There is a perspective within Christian circles that espouses the idea that men should never learn from women or seriously consider what they say. There is an unspoken rule that, when it comes to theology, women should take a backseat and let men do the heavy lifting. The underlying assumption is that women should only concern themselves with meal preparation, maintaining the home, and caring for children. This is a hard perspective to justify, considering the words of Jesus in Luke 10:38–42:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
It is unfortunate that many women are denied the “good portion” when it comes to conferences or other learning venues, because they are too concerned with serving food, or taking care of little ones. Why don’t we make it a priority that wives, mothers, and daughters receive the same opportunity to grow in their faith as their male counterparts?
Failing to ensure that women receive equal opportunity to learn the law-word of God and its practical applications in their lives makes them easier targets for those who would prey upon them physically, emotionally, and sexually. Many have contributed worthwhile perspectives from many different angles on the subject of abuse,1 and this essay will not attempt to cover that ground. The purpose is to offer a preventative perspective that will bolster girls and women to halt potentially detrimental situations before they become harmful and damaging.
It is not always true that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I suggest that by riding the pendulum against feminism too far to the right, many have advocated a de facto underclass status for women, denying them the fullest opportunity to become well-versed in the law-word of God and in the expression of their gifts. At times, it goes so far as to assert that women should never be in a position to instruct men. I, for one, have received criticism for addressing attendees at a conference on Biblical law. The reason for criticism: I am a woman and should not be teaching men. No complaint was levelled against what I said or how I said it, merely that my gender disqualified me.
I was addressing the implications of Proverbs 31, and by no means exercising spiritual authority over men. These criticisms were not made directly to me face-to-face, and surprisingly came from both men and women. I wish I had been confronted personally. I would have informed my critics that I had proceeded with the approval of my husband and the other speakers (all male) at the conference. They saw no problem with my filling in for a speaker who was unable to fulfill his commitment. After all, this was not a church service, and I was not preaching.2
Let me explain why the criticisms illustrate faulty presuppositions.
1. The mother is the primary caregiver and instructor for an infant from the outset of life. Thus, from the get-go, females (mothers) are teaching their sons. This is a civilizing enterprise that, when done Biblically, increases the likelihood that boys will eventually take their place as godly husbands and fathers.
2. While the Scripture tells older women to teach younger women to teach what is good, and train young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands (Titus 2), this does not preclude that their instruction may also be of benefit to men.
3. While it is the norm in the Bible that men are the leaders and providers for families, there are noteworthy examples of women stepping up in the absence of men, when men were deceased, derelict and/or wicked in their duties, or when special opportunities arose.3
In many of the mentoring relationships I enjoy with women, husbands and fathers have often thanked me for the perspective I bring and the gain they, as men, have had from what I teach. I always encourage women to share the fruits of our sessions with their spouse or parent to maintain the structure, priority, and integrity of the family. What should qualify me or disqualify me from this role is not my gender, but my knowledge, understanding, and application of the law-word of God.4
When I begin a study of Biblical law with an individual woman or a group, my initial session establishes that my goal is not that they end up thinking exactly as I do. I emphasize that the Word of God must reign supreme, and that they are responsible to be faithful in their learning, application, and transmission to others. By understanding how to apply the law-word of God, a woman is more protected from anyone who would attempt to dominate or oppress her. No one has the right to ask people to conform to his or her will and ideas. However, we do have the responsibility to summon people to conform to God’s Word and calling.
Our Kingdom Calling
Any discussion about the roles of men and women in furthering the Kingdom of God must begin in the area of calling. Unfortunately, modern thinking identifies as calling what one does for pay or by way of a career or profession. This is especially myopic in that it confuses making a living with the purpose for living. The Westminster Catechism tells us that we all have a duty to glorify God by loving Him and keeping His commandments.5 Thus, to find one’s calling is to embrace fully all the lawful ways in which a person, using his gifts, talents, and inclinations, serves the Kingdom of God.
There are certain callings that are ours at birth. One is either a son or daughter, and possibly a brother or sister from the outset. There are those besides our parents with whom we have a relationship because of our birth. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We can add husband, wife, and in-laws at the point of marriage, along with colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. All these relationships are callings and with varying rules of engagement. Nevertheless, all relationships are to be governed by the law-word of God, carrying with them certain unchangeable requirements. So in the truest sense, people do not need to find their calling; they need to embrace their most fundamental calling of fearing God and keeping His commandments (Eccl. 12:13).
