Coming Together Around God’s Word: TGCW14 Testimony
This last weekend a few ladies from Redeemer went to The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. We heard from speakers including Don Carson, John Piper, Tim and Kathy Keller, Paige Benton Brown, and Nancy Guthrie. Those were only the plenary speakers! There were several breakouts to choose from including a list of speakers and authors who have contributed to the gospel work around the globe.
I went two years ago and because it’s held in Orlando, I was able to go again this year. Several things impacted me in 2012 that stayed with me into this conference as well. The main thing was this: Women are allowed to love theology and doctrine.
I know this may sound strange to some. It might sound strange because for one, this should be a no-brainer. You might be thinking, “Well of course women are allowed to love God and study doctrine!” But you might also find it strange because you are thinking, “Wait, what!? We are!?”
Tagged onto that statement is this: not only are we allowed to love it we are also responsible to study it -- and not just at home, by ourselves, asking our husbands questions when we are confused. We are also “allowed” (shocking?) to go to seminary or Bible college, get a degree, and teach somewhere. Or just to pursue theology because we want to. I can’t count how many times throughout the conference we were encouraged to seek out higher education to increase our love and study of God’s Word. This was my parent’s perspective growing up; they always encouraged me to read and study God’s word and to cultivate personal responsibility for my growth in godliness and in theology. I learned to love raiding Dad’s office for theology books! Yet I don’t recall anyone from a pulpit encouraging me to do so. So hence my surprise…and absolute delight.
Now, I’m not saying all women should get Bible degrees. What I am saying is that as women, not IN SPITE OF being women, we should feel that we can learn, study, and dive into the Scriptures just like our male counterparts. I was encouraged by this on several levels at the conferences. First, over the years I have found my desire to learn doctrine waning because of what I had perceived to be something wrong with me. I loved teaching others about doctrine, but I felt that other people, especially men, could do this much better than I. When I was single I was discouraged that I wouldn’t find a husband who I felt was more zealous about doctrine than I was (although this was probably very arrogant of me.) And I assumed that I would have to be the type of wife who constantly had to encourage her husband to lead out in family devotions, prayer, or even to read his Bible. Those of you who know my husband are probably laughing right now, and know that God has blessed me with a very strong husband who loves God’s word immensely. But at the time, I would often despair that this could actually happen.
In the reformed circles in which I grew up it seemed there was an unintentional stifling of a woman’s desire to have more “manly” qualities such as leadership capabilities, teaching qualifications, doctrinal intelligence, and a seat at the table of theological contributions. When a woman like Nancy Guthrie preaches at the conference (and wow, the woman can preach!) after having written several commentaries on the Old Testament; a woman who is extremely well-spoken and educated in doctrine from a seminary, I was thrilled. Her message was powerful, titled “Coming Together Around God’s Word.” My heart was pierced with conviction, not only because I don’t esteem God’s word enough, but also because I have allowed my desire to study it wane because of perceived people (all in my own head) who would judge me for being literate in doctrine. I realized that I fear man more than I fear God.
Practically, how do I walk away from this changed? I’m still processing what that will look like. But I do know this: it will involve opening up large, theological works and reading them. It will also involve opening the Word of God, not just through the lens of being a woman who should read her Bible, but through the lens of being a woman in His image who wants to know more about Him and the depths of His character. As John Piper said, “The drama of complementarianism [the belief that women and men are equal before God but have different roles] is not based on competence.” I know I won’t understand everything; I am blessed to have a wise and intelligent husband and women friends with whom I can discuss things. I am more resolved to bring up the weightier things of Scripture with them to spur myself and perhaps them on to dig deep in the spring of the Word. I want to come together with them around God’s Word: women teaching and encouraging and studying and enjoying it together. Sometimes that will involve the traditional passages directed to women, but most times I think it will involve enjoying the richness of theology: the study of God Himself.
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