Stronghold #12 – Identity and “Roles”
This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.
In this series of blogs, Leslie and Chad identify spiritual strongholds that need to be unearthed and removed so that godly men and women can partner well together for the completion of the Great Commission. Pray with us into these mountains, and by faith may these tectonic plates move in Jesus’ name!
Identity and “Roles”
Aim for the Heart
“Does God love boys more than girls? That’s what boys said in my class today when we were studying Genesis.” – 9-year-old girl
Seeking a direct hit on the heart of females, the enemy aims to demolish the esteem of God’s daughters. Even from the lips of 3rd graders in a Christian school, spiritual abuse raises its ugly head. Please recognize this statement for what it is – a mountainous attack of the enemy, striking at the center of a girl’s identity.
The 9-year-old girl above learned that God created male first and that made them leaders, while female was created second, born to simply assist males in their callings. The teacher failed to inform her that God commanded and commissioned both to rule the earth together (Gen. 1:28). So, the boys simply concluded that first and leader meant “loved more”! (See scholarship examining the powerful Hebrew word ezer (helper).)
May Jesus crumble this mountain that attacks the identity of God’s deeply loved daughters.
“Equal but Different”
Adult theologians have also constructed formulas which easily lead to the same conclusion as these “child theologians.”
In his doctorate studies, Chad conducted research among Muslims and Christians. He asked, “How would you describe the relationship between men and women? Are they equally or unequally ranked?” Interestingly, both gave the SAME answer!
- Christian theologians stated: “They are equal, but different in function.”
- Muslim imams stated: “They are equal, but men are one degree above.”
Islamic and Christian leaders basically agreed to the same formula… male and female are equal in nature, but there remains a “separation,” and men remain on top. These common phrases go far beyond the 3rd grade classroom. They are preached from the pulpit, broadcast in media, and expanded in massive numbers of Christian books. “Equal but different” has become such a concise and normalized part of our worldview that many do not recognize it as an attack from the enemy. How is that?
Redefining Terms: Different and Roles
You’ve probably heard many times that women and men are “equal” as humans – in their nature, their essence, their “being.” This is true, since both are made in God’s image.
But then comes the shift and the re-definition. Theologians changed the meanings of two key words – different and role.
Before the 1960’s, all theological commentaries taught that men were created first and were superior, while women were created second and were inferior. That was just the way things were! But, in response to the Women’s Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution, birth control, abortion rights, and the social upheaval caused by these forces, Christian theologians realized that they needed to change their vocabulary to remain relevant. It simply was no longer acceptable to say, “Women are inferior to men.”
Then in 1977, the book The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women gave hierarchical Christians new terminology… “Men and women are equal in essence, but different in role.” Voila! Women were NOT subordinate in nature or being, but they WERE subordinate in role, function, and authority. Soon, theologians identified roles, ranked roles, and closed certain roles to women. They made female role subordination permanent, and many based it on the Trinity to gain support!
Different came to mean “unequal,” rather than simply distinct. Role came to mean “a fixed, permanent position,” rather than an interchangeable function (like in acting or in household chores, i.e. “Whose role is it to wash dishes?”)
Forget spiritual giftedness, determined by the Holy Spirit. Never mind the need for multiplied laborers in the Great Commission. Ignore godly character, personality, and experience. Hierarchical theologians now had the vocabulary. Men lead and take charge. It’s their permanent role. Women follow and help. It’s their fixed role forever.
The enemy smiles as the Church promotes pride, limits laborers, and makes God look bad. Notice five key attacks by the enemy based on our identity as “equal but different.”
- Men lost their co-equal partner that God intended.
- Women lost their place to rule alongside men.
- Non-Christians remain in darkness as fewer Gospel harvesters go out.
- God’s image is marred with a bad reflection by his image bearers.
- God’s character looks bad if he intended such a disunified arrangement.
Pray the Church will recognize the harmful impacts of this theology and work to set it right.
Theology vs. Ideology
Our understanding of male and female MUST be grounded in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation! If it is not, we will fall into ideologies that do not align with the kingdom of God. We know we have an ideology, rather than a theology, when we speak inconsistently on the passages regarding men and women, when we add to the text to push an agenda, when we refuse to consider the character and godliness of the people in question.
- “I will never associate with a church with a trace of misogyny in it.” Ideology
- “We will never allow any woman to preach.” Ideology
- “We only allow gifted and godly men and women to lead.” Theology
It’s not that hard to recognize!
May attacks on the IDENTITY of women based on faulty understanding of ROLES be demolished. And may every woman realize her value given by God and walk in her purpose as fitting a redeemed daughter and ambassador of the Almighty God!
This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track. Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.