So . . . here’s my rant about today’s “Gender Blog” post on the CBMW’s website. The post is entitled: The Bad Girls Club. [This blog post is no longer on the CBMW website.]
The post lists four women: Julian of Norwich, Ann Hutchinson, Margaret Fell Fox and Phoebe Palmer, with a paragraph or two on each. While I don’t completely agree with the theology of any these ladies, I still respect them. Especially Phoebe Palmer. (I’m not a fan of Julian of Norwich, but I am still interested in some of what she has to say.)
The writer of the “bad girls” post does not seem to realise that all men and women of God have failings, faults and idiosyncrasies, and all of us differ in our Christian beliefs and theology to some extent. Does that make all of us “bad”?
Moreover, theology has never been static or fixed. Christian theology develops. It develops for the individual and for the church. Just compare the prevailing Christian beliefs of the 400s to the theology of the 1300s, to the theology of the 1600s, to the breadth of present day theologies. There are vast differences in the church’s understanding of God, humanity and the world from century to century. (I doubt Martin Luther is included in a CBMW’s “bad boys” list for being anti-Semitic, condoning the murder of Anabaptists, using foul language, or for his theology on the sacraments.)
My understanding of God is imperfect and, no doubt, has flaws. My theology is not comprehensively contained in any textbook of systematic theology. (Some systematic theologies come close to matching my beliefs; but others don’t.) Thankfully, however, God still chooses to use people with imperfect theology – and imperfect personalities – for his purposes and his glory – including, hopefully, people like me.
There is only one man who perfectly understands God and has perfect theology, as well as having a perfect, faultless personality. It is this man, Jesus Christ, who is our ultimate teacher and leader. This is why our eyes need to be on Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith. All other teachers and leaders are fallible and flawed, but that doesn’t necessarily make them “bad” in God’s eyes, and it shouldn’t make them “bad” in our eyes either. And yes, we need to be discerning about what is being taught, and careful with what we teach.
I am dismayed that Phoebe Palmer, who dedicated her life to helping people find salvation and experience more of God, is regarded by the CBMW as a “bad girl”. Rather than seeing her as a “bad girl”, I regard her as a faith champion and a role model.
Apart from imperfect theology, I imagine that the main problem the writer has with the women on the “bad girls” list is that they functioned as influential Christian leaders. 1 Timothy 2 is mentioned in the post in passing as though it is understood by all that women cannot be leaders. Ironically, the writer is herself a woman with an influential ministry. I hope her theology, personality, and ministry is faultless, otherwise she may find herself on someone else’s “bad girls” list.
Questions about how to implement 1 Timothy 2:12
1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
New Testament Women Church Leaders
Women in the Early Church
My other responses to CBMW Gender Blogs
Phoebe Palmer: The Mother of the Holiness Movement