Education and Complementarianism

As I shared in my last post, a lingering question I have regarding distinctive gender roles in marriage is the question of education. Today I am thinking specifically about this one:

Is it okay for me, a wife who is eager to submit (or actually, eager to learn to submit), to have a higher education than my husband – specifically theological education?

Education is not a bad thing, and in and of itself it is not going to cause the headship of marriage to shift from the husband to the wife. Biblical submission, I think, is a matter of the heart more than a matter of the mind. Doug Wilson, in his book Reforming Marriage, argues that husbands should, if at all possible, be better educated theologically in order to be the resident biblical scholar in each home. I don’t agree with that as a rule. [As a side note, I wouldn’t argue that it’s a bad idea for the husband to be more theologically adept, but I don’t think there’s strong enough scriptural backing to say that it must be the case in a godly marriage.]

But that said, I do think that it’s a valid question to ask if there’s a possibility that it could make it more difficult for the husband (mine, to be specific) to lead — as in, if it makes the wife (me) conduct herself in a way that is not supporting the husband’s God-given headship.

I didn’t go to law school largely because I didn’t think that it would be good for me. I thought that even if I got in it would likely foster an arrogant, argumentative spirit that would inhibit my already limited ability to interact with people on a compassionate level. At that point I was learning the importance of empathy and the limits of logic and argumentation when you’re dealing with hurting people, and I didn’t want to risk making myself any less compassionate.

So it’s natural and healthy, I think, for me to search for answers to similar questions now that my scope has changed to a different degree – especially now that I’m married.

I’ve been reading James in large and small chunks for the past several weeks, along with our small group. Today I’ve been reading with grad school on my mind, and with prayers for wisdom on my lips. Last small group, our co-leader mentioned that a lot of people view James as a the “Proverbs of the New Testament” because of its somewhat scattered outline. I can understand the sentiment. It doesn’t always seem to piece together very clearly, but today there have been a few things sticking out at me, and I want to think about them more.

1) James 3:14-18. I want to be the person who has wisdom from above, “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere…a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”. I wonder: Will further education give me that kind of wisdom? If so, that could help me be a better wife, even if my husband doesn’t have the same kind of education.

2) James 4:6-10. “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God…humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”. Could it be that a theological education will draw me further into the word of God and humble me? Maybe I shouldn’t be so scared of becoming proud with more education, but seek the education that will humble me before the Lord. Shouldn’t education that drives me to the Word of God humble me? And what a grace it would be to be more humble in my role in marriage. It’s my pride that causes me to be discontent in my role – maybe education could help root out that sin.

3) James 4:16. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”. But what if I don’t know what the right thing is?

And all of this is are hypothetical anyway. The program that I’m thoroughly interested in is the only one like it in the country, and it’s in South Carolina. I don’t know the right thing.

But this just brings me right back around to Proverbs 2. Read it, because it’s beautiful, but this is how it helps me:

  • If you seek wisdom through patient, anticipatory listening to scripture, praying for wisdom, seeking it like silver (which includes asking for advice), you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
  • God does give wisdom. It’s not just empty waiting. We can actually know.
  • If you seek wisdom, you are protected. You will understand, and “discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you.”
  • “..You will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.” This is the result of seeking wisdom. Not finding it. The whole passage is vague – it doesn’t say, “you’ll find the answer to whatever question you ask,” it just says – you will understand morally right from morally wrong, you will be guarded by discretion and you will rejoice in truth, causing you to avoid evil. In other words, it might not always be clear, but if you’re seeking wisdom you’ll be just fine, regardless of where you end up.

I don’t have answers, I just have questions. I am making progress though, and with every step I’m trying to seek wisdom like a precious treasure – seeking for the knowledge of God that will be pleasant to my soul.

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