasting joy in this masculine Christianity. From which I infer that the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families that have this masculine feel.

… and this one:

No population group among the sixty segments examined has gone through more spiritual changes in the past two decades than women. Of the 14 religious factors studied, women have experienced statistically significant changes related to 10 of them. Of those transitions, eight represent negative movement – that is, either less engagement in common religious behaviors or a shift in belief away from biblical teachings. … The only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched. That rose a startling 17 percentage points – among the largest drops in church attachment identified in the research.

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Rachel Held Evans: Your daughters will prophesy

I was introduced to Rachel Held Evans in 2011, and have become a regular reader – and admirer – of her writing. She’s a young blogger and author who started life as fundamentalist, Republican, conservative evangelical, but has lived through doubt and found faith in a kinder, calmer form of Christianity. She is particularly interested in dealing with how the conservative church treats women.

In a recent blog entry, she focuses her attention on a very specific argument about the role of women in the church. Some churches don’t believe women should preach, and some don’t believe they should lead. But whatever they believe, it would be hard for them to argue that women cannot prophesy.

It’s a great read, which you can read on her blog, or see an extract of it below:

Continue reading Rachel Held Evans: Your daughters will prophesy

The death penalty – pause for thought

I have just posted a blog entry on my business focused blog site, ConnectionEconomy.com. It may interest you. I compare two women both found guilty of murdering their husbands and sentenced to death by their countries’ courts. But one is Iranian and so her sentence is labelled “barbaric”. The other is American and many American Christians therefore consider her verdict to be “justice”.

Why two very different responses? Read my blog entry here and see what you think. It’s a useful intersection of two very similar stories that might help us to examine our own cultural lens, and discover that what we think are eternal moral issues related to God’s unchanging standards and decrees might actually just be culturally conditioning.

The role of women leaders in the local church

This article was written in April 1996, when I was a theological student. It was a review of the arguments in relation to women leadership in the church. The Baptist Union that I was a part of at that time had a very ambiguous view on the issue, and as a student I was trying to show that an alternative to the traditional “no women leaders” view was possible while still remaining Biblical. Looking at it now, I was obviously constrained by a hefty word count limit, but still think I touched on all the right issues. Maybe one day I’ll get the time to flesh this out…

A theological and Biblical exposition of the role of women and their relationship to men within the church, with special reference to authority and teaching.

1. Introduction
The role of women is an issue of vital importance to us today, not only as this issue is tearing churches apart, but also because of the large number of women actively pursuing ministry opportunities in churches. The doctrine of humanity as espoused in Scripture is the basis of any solution to whether women are allowed to teach and have authority (i.e. lead) in local churches. This issue is intricately bound up with the general issue of women’s submission to men and male authority, especially within marriage.

This assignment will deal only with general human relationships and marriage where it has a direct bearing on the issue of women teaching and leading in the church.

2. Approach of This Assignment
Realising that the traditional conservative position of not allowing women to teach or have authority in the local church has been defended from Scripture for many decades, I will not concentrate on defending this view. Neither will I attempt to totally discredit it. What I wish to do is to show the possibility of alternative interpretations, while remaining true to Scripture, that would allow women to teach and lead in a church. In doing so, I shall highlight arguments on both sides, indicating their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully in the process, demonstrate the consistent witness of Scripture. This assignment is based loosely on a response to Piper and Grudem’s book (see bibliography below).

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Taking the Bible Literally

First posted on 15 Feb , 2008

On Sunday, the preacher at our church spoke of forgiveness, and used the wonderful interaction between Peter and Jesus recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. It was a good sermon, but it also sparked another thought about how we choose to interpret the Bible (and an afterthought about Scotland making it legal to marry your mother-in-law).

Because of the nature of what I say (and how I say it), I am often accused of abandoning the Christian faith altogther. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that doesn’t deter my detractors. Anyway, I am finding that the most common “root” concern that people seem to have with my approach comes down to one thing: how we treat the Bible.

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Why Men Can’t Lead – and faulty logic about women in leadership

Originally posted on 30 May 2007

I was sent this by a friend – its meant to be a joke and quite funny. It is. But there is a shred of sad truth in these ten reasons why men can’t lead… the sad truth is that this is the same type of logic many churches still use to exclude women from leadership.

TEN REASONS – ACCORDING TO THE NATURAL ORDER OF THE WORLD, SOCIAL CUSTOM, AND THEOLOGY – WHY MEN SHOULD NOT BE ORDAINED

    1. The male physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as picking turnips or de-horning cattle. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work. How can we argue with nature?

    2. For men who have children, their duties as ministers might detract from their responsibilities as parents. Instead of teaching their children important life skills like how to make a wiener-roasting stick, they would be off at some committee meeting or preparing a sermon. Thus these unfortunate children of ordained men would almost certainly receive less attention from their male parent.

    3. According to the Genesis account, men were created before women, presumably as a prototype. It is thus obvious that men represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

    4. Men are overly prone to violence. They are responsible for the vast majority of crime in our country, especially violent crime. Thus they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

    5. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinate position that all men should take. It is expected that even ordained men would be unable to withstand the natural male tendency to buckle under pressure.

    6. Jesus didn’t ordain men. He didn’t ordain any women either, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    7. Men are simply too emotional to be ordained. Their conduct at football matches, in the army, at political conventions and especially at Promise Keepers Rallies amply demonstrates this tendency.

    8. Many men are simply too handsome to lead public worship. They could prove to be a distraction to the women in the congregation!

    9. To be an ordained pastor is to nurture and strengthen a whole congregation. But these are not traditional male roles. Throughout the history of Christianity, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. If men try to fit into this nurturing role, our young people might grow up with severe gender role confusion.

    10. If the Church is the Bride of Christ, then it goes without saying that all ordained leaders should be female. It just makes theological sense!