Aligning gender roles to biblical teaching
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:23)
The first effect of sincere love (of God) is an earnest desire to know all that we ought to do to gratify the one we love. Any other desire is an indication that we love ourselves under a pretense of loving God. It shows that we are seeking an empty and deceitful consolation in him, that we want to use God for our pleasure, instead of sacrificing that pleasure for his glory. (Francis Fénelon, "On Maintaining a Life of Prayer," Talking With God)
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16)
In the two years I have been at Biola I have enjoyed scores of delightful conversations with students, and a few involved the roles women and men play according to biblical teaching. These conversations got me thinking about St. Paul, Martin Luther and Francis Fénelon.
A basic truth of the Christian message is that we are broken and cannot fix ourselves. The way we are is that we stand in need of redemption. Maturity comes when we recognize that which we want and think we deserve is often precisely not what God wants for and of us. This is why Paul said we must not gratify the desire of the sinful nature, but rather live in the power of the new animating principle of the Spirit. Luther in his “Lectures on Romans” commented on this when he wrote that we are curved in upon ourselves (“incurvatus in se”). He held that by virtue of our sin nature we tend to seek God for our own ends. The siren song of our culture is that what we want, we deserve, and we should possess. We must be wary of this proposition.
In 1687 Francis Fénelon, the future archbishop of Cambrai, wrote a slender volume entitled “Traité de l'education des filles,” or “On the Education of Girls.” When arrayed against the canvas of contemporary sensibilities the work can appear quaint and old-fashioned. In its day, however, it constituted something of a revolution. Fénelon argued not only that girls ought to be educated, but that their education be taken seriously. He asserted that any such regimen be concrete, prudent, sensible and attuned to the abilities God had allotted to each. He also averred that girls be afforded instruction in matters religious and theological so that they could understand, defend and grow in the faith. In so doing Fénelon tacitly recognized that women and men are both gifted by God and that there is a treasure of potential for the work of the kingdom resident in women as well as men.
It is hardly a secret that questions of biblical teaching and church practice on the matter of the proper roles for women and men are of interest on our campus. However one views these questions, I believe that all of us at Biola can affirm that our commitment is to be faithful to God and to God's word, faithful to the proposition that God gives gifts to his children, and faithful to the notion that Biola aims to help each and every student grow into all that God intends so that each is prepared for the kingdom work God has planned for those who have enlisted in his service.