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(Mis)Understanding Submission, Sin, and Self-Esteem: A Theological and Psychological Perspective

by E. Janet Warren | February 03, 2022

Gender inequality in various forms has been a problem in society and the church for centuries. In contemporary North American evangelicalism, beliefs on whether women should have leadership roles in church and home have been framed in terms of complementarianism and egalitarianism. The first claims that, although men and women are equal, they are created for different roles according to Scripture. Specifically, women should submit to their husbands and are not permitted to teach men in Christian contexts.

This view has received much critique from those holding the opposing view: that roles in church should be based on gifts, not gender, and that mutual submission in marriage is what the Bible teaches. Egalitarian biblical scholars point to women leaders in Old and New Testaments and Jesus’s and Paul’s teaching on the equality of women. They critique “traditional” interpretations of key passages and offer new interpretations.1 Others claim that the concept of “biblical womanhood” is socially constructed;2 some describe ancient and current “cults” of the housewife or of domesticity.3 There is also sobering evidence that complementarian views are associated with gender-based violence and recent sexual abuse scandals in the church.4

Most criticisms of complementarianism engage in counterarguments and focus on corporate rather than individual behaviors and beliefs. They rightly call Christians to oppose social and structural injustices. Egalitarians suggest that the primary problem is one of patriarchy and male domination.5 These critiques are valid and helpful. However, by implying that the issue lies solely with men, who abuse their power, we may neglect the responsibility of women, especially those influenced by (or who endorse) complementarian views (or teaching), in accepting a submissive role. Women, who appear to suffer from low self-esteem more commonly than men, may fail to become who God intends them to be, and may not fully use their God-given gifts. They may not speak out against injustices, especially those based on rigid ideas about gender roles, and may prioritize submission to a male leader over submission to the Lord. By doing so, no matter the reasons, they act contrary to the teachings of Scripture and neglect their responsibility as image bearers.

Some personal stories from women who used to follow a complementarian model attest to this. Lynne Hybels, wife of well-known pastor and author Bill Hybels, confesses that she lived a script—making others happy, practicing selflessness and obedience. In doing so, she stifled her personal desires, not becoming the woman God meant her to be.6 Similarly, Beth Allison Barr admits that she felt guilty when she recognized her complicity in following rules rather than Jesus (this motivated her to write a book). She further claims that submitting to a husband or male leader rather than submitting to Christ is idolatrous.7

Common messages from Christian leaders (mostly men) encourage selflessness and self-sacrifice. However, this is already what many women are doing, to excess, sometimes as a way to avoid responsibility. Such messages feed a delusion that it is virtuous to hide in the background, that self-abnegation or even self-negation is a positive Christian attribute. Furthermore, preaching about love and submission in personal relationships may inappropriately reinforce a women’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship. Clearly, we need more awareness of these important Christian concepts and the implications they have for pastoral care and counseling.

One of our problems is that there is much misunderstanding about the meanings of submission, sin, and self-esteem. Sin is multidimensional in meaning, and both submission and self-esteem have both positive and negative aspects. I suggest that a theological examination of these concepts, in dialogue with psychology, can add a valuable dimension to current discussions on gender equality. In this article, I briefly consider the biblical concept of submission, then discuss theological aspects of sin—both classic views of it as pride and newer conceptions of it as sloth (sometimes respectively referred to as “male” and “female” sins). I discuss the psychology of self-esteem through the lens of Christianity, and the differences between humility, godly self-acceptance, and secular self-absorption. Finally, I suggest some ways forward from theological and pastoral perspectives.

I should note that my perspective is specific to predominantly white North American Christians, I am not focusing on biblical interpretive issues, and, with my experience in counseling, I tend to focus on an individual rather than societal level. My hope is that this perspective on an issue that continues to haunt evangelical Christianity may enlighten the conversation.

Understanding Submission

Biblical verses that appear to teach submission of women to their husbands and church leaders (e.g., Eph 5:22; 1 Tim 2:11) are often used to support male dominance in relationships.8 Indeed, unconditional submission to one’s husband is sometimes viewed as a criterion for being a godly wife and sometimes used to rationalize wife abuse. Women may (inaccurately) think that because Christ suffered beatings, so should they.9 Such biblical texts may also be used to provide women with an excuse not to exercise their gifts. Misunderstanding submission may encourage neglect of Christian responsibility. Submission can slide into sloth. Consequently, we need to consider how to understand the biblical concept of submission in a healthy manner, without concomitant self-abnegation and abdication of responsibility.

First, it helps to be aware of the two types of submission: obedience to external authorities, such as governments, and submission in the context of personal relationships.10 The latter is often misinterpreted and worth further discussion. The Greek terms translated “submission” have a wide range of meaning but usually imply a voluntary act. Submission to another person, male or female, is motivated by love and humility.11 It is akin to adopting the role of a servant. Such biblical texts, taken in the proper context, point to mutual submission and loving behavior between slaves and masters, between husbands and wives.12 This contrasts with views that were common in the cultural contexts of the NT. Servant leadership is one form of such submission.13

Second, we need to view submission in the broad context of the creation mandate (e.g., Gen 1:28) and teaching on spiritual gifts within the body of Christ (e.g., 1 Cor 12:1–31). We are all called to care for God’s world and his people. We have equal responsibility in advancing the kingdom of God and in serving Christ and his followers, using whatever gifts and abilities we have—independent of gender.

Third, we need to consider submission in the context of the imago Dei.14 Both male and female are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). Although there are multiple perspectives on what this means and how we should appropriate this image, an important aspect is that humans are relational beings. Imaging God involves being part of an inclusive family (Gal 3:28) in which we freely give of ourselves (1 John 4:19). It involves mutual willing submission, which comes from a position of strength not weakness, and is motivated by love and “reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21). The Holy Spirit liberates us to serve others; in doing so, we mature in our love for others.15 A biblical conception of mutual submission can be described as the “concrete action of Christian love working within the social structures of this world.”16

Submission to Christ applies to men and women equally. It means repenting of sin, in all its forms, and becoming “enslaved to God” (Rom 6:22). Indeed, submitting ourselves to God is virtually synonymous with resisting the devil (Jas 4:7). Submission means behaving like Christ in avoiding selfish ambition but looking “to the interests of others” (Phil 2:5). It means obedience to the one who was obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8). It means having “genuine mutual love” for one another (1 Pet 1:22) and allowing ourselves to be used by God. Healthy submission is liberating; unhealthy submission, which idolizes another person, is sinful. Through submission to Christ, and sharing our material and spiritual gifts, we glorify God (2 Cor 9:13).17 Unfortunately, we all “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)—a concept we discuss next.

