Women as Junior Holy Spirits

Women as Junior Holy Spirits is a provocative title for this post. But I had a bit of a revelation today as I thought through the role of women as ezers in the image of God and how closely the language used around ezer in the Old Testament reflects the language around paraclete in the New.

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 

John 14 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times that wives should not try to play a junior Holy Spirit role in the lives of their husbands. The implication is that the wife is trying to nag and manipulate her husband when she doesn’t like what he’s doing. Leave it to the Holy Spirit to convict your husband, the conservative counselor tells her. And the counselor then cites I Peter 3.

1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

All three of these Scriptures are true and helpful. The woman was created in perfection to be a strong helper to the man in the image of God. The Holy Spirit was given after Jesus’ return as an even stronger Helper to both men and women, one who reminds them of Jesus’ teaching and empowers them to fill Jesus’ great commission. And wives of disobedient husbands best influence through their lives, not their words.

But have you ever noticed how few emphasize the words of wives as helper in the lives of husbands who are not disobedient? If it’s unhelpful to your sinning husband to use words, is the implication that it is unhelpful to obedient ones as well?

I don’t think so.

Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

In the quest to restrain perceived nagging, manipulation, and gossip among women in the church, we forgot for a while to encourage and receive their voice of wisdom. To value their voice. I think the tide is changing among conservatives on this issue. As Mark Driscoll’s voice and influence has died in reformed evangelical circles, I find that his disastrous suspicions of women are falling away as well. Or maybe it’s simply that the longer I am out from under his influence the more Christian male leaders I find that value the voice of God’s daughters. Interestingly, Mark Driscoll is emerging among charismatic groups that don’t have a conservative view of women in the pulpit, now preaching beside women pastors. I have a jaded view of why that is the case, mostly that his convictions of the moment are much more about where the harvest of best book sales are ripe than his own core beliefs based on Scripture. But, much like Donald Trump, he got away with saying outrageous things for a while about women, and as he steps away from such rhetoric, so will his followers.

For a time under Driscoll’s teaching and interacting with others who believed similarly, I became suspicious of my own voice. It wasn’t that I lost my voice as much as that I doubted it. I loved Jesus and His Word, and I believe now the Holy Spirit was convicting me in ways that were good and right. But I had experienced enough loud, divisive women’s voices in churches growing up to easily buy into the idea that I was next in line to do so if I didn’t stamp down any of my concerns. Instead, I recognize now that the great antidote to obnoxious, divisive female voices is cultivating wise, helpful ones. The gospel doesn’t shut us out of the room. It transforms how we relate. The centrality of a redeemed woman’s identity in Christ is that she is helpful in the strongest sense of the Word, much like the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, the similarity of the words paraclete and ezer indicate that the redeemed woman is a fundamental way the Holy Spirit convicts and communicates to His sons for the good of His Church.

A literal reading of the similar yet different, complementary nature of gender means that a woman has something to offer man in perspective and understanding. And sometimes, her best means of helping is to disagree or give a different point of view. The man then is helped in the strongest sense of the word when he receives and considers her point of view. I Peter 3 has an implicit counter instruction to men imbedded in its explicit one to women – men, if your wife is being silent or doesn’t feel free to voice her concerns, disagreements, or differing perspective to you, then examine yourself to see if you are “disobedient to the word.” Her voice should be as helpful when you are pursuing the word as it is a stumbling block when you aren’t. Her complementary, similar yet different, perspective is a gift from God to be valued in your life.

The good news is that the Church is seeing a continued correction around encouraging women’s voices in ministries and the home without fear that an orthodox understanding of complementary genders from the Bible will be at stake. This is a facet of redemption, and it is very good for the Body of Christ.

5 Responses to Women as Junior Holy Spirits

  1. Mara Reid February 23, 2016 at 7:17 pm #

    You were fortunate or blessed or well-grounded or strong or something very positive, in that you didn't lose your voice at Mars Hill. From what I've gathered, many women have.

    Also, you said:
    “the great antidote to obnoxious, divisive female voices is cultivating wise, helpful ones.”
    This should be more obvious to everyone in the church than it is.

    But somehow we all know better than to think we should shut down and limit all men or make them suspicious of their voices due to the existence of obnoxious, vulgar, and controlling male voices.

    Yet, somehow, the existence of many reasonable and wise male voices is still not antidote enough for the all the loud, controlling, abusive 'shepherds' that seem to plague the church.

    My admittedly pessimistic opinion is that those voices won't go away without a goodly amount of persecution. And I'm not excited about the prospect to seeing/experiencing that kind of persecution.

  2. Anita February 24, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    Such a great post and exactly what I needed to hear.

    ” I recognize now that the great antidote to obnoxious, divisive female voices is cultivating wise, helpful ones.”

    I definitely am learning / need to be learning to cultivate a wise and helpful voice.

  3. Unknown February 24, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hilary February 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    Wendy, your gracious thoughtful, wise words have helped me (and are helping me) as an antidote to the pain that Mark's teaching brought about for so many women and men. Thank you for continuing to teach – your voice is needed and welcome. I felt then, as I do now, that Biblical literacy is the answer to helping women see clearly as they study what the Bible is actually saying. There is freedom in this understanding, and no shame. I am thankful to you for reminding us that the Holy Spirit's voice is very different from some of the voices we heard that would have sought to keep us in bondage and fear – and silen

  5. Angie March 5, 2016 at 3:43 am #

    I am always encouraged by your gracious tone and appreciate your perspective.

    I am not a hierarchical complementarian, observing only from the cheap seats. Though I sense there has been some change as you suggest, I don't know how far reaching it is and wonder how many decades it will take to undo three decades of the teaching that the essential nature of women is adversarial towards men with a desire to control and grasp for the man's perceived power and position. When someone has this fundamental concept of women, even a genuinely benign gentle reminder can be perceived as a manipulative maneuver. This teaching is still pervasive and inevitably creates a climate in which women are censored by others or, as you pointed out, by themselves in an honest effort to live out their complementarian anthropology.