In this issue of Modern Reformation we encourage readers to ask some tough questions about the unity of our churches. We're raising a hot-potato issue: Do women get the short end of the stick when it comes to the study of theology?
Scanning the evangelical landscape, it seems to us that women suffer from a paucity of doctrine and a disproportionate amount of material that can only be described as self-help. The subjects will all be familiar: practical living guides for this and that, advice for raising children, keeping the family together, dieting, strengthening relationships, and so forth. Lots of To-Do's, lots of the Holy Spirit will help you do X, Y, and Z, but very little of the announcement that we all need to hear regardless of gender: Christ has done for you what you can never do for yourself. The effect of this avalanche of women's content is all law and no (or very little) gospel. Now the blame doesn't rest on women alone; mostly, publishing companies and the evangelical "retail industry" are responsible for flooding the market with this material. But another contributing factor are the men on the conservative fringes who implicitly encourage this gender-specific niche marketing by implying that theology is for men, the heads of houses, and leaders of families. It's "No Girls Allowed."
But there are encouraging signs, which is where we begin in an interview with Kathleen Nielson, director of women's initiatives for The Gospel Coalition. Editor-in-Chief Michael Horton probes the topic at the foundational level with the help of Abraham Kuyper, asking whether our views have been properly reformed according to the Word of God or whether we are merely defending so-called conservative cultural mores. Le Ann Trees shares her personal story of how the study of an eighteenth-century Scottish theologian named Thomas Boston sustained her through personal tragedy, and regular contributor Simonetta Carr discusses the importance of teaching theology to children.
Assumptions need to be challenged and checked by Scripture, so this issue includes several provocative pieces, one by Mary Ellen Godfrey on Dorothy Sayers' book, Are Women Human? Pastor Brian Cosby challenges us to think about the educational value of entertainment-driven youth ministry, while Professor Derke Bergsma offers practical advice about how to evaluate a sermon. Preaching and general observance of the Lord's Day has fallen on hard times, but in a short essay Jon Payne encourages us to consider the importance of evening worship. Finally, Michael Horton offers a well-aimed criticism of the exaggerated emphasis on biblical manhood evident in some of our circles.
The study of theology doesn't replace our study of Scripture but undergirds, strengthens, and extends it. Informed Bible study complements Word and Sacrament ministry and further develops our hearts and minds in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we all need: every man, woman, and child (Gal. 3:27).
Ryan Glomsrud (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is Executive Editor for Modern Reformation and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at Harvard University. He earned his M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California and B.A. from Wheaton College, Illinois.
Issue: "No Girls Allowed" May/June 2012 Vol. 21 No. 3 Page number(s): 6
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