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"Most evangelical discussion of the gender issue has been spent in feverish debate over the exegetical intricacies of the traditional prooftexts," writes Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. And though faithful exegesis is certainly crucial, a "myopic fixation on a handful of controversial biblical texts will not ultimately resolve the gender debate."In Good News for Women, Groothuis looks at the Big Picture, the overall outline of biblical teaching on relationships between men and women. This provides the foundation for examining the passages specifically relating to gender issues. Written with the razor-sharp insight that prompted critical acclaim for Groothuis' first book, Good News for Women shows that:• the broad sweep of biblical thought aligns more readily with gender equality than gender hierarchy• traditionalist prooftexts do not present an open and shut case in favor of universal male authority• the traditionalist agenda on gender issues is neither helpful nor healthy for Christian women today



Publié par
Date de parution 01 décembre 1996
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781441215031
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0720€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


© 1997 by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis
Published by Baker Books a division of Baker Publishing Group P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287 www.bakerbooks.com
Ebook edition created 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means for example, electronic, photocopy, recording without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
ISBN 978-1-4412-1503-1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
To my parents Paul LaRose Merrill and Jean Northrup Merrill with gratitude for so many things especially the example of their loving life together, which taught me more than any book on marriage ever could
Title Page
Copyright Page
Part 1 The Biblical Case for Gender Equality
1. One in Christ and Heirs of God
2. Equal in Being, Unequal in Function?
3. Issues in Inequality
4. Sexuality in God and in the Image of God
Part 2 Assessing the Traditionalist Proof Texts
5. In the Beginning
6. “The Husband Is the Head of the Wife”
7. Marriage and Mutual Submission
8. The Bible and Women in Leadership
9. “I Do Not Permit a Woman . . .”
10. Ending the Stalemate
For Further Reading
Subject Index
Scripture Index

am grateful to all those who contributed their time and energy toward helping me complete this book. A number of people read and critiqued various parts of the manuscript at various stages of its development, and some suggested resources that I found useful. Their names include Craig Keener (who read and offered valuable suggestions on the entire first draft of the manuscript), Doug Groothuis, Bob Hubbard, Roger Nicole, Jean Merrill, Sulia Mason, and Nancy Johnson. Special thanks, as always, go to my husband, Doug. Without his numerous prayers, occasional pep talks, periodic scholarly counsel, and much practical assistance, this book surely would never have come into existence. I am especially grateful to those few, unnamed, but noble souls who prayed for me over the period of several years that this book was being written, rewritten, and rewritten.

y motivation for writing this book arises from my own experiences as a Christian woman, and from the sampling of similar stories that I have heard from other Christian women. On the one hand, it has been somewhat encouraging to learn that I am not the only one who has been made to feel out of place and has been put in her place because she doesn’t happen to fit the conventional mold. On the other hand, I have been saddened to learn that such experiences seem to form a pattern that is pandemic in conservative Christian circles, despite the fact that we live in a society that puts a strong emphasis on equality and liberty for everyone.
Experience is not the sole source and arbiter of truth; but it has a way of nudging one’s mind into explorations of different perspectives and new alternatives. When experience is illuminated by the truth of God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the result can be a truer understanding of how our lives may be lived more fully for the glory of God. It is my hope that the viewpoint offered in this book will help both women and men understand more clearly how their gifts may be used with freedom and fulfillment in obedient service to the Lord.
The general belief that God has reserved certain positions of spiritual or religious authority for men seems to prevail in one form or another in most evangelical churches and Christian ministries. As a result, women who desire to give all that they have to give to the cause of Christ (as all believers should desire to do) are usually met with a maze of rules and restrictions. Moreover, they often find that these rules and restrictions vary from one situation to another, usually without any compelling or consistent rationale.
The line that women are prevented from crossing may be drawn in different places at different times for different women; but always, it is drawn. And it is drawn not only in terms of official church policy and teaching, but also (and even more cruelly) in the usually inarticulated prejudices and unexamined assumptions that guide so many people’s ideas about what women can and cannot do, and what the limitations of their “place” should be.
A restrictive, stereotypical view of womanhood remains entrenched in the evangelical church because it is believed to be backed up by biblical proof texts. Therefore, we need to examine the alleged basis for such thinking in Scripture. Could it be that an unprejudiced assessment of biblical teaching finds no compelling evidence of an eternal spiritual principle requiring men to occupy roles of leadership and women to assume roles of subordinate domesticity? Could it be that the traditional definition of womanhood is more cultural than biblical?
Many Christians assume that the church’s traditional position on this issue is reason enough to affirm hierarchical gender roles as the only biblical option. How could so many years of church tradition be so wrong? However, the belief that women should be subordinate to male authority is neither unique to, nor original with, the Christian church. All cultures of all traditions since the beginning of recorded history have endorsed this view of gender distinctions. It is, therefore, quite possible that the church imbibed this idea from cultural assumptions, and then interpreted the Bible in light of these assumptions.
The church is far from infallible. The Bible, not tradition, is our final authority. Protestants, especially, should understand this. The Reformation cry of sola scriptura represented the Protestant break from the absolute authority of church tradition. In that particular case, the church’s teaching on the doctrine of justification had taken a wrong turn and needed to be corrected. The church has held many wrong ideas in its long history ideas which are disavowed by the church today. For example, early in church history women were shunned as evil, “the devil’s gateway” in the words of one church father (Tertullian); and during the Middle Ages, belief in this innate female evil led to an exaggerated fear of witchcraft among women. Due to a misinterpretation of Genesis 3:16, women were denied medical relief from pain during childbirth. There is also a long history of Christians persecuting Jews as “Christ killers.” When Copernicus and Galileo announced that the earth circled the sun rather than vice versa, the theory was rejected as an affront to biblical authority. Until relatively recently, many in the church condemned women’s suffrage as unbiblical, proclaimed biblical support for the practice of slavery, and regarded people of nonwhite races as inferior. [1]
None of this means that tradition in itself is evil or wrong. By and large, church tradition has proven, through the grace of God, to be a fairly reliable guide on matters central to orthodox theology (such as the nature of God, Christ, and humanity, the way of salvation, the purpose of history, and so forth). But because the Bible is our ultimate authority not tradition, not even traditional interpretations of the Bible tradition should not automatically be accepted as true. Rather, tradition should always be examined with suspicion for evidence of its tendency to take sinful patterns of human behavior and enshrine them as normative. Jesus spoke of this tendency when he upbraided the Pharisees, saying, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). Blaise Pascal also had some wise words on the subject: “Whatever the weight of antiquity, truth should always have the advantage, even when newly discovered, since it is always older than every opinion men have held about it.” [2]
Sadly, church tradition has often denied women the opportunity to use whatever gifts they might possess, and to serve in whatever ways God calls them, for the good of the church and the glory of God. The traditional view that men and women differ radically from each other, and thus should have gender-specific roles of unequal status in the home and the church, needs to be replaced with a view of individual gifts and ministries that affirms the fundamental equality of women and men in Christ.
The purpose of this book is to show that the broad sweep of biblical thought aligns more readily with gender equality than gender hierarchy, and that the biblical proof texts used to support traditionalist gender roles fail to present an open-and-shut case for the position. Rather, the assertion of a universalized and spiritualized gender hierarchy in the home and church seems to go beyond and against what is clearly stated in Scripture.
Before examining the biblical texts that refer specifically to women and men (or to wives and husbands), we need to look at the overall outline of biblical teaching and its implications for relationships between men and women. Toward this end, the first part of the book will present a biblical case for gender equality and examine some of the logical and theological problems with the traditionalist position. These four chapters are foundational to an understanding of the subject, and provide the framework within which the material in the following chapters should be understood. The second part of the book will assess the biblical texts that traditionalists regard as universally mandating women’s subordination to the spiritual authority of men. The final chapter will bring together various strands of the issue, and suggest ways to proceed toward a resolution of the conflict.
The argument for traditionalist gender roles, however, does not actually begin with the standard set of biblical proof texts. Rather, it begins with a set of a

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