Podcast Series on Counseling

My pastor, Todd Bordow, and his co-host, Chris Caughey, have a weekly podcast. Recently they’ve been doing a series on counseling, and I highly recommend it. Here are the links for the series episodes so far:

Critique of Nouthetic Counseling: “Staying with our Meredith Kline Applied series, we start a new section on counseling. This week we critique nouthetic counseling. The main reason for this is it was the counseling model that we were taught in seminary. It is also a popular model in Reformed churches. However, we also critique other counseling models as well.”

Counseling Continued: “Though we are not talking specifically about nouthetic counseling this week, we are talking about what Meredith Kline’s biblical theology might have to say to us about how we should counsel people in our churches. First we talk about verbal and non verbal ways of helping each other. Then we talk about some general principles of love, grace, and care.”

The Elephant in the Room: “In this episode, we talk about a very difficult topic. If you have children younger than teenagers who listen to the podcast, this episode is probably not for them. First, we spend some time talking about a general approach to ministering to a local church on the part of pastors and elders. Next, we turn to the topic of pornography. As it turns out, what Kline taught us about the nature of the New Covenant has profound implications for helping those who struggle with pornography.”

Narcissists and Manipulators: “This week we talk about a particular kind of person who is attracted to Christian churches. This episode may be the least related to Meredith Kline’s theology. But Kline’s understanding of the fall certainly helps us to see how there can be narcissists and manipulators.”

Men & Women: “This week we talk about what Meredith Kline’s theology has to say about men, women, and gender roles.  We will focus on Kline’s eschatology.  Hopefully this is helpful for both men and women.”

Links and Notes

I realize it’s been a while since I posted anything here. It’s hard to find the time to blog like I used to. Honestly, since the launch of Beyond Authority and Submission, I’ve found it difficult to write. It’s especially daunting to know that everything I say can and will be used against me. For today, I’d like to share a couple of articles.

First is an article I wrote recently for Modern Reformation, Is There a Place for Priscilla in Our Churches?

Within the conservative, Reformed world, the opinions on whether or not women can teach theology to men cover a wide spectrum. Some believe that women can do anything in the church that a non-ordained man can do. Others believe that women can teach theology to other women and children but not to men in any setting. A few believe that women shouldn’t ever teach theology.

When it comes to writing and speaking about theology outside the church, opinions vary even more. Should a woman speak at a theological conference? Answers include “Yes, but only if the audience is all women,” and “Depends on if she’s teaching theology or speaking from her own experience.” Should a woman write a book or blog or have a podcast? Answers include “Yes, as long as the book/blog/podcast is intended for women, it’s OK if a man comes across it and learns from it,” and “Books provide a separation between author and reader so a man isn’t learning directly from a woman.”

In all these discussions, I wonder what the modern Reformed Christian community would make of Priscilla if she lived today.

You can read the full article here. Predictably there have been some critical reactions to my post. All I’ll say in response is: Women serving like Martha in the church is not the same thing as having room for Priscilla in your church.

Along the same lines, I highly recommend Aimee Byrd’s recent piece, Not a Daughter of Sarah?

Not all teaching is behind a pulpit. And I don’t know what all this “usurping authority” is about. When Scripture calls us to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16), or that by this time we ought to be teachers (Heb. 5:12), to use our gifts of teaching or exhortation (Rom. 12:6-8), to pursue love and spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), when Scripture calls brothers and sisters to build one another up with a teaching if they have it (1 Cor. 14:26), are we to pretend that this is all directed only towards the men? Is exercising our gifts as disciples in the general office of layperson usurping authority, or obeying the authority of Scripture?  

I am struggling to understand what it is about me that needs putting a stop to. To where there is now an organized effort, with officers in my own denomination—men with spiritual authority—that are organizing offensive and defensive strategies against me. Me? Who the heck am I? I read about my “agenda” and my motivations, and I don’t know this person they are talking about. Talking is a kind word. Plotting, scheming against…slandering. Yes, that is appropriate. Normally, we would just be wise to ignore such people. Unless, they are in positions of spiritual authority. In your own denomination. 

Whenever you write or speak publicly, especially on topics like women anad men in the church, there will be critique and constructive debate. That’s to be expected. However, what Aimee and I (and others) have experienced goes way beyond legitimate debate and discussion. What we see are histrionics, personal attacks, name calling, gossip, and slander.

