Philosophy of Biblical Womanhood
What does it mean to be a woman? We can readily observe that our culture is as confused as ever about this topic, and those of us who are Christians would do well to admit our own struggle to rightly understand and confidently apply what God’s Word teaches about the matter.
Whether due to deficiencies in biblical instruction or limited exposure to faithful examples of biblical womanhood and manhood lived out in their families, churches, or society in general, many have wrongly interpreted Scripture to teach that women possess inferior value, purpose, and capacity to men. Either implicitly or explicitly, women are regarded as second-class citizens of the kingdom of God with severely limited opportunities for influence to the world around them and therefore require minimal discipleship, education, and vocational training. Others have been deceived in taking cues from our culture that appeal to their own pride and selfish ambition and therefore seek to establish women’s superiority and dominance over men. Increasing numbers are going so far as to eliminate gender differences and role distinctions altogether.
At Academy31, we bring truth to bear upon both of these lies that tend to foster the ungodly responses of either passive resignation or arrogant defiance. We aim to restore a thoroughly biblical view of womanhood that sees female believers as redeemed image-bearers of God (Gen 1:27), co-heirs of salvation in Christ (Gal 3:28), and essential partners in fulfilling God’s creative and redemptive purposes for mankind (Gen 2:18). We believe that walking worthy of such a high calling absolutely warrants an uncompromisingly high standard of discipleship, education, and vocational training for young women.
Although extensive volumes can and have been written on this topic, we desire to communicate the core of our philosophy of biblical womanhood in a manner which is both sufficiently clear and relatively concise. Our objective here is to effectively establish a thoroughly biblical foundation and framework for our discipleship efforts with our female students without going beyond what the Scripture teaches. We want to avoid perpetuating unbiblical generalizations or stereotypes and asserting any personal opinion or agenda that could create unnecessary conflict, limit our students’ freedom in Christ, or undermine the leadership of their parents and local churches.
As with our statement of faith, we wish to seek unity on essential matters while providing a context in which our students can have respectful and substantive discussions on secondary matters. Each student at Academy31 will carefully form her own convictions based on an ever-increasing personal knowledge of Christ, a maturing faith, and a growing understanding of biblical truth—all under the faithful guidance of her parents and local church.
GOD’S CREATIVE AND REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES FOR WOMEN
The following four points aim to provide a brief summary of biblical womanhood as we understand it from God’s Word and seek to promote it at Academy31:
First, women are created to reflect God's image and glory. We see from the very beginning in Genesis 1:27 that men and women were created distinct from one another to reflect the fullness of God’s glorious nature and character, both individually and in the manner in which they relate to one another. And in Genesis 2:18, God explains in greater detail that since it was not good for man to be alone, He created a “helper” fit for Adam. A helper to do what? To accomplish the work to which God was commissioning him: filling the earth, multiplying, and taking dominion over it. Lest we regard Eve’s “helper” designation as less important or significant than the role assigned to Adam, we should consider that the Hebrew word “ezer” from this passage is used most often in the Old Testament to refer to God Himself (Ps 121:1-2). Far from being demeaning or dismissive, it emphasizes God’s strength and power to come to the aid of His people, rescuing and saving them. So women were created as life givers—not just physically but spiritually—who help, serve, and nurture others in strength, humility, and tender compassion. These are traits not necessarily limited to women, but also modeled for us by Christ (Mt 23:37) and His apostles (1 Th 2:7).
Second, women’s identities and relationships bear the effects of sin. As with every aspect of our lives in this world, womanhood has been marred by the devastating consequences of the fall. In Genesis 3:16, we see that ever since Adam and Eve plunged the entire human race headlong into sin, both men and women have been thrown into perpetual confusion and conflict over their identities, roles, and relationships. Though the man was created first and intended to provide, protect, and practice loving, self-sacrificial leadership, he would now be prone to either cowardly abdicate or callously abuse that position of leadership. And though the woman was created second to help, support, and encourage, she would now tend to be deceived about the God-given dignity and goodness of that role, discontented in it, and therefore tempted to either manipulate her way into power and control or resign herself to spiritual ignorance, immaturity, and passivity. The only hope for restoration of biblical manhood and womanhood in the wake of the fall is found in the promise of the preceding verse, Genesis 3:15, that a redeemer would one day crush the head of the serpent and reverse the curse of sin over God’s people.
Third, biblical womanhood is restored in those who are being conformed to the image of Christ. Through Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection, God has reconciled to Himself all men and women who repent and trust in Him for forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Rom 5:8-11; 2 Cor 5:17-21). While there remains a distinction in their roles within marriage and within the local church that ensures proper order and the carrying out of God’s divine purpose for His body at large, a discussion of these role distinctions should always begin by emphasizing the similarities of male and female believers over and above their differences. Believing men and women are united in Christ as joint heirs of His gift of salvation; there is no difference in their spiritual standing before God, nor in their ability to know and serve Him (Gal 3:28-29). Both genders have received the indwelling Holy Spirit who provides the motivation and power to overcome sin and walk in godliness (Phil 2:12-13; Gal 5:22-25; Eph 5:15-21). Both are commanded to carry out the imperatives of Christian living in relationship to one another by exercising their spiritual gifts in a manner that builds up the body of Christ toward full maturity in Him. This necessitates an attitude of humility and mutual submission to God and each other on the part of both men and women (1 Cor 12:4-7). Furthermore, local church elders are tasked with ensuring that men and women alike are equipped for the work of the ministry that the church might grow toward her God-given potential (Eph 4:1-16).
