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.


I Am a Feminist. Am I?

Actually, to be exact, I am a pro-life, complementarian feminist.

Webster defines feminism as:

“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

And to that I say, “Amen, brother!”

So why do I not actually go around telling people that I’m a feminist?

Well, that’s both easy and complicated. It’s easy: feminists are loud, mean, pro-choice, man-eaters. But are they? That’s what I think most people would say. And I’m not at all prepared to deal with that label. Don’t fence me in!

But people assume things that are not nice or true of me when they hear the label “Christian” too, right? So here’s the complication:

Why do I accept the label “Christian,” but not the label “feminist?”

That’s a good question, I’ll admit. And honestly, I’m still working out the answer. Here are a few of my thoughts. If you have thoughts, feel free to weigh in.

  • Christianity is who I am – the very core of my being is Christian. I belong heart, soul, and mind to Christ. I have Christ’s righteousness, I am God’s child, and I take his name. If there was another good way to say this, I would, but they all sound hipster and cheesy, so “Christian” is the way to go.
  • Feminism is something I believe. It’s a biblical belief – God created the sexes with equal dignity and honor, and they deserve to have the same basic rights (God just gave us different jobs). But it’s not quite at the core of who I am. It’s something I choose to put on.

Yes, but they’re still both labels. Calling yourself a Christian or not has nothing to do with your identity and salvation. Christians have done a lot of evil things in the name of Christ but you’re still willing to wear the label.

  • I think that the difference here is that yes, even Christians have done some awful things. But despite some people’s horrible feelings about Christians, most people recognize that there is diversity within the church. Calling yourself a Christian begs for further description.
  • There are a lot of nuances in feminism as well. The difference is that people don’t seem to be aware of them. The vocal feminists are often pro-choice, sexually inclusive, and, if they are in the church and all, egalitarian. And that’s what people expect of them. This isn’t necessarily safe to assume, but because that’s what most people think, I don’t feel comfortable donning that label.

Okay. So why do people have a narrower view of feminists than of Christians? Where does this come from?

I wonder if it comes from the church. I live in a bit of a Christian bubble, and I wonder if the outside world sees feminists the way Christians seem to. The church’s view of feminism seems to be fairly monolithic, which I would argue is untrue and unfair. Christians have denominational lines, and they’re helpful for distinguishing theological differences. But we (Christians) don’t seem to distinguish between different kinds of feminists, and I think that we might be missing out because of it.

The only place I would feel comfortable admitting to feminism is a place where I can define my terms (like here on this blog). In the church, my announcement would be looked at with skepticism and I wonder if anyone would even ask me what I meant before assuming that I was biblically out of line.

But I do think that women are just as valuable as men, and I do think that we have wonderful, God-given talents and abilities! And I think that the church, by viewing the feminist movement through such a narrow view has kept women from embracing the strengths of their womanhood. For example – I really don’t like women’s Bible studies. I’d rather study hard theology with a group of men than sit in a small group eating brownies and discussing how my husband reacts when I need a good cry. But I’ve always felt like a little bit of a failure as a woman because of this. I’m also more rational than emotional, and honestly don’t always get along with girls that well. I also hate small talk and talking about feelings takes some serious effort. So when people talk about how much women like to talk about feelings I feel out of place and not like a real woman.

This is wrong! Why aren’t we celebrating the differences among women? Why aren’t we proclaiming the excellencies of the Creator who made the fine and delicate women as well as the women who have blazing wit and a fiery disposition? Meek doesn’t mean low-volume or timid. It means patient, kind, and slow to judge. These women can change the world, and I don’t think God wishes, or that the Bible demands, that they sit quietly at home with their knitting instead of using their feisty qualities to serve him.

Women’s rights do matter, and it is not a bad thing to fight for them. And we need women who will fight for them.

Do you really think that pro-choice, man-hating, feminists will listen to a man telling them to submit to their husbands? We need godly women who are smart, strong, wise, bold, meek, and humble to engage this facet of the feminist spectrum.

So. I’m a feminist — but one who gladly submits to my husband (the God-made manager of our marriage and family institution), who claims my God-given authority over the care of our home, who celebrates womanhood in all its forms, and seeks for both sexes to be valued and honored as equal creations made in the image of God.

But don’t tell anybody, because I’m still not ready to admit it.