If you’re on social media, you’ve likely witnessed these kinds of behaviors. I haven’t spoken much about these attacks. In general, I would rather not give any attention to these guys. But sometimes it’s necessary to shine the light in dark places and reveal what’s going on. It’s time to stand up to the bullies who are sinning against us.

I encourage you to read the two articles I’ve linked here. I’ll close with a link for a podcast interview I did with Marcos Ortega and Lisa Spencer of Reformed Margins. We talk about what happens when women write and speak about theology. You can listen here.

Misquoting Wilson?

Editor’s Note: Pastor Jones and others have explained that they believe I misrepresented Doug Wilson’s comments on 1 Thess. 4:4-5. I’ve updated this article with additional context from Wilson’s blog.

When I wrote Beyond Authority and Submission, I knew that not everyone would agree with me. As I mentioned in the last post, I expected some people to disagree with what I believe about women and men in marriage, church, and society. A handful of men have written critical reviews, and I will address some of their concerns in the near future.

In an Amazon review, Pastor Mark Jones questions the accuracy of my research and accuses me of misquoting Doug Wilson and not citing the original sources correctly:

“She also displays a failure to properly read those she is disagreeing with. In some cases the citations do not even make any sense when you check the original sources. It is one thing to think Doug Wilson has bad theology, but you cannot misquote him and attribute things to him that he did not say. She does this a number of times, which shows it perhaps isn’t a mistake”

Mark Jones

These are serious charges to make. I took considerable care in my research to quote and cite sources accurately. In addition to my own checking and double checking of my sources, the editors at P&R Publishing also made sure that the citations were accurate. Mistakes can be made, and it’s always possible that some error wasn’t caught. That’s why I’ve gone back through my book and compared each Doug Wilson citation with the original source.

I apologize in advance for the length of this article. Since Pastor Jones didn’t indicate which quotations or citations he found problems with, I can’t be certain which concerned him. What follows are every quote and citation of Doug Wilson in my book with the original source for comparison.

In this first citation, I cite Doug Wilson as an example of someone who defines masculinity as having authority and taking initiative.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 108

In the original source, Doug Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Fidelity, chap. 2, loc. 165-67, Kindle

Next, I cite Wilson as defining masculine men as assertive, confident, and not afraid of taking risks.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 108

In the original source, Wilson wrote:

Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, chap. 2, loc. 391-92, Kindle

I cite Wilson here as saying that women have a certain weakness as part of God’s design.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 109

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, 38

Here is a direct quote from Wilson in my book.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 110

And in the original source Wilson says:

Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, chap. 3, loc, 532-33, Kindle

In this quote from my book, I cite Wilson as an example of teaching that if women leave the protection of their fathers and husbands, they put themselves at risk of being assaulted or raped. I use Dinah here as an example of a woman who was raped.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 111

In the original blog post, Wilson wrote:

Doug Wilson, “Courtship and Rape Culture”

In this next selection from my book I quote Wilson as saying men should be “resident theologians” in their homes.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 135

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 40-41 (pg numbers from the revised 2005 ed)

It is possible that this citation is slightly off in the page numbering. I think this is a matter of different page numbers in different editions or versions of the book. If it is an error, I’ll happily ask the publisher to make a correction. But the quote does appear in the book as shown above.

The next quote I used at the beginning of a chapter. It’s a direct quote.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 153

The original source:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 80

Here I cite Wilson as saying men were created to be dominant leaders.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 154

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 24

In this selection, I cite Wilson as one who writes about the significance of the length of women’s hair.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 158

Wilson writes in the original source:

Doug Wilson, Fidelity, appendix B, loc. 1994-45, Kindle

For additional context, Wilson has written about the importance of women having hair longer than their husbands in several places. For example:

Doug Wilson, “What Nature Teaches”

This selection is another direct quote from Wilson. In the editing process, while rearranging this paragraph from paraphrase to direct quotation, the word “most” was added. I apologize for the error. I’ve asked the publisher to correct it however possible.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 158

The original source with the surrounding context:

Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, chap. 3, loc. 688-89, Kindle

Here I cite Wilson as teaching that a man has authority to overrule promises or decisions his wife or daughters make.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 159

After a lengthy discussion on Numbers 30 and other passages, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, chap. 1, loc. 295-96, Kindle

To give greater context for his whole discussion, here is another brief excerpt from the same chapter:

Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, chap. 1, loc. 173ff, Kindle

