“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).
The two divergent approaches to the question of the role of women which are common among contemporary Evangelical Christians we might call the Traditional View (the majority opinion) and the Egalitarian View (the minority opinion).
The God presented by the biblical authors and worshipped in the Church today cannot be regarded as having gender, any more than God can be regarded as having race or color. In recognizing this truth, we will be more free to use inclusive metaphors for God.
I believe that we need to come to the Bible with just such a faith when we deal with the hard issues – not only those of doctrine but also those of Christian behavior. If we can develop a hermeneutic of faith which will apply to a better understanding of gender roles in the economy of God, perhaps the same methodology can serve us in circumstances which the church of Jesus Christ cannot now fully envision.
Popular references to God most often imply a certain masculinity, but I had always interpreted them as playful anthropomorphisms, endearments meant to humanize God just enough so people can speak comfortably yet respectfully about him in secular circles.
It has been noted by many observers that the twentieth-century American sensibility is an experiential one. Feeling, emotion, “sensitivity,” self-awareness and “self-actualization,” “born-again” religion and self-help therapies—all in one way or another point toward the immediacy of personal experience. This experiential emphasis has influenced the character of American religion and theology in both its liberal and conservative expressions. Both the heritage of Puritan and revivalistic Christianity and the tradition of American philosophical pragmatism have tended to reinforce experience as an important dimension of American religious life.
In November of 1993 women and men from fifteen Christian denominations, and one Buddhist came together at Minneapolis to call attention to a good cause, the Ecumenical decade: Churches in Solidarity with Women, through which the United Nations and the World Council of Churches asked churches throughout 1988-98 “to eliminate teachings and practices that discriminate against women.” The conference theme was “Re-Imagining...God, Community and the Church.”
The most glaring difference between the theological quest of white women and black women is the fact that black women are dealing with three levels of oppression (racism, sexism, and classism) while the white women’s struggle with oppression can be one dimensional: fighting the Victorian model of the weak (even pampered) woman who can’t do anything for herself.
For whatever our experience of singleness, be it freedom and joyous fulfillment or agonizing aloneness, our life this side of eternity will never be what God originally intended in creation. Regardless of our marital status, we cannot escape the human condition of fallenness.