I was born to the husband of one wife in the late 80s, in a Calvary Chapel denomination that prided itself on being as non-denomination as possible. By and large what my loving father dubbed “benevolent patriarchy” governed my household. At the time, I didn’t know much about this and wasn’t involved in any discussion on gender or equality.
By some miracle or curse, the issue of women’s equality avoided me throughout high school and managed to sneak by during most of my undergraduate days at a private Christian university.
But by the latter part of my studies, I was dating my girlfriend and this was a vital topic for her. Though I never considered myself a proponent of “benevolent patriarchy,” I was bothered when she began to mention women as pastors and how she was experiencing discrimination at school.
So I did what all people do and went straight to the Bible to prove her wrong and bullied my way into the biblical discussion.
After hearing her responses, I was without any biblical basis to exclude her—or any woman–from equal ministry. For me, it was merely an assumed reality I had attained from my background, one that never esteemed a woman to preach a sermon or teach anyone over the age of 13. As a result, I took Ron Pierce’s “Theology of Gender” class and that was that.
This discovery lead to heated discussions with friends and family and I suddenly had a new perspective when their answers completely failed to answer my deepest questions. It is easy to ignore the cries of the minority, but it becomes insufferable when one realizes that they themselves are the minority.
I decided that Scripture should have the final say and I went back and discovered something: Deborah existed.
In all my years at church, not once had I heard about this woman, though there were stories dedicated to Samson, David and even Balam’s donkey. I danced with and around Deborah for weeks, trying to figure out why she had been overlooked and where she fit into the biblical picture of women and men. Then it hit me:
She fit perfectly.
Deborah wasn’t the one who didn’t fit in. Deborah wasn’t the one who had to explain what YHWH had been doing throughout the course of human history. Deborah wasn’t the one who refused to submit to the calling of YHWH.
We’ve seen throughout history that when women are given a chance to speak, they sing and dance.
As C.S. Lewis intoned once, I was dragged into this kicking and screaming. But now I firmly believe it is time for women to take up their positions as co-heirs of grace; to sing and to dance in the light of YHWH’s sovereign plan to redeem all of creation, both in the home and in the church.
Without their voices there is no unity of the body, and there is no place for separation between male and female in the body of Christ.
Outstanding Nick. Thanks so much for this really clear and salient perspective. I’m reposting on Kyria.
I am always beyond encouraged by your work, Nick. Thank you for your voice!
Or as I like to put it, “Patriarchy: the belief that God can speak through a burning bush, a donkey, or a rock, but never a woman.”
Thank you so much, Nick, for not only coming to a new understanding on this, but also for sharing that journey with all of us! I had a similar journey. Patriarchy was my assumed reality that I never challenged. It wasn’t until someone stood up in my persuasive speech class and said that she believed the Bible supported women as pastors that I paused and really considered what I believed and why. These questions and wonderings are so important.
I wish everyone could take Ron Pierce’s “Theology of Gender” class, or at least read some of his work. I’m taking that its the same person as Ronald W. Pierce.
Nick, can you give a source for that quote of CS Lewis? It’s wonderful!
And a beautiful dance it was, too. My own journey to full acceptance of women in ministry included an introduction to Deborah, too. I had never, ever heard of her until I was a middle-aged adult. I knew all about Samson and Gideon, but Deborah? Not taught in Sunday school, not preached about, either. What a loss! Because she is a dynamite biblical character, wise, brave, articulate, insightful. . . and her presence was not questioned by the writer of that ancient book. She’s just there, sittin’ under that palm tree, you know? Have a great time at Fuller! My alma mater and a very good place.
This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!
Oh wow. Thank you! 🙂