In this selection, I cite Wilson as an example of teaching that women are called to help men in the work God gives to men.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 160

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 30 (2005 revised edition)

Here I cite Wilson for teaching that men should control the finances in a marriage, because women will spend too much if allowed to.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 164

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 89

Next is a direct quotation from Wilson.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 164

As the original source shows:

Doug Wilson, Fidelity, chap. 7, loc. 978-81, Kindle

This selection includes another direct quotation from Wilson.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 196-97

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Mother Kirk, pg 204

In this excerpt, I cite Wilson as teaching that women weren’t created to be in authority over men.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 232

In the cited blog post, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, “The Creation Order and Sarah”

This selection is another direct quote from Wilson.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 234

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 48-49

Another direct Wilson quote:

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 235

As the original source shows:

Doug Wilson, Fidelity, chap. 4, loc. 701-7, Kindle

In this selection, I cite Wilson as teaching husbands to instruct and correct their wives.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 236

In the original source, Wilson writes:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg. 84 (2005 revised edition)

For additional context, Wilson gives similar advice in other books and blog posts. Here is a quote from Wilson’s book, Federal Husband:

Doug Wilson, Federal Husband: Covenant Headship and the Christian Man (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999), 27.

The last quote from Wilson in my book is another direct quote from his book, Reforming Marriage.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 236

As the original source shows:

Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage, pg 117

For further context, I’m adding an excerpt from Wilson’s blog where he discusses the meaning of “his vessel.”

Doug Wilson, “Preliminary Thoughts on ‘Real Marriage,’ Part Dos”

These are all of the Doug Wilson citations and quotations in my book. I also cited Pastor Jones once in my book. Apparently he’s said elsewhere that I didn’t accurately represent what he wrote. Here is the citation in question.

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg 168

I cited Pastor Jones’ blog post as an example of someone who considers friendship or companionship in marriage to be a downgrade, a diminishment of the marriage relationship. Here are the relevant sections of Pastor Jones’ post:

Mark Jones, “My Spouse is My Best Friend”

It certainly was not my intention to misrepresent Pastor Jones or his beliefs. I believe my use of his post was a fair representation of what he wrote.

As for the Doug Wilson citations, did I “misquote him and attribute things to him that he did not say”? You can see in these comparisons that I have accurately quoted, cited, and represented what he’s written.

It’s one thing to disagree with an author. It’s quite another to accuse her of mishandling original sources. Perhaps Pastor Jones should retract his public accusations.

When a Woman Writes about Theology

It’s been an interesting month since my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, launched. I’ve heard encouraging feedback from many readers. I’m thankful that what I’ve written has been helpful for so many. That’s an answered prayer.

As I was writing, I knew that there would be push back from certain corners of the Reformed interwebs. I’ve been writing and blogging for over a decade now, and I know what to expect. I even address it in a section of my book on women writing and speaking about theology. The responses are often all too predictable.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 13, “Prevalent Teaching on Women and Men in the Church.”

Some conservative Christians debate whether women should blog and write about theology. Some say that it’s fine. Others say it’s appropriate only if they are writing, blogging, or podcasting to a female audience. A few say that it’s inappropriate, because men shouldn’t learn theology from women.1

Some are also concerned about women bloggers and writers correcting or addressing false teaching. That kind of confrontation is considered by some to be contrary to a woman’s nature as yielding and submissive and to put her in a position to judge or lead men.2 Women who write or speak publicly about theology, especially if the topic involves false teaching, are likely to get one of two responses. Those who disagree with them will often tell them, “You can’t correct a man—especially a pastor/ teacher as respected as So-and-So. You’re a woman!” The response isn’t much better from those who share their concerns. From those people, women may very well be told, “I appreciate the work you’re doing. But you shouldn’t be doing this, because you’re a woman.”3

In these ways, women in the church are being restricted beyond the boundaries that the Bible sets in place. Instead of being respected for their essential contributions to the ministry and life of the church, women are being treated as unnecessary accessories when they follow the extrabiblical rules and as rebellious troublemakers when they don’t.

