A Book You Should Read (And Brief Thoughts On Gender Roles In Church)




How's that for a blog post title?

A few years ago, I discovered a podcast produced by Moody Radio called Up For Debate.  It's a podcast where Christians on different sides of certain issues come together and have a "debate".  It's about as friendly as a debate show can get, and though I usually pretty strongly agree with one guest over the other, it has been helpful to me to understand different arguments on "gray areas" within Christian circles.  The host, Julie Roys, always wraps up the debates by giving her opinion, and I've come to really appreciate hearing what she has to say.

So, I found out Roys had written a book, and I decided to pick it up recently.  This is one of those reviews that is going to be hard to write, because I am just not sure I have the words.  There is just so much in this book (in a good way).

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In Redeeming The Feminine Soul  God's Surprising Vision For Womanhood, Roys shares her own story in discovering more about biblical femininity, and more personally, how it applies to her own life.  Her story starts out with her struggle in not really understanding or accepting her feminine nature in some ways, and how that lead her into discouragement related to her spiritual gifts and dangerous relationships.  However, God lead her to read more about the unique ways that masculinity and femininity reflect the character of God, and her perspective began to change.  She eventually got to the place where she could see the true value in the feminine that she was missing before.

On the way she tackles so many issues, like gender roles in the church, misogyny (not what you think), gender identity, feminism...like I said, there is a lot in this book.  I have a bit of commentary on gender roles in the church below, but first let me say that I thought this book was very well-done.  Roys keeps a good balance as she discusses these issues, while also not wavering on biblical truth, which is a brave thing to do in this culture.  Overall, I thought her arguments were very well thought out and presented, and she supported so much of what she said biblically and also with research.

This book was not a light skim-over of these issues, she took a surprisingly deep dive in a short amount of pages, and I left with so much to think about. For example...

My (Very) Brief Thoughts On Gender Roles In Church 

At one point in this book, Roys shares her struggles in coming to terms with biblical gender roles within the church.  She shares her story of feeling called to preaching, but not being allowed to, and the internal conflict that caused her.  Eventually she comes to a complimentarian understanding of gender roles in Scripture (meaning God created men and women to fill different roles that complement each other), and how these roles (especially in marriage) are a symbol or reflection of the relationship between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within the Trinity - particularly how the Son (Jesus) submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to the Son and the Father.  Our relationships as men and women, our very genders and their accompanying biblical roles, are meant to be a reflection of those relationships in the Trinity, and that is how we should be framing the whole “submission” issue. 

I am pretty familiar with all that already, but the part I found interesting and that made me think was when she also applied this understanding of being a reflection of the Trinity to gender roles within the church.  She presents the concept that men's and women’s roles within marriage and the family are meant to reflect God’s character and relationship in the Trinity, and that the church also reflects that as well by reflecting the family (this is biblically backed up by the way Paul refers to himself as a spiritual "father" of different congregations, etc.).  

Here she argues that though the main leadership biblically should be reserved for men in order to maintain that very important symbolism, women can be allowed to preach and teach as spiritual “mothers” in the church as well, while submitting to the leadership of the spiritual “fathers”, so not having ultimate authority over men in the church. This is to be done from a position of mutual love and respect between the men and women in the church, while also acknowledging and honoring their respective biblical roles.  

I never really thought about it that way before.  I’m still mulling it over, though I will say that in general I think it is fine for women to speak in church occasionally, even to the men - I grew up in a (conservative) church which occasionally heard presentations from our female missionaries when they were visiting on a Sunday morning, and women in the congregation were welcome to contribute to the church service during prayer, testimony time, etc.  There was a pretty beautiful respect of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ there, and the older I get, the more blessed I think I am to have experienced church as I did growing up.  I am supposing that this kind of thing may not be allowed in some conservative churches, but since I grew up in that kind of environment, Roys's understanding of this makes sense to me.  I agree that these occasions don’t constitute women having “authority” over the men, so they don’t contradict 2 Timothy 2.  

The one thing I don’t agree with Roys on though is when she implies that she thinks it’s fine for women to be given the title of “pastor” under a head pastor - I think the very word “pastor” conveys authority, and would seem to put men in the church under the woman’s authority, muddying the gender roles again.  This was the one sticky area in the book where I wasn't always sure where Roys was going, but like the rest of the book I thought she did a pretty good job of staying balanced and seeking truth from God's word, even if I don't 100% agree with her application.

Back To The Book

So that probably gives you an idea of what I mean when I say that each chapter was a deep-dive into these issues...I really don't know how this book is not much longer.  

She does discuss "healing ministry" in this book as well, and I felt that might need a note because I think the term is confusing - from what I gather, when she refers to healing ministry, she's not talking about something hokey but about biblical counseling ministries to help people overcome wounds from their past, whether they be emotional, sexual, etc.  I get a little leery of putting too much emphasis on psychology, but the way she described the healing ministry from which she received counseling put me more at ease, which included Bible study/prayer, and personal application and discussion/counseling within groups.  I did feel the term could get confusing though, which is why I put this little explanation of my take here.

I really appreciated the chapters on our culture's misogyny (hatred of the feminine that is often perpetuated by women today), and the chapter on motherhood was so personally encouraging to me - I know I will be going back to read that one again.  I'm not saying this book won't step on your toes in some way, because it probably will, but if you are ready to think more deeply about these issues and God's original design for us as women, this book just gave me so much to think about.  And she explains everything so much better than I am doing here, so if something I said seems confusing, I'd just say check out the book yourself and tell me what you think! I definitely recommend it.

(Also, I can count this review as part of my memory-keeping 31 Day Challenge, right?  I shared a memory from my childhood church, after all!)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.






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