The Spirit of the Age: Why Wives Must Be Theologians
Some wives find the study of theology impractical, if not daunting.
Often when we think of theological rigor, we imagine being able to readily define propitiation, teach women through a book in Scripture, answer how God sovereignly elects (and still finds man responsible for his guilt), or explain notoriously obscure chapters in the Bible like Revelation 20. If we have such associations, we will excuse ourselves from the need to be theologically astute since most of this feels optional when considering our daily responsibilities. But, knowing his Word well is so much more than this.
I can recall when I first began to disciple my now best friend, Katy. For years before we met, the church she attended embraced her with unconditional, warm affirmation and even sacrificial care, but very rarely mentioned sin. Coming from a broken unbelieving family, these were the most loving people she had ever known.
Realizing that she didn’t know much about the Bible, she started attending my local church to join the discipleship team I was leading. We started with a one-year Bible reading plan. She was all in and learning a ton. I’ll never forget the concern she shared over a bowl of cereal late one night, when, halfway through the Gospels at the time, she respectfully but somewhat discouragingly confessed, “Jesus doesn’t sound very loving.”
The harsh words he had for the Pharisees, the ongoing correction he had for his disciples, the absence of hugs or encouraging words, the flipping of tables–it just didn’t add up. After walking on water and then almost drowning, Jesus did not say, “Good job, Peter! At least you got out of the boat!” Jesus said, “Peter, why did you doubt?”
Her honest sentiment highlighted something that I was all too familiar with: the conflict between what the Bible actually said and my culturally-informed, experience-as-authority idea about reality. Where there is a lack of theologically-shaped thinking, there is usually an abundance of well-meaning assumptions. Knowing the Word well redefines, or rather, properly defines all that we think we know. Where there is a lack of theologically-shaped thinking, there is usually an abundance of well-meaning assumptions. Click To Tweet
Who Defines “Wife”?
Do not be conformed to this world (age), but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2)
As a woman begins to study the Scriptures, she continually discovers how much error she has lived quite comfortably with for years. We begin to realize how much meaning we regularly imported into Bible passages that we had only looked at passively–and as a result, have defined culturally. In some cases, we have trusted well-meaning teachers with nice-sounding arguments and have assumed the answers to basic questions all Christians should know like, “Who is Jesus?” or “What is the gospel?” Or, if you’re like me, “What does it mean to be a wife?”
When I met my husband, many of the passages of Scripture about marriage suddenly took on new life and urgency. He began to ask questions: What does it mean to be the husband? What does it mean to be the wife? Marriage, we knew, was God’s idea that he created for a glorious purpose: to display the gospel of his Son and his Bride — how did this work our practically? If wedding bells in Eden foreshadowed wedding bells in the new Jerusalem, how could we fit our marriage into God’s purposes?
I could not afford to assume. Good theology would be vital even at this point of defining and directing not only who I was to be as a child of God, but specifically a godly wife. In this gospel-displaying role, who or what will determine the way we live? Will we listen to culture, give ourselves to pragmatism, or trust what God has said?
The Wife of This Age
In Scripture, for instance, we find that the emphasis of the wife’s respect and submission to her husband as unto the Lord was undeniably important. The wife’s “imperishable beauty” in God’s eyes is tied to an inward spirit that is not churning against the appointed authority of her husband, but is settled, “quiet,” submissive, and fearless as she hopes in God (1 Peter 3:4-6). More than that, it is a submission in everything (Ephesians 5:24), a submission that keeps God’s word from being reviled (Titus 2:5). Although we are equal-in-dignity, co-heirs of grace, we are not equal-in-authority roommates with interchangeable roles.
Why was I so surprised that God unapologetically upholds this kind of hierarchy? Because I had no idea how much I had been molded by the age. I was guilty of Elisabeth Elliot’s assessment:
If we have become so mature and open-minded and adaptable and liberated that the commands of Scripture directed wives– “adapt,” “submit,” “subject” — lose their meaning, if the word head no longer carries any connotation of authority, and hierarchy has come to mean tyranny, we have been drowned in the flood of liberation ideology.
The spirit of the age is one that hates hierarchy and authority. Patriarchy has become a cuss word. It is regarded as a thing of the past. Feminism is rampant and though it has accomplished much, it grows hungrier for power with each rising generation. No sphere of our lives has been untouched by its influence. But basing our marriages on the rock of God’s word causes our homes to stand when the winds blow and the rain falls.
And not only winds of feminism. Abuses of power have been (rightly) exposed and modernity’s answer has been to take away the authority altogether from whomever has had it in an effort to pursue the chief ideal of our western society: equality. Distinctions must disappear. Leadership must be shared. Children’s votes hold greater swaying power in family decisions than ever before. And husband and wife roles become interchangeable according to strengths and personalities, so that none may ever question whether either is capable of the other’s job.
The gap between how the Word of God defines these roles and what culture prescribes is ever-increasing. Now more than ever, we must consider how crucial it is for us as Christian wives to be thoroughly rooted in our Scripture.
A Wife According to Theology
It is impossible to list all the ways that being transformed by the renewing of the mind affects what and how we speak. It directs all that we do on a regular basis. From the basics of learning to make our requests known to God (before or instead of making accusations to husbands!), and letting the peace that surpasses understanding guard our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus, to a lifestyle of casting cares upon the Lord so our hearts are free to be strong, willing helpers to our husbands; theology is inescapably relevant.
Consider one of the most famous wives in the Bible. Proverbs 31 describes an excellent wife as a woman who is precious, strong, hard-working, sacrificial, business-savvy, generous, fearless, wise, kind, fruitful, fearful of the Lord, and looking well to the ways of her household. She is anything but weak. In all she does, she is trusted (and praised) by her husband in the countless affairs of a godly, well-kept, industrious home.
The foundation she built her life upon? Good theology. All this practical activity came from fearing the Lord. She knew her God, feared her God, and obeyed her God. We will not fear Him if we don’t hear him. And like the excellent wife described, the result of studying his words well is not formulaic. It is not as much an equation as it is a planting of a tree by streams of water (Psalm 1). We do not see all that is happening beneath the ground. We don’t exactly know how deep the roots get. But in time, we do see the unmovable stump, the ever-flourishing leaves, the vibrant colors, the delightful fruit, and the life-giving branches needed to strengthen our husbands in their callings and proclaim Christ to the next generation.
Though I have a long way to go in many areas, my daily disposition towards my husband is not what it was even one year ago. Former priorities and future plans have shifted. My strong, Latina personality is very present, but (even that!) gets transformed by Scripture. As it does for all of life, growing in good theology will make your marriage and family different as well. As you give yourself intentionally to all God says–even the things many explain away–and walk in it without grumbling or disputing, you will inevitably shine in the midst of a crooked generation. You’ll find yourself less and less conformed to this world, and more and more radiant of another.