Image from National Catholic Reporter, July 13, 2019. Artifacts show early church women serving as clergy. “What’s a Woman of Grace Doing in the Priesthood” presented at Central Christian College of the Bible, April 5, 2018.
In Part 1 I discussed the new identity given to the early church after becoming dispersed due to the persecution in Jerusalem. According to Paul the church and believers form the new, spiritual temple. For Peter, the dispersed Christ-followers are identified as a holy priesthood.
In this post I explore God’s purpose for all humanity and thus for today’s women of grace. Ancient and counterfeit views of humanity are briefly introduced and critiqued in light of the biblical view of humanity to show how distorted theologies bring shame and risk to women instead of freedom in Christ.
I. God’s Purpose for Redeemed Israel
- Seven times Moses tells Pharaoh, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me!” (Ex 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3).
- “I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44-5; Lev 19:2).
c. TO BE A BLESSING:
- “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” so others will worship the one true God” (Ge 12:2).
II. God’s Purpose for Women Of Grace
a. She tells her story:
Christ-followers are “witnesses declaring the praises of HIM who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:5-10).
- She tells God’s story – the Gospel message – backwards and forwards.
- She tells her personal story of redemption from darkness to others trapped in darkness in order to draw them to worship the True God.
b. She is transformed:
Christ-followers “present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, [as] spiritual worship. They are “transformed by the renewing of their minds” in order to “discern … the will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). This is priestly language and priestly work.
- Worship involves a transformation of her mind & her body (Rom 12: 1-2).
- She pays attention to what she reads, watches, listens to.
- She pays attention to how she respects or disrespects her body
- She uses her hands, feet, and mouth to glorify God in whatever she does.
c. She is a blessing
Christ-followers live as a “counter-formation to the mis-formation of secular liturgies into which [she was] ‘thrown’ from an early age” (adapted from Desiring the Kingdom, p. 88).
- She evaluates daily rituals in life and evaluate which rituals misshape and distort her character.
- She maintains only those daily liturgies/practices that form her into Christ’s image
- She hones her knowledge of the faith, of the Word, and practices discernment.
III. Counterfeit Humanity, Counterfeit Holiness, Counterfeit God-Stories
a. Paul warned in the Last Days
- People would be “ungrateful, unholy, inhuman,… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power … counterfeit humanity (2 Tim 3:1-5).
- Forbidding marriage and demanding abstinence from foods … counterfeit path to holiness (1 Tim 4:3)
- People would follow after deceitful spirits, demonic teachings, and would seek after ancient myths … counterfeit god-stories (1 Tim 1:4; 4:7, 2 Tim 4:4, Tit 4:4).
b. Paul warned weak-women would be targeted
“These are the kind (of teachers) who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Tim 3:6-7, NIV)
c. Paul insisted women STUDY to learn the genuine gospel message
- Women were to submit the counterfeit gospels and false teachings from their past religious institutions to the True Gospel (1 Tim 2:11).
- Only by knowing the True Gospel can weak-willed-women prone to deception combat false teachings and avoid continued deception by false teachers.
- Women provide the tools and arsenal to stand firm in the midst of false teaching.
IV. Distorted Views of Humanity & the Biblical View of Humanity
a. Plato’s View
- A human is a preexisting unsexed-soul trapped in an earthly, gendered body.
- A human struggles to escape its material body to return to its preexistent, non-gendered, perfected state.
- Female bodies will be reincarnated into male bodies before reaching a male body on its path to perfection.
- Material bodies are not representative of who humans are biologically.
b. Aristotle’s View
- A woman is a mal-formed human used primarily to procreate.
- Male bodies are perfectly formed.
- A woman is irrational, inferior, and emotional.
- A woman must obey men, be silent, stay out of the public sphere.
- Males are superior, females inferior.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? It should.
- These views should raise concerns for Christians today.
- The Greek philosophical ideas continue to influence our theology.
- The Greek views distort how we interpret biblical passages.
These ancient philosophical views are unwittingly incorporated into our theology of humanity.
- They negatively impact how we discuss women and men’s roles in the church, the home, and in society.
- They distort our understanding of biblical passages, particularly Genesis 1-3 and passages dealing with women in the New Testament.
c. The Jewish/Biblical View
- ADAM/humanity is male/female created in the image of God.
- The church errs when it teaches the male only is made in God’s image, with woman made in man’s image.
- Man and woman function together as “priest/s” while tending Garden of Eden prior to the fall (Gen 1:28; 2:15).
V. UNBIBLICAL VIEWS INCREASE SHAME & RISK FOR WOMEN
- When women are repeatedly shamed they learn to view themselves as shameful beings, making it easier to partake in shameful behavior leading to their eventual self-destruction.
- They are easy prey because they are deceived into believing they are of no value.
Sam Dye from Prison Fellowship Ministry in Iowa explained that women’s prison ministry is drastically different and more difficult to develop than men’s prison ministry. Why?
- Most incarcerated female imprisonment is directly related to a man’s destructive behavior in her life.
- Popular novels and medio contribute to the merchandizing, objectifying, and dehumanizing of women.
- Female bodies are measured against female celebrities.
- Domestic violence & sexual assault continue on a global scale because women (and men) are deceived that only men are leaders and women must obey.
- The primary work of raising a family continues to be devalued (watch UN, “Her Story-Ethiopian Motherhood” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2lkl2W-aAg ).
In the church:
- Married and single women called to full-time ministry are devalued, diminished, or dismissed.
- Single moms continue to struggle to raise their children.
- Women in ministry continue to endure abuse from pastors or clergy.
- Religious leaders exploit weak-willed women.
In Part 3, I offer a biblical remedy to the counterfeit and theological distortions. I share a bit of my story to show why getting our theology right matters to each one of us. I close with a fresh look at Proverbs 31 in which husband and wife, brothers and sisters in the church function as allies.