The Table Podcast

A Biblical View of Femininity

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Dr. Sandra Glahn and Kymberli Cook discuss a biblical view of gender, focusing on femininity.

Timecodes
00:15
Glahn’s interest in gender studies
04:00
Genesis, the image of God and gender studies
10:30
What does the word helper really mean?
16:00
How do you break through the cultural gender stereotype?
22:30
Gender and relationship in singleness
29:40
The metaphor of marriage in Ephesians 5
41:08
How should we think through the feminist voice in culture?
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table. We discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And our topic today is gender, and thinking through gender in relationship to the Bible. And you can tell that our configuration is a little different than normal. And in fact, you ought to be all messed up, ’cause Sandy’s in the seat that I normally sit in, and Kym is in the seat that she’s in over there, because we’re gonna try and do this on a co-hosted structure, in which Kym is gonna help us with the topic, and we’re gonna try and have a three way conversation here about gender. So Kym, I’m gonna let you introduce yourself, and then we’ll be off and running.
Kymberli Cook
Fantastic. Well, my name is Kymberli Cook, and I’m the Senior Administrator at the Hendrick’s Center, and I am also a PhD student here at DTS in the area of theology. So I’m thrilled to be here. And let’s just go ahead and get started. Sandy, how did you get started in this whole area of gender studies?
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Gender studies. Well, it began with a crisis of womanhood, because I’m the fourth of five kids in a big family, wanted a big family. That was really the only vision I had for myself. It was really the only vision I thought was ideal womanhood. And so when I hit the brick wall of infertility and pregnancy loss, for me it was not just an ethical, marital, emotional, financial crisis, it was also a crisis of identity. And I had to go back to Genesis and re-look through all the way through the Bible. What is a woman? What is a man? What is Christian subculture’s influence on that? And what is really transcultural, because I had picked up a lot of Christian subculture, even more so probably than the culture around us was the Christian culture that wasn’t always really deeply rooted in the Bible, but was maybe American.