Prior to the Reformation, the perspective was that calling was limited to the ecclesiastical realm, making the clergy the only people with holy vocations. R. J. Rushdoony observes,
The anointing of persons and things set them apart for God’s use. The term used by the Reformers for this in the lives of all of us is vocation. While serving God in any and every line of work has penalties in a fallen world, it also means that God’s vocation for us is also our “oil of gladness.” It is our way of holiness.6
Rushdoony notes that we must look to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit as the only reliable guides when it comes to identifying and living out our callings.
The enemies of Christianity have too often determined the agenda for discussion, and the subject of predestination has been restricted to election to salvation or reprobation, and to free will versus predestination … [P]redestination also has to do with our abilities … They are God-ordained and an aspect of our calling, so that God is more involved in our skills than we are.7
The Holy Spirit thus has a more general as well as a more specific place in our lives and world than is generally recognized. The doctrine of vocation or calling must be seen as essentially related to the Holy Spirit. We are therefore not alone; whatever our gifts or vocation, however great or small, we are the instruments of the Holy Spirit. To limit the Spirit’s manifestations in our lives to dramatic or ecstatic experiences is to limit severely our relationship to Him. He is very much present in all our daily tasks, and we have the duty to recognize His presence and power.8
Too often, Christian parents, in a human attempt to right the wrongs of a rebellious culture, limit the Holy Spirit by determining for their children (specifically daughters) what callings are suitable for them. In many cases, these limitations have more to do with parents’ personal preference rather than teaching their children how to hear God’s particular call to on their lives.
Helping Children Discover Their Particular Calling
I used to tell my children that adulthood would mean that they would be the responsible parties when it came to obedience and disobedience. While they were young, it was our job as parents to act as stewards for them, but that was temporary. Because my children were familiar with the concept of leaving messages on a phone answering machine (before the days of voicemail), I told them that God was not going to leave a message for them on my machine; they would have to learn how to retrieve their own messages.
This developed into a writing assignment that I not only used with my three children, but also with others I tutored privately or in co-op settings. Here is the assigned essay:
Usually students are required to write essays about what they want to be when they grow up. Younger students often have grandiose ideas of careers without any real understanding of what their choice entails. Older students may have some idea, but usually have not thought through the particulars, such as prerequisites or minimum requirements. To help in this pursuit, follow steps 1, 2, and 3 and then write a cohesive essay entitled, “What God Is Calling Me to Do.”
1) Determine your particular (as opposed to general) calling under God. You may already have some idea of what God is calling you to do. You may need to begin this assignment in prayer. If nothing apparent comes to mind, take stock of the interests and talents God has given you the help identify your particular calling.
2) Research the calling or profession by finding articles, books, or journals that describe what is involved.
3) Interview (informally) someone who is actively living out such a calling. Questions to that person should include: necessary prerequisites, pitfalls to watch out for, costs involved, personal benefits, potential drawbacks, difficulty in advancement, and any recommendations for reading, training, or overall preparation.
After completing the assignment, many students determined the need to revisit their sense of their particular calling. This did not mean the assignment was a failure. It had provided an opportunity to learn how to hear from God. This assignment encourages a deliberate approach to Kingdom service, and makes it possible to instill a sense of responsibility in young people. I was always careful to take their responses at face value, not belittling choices they made. It was not my job to live their lives for them. I was eager for them to explore, without preconceived notions, what God might have in store for them.
Preparation for a Godly Calling
[B]ecause blessings are in terms of God’s providential government and care, we can, by faithfully living in terms of God’s grace and law-word, bless God by serving Him and being His ministers in our respective vocations. Psalm 103 calls for us to bless God with all our being in gratitude and joy. The offertory hymn, “We Give Thee but Thine Own,” sums up the essence of man blessing God by his grateful spirit and acts.9
As the Christian church has abandoned the idea that our faith is a faith for all of life, we have had generations of Christians adapting to the world’s agenda when it comes to using the gifts and abilities God has given us. In our day, rare are institutions of higher learning that prepare students to be self-consciously Christian in all areas of life and thought. As a result, our solutions and projects are often governed by a secular worldview instead of a Biblical worldview. As a result, very few adults can succinctly state how their respective vocations bless God with their entire being in gratitude and joy.