  1. See Emilio Ramos, “Why We Do Not Allow Women Bloggers on RGM,” Red Grace Media, May 19, 2014, http://redgracemedia.com/allow-women-bloggers-rgm/.
  2. See Tim Bayly, “Rachel Miller and Valerie Hobbs: Where Is the Apostle Paul When We Need Him?” Baylyblog, September 4, 2015, http://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/09 /rachel-miller-and-valerie-hobbs-where-apostle-paul-when-we-need-him.
  3. I’ve heard this personally

Qualified Ordained Leadership in the Church

In this last excerpt from my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, I want to discuss the importance of our ordained leaders being qualified. While the Bible limits ordination to qualified men, not every man is qualified or called to ministry. What happens when all men are treated as leaders and potential leaders?

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

A focus on masculine authority in the church diminishes qualified male ordination rather than promoting it. If churches consider men to be leaders simply because they are male, it can lead to the ordination of unqualified men or of men who haven’t been called to leadership. As we have discussed, the Bible restricts ordination to qualified men, but that doesn’t mean that every man is qualified to lead.

Besides the ordination of unqualified men, other types of damage are done when disqualified church officers aren’t removed and when unordained men do the work that only ordained leaders should do. Certain aspects of church life should be done by our ordained leaders, such as preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, and performing the disciplinary function of the church. The attitude in our churches shouldn’t be “These are roles for the ordained leaders, but any man can do them in a pinch.” When just any man, ordained or not, is allowed to carry out these roles in the church, it undermines the importance of ordination and the ministerial work that ordained leaders should be doing. It also contributes to a masculine culture in the church—one in which men are prioritized over women in the church’s work.

When churches focus on training men, they often pay little attention to what the women are learning. Some think that it doesn’t matter too much—it’s only the women. And so false teaching creeps into the church by way of poorly trained and neglected women.[1]

[1] See Aimee Byrd, No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2016), 31.

The Victorians Baptized Pagan Ideas

This excerpt from my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, comes from Chapter 4: “Women and Men in the Victorian Era.” Many of our beliefs about women and men come to us from the Greeks and Romans by way of the Victorians. The Victorian era, more than any other, was a unique blend of several streams of thought. Victorians combined the Greco-Roman philosophy of the Renaissance, the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution, and the evolutionary science of Darwinism. All of this they added to existing Christian religious and moral beliefs.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

The Victorian era is a significant link between ancient Greece and Roman and our society today. Some of the greatest damage the Victorians did was through attempting to incorporate the older pagan ideas with Christianity. After the Victorian era, ancient Greek and Roman beliefs about women and men were taught as if they were biblical.

How did the Victorians combine Christianity with the older pagan ideas about gender? One way was by misapplying Scripture. The authors of Victorian literature and magazines took Bible verses out of context to reinforce their beliefs about the nature of women and men and their proper spheres.

The Victorians found support for their belief that women belonged in the home in Paul’s encouragement that young women be “ at home” (Titus 2:5, KJV). William Alcott, an influential Victorian author and a cousin of Louisa May Alcott, explained that a woman “cannot discharge the duties of a wife, much less those of a mother, unless she prefers home to all other places, and is only led abroad from a sense of duty, and not from choice.”[1]

Staying at home was the duty of a wife—a duty that was owed to God. “Ask not, ‘Why should I keep at home?’ the answer is, because it is your duty to your servant—your children—your husband—your God!”[2] To be a “true woman,” to desire nothing more than to have a husband and children to care for, was the “holiest design a woman can entertain.”[3]

[1] William A. Alcott, The Young Wife, or Duties of Woman in the Marriage Relation, 4th ed. (Boston, 1838), 83.

[2] Arthur Freeling, The Young Bride’s Book: Being Hints for Regulating the Conduct of Married Women (London, 1839), 86.

[3] Fascinating Womanhood, or the Art of Attracting Men: A Practical Course of Lessons in the Underlying Principles by Which Women Attract Men—Leading to the Proposal and Culminating in Marriage (St. Louis: The Psychology Press, 1922), 1:24.

Conservative Christian Response to the Sexual Revolution and Second Wave Feminism

The next excerpt I want to share from my upcoming book, Beyond Authority and Submission, is from Chapter 6: “Later Feminism and the Conservative Christian Response.” Part of the history that I cover in the book is the various waves of feminism and how society and the church responded to them. And how the response to feminism has shaped our beliefs about women and men.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

It’s not that conservative Christians believe that the feminist movement didn’t do any good. They do—but they also believe that women were content until the feminist movement. As one complementarian book explains, “Male-dominated culture, or patriarchy, isn’t the problem that feminism made it out to be. It’s not the real reason women were unhappy, if they really were unhappy. Why not? Because if it were, women would be happier after the feminist movements successes, but they aren’t.”[1]

Much of what’s being taught about the nature of women and men and gender roles in marriage, church, and society started out as a response to the feminist movement—or at least to aspects of it. For example, the belief that feminism makes men effeminate and turns women into “‘men’ who happen to be biologically capable of having children”[2] has led to particular definitions of masculinity and femininity.

