St Teresa & A Woman’s Longing to Preach


François_Gérard_-_St_Theresa_(detail)Saint Teresa of Avila was a 16th-century mystic and Carmelite nun who traveled around teaching and writing mystical treatises on the interior life of maturing Christian spirituality and contemplative practices. (Here’s a great intro on her life.)

To read her writings and to read about her life is one of the most powerful testimonies to a woman’s place in the Christian church. She constantly rubbed the male power structures the wrong way and in many of her writings one can see how she bends over backwards to accommodate their concerns about a powerful woman, trying to demonstrate how a woman can teach and lead while also living in accordance to the doctrines of the scriptures. And yet, more than any intellectual argument, it is her grace, maturity, and powerful insight into the Bible, the Christian Life, and the human soul that are some of the greatest apologetics for a woman’s full right to teach and preach and lead in the Church. I am currently reading through her magnum opus, The Interior Castle, and it is breathtaking. I ran across this brief passage and lamented along with Teresa… Continue reading

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Oh no! What’s a Feminist Fundamentalist to Do?


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This post is part of our on-going series about Male Feminist Theology.

Yesterday I wrote about my fears of hypocrisy when it comes to Church and Theology in relation to Women and their experience in the world. I talked about how some people see the Bible as a product of patriarchal culture, and therefore is simply wrong when it comes to women. Others (like myself) try and argue that the Bible is itself in favor of women exercising full authority and presence in the Church and Theological consideration.

But when I do this, is it just another form of fundamentalism to doggedly refuse to let go of my belief that the Bible “has” to be right in this area? Here are a few things that have at least helped me sleep at night and move forward in this pursuit of a Male Feminist Theology.
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A Male Feminist Wrestles with the Bible (come watch!)


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This post is part of our on-going series about Male Feminist Theology.

When we last met, I tried to lay out a theology of the Bible that makes sense when we take into account the experiences of women–an experience that is marginalized, embodied, and connected to the earth itself. When you do that, you realize that a top-down understanding of the Bible is inadequate. The way God reveals himself is primarily from the bottom-up.  And that is how we should see the Bible–not as a divine dispatch from the heavens, but as an emerging reality out of the embodied, painful reality of human existence.

My argument was that the top-down idea that God spoke from on high and people wrote down his words in the Bible, is actually a patriarchal view that concentrates power and knowledge at the top and restricts it only to those with the privilege of being “in the know”.

Whether you agree with all that or not, there’s actually a bigger elephant in the room than our theological ideas about the Bible: the actual contents of the Bible itself. If you want to be sensitive to the realities of women in the world, what should you do when you approach passages (both Old Testament and New!) that disregard, demean, and disempower women?
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Back on Track: The How (and Why) of Christian Male Feminism


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Remember the beginning of Lent, when I said I wanted to lay out a vision for how Christian men can think about God, the Church, and Theology in a way that takes into account the concerns of feminists? I said that these thinkers had been exposing the very real damage that has been wrought by us treating “White Male Theology” as default, neutral, objective “Theology”.

Well, believe it or not, we never actually got to what I wanted to write about. Full disclosure: that whole series was conceived because I had written a paper on this topic that I was proud of–a paper I wanted to edit down and make into a series of blog posts. And yet, before we could get to what amounted to a term paper, I had to take the reader through a lot of the other ideas that were in the rest of the class.
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God & Her Glory: A Table of Contents


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As part of Lent in 2015, I built on my on-going series on Women and the Church, and did a little mini-series on using feminine language and images when speaking to and about God. This caused lots of discussion and disagreement, especially on Facebook. To help organize things, I wanted to put up this post to guide anyone who just now might be taking a look into this. I hope you find it helpful, and don’t forget to add your thoughts below.

{1}: “Our Mother, Who Art in Heaven”

In this opening post, I give some background to my experience with this topic, as well as talk briefly about theological language itself and how it poses problems for us as we move forward in exploring this issue. I also introduce the main sources I used for this series and try to mark a path forward.

{1b}: A Good Facebook Debate (for a change)

After that first post, I started seeing the passion many people had about this topic. The Facebook discussion especially had me thinking about angles and dynamics I hadn’t thought of before. So, because it was helpful to me, I thought it might be helpful to the blog readership.

{2}: How our Words & History Affect Women

Here, I showed the connection between gender and language, trying to bring out how the way we talk about God can subtly, unconsciously even, affect not only women, but how we all think about God. I then tried to go through some history of how this has played out in the Church and the world.

{3}: The Biblical & Historical Evidence

In this post, I simply lay out the best possible comprehensive case I can for the Scriptural and historical references to God in feminine imagery and terms. After going through Scripture and some historical context, we then look at important figures and references throughout the early church through the Middle Ages.

