Let me forgo a flowery introduction and make one thing clear at the outset of this article: I am not a feminist. I am not an egalitarian. I believe that, for those who are called to the roles, being a wife and/or mother is a marvelous, high calling. My position on these matters has been made abundantly clear here and other places, and if there is any question, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will provide those resources to you.
I am, however, someone who does not take kindly when women and their role within the Body of Christ is diminished or denigrated.
Over the years and months I’ve occasionally seen reference made to so-called “women’s issues,” with some writers/teachers/commenters taking the position that women must limit themselves to these alleged “women’s issues” when it comes to biblical study, discussion, or teaching.
So, the question must be asked: What exactly are “women’s issues”?
One article’s comment thread says that this category includes issues of femininity or the woman’s role as a wife and mother, her call to mentor younger women as per Titus 2, biblical modesty, etc.
These are all good and biblical topics, and I daresay that even men ought to know what God’s Word says about these matters for both the Christian woman and the Christian man.
While these may indeed appear to be better placed into the category of “women’s issues” than some other subjects, is it appropriate to deem that this is all a woman can speak to, even when teaching other women? Is this all women are capable of processing? Is this really all Christian women need to know?
If so, then we ladies best trade in our Bibles for a smaller version, for we only need the following texts:
That’s it. No Pentateuch for you, ladies. No Sermon on the Mount. Those glorious prophecies of Isaiah and others? Well, you don’t need them. After all, they do not fall into the bucket of “women’s issues.”
Hopefully the reader can see the absurdity of such reasoning. Yet it is precisely this type of logic that may lead to a dangerously distorted view of women within the visible church. It can result in women who are spiritually weak because they’ve been told that only their husbands and other men are worthy of deep theological study. It leaves women content to remain biblically ignorant, which is directly opposed to what we see in Scripture.
One danger that arises from this type of thinking is that these so-called “women’s issues” are all matters of practice and day-to-day living, yet they greatly limit the realms in which women may function.
When we examine women in the real world, we see that many deal with a multiplicity of other issues, even in the practical realm. Issues of the workplace: integrity, relationships, and diligence therein; matters of stewardship: how do those women who do not have families to care for steward their time and talents to the glory of God?; and issues of service: how might a woman serve the Body of Christ in more ways than simply baking cookies or babysitting children?
Ultimately, whether the matters at hand are ones of motherhood or office life, the threat exists that women, in being limited to only learning about and discussing these “women’s issues” that are mere matters of practice, become trapped in a dismal hole of law without grace, practice without faith, morality of actions without transformation of affections.Beyond the practical, and far more important, is the reality that theology is not just a man’s issue, it is a woman’s issue as well. In that regard, then, we must acknowledge that the following are also “women’s issues”:
- The nature of God
- The character of God
- The nature of man
- The nature of Scripture
The list goes on, and on, and on, and on. True “women’s issues” are things like Christology, pneumatology, bibliology, soteriology, apologetics, and Church history. We cannot begin to plumb the depths of the Word of God or exhaust its truths and treasures. Why, then, would we seek to withhold some of those treasures from God’s own daughters? Did Lois and Eunice only teach Timothy about marriage and motherhood? It certainly doesn’t appear that way:
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)
Think for a moment of the humble, but theologically equipped Mary, whose song praising her unborn son, her Lord, was rich with doctrinal truths.
And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
“HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-56)
In fact, of Mary’s song, John MacArthur writes,
It is clear that Mary’s young heart and mind were already thoroughly saturated with the Word of God.1
Indeed, and she surely was familiar with more than just Proverbs 31! Whether a woman is a wife, mother, factory worker, or corporate executive, the deep truths of Scripture are hers to discover, study, and apply in all realms of life.
First Timothy 2:11 says, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” While women today may bristle at the idea that a woman is to “learn quietly with all submissiveness,” the cultural realities of this passage must be acknowledged. At the time of Paul’s writing, in both Jewish and Greek society, women often were not encouraged to attend public worship. Their presence there was unimportant.2 The fact that Paul commands women to be present and affirms their right to learn must have been a great joy to the women of that day.
The New Testament affirms time and again the presence of women within the early church, as well as their apparent importance to the work of ministry. One need only examine the Scriptures to see that women were not only esteemed, but were fellow students of the Word. After all, how can one rightly and strongly serve the Lord if one is not immersed in and being nourished by His Word? Priscilla certainly seemed to be familiar with the teachings and doctrines of God’s truth.
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24-26)
In fact, the church at Rome seemed to be blessed with many faithful women grounded in their faith.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.
Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
(Romans 16:1-5; 15)
Did Paul only speak of babies and baking when he taught Lydia and the women who were with her? It seems doubtful.
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.
A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:13-14)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Ladies, do not despise deep study of the Word. Men, do not deprive or discourage women from this either.
1. John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 116.
2. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 83.