I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out roles of women in the church.
I know that, Biblically, leadership of men is obviously off-limits to us. I don't have natural leadership potential (I'm very reserved and have bad social skills), so this isn't as much of an issue for me, personally, as it is for other women, whom often try to fight against this clear Biblical mandate.
Yet there is nonetheless lots of debate as to how many other boundaries should be in place for women as well. I've often found the whole topic of roles of women to be very puzzling, and I often get in the habit of thinking my life is of lesser worth or value to God because I'm female. I also think confusion stems from having been exposed to lots of different denominations growing up; I'm amazed at the many differences in opinion there are on this subject.
As for my own history, my parents weren't very strict. I'm naturally tomboyish and nerdy. I love most sports (even though I have some gross motor deficits) and did very well academically. I've since learned this is an alarm in some Christian circles, who think Biblical femininity is June Cleaver vacuuming in pearls (never mind that the pearls likely violate 1 Timothy 2:9), and that only men can like sports and have intellectual logic. In my twenties, I became friends with Reformed Calvinists, who forbade their women to go to college, vote, or have jobs. They followed the interpretations of Doug Phillips, who thought the Bible lent itself to such dogmas and principles. I remember when my father saw some of these people and their women, and he remarked on how timid and frightened the women looked all the time, like they were in cults. John Piper once even wrote about a man who did not allow his wife to go to the bathroom without asking him first:
Some Complementarians Deny Women More Opportunities Than the Bible Does?
Even Piper admitted this was "sick," and Piper is pretty strict himself.
Naturally, this all leads to the question of, what are women allowed to do? The only universal agreement I have seen in Christian circles is we're allowed to be wives and mothers. However, Paul says it's better for a woman to be single in 1 Corinthians 7 so that her mind is set solely on God and not distracted by the needs of others (he doesn't say that it's a sin to be married, but that a woman who does not give herself in marriage "does better"). I aimed to be this way when younger, but the desire for a man was too strong, so I got married.
I'm happy with my marriage, but sometimes it seems like it's too easy for women, and that we don't really do anything important anyway. Men have to do all the work while women can just sit by in the home, take care of it, and help raise children. However, since the husband is the head, he technically does more of the important aspects of raising children anyway, so what role does that leave women? We seem pretty useless since we can't teach. It seems like woman's only use is to perpetuate the species through childbirth, and perhaps tend to practical home and personal needs.
That doesn't seem like much of a life. I think perhaps men can develop the technology in the future to phase out women, reproduce artificially, and have robots do all the housework. There is nothing a woman does that a man cannot already do better. We're pretty expendable, it seems, when you think about it.
I want to believe this is wrong and that we have use, but using strict logic, women's roles seem pretty meaningless and replaceable.
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Paul presents the role of women most wonderfully.
In the early part of Corinthians the women are fully engaged in the Worship service. They proclaim (prophecy) the Scriptures, and pray. They are not teaching the assembly, but reading the Scriptures and praying.
The Scriptures are not hidden from the women, neither are they to rely upon other’s prayers, but may offer, as any believer may, prayers and pleading before the Throne of God.
Paul also presents that the women are under the protection and care of the husband. No wife is to be alone in facing the problems and trials, but confident that the husband is there with her in support, as a sounding board and advisory in the turmoils of life and in the assembly.
Therefore, when it comes to conflicts outside the home, especially those that arise in the assembly, Paul is very firm that women be quiet, that the husband speaks for the family as a single voice to the situation. (Joshua said in incorrect pronoun sequence, “As for me and my house...”. )
It is not that women can’t be vocal, but it is when and where. Never is the family unit to be divided before the assembly, but of a single voice. No decision that impacts the family should be made in isolation by the individual members of the family. But each considering and consulting all the members come to a unified decision in which then is communicated by the leader of the home.
Again, so that no mistake is made, in the “business” of the assembly, the family is not a divided unit, but speaks with a single decision. That decision should be discussed and made in the home (if a woman has a question they are to enquirer at home is Paul’s statement) so that no disagreement exists, but rather unity in and of the family in the presence of the assembly or the public.
Too often, men have sought to “limit” the voice of women and frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in the home and assembly.
Thanks for the thoughtful response.
