November 14, 2006

The Privatization of Reason in Women's Ministry

Don't you just love google alerts? I learn the most fascinating tidbits as these alerts fill my email box on what seems to be an hourly basis. One alert that came to my attention today is about a Christian women's conference as discussed by a blogger. The post, Apologist Accepted, seems to suggest that being able to offer a defense for Christianity to unbelievers is unnecessary-and that this view is supported by the particular speaker at this event.
Like me, and maybe like you, Nichole Nordeman felt this constant pressure to be an apologist for her reason her non-believing friend into submission. But it doesn't work that way. And maybe that's the point. Having faith exposes the limitation of pure reason and leaves room for those "what if" questions. Its not up to me to convince non-believers to have faith - I can't do that. All I can do is share my journey, present the Gospel and pray for the holy spirit to do His work.
First of all, it may be that this is not an accurate assessment of Nichole's message, so my reflection on this post is not to focus on Nordeman, but on the nature of women's ministry itself.

Several things are wrong with this statement and it would be impossible to unpack them all here as that would entail discussion about epistemology, the nature and role of reason within our faith, and the role of reason and apologetics in scripture. And anyone who knows me knows that I'm entirely unable to discuss any of those subjects without debating apologetic methodology and asking all to submit to Van Tilian thought. But I'm not going to put you through all that.

Quite simply, this blog post reveals the inadequate, experiential nature of women's ministry today and how women are being led to believe that the mind has little or no role in the spiritual journey. How sad is it that women are taught that God chooses not to work through reason? A huge danger exists for women who are seeking God and a healthy spiritual life. The books they read and the conferences they attend teach this compartmentalization...that the heart and the mind are to be as separate as church and state - I don't think so. Pitting faith against reason only undermines a woman's ability to navigate through life's complexities. Studying and learning from the Bible is as much an act of reason as is learning about the ethical issues surrounding somatic cell nuclear transfer.....and both are important to her as well.

Yes, it is true that it is God who brings people to faith, but our witness is an instrument. And let's be clear here.....a personal testimony is nothing less than a defense of the faith and is not unreasonable. It is by it's very nature a persuasive argument. If my own friend who discipled me for years and a "let go, let God" attitude about my walk, I'd probably be in a miserable mess. But she challenged my expressed needs to feel and experience with "why?" and "how do you know?"

I've stepped up to address this privatization of reason in the whole scope of women's ministry. I would enjoying hearing your thoughts on it as well.


Jeff Downs said...

Great thoughts.

Jonna said...

I believe that there are several reasons why many women's ministries quickly degenerate into complete wastes of time at best and producers of soul-damning heretical philosophies at worst.

Firstly, there is an underlying lack of education stemming from either a failed effort to study to show themselves approved, or perhaps, in some cases, due to suppression of information and lack of accessible teachers of sound doctrine.

Secondly, the standard for "Christian" women speakers is so low that any woman can get up and blather on about her personal philosophies and deeper insights and revelations without fear of being challenged. If someone stood up publically to challenge them, things would change. This needs to happen.

I also believe that the male leadership in a church has a responsibility to ensure that all female teachers (or males, for that matter) are qualified to lead a Bible study class and capable of proper exegesis.

Lastly, there is a definite feminization (for lack of a better term) of the church. This term is used to describe the current emphasis on mystical experiences, personal revelations, and "feelings of spirituality." It is based upon a fruit that looks good to me and appeals to my senses and could even make me wise enough to determine what is right and what is wrong for myself. It is not based upon proper male leadership and an adherence to the Word of God.

Our guide for evangelization is the Word of God.

"And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks."

Randi Shaffer said...

Unfortunately, this "let go, let God" approach to evangelism and apologetics is not reserved for women. The problem is bigger than that. Those who call themselves postmodern apologists fall into this category, as well as a lot of people who don't even know what the terms mean. According to them, the best defense for Christianity is the Christian life well-lived.

While there is value to this assertion, and I'm grateful for the reminder that my life must give validity to my proclamation of faith,I contend that the very thing that gives value to our Christian life is the fact that our faith is founded on Truth. I know there are arguments about the nature of truth and how we can attain knowledge of it, but reason has got to be recognized as a part of this process. Frankly, the statement "All I can do is share my journey, present the Gospel and pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work" is not a compassionate way of viewing the unbeliever! This is a passive way of engaging the unbeliever! What if the unbeliever has real doubts, questions, concerns, or misunderstandings about the nature of Christianity? What if they actually ask questions about these things? Can a superficial knowledge of the Gospel and how to present it in 3 easy steps really suffice?

I think women's ministry as a whole underestimates the intelligence and thirst of not only believing women, but the unbelieving ones, as well.

Trish Ryan said...

Nicole Nordeman's music helped me as a new believer, when I was worried that following Jesus might require me to check my mind at the door. She her work is a marked contrast - both in her lyrics and her articles for CCM - to the bland pablum that fills so many Christian books for women today.

She gives me hope that it's possible to live a meaningful, life-giving faith without bashing my friends and family over the head with the gospel.