Dad Moms, the Man Fail, and the Incredible Potential of Godly Women

If you chanced across this little piece of virtual real estate last week, you might have seen that I blogged about a Tide commercial featuring a self-identified “dad mom.”  I suggested, based on my read of Scripture, that this was a “man fail.”  To use an excruciating economy of words, I received a good deal of feedback on these matters.

[Update: I will be writing an essay for the Journal of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood on this topic and will flesh out further nuances in the complementarian position, many of which I discussed in the comments.]

One of the primary responses in the comments to that post related to the role of Christian women as sketched out in Scripture.  Some read me to be restricting women to the home, when in reality, the saying went, biblical women were far more active than one might initially think.  In response to that response, I thought that I would quote from a 9Marks piece I wrote a year or so ago entitled “The Genesis of Gender and Ecclesial Womanhood.”  The many readers of Christianity Today‘s Her.meneutics blog that flooded my site might be interested in my take presented here.  Many will still disagree with me, but you’ll see in a more fulsome sense how it is that I and other complementarians think about the role of women.

I’ve italicized the 9Marks content below (it’s just a snatch from the larger essay):

The gospel leads directly away from libertarian notions of freedom and identity and offers better ones.[10] In dying to self and trusting Christ as Savior and Lord, we live. Here there is “no male or female,” as Paul puts it (Gal. 3:28). But once freed from the shackles of sin, men and women both are free to fulfill what God distinctly intended for them in creation. After all, biology does not change upon conversion. The gospel is at the center of biblical womanhood (and manhood) and, in saving women from sin and hell, it empowers them to live in the fullness of God’s good plan for them.[11] 

When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find many examples of women freed in the gospel. Women served the church and its leaders in diverse and creative ways. Here are a few of the most significant:

  • Joanna, “the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,” likely contributed generous sums to Christ and his band of disciples (Luke 8:3).
  • Prisca helped her husband Aquila disciple Apollos, a learned and eloquent preacher (Acts 18:26).
  • Timothy had both a godly mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 3:15).
  • Tabitha was “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36).
  • In a climate hostile to Christianity and thus dependent on home fellowships, Lydia and Mary each hosted gatherings of Christians (Acts 12:12; 16:13-15, 40).
  • Phoebe was a “servant of the church at Cenchrae,” a “patron of many and of myself as well,” Paul noted in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 16:1-2).
  • Junia (Rom. 16:7) and Appia (Philemon 2) seem to have partnered with their husbands in gospel ministry, whether through evangelism in the case of Junia or hosting a church in the case of Appia.
  • In the examples of Mary, Anna and others, we find women of persistent, reverential, bold, effectual prayer (Luke 1:46-55; 2:36-38).

Here’s the whole piece.

This conversation is not going to cease anytime soon.  I do appreciate the dialogue, the sharpening responses, and I hope that in coming days that evangelical churches will increasingly hew to Scripture and not to culture.

  • http://marcmullins.wordpress.com marc mullins

    Christ’s church must stand firm against the ‘tide’ of gender role confusion and matriarchal leadership. It simply is not how God intended for his creatures created in His image to be. We must promote Godly men, who lead, teach, protect and provide for those who are vulnerable. Notably women and children. We must be strong and courageous, lest we end up emasculated and disfigure to the gospel image of the human family.

    • Abby Stokes

      Amen Marc. It saddens me to see so many women fighting God’s creation plan and clear instructions, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” If scripture is the inherent word of God (hint, it is) then we must not start our exploration into the topics of femininity and masculinity with culture, or our feelings, but with scripture, which is true. It is there, in obedience, that we find freedom. So many women feel offended because they know that they are competent enough to lead, and feel that if God has given them that talent, then it is therefor natural to use it to lead men.The same applies for men forfeiting their responsibilities to lead. I would argue that a great many people throughout history have used their talents and capabilities to do grossly awful things, leading others and themselves in fact into captivity rather than freedom. True freedom comes not through shaking our fist at the potter, but by submitting and allowing ourselves to be shaped and used for the purpose that the creator made us for. Thank you Owen for standing strong on a biblical, though unpopular issue, it is encouraging!

  • SM

    “But once freed from the shackles of sin, men and women both are free to fulfill what God distinctly intended for them in creation. After all, biology does not change upon conversion.”

    God’s intention for male and female at creation is that they reign as co-vice regents of God’s good creation. No distinction–both co-vice regents regardless of their biology.

    • PuritanD

      SM,

      Yet, God intentionally did not create them at the same time or directly from the same material, why?

      Why did God, when he created the woman, showed her to him looking forward to what Adam would name her? It is impossible for us to try to escape the importance of the naming of woman by the man. Also, I find it interesting in Genesis two that the command of God not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge was only given to the man, why?

      By the way, did God confront both at the same time when they fell into sin or did He call out the man first? Again, these examples demonstrate the inherent leadership that the man was to exercise in his relationship with his wife.