That is very interesting about conflicts outside the home. I hadn't heard that take on it before, but it makes good sense. I haven't ever had a major conflict in the assembly, but I've had a few outside of it, especially in churches before the Baptist one I'm going to now. My husband is not a believer; I committed myself to him during a time in my life where I wasn't in the faith. This in and of itself has been a source of conflict for my family in some church circles, but the Baptist church I go to now has never made a spectacle of it, and has handled it in what I perceive to be the kindest and most appropriate Biblical manner.
I'm also glad to know women can read and pray, and don't need male intermediaries for every issue. There are some schools of thought that practically teach this, but there is one issue in particular that is difficult for me where I think it would be very inappropriate to seek a male intermediary, and female intermediaries usually don't understand it, either. The more I pray and think about it, the more I think this issue needs to be between me and God alone. It's a stumbling block, and most attempts I've seen to make public sense of it have been disastrous. I'm glad this forum discourages the open discussion and debate of it; not all denominations are this wise, so it's been a huge problem area in the past.
I believe a very important truth to understand is that the God-given roles of men and women or husbands and wives have nothing to do with superiority or inferiority. They have nothing to do with one's spirituality, intelligence, leadership ability, or any other human trait. God's roles for the home were designed by Him to accomplish His purpose.
To be sure, we have messed with His design to the point where it is nearly unrecognizable. So many times we follow the dictates of culture and reverse the roles. God created us - He best knows what roles are best suited for us.
I know that doesn't answer your question as to what the roles are, but rather just a foundational thought.
Thanks. I totally agree. I cannot fathom that either the modern, feminist, man-hating nonsense -- or the aforementioned Phillipsian thinking that women are property and shouldn't even work as nurses, secretaries, or school teachers -- are the real gospel truth. Both appear to be distortions of what God originally designed, polar opposite extremes of what the Bible actually teaches. Trying to reason with either camp has been fruitless, too, I've learned.
When the home has divided loyalty (one serving Christ, the partner serving the flesh) the goodness of God should flow from the believer that others know we love and are devoted to the one God placed in our lives, not as the world perceives such, but as Christ exalts.
There must be that blend of personal strength of character as well as that humbleness of devotion. It is difficult keeping both perspective and balance.
God expects the character and life of the believer to be such that it is above reproach. Not that the unbelieving won’t find some excuses for excess, but the believer living and conduct be such a manner of above reproach that even the worldly would look evil proclaiming and actions as unwarranted, even foolish.
Might I suggest that you strike up a PM conversation with Annsni (moderator and pastor’s wife) and IAmBlessed (an great mentor and guide).
That will be a Scriptural way to gain insight and guidance as you work through your troubles.
Be very careful to conduct conversations on the open BB in a manner your beloved may approve.
Again, the light of grace must shine unhindered in all matters pertaining to the Scriptures in the home.
I believe the greatest "compliment" our Lord ever gave was about a woman. You see Mary understood what was important (gold, silver, precious stones=permanent) and what was partially for show (wood, hay and stubble-temporary):
Luke 10: 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Don't think for one second that because you are not assuming a "look at me" role in a church, that God will not use you. Quite the opposite is true according to our Lord: It is the "look at me" types that are a stench in God's nostrils.
It is the base, meek and humble that the Lord actually does use. Do not mistake titles, name recognition, vainglory and the pursuit of mammon on the part of the vast majority of "preachers" these days with following Christ.
Submit yourself to Luke 11: 5-13. Importunity in prayer to the Lord for the Spirit's power for specific souls and growth is head and shoulders above all "works" we will ever do down here. It stands to reason that anyone who walks with God down here, in meekness and wisdom as He instructed will reign with Him throughout the millennium. Why, because He already knows and trusts them from years of walking in the Spirit beforehand. When I am in charge, I pick the men I know best for the most important roles. The big shots in "Christian circles" today realize none of this, serving mammon mostly (in Jesus' Name of course), profiting off the merchandizing of God and are the opposite examples of what we should be as followers of Christ. Why do I say this? It is Scripturally logical to assume that men who seek names, titles, book deals for profit, have no understanding of Christ's teachings.