Understanding Sin

Although not popular in society or some sectors of the church, the concept of sin is prominent in Scripture. And it is more complex than we think. (This should make us hesitate before pointing our fingers at others!) Biblical terms and theological concepts are multiple, but, as I will argue, a balanced understanding of these can help us develop healthy relationships between genders within our churches.

Biblical Background for Sin

The biblical Hebrew and Greek words most commonly translated as “sin” mean to miss the mark or transgress a boundary, though the English term “sin” does not adequately convey the biblical nuances of meaning in the concept.18 Sin is ubiquitous. It is both individual (e.g., David, Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5) and communal (e.g., Korah and 250 other leaders in Num 16). Metaphors for sin include iniquity (Ps 38:18), deceitfulness (Heb 3:13), disobedience (2 Cor 10:6), rebellion (Ex 23:21), lawlessness (1 John 3:4), failure (Jas 4:17), wickedness (Gen 6:5), impurity (Zech 13:1), and idolatry (1 Sam 15:23). It is a snare (Prov 5:22) and a crooked way (Prov 2:12–15), it is like a weight (Isa 1:4), it can enslave people, (Rom 7:14, 25), and is a superhuman power (Jas 1:15). Ultimately, all sin is directed against God (e.g., Ps 51). Sin is incompatible with being a child of God (1 John 3:1–10) or inhabiting his kingdom (Matt 13:36–43). And of course, because sin involves a disruption of the divine-human relationship, its solution involves salvation (Luke 1:77; Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16), repentance (Matt 3:2; Acts 2:38), reconciliation (Rom 5:10; Col 1:20–22), forgiveness (Matt 9:2; Luke 1:77), and grace (Eph 1:7).

Theological Perspectives on Sin

Theologians classify sin as inherent sinfulness, our innate tendency to sin, and as sinful choices, or actual sin. The fourth/fifth-century north African theologian Augustine focused on sin in his writings, insisting that humans are depraved, helpless apart from God, and that it is impossible not to sin.19 He coined the term “original sin” and claimed we all inherit Adam’s guilt. Augustine emphasized the “transgressing a boundary” meaning of sin. We put ourselves above God, and are plagued by pride, rebellion, arrogance, and idolatry. In our selfishness, we exploit others. Augustine’s theology, with its somewhat dismal outlook, has been enormously influential, especially in Protestant evangelicalism.

Twentieth-century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr elaborates on this view of pride as the cardinal sin.20 He claims that self-exaltation is universal, although not identical to narcissistic personalities, which are extreme and complex forms of grandiosity. Pride involves both rebellion against God and a disregard for or domination over other people. There are four types: autonomous (self-sufficiency), intellectual, moral (self-righteousness), and spiritual. Like Augustine, Niebuhr emphasizes the overvalued self but does note that low self-esteem sometimes underlies pride—both are rooted in lack of faith.

Niebuhr is helpful in explaining original sin as a consequence of existential anxiety.21 Because of the tension between the limitations of our creatureliness and our spiritual ability to transcend and reflect on this boundedness, we experience discomfort. Anxiety is the inevitable result of this paradox of freedom and finitude. We are all born into conditions that incite anxiety and seek to relieve our anxiety apart from reliance on God. Therefore, sin is inevitable, though not necessarily inherited. Although Niebuhr is more nuanced than Augustine, his view of sin as primarily related to an overvalued self has dominated Christian thinking.

Interestingly, certain noteworthy theologians do not emphasize pride, although their work has received less attention. The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard describes the sin of weakness, or the need for external approval, and the sin of defiance, or self-reliance. These are interrelated: when we despair, we are defying life. He tentatively suggests that the first form of sin is that of womanliness, and the second form that of manliness.22 Jürgen Moltmann, in the context of hope, not gender, likewise notes that pride, or overstepping a boundary, has another sidedespair and hopelessness. “Temptation consists not so much in the titanic desire to be as God, but in weakness, timidity, weariness, not wanting to be what God requires of us.23

Somewhat similarly, Karl Barth uses the term “sloth” to describe the human refusal to accept the lordship of Christ. This response is not simple lack of self-assertion but is inversely related to pride. It requires an active renunciation of self, a free decision. As Kathryn Greene-McCreight summarizes, “Sloth is the form our rebellion takes which rejects the exaltation of the Son of Man, and is countered by sanctification. Pride is the form our rebellion takes which rejects the humble obedience of the Son of God, and is countered by justification.”24 These forms of sin are interrelated; hatred of God underlies both. Interestingly, contemplative writer Henri Nouwen (also without referencing gender) believes that “the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power but self-rejection.”25 This fear of never being good enough contradicts the sacred voice that calls us God’s beloved. It is sobering to realize that we can act in sin without intention or awareness, but simply by failing to accept ourselves as made in God’s image.

Feminist Theologians

Overall, the Augustinian view that self-exaltation rather than self-rejection is the primary sin remains prominent in the pew, if not the academy. It has received much critique in the past few decades.26 A strong challenge has come from feminist theologians, who more directly associate the different types of sin with different genders. Valerie Saiving Goldstein, in 1960, pointed out that women, likely because of societal treatment, have appropriated the message that they are weak and incapable; they lack an organizing center and depend on others for self-definition.27 Judith Plaskow and others expanded on her work.28 Unlike men, who are prone to pride and domination, women’s primary sin is self-abnegation, poor self-esteem, and an undervalued or “shrinking” self. They “miss the mark” in believing they are not worthy of divine calling or human authenticity. Consequently, they apologize frequently and have difficulty accepting compliments. Women create a false self, hiding and failing to take responsibility for their lives, not becoming the self they are created to be. They also prioritize relationships with others, especially men, over their relationship with the Lord, seeking to find their identity through someone else. In this, they can be said to interpret the Gen 3 “curse” as normative rather than a distortion of their God-given role. Preserving a relationship becomes an excuse for not fulfilling the creation mandate, and women carry out other-centered idolatry.29

