The Biblical View of Women – Dispelling the Myths
I. Creation – Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 2: 18 The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’
A. Helper – not subordinate or less, but a compliment. Men and women equal in bearing God’s image. This word for helper is used of God helping Israel (Ex. 18:4).
The woman was made out of Adam’s side. She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved. (Matthew Henry)
B. Man is given the leadership role at creation. Adam is formed first. Adam is the covenant head. God speaks to Adam. Paul affirms this creational order in I Timothy 2:12&13 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man…For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
C. God is a spirit, he is not male or female. God often reveals himself in feminine terms: A woman looking for coins in Luke 15, a housewife baking in Luke 13:20-21, a mother eagle in Deut. 32:11. carrying Israel in his womb and giving birth to Israel. (Deut. 32:18, also Isaiah 46:3-4) as a midwife in Ps. 22:9a and 71:6, and both as father and mother in Isa. 45:10.
D. God is called “He” because the male as leader reflects God’s role over us. He chose to be referred to as “he” – we must honor his revelation
II. The Fall. The fall distorted the relational harmony between men and women. Genesis 3:16: To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
A. “Desire” –women will now attempt to dominate, manipulate men. “Rule” – men will now seek tyrannical dominion over women. Unfortunately, too often in the church this sinful battle continues. Watch out for an over-emphasis in the church on either male headship or gender role equality!
B. The result of churches overemphasizing family roles in the home can be seen in the accompanied Barna survey chart. Christian women across the country were asked their most important role in life, and 62% responded “mother or parent.” Only 13% responded “follower of Christ.” What are some consequences of this?
1. Unmarried or childless Christian women are made to feel like second-class Christians.
2. Christian mothers replace devotion to Christ with devotion to their children.
3. Christian women find their value as a person not in God’s love for them or knowing God, but in their performance as a parent.
III. Female submission
A. Female submission only applies to the wife/husband relationship, nowhere else. (Pastors and elders are male, but both male and female members submit equally to them)
B. In Eph. 5, the result of being filled with the Spirit is that believers are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21), be worshipful (5:19), thankful (5:20), husbands love their wives, and wives submit to their husbands.
A wife should submit to her husband, not because women are inferior, but because that is how God designed the marital relationship to function. Submission is not a wife’s being a “doormat” for her husband. Rather, with the help of the Holy Spirit, a wife submits to her husband, and a husband sacrificially loves his wife. (Matthew Henry)
C. Submission is not mindless obedience to a husband’s every wish or demand. Instead, submission is a deep commitment to Christ to allow the husband to lead as God designed.
D. A wife does not submit only when the husbands deserves to be submitted to. The wife should remember that nothing escapes God’s justice, and sin will be taken care of.
E. In Eph. 5, the husband is not told to ensure that his wife submits, but wives are instructed to voluntarily, out of love for God, fulfill her role and submit.
F. We get in trouble when we consider leadership from a worldly perspective, that leaders are more important and valuable than followers. But Jesus said in his kingdom the first will be last, and the greatest is the least.
G. Submission does not mean you must avoid all questioning, respectfully challenging, or discussing the husband’s decisions, just as we would never expect such from church members in relation to their spiritual authorities.
H. Submission does not mean wives cannot follow Matt 18:15 ff. concerning their husband’s sins, nor does it mean she must receive permission from her husband to seek outside help (whether personal, legal or pastoral counsel).
I. Submission to God always trumps submission to human authority, and where the two conflict, God should be chosen.
J. When a Christian wife nags, lies, or manipulates to get her way, God is displeased, and she fails to trust God’s goodness and providence.
K. Man’s temptation is to abuse his authority and not sacrificially lead and love his wife, while the woman’s temptation is to ignore God’s role for her and disrespect her husband and ignore his leadership.
L. A submissive wife understands that making decisions is a heavy responsibility on a man’s shoulders, thus should offer encouragement in helping him become a better leader.
IV. Women in the church
A. I Timothy 2:11&12 – A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man – she must be quiet.
1. The context of I Tim 2:11-3:12 is church officers – who is qualified, what are the qualifications, etc.
2. Paul is forbidding women from holding the offices of pastor (teaching authority) or elder (ruling authority) in the church.
