Why Women Should “Do” Theology

Throughout history, God has used women in incredible ways to propel the Gospel forward.  Whether in the Hebrew Scriptures where women like Deborah, Ruth, Esther, and Miriam were paramount to the preservation of Jewish traditions, or in the New Testament where Mary, Priscilla, and Phoebe were central to early church life, all the way down to modern-day missionaries and preachers – the church would not be the church had it not been for women.

Nevertheless, many female theologians and pastors still feel they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts.  They may feel overlooked or have additional pressure to excel and to really have their voice heard. One can speculate on why this is, but the truth remains that receiving such negative feedback is one reason many women are terrified to study theology as an academic discipline.  In this article, I would like to challenge this myth by giving you three good reasons why we need more women in this practical and theoretical field.

1) Your Voice Matters

We all interpret the Bible through our own cultural lens and through life experience. Anyone who has studied hermeneutics/Biblical Interpretation can tell you that. If taken too far, this has the potential to cloud what the Scriptures originally said, but from a more practical level, this is part of what adds to the beauty and diversity of the church. This is the reason Bible studies can be so informative and engaging – it would be rather boring if our views were only shaped by one or two people. We can hear God better when we learn to listen through the experiences of those around us and apply their truths into our own life. At a basic level, I think almost everyone would agree with this statement, except that in the majority of churches and in theology as a whole, we have fallen prey to exactly that: just listening to the voices of the same two or three people. When I consider the faculty at my university and seminary, the books I was assigned for class, and even the books I read now, they are almost always written by white, middle-aged, married, evangelical men. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with white, middle aged men. I believe their perspective is just as important as anyone else’s is… however, reading a book by a female theologian or by someone from a different ethnicity, just makes our studies that much richer. For example, reading a book written by a young mother or someone from Asia or Africa often provides me with a whole new list of concepts I would never have thought about before. We need more women to study theology because we need more of these voices to come to the forefront of our church life.

2) Women Have Profound Spiritual Authority

At first glance, this may sound like an incredibly progressive statement – only made by someone who affirms female leadership in the church. However, I believe that both conservatives and liberals (and those who find themselves somewhere in between) can both agree on this topic. It doesn’t matter what capacity you find yourself in – housewife or career woman, you have the ability to impact people with your theology. If you are a young mother raising kids, you will have the opportunity to profoundly shape your child’s understanding of Christ. They are going to rely on you for all of their early information… and as I wrote in another post once, it is much easier to learn theology correctly the first time than to have to unlearn bad theology! If you are a Sunday school teacher or youth leader, don’t underestimate your authority. Kids are way more mold-able than adults: shaping them now is crucial for how they are going to develop later on. If you are married, single women might look up to you and observe how you treat your spouse – set a Godly example! If you are single, other single women might look to you to see how you fare in a culture that is preoccupied with relationships – you can show them how being single is not a consolation prize or a second best, but truly can be cherished as a gift from God. Anyone who is a Christian (whether male or female) has this responsibility – the task of evangelizing and witnessing to those around them through their spoken words and actions. Knowing good theology can help you be much more effective in this area of your life.

3) Theology Can Influence Any Other Academic or Practical Discipline In Your Life

For me, theology is a life-long pursuit. I believe every Christian is a theologian. The word “theology” comes from two Greek words “Theos” (θεός)- God and “Logos” (λόγος) – Word. In other words, theology is the study of God’s words which means that anyone who takes part in a Bible study (which hopefully you do daily) is already a theologian. I also affirm the fact that having academic degrees does not mean you understand everything about Scripture – that’s impossible. And in some cases, my friends who have never studied theology know far more about certain topics than I do because they have done their own personal research in an area I am not as familiar with. With this in mind, you can see how theology influences every other discipline we might choose to master. If you have good theology it might enable you to read novels differently, to consider healthy eating differently, or to play music differently. When you have good theology, it permeates into every aspect of your life. This should be the case for both men and women.

We definitely need men who are strong in the faith and who can boldly declare the Word of the Lord, but we also need women who are just as strong in ministering and engaging with the masses. If you are a female theologian, what resources and arguments do you have for studying what you study? If you’re a male theologian, how do you feel about working alongside your female counterparts? I’d love to hear from both sides.

Photo Credit: Google Images: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=female+theologians&biw=1242&bih=585&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwi6kY7QkuLMAhXHKcAKHSpRD98Q_AUICCgD#imgrc=VN_erIOhf3B3oM%3A

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3 thoughts on “Why Women Should “Do” Theology

  1. Thanks for your post. I’m not Christian, but a Muslim woman with interests in Qur’anic studies and ethics. Theology may be something I focus on, or at least study, for a PhD. I disagree that every Muslim can be a theologian. While I agree with you that someone who possesses many academic degrees is not necessarily going to understand Biblical scripture, I still feel that adequate training is necessary before one can “do” theology. In the Islamic tradition, medieval theologians were versed in language, linguistics, legal theory, even comparative religious knowledge, and many other skills. We are not in the medieval period, alas. But, I think there is a danger when Muslims today think they can interpret the Qur’an without traditional and/or academic study. Many Muslims may disagree, and I’m still not sure myself, but this is my inkling….

  2. I think what Deborah is getting at is the extent to which theology is an ongoing, lived out reality, rather than a top down list one tries to agree with or submit to. Theology is something that you do because you make decisions each day, decisions that are not separated from theology but directly linked to it. So if I lie or steal from my neighbor, my theology goes hand in hand with such an action because it is something I do, a decision I have made based on my understanding of the world. I agree with your comment, Nora, that there is an extent to which not everyone should be in charge of making large scale theology to be followed by the masses, that there is an art to it – one that needs training and development. So I think there might be two different understandings… Theology as lived, and theology from the top down (not in a negative sense). One is a fact of reality, and of lived experience, and the other is a way by which theology is taught and developed. “Doing” theology includes both. Thanks for this post, Deborah.

  3. Hi Nora and Micah,

    Great to hear from both of you. I totally agree with what is being shared here. I am very much in favour of academic theology and have been a student for a number of years (and am still definitely learning). I believe that while everyone has the opportunity to practice theology in their own lives, theory is still very important and should be maintained. My main thought is wondering why we don’t have more women in the academy and thinking about ways to encourage future women to step up and engage in this discipline that has so often been seen as a “man’s realm.”

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