In sum, feminist theologians note that, although men and women are equally sinful, they tend to express sin differently as a result of gender socialization. They perhaps respond in different ways to the universal experience of existential anxiety. The experience of many women indicates that sin is not limited to overstepping a boundary or breaking the law. As Serene Jones remarks, “one could conceivably live a fully moral, upright life—avoiding many of the acts we call ‘sin’—and still be fundamentally in a state of sin because one has not accepted the fullness of grace that God has bestowed upon humanity.”30

It is important to note that these observations are generalities: some women overvalue themselves and some men undervalue themselves. However, the biblical idea of missing the mark—refusing to recognize one’s worth as a child of God—is usually less obvious than the act of transgressing a boundary, and therefore prone to neglect as feminist theologians have noted. Their theologies of sin, mostly written in the mid-twentieth century, have impacted current theology.31 They have been criticized for being too extreme, focusing on psychosocial aspects over biblical-theological ones, dismissing juridical aspects of sin, absolving women of personal responsibility, addressing only the experience of white middle-class women, and merely redrawing boundaries rather than uniting men and women.32 These criticisms have some validity, but I believe feminist theologians offer an important corrective, even if sometimes extreme. They increase our awareness of the multidimensional nature of sin.

Psychological Perspectives on Sin

Finally, psychological aspects of human sin and suffering can further our understanding of and pastoral response to gender differences in Christian communities. Psychologist and theologian Terry Cooper examines the contradictions in Niebuhrian theology (the primary problem is pride), feminist theology (the primary problem is self-abnegation), and humanist psychology (the primary problem is low self-esteem) and seeks to balance and integrate these views. Pride, if properly understood, is at the root of both the overvalued and the undervalued self.33 He references Karen Horney, a 1940s psychoanalyst who argued that disordered pride underlies low self-esteem. There is “insecurity in pride” and “pride in insecurity.”34 People may brag loudly to cover up feelings of inadequacy; others may be subconsciously proud of self-denial (perhaps those jokes about being the “most humble Christian” have a grain of truth).

Cooper compares “anxious greed” (common in power-hungry men) with “greedy anxiety” (common in insecure women) as reflections of different manifestations of sin.35 He endorses the concept of existential or ontological anxiety as a precondition for sin. Our attempts to resolve this anxiety include moving against others in self-expansion (pride, arrogance, superiority, narcissism, perfectionism), moving towards others in self-effacement (dependency, extreme compliance, shrinking, craving approval), and moving away from others in resignation (self-sufficiency, avoidance of relationship). These “neurotic trends” may overlap, but one pattern dominates. They all involve excessive self-focus (even if people act to please others) and preclude healthy relationships. Underlying these patterns are feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred, often subconscious, which may lead us to compare ourselves with others (prideful thinking), perfectionistic behavior (also prideful to think that we can control what others think), and even accepting abuse from others (reinforcing the prideful belief of being longsuffering). And of course, all these responses to anxiety are sinful—we are called to live with some degree of uncertainty and to put our trust in God. This psychological conception of how we resolve discomfort not only deepens our understanding but helps us to understand some reasons for sin (and also prevent finger pointing). It does not necessarily involve willful rebellion but may manifest as subconscious avoidance behavior.

Cooper helpfully distinguishes between egotism, which involves self-aggrandizement as emphasized in the Niebuhrian tradition, and egoism, which means self-preoccupation. The latter underlies both self-inflation and self-deflation. And, self-preoccupation is, of course, idolatrous.36 Both the overvalued and undervalued forms of pride involve a poor sense of self-acceptance. Cooper suggests that pride always involves a lack of faith. Even its covert form, self-abnegation, is one’s own solution to a problem, not God’s solution.37 We distrust God by trying to be either more or less than what we are meant to be.

In sum, sin is multifaceted in its manifestations and its motivations. Humans are especially creative in how we express our lack of faith in God! It is essential that we understand sin in all its dimensions: biblical, theological, and psychological. This is helpful to our discussions of gender issues, because some idolatrous thoughts and behaviors are more typical in women and have been neglected in much of evangelical theology.

Final Thoughts on Sin

A few remaining concepts need elaboration. First, we need to address concerns that the concept of low self-esteem as sinful is a form of victim blaming. Some argue that, because women have been oppressed for so long, calling their self-abnegation sinful is nothing more than accusing sufferers. To be sure, the issue is complex; as discussed, sinful behavior or lack of behavior is often a response to anxiety and unintentional. Andrew Sung Park argues that so-called feminine sin is really suffering from being sinned against.38 Many victims of oppression lose their sense of self. I agree that much low self-esteem results from being a victim rather than a perpetrator of sin. In addition, not speaking out against injustice may result from fear. Motivations are usually multifaceted. Nonetheless, I still believe the concept of sin (not necessarily the term) as self-abnegation is helpful, as long as we recognize its complexities, and exercise pastoral sensitivity.

A second, and related, issue is whether equal responsibility means equal guilt. We need to distinguish between theological guilt (the legal consequence of violating God’s law—removed through Christ’s sacrifice, Heb 10:1–23) and feelings of guilt or remorse that may lead to repentance (2 Cor 7:10).39 Although the two are related, they do not always co-exist. Some criminals do not feel guilt; some people, women especially, feel guilty for no good reason. Niebuhr, referring to the theological concept, thought that, although there is equality in sin, oppressors incur more guilt than the oppressed.40 Intuitively, willful rebellion against God or another person appears to have more serious consequences, both theological and societal, than unintentional failure to act. Similarly, those who sinfully fail to accept God’s love as a result of abuse also have less responsibility than those who inflict the abuse. Guilt associated with overstepping a boundary is easier to understand than guilt related to failing to achieve. The association between theological guilt and the multifaceted nature of sin is an important concept at a theoretical, theological level and worth further investigation.