So that was part of it. The other thing was that Dallas Seminary recognized that they didn’t have anybody who actually studied this on an academic level. So the man who was the Academic Dean at the time said, “As part of your PhD studies, if you would really focus on the history of gender, the history of ideas about gender, particularly feminism, American movements on that, so that you’ve actually read the primary documents and maybe we’re telling an evangelical story of that that isn’t completely academically informed. So to the seminary’s credit, they encouraged me to do that. So that’s how I ended up here.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And you’ve been dealing with that ever since. You teach the course on gender studies here. And tell us a little bit of how that’s structured.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
So the way it’s structured, I love partnering with men. I think it’s coming right out of Genesis that we need each other. We don’t always have to say exactly who brings what … male brings this, female … we just know we need each other. And so I’ll bring in different men and women who have wrestled through various issues. For example, Barry Jones, at a local church, their church has worked through where they stand on women, and what that means in terms of preaching and all that. And so he comes and shares how they walked their church through that, and what mistakes they made, and what regrets they have, and what really worked. Because a lot of our students are going to go out to places that are going to be dealing with some of these issues. So, we’re not just exploring what the Bible says, although that’s part of it. We’re also exploring the implementation and the ramifications.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Because different cultures are in different places on the question, and then how to negotiate that space is as important as the content that you deal with.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. Okay, that sets the table for us in terms of why we’ve asked you here, which I’m thrilled that you’re willing to do this. Let’s start at the beginning. And just as an interesting example of learning on the way, I had suggested that we start in Genesis 1, with the idea of the helper, and you very helpfully suggested, “Well, wait a minute. Let’s take one more step back. Let’s take a look at what it means to be made in the image of God,” which I think is a good starting place. So let’s start there. So, someone walks in the room and says, “Oh, image of God. That’s transparent. We know exactly what that means.” And you go …
Dr. Sandra Glahn
So, I’ll begin with a story. On the first day of class, in this gender class, I was driving in thinking, “Should I even cover women are made in the image of God?” Duh. And I thought,”Well, I’m not sure everybody believes that or knows that.” And so I started with Genesis 1, male and female, he made them. I will make them in my image. And as student on the front row, she raised her hand, she goes, “Are you saying I already image God?” So I’m not saying it, Genesis is saying that. She said, she turned around, everybody, “Did you all know that?” And they’re looking at her like, “Yeah.” And she burst into tears. “I don’t have to be married to image God? I don’t have to have kids to image God?” She’s still writing about it ten years later. She just has never gotten over the thrill of that. Her church had been so careful to warn her about the dangers of radical feminism, they hadn’t told her who she was. And so, that’s why I wanted to begin there, because not everybody does know that. And that’s an essential part of starting with what is a woman is, she’s a human being made in the image of God.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And the program of the way Genesis 1 unfolds is this step by step walk through the various aspects of what God has created from the beginning, and we end, interestingly enough, not with the man by himself. We actually end with the woman completing the creation of what it means to be human.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
It’s very good.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I think that’s significant.
Kymberli Cook
What do you feel like that tells us about God, in that if women are also in the image of God, what does that contribute to what we understand about God that maybe we miss sometimes if we only consider the male as part of that majority?
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Yeah. Great question. Well, I think, for all the things we can debate about the meaning of imago Dei, or image of God, we can also step back and go, “We’re both made in the image of God.” The commands of what we’re supposed to do in terms of dominion and multiplication in both cases, they need each other. Sometimes that gets divided like, men do dominion, and women do babies. Guys, it takes two to do each of those. And so, just even the idea that a woman is made to rule the earth. Again, we don’t … rule’s a scary word, right? We immediately start qualifying that. And we need to maybe not. Just let it be what it is. Not rule the earth by herself, but men and women need each other. And we don’t even have to say … again, we don’t even have to say she brings this and he brings this, which usually results in a stereotype, right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
And it can’t result in conflict.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Absolutely. You just say we need each other. So, and we re-look at our missions committee differently. Do we have men and women on the committee? There’s an interesting piece of research that came out after the whole Bernie Madoff, Wall Street scandal, where people said, “Okay. Those were all male boards, and look how corrupt they were. What would happen if you had all female boards?” No surprise, they studied them and found they were just as corrupt. What they also found, though, was when you had boards that had both men and women on them, they made more ethical decisions. And it just seems to go right back to Genesis … right? … that in some mysterious way that we can’t always quantify, we need each other.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Um-hmm. So, and the point of imaging God, of course, is the fact that we’re designed to reflect and reflect back to God the way in which he made us. We’re designed for relationship, not only with Him, we’re designed with relationship for each other. That relationship is complex. It’s been complex from the beginning. God is a trinity. That’s a complex relational model to start off with that’s the base. And so … And by complex here, I don’t mean to say, “Well, it’s so difficult we can’t do it.” It’s simply to say that it’s not easy to package into a formula. It’s more dynamic than that.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Right. And any time you start with a trinity, I think we can all agree that there’s something relational about humanity that’s reflected in the trinity. But to assume that we can find out something human by looking at how the Father, Son, and Spirit relate, it might be better to say, when we’re humans, we’re reflecting the church. And even marriage is Christ in the church, it’s not the Father and the Son. So it’s still a separation of God and human, rather than seeing something human happening in the godhead.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And yet, at the same time, on the flip side, there are relational dimensions about how they ideally relate to each other that has a lot to teach us about the nature of the cooperation. For example, sometimes in some passages, it’s very hard to tell if and which person of the trinity is actually at work.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Yes. Division of labor has a lot of overlap here.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Exactly right. And so, even though there are distinctions, and even though our confession have distinctions … we’ve got Father, Son, and Spirit and that kind of thing, which we recognize and affirm … the nature of the unity with which they work is so interwoven that you don’t get the sense of conflict that you sometimes get when get roles placed in other kinds of contexts and circumstances.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Absolutely. And that’s part of how we know the Son is God, ’cause he’s doing things that the Father does, like create the world. Yeah. I agree.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, so anything else on image of God?
