There is a real danger in only learning from white middle class males. Most of the theologians I read, spend time with, and have been shaped and influenced by fall in that category. Even while I readily admit they are all different and their experiences are all different they nonetheless all fall within a range of experiences that are generally native to white middle class males. But the Scriptures are obviously bigger than this demographic, and to grasp more of this big God I need to learn from others outside this demographic. A diversity of perspectives serves theology better.
Most of us readily recognize how shallow it would be to learn our theology from only one person. If I were to study only John MacArthur or John Piper, no matter how great their theology is, mine would be shallow because I refused to hear any other voices, perspectives, or articulations. I like those men, but it doesn’t serve me well to confine my growth to only one other fallible man. Fallible is a key word here too. After all no single theologian has cornered the market on truth. No single theologian can be said to get it all right. There isn’t anyone that I agree with on all doctrines, interpretations, or applications. I don’t even agree with myself all the time. So to limit my influences would significantly impair my theology and, perhaps more seriously, would jeopardize my conformity to Scripture. That is to say, if I only learn from one person I could more easily be said to be conformed to that theologian than I could say I was conformed to Scripture. Most of us recognize this at an individual level, but the same is true at a demographic level.
To learn only from white middle class males is to have a more or less white middle class male theology. The danger here is that I not only limit, again, my theological influences and growth, but I am more likely able to overlook poor theology, poor application, or poor interpretation. Without some other voices to challenge the perspectives that may be more native to my experiences as a white middle class male I won’t see the blind spots in my theology. That’s why I want to learn theology from women.
Godly women, shaped by Scripture and by different life experiences can enrich my own theology. There are plenty of women in my world who know their Bibles and know their God well. I want to learn from them about how God has been using Scripture in their lives. I want them to give me pushback on my interpretation of Scripture so that I am forced to ask questions about how I draw my conclusions. Do I draw them based on exegesis or am I reading my own cultural experiences too much into the text. I need different voices from different perspectives to help me do that. Women bring different eyes to the text often, allowing me to see theology through their eyes enables me to better shape my theology around what God’s Word actually teaches, and not just around what I think it teaches. This is vital for my own growth and my usefulness in the Kingdom.
It’s not that any one cultural experience is better, that women some how have a more pure cultural experience. All cultural experiences are shaped by both truth and falsehood, sin and holiness. But that makes them all useful in helping me to look at the text more carefully. I may decide that this woman’s interpretation doesn’t do justice to the text, but I am still better for having learned it. I am more able to shape my understanding by what I learn about the text in contrast to that interpretation. At other times this woman’s understanding and application may actually help me rethink how I’ve been applying the text. Maybe, because of my own experiences, I hadn’t observed carefully enough the implications of a passage, or the utility of this doctrine for a specific area of life. A diversity of perspectives helps me to challenge my theology, and grow as a theologian. That’s why I want to learn theology from women.
There will be many of my friends who will appreciate these sentiments, but who might have questions about how this all plays out. Some will be concerned about “gender roles.” I readily expect some of my more hard Complimentarian friends to be uneasy with this post. If nailed to the wall I would call myself a “soft” Complimentarian, so there is much from that camp that I would agree with. But over the next few weeks I want to explore how I can hold this position and that of a Complimentarian. The two are, I believe, extremely compatible. I’ll begin next week by arguing that women need to study theology.