Voices Break Silence.

Whispering. Roaring. Unwavering.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

(It’s a very good place to start)

Who, or what, is a woman? That’s the question I asked in my last post. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments. In a discussion focused on safe church environments, and healthy, woman-to-woman caregiving ministries, the relevance of a doctrine of woman may not be immediately evident. Yet, “What one thinks about human beings is of determinative significance for his or her program of action” (Hoekema, Created in God’s Image). This indicates that the type of care a church provides for a woman in crisis is informed by who and what they think she is.

Many of the resources addressing caregiving ministries begin with comforting one another with the hope of the gospel. This is an essential discussion, for sure. But equally important, we must carefully define the person for whom we provide comfort! Christ, when He answered the church leaders of His day regarding the greatest command, included loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul right alongside likewise loving others (Matt. 22:37-39). They go hand in hand. The two approaches are not antithetical. The Word literally hangs on both loving God and loving others (40). What that means is, we who provide care are called to properly interpret the Scriptures in our caregiving AND properly interpret the person.

So, where do we start? I’m sure there’s a wide variety of thought re a doctrine of woman in the evangelical mind. But in the circles in which the HH ministry swims, biblical manhood and womanhood is the persistent organizing principle…equal in nature, difference in roles.[1] In other words, a woman’s very “essence,” is unchanging. We are created in the image of God. However, our “role” as women is otherwise characterized by a pattern of behaviors and expectations of those behaviors, understood, assumed, and adhered to by all. These roles are supposedly derived from Scripture.

But, are they? And do we all (men and women) agree on them? And how does that impact how we provide care? Let’s look at one role in particular. A woman’s place is in the home.

In October of 2019, John MacArthur shared his definition of a woman’s role when he publicly diminished popular Bible teacher Beth Moore with the snappy command to “go home.” Not long after, author and teacher Aimee Byrd was essentially ordered to do the same, only this time the instructions included getting barefoot and making a sandwich.

These perspectives might feel like outliers in an otherwise “positive” environment. Yet even popular complementarian Kevin DeYoung encourages people to believe women were created for the home. “The way in which each [man and woman] was created suggests the special work they will do in the wider world—the man in the establishment of the external world of industry, and the woman in the nurture of the inner world of the family that will come from her as helpmate” (DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church).

Let’s play this mindset forward and imagine what type of care a woman will receive if her crisis relates to her “role.” Consider a husband who buys into this theory and “prohibits” his wife from working outside the home. Let’s say the wife is not necessarily in agreement, however she complies simply to avoid the consequences of her husband’s persistent lectures into the wee hours of the night for not conceding to his God-given authority. Maybe he insists her primary concerns should be structured around all the responsibilities she has inside the home (such as homeschooling, managing a strict budget, or preparing the family’s meals with rigid requirements[2]). Perhaps, during this isolation from financial individuality, what if the husband provides his wife with an “allowance,” one that only covers the bare minimum for hers and the children’s food and clothing but not for medical or dental needs? What if she’s forced (because of this limitation) to forego her own care for the sake of the children and her health begins to suffer?

In the worst-case scenario, if she goes to her pastor, will he recognize this as a problem?[3] If he does, will her church leaders consider it significant that her personhood is being diminished and that personal choice has been taken away? If her “agency” (a fancy word for being a human being who has thoughts, feelings, and desires with an ability to make decisions accordingly) is ordained to be organized under her husband’s, will leadership structure care according to her opinion for what’s best for her? Or will they try to arrange help in such a way as to maintain the “roles”?

What if you’re the person who happens to be helping? In my situation, and in FAR too many others as well, when I encouraged an oppressed woman to make the decisions she needed to make for her own and her children’s well-being, her church leaders filed an unofficial complaint with my church for failing to provide oversight for how I provide care, which subsequently led to an investigation into my private practice. Role theory has multiple (negative) and far-reaching implications.

If the words and phrases you hear from your church leaders include this role theory there’s a good chance you will need further information before knowing whether you’re safe to report abuse and/or care for the abused. It might help for leaders to provide you with some definitions and descriptions for how their worldview plays out. Here are some of the catch phrases you’ll want to listen for (and be cautious about)[4]…

Ordained men are God’s gift to the church for caregiving.

Christ’s continued care for His people is passed down through (male) elders.

Christ’s authority is exercised through (male) leaders.

“Divinely appointed.”

Nature and Role.

Dominion.

Creation order.

Authoritative role given to (male) leaders.

Helpers help “them” (male) leaders (with THEIR authority).

Husband or church leaders are “decision makers.”

Women care for other women as a voice from (male) leaders.

Women are derivative (an “extension”) of men (in the church/in the home/in the world).

Gender lines.

Women are more emotional.

Cooperative ministry, collaborate male/female relationships.

“Trust your leaders.”

Pastoral authority.

Actually, there’s too many. An entire book could be written!

To structure a healthy caregiving woman-to-woman ministry in a safe church environment, leaders derive a doctrine of woman from the beginning. Woman was created for God. She stands before Him. We enter and exit this world as sons and daughters. One day women will stand ALONE before the Lord and answer for every choice they made, not just how a married woman submitted to a husband’s decisions, or anyone’s submission to a pastor’s decisions. Good caregiving considers a doctrine of woman primarily in relationship to her Father.

But wait! There’s more. Next time we’ll look at another foundational belief system regarding women that gets in the way of helpful caregiving…that is, women are to be silent.

(shhh…whisper among yourselves quietly!)


[1] This won’t be a discussion about complementarianism, however several thought processes embedded in that doctrine will be identified as concerning. We (in the church) have an inordinate amount of trust in the tenets of this doctrine, a doctrine that has not benefitted from deep and prolonged reflection by a wide range of scholars and theologians (both genders) from a variety of perspectives. Current, complementarian doctrine was developed from the “plain means of Biblical texts.” “Fifty Crucial Questions” CBMW The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, January 1, 1992, https://cbmw.org/1992/01/01/fifty-crucial-questions/#48. Also, see D. Glenn Butner Jr., The Son Who Learned Obedience, A Theological Case Against the Eternal Submission of the Son (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018), 3. Butner points out most systematic theologies used in evangelical seminaries include eternal subordination of the Son. Butner attributes the recognition of this to Rachel Miller, “Eternal Subordination of the Son and the ESV Bible,” July 7, 2016, https://rachelgreenmiller.com/2016/07/07/eternal-subordination-of-the-son-and-the-esv-study-Bible. Similar to Bible translations, doctrines such as these have the potential to, and have, “invisibly shaped evangelicals.” Chenxin Jiang, “Rewriting the Biblical ‘Curse’ on Womankind: A change to a popular translation of the Bible could affect readers’ views on marriage and gender roles.” Politics, November 20, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/Bible-evangelicals-womanhood-marriage/508076/.

[2] None of these endeavors are inherently bad nor wrong, rather if they are imposed upon someone instead of agreed upon by all impacted parties it becomes an issue.

[3] Will he recognize it’s physical abuse?

[4] Please know some of these words, even phrases, can be positively interpreted. I only suggest you get more information both from explanations from leadership and from evidence in your experience.

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