Jen Wilkin explains that male pastors need women to preach to women because:
- She holds an authority you cannot hold.
- She brings a perspective you cannot bring.
I wrote about the authority question yesterday, but it is worth reiterating that she says this is especially the case whenever Scripture directly relates to the roles of women. If someone must preach to women on 1 Pet 3, Ephesians 5, or 1 Cor 7, by this logic it should be a woman and not a man.
But what does a woman’s perspective on Scripture look like? What kind of insight springs forth when there isn’t testosterone poisoning the process? We will start with Wilkin explaining 1 Peter 3:17. Wilkin claims that these verses are not general instruction to married Christians, but are specifically to Christian men and women with unbelieving spouses:
Peter’s comments to husbands are a subset of a discussion about how to live among unbelievers in a God-honoring way, urging submission to others as an expression of submission to God. Having just addressed how a believing wife ought to live with an unbelieving husband, Peter addresses believing husbands about how to live with an unbelieving wife, describing her as the “weaker vessel”.
This is obviously not the case, because the Apostle Peter tells us what he is saying to wives is timeless, and is based on what is beautiful to God:
3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fineapparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
There can be no dispute that Peter is instructing all wives in this passage. He includes the “even if” instruction to make it clear this also applies to wives with unbelieving husbands, not to exclude wives with believing ones. This is reinforced by Peter’s message that this command is timeless; this goes back to Sarah in Genesis, whose progeny God made the original covenant with. He also tells us a wife submitting to her husband is beautiful to God, and we know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Similarly, does God only want Christian husbands with unbelieving wives to dwell with them in understanding?
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
If anything, this verse is aimed more at husbands of believing wives, as unbelieving wives would not be “heirs of the grace of life”. But the verse starts with “likewise”, which ties in the previous verses to wives; Peter’s instruction to dwell with them with understanding applies to husbands with believing and unbelieving wives.
Next Wilkin claims that Peter’s instruction was specific to the times. Peter wasn’t telling them what was beautiful to God, he was merely advising Christian wives to take drastic measures to avoid being beaten or killed by their unbelieving husbands. Likewise, he was only urging Christian husbands not to beat or kill their unbelieving wives:
This is where historical context becomes our friend. At the time Peter writes, Roman law had begun to soften towards women. During the first century A.D., laws began to be passed giving women rights of property ownership and protection from domestic abuse, but for hundreds of years before this, the concept of the pater familas had reigned in the lawbooks and in the home.
The pater familias, or “family father” held sway in the home on all decisions regarding property and family. All property remained legally his until his death – should he live to be eighty, none of his adult sons could hold property. Moreover, he held the power of life and death (vitae necisque potesta) over every member of his family. Infants deemed too expensive to be raised could be left on the temple steps at his order, either to die from exposure or to be taken and raised as slaves. Adult children could be executed by fathers who believed them to be rebellious or deceitful. And most relevant to our discussion, wives whose husbands held the legal power to put them to death could hope for little protection from domestic violence.
So, the Rome to which Peter writes, much like the American South in the eighty years following Abolition, is a Rome in which new laws are on the books but practices remain much the same. Peter instructs wives on how to live carefully with an unbelieving husband who could cause them (or their children) physical harm for having converted to a new religion, and then he admonishes husbands of unbelieving wives not to deal harshly with them, even though the culture would allow it.
Note the game of heads I win, tails you lose when it comes to historical context and feminist interpretation. In this case wives were to submit in the ancient world because their husbands were brutes who would beat or kill them if they did not. Since husbands are (as a group) far less violent/dangerous now there is no longer any need for wives to submit. But the other claim from feminists is that wives cannot be expected to follow Peter’s instruction today because modern husbands are too brutal. It would be suicide to submit to a modern man; he would only beat and/or kill them if they did!
If you want more wisdom from Wilkin on 1 Peter, you are in luck. She wrote a book on the topic and published it under The Gospel Coalition.
But it isn’t just Wilkin bringing a unique feminine interpretation to the Bible. I’ve already covered Mary Kassian and Kathy Keller’s testosterone free interpretation of headship and submission, as well as Kassian’s exegesis of 2 Timothy 3:6-7. Several years ago I also shared Sheila Gregoire’s unique interpretation of Ephesians 5 in her signature book To Love, Honor, and Vacuum: When You Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and Mother:
Whether we like to be reminded of it or not, the Bible calls for wives to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22).
Many biblical commentators think that the meaning of “the husband is the head of the wife” in Ephesians 5:23 implies something similar to “source,” like the head of the river. The wife draws energy and support from her husband, and the husband finds part of his identity in supplying his wife with what she needs.
…take the opportunity to show him he’s needed at home, too. Often men feel superfluous at home, like they don’t even belong, because you manage everything. Make honest requests of him that allow him to help support you and feel involved in building your home.
If you want your husband to take responsibility for certain chores on his own, without being asked, you need to find a delegation method that conveys to him what needs to be done without threatening him.
My husband is motivated by lists. If I just tell him I would like him to help clean up after dinner, he doesn’t know what to do. But if there is a list of daily and weekly chores on the fridge, and he can see what is left to be done, he’s like a Tasmanian devil whirling around the house, cleaning.
Gregoire also has a testosterone free interpretation of 1 Cor 7:5, which she offers in What Does 1 Corinthians 7:5–Do Not Deprive Each Other–Really Mean? Gregoire is all over the map, but some of my favorite examples are:
And that’s my point of contention today: too often these verses are used as weapons, which makes sex into simply an obligation…
That is no fun.
If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, “I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.”