I’ve just listened to a wonderful podcast – a talk by Kathleen Nielson called “What does God think of women?”
It’s well worth listening to in full and it’s given me a lot to think about. My initial reaction, in no particular order:
The relationship between men and women is fundamental to God’s created order. Her introduction I think is spot on: “We need to understand and be able to articulate clearly what we believe about these things and why, according to God’s Word—not as a system of rules that we ascribe to, not as a grid through which we see everything else, but as a fundamental affirmation of God’s goodness to the human beings he created. As the culture around us changes rapidly … we believers have a huge opportunity not only to teach well the young ones growing up among us, but also to bear witness before a world that desperately needs to know the goodness of our Redeemer. And that goodness shines forth powerfully from his good creation of his image-bearers as male and female.”
Why is it so fundamental? Because what it means to be male and female communicates the nature of God and the nature of the gospel. (You’ll have to listen to the whole talk for that).
By contrast, a lot of ‘complementarian’ churches don’t really understand Biblical complementarianism. I talked about this a little when I wrote about Beth Moore a few months ago. A lot of churches think you can say, “so long as men are the head of the family and are in the leadership positions at church, so long as women aren’t preaching / teaching / leading in certain circumstances, we’ve done our job”. I think this kind of attitude is doing a lot of harm – it’s saying nothing positive about women or the relationship between men and women.
Following on from this, we need to rebuild a positive vision of men and women. One of the things that has struck me lately is how Western society seems to have completely lost the plot when it comes to men and women. We can’t rely on stereotypes any more, because all the stereotypes are being thrown down. At the same time, men don’t know how to be men, women don’t know how to be women, and men and women simply don’t know how to relate. Yes, this is an exaggeration – but not too much of one. I think the church should be setting the trend in this, and showing the world what being a man and a woman looks like in the 21st century. Rather than looking back and trying to re-create the way things were back in the 1950s, we have an opportunity to show what being male and female looks like in the here and now.
Finally, women’s bodies are important. I was really struck by Kathleen’s perspective on having a female body. One thing it did make me realise was how little the female body is really valued in society – the female body is valued for its sexuality but little else at the moment. I think we need to recapture a holistic, Biblical sense of bodies – as I have said here for a while now.
Anyway, those are my reflections – I hope you enjoy listening to the talk!