Rushdoony points out,
The Reformation doctrines of justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the Christian calling and vocation made possible the potential coincidence of the kingdom and the world as an historical objective, not, of course, to be fully realized in this life, but to be approximated and the proper goal of historical activity. Thus the Reformation was liberation and the promise of life, but a promise thus far unrealized. Why this failure? Even as Roman Catholicism has historically absorbed local deities at times as saints, and absorbed local goddesses into the image of the Madonna, so Protestantism has followed a similar policy with regard to secularism. It has tried to make the world over into the kingdom by baptizing paganism and secularism, by sprinkling a few drops of approval and benediction over the heads of alien philosophies and presuppositions. It has operated on the principle of common ground rather than reconquered ground. It has borrowed its doctrines of education from the world, its political theory from the state, its concept of the law from pharisaism, secularism, and Thomism. In the early 1930s, some New Deal economists asserted that the road to prosperity and wealth was through unlimited spending and debt. Similar reasoning seems to prevail in many Christian circles: the more we allow the world to prevail in the church, the stronger the church! The more we throw away our Christian presuppositions, the more strong our Christian strength and appeal, ostensibly! The gospel, apparently, is not big enough or wide enough to meet the world in its own strength; it must borrow Saul’s armor.10
We must proceed in all areas of life with accurate Biblical presuppositions and guard against baptizing our own preferences. We must resist the tendency to embrace the preferences of any celebrity, visionary guru who attempts to rule the lives of his audience and supporters. This means honestly unearthing any stereotypes we may have adopted in response to secular ones we have tried to avoid.
A prime stereotype in need of dislodging involves how the education of women is sometimes viewed in Christian, homeschooling families. Rather than offer young girls the opportunity to identify the gifts, talents, interests, and inclinations God has placed within them, they often are told that certain areas of life are out of bounds for them, and they must concentrate on domestic skills alone. In an effort to keep them from acting like card-carrying feminists, they are confined to a future that limits them to quite a bit less than what Proverbs 31 describes as a Kingdom woman.11
In an attempt to swing the pendulum back to Biblical standards for marriage and family, an over-correction has occurred which has hampered the true expression of God’s plan for the Kingdom-driven family.12 Moreover, while it is true that the highest expression of womanhood is in the calling of wife and mother, to assert that women should not pursue proficiency and skill in additional areas of life goes beyond the dictates of Scripture. Women are not an underclass, but hold full citizenship in the Kingdom of God. St. Paul makes it very clear,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)
This oneness in Christ includes a woman pursuing those things that God lays on her heart, with the cooperation and blessing of the men in authority over her (father or husband). Determining that women cannot bring insight and understanding in group Bible studies, or that they should be denied the opportunity to study subjects in which they demonstrate competence and ability, hamstrings 50 percent of the population. To what end? Do we really wish to assert subservience rather than godly submission? Keeping another down does not make you stronger.
If we truly wish to raise up a generation that can advance God’s Kingdom and deal with the serious issues we face in our time, we should not eliminate the potent and vibrant force that godly women can be. Ensuring their access to all opportunities to learn Biblical law should remain a top priority. Not only will it protect them from those who would seek to take advantage of them; it also will make them more competent in fulfilling the Great Commission.
1. See Martin Selbrede, “Liberty from Abuse,” at chalcedon.edu/research/articles/
2. The name of my talk was “The Role of Mothers in Building a Kingdom-Driven Family,” which later appeared in this publication.
3. Deborah, Jael, Abigail, and Esther come to mind as examples. Clearly in the case of Esther, she acted in a role no man would have been able to fill in her special circumstance.
4. Some might cite 1 Cor. 14:34 in defense of my critics. While Paul’s admonition for women to keep silence in the churches, does not apply to my talk at the conference nor women speaking anywhere else, it is important to understand the context of his remarks and their application for today. This is a discussion worthy of more than an endnote. My response to the passage cited is to understand it in terms of 1 Cor. 11:5, reconciling Paul’s meaning by considering both.
5. Westminster shorter catechism questions 1–3.
6. R J. Rushdoony, Exodus (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2004), p. 454.
7. Ibid., pp. 457–458.
8. Ibid., p. 459.
9. Ibid, p, 540.
10. R.J. Rushdoony, By What Standard (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  1995), pp. 174–175.
11. See, Andrea Schwartz, “The Role of Mothers in Building a Kingdom-driven Family,” and “Proverbs 31 ~ Practical Applications for Today’s Woman,” at chalcedon.edu.
12. See http://leslievernick.com/does-my-husband-always-have-the-final-say/
- 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].