Whether we are apprentice theologians who simply page through books like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, or we have a PhD in theology, I might assume if you are reading this that you are a rational woman who believes, even if you aren’t always particularly skilled at articulating it, that the Christian faith is rational. But as we have previously established, female theologians are a bit of a rarity. Why is this? Why do we, as women, hide our voices from that great cloud of witnesses that points to the profundity of the Gospel and the importance of truth? Especially now, when we have more freedom to speak than ever, it seems counterintuitive. Here are the top five reasons, in my experience, why not.
1. We fear extreme labels. As modern Christian women, at least in the Western world, we run into perfectly understandable fears of being labeled as either liberal-feminists who don’t respect our husbands (or something equally absurd) by fellow evangelicals, or mousy, brain-washed religious women who must keep our heads covered in church, by the very people we are hoping to reach. It is a frustrating dichotomy, since we are (likely) precisely neither. It’s a bit binding. But what about those women who do manage to break the chains of fear and do speak? It seems to me that of those that are married, they have the full support of their husbands. But they do, indeed, have their enemies. I’m sure if we do the same, we will be maligned, misunderstood, and misquoted. But is that a bad thing? We might get more flak, as women, but it’s a problem for Christian men, too. It’s not just a problem, it’s a promise (Matthew 5:11).
2. We believe the labels. Sometimes the labels we are given sink so deep that we actually believe them. We may find ourselves thinking, “well, if I have to become a liberal feminist to speak out boldly, then I guess that’s what I am now,” and we find ourselves accepting what is actually quite contrary to the truth we wish to proclaim in order to be accepted. Or on the other extreme, we believe that we as women aren’t allowed to speak, teach, write, or even read doctrine and theology, and so we don’t. That’s not to say that quietly teaching your children sound doctrine at home isn’t important; no, it’s one of the most important roles we can play, and it seems arguable to me that the church was bolstered on the sound, quiet strength of the women who taught their families. But if we so desire to study hermeneutics, doctrine, and theology, and then teach it, then I think we can peel off our labels just a little and at least begin by teaching a Bible study for women, and see where it goes from there.
3. We don’t think we can help. If the church has done just fine so far, sitting on the backs of male theologians and apologists, then why can’t we just leave it to them? I think the simple answer is that the church hasn’t done “just fine” in the sense that there have been entire unreached demographics for centuries. Obviously God knew what He was doing, but I think a great deal of His work has been stifled by the sin nature which itself belittles women. I suppose it’s plausible that women have done a great deal more moving and shaking in the church than male historians have perhaps recorded, but why can’t history have a lot more to say of us now? Even if we cannot reach every demographic, we are prime teachers of other women, of any atheist or agnostic who would be impressed by the soundness of our faith.
4. We don’t bother to learn. Even if we have read the Bible cover-to-cover a dozen times, what we know by faith and reading still won’t be enough to counter the arguments offered against Christianity. Theologians throughout history have done an excellent job compiling sound reasons, both scriptural and logical, for our doctrinal beliefs. It is important that we learn from them, not only to learn it, but to be able to sift through it and see if we agree with their reasoning and whether it is properly interpreted from Scripture. That doesn’t mean we need a degree in it. But it does mean we should at least have a basic understanding of sound logic, argumentation, Scripture itself, doctrine, and the other side of the argument so we can counter it properly. It isn’t difficult to find resources. Many systematic theologies are actually pretty clear and simple, and a simple book on logic (such as Being Logical by D.Q. McInerny or With Good Reason by S. Morris Engel), and a few books on apologetics (the aforementioned text by Keller is a good start, or Contending with Christianity’s Critics by Copan and Craig, or The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel). There are also many, many online resources. What’s your excuse?
5. We don’t live the truth we proclaim. Now this one is a tall order. Does any theologian or apologist live all the truth he proclaims? Not likely. The only one who ever lived what he believed perfectly was Christ, who was himself Truth. But if we can at least begin to see our own hypocrisies when we preach Christ and yet continue to gossip and slander, and use unkindness instead of love to respond to criticism, and begin to mend our approaches, we have made a giant leap toward living like we believe what we say we do.
What did I miss? What is your biggest reason for not speaking? How do you think we can help each other mend these problems and point each other to find our strength in Christ?