Those who wanted to be "greatest among us" down here will be the least for eternity. Matt 23:10-12; Matt 18:1-4, Mark 9:34-35; Matt 5-7, Luke 22: 24-27 etc, ....all ignored by the nicolaitans since the RCC.
Be the opposite in your life and your reward will be great in Heaven.
In addition, the roles for man (both male and female) in the local NT church are given and there is not much difference between them:
Titus 2: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
I'm almost ready for bed now but trust me, women can do a LOT in the church and in the home without just sitting raising babies! I'm pooped tonight because I'm working three jobs most days trying to bring in some extra money to help the household. One of the jobs is in the church setting up and running all of the media (the stuff that goes on the screens - for three campuses), another is working at a local school for 3 hours a day in reception ("May I have your license please? I will print you a badge." (If you clear the security system)) and the last is taking care of animals (LOL - I'm actually feeding pigs - Prodigal Son anyone? ;) ) But God gives women vitally important roles and sees us as equally important to men (Galatians 3:28) and without women, things in this world would just basically fall apart. It was women that the risen Christ first appeared to which I think is very interesting and very telling!! We are valuable!! We can share the good news of our Risen Savior! :) I can talk more tomorrow - I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open and I have to be at the barn at 7 am tomorrow!
My understanding as a fairly new Baptist (6 years) is that women have a lot more informal role. Like Eve being the help-mate for Adam, women being the helper for men in the church.
I have seen Christian women been very effective in caring ministries e.g. visiting sick/ elderly, leaders of female bible studies, leading playgroup in church.
For nerdier women like myself, bible study leaders, volunteering in education, both church and secular in offline world.
I do really like Bradstreet, actually. I think I should have been more specific: these were a particular branch of Calvinists who held to very strong patriarchal views. Doug Phillips proposed such ideas on his Vision Forum site. These Calvinists were ardent supporters of Phillips and the Stay-At-Home Daughters movement. When I asked one of these followers about such views, they said women shouldn't go to college because they need to train at home to be mothers rather than work outside the home (which they viewed as violation of Titus 2, and also as an unnecessary temptation to men in the workplace), and because colleges are too secular and damaging anyway. They did allow for home-based businesses, since those don't tempt men and don't take women out of the home, but that was it. When I inquired about women's high percentages in seemingly honorable professions such as nursing, elementary school teaching, and secretarial work, they replied that just because women were 'naturally' good at those things, doesn't mean God calls them to do them. As for the voting, since the husband was the head, they reasoned that there was thus no such need to vote.
kdm - I know there are definitely extremes out there and since my oldest daughter is a teacher and my second daughter will be graduating in May with her doctorate of audiology, I obviously disagree. :) I DO think that a woman is more wired to care for the home and manage things because honestly, men are too much linear thinkers and don't do well with the myriad of things that need to be done daily in a home! Of course there are exceptions but I haven't met any yet. LOL I love that my audiologist daughter will be able to change her schedule when she has kids to be able to still work part time and take care of the children when they come. My oldest will have to give up teaching when she has kids or do something else (tutoring/classes) but for now, there is no boy in the picture and she is almost 28 so it is important for her to be able to take care of herself! I can't imagine keeping my daughters uneducated and sheltered at home when they are young adult women with desires and needs of their own!
Thanks; good points.
Regarding your last sentence, what these Stay-At-Home Daughters folks believed was that the daughters were to be kept at home under protection of their fathers until it was time for marriage, and that they should not be serving their own selfish desires and needs, but those of their father. There were some women in this movement who were in their thirties and still at home tending to home needs (it should be noted that there is frequent overlap between the 'Quiverfull' movement - large families - and strict patriarchy, so the women were kept busy at home by tending to younger siblings, not unlike the Duggar family). With all these demands at home, serving their father and siblings, even if they weren't married, higher education was simply seen as unnecessary, a useless distraction for women who are supposed to be in the home and not getting education even for traditional jobs like nurse, school teacher, secretary, etc.
It should be noted, too, given my earlier remarks, that gotquestions.org -- a fairly Calvinistic site -- points out that there can be excesses with Quiverfull/patriarchy and related movements. They contend (rightfully so, IMO) that the father/husband is the leader of the home, but he should not be regarded as intermediary between family members and God, nor should he be treated as a 'god' of such that needs constant serving (which would be tantamount to idolatry):
What are the Quiverfull and Patriarchy movements?
