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