{epilogue}: MORE Faithful, Not Less

In this conclusion to the series, I acknowledge some of the prevailing critiques, and try and cast a vision for how brothers and sisters in the Church can move forward on this, both practically and in disagreement. I make the case that fighting for broader language when talking about the Divine is an attempt to be all the more faithful to Scripture and the Church, not to change things because of the wider cultural discussion.

BONUS: Does it Matter that Jesus was a Male?

This is a relevant post I had done another time. In it, we look at some art that depicts Jesus as a female and explore what theological significance (if any) there is that our Savior was a male. Again, the debate was feisty.

[image credit: “Vessel”, by Meinrad Graighead]

God & Her Glory {epilogue}: MORE Faithful, Not Less


ArtLinguistic Passion

Throughout this series on feminine language for God, I’ve been shocked at how incredibly passionate people have been about all of this. I promise I don’t try to write for controversy’s sake; I genuinely want to serve and help the people of God, not divide them.

But perhaps I was naive not to anticipate it. A friend of mine put it well on Facebook (edited for clarity):

In Postmodern thought, language always encodes how we see reality. One can only perceive reality with words because people always think in words. This…is probably a big reason why the fight over gendered pronouns is so fierce. Mess with the language and you mess with people’s narrative-making apparatus.

It’s true: language is reality. I don’t want to imply that language doesn’t matter, that people are making too big of a deal about it and should just lighten up, or that there should be a free-for-all in our language about God. Rather, my desire to broaden our words for God is precisely because I see the power of our language to shape how we see reality.
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God & Her Glory {1}: “Our Mother, Who Art in Heaven…”


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Well, they warned me.

It was my first year at my first seminary. I had the honor of being chosen for an “Inter-Seminary Seminar” course in which people from five very different seminaries got together, were given a topic they all disagreed about, and then spent a semester writings papers to and debating with one another.

One of those seminaries was a liberal Lutheran one. I was told ahead of time that the students (usually women) from this school, every year, always made a big, emotional deal about masculine language being used in the papers. And indeed, at the beginning of every single paper discussion, the first comment was always a tear-filled lament over the use of masculine pronouns throughout the paper.

And so, when it was my turn to write a paper, I tried to be sensitive to this. I changed “mankind” to “humanity”, “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”, etc. And yet, when my paper came up for discussion, they opened up once more with an impassioned complaint against the male-centered language. I told them that I had tried to be sensitive to that. They said, “no, the problem was in your use of the masculine pronouns for God!
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Lent & Male Feminism: Reflections & Repentance


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Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the Lent season of the Christian Church Calendar. It is the time of year in which we turn up the volume on those darker whispers in our hearts to hear what they say. We turn our ears to the cries of the world bear the wounds of a weeping earth in our hearts and hands. And oh, the wounds are deep.

We come to this Lent with the weight of so much on our collective shoulders: so much brokenness, so much injustice, so much pain, heartache, death, and violence in the world. I honestly thought that 2015 would bring relief from 2014. So far, it has not.

But in the midst of the chaos that reigns both within and without, I am determined to turn my thoughts and this blog towards one area in which the Church as a whole needs to repent; an area in which I feel we can make some real progress in this day and age: Women in the Church.

I do have an on-going series on this topic that I’ve been adding to for the past couple of years, but I think it’s important and helpful to turn towards it particularly now. Lent has always had a deep connection to this topic for me.
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Congrats to the Women of the Church of England!


female-woman-bishop-anglican-communionI thought it would make more headlines this week in the U.S, but it didn’t, so I thought I’d put it here. Two days ago, the Church of England voted overwhelmingly to allow for female bishops in their ranks. They had for twenty years now allowed for female priests but–as is the odd logic that accompanies church hierarchies such as this–they thought it a step too far to allow women to be bishops. I don’t know. But either way, let us rejoice their is one more place in the world where women can fully and freely exercise the gifts God has given them.

Click here for more posts in my occasional series on Women in the Church.

Anna, the Prophet of the Lord | Luke 2.36-38


There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2.36-38

What a powerful testimony. She was only married for seven years before her husband died. She had been a widower for 84 years. What pain and loneliness she must have felt. And yet, how did she spend it? Serving God’s people as a prophet, being especially in tune with those “looking for Israel’s redemption” and then proclaiming Jesus to them. Even before the Cross and Resurrection, Jesus was the answer for the longing of God’s people for redemption.

Also, Luke said he went through all of the accounts and picked and chose what would get “in” and what wouldn’t. Of all the little anecdotes he chooses to keep in and keep out, he chooses this. What a powerful woman she must have been for her to have been seered into the collective consciousness of God’s people retelling this story.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Male Headship & Societal Injustice | Esther 1:17-22


Queen_Vashti_Refuses_to_Obey_Ahasuerus_CommandToday’s post falls into both our new section of the site called Marginalia and our on-going series on Women in the Church.

