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Entries in Women (55)


I have a theory about women theologians and politics

I'm getting set to work full force on my term paper over the next couple of days (it's due Friday), but I had a thought this morning. I am also getting used to a new pair of bifocals (not my first rodeo, however) and typing has been an issue. There may be a return visit to my eye doctor. Anyway.

Last week, I wondered aloud on Twitter (that bastion of precious information) if there were mature, female theologians I could follow; specifically those who don't talk about American politics. I have tried in the past keeping track of a few, and inevitably, the talk is about US politics.

Now, the fact that they are American is part of the reason why. Understandable. And female theologians alone are hard to come by in Canada. As one of my Twitter friends said: "crickets." No takers.

I think one of the reasons why many female theolgians, whether they are mature, younger, professional, or ordinary theologians, insert politics into their conversations is because people are used to women commenting about politics. There are many female politicians. Here in Canada, I believe there is about 28% ratio of female to male Members of Parliament. Here in Ontario, there's about 30% female MPPs. 

Conservative Christians will not think twice about female physicians, female dentists, female lawyers, financial planners, and maybe even a female police officer. Female theologians? No way. There are many complementarian leaning men out there who may not even want a female doctor or lawyer. I have to smile a little when I recall the fawning and fussing over Sarah Palin a few years ago. We may want women running our country, but not our churches; at least not in conservative circles.

So, what's a female theologian to do if she wants to have a voice? She addresses theology through political themes. 

At least that's my (probably uninformed) opinion. I am a budding theologian. I have no wish to discuss US politics. I know little about it, and I'm not inclined to know more. I know enough about Canadian politics to keep me an informed voter. I just want to know God more.

So, as usual, I resort to buying books. My husband will be so pleased.


Who is teaching biblical truth to our children?

The majority of Sunday school teachers in my church are women. I suspect that we are not unique. After all, women are encouraged to teach women and children. It's one of those areas of service we're directed to. It's right up there with making sandwiches and working in the nursery.

Who is less likely to get theological training outside of the regular Sunday service? Women. I know this because I sit in a room of 35+ students every Tuesday, and there are five women in the class. I've sat in classes where I'm the only woman.

Why do we not encourage more women to get theological training? No, it does not have to be an MDiv, but there are always less involved programs for those who are seeking more knowledge. Perhaps teaching 2 and 3 year olds is nothing more than crowd control, but what about children who are getting into that dialectical stage of learning, around 11 or 12, when they begin asking hard questions? 

Teaching children is difficult. I find it easier to teach adults than younger students. On every occasion I teach in our teen class, I struggle with how not only to get their attention, but how to explain difficult things in a way they will understand. Some of our students zone out during class, and it is clear that they are not interested in spiritual matters. But then we have students who ask questions like "Where did Cain get his wife from?" When my daughter was eight years old, she asked our pastor, "Does God love Satan?" How equipped is the average Sunday school teacher to answer hard questions?

Information about women's ministries abounds, and much of it involves how to get women to connect with one another. I sat on a women's ministry committee which spent more time talking about how to have the food presented than about what kinds of discipleship materials we should use. I got off the committee. While social events and ways to connect are valuable, it seems to me that the greater part of women's ministries is to focus on how to teach and equip women. 

A good women's ministry group could provide training for other women to become better Sunday school teachers for those young minds. There is always a place for fellowship for women who really crave that. But what about the women who crave deeper teaching? Ultimately, they will (like I did) seek knowledge from sources outside women's ministry groups and likely, their local churches. 

There are so many gifted women out there; women who are theologically astute, good exegetes, and sensitive teachers. Surely, part of their task ought to be equipping other women.


I'm a woman, not a house plant

I read this article today by Randy Alcorn, called "Husbands, We're Called to Help Our Wives Grow in Christ." 

I think this is very true. And women are called to help their husbands grow in Christ. I don't know why he didn't mention that, but anyway.

Here is a little snippet:

So we husbands are to not stand back and wish our wives were more godly. Rather, we are to assume responsibility to step forward and lead our wives by sharing God’s Word with them. (Similarly, we don't bemoan that a houseplant has shriveled leaves and consider it a failure; instead, we regularly water the plant and expose it to the right light to help it thrive.)

I understand that he wants to use a vivid analogy, but I'd rather not be compared to a houseplant. I'm reminding myself that this man's intention is only good. But I have to be honest and say I cringe when I read this.

My husband has rarely, if ever, specifically advised me in how to grow in Christ. While he has often commented on attitudes I have had, I have always taken the initiative myself to pursue what will help me grow in Christ. He has purchased books for me as gifts, knowing that I want them, but he has never gone through my book pile and said, "this is good; that is bad." I am the student. He reads his Bible daily and he has a stronger faith than I do on most days, but he is aware that he does not need to "help" me find Bible study resources. But has helped me in other ways, and it is these ways I think many husbands may forget about:

  • Take care of the kids so she can study. Bathe them and put them to bed so she can have an hour of study time.
  • Take an entire Saturday and take charge of the kids so she can study or go to a conference. 
  • Bring home dinner at the end of the day so she has energy to study once the kids are in bed.
  • Pay someone to clean the house for her (or clean it yourself).
  • Encourage her to go to seminary if she wants to, and if you're financially able. And then help with child care if you can. And if she goes ask her about what she is learning.

