I know that calling this post “Problems with Reformed Women’s Ministries and Resources” is not completely fair. I have only been a part personally of a handful of reformed women’s ministries. And I certainly haven’t had a chance to explore all reformed women’s resources. I have read through some of the women’s books traditionally recommended in reformed circles. There are many other great ones that I have heard much about but not yet read. In this post, I am going to speak in very broad and not always specifically accurate generalities. I am burdened for a general idea to take hold in women’s ministries and not lobbying against any particular group, author, or book.
I have really appreciated Tim Keller’s focus on genuine gospel-centered preaching at the core of teaching on all topics. If you are going to teach on God’s view of sex, you found it on the gospel. If you are going to teach on God’s view of money, you found it on the gospel. If you are going to teach on God’s view of social justice, you found it on the gospel. My pastor interned under Tim Keller, and I don’t know if that affected anything about his preaching. But week in and week out, I too get to hear preaching through Scripture on a variety of Christian disciplines that are always founded upon our understanding of the gospel to ourselves and how that informs our relationships with others.
But I have NEVER heard teaching to women on women’s roles founded and empowered by the gospel (except in a small group class on Ephesians 5 given by my pastor and his wife). I have never READ gospel centered teaching on women’s roles. I have never LISTENED to gospel centered teaching on women’s roles in a downloaded sermon.
I just finished writing a manuscript on Ephesians geared toward women. It may or may not ever get published, but it transformed me, particularly on how I think about women’s issues in Christianity. Ephesians holds the most controversial words to women in all of Christianity. Submit. Respect. Painful, chafing words–at least when taken out of context of the GOSPEL that Paul spends chapter after chapter setting up for us in Ephesians before he ever utters those specific words to women. Paul is really clear in Ephesians (at least when you read it in context), that it is our adoption into God’s family and all the spiritual blessings on us in Christ that call all of us, both men and women, to mutual submission in the Body of Christ. He spends chapters 1-3 on our spiritual blessings in Christ, exploring the gospel in great detail. In chapter 4 he teaches that the way we walk worthy of the beauty of this gospel he has presented is in humble, forbearing love with one another. He opens Ephesians 5 reminding us that the point of what God is doing in us is rooting out our old selves and conforming ALL of us to the image of Christ. Christ IS our catechism. His life is the exact representation of all God is calling us to. Humble, sacrificial service. Loving forbearance. Grace. Philippians 2 is a good commentary on what it means when Paul calls us to be imitators of God in Ephesians 5:1.
Then in Ephesians 5:21, Paul summarizes what it looks like for all those living in light of the gospel to be imitators of God. We all submit one to another in reverence for Christ. That is the context for the next instructions to husbands, wives, children, parents, slaves, and masters. When Paul next tells wives to submit to and respect their husbands in the Lord, it is in the context of the spiritual inheritance we all have in Christ and what it looks like to be conformed to the image of the humble Christ specifically in the life of a wife. To be honest, teaching Ephesians 5:22 to the end of the chapter just sets women up for failure if it is taken out of context of the whole of Paul’s teaching in the book.
Do you know of good women’s resources that teach such things in context of the gospel–not just saying the word “gospel” periodically but really fleshing out what God has done for us in and through Christ as the empowerment and example for what He has called us to? If so, please tell me about it in the comment section. I would like to call on all of us to accept nothing less than gospel-centered teaching to women even on women’s issues. I am firmly convicted that teaching anything specifically to women (or children or husbands or whomever) without founding it concretely on all Christ has purchased for us on the cross sets us all up for failure.