For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath! If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”

This advice pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed; he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, declaring that every man should be master in his own house.
Esther 1.17–22

I can imagine a conservative evangelical looking at this and saying to themselves, “Now, the king’s court is recognizing a natural order in the way God has made a marital relationship to work, even though they go about reinforcing this biblically-supported picture in the wrong way–through force and not love”. I hope that’s a fair representation.

But either way, (1) they would not want us to pull from this text any lessons about how male headship itself is wrong, just how it’s done badly here, and (2) they would still think the concern of these males is justified (and perhaps even right), as we’ve seen similar dynamics play out in our culture in the aftermath of feminism.

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Why my soul is glad to have feminists around me


wwii-woman-we-can-do-it-feminismThis is a post in our on-going series on Women in the Church.

As I wrote last week, I was at my in-person seminary intensive the past two weeks. While there, I met a woman who is about to be ordained a minister in my denomination. We were all sharing our stories and I told her I was raised a Southern Baptist. Having been raised in area where they have little to no foothold, she had only had one experience with a Southern Baptist.

She was working a table at a conference where an older gentleman carrying a large briefcase approached, telling her how excited he was about the next speaker–a “fellow Southern Baptist”. Not being familiar with the speaker’s work, this woman asked the gentleman what the work was on. He put his briefcase on the table, opened it up and pulled out a large tome, saying “this is his book, and it is wonderful.” He almost began to summarize its contents, but stopped short, instead pulling out a much smaller paperback, saying “but that book may be too hard for you to understand. Here, look at this one. It’s much simpler.”

He then realized he had no idea why a woman would be at this conference in the first place. He asked, “and so what do you do?”

She told him that she was at seminary studying for her Masters of Divinity.

This gentleman quietly put the books back in his suitcase, shut it, locked the clasps, looked at her, and solemnly said, “you know you’re going to burn for that, right?” And he walked away.

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So, some women were ordained last week and…it wasn’t that exciting.


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This is a post in our on-going series on Women in the Church.

The past week of my life was filled pretty heavily with church stuff. First, my church hosted our denominational meeting for those churches in our church family that are in cities. They talked about new developments in my seminary program, gave updates on the health of current church plants, adopted the 2014 budget, and ordained and commissioned new pastors to serve in churches across the country. It was a day and half filled with theology jokes, family talks, overdue introductions, and post-meeting sessions of cocktails and cigars on the front steps of the church.

Second, as I mentioned last week, my church spent yesterday celebrating it’s maturation from a “church plant” (a church that still relies on other churches for most of its support and leadership) to a full-blown self-sustaining, self-leading church. My parents came in town, the music was loud, the sermon was great, and we had a large block party after the service with a moon bounce, chili cook-off, and homebrew contest (the bourbon barrel stout won, by the way. It was called “The Nord’s Wrath”).

It was great, and it will be a block of days I will not soon forget.

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I have found the Holy Grail against women in leadership, and I am ruined


Countering-the-Claims-of-Evangelical-Feminism-Grudem-Wayne-9781590525180This is a post in an on-going series on Women in the Church.

A while ago, I stumbled on a clearance copy of the book Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem. Now, for those that don’t know, Grudem is one of those super-influential evangelical theologians that doesn’t get a lot of play in the wider culture. He’s not going to make any headlines like Mark Driscoll, and he’s not going say anything too outside the conservative box, like Rob Bell. He’s a quiet intellectual who writes and influences a lot.

Through college, I had a bunch of friends obsessed with his “Big Blue Book”, Systematic Theology, which is an accessible, clear introduction to what became the “New Calvinism” fad. In short, he’s sort of a Calvinistic Baptist that believes the Holy Spirit is still doing more outlandish sorts of things.

And yet, if you look at all of his publications, the vast majority of them are simply various versions and editions of just these two books (well, admittedly, the book I’m writing about today is an abbreviated version of this book). It’s quite easy to see that Grudem has devoted his life primarily to two things: Systematic Theology and Gender Roles in the Church. A lot of the arguments you’ll hear from complementarians–those that do not think Women should be allowed to exercise authority in Church or Home contexts–come straight from Grudem.

And so, in the interest of being fair in my Women and the Church series, I picked this book up to hear “the other side”. The book goes through 45 of (what Grudem feels are) the absolute best Egalitarian arguments. He lays out the individual argument, usually printing a paragraph-length quote from someone who has expressed that opinion. And then he offers responses (usually about 1 to 4) for each of these points. Each chapter is 2 to 5 pages long.

I went into the book with only minor curiosity, because I was raised with his perspective, was completely inundated with it in college, and pretty much felt I knew most of the arguments he would throw out there.

Well I was wrong.
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