Finally, we need to recognize that sin is communal as well as individual. Specific sins occur in the context of a sinful world. Social structures, such as churches, are tainted by sin; prevailing attitudes perpetuate sinful societies. Sin feeds on other sin, and evil spirits incite and delight in all sin. Biblical scholar Mark Biddle points out that the Bible portrays individual and corporate sin as intertwined, as well as sin and its consequences (he describes it as one organic continuum).41 Jones describes sin as neither exclusively individual nor social but simultaneously both.42 It is tempting to blame either other individuals or anonymous institutions, but we need to recognize the symbiotic connection between individual sin and its structural embodiment.43 In the context of gender relations, perhaps societal pressures on women have led to or encouraged a collective sin of undervaluing the self. There is a difference between failing to act and not having an opportunity to act because of oppressive social structures. Perhaps “masculine” sin has created “feminine” sin. Perhaps patriarchal structures and monolithic understandings of sin have encouraged women to “miss the mark,” to shirk their God-given responsibility. Domination may encourage submission, sometimes even for the purpose of survival, and vice versa. Note that communal sin does not preclude individual responsibility but adds another dimension to it. Sin, whether individual or corporate, whether active or passive, and whether committed by men or women, is still sin.

To conclude this section on understanding sin, I suggest that we hold the multiple perspectives in tension. Sin involves both overvaluing and undervaluing, both self-aggrandizement and self-effacement, both pride and passivity, both arrogance and acedia, both doing wrong and failing to do right, both being more and being less than God intends for us. It may be active or passive, deliberate or unintentional. It has individual and communal aspects, masculine and feminine aspects, and theological and psychological aspects. All sin moves us away from our Creator and Redeemer. Fortunately, our Lord offers forgiveness. And we are called to respond with compassion, not judgment. It is important to consider sin in the context of grace.44 We all have an innate tendency to mistrust God, but we can be honest about our failings because of our Christian hope. God’s grace brings us out of hiding into the light. Understanding sin has implications for understanding ourselves, which we address next.

Understanding Self-Esteem

Unlike sin, the topic of self-esteem (often used synonymously with self-acceptance and self-worth) is popular in contemporary society. It became prominent with humanist psychology in the 1960s, which endorsed an optimistic view of the self, and is best known through psychologist Carl Rogers and his mantra, “unconditional positive regard.”45 He and others argue that low self-esteem is the primary human problem, in contrast to those who claim that excessive self-regard is primary.46 Rogers notes that pride and low self-esteem are interrelated. Indeed, lack of self-love may result in self-preoccupation. As per the discussion on the psychology of sin above, he argues that the appearance of pride is only a strategy to compensate for feelings of inadequacy; we protect our egos through a pretense of superiority. The self is basically good but affected by experience. Furthermore, people are often able to overcome negative views of themselves.

At first glance, this view appears incompatible with Christian concepts of sin and grace, and with a view of humans as intrinsically bad (“totally depraved” in Calvinistic terms). Rogers certainly minimizes the concept of sin, and many scholars are critical of a humanistic, optimistic view of the self.47 Contemporary culture is labeled self-indulgent and narcissistic,48 and psychotherapy a “cult of self-worship.”49 Christian commentator Allie Beth Stuckey argues strongly against narcissistic trends in society and especially the self-help movement.50 Some Christian psychologists argue that pride is the primary sin, pointing out the human tendency towards self-inflation and self-serving biases as found in social psychology research. David Myers claims: “One of the brute facts of human nature is our capacity for illusion and self-deception.”51 Stephen Moroney argues that we generally think of ourselves “more highly than we ought.”52

These criticisms bring a healthy corrective to any extreme or naïve views of the self, and rightly condemn excessive practices of self-absorption. However, they are only applicable when the concept of self-worth is misunderstood or misapplied. For example, Myers and Moroney focus on errors in human judgment and cognitive distortions, without considering the whole person in relationship to God, self, and others. Stuckey focuses on self-love, entitlement, and addiction to self-improvement. This is not necessarily what is meant by self-esteem.

It is helpful to consider both excessive and inadequate self-regard as problematic for a Christian conception of the self (although even defining the “self” is complex).53 We need to consider how to define and understand self-esteem, and how to reconcile the concepts of Christian humility and selflessness with the concept of positive self-regard. This is important for theology and pastoral counseling, and indeed most aspects of our lives, especially our ability to give and receive love.

Definitions of self-esteem are surprisingly varied. The American Psychological Association specifically relates self-esteem to a positive perception of oneself, noting that high levels contribute to mental health.54 Self-esteem is often viewed on a continuum between low (bad) and high (good), although the standards by which this is judged are unclear. In fact, the term “esteem” always has positive connotations. But there is a difference between a high view of the self and an adequate or accurate view of the self. Respecting or accepting oneself can be considered neutral, not necessarily prideful. I may be aware of my foibles but still generally have a healthy sense of self. Cooper points out that Rogerian teaching on healthy self-acceptance can in fact free people from unhealthy self-preoccupation.55

Christian views helpfully reflect this neutrality. Joanna McGrath and Alister McGrath define self-esteem as “a global evaluation or judgment about personal acceptability and worthiness to be loved.”56 One’s view of self relates directly to one’s ability to accept God’s love. They point to biblical images of acceptance, such as the prodigal son, and note that repentance is a part of healthy self-acceptance.57 Ellen Charry similarly contrasts a Christian view of belonging to God (i.e., healthy self-esteem) with the Enlightenment concept of the autonomous self.58 Only the latter is problematic. Mark McMinn notes that even people who grow up with a healthy sense of self recognize they still lack something and need healing and salvation. Secular self-esteem can be shallow and inauthentic. God loves us despite our weaknesses, and grace is more powerful than self-esteem.59 These comments all point to the need for a Christian, rather than a secular, understanding of self-understanding and self-acceptance.

I suggest that we consider Christian conceptions of self-esteem in the context of Christian conceptions of sin. Recall that sin includes overstepping a boundary as well as failing to achieve a standard.60 As many theologians note, low self-esteem, or self-abnegation, is common, especially in women, and is in fact sinful. In this view, we sin when we fail to accept that we are redeemed, denying the truth of our identity as bearers of God’s image in Christ; and when we fail to nurture right relationships with God, others, and self. Stanley Grenz notes that conversion involves both a turning toward others in loving submission and a turning toward self—but our true self as God intends.61 Darlene Weaver similarly states: “right self love designates a mode of being in which the self determines itself in a response to God that is actualized in but not exhausted by neighbor love.”62 Sin distorts healthy self-conception; spiritual transformation involves becoming who God intends us to be and restores us to right relationships with ourselves, our neighbor, and our Lord. When we accept God’s love, we are liberated to love others. Indeed, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).

