Why should women study/know theology/doctrine?
I’m having a hard time not answering with a simple “Because!” and calling it a day.
But I won’t just answer with a curt “Because!” Mostly because I can’t write a blog post that short, but also because this question and the answer are far too important for me.
I’m a woman and I study theology. So the answer to the question, “Why should women study/know theology/doctrine?” is an intensely personal one for me. In answering the question, I’m essentially telling you why I study theology. And in telling you why I study theology, I’ll be forced to use my existence, my person, as the foundation for the answer. I study theology because I am human, because I am woman, because I am both a daughter and a sister, because I am both a wife and a mother.
Because I am Human. From the perspective of my humanity I am drawn, naturally, to have a theology, whether good or bad. This theology (whether good or bad) will influence (good or bad) how I understand not only my humanity but your humanity, too. If I rightly understand who God is and what He has done for the world, I rightly understand humanity. The gospel is this (in brief): God has radically acted on our behalf, to save us from eternal separation from him by becoming human, living a perfect life, dying a death, being raised from that death to give us new life, and ascending to the right hand of the Father to perpetually intercede for us. While all of these statements are about God, the statements about humanity are there, in between the lines: humanity was in radical desperate need, helpless to help themselves, unable to live right, deserving of death, needing absolution and the gift of new life and perpetual comfort that only God Himself can give through Himself. So, if I affirm the first set of statements about God, then I affirm the second set of statements about humanity, about me, about you; and in this double affirmation there is a third: God is God and I am not, and therein lies true and full humanity. In order to affirm and to keep affirming those statements, I need to know more and more about who this God is and the extent to which He has gone for me. And, the more I know, the more I can affirm. And not only is my faith bolstered by what I know, but so is my ministry and mission to love you.
Because I am Woman. The right knowledge about God doesn’t just stop at me understanding my humanity in general, but goes further to understanding more specifically my gender. What does it mean to be a woman? Specifically, what does it mean to be a woman who, alongside man, reflects the image of God? What does it mean to be a woman in relationship with God and in relationship with man? If I’ve affirmed that my relationship with God–who has acted on my behalf—radically alters how I understand humanity and my relationship with my neighbor, then in some way it also affects how I see my relationship with man as a woman. If I believe that by faith in Jesus Christ I am given full and true humanity, then I also believe that I’ve been given full and true womanhood. I am more fully woman in union with Christ than I ever was without Him. And this “more fully woman in union with Christ” is good news for man (and vice versa). And the more I understand about how my union with Christ affects my womanhood, the more I am able to accept what it is I want to do, get to do, and have to do as a woman.
Because I am both a daughter and a sister. If I rightly understand who God is and what he has done for me as a human, and to what depths that activity affects my whole person as both human and woman, then the relationships I have as a woman are also rightly affected. As I understand the proper situation and state of humanity (broken), I can bring that knowledge into my relationships as a daughter and a sister to broken people. More importantly: being aware of my own brokenness, of my failures to love my mother, father, and siblings rightly puts me in the beautiful and humble position of admitting my faults, seeking forgiveness, and granting forgiveness. With the right understanding of who God is and who we are, the parent-daughter relationship and the brother-sister relationship are elevated to a whole new playing field.
Because I am both a wife and a mother. In these two relationships I spend most of my time in, in the horizontal; it’s here, as a wife and a mother, where I see my theology—what I believe—be put to the test. Whether it’s a failed math test or an ill-timed F-bomb at school, what I believe will influence my words and actions towards my children. Whether it’s just a bad day or a lost job, what I believe will determine my response toward my husband. Whether we’re in the easy season of life or struggling, barely making ends meet, what I believe will pave the way for our path forward. Because, the truth is, when (not if, but when) those dark nights come crashing through my front door, penetrating the nucleus that is my family, I need a solid understanding of who God is, who Jesus is and what He did on the cross, what the Gospel is, what atonement and justification and sanctification are, what it means to be a human being, and what it means to be a sinner. Because when everything I know comes crashing down or falls apart, when I am in the crucible of life, that’s when theology and doctrine—what I believe to be true—comes to the fore and will determine whether I flee from God or run to Him.
So, back to the question, “Why should women study/know theology/doctrine?” I guess my answer is the same: “Because!” Because what women believe about God, who He is and what He has done, will intimately and radically affect their whole entire being and existence, leaving no proverbial stone unturned.