In some circles, women are discouraged from interest in theology, sound doctrine, or Biblical law; it is presumed that these topics are men's domain. Not only is it deemed unnecessary for women to devote attention to these subjects, interest in them is considered inappropriate. It is assumed that women can function quite well within the home without emphasizing good theology, sound doctrine, or Biblical law.
This attitude is further strengthened by women's Bible studies that concentrate on relationships, hospitality, and home management. Too often, in an attempt to exhibit the posture of submissive wives, women dumb themselves down theologically to keep from being labeled contentious (Prov. 27:15).
But how can a woman fulfill her calling as wife and mother if she has no training in the very standard upon which she is to create her priorities and make decisions as she looks well to the ways of her household? How will she be able to advise her husband or prepare her children for adulthood if she has not learned how the Word of God applies to every area of life and thought, and has had opportunities to self-consciously make Biblical applications to her life and the lives of her family members? If a woman is to succeed as a helpmeet and joint-heir with her husband, she needs to be equipped with a working knowledge of God's law.
Women's reluctance to delve into a deeper understanding of God's law often comes from a distasteful response from men when women become involved in theological discussions. While it is true that women are to keep silent in the church (1 Cor.14:34), some extend this to mean that they should maintain silence in general when it comes to matters of theological application. R. J. Rushdoony was a great theologian who was also very down to earth and practical in his understanding of the conflicts between men and women:
One of the chronic problems of men is that too often they react instead of acting. The terms and nature of the problems of life are set by their opposition rather than by themselves, and the reactions are foolish.
This has all too often been true of the reactions of men, Christian and non-Christian, to the women's liberation movement. The results are sometimes painful. Two examples will suffice. In one church, some of the women came together to study Scripture. The women were of varying ages but with a common need to know the Bible better in its application to their everyday problems. The church ordered the meetings ended, although no problem had arisen. The concerns of the study were not ecclesiastical, and the meetings were not a part of the church's work nor limited to church members. By no stretch of the imagination can any text of Scripture be made to forbid women to study Scripture together.
In at least several other churches, the women are held in an unbiblical subjection which treats them as children, not adults. The Bible declares Sarah to be the model wife in her obedience and subjection (I Peter 3:1-7). We cannot understand the meaning of that without recognizing the fact that, on occasion, Sarah, confident in the godliness of her position, gave Abraham an ultimatum (Gen. 16:5; 21:9-13), and God declared, "in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice" (Gen. 9:12), a sentence men rarely if ever used as a sermon text!1
Christian men often view women through the lens of their current culture instead of viewing them from a Biblical perspective. For example, today men often react to the feminist movement without understanding that the feminist movement was a faulty reaction to the Enlightenment and the resultant worldview regarding women. As Rushdoony points out,
Few things have depressed women more than did the Enlightenment, which turned woman into an ornament and a helpless creature. Unless of the lower class, where work was mandatory, the "privileged" woman was a useless ornamental person, with almost no rights.2
Many Christian men fail to realize labeling women as inept ornaments was not always the norm. In seventeenth-century England, as well as early America, women were not relegated to an inconsequential status and were often adept business managers, manufacturers, and insurance brokers. It was not uncommon for women whose husbands were sailors to manage affairs at home for two to three years at a time.3
The Biblical doctrine shows us the wife as the competent manager who is able to take over all business affairs if needed, so that her husband can assume public office as a civil magistrate; in the words of Proverbs 31:23, he can sit "in the gates," that is, preside as a ruler or judge.4
By elevating men as creatures of reason and designating women as emotional and, thereby, inferior, the role of women was diminished. In fact, Rushdoony notes:
The more pronounced ... the triumph of the Age of Reason in any culture, the more reduced the role of women became. Just as religion came to be regarded as a useless but sometimes charming ornament, so too women were similarly regarded.5
As a result, men viewed women (and many times women viewed themselves) as merely suited to a "pedestal of uselessness."
The Age of Reason severed a man's connection to his wife by elevating his own intellect above his very real need for her. Thus, the enemies of Christ began their campaign to destroy the Biblical family, which continues even today. As women began to reel against the demotion they had experienced, often from both the culture and the church, a knee-jerk reaction took place in the form of the women's rights movement. Rushdoony comments,
The tragedy of the women's rights movement was that, although it had serious wrongs to correct, it added to the problem, and here the resistance of man was in as large a measure responsible. Instead of restoring women to their rightful place of authority beside man, women's rights became feminism: it put women in competition with men. It led to the masculinization of women and feminization of men, to the unhappiness of both ...
Thus, the age of Reason brought in an irrational supremacy for men and has led to a war of the sexes. As a result, the laws today work, not to establish godly order, but to favor one sex or another.6
Biblical Law Is for Women
There are many men today who serve as ministers of the Gospel who attribute their introduction to Christian Reconstruction and theonomy to their wives who, having heard R. J. Rushdoony lecture, urged their husbands to hear him speak. These women were much like Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus, eager to learn, understand and apply the Word of God to their lives. Furthermore, there are many husbands who have embraced the teachings of R. J. Rushdoony, read his books, and desired their wives to study his Institutes of Biblical Law in order to have a fuller appreciation for the Ten Commandments and their implications.
I began the Chalcedon Teacher Training Institute specifically to address the women in this category. Having been a student of Biblical law for over twenty-three years, and having benefitted from the mentoring I received from Dr. Rushdoony and his wife, Dorothy, I felt it was time for me to assume the role of "older woman" in the lives of homeschooling moms and unmarried single women.7
Women of Honour
I originally read the Institutes of Biblical Law when I was introduced to Chalcedon in the mid-80s. As time went on, I made detailed notes because I knew I would be teaching my children from this text. When I began to formally teach through the book with a group of women in the late 1990s, I completed notes on every single section of the book and designed some questions for thought and discussion to ensure that the concepts could be put into action rather than remain academic. Initially, a group met in my living room; however, with the advent of internet technology, much of my teaching/mentoring of late has taken place online making use of Skype or other group meeting software.
