Friday, November 14, 2014

Biblical Theology - Women Leaders

One assignment people do in the Seminary is to sketch out an overall biblical theology on a subject. Here is a brief sketch I did on women in leadership in the Bible:
In the OT, with no surprise given the patriarchal culture of the Ancient Near East (ANE), it was unusual for a woman to be a leader. There were exceptions like Deborah to be sure. It clearly was no absolute that women couldn't lead. It just was unusual. The role of prophetess is not widely attested but clearly happened, as we see from the instance of Huldah. She is thought to have more spiritual clout than the high priest himself. He may have had the formal power, but she clearly had the spiritual goods, in everyone's eyes.

In the NT, the age of the Spirit levels the playing field because there is no distinction between male and female with regard to the Spirit within. Similarly, Jesus atoned for the sins of Eve. This spiritual leveling was so difficult for the cultural context that we quickly find Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 trying to create a balance so that the husband was not shamed or threatened by the participation of his wife in spiritual activities of public worship. The later parts of the NT increasingly accommodate this dynamic, setting us up for the long haul of patriarchal history that leads up to the 1800s.

But today, in a world where the secular world itself considers women equal, there is no reason not to go with the kingdom trajectory of no spiritual or leadership distinction between male and female. We know there is no objective basis for making a distinction--we all know women who are better leaders than other men. Indeed, it would now actually be a bad witness to continue this distinction, which was always connected to human culture rather than eternal principles. (We know they're not eternal because in the kingdom, women are not given in marriage).

So we should not stand in the way of any women who are truly called to be leaders. Neither the OT nor the NT prohibits it, in my opinion.

No comments: