Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Jack Schaap and the Role of Women

I've read books on women's place in the Church and wondered why the authors spent so much time emphasizing the value of women. I had assumed that every Christian who was not a feminist was a complementarian (one who believes that men and women have different yet equally valuable complementary roles in the home and the Church). Except for a few very old men maybe, Christian misogynists had died out. Then, I heard Jack Schaap's defense of his own comments aired on ABC's 20/20. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6EKVDbJsMI

Don't get me wrong: though I am an educated, highly opinionated, professional woman, I am not a feminist. I prefer to think of myself as a femininist (note the extra syllable!), a term I learned from my political science professor in college. (A femininist is one who accepts and delights in her unique God-given role as a woman.) That said, I'd like to share a few thoughts about why I believe Schaap is dead wrong.

First, Schaap's statement, "I'm glad I'm a man," in its context devalues women. He is essentially saying, "I'm glad I'm not a woman." He is implying that to be a woman is to be insignificant, to be inferior. But the role of helper, wife, mother is never viewed as inferior or insignificant in the Bible. God knew that for Adam to remain alone was not good. So what did He create? A woman to be Adam's ezer (helper). Yes, the Bible commands women to submit to their husbands and forbids them offices in the Church, but does it present them as inferior? No!

Very interesting to consider is Jesus' relationship to women during His earthly ministry. Women traveled in His company of disciples; wealthy women contributed financially to His ministry; women were healed by Jesus and had their dead raised to life. Women were even encouraged to sit at His feet to hear His teaching, and it was to women that Jesus first revealed Himself after His resurrection. Women are valuable to Jesus.

Secondly, Schaap's statement about it being a cold day in hell before he would get his theology from a woman implies that women are Scripturally forbidden to make theological contributions. Again, women are forbidden to be pastors or elders, and they are commanded by Paul in a discussion on tongues to keep silent in church and elsewhere to ask their husbands their theological questions at home rather than voicing them in church. However, these prohibitions do not mean women can have no theological input. Several examples of theologically-minded women are featured in Scripture.

Perhaps Schaap's comment that "Not one woman wrote the Scriptures" could be more accurately stated, "Not one woman penned the Scriptures." Case in point: Mary's Magnificat. Here was a girl who knew her theology, and God saw fit to record her beautiful prayer in His Word. (See Luke 1.) And what about "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19 ESV)? How did Luke know what was in Mary's heart? Supernatural revelation? Nope! Luke must have talked with her about the birth of Jesus and the visit from the wise men and used the interviews with her as a source for his narrative (See Luke 1:1-3).

Then there's Mary and Martha. Of course, Mary usually gets the credit for sitting at Jesus' feet; but it's Martha from whom many a man would have been wise to seek some theological advice. At the tomb of her brother, Martha made the most important of all theological assertions: "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11: 27 ESV). This is really astounding. Just sit and think about what she has declared.

Moving on to the book of Acts, we meet Priscilla who along with her husband "took [Apollos] and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26 ESV). What about the young pastor named Timothy? Whom did he learn his theology from? None other than his mother and grandmother! Women can make theological contributions.

I'm concerned about how Schaap's teaching on women and theology will affect the future pastors and pastors' wives (students of Hyles-Anderson College) sitting under his preaching. As the wife of a former college Bible teacher seeking further theological training, I believe a wife's theological equipping to be very important. For one thing, I wouldn't understand a thing of what Nathan is learning if I didn't try to grow beyond the basics of theology. We would inevitably grow apart as Nathan learns more and more. The future pastors' wives in Schaap's church are at a disadvantage in their ability to relate to their husbands.

Author and wife of a former seminary president, Carolyn Custis James, relates an interesting story in her book When Life and Beliefs Collide. A young man asked James if his fiancee's lack of interest in theology would be a hindrance in their marriage. James told him that most certainly it would be, for men in ministry most often turn to their wives for support. If the wife has no theology from which to draw when her husband needs her counsel, that man is harmed.

The wife of a Dallas Seminary professor recently shared with student wives how her husband needed her help in his ministry. While he was in seminary, he had so much required reading for his classes that he never had time to read books on his professors' "suggested" bibliographies. So, he asked her to read some of the books and give him feedback. She realized that she could make a valuable contribution to his studies. They continue the practice today. In addition to teaching at the seminary, her husband also serves on a church pastoral staff: he's busy. Knowing he'd need to discuss Rob Bell's new book Love Wins in one of his classes but lacking the time to read it, the honor fell to his wife to read it for him and give him an assessment. I think it's unfortunate that couples heeding Schaap's advice could not have such a helpful and intellectually stimulating arrangement in their own marriages and ministries.

In conclusion, most of my blog posts concern error being taught or espoused in the Church. This post is certainly no exception. I don't know Jack Schaap, have never been to his church, and have never heard one of his sermons in entirety. But when I hear so much error in a three-minute clip, it's hard for me to keep quiet. My blog doesn't have much of a following, so I know it won't have any impact, but as a woman who loves theology, at least I've had fun writing it.