Self-esteem also should be viewed in the context of humility. Like submission and sin and self-esteem, this concept is also misunderstood, perhaps partly because of its etymology (from the Latin, humus, meaning dirt).63 McGrath and McGrath point out that Christian humility is not necessarily about lowering our own esteem but about raising that of others (e.g., Phil 2:3). Christ, in becoming a servant, conferred dignity on this role and modeled true humility—humility that did not involve self-denigration.64

Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty notes that the concept of humility has sometimes been used to teach the subordination of women; however, this usage is better viewed as humiliation or abuse. She distinguishes between false humility, which accompanies the “feminine” sin of self-negation, and true humility: “Genuine humility nourishes relationships based on shared power,” and can challenge oppressive social systems, such as patriarchy.65 I suggest that we consider humility akin to healthy self-acceptance. We exhibit healthy humility when we accept that we are not God and accept our proper place in the world, when we accept that we are created in God’s image and called to serve him and others using the gifts he has given us, and when we accurately acknowledge our individual and collective strengths and weaknesses (without excessive self-focus). This enables us to counteract our sinful tendencies and reinforces our dependence on our Creator and Redeemer.

When it comes to understanding the self, psychology and theology can inform one another. Theology can learn how to identify imbalanced views of the self and unhealthy relationship patterns. The concepts of false negative beliefs, self-criticism, negative predictions, and avoidant behavior are helpful.66 In fact, some Christian concepts are implicit in some psychological theories and practice. Rogers’ work is not explicitly Christian, though he has a background in ministry, but Christian themes are evident; for example, the ideas of grace and learning that we are loved, acceptable, and forgiven.67

Christian theology can in turn inform psychology, adding meaning and depth. The fact that humans are created in the image of God, even if marred by sin, means we are intrinsically worthy. Accepting the fact that we are loved and forgiven, despite our weaknesses, is therapeutic to say the least! Christian doctrines offer a foundation for understanding our true selves, and more accurately imaging God. As Charry notes, we know ourselves through the reflected light of God.68 Indeed, there is an ancient Christian practice, the examen of conscience, that encourages daily self-reflection. Finally, we have the indwelling Spirit of God to guide us in all truth (John 16:13), which includes proper self-understanding and self-acceptance.

To summarize, the Christian suspicion of the psychological concept of self-esteem arises from misunderstandings, as well as the “high” and “low” assessments that often accompany the term. To help counter this, I prefer the term “self-acceptance” and the interpretation “having an accurate view of oneself,” including one’s sinful tendencies. Stuckey’s book title is apropos: You’re Not Enough (and That’s Okay).69 Of course, definitions of “accurate” or “enough” could be ambiguous, but I suggest that, contra Stucky, we are called to move toward “enough” as we become more Christ-like and allow ourselves to be transformed by his Spirit.

When we accept ourselves, we acknowledge that God’s creation is good, we are made in his image, and we have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Self-preoccupation and self-idolization are never healthy and are not Christian concepts. But self-awareness, which includes knowing our flawed tendencies and behaviors, our natural strengths and weaknesses, and our self-serving biases, can lead us to repentance and spiritual maturity. Note that the Christian concept of self-denial (e.g., Matt 16:24) does not mean self-hatred or self-negation but means having such a degree of confidence in what God has created and what he loves (us!) that we are freed to focus on others rather than ourselves. With a healthy sense of our identity in Christ, we neither over- nor under-value ourselves, but value ourselves accurately. We submit first to God and, in humility, not humiliation, we choose to submit to others. We view ourselves through God’s eyes and do not rely on cultural conceptions of gender roles to guide our sense of self-worth. We boldly approach the throne (Heb 4:16) and offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), confident in our status as servants of Christ.

Taking Responsibility and Fulfilling our Calling

As mentioned, there are many dimensions to Christian conversations around gender equality. An aspect that is underappreciated is the concept of sin, and its relationship to submission and self-esteem. These complex and often misunderstood concepts apply to men and women equally but, likely because of cultural factors, have typically been interpreted from a male perspective. Consequently, the biblical ideas of missing the mark, failing to achieve one’s God-given potential, and failing to use all of one’s God-given gifts—all more common in women—have been neglected. Submission (similarly, selflessness and humility) has been misapplied to male-female relationships, and self-acceptance has been considered in a negative light. Appreciating these concepts more thoroughly can deepen our understanding of gender issues in evangelical Christianity and can inform our response to them. The community of Christ is called to seek truth, with all its nuances, and to extend the healing and compassion that was modeled by Jesus.

With respect to gender roles, I want to be clear that not every man or woman who endorses hierarchical relationships in the church and the home is acting in sin. Not all men are abusive; many women do indeed exercise their gifts (except perhaps gifts of Christian leadership) within a complementarian framework. However, there is sometimes inconsistency between beliefs and behaviors. For example, women may proclaim that men are the “head of the home” but, in practice, they themselves lead the household, sometimes in a manipulative manner. I have observed women asking their husband to say grace, “because he’s the head,” but of course they are controlling the situation. In my church and counseling experience, I have noted that men who are most vocal about being “head of the home” are those who are most insecure in their sense of self. Likewise, many women proudly, if subtly, strive to excel at submissive behavior in church and home. This inconsistency has complex explanations and confirms the need for better understandings of the related concepts of submission, sin, and self-acceptance.

To review, biblical texts contain both the ideas of pride (typically “masculine”) and sloth (typically “feminine”). Sin is both rebellion, dominance, or arrogance, and underachievement, servility, or despondent passivity. Humans both overstep an upper boundary (trying to be God, not accepting their finitude) and fail to exceed a lower boundary (not being what God desires, abdicating responsibility). Christian theology has often focused on the sin of domination at the cost of minimizing the sins of sloth and idolization of relationships, the last two being more common in women. But self-aggrandizement and self-abnegation are intertwined. Pride is often a defensive posture—lurking behind it is low self-esteem. Both the overvalued and undervalued forms of pride lack a healthy self-acceptance. Individual and communal sin are also intertwined; societal sin may block women’s ability to develop their gifts. All sin is rooted in mistrusting God and failing to fulfill his commands.