3. There is some question about deacons, because deacons do not hold a teaching or ruling office. The Greek work γυναίκες can be translated wives or women, thus I Tim 3:11 could be addressing women deacons. Also, Phoebe in Romans 16:1 could be a deaconess because the Greek word diakonos means either servant or deacon, depending on the context.
4. The context of women remaining quiet in church (I Cor 14:34 & I Tim 2:11) is public, authoritative teaching; thus not publicly challenging the pastors as some women were doing
5. Women are not forbidden the teaching and ruling offices in the church because they were created more gullible than men. Women are forbidden the office to honor God’s creational order
B. Acts 11:24-26 – Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor[a] and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
1. As with Priscilla, women can be more theologically knowledgeable than men, can write theology, and can teach boys and men in the church, as long as the women are under a session’s authority and accountability
2. Un-ordained women can do whatever un-ordained men can do in the church
V. Is there a Proverbs 31 woman?
The context of Proverbs, a father is advising his son on the two ways of life, the way of the wise and the way of the fool. 1:8&9 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
In the first half of Proverbs, wisdom and foolishness are personified by two Ladies; Lady Wisdom and Lady Foolishness.
Lady Wisdom 1:20-4:9
Lady Foolishness 5:1-7:27
Lady Wisdom 8:1-9:12
Lady Foolishness 9:13-18
In the second half of Proverbs, 10:1-30:33, wisdom and foolishness are described and contrasted in sayings
In the conclusion, Proverbs 31, Lady Wisdom gets the last word. The book has not changed its use of the woman to personify wisdom. Just as the body of Proverbs, written to a son, is also for women of God as well as men, Proverbs 31 is one final, female, poetic description of Lady Wisdom, which is to be sought by men and women equally.
VI. Other myths concerning women
A. Women are better at relationships than men
B. Women think with their emotions, men think objectively
VII. Understanding and answering feminism
A. Varieties of feminism
1. Traditional feminism’s helpful contributions – Summarizing “The Feminine Mystique” (1966), Betty Friedan
a Survey of women in the 1950’s; majority unhappy as housewives “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: ‘I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.'”
b. Noted that women’s magazines made mostly by men, showing women as either happy housewives or unhappy pursuing careers.
c. Friedan gave up promising career in psychology to raise children, had regrets, and noted that many women dropped out of school early to marry, afraid that if they became too educated they would not be able to attract a husband.
d. Noted in early America many fought for the rights of women to pursue careers and education
e. Criticized common belief that if women pursued roles other than mothers and wives it would upset the social balance.
f. Criticized women’s education, which focused largely on marriage and family, and the view that too much education hurt a woman’s emotional development.
g. Noted that fears of WWII and the cold war made Americans long for comfort of an idealized home, forgetting that during war, women filled jobs in the men’s absence.
h. Noted the need for advertisers to keep women as housewives to buy their products.
i. Noted that many children lost interest in emotional growth, attributing this to the mother’s own lack of fulfillment, thus when the mother lacks fulfillment, she tries to live through her children, causing the children to lose their own sense of themselves as separate human beings.
2. New Age feminists – worship of a feminine deity or goddess.
3. Modern radical feminists
a. The Bible and Christianity are chauvinistic
b. Abortion on demand
c.. Women should get preferential treatment (not just equality) by government
d. Position of confrontation
4. Liberal Christian feminists – Bible writers limited by wrong perspectives against women, but accept those portions of the Bible that speak of equality, love, etc.
5. Evangelical feminists – Generally hold to orthodox views on the Bible, but believe the New Testament has abolished all gender-based roles in the church and home.
B. Help in answering feminists
1. Determine the variety of feminism, affirm the good
2. If the woman is angry, seek to know why. Abuse? Rebellion? Bad examples? Misconceptions?
3. Don’t shy away or apologize concerning clear Scripture like I Tim 2:11&12 limiting church offices to men or Eph. 5 teaching on marital submission of wives to husbands
4. Show how Jesus liberated women compared to the Jewish view of his day:
“The woman is in all things inferior to the man,” (1st century Jewish historian Josephus.)
“A man must pronounce three blessings each day: ‘Blessed be the Lord who did not make me a heathen; blessed be he who did not make me a woman; blessed be he who did not make me an uneducated person.'” (Rabbi Judah – 1st century)
“He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna [hell].” (Mishnah Avot 1-5)
In Israel, women were not allowed to give evidence in a court of law. According to the rabbinic school that followed Rabbi Hillel, a man could legally divorce his wife if she burned his dinner.