As the anti-suffrage postcards did, some conservatives today depict feminists as being loud and aggressive, demanding of their own way, ambitious, and career-oriented. This goes against what they believe women were created to be, as we will see in the next chapter. Let’s see how this reaction to feminism has influenced conservative Christian teaching on the nature of women and men.

[1] Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design; An
Eight-Week Study on Biblical Womanhood (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 137, nook.

[2] Voddie Baucham Jr., What He Must Be: . . . If He Wants to Marry My Daughter (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 152.

[3] See Kassian and DeMoss, True Woman 101, 118–20.

Beyond Authority and Submission

This next excerpt from my upcoming book explains the title Beyond Authority and Submission. Authority and submission are important aspects to some of our relationships, but they shouldn’t be the whole of our discussions about women and men. A hyper focus on authority and submission can cause us to lose sight of important biblical themes.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

In conservative Christian circles, many conversations about women and men start and end with authority and submission. Who’s in charge? Who’s allowed to do what? These are reasonable questions to ask. At the same time, the Bible doesn’t start and end with authority and submission—it is Jesus’s story from first to last. If we miss that message, then it doesn’t matter what else we believe. No good deeds or proper understanding of women, men, and gender will save us.

That doesn’t mean that authority and submission aren’t important. We shouldn’t dismiss them—but they aren’t the focus of the Bible. When we concentrate on maintaining a hierarchy—or on overthrowing it—we forget our unity and interdependence and our call to mutual service. Women can become completely dependent on men and devoted to serving their interests; men can forget their need for women and can focus more on enforcing submission than on serving their wives and families.

Contrary to what popular culture states, women and men are not from different planets. We’re complementary—more alike than different. Without denying the differences, we need to stop defining women as the polar opposite of men and vice versa. Such divisive definitions create and encourage unnecessary conflict and set up unrealistic and unbiblical expectations for how women and men should behave.

Paul frequently refers to fellow believers—both men and women—as his co-laborers. The word he uses, sunergos, means “a companion in work.”[2] As we will see in the next sections, co-laborer captures the sense of what we were created to be and what we are called to be in Christ.

[1] Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), NOOK, addresses the biblical themes of unity (see 24–25) and leading through service (see 108–9).

[2] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, s.v. “sunergos,” available online from Bible Hub, accessed June 18, 2018, http://biblehub.com/greek/4904.htm, Strong’s number 4904.

God: The Source of All Authority and Submission

As we get closer to the release date for Beyond Authority and Submission, I want to share a few excerpts. This first excerpt is from Chapter 1: “What Are Authority and Submission?” While it’s clear from the title of my book that I want to move the discussions about women and men beyond an exclusive focus on authority and submission, it’s important that we start with a picture of what God-honoring authority and submission are (and aren’t).

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

The foundation of a biblical understanding of authority and submission is the fact that we are humans, male and female, made in the image of God. In the beginning, God made us and gave us authority—the right to command and lead—over the rest of creation. He commanded us to rule over “every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). This authority is part of the very nature of humanity, and it is good when used appropriately.[1] God-honoring authority protects, cares for, provides for, and promotes the well-being of others.[2] In our fallen world, godly authority also restrains evil and punishes sin and wickedness (see Rom. 13:4). Life without authority is anarchy and chaos.

However, because we are created beings, our authority must be limited.[3] Only God has unlimited authority. He is God and our Creator. We are created and are not God (see Rom. 1:18–25). This contrast lies at the heart of submission and is essential for us to grasp. Submission—voluntarily yielding to the authority of another—isn’t feminine or masculine; it’s characteristic of our human nature.

Each of us has authority in some relationships and owes submission in others. Common sense tells us that we should recognize the situational authority of others. For example, when a doctor tells us that we have an illness and need treatment, it is wise for us to recognize his or her authority and to submit to the treatment. Similarly, we know we should follow the instructions of teachers, counselors, police officers, coaches, and even traffic signs. Additionally, the Bible gives us both general guidance and specific direction regarding authority and submission in particular relationships, as we will discuss.