One woman, after reading one of my books, asked me if I would mentor her. As we began our study, she confessed that she felt guilty that there were other women that she knew who would benefit from an ongoing study, and the "Woman of Honour"8 group was formed. This group spanned three continents (North America, Europe and Africa) with a regular Saturday morning lecture and discussion (at least for me it was morning as we spanned a number of time zones). At times we had as many as twenty-two women join us, with the average attendance being less.
For three and a half years we plodded along, tackling one section of the book at a time. Every week after I gave a brief summary, we would discuss the questions. Some would vocalize answers using a microphone on their computer, while others would submit their answers in the chat box. Sometimes we would take time off due to schedule conflicts. But we would always resume our study of the material.9 When we completed the study in the spring of 2012, we all felt a sense of accomplishment and reward that the Word of God had been seated more firmly in our hearts. One participant commented:
I have been privileged to be a disciple under the dedicated, thorough instruction and mentoring by Andrea Schwartz as we worked through The Institutes of Biblical Law by R. J. Rushdoony.
I have greatly benefited from these studies in that I am learning to question the source and foundation of my (and others') statements, thinking and attitudes as to whether they line up with the law-word of God and Biblical precepts contained therein. I am less quick to make assumptions and judge matters according to deceived "Christian," humanistic or worldly thinking.
I think that I am less impulsive and no longer draw on my own thinking but seek wisdom and guidance from continued study and application of His law-word. I am learning to respond to "all of" life's challenges Biblically, and to be more articulate in giving an answer for the hope that is in me!
I am grateful for the gold that has been deposited in my heart!10
Not every woman's schedule fits into a group study, so I have a number of ongoing studies of IBL on a one-on-one basis with mothers, single women, and occasionally high school students. We function much the same way as I did with the group, but we are able to get more specific with individual application and schedule times that are mutually convenient. That is the key to my approach. I specifically state at the outset that this study is to be undertaken so as to fit into a woman's schedule and circumstances. My process of tackling the 800-page book with a willing student is quite simple: one section at a time, with a commitment to go no further until the implications of God's law-word as developed by Rushdoony can be applied to their circumstance and calling in life.
Along with imparting a distinctly Christian worldview to them in the process, my own understanding and insights into the law have become more developed. I have an ingrained sense of how God's law applies to any given situation and, when it is not readily apparent, I am in a position to ask an intelligent question to discern the answer. My goal is to produce women who can not only effectively transmit God's truth in their families, but who can become Titus 2 Mentors11 themselves.
Becoming a Proverbs 31 Woman
For a woman to deliberately fulfill the description of the woman discussed in the last chapter of Proverbs, her actions must be consistent with the law-word of God. Such a woman should not be stereotyped and should find her worth based on her redemption in Christ, not as the world may view her. Rushdoony notes,
Such a woman is very different from the pretty doll of the Age of Reason, and the highly competitive masculinized woman of the 20th century who is out to prove that she is as good as any man, if not better.
A Biblical faith will not regard woman as any the less rational or intelligent than man: her reason is normally more practically and personally oriented in terms of her calling as a woman, but she is not less intelligent for that.12
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD. (Prov. 18:22)
Important ... as the role of a woman is as mother, Scripture presents her essentially as a wife, i.e., a help-meet. The reference is therefore not primarily to children but to the Kingdom of God and man's calling therein. Man and wife together are in the covenant called to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it.13
Proverbs 31:30 points out that a woman who reveres the Lord is to be praised. Thus, a dominion-oriented man should desire as a helpmeet someone fluent and experienced in the application of God's law. How can a woman act as a mirror,14 and how can a husband safely trust in her if she knows less than he?
If a man wishes to raise godly children who have a healthy fear of the Lord, he must choose a wife who is a competent teacher for them. To whom will he trust the training of future ambassadors and soldiers for Christ? Who will instill in his children a healthy boldness to engage the battle rather than retreat from it?
God proclaimed that it was not good for man to be alone and gave him his most suitable helper (Gen. 2:18). The Scripture does not give us a "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden" mentality, but one in which the absence of women would be a travesty.
The headship of men does not mean the shelving of women. The Pauline epistles tell us plainly how real and extensive the role of women was in the New Testament church. Men who seek to make a woman the mere adjunct of themselves are stupid, foolish, and unchristian. They pass up the wealth of God's way for the poverty of their ego. The churches which relegate women to a limbo of irrelevance are guilty before God. Subordination does not mean irrelevance or incompetence. If this were true, every corporation would be better off if all the staff and employees were fired, and only the chairman of the board remained! It would commonly mean the departure of intelligence.15
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 215-219.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, PA: The Craig Press, 1973), 349.
4. Ibid., 352.
6. Ibid., 351.
8. Rather than use the American spelling (honor), the spelling was used because the majority of the participants spelled it the British way!
9. I used to affectionately refer to these studies as the Dos Equis Bible Study, having to assure people we weren't a group of beer drinking women, but a group whose participants needed to have two "x" chromosomes to be included!
10. Visit www.Titus2Mentoring.com.
11. The Titus 2 Mentoring program follows the Biblical teaching of older women teaching younger women the truths of God's Word and how they can be better wives and mothers.
12. Rushdoony, Institutes, 352.
13. Ibid., 353.
14. See Elizabeth Fellerson, editor, Toward a Christian Marriage (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1972), 14-15.
15. R J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 215-219.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].