Recently, I had the pleasure of sharing some thoughts on women in academia with Katie Fischer and Whitney Waldemar, students at Bethlehem College and Seminary. It was an honor to encourage women to pursue biblical studies as a way to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, and to enhance their service in the home and in their local churches.
Here’s the interview re-posted below:
[Recently, BCS senior Katie Fischer and junior Whitney Waldemar interviewed Kristie Anyabwile for her perspective on education for the home, church, and world. Kristie is a North Carolina native and graduate of NC State University with a degree in History, as well as a B.A. in African American Studies. She and her husband, Thabiti, live in the Cayman Islands where Thabiti serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman. This post has been edited for length.]
How does theological or worldview education equip women for service in the church?
Biblically…the primary means for this equipping is [through leadership at] the local church. That said, theological education can help women to understand and engage the world from a biblical perspective. Then, we can pass this knowledge and perspective on to other women and to the next generation in our local church. Being knowledgeable about worldviews can be very helpful in counteracting much of secular, feminist thinking that has been the steady diet of most women ages 60 and younger.
How does the church body benefit from women who are well-trained in the Bible?
…The body benefits as each person’s gifts are used to equip the saints and build up the body until we all reach maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:11–16). [As] pastors [are faithful] to teach sound doctrine to the entire body, women are given special charge to train each other in areas that are specific to women, and likewise for the men (Titus 2:1–5).
Do you see a need for more women in biblical studies?
It would definitely be helpful for the body of Christ, especially in answering egalitarian and secular women scholars. They are wreaking havoc on women’s studies programs and making very compelling but disastrous arguments for their positions. They continue to entice women toward feminism and unbiblical egalitarian views of women’s roles in the home and in the church.
Why we should encourage women to study in rigorous, academic settings?
If a woman has interests in that regard, we should encourage her to do it as a means to grow in her knowledge of God and in her love for God and in her service to God. This in no way means that academia is the only or even the preferred way for women to grow. The bottom line is that we should encourage women to study as hungry and thirsty babes, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
Why is it important for women to be in ministry? How does women’s ministry in the church strengthen male leadership?
[It is important because] we’re all called to minister to one another through teaching, correction, singing (Col. 3:16); loving one another (Rom. 13:8); encouraging and building one another up in the faith (1 Thess. 5:11); accepting and welcoming one another (Rom. 15:7); being kind and forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32); comforting and living at peace with one another (2 Cor. 13:11), and so on.
There are a myriad of ministry areas for women to be involved in that support the overall vision of the elders and leaders of their local church. In fact, I would argue that all women’s ministry activities should be directed under the guidance of the elders and leaders of the local body. Women’s ministry should serve as an example of biblically submitting to the authorities over us. Godly submission frees both men and women to be and do all that the Lord calls us to in the church and in the world, for His glory and for the building up of His kingdom.
Women in ministry can actually extend and strengthen the ministry of the elders, and the church as a whole. As women disciple, mentor, and counsel each other, they are able to minister to a greater number of women in those relationships than perhaps the elders would be able to.
Is it important for women to be scholars? Is there a place for women scholarship in the church?
Yes! Christian women are present and productive and serving in all spheres of [secular academia and other occupations]. In the same way that women seek to be excellent in their fields of secular scholarship, as Christians they are called to use their gifts and expertise to advance the kingdom of Christ. This is the call for all Christians—women included.
Women can bring their scholarship and expertise in teaching other women, encouraging their brothers in Christ, as well as in how they listen and respond to the preached word. They can also become biblical scholars, bringing another level of thinking and inquiry that would serve to strengthen the church against false philosophies and ideas that threaten it from inside and outside its walls…
What is the place for women feeding themselves? (Not to the exclusion of being fed by pastors, husbands, etc., but not being wholly dependent on them for it.)
“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Women are to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isa. 55:6). We don’t ultimately depend on our elders, but on God Himself, through His Word, by the power of the Spirit, and through the other means of grace He gives us to feast on God’s Word. We use all the resources the Lord has given to us—His infallible, all-sufficient Word; our own study and devotional life; the local church, the academy… conference & seminars; [various media tools]. We are so blessed to have these resources available to us. We should use them all to taste the goodness of the Lord and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him.
What are temptations that women should guard against as they pursue a biblical or worldview education?
Secularism. Feminism. Egalitarianism. Pride.
Especially for women, there is the temptation to use their biblical/theological studies in ways that undermine male headship. …As a part of the fall, women have a sinful desire for the man’s place of leadership. This desire is manifested in the church when we fight for positions of authority and leadership that are outside Scripture’s teaching. …Women often become discouraged and bitter when don’t see opportunities to use their gifts in the local church. …There could [also] be a real temptation toward spiritual pride and self-righteousness… (Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 8:1) or deceiving ourselves into thinking that we’re wise… (1 Cor. 3:18)…
How do you encourage women to think about education as you mentor them?
…Women should keep in mind that they have freedom in Christ to pursue or not to pursue higher education. Here are some questions to consider:
- Are there any stage of life concerns you should factor in your decision (single, married with small children, etc.)
- How much time will you be able to devote to your job, family and church while you’re in school?
- Will this course of study help you in spreading the gospel?
- Will you have to go in debt to finance your education? If so, what’s your plan for paying it off?
Education is one building block for helping women to think critically and to love God with all our minds, fully engaging our thinking “to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” (Piper,Think, p. 83). Education should be a means to this end.