That first one is the most important when the kids are young. I can speak from personal experience that it is not easy to find time for Bible study when the kids demand so much of our attention. And I did not work outside the home when the kids were young. I don't know how working moms are supposed to find time. Men cannot complain that their wives are not godly enough and then not make to give her time to make that happen. All the blog, book, and resource recommendations don't mean much without the time to read them.

When I broke my ankle two years ago, my husband made sure I got to every class while I had my cast on. He would drive me to class and ensure one of my sons would drive me home. Sometimes, he would go to a nearby cafe and work while I was in class and pick me up when I was done. When I had an all day class he drove me the hour to get there, drove home and then returned at the end of the day to get me.

Women need discernment when it comes to finding good books and materials to help in spiritual growth. It is not necessarily true that her husband has any better discernment than her own simply because he's her husband.


Ladies, do the work

"I have no idea what this is saying."

That was my reaction to a quiz in Greek Exegesis a few weeks ago. I thought I had studied enough, but looking back, the week beforehand, I had slacked off. My mark was a reflection of that reality.

Today, I checked my mark from last week's quiz. I knew I had done well. I finished the quiz feeling confident, despite knowing that there was something I did not do right. When I get the quiz back tomorrow, I know where I will have lost the mark. The difference between last week and a few weeks ago is that I did more work.

It's tempting to think we can get good results without work. And it's not surprising. In a day and age when teachers are not allowed to fail students for poor work, is it any wonder? In an age of social media and blogs, it is a race to see who can post first, so that we don't necessarily research well. We are afraid of leaving our blogs empty for a day, so we rush through. I do it regularly. But when it comes to my school work, I have to put the work in.

The same goes for women who want to be theologically astute. If we as women want to be taken seriously as theologians, we have to do the work. We have to take time away from other things that may stand in our way, and open our Bibles and any other books we may need to help us sort through things. We have to know how to think. That may mean asking someone to help us learn to think. This is probably not a popular sentiment, but how about sacrificing something to take a seminary class? Or at the least, audit one? How about spending less time reading the opinions of other women and being told what to read and whom to read and start sifting through things on our own? How about spending less time listening to podcasts to hear other people talk about matters and sort through them on our own?

I recently read a website for women and saw its recommended resources. There was not one actual biblical scholar among the recommendations. These recommendations were designed to be "accessible," but how about throwing some harder ones in there? How about a commentary that is more intermediate? How about a systematic theology book? The reason why I mention this kind of resource is because those writers have done the work. They may have laboured for years on one book of the Bible. Yes, start with accessible theology, but don't stop there. Part of recommending good resources is pointing people to the ones that will equip them to discern on their own, and that means challenging women with more difficult fare.

And if it's a matter of wanting to read only women (something I totally disagree with) then read Karen Jobes's work. 

I want to read the best resources I can find. If that is written by a woman, great. If not, I'm not going to promote women's work just because I want to be supportive. When men do that, don't we women get a little irritated?

We need to do the work. It always brings results.


Why we need mixed learning environments

This is going to be lightning fast. I'm having an engagement party here today, and I'm waiting for my kitchen floor to dry. While I was doing so, I read an article at Christianity Today, which got me thinking. If I don't get this down now, by Monday, I will have forgetten.

The article promotes the need for all-female spaces in the Church. I agree with that principle, but I also think it needs to deliberately balanced to include mixed environments, and I think we need to be careful about making generalizations about what all women "need."

The first time I ever went to an all-female Sunday school class, fifteen minutes into it, there was crying and hugging. 

"What am I doing here?" I asked myself.

I am not a public cryer. I don't share intimate details about my womanly functions in a group, nor will I ever, ever share marital issues with people I don't know and trust very well. And even then, I am hesitant. Unless my husband was being abusive, I would never share such details with people in a setting like that. I'm not sure i want to know everyone else's issues in a grouop like that, either. Sharing, something which is encouraged in the article, is not my reason for going to a Sunday school class. If I want to "share," I will find one friend and we'll share away. Perhaps some women don't mind. Perhaps some women thrive on that. It's a mistake to say all women need that. I go to Sunday school to hear the Word proclaimed.

I have taken one all-female class in seminary. While it was enjoyable, what I hoped I would learn, how to be a better teacher, was not the focus. It was heavy on group dynamics and light on the actual practice of teaching. I learned far more from my mixed gender class on hermeneutics. I don't have any plans to take any more "all female" classes, because I learn far more from my mixed classes. I want to learn content: principles for interpretation, theological truths, and ways to utilize these in my life and in my teaching. If that makes me a minority, then I plead the cause of minority rights.

I would never say that all-female environments should be banned from churches. Surely, women are also capable of gathering a group of women in their homes, in addition to the church. Why does everything have to go through committee?

I believe that women and men may discuss differently. But that cry for all-female environments needs to be made with a caution and with the recognition that sometimes, both women and men need to learn to discuss in different ways.