Where are the lady theologians?

10 Feb

This is something that has been nagging at the back of my mind for awhile…

Most (but not all) of the people I have good theological discussions with are guys. I have no problem with this — they are all fabulous men whom I respect and love. I have had some of the most fun conversations with them, discussing different scriptures and points of theology, arguing different viewpoints (of course, all in good humor and with open minds), and searching out the truth together. Some of my best guy friends are people I routinely hash out theology with.

Yet sometimes, I stop and wonder… where are all the women? I know a few pretty intense theological ladies around here, so I know they exist. But overwhelmingly, as I’ve read theology books and entered into discussions, both in person and online, it’s a field of mostly men.  I would not conisder myself a feminist by any means, but I do find myself a bit perplexed by the lopsided ratio.

I deifnitely don’t think it’s a case of a prejudiced society stifling the voices of the women in our nation. Perhaps in the past it has been that, but today, even most conservative complementarians don’t have issues with reading a woman’s work and insight into the Word. There are very few people left in our culture who would stop a woman from learning or writing theology (teaching is another matter, but I’ll leave that alone for now 🙂 ). So I still have to wonder where we all are in this field of study. It seems like I find myself all too often being the only girl in the middle of a theological discussion.

I’m not even worried about getting the ratio up to 50/50. If the simple fact of the matter is that disproportionately more men are drawn and called to theology than women are, that’s well and good, and I will not complain about that in the least. But I have a suspicion that there are a lot more ladies out there with a lot more depth in the Word than we know about yet.

I remember one time at a women’s conference, Shelley Hundley spoke of the difference between how men and women approach studying eschatology together. She described how the guys would be huddled around the whiteboard, trying to calculate the speed, height, and angle of descent of Jesus when He’s coming back to the earth. I loved Shelley’s remark on this point: “It’s not that I’m stupid; I just don’t care!” She went on to explain how, as the guys are postulating the numbers, the women are asking questions about how Jesus feels when He’s coming back.

Neither one of these approaches is higher or lower than the other. And they’re not mutually exclusive, either (I know several girls who would have a blast figuring out the numbers, and a bunch of guys who would love to know what Jesus’ emotions are like). But all the same, it’s a good depiction of how men and women generally have a little different angle from which they approach the scriptures. Rather than comparing these views and passing judgments, saying that the men are too calculative, or the women are too emotional, we should view them as complementary. We need each other to get the fuller picture. Hence, I wonder again where the lady theologians are.

I think part of the shortage is because it generally just doesn’t occur to us to become theologians. Because theology has traditionally been a fairly male-dominated field (the motives behind that are, at this point, irrelevant — leave the past in the past), it seems to me that a lot of women who are passionate about a life of ministry simply don’t consider theologian as one of their options. When we think ministry, we tend to jump to women’s Bible studies and Sunday Schools and serving in soup kitchens. All of these things are fantastic, noble callings, and mega kudos to all the women who serve faithfully in these areas. Keep doing it and keep recruiting other people to join you in it.

But I would like to put out a call to whoever might be relating to this post — I think it’s time that some of us ladies step it up in the area of theology. There are brilliant women out there who really love Jesus and devour the Word, and the rest of the body of Christ can totally benefit from what they have to say. We are in need of women who approach the scriptures as women, thinking and expressing themselves as is natural for them to do as women. We are in need of women who write and speak the Word without either a shrinking violet kind of intimidation, or a feministic defensive agenda. Whether or not these ladies ever turn out multi-volume theses or extensive lecture series (although some undoubtedly will), I believe it’s time for the female theologians to begin expressing the deposit of grace that rests upon their lives.

Eschatology, Christolgy, Pneumatolgy, Soteriology, or whatever stirs your heart — ladies, have at it. Jump in and study it, meditate on it, and pray over it like crazy. Then give it voice in whatever genre and sphere of influence the Lord has given you.

I know you’re out there. 🙂 And I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.


Posted by on February 10, 2007 in Heart Stuff, Theology


16 responses to “Where are the lady theologians?

  1. Christine

    February 10, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    It’s a good question, and I am presently without any profound insights.

    This is a weird propensity that manifests even in my own life. While I am quite drawn to theology, there’s this part of me that tells me I am somehow out of place. It’s much safer to encourage someone like Richard in his theological pursuits and help him to more clearly communicate his ideas. I may dive into these things myself… but rarely will I actually speak up and give voice to the things I am discovering.

  2. Amanda Beattie

    February 10, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    I’ve totally felt that awkwardness, too. Thankfully I have enough people around me who kick me back into play.

    Seeing as you’re one of the women I do actually have some really fun theological discussions with, I would suggest that you have some stuff worth saying. 🙂 And you’ve got a couple of blogs. Hmm… I think I’m seeing a connection there.

  3. Christine

    February 11, 2007 at 6:23 am

    What? Where? What connection? … I don’t see it… ?


  4. Matt Hartke

    February 11, 2007 at 11:45 am

    That post was much needed! The moment I saw the title I thought, “Alicia B. Good! She is a FOR REAL theologian, why isn’t she stepping into her calling in a public way?” Amanda Beattie, you need to share the content of this post *often* with the ladies around the base, especially the ones on the night watch. There so many brilliant and on fire women in the night.

