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Christian women, the Bible and the real world

As part of my continuing quest to engage and read widely on the topic of biblical femininity, I’ve been looking at some blogs and websites, and feeling a mite frustrated by the two poles I’ve found. On one hand, there are those who hit theology pretty hard; on the other extreme are those who argue from practicality. Where are the women who can exegete the Bible AND apply it in the real world?!

The Sydney Anglican Women In Ministry (WIM) site’s blog is written by Narelle Jarrett and primarily has lots of really good stuff about doctrine and the gospel. But there’s almost nothing there that you couldn’t say to a man who is in ministry as well. I find this confusing because Narelle (and Sydney Anglicans in general) have such a strong complementarian position and yet the site offers little that is uniquely applicable to women. While many of the lessons we need to hear are the same as men, I’m going to assume that different roles means having at least some different applications as well. And it seems to me that a women’s blog that focuses solely on things that could be said to either gender leans in the direction of embracing androgeny rather dealing with the hard issues of applying theology to a specific context.

On the other side of the equation are the likes of Lisa Bevere whose Fight Like a Girl I have previously reviewed and Mary Kassian‘s site. These women do a wonderful job of trying to bring biblical texts to life and relevance in the lives of women. Kassian in particular addresses difficult topics like femininity and singleness. The strength of both Bevere and Kassian is that they’re talking about the same things women are talking about: beauty, motherhood, careers, submission, mentoring, engaging with non-Christians. And they use the Bible to do it as well as offering lots of examples from their own observations. However, by and large, they fail to give a broad framework within which to fit these roles. Their use of the Bible is often limited to the ‘women passages’ or random Old Testament anecdotes.

We need women who can exegete the Bible AND apply it in the real world. It’s hard work and it’s definitely risky, but let’s not be passive about this. Applying the gospel in the lives of women is a cause worth fighting for!¬†Explanation of the role of women (complementarian or otherwise) without the framework of the gospel of grace will become mere good ideas at best, legalism at worst. However, ¬†explanation of the gospel without unique application to women runs the risk of marginalising women’s issues. Androgynous Christianity does exist. We need to teach women not just how to be Christians, but how to be Christian women. And we need to teach it to them with the gospel on our lips and in our hearts.

Categories: Bible Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

10 replies

  1. ‘We need women who can exegete the Bible AND apply it in the real world’

    perhaps this is your calling Tamie?! :)

  2. Hmm, not sure how to say this Randle, but it was the first two of these blogs that actually prompted me to write this post! (Girls Gone Wise is Mary Kassian’s site.)

    Elizabeth, thanks for the comment, but who are you? I know a number of Elizabeths and would love to know which one you are!

  3. From the CU at Melbourne Uni… 2nd year arts student.

    I’ve just added you on FB as a memory-jogger :)

    If you’re interested, check out my blog under ‘info’ on my FB profile.

  4. Tamie, thank you for several thought provoking posts on this issue. I agree with Elizabeth that perhaps it is indeed your calling to be a woman who can exegete the Bible AND apply it in the real world!

    I was initially concerned reading your “fight like a girl” review because it very much seemed to be defining our role as women solely within the the confines of marriage which is far too narrow and leaves things wide open for the interpretation that women cannot be fully fulfilled unless they are married. However, reading on I was glad to see your critique pulling out those very frustrations! I wonder though whether we can become so distracted by the issue of gender that we fail to keep the “gospel on our lips and in our hearts”. First and foremost my identity is in Christ, as a being made in the image of God who has fallen short of this calling and has required Christ’s saving mercy. If I am looking for something more to understand my “identity” I feel I am detracting from this.

    Also, I wonder if you could elaborate on what you mean by bringing glory to your husband? The wording concerns me. Within a marriage I think both husband and wife should be looking to build one another up and spurring one another on in our Christian walk, thus bringing glory to God with the knowledge that one day we will both share in Christ’s glory. ie I see that this is something not specific to the husband or wife’s role. What glory is it the husband deserves differently? Perhaps I should read the book and find out for myself!

  5. Hi Phili

    Thanks for the question – I didn’t explain at all what I meant by the term! The ‘being the glory of your husband’ thing comes from Bevere’s explanation of 1 Cor 11:7 – about man being the glory of Christ and woman being the glory of man. (If you pick up the book, it’s Chapter 8.)

    It’s a hugely difficult passage as you’ve pointed out. There are so many questions that come out of it: is the woman just as much for the glory of Christ as the man?; If not, in what way, and does that make her somehow lesser to the man? Is she somehow just his trophy? Basically, it’s a minefield.

    But Bevere takes ‘glory’ to be magnificence or splendour and argues that a woman living out her God-given role is a source of awe and joy for her husband; that he marvels and rejoices in their difference (as, she argues Adam did when he first saw Eve). I liked it because it’s such a positive take on what is a pretty difficult passage. I’m not sure I’m convinced by her argument and she certainly doesn’t take the passage at any depth but I did like the idea that a woman who lives for God is such a powerful witness of God’s good creation to her husband.

    Just on the identity thing, I’m not sure that Genesis gives us room to think of ourselves as ‘beings’ – this is what I was getting at with the comment about whether there is an androgynous Christianity. I’m not sure that gender actually can be divorced from identity. That’s a bigger debate but one I’ll be interested in thinking through more.

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