[1] Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 37–38.

[2] See Crouch, 111–12.

[3] See Crouch, 36.

Wisdom vs Folly: “Her feet do not remain at home”

As I was writing and editing my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, there were a few sections that didn’t make the final cut. What follows is a section comparing the personifications of wisdom and folly in the Proverbs. As you’ll see, some complementarians have used passages to teach that women working outside the home are examples of folly. But what do the verses actually teach us?

Even though the Bible gives many examples of women working, there are persistent questions about women working in society. One of the biggest concerns is whether or not it’s appropriate for women to work or have a career outside the home. After all, the Bible says that women should be keepers at home, right?

There tends to be two extremes on women working. One extreme says women can and should do anything they want without consideration for the effect this may have on others. While this view is found in our secular society, it’s not as common among believers, especially those who want to be faithful to the Bible.

The other extreme is that women shouldn’t work outside the home or have a career. Those who hold this view argue that women are meant to take care of the home and family. Working outside the home leads to abandoning their responsibilities and going against the created order that God established from the beginning.[1]

Most beliefs about women working fall somewhere between these two extremes, but among conservative Christians staying at home is considered the ideal for women. The reasoning is God created women to be focused on the home whereas men were created to be focused on the outside world. Adam was made outside the garden in the fields where he would work, but Eve was made inside the garden in “the ‘home’ where God had placed her husband.”[2]

Women, therefore, have a natural inclination towards domestic concerns. As Mary Kassian explains: “The Bible teaches that God created woman with a uniquely feminine ‘bent’ for the home. ‘Working at home’ is on its top ten list of important things that older women need to teach to younger ones (Titus 2:5). It encourages young women to ‘manage their households’ (1 Timothy 5:14). It praises her who ‘looks well to the ways of her household’ … (Proverbs 31:27). The Bible casts women whose hearts are inclined away from the home in a negative light (Proverbs 7:11).[3]

The verses Kassian uses here are often referred to in discussions about women working outside the home. The first two verses are from Paul’s advice for women in the church. In Titus 2:5, Paul says that older women should teach younger women “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” In 1 Timothy 5:14, he says, “Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach.”

Proverbs 31 has several verses about a woman’s care for her household. Verse 27 says, “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” The other passage from Proverbs that Kassian refers to is Proverbs 7:11 which says, “She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not remain at home.”

The question we should be asking is if Proverbs 7:11 is really about women working outside the home. Proverbs 7 is about an adulterous woman tempting a man. In context, it’s a warning to men about avoiding sin. Proverbs 7:11 is about her unfaithful ways. The point isn’t that she’s away from home. It’s that she isn’t faithful to her husband.

In contrast, wisdom, personified as a woman, is described in Proverbs 1, 8, and 9. Both wisdom and the adulterous woman are attempting to influence men. In Proverbs 7, the adulterous or foolish woman is disruptive, rebellious, out in the streets, grabbing and kissing men, enticing them to sin. We see her again in Proverbs 9. Here she’s described as foolish, sitting at the doorway or in the high places, calling out to those passing by, inviting them in, encouraging them to eat secret bread and drink stolen water, leading them to sin and death.

In the parallel passages about wisdom, we also see her out in the streets, at the city gates, at the heights of the city, shouting and calling out to men, inviting them into the home she’s built, encouraging them to eat and drink at her feast. The difference is what wisdom is leading men to. Wisdom leads men to knowledge and righteousness. Her goal is to help and encourage, to build up and strengthen, to reprove and counsel.

The wickedness of the foolish woman isn’t that she’s away from her home or that she’s loud or even that she’s influencing men. Her wickedness is that she’s leading men to sin. Her goal is to destroy and tear down. The methods of the two women are similar, but their goals and the end results are very different.

No woman should want to be like the foolish woman, but the danger isn’t in working outside the home. It’s in being faithless and adulterous. We see the same emphasis on the dangers of adultery and faithlessness in a verse about men, “Like a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man who wanders from his home” (Prov. 27:8).

Just like wisdom and the Proverbs 31 woman, a godly woman can be faithful to the Lord and to her husband while working inside or outside the home. It’s her heart and attitude, not her location, that are essential.

[1] Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, So Much More (San Antonio: The Vision Forum, Inc, 2005), 111.

[2]Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), nook version, 74.

[3]Mary Kassian, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010), 76.