So What IS “Biblical Womanhood,” Anyway?

This is clearly a question for our time.  If nothing else,  the topics of “biblical womanhood” or gender roles at home and in the church and related issues stir up quite a discussion.  Consider:

We have manifestoes, journals, web sites, “free lessons,” Bible studies and entire libraries worth of titles on the question of what constitutes “Christian woman” or “biblical” gender roles (stereotypes?).  Biblical manhood and womanhood are something we need to “recover.”  We have those that insist that male-dominated, top-down hierarchies in which men lead and woman are subservient is The Biblical Model.  Others claim that mutuality, teamwork, reciprocity, and “gift based rather than gender-based ministry and service” are what the Bible teaches.

The debate rages…

What do you think?  Wait a sec.  Before spouting off verses from Ephesians 5 or I Peter, etc. to “bolster” one view of  “biblical womanhood,” “wife’s role,” or that well-worn classic of “Christian woman lore,” Proverbs 31, let’s ask:

1) What’s the chief rule in hermeneutics? (The science of correctly handling the Word of God.)?

2) What are the bedrock, over-arching principles and concepts taught throughout the whole counsel of Scripture related to marriage and gender roles?

If you haven’t already guessed, the chief rule in hermeneutics is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.  We neglect this basic rule at our peril, to our detriment.  It’s how the Bible was used to support slavery and oppose women’s suffrage (among other things).  Neglecting this “chief rule” soon slides into sloppy, haphazard, and dangerous teaching – particularly when attempting to construct an entire dogma, worldview or gender theory based on a portion of a difficult passage or a few disconnected verse fragments.

Most theologians worth their salt wouldn’t think of applying such a sloppy, slipshod method of interpretation to cardinal doctrines of the church.  But some do just that when it comes to gender roles or the question of women in church leadership.  In fact, we’ve met many die-hard “traditionalists” who aren’t even open to dialogue on the subject.  They hold on to what they’ve been taught and heard for eons because… it’s what they’ve been taught and heard for eons.  Theirs is The Biblical View on gender and you better embrace it too, bub, if ya know what’s good for ya.

If the traditionalist/hierarchical view of gender is so thoroughly biblical and “divinely designed,” shouldn’t it be able to stand up to scrutiny? If proponents’ response to honest questions is to slap others upside the head with Bibles that could choke a mule, shut down the dialogue or malign those who question,  what does that say about their gender paradigm?  Is the hierarchical complementarian view of “biblical womanhood”  truly, fully, soundly biblical? 

More next time including:

– “Biblical Feminism”: Oxy-Moron or Real Deal?

– Savvy Quotes from Sterling Sisters (and Brothers)

– Paradoxes, Paradigms and Baptists?

– “Church” or “Old Boys Club”?

– Theological Axioms for Equality

– Open Our Eyes, Lord

Plenty more, so stay tuned!


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