We all fall short, but in order to repent and receive healing, it helps if we are aware of our particular sins. As mentioned, some Christian teachings may in fact encourage “feminine” sin. Humility and self-denial are considered virtues but can be sinful when out of balance with healthy self-acceptance. Preaching against pride and an inflated ego reinforces the sins of self-negation and self-abnegation that are already present in many women. Preaching about self-sacrifice may push women further into hiding, and encouraging people to be Christ-like may be misperceived as having no self of their own.70

I suggest that many women, especially women in complementarian contexts, have been inadvertently complicit in perpetuating gender inequalities in the church. Addressing sin is not easy, but necessary. For some women, staying silent, uncritically submissive, obedient in the background, only ever in a supporting role, reflects a failure to exercise responsible dominion and become who God created them to be. In addition, unilaterally submitting to a husband or church leader can have some benefits, such as avoiding difficult decisions or taking responsibility for finances and other necessities of life.

Feminist theologians are sometimes quite strong in their assertions that women hold equal responsibility for oppression; there may be structural forces at play but there is still individual responsibility.71 Plaskow makes a good point: “Insofar as women accept this status for its rewards and welcome relief from the burden of freedom, they are guilty of complicity in their own oppression.”72 Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen points out that women who “insist on peace at any price . . . are not exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit” and sin just as much as the men who seek to dominate them.73 And Wanda Berry states: “Women who have been nurtured in the symbolism of baptism and the eucharist, who have heard Jesus’ response to Mary and Martha, share by omission the sin of their oppression in the churches.”74 These are sobering but sensible words for all Christians to hear.

Being aware of the complex issues underlying gender inequalities is a good first step. I suggest that we take care with the terms we use, avoid false dichotomies and rigid definitions, and accept ambiguity and uncertainty. For example, how we explain selflessness and submission can easily be misinterpreted in patriarchal contexts. There are differences between genuine and false humility, authentic healthy self-confidence and neurotic pride, and between having a healthy conscience and self-consciously denigrating oneself.

Furthermore, awareness of both the multiplex manifestations of sin and the complex motivations underlying it are helpful. Not all sin should be judged equally, and some sin is an indirect and inadvertent consequence of sinful acts or teaching of others. Recognizing the different responses to anxiety, or different ways of hiding, especially self-rejection, can inform preaching and pastoral care. Those in the church who are longsuffering or avoid all conflict are not necessarily living as Christ commands. Of course, men too may be limited by rigid role expectations. We do not necessarily need to use the word “sin,” but can focus on the need for prayerful self-examination, healing, and acceptance of grace. Preachers, as well as counselors, are called to bring sin into conscious awareness, into the light of Christ. Recall that Jesus exemplified gentleness in pointing out people’s sin, and he usually healed them first. We also always need to be aware of the evil one who whispers words of doubt in self and in God. We need to exercise our God-given authority against the evil spirits that incite sin.

Perhaps we need more sermons that encourage people to accept their identity as children of God, image bearers, created in and for relation with God, self, and others. We can encourage turning toward the one who creates, redeems, and sustains us, who calls us to boldly follow him, rather than turning to those above us in socially imposed roles. Accepting that we are worthy helps us to treat others as worthy. We can encourage vulnerability, moving beyond self-contempt to admitting actual moral flaws and taking responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors. If we are divided within ourselves, partly hating ourselves, we will have difficulty fulfilling the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). We can encourage responsibility in fulfilling the creation mandate, developing and using spiritual gifts.

Of course, all of the above may already be happening in our Christian communities. The purposes and outcomes are much broader than gender issues. We need to restore the balance in our Christian theology and pastoral care by better understanding the complex concepts of submission, sin, and self-esteem, relying on the gospel of grace and the Spirit of truth. We need to navigate the difficult balance of being image bearers and being finite creatures. We need to cultivate a healthy acceptance of our status as children of God, less than him but nevertheless worthy. We can submit to the Lord while knowing our right place in the world, standing strong but not arrogant, humble but not humiliated. “Speaking the truth in love” can assist all Christians to better grow into Christ, use our gifts responsibly, bear fruit, and fulfill our heavenly calling (Eph 4:1–16; Col 1:10; Heb 3:1).

Editor’s note: This article is a revised version of a paper read in the Evangelicals and Women session of the 2021 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. For an encouraging report on the ETS meeting, by CBE President Mimi Haddad, earlier in this issue of Priscilla Papers.