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Nothing else comes to mind on image of God. Helper’s a good next place to go, I think.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. I’m gonna ask Kym a question, okay? When you hear helper, what do you hear?
Kymberli Cook
Well, that’s the … actually, I was thinking of formulating a question about that, because that is just, in our current climate, and they way I think that a lot of women are raised, and women my age were raised, I hear that word and there is a part of me that there’s a little bit of a reaction to. And I think, “Well, am I just a helper?”
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Right, ’cause you hear Hamburger Helper or plumber’s helper or some sort of inferior kind of helper.
Kymberli Cook
Absolutely. And is there nothing that I was created to do on my own? Am I just a sidekick? What did you say to that?
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Great questions. I think part of what helps us is, in some context, we’ve been taught that’s what a helper is. The world revolves around him, and then you’re sort of a silent witness that makes his world happen, which isn’t really right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, man. That could be so cool.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
I know. You say that, but I know you better than that. [Laughter] You have a strong partner, and you love it. So the word helper, if you think about when we pray for God to help us, we don’t think of Him as a junior assistant who has no power, right? Like God is a strong help. But sometimes, like the word that the Septuagint translators use was a word that was used of a surgeon in a tough case who calls in a skilled colleague that’s skilled in an area that needs expertise that is lacking. And 16 times in the Old Testament, that word azar helper is used of God. And it’s usually in a military context, which is interesting when you look at Proverbs 31, ’cause you have all this military language used of the idealized woman. She’s a woman of valor. She’s got strong arms. She’s going after prey to feed her family. We talked about this on an earlier podcast. So, I think some of our gut reaction comes from wrong teaching, and that needs to be corrected. What are we talking about when we talk about helper? On an org chart it’s not like this. It’s a partner.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. And I … We will … Really, the whole rest of the podcast is designed to kind of flesh that out, because I think that’s an important perception, and in some cases a misperception that needs to be worked through. I do think that people are slow to realize how important that world helper is, as a description of the character of God.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so they automatically put it in a rank category, when it actually is a description of a character category, if I can say it that way. And that can make a significant difference in how we ought to think about it. So my follow up question is, so how should we think of the category of helper? If it’s not this impression of the silent sidekick or whatever, then what is it?
Dr. Sandra Glahn
I think maybe it would help to begin with what it isn’t, some of what it isn’t. For example, when Peter talks, in I Peter 3, about a wife in a unhappy marriage, and he talks about the way to win your husband is not by preaching at him everyday. It’s to … you’re a silent witness. And he describes the gentle, quiet spirit that’s so precious to God, which in many women’s context has been taught as the gentle, quiet personality. Big difference, right? As you said, it’s character. A character of someone who’s at peace and not striving can still be an extrovert, can still be fun loving, can still …
Kymberli Cook
Be strong.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Be strong. Absolutely, be strong. And so, again, sometimes that’s been taught in women’s studies, in feminism studies … I should say anti-feminism studies … as the ideal Christian woman is silent and introverted. And so that gets added to helper …
Dr. Darrell Bock
Almost withdrawn.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly. The more you are that, the more ideal woman you are. And so that gets added to helper as sort of a junior citizen of things, when that’s not at all … the context of that is how to win over somebody who’s not listening.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And if you put that next to the creation of the woman and what it is that was needed, God said, in making the woman, it’s not good for the man to be alone. And the idea is is to bring someone alongside of him who is a complement in the best sense of that term, and to complement … so that together they can execute what it is that God has asked to take place in the creation.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly. They need each other.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Kymberli Cook
So, when I hear that, and I think of it in practical, “Okay, so what does this look like?” I’m a pastor’s wife kind of thing. I’m also an event planner. And so when I hear that …
Dr. Darrell Bock
And you co-teach with your husband.
Kymberli Cook
That’s true. I do. There’s lots of other things that I do.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You need to disclose everything.
Kymberli Cook
That’s fair. But I hear that, and I feel like how that is often played out in Christian communities is then the work is being done, absolutely. And it’s definitely a partnership. The men would never claim that the women are not a part of carrying out that work. But the women tend to be the ones in the back rooms, and in the background, making everything happen, and lifting, I guess, lifting the man up and putting him on display, and allowing him to give the message or do whatever that particular ministry or outreach is. And so how do we think through what you guys are talking about? And is that correct? Is that the way it’s supposed to be?
Dr. Sandra Glahn
No. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s hard on men, too. So I’m married to an introvert with the gift of administration. And he would rather be like the church treasurer, where I have speaking gifts. So for the first few years of our marriage, he’s feeling the social pressure that he should be up front, and I’m feeling the social pressure that I should be in back, but we’re both think, “But the church could benefit if we would operate out of our giftedness.” So fortunately, he’s the most secure man I’ve ever met. So he just decided he didn’t care that he was gonna do whatever needed to happen for me to thrive. And so I was gonna do what would happen for him to thrive. So it was the exact opposite of what you’re describing. But the gifts aren’t distributed by gender. Everybody gets all of them. And so it wasn’t just hard on me. It was hard on my husband.

I had another student who told me that he walked in as a visitor to the church. He’s an introvert, he has behind the scenes gifts. He said, “I sat down in a Sunday School class. They divide us into small groups, and I ended up in a small group with three other women and they handed me the curriculum and said, “Teach us.” He’s like, “I’m a visitor. I’m trying to figure out, do I even belong? Is this a good ethos for me? And it was just assumed that, because I’m a man, I’m the leader in this group, even though I wasn’t even allowed to just be a visitor and an observer.” And he said it was incredibly awkward and difficult and frustrating.

We get other guys that come through here that … the artist types, especially in our media arts department … where Dad wanted a football player, Dad wanted an up front kind of kid, and he was more the reflective, sensitive soul. And all of those cultural, Christian culture, and the broader culture of views of what manhood should look like can be heartbreaking if that’s really not the gift package that you have.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. I actually have a very similar story in reverse. And that is, as you know, Sally can be expressive.
Kymberli Cook
May her tribe increase.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Sally’s my wife. Yeah.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
She’s fantastic.
Kymberli Cook
She’s great.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So what she thinks, I know. And we had a relationship in which that was very transparent. I was comfortable with it. She was comfortable with it. Some of the elders in our church were not comfortable with it. And basically they would talk to me about, “Oh, you give your wife way too much space,” to which my initial reaction is, “In one level, that’s none of your business.”
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Right. It’s your marriage.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, exactly. But secondly, I would say the second point is is God has brought us together with a certain combination in which we … part of being married is figuring out what that combination is, and how that can best work. And in my role as head, in the way they’re thinking about it, part of what is called upon for me to do and to be is to be sensitive to who she is, and how God has made her, and how God has made us as a couple together, and thus to map out the path that works for this unit that God has created our marriage to be. That unit may not be like the unit of the couple sitting next to me, or the elders that I’m meeting with.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
And that’s fine.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And that’s absolutely fine. That’s absolutely fine. But we get ourselves into trouble, I think, when we try and cookie cutter and make everybody the same when you’ve got a different combination and a different combination of gifts that are being meshed together to make this family and this marriage what it is.
Kymberli Cook
Is that concept transferable to the church, do you think? So would it be possible to consider different church communities as function couples … for lack of a better way of saying it … but as different communities that can work to complement one another in different ways, and so it might look different?
Dr. Darrell Bock
I think the answer to that question is yes. I think there’s another question behind that, and it all depends on how that’s done, what is said and how that is explained and how it’s viewed. But I think, in principle, yes, that you’ve got different communities that might manifest how that works in different ways. And as long as it’s within the range of what scripture is calling for, you can get variation. It’s not unlike the way God has made people. He’s made people and in nations, and they have a terrific variety between them. But at the same time … and they have their own identity and their own culture to a certain extent, and they enrich each other in the midst of some of that difference while recognizing that there are certain things that actually cause them to be connected to each other at the same time. So I do think, in principle that can work out in that kind of direction. And I think it’s a challenge for people, because I think we like the simplicity of trying to make everything very much the same, rather than the relational complexity of actually negotiating out differing kinds of spaces for one another.
Kymberli Cook
So, just hopping back into the conversation before the break, Dr. Bock, you said that we would be talking a little bit about marriage in this part of the podcast. And before we hop in there, maybe it would quickly be helpful to address what we do with singles, and how we consider gender and the relation between the genders as relates to people who are not married, before we get into that conversation.

Dr. Sandra Glahn: So I also co-teach a course with Dr. Gary Barnes in the Counseling department on sexual ethics. And one of the assignments that we give our students is to Google churches that are writing manhood and womanhood curriculum or teaching that kind of curriculum, and just having them asses it based on how we walked them through some of these issues. And they find, almost without exception, that churches creating these curricula have gone to the marriage verses to describe what’s manly and womanly. And consequently it sends the message that you’re not a complete man if you’re not married, you’re not a complete woman. Instead of going back to the image of God, and looking at designs like Jesus and John the Baptist and Paul and the new creation multiply worshipers on the Earth, they’re looking at, “You have to get married.” Or at least it sends that subtle message.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, which is interesting, ’cause in I Corinthians 7, when Paul has that opportunity.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. That’s not where he lands.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
It’s not where he lands. So that’s not the ultimate manhood. Got Jesus Christ, the son of man, and he’s not married. So, our churches need to work … I know there’s been a lot of work done recently, but we need to keep working on not sending that message that marriage is the ideal state. Churches are to be … kudos to them for lifting up family in a culture that doesn’t always do that. But it can also go the other extreme, and make it look like that’s the ideal of manhood and womanhood, and it’s not.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So when we think about singleness, and I think about that passage in I Corinthians 7 in particular, I think about how one of the rationales for Paul saying that given the choice to be single vs. being married he would advise on the single side of that scale, is the ability to be focused completely on serving the Lord faithfully. And so, that’s telling you that the definition of who the person is is defined by how they’re relating to God, primarily, and what God asks of them, as opposed to anything else that surrounds them.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
So, instead of trying to figure out what does a man act like, what does a woman act like, does she wear pink, we should be … that’s almost a … it is a misdirection of our focus. We should be saying, “Who should I be? Love, joy, peace, patience, like the fruit of the spirit, I should be pursuing Christ.” And then, embodied as a female, I’m gonna be feminine. Embodied as a male, I’m gonna be masculine. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna always fit the cultural norms.

For example, one of the things that I discovered in my history of ideas on gender was really interesting to look at the first century and what was considered manly then. And it was not considered manly for anyone to do any sort of violence to your body or to look on your body. And so that’s the right, as a citizen, that you don’t touch me. So it’s a shame to be a gladiator, it’s a shame to be an actor, because those are occupations where people are looking on you, and violence is done to you.

So then to see that Jesus voluntarily allows himself to be treated violently, he’s sacrificing his man card for humanity. For Paul to allow himself to be whipped and beaten in Philippi before he says, “Oh, by the way, I’m a citizen,” he has put the gospel priority over ideals of manhood. So he’s really sacrificing the cultural ideal of manhood, because he has a greater good. Some of our students sometimes do that. If they’ve been taught that it’s a man’s job to provide, and their wives help put them through seminary, they’re like, “Yeah, but in Luke 8, the women are providing for Jesus.” And we have a bigger goal here than protecting that cultural view of manhood. And the bigger view is the gospel.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And Proverbs 31 says a little bit about how the woman …
Dr. Sandra Glahn
It says a few things about economics.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, in which the woman is very, very active.
Kymberli Cook
Can I ask a question real quick on that? So, is there anything there … I feel like, particularly in light of a lot of the conversations that have been happening in the culture recently, there are a lot of young women who are either rethinking, or for the first time thinking through their gender, and just because of everything that’s happened, and would you say that some of the voices that are informing those women as they are trying to think through those things should also be disregarded … I’m sorry, I’m not being clear. There’s a lot of people who say now what a woman should be, which is very strong, and standing up for her rights, and standing up in a strong way. Would you say there’s a also a place for that to be sacrificed for the gospel at times, or not? That’s a genuine …
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Yeah, that is a great question. And that’s why we have to walk in the spirit. There’s no one cookie cutter answer. And there’s a time to speak, and a time to be silent. It’s right out of Ecclesiastes. And the only way you know that is,if you’re working on the Christ likeness part. So, Peter definitely tells the wife in a situation where her husband’s not gonna hear her to be quiet, ’cause it’s not gonna help for you to talk all day. But then, Paul talks about how will they hear without a preacher? They’re both talking about the gospel, but they’re talking about very different context. That’s just wisdom as a human. And I think, too, sometimes when you’re talking about justice, it helps to be talking on someone else’s behalf rather than your own.
Kymberli Cook
Yes.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
I can be a lot more forceful when I’m speaking for the voiceless than I am about, “You violated my rights.” Yeah, that’s a good question.
Kymberli Cook
I’m not meaning to silence anybody when I ask that question.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Of course not.
Kymberli Cook
But when you said that I immediately thought of, but what about the other side, as well, when we might be willing to sacrifice a little bit of the strength that has been earned?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Which raises two sets of questions, and I think it’s the two topics we have left to cover. We’ll talk about marriage, which we said we were gonna cover. But the other thing’s the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is the influence of the feminist discussion in our culture, which I think has things to say to us on the one hand, as well as things to be aware of on the other. And so, let’s cover those two. Let’s shift to marriage.

We talked about how what is going on with the gospel is a kind of counter cultural situation. I can’t think of a more counter cultural passage that has been misused than Ephesians 5.

Dr. Sandra Glahn
I completely agree. Completely agree.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, let’s walk through that, and talk about … What makes that passage so famous and a bugaboo for some people is the word submission comes up. Only it’s not submission for most people. For some people it’s the word submission it’s a bad word. It’s almost a four letter word. And yet, in the context of this passage … and the focus goes there … Yet in the context of this passage the focus is actually somewhere else. The focus, much more time is spent on the husband’s requirement to love than on the woman’s responsibility to submit. So let’s talk about that passage.

First, let’s talk about how that passage gets misused, and then let’s talk about how we should read it.

Dr. Sandra Glahn
Often, when we look at the verbs, the wife gets submit, and it get taught that the husband gets lead. But that’s not his verb. That verb is not there. His verb is love, and it’s not phileo love, it’s agape love, which looks a whole lot like submission. And I head you say, one time, and I quote you a lot on this, that submission is not a woman word, it’s a human word. We are all called to live in submission to our creator. And the beginning of that section is submit yourselves one to another. And then she gets, wives to your husband …
Dr. Darrell Bock
In fact, the verb is borrowed from the previous verse.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly. And we make new paragraph in the middle of a sentence with that. And we miss that he’s listing all the ways of being filled with the spirit, including your family life. And the spirit is the overarching element there. But anyway, that’s part of why a lot of women hate the word submit, because it’s been taught to them of you submit and he’s in control. And so you give up all your rights, and he makes the demands. And that is a perfect set up for people to be angry.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. Because you destroyed, or you risk destroying may be a better way of saying it … you risk destroying the cooperative relationship that we talked about that comes out of Genesis. And … they do that. So let’s transition. Here’s the exercise I have students do when I teach Ephesians 5. I have them take a yellow sheet of paper … doesn’t have to be yellow but usually it’s yellow legal pad. It makes it official. And you draw a line down the middle, and you put head and power on one side, and you put service on the other. And I say, “Go through this passage from start to finish, and everywhere where there are power terms, write them down.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Yeah, blank column.
Dr. Darrell Bock
“And everywhere where there are services terms, write them down. And let’s see where we are.” And I give them some time to do that. And when it’s all said an done, inevitably what I have is … at least most often is … there’ll be one term that’s on the power side. It’s the term head. And then everything else is on this service column. And so I ask this question, “Tell me what you think is going on when this term, sitting here by itself, is surrounded by all these terms.” Answer the question.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
We’ve made an org chart out of it.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s right. And even more than that, not only have we made an org chart out of it, but we have failed to see that what is happening to this term is it is being reconfigured. It’s being completely reconfigured by everything else that’s being said over here. So I’m supposed to nurture, care, treat the body of this person as if it’s my own body, et cetera. Everything is not about what this person can do for me, but about what I can do for this person.
Kymberli Cook
And that’s what it means to be a head.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And that’s what it means to be a head.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
‘Cause the head is connected to a body, and a metaphor.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And it’s to care for the body and nurture the body. In fact, I’m not even supposed to see the body as separate from me. It’s a part of who I am.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
She are you. Exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock
When I’m in marital counseling I say, “The next time you’re fighting with your wife, and you’re thinking about her as a her, imagine that you’re talking to yourself, and would that change the way you interact? And so, would you hear yourself?” That kind of question. And so, you’re trying to underscore this emphasis that comes up. Now I’m curious as to how, when you talk about this, how you talk about it, ’cause that’s how I talk about it.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
I usually look at the metaphor. And usually, let’s say for example, when you ask people, “When Jesus is talking about you are the salt of the earth, we make a list of what salt does. It’s flavorful, it’s a preservative. But then the next line is, but if the salt has lost its flavor.” So even though the salt is a preservative, that’s not how he’s using the metaphor. We do the same thing with head and body. He is the head, she’s the body. They’re interconnected, and two shall become one is all the way through the Bible whenever marriage is mentioned. It’s almost like, in Genesis, it’s horizontal to become one in the sexual relationship. And then, in Ephesians it’s to become one with a head and a body, but you’re still interconnected. She are you. Yeah. Exactly. So we show a photo of my body in an evening gown with my husband’s head on it, and students go, “Eww.” Exactly. It’s a creepy creature. But that’s what Paul’s envisioning. Two become one.

And so the goal of marriage is not the proper distribution of gender and function, it’s two become one. It’s unity. It’s oneness. So people say, “Well, then how do you make a decision?” And we’re like, “Well, the same way you decide how you’re gonna go out to dinner.” “Well go where you’d like to go.” “No, no, no. We’ll go where you …” That should be our fights.

Dr. Darrell Bock
You negotiate it out.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
How’d you decide to get married? One of you didn’t force the question.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You will marry me and you will like it.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly. If you think in I Corinthians 7, where a couple is called upon to make a decision, he assumes they can do it by mutual consent. There doesn’t have to be a trump card. The goal is oneness. And we sometimes take couples that are doing a great job of doing that together, or making decisions together, and we say, “Oh, guys, you need to man up, women, you need to …” We try to …
Dr. Darrell Bock
Woman down.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Exactly. And it’s backwards. In Christ they’re doing a great job of being one, and we get fixated on certain roles that have to happen by men and women. But Paul just isn’t saying that at all.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so, the point is is that when you come to this, you’re actually seeing the actualization of two things. You’re seeing the actualization of the way God created men and women in marriage to be uniquely united. That is a unique relationship that we’re talking about.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
But to do so in a way that is mutually concerning, mutually supportive, and mutually cooperative, with … there are roles defined, but they’re also redefined roles.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
He’s washing her. That, first century, that’s a girl’s job.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, that’s right. So, you’ve got that dimension going on. And then you’ve got this additional element of the modeling in that passage of the way in which Christ and the church are relating to each other as the great mystery of the past. In fact, at one point, Paul’s talking, and he’s talking about that mystery so much that he has to say, “Now I’m talking about Christ or the church, everybody.” But it is also is the mirror. And you don’t have a sense of a power struggle in the godhead. Everybody knows what the goal is.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Sometimes, though, I think people make a list of, okay, if it’s Christ in the church, what does Christ do? He’s omniscient, he’s omnipresent, he’s God. And again, we’ve missed the metaphor. He … because there’s a little phrase that that’s probably the least quoted part of it is, himself being … herself … the church … of the church’s head, himself being savior, savior of the body.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes. Right.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
So, it’s a savior image. And because we don’t connect the word savior and head, we just ignore that and keep going.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And the emphasis … and what we do … it’s interesting. What we do with the word savior when we have this discussion oftentimes is, we import all the Christology of the savior into the savior title. But what the passage is doing is describing how Christ saves. He gives, he sacrifices, et cetera. So getting the metaphor right is important here. And so, that automatically opens up a listening and an engagement within the dynamics of the couple that is to drive the way in which the relationship is working out. And, as you said earlier, and I think this is important, it means that the husband has to be secure enough, okay, to be able to say, “My point here is not to insist that you be submissive. My point is to care for you enough that this unit works.”
Dr. Sandra Glahn
You’re flourishing. ‘Cause when you’re flourishing, we’re flourishing. So when I first started seminary, people would say to him, “Doesn’t that bother you, she’s in seminary?” He’s like, “Why should that bother me. My wife is growing in Christ.” They’re like, “Well, but she might be the leader.” Since when does learning theology mean a threat to your marriage? That’s twisted. That’s messed up.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And that, actually, is the premise upon which the seminary opened itself up to accept women, was to say, “There’re all kinds of places and spaces in the church where a fully trained woman is actually a good thing to have, and that that work is very, very important to the health of the church. That the church needs functioning, mature, men and women as teachers to make the church work. And the ability of men and women to work together, both inside and outside of marriage, as team, in relationship, showing what it is that God has created as he put us together, male and female on the Earth, is an important part of what the church is able to model, and in sometimes model in complete contrast to the way the world sorts out that space.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
Men and women can work together and model loving one another without it being creepy. That’s a witness. That’s a testimony that we can be brothers …
Dr. Darrell Bock
In a Me-too world, that’s a very, very important thing to be able to do.
Dr. Sandra Glahn
It’s healing. It’s like fresh oxygen in a smoky room, that, “Wow, you’re so respectful to each other,” in a good way. It’s totally possible.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, Kym where’s that leave you in terms of questions and concerns or things that need to be fleshed out?
Kymberli Cook
Like we just said, in comparison to what the world has been saying. So I guess maybe one question would then be, having done study in all of this area, as well as deep theological thought, how should we, as Christians, especially Christian women, be thinking through this overall conversation and culture? Not necessarily just the Me-too movement, but just the whole thing, especially … the feminist voice is very loud and very strong, particularly online, and in blogs and that kind of thing. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t read and think through and be exposed to it. But just how should we think through it? Are there specific things we should keep in mind? What would you suggest?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, for sure there are. First of all, they’re, in the same way that there are many Christianities … how many Christianities are there, right? … there are that many kinds of feminism. So when we talk about “the feminists,” which ones are you talking about? Because some feminists are so pro women they think women are better. But it’s a tiny margin. Not very many. Those are the ones we usually point to. Or, they’re just anti men. But most of them aren’t. Most … there are lots of men that consider themselves feminists, and there are many, many people that just use the word feminism in the same … it’s somebody who’s against sexism of any kind. So, I can agree with that. So you have to even begin with what are you talking about?