Yet Jesus treated women as equal to men. Women were his disciples like the men and he taught them theology. Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” lifted women to equal status before God.
“It is deplorable that so many men throughout history have misused and abused God’s ordained authority structure by oppressing and dominating women – sometimes justifying their actions by misapplications of the passages… Such misapplications must be condemned as a gross distortion of God’s original design for man and woman.”(anon)
VIII. Understanding and answering patriarchy
A. Tenets of patriarchy
1. The man is prophet, priest and king of his home.
2. The man represents his family before God
3. The wife and children submit to the man’s views and desires (unless unbiblical)
4. The daughter is a helpmate to the father and under his authority until she is married.
5. The role of the daughter is to prepare to be a wife and mother, and not seek college education or careers outside the home.
6. Wives are not to work outside the home. That is the role of husbands.
7. Fathers must be intimately involved in finding a husband for the daughter, usually not allowing them to be alone until marriage.
8. Mothers are to home-school the children
9. Age- segregated S.S. is sinful as it diminishes the father’s authority
10. In churches that promote patriarchy, wives and daughter members cannot vote.
Quotes from Vision Forum, an organization promoting patriarchy
“How does a woman blaspheme the Word of God? This isn’t something we can just brush aside or take lightly as a `cultural thing.’ . . . A woman cannot both `keep at home’ (or “guard the house”) and `keep’ in a separate workplace. She cannot both `obey her own husband’ and obey another boss (even if it is one for whom her husband has asked her to work).” (Jennie Chancey Vision Forum website – accessed June 7, 2010).
“By serving her mother, creating a peaceful home atmosphere, and furthering her father’s goals, this young woman is a blessing to her family and to others. Her secret is placing herself under her father’s authority and at his disposal, content in her God-given role. This daily training has another reward—she will be well fitted for marriage as a helpmeet suitable for her husband. Fellow daughters, do you truly work at pleasing your father and helping him to accomplish his goals? Do you enjoy spending time with him?” (Elisha Ann Wahlquist, June 27, 2005, Ladies Against Feminism website -accessed June 7, 2010)
“To raise a daughter without thought to marriage, to instill in them a spirit of independence from the family, or to focus their training on a career outside the home, is actually to disqualify them for graduation and the next step in life. In contrast, a woman who meets the biblical requirements for graduation is one who is comfortable being under the jurisdiction of her father and seeks to make him successful in every way.” (Christian Graduations and Young Ladies, Doug Phillips, June 16, 2003, Vision Forum website – accessed June 7, 2010).
B. Answering patriarchy
1. Old Testament family forms and structures are not binding on New Testament Christians, for they were not even binding on Old Testament believers. Genesis 24, for example, is not a binding command for all fathers on how to seek husbands for their daughters or wives for their sons.
2. Titus 2:4&5 does not limit the wife to working in the home any more than commands for men to work hard limit them from other activities. A wife can work outside the home and fulfill Tutus 2
3. Jesus is the only priest. Under the new covenant, every Christian is answerable directly to God; there is no male representation. Romans 14:4, II Cor 5:10
4. Christian women, per Romans 14, can have different convictions than their husbands and fathers, and must follow those convictions of conscience.
5. Nowhere in the Bible are Christian women limited to marrying and bearing children. Paul actually says he wished more remained single like himself I Cor 7:8
6. Nowhere in Scripture are sons allowed freedom from submission to their parents as adults while daughters are not allowed such freedom. Adulthood ends submission for both sons and daughters
7. Deut 6 cannot be used as a proof-text for home schooling because…
a. We are not under the Mosaic Law
b. In Deut. 6, the father as well as the mother educates, which does not usually happen
c. The point is to ensure the children are raised knowing the Scriptures. It says nothing about who teaches them music, science, math, language, etc.
8. Contrary to popular myth, there is no passage in Scripture that teaches that husbands are to be the spiritual leaders of the home. Even unbelieving husbands have a leadership role, but there is no such concept in Scripture as a spiritual leader of a home.
9. There is no Scripture that teaches that fathers have more authority over the children than mothers.
10. A Christian woman’s value and goal in Scripture is always centered on knowing and pleasing the Lord, not on her success as a mother, wife or daughter