Biblical feminists, as opposed to other feminists outside and within the church, accept the full authority of all Scripture for all the people of God. But they recognize, with all modern people, that we do not absorb Scripture in its pure form into our understanding. Like anything else we read, reading Scripture is an interpretive process.
Evangelical tradition places a high value on the biblical text, which is a good thing. But too often, we buy into a myth that our favorite translation is God’s true Word, pure and untainted by bias. Changes are seen as a threat to God’s truth, motivated by a social or political agenda.
Language matters. It impacts our ideas. It reflects our biases. It influences those we speak to. As I sang on Christmas Eve that all men are to employ their songs, the picture in my head was of men singing praises to God. Not one woman was among “all men” in my own imagination! It’s crucial that women see ourselves in what we sing, in what we read, and in what we hear.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai—international women's education activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner—was invited by TED to share his experience as a mentor and father to his influential daughter. His words were wise, simple, and elegant. What had he done to make Malala "so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised?" "Don't ask me what I did," he instructed, "ask me what I did not do." Ziauddin concluded his TED Talk with the now famous phase, "I did not clip her wings, and that's all."
Karen and Mark are both pastors with vibrant ministries, but their marriage is at a crossroads. Karen has been offered a large church in a growing area that sounds like a perfect fit. Mark has no desire to leave his flourishing ministry. They love the Lord and each other, but they can‘t agree. How can they decide?
Embracing a fully egalitarian perspective was a long twelve-year process. When all was said and done, there was one final hurdle to overcome. By the time I began pastoring in 2008, I already understood that God gifted both women and men with “speech” gifts such as prophecy. I also believed women were allowed to teach and preach, even with men present.
Recent events in the evangelical community—particularly with the release of Todays New International Version (TNIV) Bible translation—have raised concerns over masculine language. Does Jesus ask us to be fishers of people or fishers of men (Matt. 4:19)? Is there a difference? Should we be afraid to use words like people, especially when the ancient text and context warrants this?
My mother was a godly leader — though I’m sure she would never have described herself that way. She had a high school education, and her only employment outside the home was either in a hosiery mill or a dime store. If she had been asked to speak to an audience of adults, she would have been terrified.
King-James-Only advocates have taken a personal preference, elevated it to a theological absolute, and used it to divide liberals from conservatives, believers from unbelievers, servants of God from minions of Satan. Critics of inclusive language in Bible translation are doing the very same thing with their reckless, blanket denunciations of the TNIV.