Encouraging Women to Do Biblical Studies at the Graduate Level
When I was in seminary, a godly woman recounted to a few of us how she had been asked multiple times by male students why, as a woman, she had come to seminary. The questioning was aggressive in nature, not for general understanding. Another woman recounted how a passive aggressive but zealous seminary student wrote a long message one early morning on the white board where the female students were getting together for prayer, commending them to not continue with the M.Div. I think I may have commended him to do the same.
Some see complementarians as people who only say “no” to women. Here, I want to give a few reasons why complementarians of many stripes should encourage as many women as possible to go get a master's degree in biblical studies!
“Some see complementarians as people who only say “no” to women. Here, I want to give a few reasons why complementarians of many stripes should encourage as many women as possible to go get a master's degree in biblical studies!”
God does not make a distinction between who should be taught the Word of God.
Maybe this is obvious, but I don’t hear too many people complaining about women in a Sunday school class or in undergrad getting Bible degrees. Why is there angst when we get to the master's level?
Whatever the case, complementarians are not Gnostics. We don’t believe that only some people can/should have access to the deep truths of God. Of course, learning the Bible is not tied to a graduate degree, but there is something to be said for thoughtful and structured study of God’s Word.
Having a Biblical worldview, no matter what your career choice, is important.
Maybe many complementarian men assume that women in seminary are there to be pastors and therefore can’t get their mind around complementarian women being in graduate school. However, at least of the women I knew in school, no one is a pastor, but they are all serving the Lord in strategic ministry roles and see the fruit of their training on a daily basis.
On top of this, having a well-trained theological mind does not necessarily mean a woman will go into vocational ministry. What about the women she could disciple, the friendships where she could bring informed biblical counsel, and the children (spiritual or physical) she will raise? What if she becomes a doctor that takes care of families, a lawyer who seeks justice or works in a government role for the good of the society? Should we not cheer her on as she gets a degree that lays the foundation for a deep Biblical worldview?
There seem to be a lot of women teaching in the New Testament.
I think some of us need to read the New Testament a little more closely.
- Priscilla teams with her husband teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26)
- Paul refers to women as workers in the Lord (Rom 16:12)
- Phoebe in Romans is singled out for her work with Paul (Rom 16)
- Women pray and prophecy in the setting of a public gathering (1 Cor 11:5; 14:26)
- Paul mentioned two women who labored with him side by side in the gospel (Phil 4:2-3)
The missionary movement has been led at times by heroic, gospel-loving women evangelists and teachers.
Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael and Lottie Moon come to mind immediately. Let’s also not forget the wives of men. We often consider the men the missionaries, but what about their wives who often have sacrificed more? Just by example, do you think of Adoniram Judson or Adoniram and Ann?
Elizabeth Elliot once wrote:
What is the place of women in world mission? Jesus said, “You [and the word means all of you, male and female] are my witnesses. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” And there have been countless thousands who, without reference to where they came from or what they knew or who they were, have believed that Jesus meant exactly what he said and have set themselves to follow.
Today strident female voices are raised, shrilly and ad nauseam, to remind us that women are equal with men. But such a question has never even arisen in connection with the history of Christian missions. In fact, for many years, far from being excluded, women constituted the majority of foreign missionaries.
It is not a lesser calling to train women.
Maybe it’s our culture or human tendency, but the ultimate calling in vocational ministry in the minds of many I have met is the ability to preach and teach to the whole church. Maybe it is because we vet those people in a more thorough way then we would a youth worker. So teaching children — not ultimate. Discipling youth – not quite the top. College students — at least you are close. Outreach — if you study you probably don’t have the time. And women — we leave that to the pastor's wives.
This is obviously a caricature, but I hope it makes the point. Women training women is not only a high calling, it is a crystal clear command in scripture.
Theologically trained single women, married women and moms are awesome.
I know. I'm married to one (who was trained when single, then got stuck with me and now has five wonderful children). She now spends the majority of her time imprinting a God-centered vision onto our children. I never worry about what she is teaching. She loves God.
Have you seen the books in the women’s section of Christian bookstores?
I know that the majority of books in many Christian bookstores are prosperity gospel lite, but the women’s section in particular needs help! You may wonder whether we should have so many books specific to men and women, but we can agree that a few more well-informed women who can write would be a great blessing to the church.
It is probably no surprise to you that women read more than men. Let’s have some women with a formal and solid theological education that can serve as teachers to deepen the roots of faith and understanding for the women who walk into Christian bookstores.
Have you heard the messages that are given at women’s conferences?
I am so thankful for the kind of conference The Gospel Coalition puts together for women. I am sure there are other conferences out there that are worth going to, but the number is small. Conferences are generally targeted for men that have any theological weight to them. That is a problem.
Your church would do well to have a few theologically trained women on staff.
I was recently listening to a message from Don Carson, who explained that in many churches in the thoroughly complementarian Sydney Diocese (Anglican), the 3rd or 4th hire to a church plant was usually a formally well-trained woman. Considering the number of women that are most likely in your church, do you have a few women who can rightly divide the word of truth?
Addendum: Not just counseling
I visit a lot of seminaries, and there are two in particular that have a large population of women. When I ask friends why, they have responded, “We have a good counseling program.”
I am so glad there are women being trained in solid counseling programs. But can I add — how much more beneficial would it be to have women with a general Biblical Studies degree AND a counseling degree. Let's pray that they would be good counselors because they are biblical scholars!
One last thing, because I know some readers will think this. Going to seminary or graduate school does not make someone well-trained, nor does not going to seminary mean you can’t be a good teacher. However, graduate studies provides opportunity, structure, and motivation that non-formal education has a hard time matching.