In her book, Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else, Melanie Springer Mock critiques the Christian culture which labels people and puts them into boxes. She then affirms God’s heart for every individual by emphasizing how much he loves them, regardless of what the world might think. She shares many experiences from her own life, both painful and positive, that helped challenge her thinking.
When we look at this Man [Christ Jesus] we see the negation of all distinctions. I quote from Paul in the Galatian letter for the sake of conciseness and brevity: “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male or female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
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.
The call for women missionaries is not often heard today. Often women are left with the feeling “we are only needed because the men fail to go.” Our American culture looks on pioneer missionary work as man’s work because the Church is infiltrated with a worldly and pagan view of women as inferior to men.
Shortly after the controversy over the New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI) erupted, an older woman in one of my Bible classes asked me, “Are you in favor of changing our Bible?”
I came to see the fullness of the Christian community and church, but was I surprised. I found instead disdain for my impending leadership as a female. I found lack of acceptance for my ministry and my leadership. I heard so many masculine pronouns used and masculine leaders speak that I wondered if there was a place for me at all.
When was the last time you went into a bookstore to buy a new Bible for yourself? Did you struggle to understand some of the versions? Or did you delight in the clarity and readability of others? Did you notice the changes in gender language? Or did you wonder if you can trust this different way the Bible speaks to you? For evangelicals these are important questions.
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?
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.
Cleansing the Bible of counter-cultural female roles not only masculinizes history, it also deprives women of a broader picture of how God has and might use women and their gifts in church, home, and society.