When I was at the University of Texas at Dallas doing PhD studies, I had a radical feminist professor. And I came in with certain assumptions. And the first thing I realized was I’d never prayed for a feminist. I’d just written them off. And I grew to love her. And then the more we talked, the more I discovered Jesus was awesome, and she wanted to hear more. And she asked me to bring her a book in a brown paper bag, I kid you not. And so that was a real learning, growing thing for me.

And the other thing was, I was really glad I hadn’t said in class, “I’m not a feminist,” ’cause how those students would have heard me, they would have heard me say I’m against equal pay, I’m against equal custody in court if, all things considered. How we were even using the word on campus was different from how the world at large was using it. So that’s one thing.

I think another thing that’s really important is to go back to the fact that, if we need each other, which we do, than begin by looking at our churches and saying, “Where are we segregating unnecessarily?” For example, when I used to teach in women’s Bible study, there was no male input at all on the study or on what we were doing. We weren’t coordinating with what the pastor’s sermon series was. And so we changed that. Looking at missions committee saying, “Hey, this shouldn’t be an all male committee.” Looking at the hospitality committee, “This shouldn’t be an all female committee.” You’re looking at who’s cooking food in the Bible. It was Jesus and Jacob and you’ve got the deacons serving widows. It wasn’t the women’s committee. So that’s just an acknowledgement that we need each other, and looking around and saying, “Where can we do a better job of partnering?”

Dr. Darrell Bock
And so what I think we’re saying is is that there are many more possibilities for how we relate to women, other than we tend to give ourselves credit for. And there are ways to think about cooperating with one another that are ways we tend not to think about. And in the midst of that, we, when we work together for the same goal, working to develop the same kind of character, encouraging one another in the same kind of direction, it isn’t that there aren’t roles, there are, but they aren’t as configured in the ways some people think. And in the end, they end up being actuated in a much more effective way that I think the Bible has in mind, than if we handle it otherwise.

Well Sandy, I want to thank you for coming in and being a part of this, and Kym, well done, on the first co-host effort.

Kymberli Cook
Thank you.
Dr. Darrell Bock
We’re really pleased to have you along, as well. And we appreciate your being a part of The Table, and hope you will be back again with us, soon.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Kymberli Cook
Kymberli Cook is a doctoral student in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and serves as the Senior Administrator at the Hendricks Center, overseeing Cultural Engagement events and efforts, pastoral relationships, and creative design. She holds a Master of Theology from DTS and resides in Dallas with her husband and daughter.
Sandra Glahn
Dr. Glahn serves as associate professor in Media Arts and Worship and is a multi-published author of both fiction and non-fiction. She is a journalist, and a speaker who advocates for thinking that transforms. Dr. Glahn’s more than twenty books relate to bioethics, sexuality, and reproductive technologies as well as ten Bible studies in the Coffee Cup Bible Study series. She is a regular blogger at Engage, Bible.org’s site for women in Christian leadership, the owner of Aspire Productions, and served as editor-in-chief for Kindred Spirit from 1999 to 2015.
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