I'm very much aware of a lot of these movements because of homeschooling my kids. I saw it at the conferences and stuff and definitely knew it was not only not for us but it was unbiblical. It is sad to think that they think that being a teacher or a doctor as my daughters are is "selfish" when both went into the fields because they wanted to serve others. And to be honest, my daughters are not here to meet their father's needs - he is to meet his own needs with the Lord. I don't believe anyone else is to meet anyone else's needs because if that person is removed, then what? Fathers die. Fathers leave. Mothers die. Daughters leave. It happens. If someone else has to meet your needs, then you are SOL if something happens to them. I love how my pastor used to tell the single people that they will never be happily married until they are happily single - not needing another to "complete" them. In time when they marry, they won't be "completed" but complemented. Big difference!
Yes, it was popular among some in the home-schooling segment, I learned. What's ironic is I was largely home-schooled growing up in the 1990s (every year except Kindergarten, 4th, and 7th grade before I started college in 2002), and I never heard of the movement. It seems to have popularized in the early 2000s. My mother used BJU books, and my dad used ED Hirsch books, to assist my education. Pretty standard stuff by comparison. It wasn't until the late 2000s and early 2010s when I became acquainted with these "Vision Forum" people, and learned about their ... unusual way of viewing Christianity and gender roles. It certainly wasn't what I was taught by my parents growing up, or any of the churches we went to.
There certainly is a lot of projecting and poor rationalizing on their part. You are correct that many women want to have jobs to help others, not just to make a career or bring attention to themselves for selfish pursuits. They have this twisted notion that all working women are like the crazy banshee feminists who hate men and want to dominate others. It's so unfair to women who merely want to do useful work assisting other people, but they are lumped in with such groups!
I also tried to point out to them that the father may not always be around, etc., but they would brush that off with "well they still need to help their younger siblings." So yeah, again, always with the "rationalizing."
They definitely had no answers to the Pauline Scriptures which encouraged singleness. They couldn't even address those.
Very glad here that no one seems to subscribe to such peculiar views. Deep down, I knew one could be a devoted Christian and not look at things in this way, but after years of exposure to these kinds of people and all their "reasons" for believing and doing what they did, I still fight against the tendencies and memories of this kind of ... is it too harsh to say "brain-washing"? That's what it seemed like, though.
Whatever the case, I'm glad my family never fell for it. It just goes to show that, even in what seems like orthodox Christendom, we must maintain careful discernment with all our interpersonal associations and ideas.
The virtuous woman, in Proverbs 31, is skillful and industrious, operates her own business, can purchase real estate, has servants, and is honored and praised by her husband and children. Sounds like the role of a queen to me.
My own understanding is that a woman, like a man, should do whatever God calls her or him to do.
Sometimes we act as if that's a problem specific to women. If a woman says she's been called to preach, she is suspect. I know plenty of men I doubted were ever called to preach, but they are given the benefit of the doubt, even if they're charlatans.
I recently attended a Mandarin service at a Baptist church. I asked the pastor what one of the women was doing, since I understood not a single word of the service and could follow it only because of a program with a few English words and the fact that it pretty well followed a typical Baptist service. She was obviously reading Scripture from her cellphone and saying much besides. He explained she was giving a message, or teaching, but he shouldn't put it that way because that would be at odds with Baptist tradition.
By "preaching," do you mean teaching in the assembly? That would go directly against 1 Timothy 2:12 --
"But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
The context here is Paul is writing to Timothy and how things should look in the church. I suppose that a less formal kind of "preaching" could be allowed to women, in particular teaching of other women or children -- but insofar as teaching at a mixed gender church service, that would go against not just "Baptist tradition," but the very Bible itself.
Suit yourself. The New Testament affirms that women were "prophesying" or preaching. Paul ran into some problems in the Corinthians church and had to put the hammer down. We don't know the specifics, but it was a problem. Nevertheless, it is clear that women were allowed to speak in the early church.
Well, that is why I asked the question -- by "preaching," do you mean teaching, or something else? I think it's clear from proper exegesis that Paul didn't forbid women from all speech at church, but he did clearly forbid teaching of men, specifically.
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