Notes

  1. E.g., Stanley Grenz, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (InterVarsity, 1995); Cynthia Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Baker Academic, 2016); Kevin Giles, “Complementarianism in Crisis,” in Eyes to See and Ears to Hear Women: Sexual Assault as a Crisis of Evangelical Theology, ed. Tim Krueger (CBE International, 2018) 59–81.
  2. E.g., Beth Allison Barr, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth (Brazos, 2021); Mitch Carnell, “Complementarianism: A Separate-But-Equal Knockoff,” in Eyes to See, ed. Krueger, 17–20; Jamin Hübner, “The Nashville Statement: A Critical Review,” in Eyes to See, ed. Krueger, 83–113; Alan G. Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission (Baker Academic, 2011) esp. 3–30.
  3. E.g., Joan Burgess Winfrey, “In Search of Joy: Women and Self-Esteem,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, 2nd ed., ed. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee (InterVarsity, 2005), 431–47. Westfall notes the prevalence of this in ancient Greco-Roman culture—the context for Paul’s teaching; Paul and Gender, 20–23.
  4. E.g., Andy J. Johnson, Religion and Men’s Violence against Women (Springer, 2015); Krueger, Eyes to See.
  5. E.g., Diane Langberg, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church (Brazos, 2020). Interestingly, five of the eight core values of Christians for Biblical Equality include the term “patriarchy”; https://cbeinternational.org/content/cbes-mission.
  6. Hybels, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World (Zondervan, 2005).
  7. Barr, Biblical Womanhood.
  8. For alternate interpretations see Giles, “Complementarianism”; Westfall, Paul and Gender. Note that misunderstandings of submission can be used to oppress the poor and marginalized, not only women; e.g., Padgett, As Christ Submits, 128–30.
  9. E.g., James Alsdurf and Phyllis Alsdurf, Battered into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home (InterVarsity, 1989) esp. 81–95.
  10. Padgett, As Christ Submits, xiii.
  11. Greek terms are hypotagē or hypotassō; e.g., Eph 5:21; e.g., Padgett, As Christ Submits, 38–40.
  12. Craig Keener, “Mutual Submission Frames the Household Codes,” Priscilla Papers 35/3 (2021).
  13. Padgett, As Christ Submits, 32.
  14. E.g., John Wijngaards, “Created in God’s Image: Theological and Social Impact,” Priscilla Papers 35/4 (2021).
  15. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 180–81.
  16. Padgett, As Christ Submits, 2; Grenz notes that “true community requires . . . humble servanthood motivated by love”; Theology for Community, 489.
  17. Grenz points out that this is how we faithfully bear God’s image; Theology for Community, 168–80, esp. 178.
  18. Hebrew ḥaṭṭāt; Greek, hamartia. E.g., Mark E. Biddle, Missing the Mark: Sin and its Consequences in Biblical Theology (Abingdon, 2005) xiv.
  19. Found mostly in Confessions, but also in City of God, Book 14. Augustine’s theology was informed by guilt about past sinful behaviors, as well as his arguments against Pelagius, who held a high view of human goodness. The concept of original sin is uniquely Pauline, although it is implied in the OT (e.g., Ps 51; Job 31:33). It has received much criticism; e.g., Biddle, Missing the Mark, 3–8; James Taylor, Sin: A New Understanding of Virtue and Vice (Northstone, 1997) 183–93.
  20. Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1. (Charles Scribner’s, 1964) 178–240; see also discussion in Terry D. Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Psychology and Theology (IVP Academic, 2003) 33–57.
  21. Following Søren Kierkegaard, who describes anxiety as a psychological (even ontological) state involving simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from future possibilities. Humans have a choice to obey or disobey God, but this freedom is uncomfortable. In their attempts to alleviate anxiety, individuals freely and inexplicably choose badly. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin, trans. Alistair Hannay (Liveright, 2014 [1844]). A later work addresses sin; The Sickness Unto Death, trans. Walter Lowrie (Princeton University Press, 1941) 195–208. See discussions in Gregory R. Beabout, “Does Anxiety Explain Hereditary Sin?,” Faith and Philosophy 11/1 (1994), 117–26; Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 40–45.
  22. Kierkegaard, Sickness Unto Death, 182–208.
  23. Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology, trans. James W. Leitch (SCM, 1967) 22. Since faith depends on hope, the sin of unbelief is grounded in hopelessness. See also discussion in Wanda Warren Berry, “Images of Sin and Salvation in Feminist Theology,” AThR 60/1 (1978) 25–54.
  24. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, “Gender, Sin and Grace: Feminist Theologies Meet Karl Barth’s Hamartiology,” SJT 50/4 (1997) 415–32.
  25. He continues: “When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.” Henri J. M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (Crossroads, 1992) 31. My experience in practicing psychotherapy attests to this.
  26. For example, biblical scholar Mark Biddle criticizes Western evangelical theology for emphasizing the juridical/forensic metaphor for sin as a crime, a willful violation of God’s law, and neglecting the biblical concepts of missing the mark and failure; Biddle, Missing the Mark, viii, 32–76, 136. Hugh Connolly similarly critiques Augustine’s views for being narrow and legalistic; morality is a gradual process; Connolly, Sin (Continuum, 2002) esp. 41–81. From the perspective of relational theology, Stanley Grenz cites failure as a primary sin, missing the mark in not living as God intends—particularly evident in our failure to image God appropriately through Christian community; Grenz, Theology for Community of God, 184–89. Paul Ricoeur, in his work on the symbolism of evil, somewhat similarly emphasizes the fact that sin is a violation of the covenant bond, not a violation of a boundary. He also notes that this relationship can be lost through negating God or negating self; Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (Beacon, 1967) 51–52.
  27. Valerie Saiving Goldstein, “The Human Situation: A Feminine View,” JR 40 (1960) 100–12.
  28. Judith Plaskow, Sex, Sin and Grace: Women’s Experience and the Theologies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich (University Press of America, 1980). See also Susan Nelson Dunfee, “The Sin of Hiding: A Feminist Critique of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Account of the Sin of Pride,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 65/3 (1982) 316–27; Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (Beacon, 1983).
  29. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen relates gender differences in sin to the Gen 3 consequences for disobedience. The man abuses both the dominion he’s given, by eating the forbidden fruit, and his sociability, by valuing the woman over God. He exercises dominion apart from God (pride) and dominates the woman. The woman’s sin also involves neglecting responsible dominion and sociability (she gave the fruit to the man); this leads to social enmeshment (her desire is for the dominating man) with a neglect of stewardship. Van Leeuwen, Gender and Grace: Love, Work and Parenting in a Changing World (InterVarsity, 1990) esp. 42–48.
  30. Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace (Westminster John Knox, 2009) 102.