Fourth, godly women are called to embrace and rejoice in the power and beauty of God’s good and perfect design for them. Having established the spiritual equality of believers and the shared tasks of mutual edification of the body and gospel witness to the world, we can explore gender role distinctions in the proper contextual light of the whole counsel of God as revealed in His Word. Such distinctions not only reflect God’s glory; they also make for order, unity, and peace within the home (for married women) and the church (for all women).
- In marriage, the husband is called to exercise headship through the self-sacrificial love of Christ that cherishes and purifies his bride as he protects and provides for her and any children with which the Lord may entrust them. Likewise, the wife is called to respectfully and joyfully submit to her husband’s headship as the entire church submits to Christ, and just as Christ Himself submitted to the Father in all things though He was equal in essence to Him (Eph 5:22-33; Phil 2:1-11). The Greek verb, “hupotasso,” most often appearing in our English translations of the New Testament as “submit,” or “be subject to” in the passages speaking of the wife’s relationship to her husband, literally means to arrange oneself under another. It encompasses the attitude of her heart as well as her outward behavior.*
- In the local church, the difference in the roles prescribed for men and women in the Scriptures is that women are not eligible to formally teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim 2:11-12). Instead, that function is reserved for men—not all men, but only those who meet the biblically-established standards for the role of elder (1 Tim 3:1-7). Women in the church, as well as men who are not serving as elders, are to submit to the leadership of the elders (Heb 13:17). In respecting this mandate, women and men humbly contribute to the prescribed order and reverence of worship services and show regard for God’s creative design (1 Cor 11:1-16; 14:33-35).
*A word of clarification should be given here: As is the case for any believer in any biblically-defined authority/submission relationship (parent/child, government/citizen, master/slave, etc.), a woman should willingly submit to the authority of her husband (if she is married) and her church elders unless doing so would cause her to sin against a clear command of God’s Word. Church leadership (for believers) and governing authorities/law enforcement (for all people) are to provide oversight and accountability for both spouses, and in so doing, work to protect against abuse of authority and ensure the safety of all parties, including promptly addressing situations of physical violence.
When we rightly understand the above role distinctions for the home and local church, we realize that there are myriad ways in which women can and should positively and proactively further God’s kingdom, and that their contributions are equally valuable and essential as those made by men! Numerous examples in the New Testament from the life of Christ and the early church show that women have always been equal partners in gospel ministry who play vital roles in evangelism, discipleship, missions, service, hospitality, administration, and more. For example, consider:
- the courageous faith which Jesus commended of the woman healed of the issue of blood (Mk 5) and of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was set free from demonic oppression (Mt 15);
- the loving service of Mary and Martha of Bethany, who worshipped and adored Jesus, regularly hosted Him in their home, and as a result were forever endeared to their Savior (Jn 11-12);
- the steadfast devotion of Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Susanna, Salome, and Joanna, who came to support Jesus’ ministry and bore witness to His crucifixion and resurrection when many others had turned away (Lk 8, 23-24);
- the humble obedience of Dorcas, who was known for her good works and charity and was raised to life by the Apostle Peter (Acts 9)
- the pioneering example of Lydia, a leading businesswoman who was among the first converts in Philippi and helped Paul establish the church there (Acts 16);
- the godly wisdom and work of Priscilla, who served in tent-making and gospel ministry alongside her husband Aquila and the Apostle Paul and assisted in the instruction of Apollos (Acts 18);
- the enduring sincerity of Lois and Eunice, who had been transformed by the gospel and zealously brought up their son and grandson Timothy in the faith (2 Tim 1).
As a complement to these faithful examples, we see from Scripture that all women are specially tasked with training other women to love the Lord and walk in the wisdom of His ways, both through formal structured discipleship programs and informal relationships that form within the body of Christ. Additionally, married women are to apply these principles by prioritizing service to their husbands and children (Titus 2:3-5; Prov 31:10-31).
Whether by speaking or serving, in singleness or in marriage, in the home, church, workplace, or community, women are called to be humble, modest, gentle, loving, and hospitable as they approach their relationships and exercise their gifts not for themselves but for others, in God’s strength and for His glory alone (1 Pet 3:1-6; 4:7-11). As they apply the traits of godliness listed in the pastoral epistles such as goodness, faithfulness, dignity, self-control, diligence, and self-sacrifice to their unique roles as life-givers, nurturers, and helpers, they image Christ to one another and to the unbelieving community that surrounds them while passing down a legacy of godliness from one generation to the next.
What could possibly be more important and exciting than equipping young women to fulfill this glorious calling?
To sum all of this up, we want to underscore that at Academy31, our primary pursuit in training up godly young women of character and competence is the pursuit of all believers—that of Christ Himself. When men and women are becoming like Jesus both individually and collectively, loving and serving one another with humble hearts, we all will experience much joy and freedom in Christ and our relationships will be evidenced by peace, unity, and mutual edification rather than conflict, discord, and power struggles.
By teaching and modeling an accurate view of God’s unique design for women and the many opportunities He has given us for service in our families, churches, and communities, we at Academy31 pray that our students will learn to anchor their identities firmly in Christ and embrace their potential for knowing our Lord deeply and personally as His beloved daughters, becoming like Him in godly character, and reflecting His glory in the world through competent kingdom service.