  5. Dorean

    February 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Awesome point, and well written. Yea for a rational voice!

    Now, for those of us not blessed with living in KC so we can just sign up for FSM, where do we start? The thought of dropping in to a Christian bookstore and picking up a theology book that reads like an encyclopedia not only intimidates me, but makes me cringe at the thought of the boredom, as well. Are there some resources out there that would help me get started? If not, how soon will yours be written? 😉

  6. Amanda Beattie

    February 11, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Matt – No kidding. Alisha has some of the most amazing, in-depth insights. We were in the same Bible study group once, and every time she opened her mouth, it blew me away. I intend to respecfully bug some of my friends about this point — please feel free to respectfully bug some of your friends too. 🙂

    Mom – Ooh. Big question. I might have to dedicate a separate blog entry to this sometime. We’ll talk. 😀

  7. brian

    February 11, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    I am in favor of Christian Theologians! Anyone willing to go deep and be real is qualified to be it and do it. Do be do be do…

    I think women in general (and exceptions are common) tend to look for a place of collaboration and pre-arranged acceptance before chiming in to a conversation – it’s a connectedness kind of thing, I think – Contrariwise, men will express their competitive zeal by speaking up before acceptance is established. Same problem tends to stifle girls in co-ed schools, especially when the boys are less mature and prone to boastful monopolization of discussion.

    If my thesis is correct, then I think the ladies are out there, just waiting for the green light of invitation. Speaking for all wise men, I say “Please, ladies, your input is important, desired, will be welcomed, respected, and we’ll love you all the more for it.” I promise.

    Even it it is all mushy feeling stuff I don’t get right away… 🙂

    — Brian

    BTW: What exactly is a complementarian? What other kinds are there beside “conservative complementarians?” I’ve got to get me a KC vocabulary right away…

  8. Emily Mea

    February 11, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    I’ve noticed the same thing here at home. It’s puzzled me, but I haven’t been able to put words to what I have been seeing happen. It’s all so frustrating because I know I have some wonderful girlfriends down here who have these amazing revelations about God that I could totally learn from, but they don’t reveal those revelations very often – and even then its rarely in front of the guys. But on the other hand I can get the guys down here to talk theology at any time. Talk about some great insights that leave me with things to think and pray about.

  9. Amanda Beattie

    February 12, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Emily – Sounds like you’ve got some great people to gently encourage to give voice to the revelations they’ve got in their hearts… And I do mean “encourage,” as in giving lots of positive feedback when they actually do work up the courage to let it fly. I can testify that I personally feel so much freer to jump into a new thing if I know I have somebody cheering for me.

  10. Amanda Beattie

    February 12, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Dad, I know we talked on the phone about this some, but I wanted to respond for the benefit of anyone reading the comments…

    Firstly, thanks so much for the male insight on this stuff. It’s very helpful to see. (And on that note, thank you, Matt, as well!)

    Secondly, “complementarian” is the preferred name for people who believe that women have defined roles in church–roles which, to one degree or another, prohibit their teaching or preaching. At the lighter end of the spectrum, this thinking means women can only teach or preach if properly sanctioned and “covered” by male leadership. At the most extreme other end of the spectrum, women are not allowed to teach at all — some folks even saying that they shouldn’t teach children’s Sunday School if boys are in attendance.

    By conservative complementarians, I was referring to those who believe that women are not allowed to teach or preach in a church setting at all. I read a blog not too long ago by a gentleman of this viewpoint — although he was strongly against women preaching to men in church, he saw no moral problem with a man reading a woman’s theological work.

  11. Amanda Beattie

    February 12, 2007 at 1:15 am

    P.S. Just to clarify, most complimentarians don’t go to the extreme of totally shutting women down in ministry. The vast majority believe women can have some input and outreach within the church — just so long as it’s not preaching, teaching, pastoring, or being a deacon/elder over adult men.

  12. Emily Mea

    February 12, 2007 at 4:32 am

    Thanks for the advice. You’re definately right, there are some amazingly great people down here that I want to encourage to share some of the revelation they’ve gotten in that secret place of prayer. I always remind myself when they start opening up that I need to shut-up. If I be quiet and wait to ask questions/offer opinions/etc, they are more likely to keep going or, even better, open up again later.

  13. Breezy Wilson

    February 12, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Wow, Amanda I completly agree with your formation of thought regaurding women in the field of theological thinking and discussion, and I also agree that Alicia needs to get out there as soon as the Lord releases her to speak up!!! I believe you are truly one of the most respected women on my roster of “impressivy in love with jesus driving me to holy jealousy” Women on the night watch. Keep running as hard as you do now!!!


    PS I miss Daniel we must re-commence!!!

  14. Amanda Beattie

    February 12, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Breezy – thanks for the encouragement. I’m still open for studying Daniel — just waiting for you to tell me whether Sun 1am or Wed 1am will work for you.

  15. jareddiehl

    February 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    I have wondered the same thing too…


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