I’m a student at heart. My mom always said I was her most curious child. She’s not the only one exhausted by my perpetual curiosity. Others who know me say the same. I love to study. I enjoy challenging conversations, and I listen to other views. Because of this, I assumed I was immune to dogmatism. I was wrong.
Hold On Loosely
I held tightly to certain beliefs and old traditions I thought were “biblical.” Instead of doing the difficult task of deeper study on my own and reading widely, I believed what well-educated pastors, a few theologians, and others taught or wrote. My personal Bible study was filtered through my denominational background, my church culture, and my upbringing. Until 2019, I never allowed myself to think critically about my beliefs on the creation story, the fall, men and women as image bearers of God, discipleship, marriage and sex, and “biblical” authority.
This is what I wrote in my 2019 year end recap post:
Something unexpected happened in my Bible study this year. Because of a couple of news events and the discussions in a group I’m in called The Clutch, I thought deeply on what I believed about women’s roles in the church, marriage, and leadership in general. I realized my beliefs were formed more by my environment and what I’d been taught in my childhood, rather than my own Bible study. I asked God to give me fresh eyes and help me read the Bible without me making it conform to my preset conclusions. It’s hard work, but worth it. This is my new approach to Bible study. I pray God continues to give me a hunger for His Word and lets me know Him better and better.
Wake Up, Woman
God calls His people to separate our traditions from His truth. He calls us to learn and grow. He desires that we seek Him and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Bible. Jesus corrected the religious leaders for holding onto traditions:
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! Mark 7:6-9
Thankfully, God led me into deeper study and opened my eyes. I started to wake up in 2016. I can only think of what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
So I continue to learn from different theologians, all committed to a true and faithful interpretation of the Bible. I read from a variety of sources to learn from others. More essentially, I ask the Holy Spirit to teach me as I read the Bible, to renew my mind, and to transform me. And I trust Him to do it.
Abide in Him
It would be easy for us to be as dogmatic in our transformed convictions as we were in our former ones, if we don’t abide in Him. We ask God to create in us clean hearts. To give us a wholehearted devotion to Him. And to let us know Him better, love Him more, and love others as we love ourselves.
Last year, I felt God stirring my heart to intentionally care for God’s people, as a pastor, spiritual director, or in some other role. In A Long Obedience, Eugene Peterson describes well what God is inviting me to: “helping people listen to God speak to them from the Scriptures and then joining them in answering God as personally and honestly as we can in lives of prayer. And to give witness and encouragement to the men and women who set out to follow Christ.” I’ve been encouraged by many brothers and sisters in this.
One such encouragement came through this teaching from Reverend Dave Ward about women in ministry. It is well worth a listen regardless of where you land on the issue.
To prepare for wherever God leads, I’ve applied and been accepted to two seminaries, and will interview for another soon. Either way, I begin classes soon and can hardly wait!
In the meantime, I’m excited to be on the launch team of Beth Allison Barr’s upcoming book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth. I’m one chapter in and I’m already gleaning truth from her work as a historian and as a Baptist pastor’s wife. Beth is the associate professor of history and associate dean of the Graduate School at Baylor University. She writes, “Complementarian theology claims it is defending a plain and natural interpretation of the Bible while really defending an interpretation that has been corrupted by our sinful drive to dominate others and build hierarchies of power and oppression. I can’t think of anything less Christlike than hierarchies like these.”
I can’t either, Beth.