Thursday, January 10, 2008

Let's talk about it

By now, my regular readers know that my views on women do not square with most of my conservative evangelical brothers and sisters. I do not hide this fact, but I have been hesitant to address the "elephant in the room" because of the controversy that normally flocks to this matter, like flies to honey. In fact, more than controversy, oftentimes the worst in people rises to the surface.

Believe it or not, I don't like to provoke my Christian family members "to wrath." I do, however, believe it is part of my calling to encourage my family to think. It is for this reason that I have become certain that I need to address this matter head-on and trust that my readers can and will take care of their own hearts. For the next few weeks, therefore, I will present a series of posts on women, the Bible, and the Kingdom of God.

I will share with you that the primary impetus for my acquiescence is that I am weary of having scripture quotations from both testaments lobbed at me like holy hand grenades. These games of Bible ping-pong can be amusing at times, but they accomplish little in advancing real discussion. As one aged Sunday School teacher once told me, "The devil can quote scripture, too."

So, rather than build a stockpile of scripture quotations that I hope will "stand" against your stockpile, I hope to choose many of the most pertinant matters in the discussion and explore them from my perspective. The following outline is a projection of what I hope to address in the days and weeks to come:

Presuppositions: My Theological, Hermeneutical, and Experiential Starting Point

The Creation Account. What does Genesis 1-2 really say about the relationship of men and women? Is subordination really a part of the intended creation order or is it a result of sin?

Women in Select Old Testament Narratives. How did Yahweh deal with women in the earliest stories of Israel's history? Did Yahweh's treatment of women mirror the culture or challenge and rise above it? What are we to do with stories of select women who seemed to perform "a man's job"?

Women in the Law of Moses. What does the Law say about women? How should we understand laws that appear grossly misogynistic and/or arising from ignorance?

Women in First Century Roman Palestine. What was the place of women in the world of Jesus? What was the view of women among the Jews in the time of Jesus?

The Ministry of Jesus to and with Women. How did Jesus treat women as both recipients of and co-laborers in, his ministry? What does it mean that there were no women in the Twelve? What does Jesus' teaching offer that is pertinent to the discussion?

Paul's Ministry and Women. What was Paul's practice when it came to women and ministry? Upon what basis did he carry out his mission with the aid of women? Who were the women with whom Paul labored?

Women in Select Pauline Epistles. What should we understand Paul to mean in passages like 1 Cor 14:34-36; Gal 3:28; Eph 5:22-24; and 1 Tim 2:11-15? How is the meaning of these passages best applied to us today?

"Biblical Womanhood." Is there any such thing as "biblical womanhood"? Where does this concept come from and what is the alternative? Is there a reasonable, biblical view of gender that doesn't rest on "biblical womanhood"?

As I said above, this is merely an outline. I reserve the right to alter my course when and if I think it is appropriate. I plan to have small interruptions periodically in order to focus on particularly interesting theological or hermeneutical points. Also, my attention span is challenged by such a long series, so be ready to have small interrupting posts of completely unrelated material every so often.

Finally, I would be delighted to hear suggestions from my readers of those issues, passages, or points of view with which you particularly would like me interact. I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity, but I do not guarantee that I will provide any definitive answer.


Joel said...

Cool! Can't wait...

Carn-Dog said...

you go girl

CharlieMac said...

This will be so interesting! I like the illustration of the stacks of scriptural grenades stacked up like snowballs.

It will be interesting to see how many will be able to respond with application of scripture as Jesus often did rather than direct quotations.

Would that I could believe that closed minds will be opened. "Lord, help my unbelief."

Mac McFatter

Paul said...

I'm really looking forward to this, Emily.


Gary Snowden said...


I eagerly anticipate your contributions in this area. I am very sympathetic to your viewpoint, though like most of your readers I suspect that wasn't the tradition or mindset in which I was raised. Experiences on the mission field had a lot to do with causing me to re-read and reconsider some of the standard interpretations of the passages that have been lobbed at you like hand grenades almost any time the subject of women in ministry has come up on a blog.

I appreciate the Christ-like manner in which you've addressed your detractors and the scholarship that clearly informs your views. I would share Mac's prayer that your commitment to this series of blog entries could open some closed minds to the possibility at least that their interpretation of some of these texts is mistaken.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Emily: I am so glad that you are going to be addressing this. Things such as this need to be talked about. I will be anticipating(while also knowing) what you will bring to the table on this issue. Thanks Emily. I like charliemac's comment which speaks for me too.

UnderMidnight said...

