Answers to Some of Rachel Held Evans’s Questions

I would like to answer some of the questions Rachel Held Evans poses here.


If the Hebrew word ezer is used most often in Scripture to refer to God as a strong helper, why is it said to mean a subordinate when used in Genesis 2 to describe Eve?

Me: Woman is “a helper in the work of generation” (Summa Theologica, First Part, Q. 92, A. 1). So in terms of life-producing, women is considered to be superior to man.


If man’s rule over woman is introduced in the context of a curse, why would Christians still enforce patriarchy when Christ’s death and resurrection have inaugurated a new creation in which the hierarchal barriers between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female are broken down and redeemed?

Me: There is dispute over that. The Angelic Doctor would say,

Subjection is twofold. One is servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit; and this kind of subjection began after sin. There is another kind of subjection which is called economic or civil, whereby the superior makes use of his subjects for their own benefit and good; and this kind of subjection existed even before sin. For good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates. Nor is inequality among men excluded by the state of innocence, as we shall prove (96, 3). (Summa Theologica, First Part, Q. 92, A. 1)


Is Proverbs 31 really meant to be interpreted prescriptively, or does its poetic format suggest it should be interpreted as a celebration of women rather than a to-do list for them?

Me: I would agree that it is a praise of women of this sort of character.


If it is “unbiblical” for women to teach or assume leadership over men why are women like Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, Priscilla, Phoebe, and Junia praised in Scripture for doing just that?

Me: There is temporal authority and then there is Church authority. These women were all astounding but their authority did not exist in the Church as clerical positions but merely as lay positions. Deborah, Huldah, and Miriam are not priests. Phoebe is understood to be a deaconess of which the ordained status of is hotly debated within the Church, Priscilla was a catechist which is a lay position within the Church, and Junia is an apostle but not of the same status as that of the Twelve. As the Angelic Doctor notes concerning women in temporal authority, “Debbora exercised authority in temporal, not in priestly matters, even as now woman may have temporal power” (Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 39, A. 1).


Why is “wives submit to your husbands” taken more seriously than “submit one to another.” And if every biblical instance of these instructions for husbands and wives is either preceded or followed by instructions for slaves to obey their masters, (verses that have historically been used to support slavery), might it be prudent to consider the spirit of these instructions in their Greco-Roman context rather than literally applying the letter? (I asked several complementarians to engage in our “One To Another” series and none agreed.)

Me: People in slave status (though by no means are we promoting slavery here but acknowledging its existence in more barbaric societies), must submit to their masters as part of an honorary system. No one takes “submit to one another” any less seriously than “wives submit to your husbands”.


Why are Paul’s instructions regarding Corinthian women wearing head coverings dismissed as cultural and specific to a unique audience, while his instructions regarding Ephesian women teaching the Ephesian church considered universally and timelessly prescriptive?

Me: There are many Christians that would support women wearing head coverings in Church. Take St. John Chrysostom in his Homilies on First Corinthians where he states that “the woman he commands to be at all times covered” (Homily 26). This is why many Catholic (especially Traditionalist Catholic) women still wear the mantilla and why many Orthodox women also wear head coverings in Church. Likewise, many Mennonites do so as well. I wish they would revive that in Anglican Catholicism.


How can 1 Timothy 5 be used to characterize stay-at-home dads as “failures” when the context of those instructions is care for widows?

Me: I was unaware of any one who used this against stay-at-home dads.


Is a single-income household with a father who goes to work and a mother who stays home really the only way to honor God? Is this really a “biblical” concept or does it impose modern Western cultural assumptions onto the text? Can Christians support such teachings when such a lifestyle is out-of-reach for many of the world’s poor, to whom Jesus first brought the gospel? And what about singles and non-parents?

Me: I would argue the latter. That it’s more of a western cultural assumption. Such arguments about the family are implied no where in either tradition or in scripture.


How does the teaching that women are to be subordinate to their husbands in sex square with 1 Corinthians 7, which says the opposite? And if this sort of mutuality and equality is celebrated in such an intimate context, why not extend it into every area of life?

Me: I am unaware of any one who says that women are to be subordinate to their husbands in sex. I am aware that Archbishop John Chrysostom says the following…

Elsewhere I grant He gives to the husband abundant precedence, both in the New Testament, and the Old saying, (ἡ ἀποστρόφή σου, LXX. Genesis 3:16.) Your turning shall be towards your husband, and he shall rule over you. Paul does so too by making a distinction thus, and writing, Ephesians 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives; and let the wife see that she reverence her husband. But in this place we hear no more of greater and less, but it is one and the same right. Now why is this? Because his speech was about chastity. In all other things, says he, let the husband have the prerogative; but not so where the question is about chastity. The husband has no power over his own body, neither the wife. There is great equality of honor, and no prerogative. (Homily 19 on First Corinthians)


If, as John Piper has suggested, the primary measure of the appropriateness of a woman in leadership is the degree to which a man feels threatened by that leadership, what about men like my husband, or my pastor, or Scot McKnight, who are not threatened by the intelligent, thoughtful contributions of women in leadership? What about men who enjoy and appreciate partnerships with women and whose sense of calling and security is not dependent upon women’s subjugation? Why enforce these roles onto them?

Me: As I have no affiliation with John Piper, I do not believe that women in Church leadership has to do with this. Of course, I am not threatened by an intellectual woman. I would never marry a feminist though for the specific reason that most feminists are simply not intellectual these days but come off as jerks who just want to prove that they can be men too. In full theory, a marriage where the husband loves his woman as Christ loves the Church and the woman submits as the Church does to Christ is a very partnering marriage in my view that I would find preferable. If my wife wants to call me lord, I shall call her lady as they did in the Middle Ages.


John Piper cites the first half of 1 Timothy 2:12 (“a woman should not have authority”) as universally applicable, but disregards the second half (“she must be quiet”) by encouraging women like Beth Moore to continue speaking. If the first half of 1 Timothy 2 is so crucial to the complementarian hierarchal construct, why is the second half, (along with the silence command in 1 Corinthians 14:34) essentially ignored? Why is that complementarian women are forbidden from assuming leadership in churches, and yet permitted to speak?

Me: As seen, this is referring to a specific liturgical context. A woman cannot hold authority in a liturgical context nor can they give the homilies.


And where on earth in Scripture does it teach that “real men” are “heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes” who don’t do the laundry or allow their boys to play with dolls? If all men are “hardwired” one way and all women are “hardwired” another way, why don’t we all fit into these stereotypes? Does the Bible really perpetuate these stereotypes?

Me: No. And neither does tradition. Though there are stereotypes that women and men do fit under–for instance, men tend to be more intellectual, women tend to be more nurturing. Men tend to be more sexual, women tend not to be. Biologically, men are certainly stronger than women.

I hope I answered your questions here.


About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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