      • SM

        Rather than conjecture or importing meaning into the narrative, I suggest, letting the narrative speak for itself and let more clear parts inform others. I don’t see anything suggesting God was looking forward to what Adam would *call* the woman. I suspect you are suggesting his *calling* (naming didn’t happen until ch 3) reflects Adam held authority over the woman. I suggest that in context his exclamation reflected great joy and excitement and explains to the original audience that male and female are of the same substance or material (she is one like him) yet different physically (to complete him) making the physical union possible. Male and female go together. As a creation narrative, the importance of the man calling the female woman was to explain the existence of the differentiation in humanity to the original audience. It appears to me you are asking things of the text which the original audience would not.

        When the Genesis text is read (as much as is possible) with an awareness of the original audience’s cosmological views, historical context, and literary context much of your questions are answered. For example, the chiastic form of the text within chps 2 & 3 reveals that God does not go to Adam “first” and this is somehow by conjecture teaching a propositional truth that as a man he holds the power to command his wife, but rather the logical flow of a chiasm necessitates the taking up of Adam at that point in the the literary structure. Chiasm served as a aids in memorization and therefore critical for audiences who depended more on oral tradition.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Owen
    Thanks for this list. Let’s ground this in further scripture. 1 Tim. 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has (A)denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    This verse is completely gender inclusive in the original Greek and applies to women as well as men. Prisca, Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe all worked and travelled outside the home, on par with men, in some way. Prisca had the same occupation as her husband and Paul.

    Lydia was the head of her home, making decisions regarding her household. It is quite clear that women, married or single can work outside the home, and single women are the head of their household. Married women also are called the head of the house. There is nothing about women that disqualifies them from being head of the home, Women also function as coworkers and coleaders. In the OT Deborah was a judge, and Huldah a prophet. There are many examples of wise women in the OT who publicly gave advice to men, and whose advice was followed. There is no indication in the gospels that Christ came to restrict the role of women from what it had been in the OT.

    • owenstrachan

      Suzanne,

      Context seems to matter with 1 Timothy 5:8, right? The preceding verses discuss widows. Widows are not to become passive, but are to work hard to provide for their families. The verse does not need to fund the interpretation you’re suggesting.

      What’s interesting about figures like Deborah is that she’s a judge at a nadir in Israel, a time that features passive, timid, weak-willed men like Barak. The narrative of Judges clearly intends to shame Barak for his failure to lead God’s people.

      Women who are not married are clearly head of their households. There’s no reason to conclude from Acts 16 that Lydia had a husband that she was head of; the same is certainly true of Dorcas, who devoted herself, by the way, to “good works” in exactly the way I outline in the 9Marks piece. I have similar thoughts on Phoebe. If a Christian woman has no husband or has no kids, she’s certainly her household head and the main provider. Your examples do not contradict my read of womanly gender roles.

      In the case of someone like Prisca, there’s little detail provided, and nothing that indicates that she is the main provider of the home, or that she is leaving children to work. If you take a close look at Acts 18, you see that there’s nothing that indicates that her way of life clashes with what I’ve outlined above.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Owen,

    Thanks for your thoughtful answer.

    You write,
    “Widows are not to become passive, but are to work hard to provide for their families. The verse does not need to fund the interpretation you’re suggesting.”

    From this I assume that you understand the same as I do, that this verse applies to women. But so many men, when preaching, use this verse to support the notion that the man is the provider. However, I don’t find that spelled out in the text. This verse suggests that the woman is to provide for the family, and of course, I believe that both men and women equally are responsible before God to provide for their family.

    You may be familiar with the difference between Erasmus and Calvin on this verse. Erasmus translated it into Latin as if it referred only to women, but Calvin said that the verse must surely be intended for both men and women.

    Regarding Deborah, it is important to remember that the land had peace for 40 years under her leadership.

    On single women, I agree with you that Lydia and other women of the NT who were head of the household were single. That seems to be the case. In some families the husband and wife seem to have a role of joint leadership in the church although their home life is not described. Except for Prisca and Aquila, who seem to have an equal partnership.

    But my point is that biologically, physiologically, mentally and spiritually, women are as equipped and designed by God in every way, for the leadership of their families. Women are before God equally responsible for the wellfare of their families. If women are designed, as men are, for leadership, then we must wonder whether God intends women to live according to their design.

    I also believe that women are designed equally to men for the exposition of the scripture, for exegesis, and insight, for counselling and leadership. This is born out in the secular world, where in financial investing, as emergency room doctors, as business and political leaders, women function as well as men, and in some of these areas, women function slightly better than men.

    Surely women should participate in the activities which God has designed them for. Surely, as a testimony to the world, the function of women in those areas that God has given them the ability to function, that is, as leaders of people, as exegetes and scholars, this would be what God would want.

  • Mitchell

    I wonder where we would be now in this conversation if men had responded differently to the feminist movement than the gender war that we have experienced in the past few decades? My take on feminism is that it was spawned out of a desire by women for greater respect and appreciation from men – not necessarily from a desire to replace men in relationship roles. Had men responded with expressions of greater respect and appreciation for the difficult roles of mother, wife, and homemaker perhaps we would be in a much happier place as a society?


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