  31. Mentioned in many current evangelical theology textbooks; e.g., Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Eerdmans, 1991) 131–33; Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 2nd ed. (Eerdmans, 2000) 186–87.
  32. Some suggest we do away with the concept of sin altogether; e.g., Joy Ann McDougall, “Sin—No More? A Feminist Revisioning of a Christian Theology of Sin,” AThR 88/2 (2005) 215–35; Berry “Images of Sin”; Greene-McCreight, “Gender, Sin and Grace.”
  33. Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, esp. 112–47; see also Terry D. Cooper, Reinhold Niebuhr and Psychology: The Ambiguities of the Self (Mercer University Press, 2009).
  34. Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 113. Horney, Our Inner Conflicts (W. H. Norton, 1945); Neurosis and Human Growth (W. H. Norton, 1950).
  35. Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 154.
  36. Jody L. Lyon agrees with Cooper regarding the sin of self-preoccupation and also notes that self-sacrifice—the antidote to pride—may look different for women than for men; Lyon, “Pride and the Symptoms of Sin,” JFSR 28/1 (2012) 96–102.
  37. Biddle helpfully suggests that pride and sloth can be reconciled through something more basic underlying both: mistrust of God. We violate our relationship with God or underachieve by failing to embrace our God-given freedom and responsibility, by not fully placing our trust in God as revealed in Christ. Biddle, Missing the Mark, 75–85. Somewhat similarly, David L. Smith concludes that sin transcends selfishness and idolatry, and has at its root the rejection of God as God and of Christ as our Savior; Smith, With Willful Intent: A Theology of Sin (Bridgepoint, 1994) esp. 301–26; see also Dorothy A. Lee, “Sin, Self-rejection and Gender: A Feminist Reading of John’s Gospel,” Colloquium 27/1 (1995) 51–63.
  38. He uses a Korean word han: “a physical, mental and spiritual response to a terrible wrong done to a person”; Park, From Hurt to Healing: A Theology of the Wounded (Abingdon, 2004) 11; see also Linda Mercadante, Victims and Sinners: Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery (Westminster John Knox, 1996) 27–48.
  39. It is also important to distinguish between guilt and shame, a pervasive feeling of being flawed. E.g., Mary VandenBerg, “Shame, Guilt, and the Practice of Repentance: An Intersection of Modern Psychology with the Wisdom of Calvin,” CSR 50/3 (2021) 297–313; Gershen Kaufman, Shame: The Power of Caring (Schenkmen, 1980). One study found higher levels of shame among women who identified as having especially feminine characteristics; Joy L Hottenstein, “Femininity, Masculinity, Gender, and the Role of Shame on Christian Men and Women in the Evangelical Church Culture” (PhD Diss., George Fox University, 2014) https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/psyd/158.
  40. Niebuhr, Nature and Destiny of Man, 1:222; see discussion in Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 157–58.
  41. Biddle, Missing the Mark, 115–19, 138–39.
  42. E.g., Jones, Trauma and Grace, 102–25.
  43. Connolly, Sin, 103–24.
  44. For a psychotherapeutic conception of this see Mark McMinn, Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling (InterVarsity, 2008).
  45. Rogers, Client-centered Therapy (Houghton-Mifflin, 1951); On Becoming a Person (Houghton-Mifflin, 1961). Humanist psychology offered an alternative to the pessimism of Freud and the determinism of behaviorism. Another key person is Abraham Maslow. Therapeutic techniques associated with this school of thought have been invaluable for many types of psychotherapy.
  46. The concept was present in early psychiatrists like Erich Fromm; e.g., Fromm, The Art of Loving (Harper & Row, 1956); see discussion in Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 7–14.
  47. See discussion in Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 20–26, 98–111.
  48. Christopher Lasch, Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (Norton, 1979).
  49. E.g., Paul Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship (Eerdmans, 1994).
  50. Allie Beth Stuckey, You’re Not Enough (and That’s Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love (Sentinel, 2020). One myth Stuckey counters is that we cannot love others until we love ourselves. However, I think that accepting God’s love and accepting ourselves are interrelated. Further, we can better love others when we accept ourselves.
  51. David G. Myers, The Inflated Self: Human Illusions and the Biblical Call to Hope (Seabury Press, 1980) xiv. Low self-esteem can be a problem but is not the primary one.
  52. Stephen K. Moroney, “Thinking of Ourselves More Highly Than We Ought: A Psychological and a Theological Analysis,” in Care for the Soul, ed. Mark McMinn and Timothy Phillips (InterVarsity, 2001) 308–30. Interestingly, many non-Christian researchers concur; e.g., Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Doubleday, 2011) 201.
  53. It includes emotions, cognitions, behavior, and sociocultural context. Biblical views include the idea of the divided self—Paul distinguishes between flesh and spirit (Rom 8:1–17; Gal 5:16–26) and the old and new self (Col 3:10). E.g., Ellen T. Charry “Theology after Psychology,” in Care for the Soul, 118–33; Darlene Fozard Weaver, Self Love and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2002) 1–80; Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Harvard University Press, 2012).
  54. N.a. “Self-esteem,” APA Dictionary of Psychology, https://dictionary.apa.org/self-esteem.
  55. Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 16.
  56. Joanna McGrath and Alister McGrath, Self-Esteem: The Cross and Christian Confidence, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity, 2001) 33.
  57. McGrath and McGrath, Self-Esteem, 71–85, 103–116.
  58. Charry, “Theology after Psychology.”
  59. McMinn, Sin and Grace, esp. 60–62; though I disagree with his concept of moral depravity.
  60. Myers defines sin as our “disinclination to recognize [our] creaturely limitations and dependence on God.” He neglects the second aspect of sin—missing the mark; Myers, Inflated Self, 93.
  61. Grenz, Theology for Community, 410–11.
  62. She draws on Rahner and Tillich; Weaver, Self Love, 79.
  63. N.a., “Humility,” Online Etymology Dictionary, https:/etymonline.com/search?q=humility.
  64. McGrath and McGrath, Self-Esteem, 117–34.
  65. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, “Revisiting Feminist Discussions of Sin and Genuine Humility,” JFSR 24/2 (2008) 108–114, 116.
  66. E.g., Melanie Fennell, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem (Robinson, 2016).
  67. E.g., Thomas Oden, Kerygma and Counseling: Toward a Covenant Ontology for Secular Psychotherapy (Westminster, 1966); Don Browning, Atonement and Psychotherapy (Westminster, 1966). Rogers can be seen as extending the Christian concept of grace; Cooper, Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance, 31, 98–11.
  68. Charry, “Theology after Psychology.”
  69. Stuckey, You’re not Enough.
  70. Radford, Sexism and God-talk, 185–86.
  71. E.g., Serene Jones, Feminist Theory and Christian Theology: Cartographies of Grace (Fortress, 2000) 62–63.
  72. Plaskow, Sex, Sin, and Grace, 64–65.
  73. She cites Jer 6:14; Van Leeuwen, Gender and Grace, 46.
  74. She further states: “The ‘alchemy’ of ‘judgment, forgiveness, and gratitude’ can work its transformation only when there is an awareness of ‘creation,’ ‘calling,’ ‘chosenness,’ and ‘covenant.’ Such an awareness of being ‘called’ sets one in tension with complicity in societal conditioning.” Berry, “Images of Sin,” 54.