Girl Power!

Joseph said...

I happily join the ranks of those who are looking forward to your scholarship and your thinking on these points. But the one thing I cannot fathom yet is why you apparently still keep a foot (or maybe just a toe!) in the conservative evangelical camp?

I suppose I can approach an answer to that by saying that I too have a wistfulness for what Southern Baptists could have become, but never did, and ultimately backed away from. And I too do not want to surrender the label of "evangelical", as I do want to see people come to receive Christ as savior and Lord. But aren't you hanging on to that label/allegiance beyond any usefulness?

Maybe I do not see the whole picture yet. Anyway, go on with the series!

brutiful said...

Hi Emily-
I have been a follower from afar for some time. Love your depth of insight and teaching gifts the Lord has blessed you with. Would love to hear your insights and I am sure you will cover the role of women today in light of women from the Bible, the unique calling of women as a whole in the body and the freedom and purpose of Christian women. Looking forward to it.

Lory Hunt said...

As I read this I couldn't help but think of a conversation I had with a Truett student yesterday. We got a note form a friend telling us about a sister seminaries' program for women. One of the things to be covered was "the biblical family". Although I'm sure they were talking about the biblical ideal for families....I wonder. Honestly, in studying some of the "biblical families" I'm not sure that's a household I want to live in. (David and Bathsheba, Issac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, etc.) Anyway, your post made me think about Ngan's class and how things are not always what they seem. Thanks for pursuing this topic.

Steve said...

Your previous offerings in the Outpost sure drew responses, galvanizing words AND feelings from responders we didn't always hear much from. I was continually amazed at the thin skin shown by some, as if you had hummed the ONE song that made them go crazy back in college (or, back on the ward?)

Other writers who had sounded fairly balanced on most "Burlesonian" issues sounded so angrily wounded when dealing with gender issues, and from then on sounded absolutely, Islamically, misogynistic upon any mention of women's issues.

Still, I have continued to look forward to your clipped-yet-full writing style, informative without being wordy.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...


Its an amazing thing to miss a Ngan class, but I do. In fact, I'd love to be starting some kind of class right now. It is very strange to be out of school. Thanks for your constant encouragement.


Your inquiry is a good one. I doubt very much that I can be classified among the "conservative evangelicals" anymore. Some would say "Yes" and some would say "No." You will notice that I called them only my brothers and sisters. I would have said the same thing about Greek Orthodox believers or Anabaptists believers (I think).

There is a trickiness about my place in American Christianity, though. I think I'm too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. Both sides don't want to claim me. I guess its all about definitions. I am a conservative in the sense that I want to "conserve" the vital beliefs and practices of the Christian faith. I am a liberal in the sense that I believe in the liberality of God's love and the freedom we have in Christ.

I remain in the SBC because, for now, this is where God has placed my husband and me in local church ministry. I have no illusions of finding a permanent home here, especially since, so far, I am not technically permitted to practice my calling within the SBC.

Grace and peace,


traveller said...

Emily, I await your words of wisdom with great anticipation.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sister! I can hardly wait!!


Steve said...

I was thinking about religion (as you often leave me doing) and I decided that, since Eve got fooled by Satan before (even if barely) Adam, women henceforth might possibly be banned from working in the areas of herpetological field collection or linguistics (if there were such a discipline) and tree-fruit picking. To go any further than that.... I really cannot conceive of applying gender role limits based on who sinned first or afterwards in that one situation - unless Moses simply assumed that all readers would read Genesis as allegorical. Go sell that in central Tejas.

Paul Burleson said...


I, along with a ton of others as your comment section indicates, am eagerly awaiting yout thoughtful and biblical research on this matter.

I must confess that my own study of the text of scripture will not permit me to remain where I used to be in the subject of gender issues. I remain Southern Baptist by choice since I believe foundationally, in the life of our Convention, differences are still acceptable on non-salvific issues. If this is ever NOT so the Convention will have left our historical roots...and me.

By the way..a suggestion..keep your notes and research intact..I see a book on the horizon

Mel said...

Oh, yea, yea, yea for me that I am privaleged to continue under your teaching, albeit from afar. Thank you for not forgetting we women on the fringes. I look forward to expanding my gray matter under your tutelage. So where's your first posting? HA!

art rogers said...

Really!? I'll start praying for you now... :)

Also, sorry about not doing the book tag thing. I already had/have a ton of articles that are set to drop. I wasn't even on the net much last week. It was all pre-written.

Again, sorry. Not dissing you. I thought your article was good.