I would like to begin by commending Dorothy Patterson for her clear writing style and the abundance of Scriptural references in support of her thesis. I found myself agreeing with the overwhelming majority of what Mrs. Patterson writes. I confess to having learned more about God's word through Mrs. Patterson's writing and believe Mrs. Patterson not only capable of teaching me the Word of God, she actually did teach me through her exegetically sound and expositionally superb interpretions of the Scriptures. Her exegesis of the Hebrew word banah (Gen. 2:22 - "to build") which was used by Moses to describe God creating woman, and her exposition of various Scriptures to show the equality of worth in both man and woman was indeed enlightening. I couldn't help but think Mrs. Patterson would make a great Hebrew or theology professor if SWBTS were ever to be in need of one.
However, I would like to point out three inconsistencies in Mrs. Patterson's article. These inconsistencies are revealed to prove that Mrs. Patterson's personal convictions of what a Christian woman can and cannot do, are not based upon the biblical paradigm she constructs in her article, but in fact exceed the teaching of Scripture and are based on her cultural, personal and comfortable preferences for women. Though Mrs. Patterson's personal convictions about "womanhood" are amoral, they become problematic when are they are called "biblical" and forced on all Southern Baptists.
Mrs. Patterson writes her article with a spirit of authority based on what she calls the "clearly inspired written words of God," and constructs a broad biblical paradigm for womanhood from these clear words; however, Mrs. Patterson then goes further and writes that the biblical paradigm for womanhood can only be discovered through "meticulous exegesis," "deep study," "learning at the feet of one with the exegetical tools for deep study," in order to "ferret out" exactly what God is saying about His paradigm.
It would seem to me that if God's paradigm for women for all time is supposed to be clear, then He will make it clear. Mrs. Patterson does construct a clear biblical paradigm for women (see below) with which we all can agree, but she goes further and writes of her extra-biblical expectations for women that exceed the very biblical paradigm she constructs. All conservative evangelicals agree on the equality of men and women before God and the character of both Christian men and women as Mrs Patterson reveals. But the fact that evangelicals disagree on whether or not to limit the functions and roles of women in culture, society and the church, should be a clear indication that Mrs. Patterson's personal "paradigm" for women, which exceeds her own biblical paradigm, is based upon her own cultural and personal comforts. This inconsistency between the actually biblical clarity regarding womanhood and Mrs. Patterson's professed ability to "ferret out" God's true intentions about women should cause any Christian to pause and reflect on the appropriateness of demanding others to conform to personal convictions about women that go beyond the simple and clear biblical paradigm for womanhood.
Mrs. Patterson's lays out a very clear Biblical paradigm for womanhood, a paradigm based on the character qualities of God's people, which could also be called a biblical paradigm for manhood; but Mrs. Patterson then reveals some of her own personal preferences, convictions and cultural comforts regarding women - convictions that exceed the very clear biblical paradigm of womanhood she herself constructs in the article.
Mrs. Patterson summarizes "A Paradigm of Biblical Womanhood" this way (my comments follow each point and are in parenthesis):
Who Is She?
(1). She is created "in the image of God"(Gen. 1:27). (But so is a man created by God in the image of God).
(2). She is assigned to be a "helper" (Gen. 2:18). (But so is a man called by God to be a servant).
(3). She is uniquely fashioned with a life-bearing womb and the capacity for nurturing (Gen. 3:16,20). (Here, alone, the woman is distinct from man as intended by God).
(4). She is identified as a "joint heir of the grace of life" (I Pt. 3:7). (But so is a man a joint heir of the grace of life).
What Does She Do?
(5). She "fears the Lord" (Pr. 31:30) (But so should a man).
(6). She develops a "gentle and quiet spirit" (I Pt. 3:4). (But so should a man be quiet and and gentle and not give full vent to his emotions as does a fool. Prov. 29:11).
(7). She honors her husband and the Lord through her diligence and creativity (Pr. 31). (But so should a man honor his wife through diligence and creativity).
(8). She is committed not only to human relationships but also to God (Ru. 1:16) (But so is a man committed not only to human relationships but also to God).
(9). She is available (I Sam 25:32-33) (But so is a man to say, "Here am I Lord, send me.")
(10). She does what she can, however humble the task (Mk 14:8) (But so should a man do everything with humility. Can you even imagine the opposite: "I will NOT change the baby's diaper, I'm a MAN!").
(11). She shares the good news of the Gospel(Acts 21:9) (But so does a man share the good news).
(12). She participates in mentoring and discipleship (Acts 18:26) (But so does a man disciple others).
(13). She accepts God-given boundaries and recognizes the authorities mandated by Scripture (I Tm 2:9-15) (But so should a man accept God-given boundaries, and interestingly, the boundaries in this I Tm 2:9-15 text, which include "women should not adorn themselves with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, etc . . ." are not even mentioned by Mrs. Patterson in her article, with good reason, as I will show momentarily).
I cannot think of one professing Christian, or one evangelical, or even one Southern Baptist who would disagree with the above Biblical paradigm. It basically describes all Christians - both men and women - except in the specific area of child-birth.
This, according to Mrs. Patterson is the Biblical paradigm for womanhood. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Imagine if this were the actual paradigm within the Southern Baptist Convention. Can you imagine the cooperation among married women and single women? Can you envision the acceptance and love among working women and stay-at-home moms? Can you grasp the cooperative nature of families where men stay at home and raise the kids while mom works, and those families where mom stays at home with the kids and dad works? It would seem to me that in the above paradigm all Southern Baptists would be accepted as cooperative, evangelical Southern Baptists.
But Mrs. Patterson allows a few sentences in her article to reveal the true desires of those who wish a uniform "paradigm" for womanhood within our Convention - a "paradigm" that exceeds the Scriptures. It is a paradigm built on personal, cultural and comfortable convictions regarding women that some Southern Baptist conservatives, including Dorothy Patterson, wish to enforce on all others. Allow me to explain. Dorothy says that "evangelicals" propose a "biblical" feminism that is detrimental. She writes:
"The ever-confusing "double speak," even in the church, is an effort to accomodate the corporate agenda coming from spiraling feminism and the personal whims arising out of a postmodern culture." Dorothy Patterson, from paragraph one in "Is There a Biblical Paradigm for Womanhood?"
I would like to ask Mrs. Patterson a few questions about her statement above. Where in the biblical paradigm you delineate for us is a prohibition for a woman to work in a corporation or outside the home? Where in the biblical paradigm is there the possibility for "double speak" in the church? What Christian would ever disagree with your (13) descriptive qualifiers of the "Biblical Paradigm or Womanhood?" Could it be that what some Southern Baptists disagree with you over is not the biblical paradigm, but your cultural and personal paradigm you wish to enforce on all women?
"Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary must equip women to . . . disciple women for Kingdom service." Dorothy Patterson, from paragraph four in "Is There a Biblical Paradigm for Womanhood?"
Again, I would like to ask a few questions of Mrs. Patterson. I commend you for desiring women to teach women, but where do you and your husband assume that a woman cannot teach a man? You have done a great job teaching in this article yourself, but what causes your discomfort for a woman to teach a man Hebrew at your seminary? What causes you angst over a woman discipling a man in the things of God? Is it number (13) in your "paradigm" above? Are you basing your views the specific role of women, as vague and unspoken as they are in your article, on I Timothy 2:9-15, a passage that also seems to prohibit women from wearing "pearls," "gold," or "braids" in their hair? Could it be that the proper interpretation of this passage can only be arrived at when understanding the culture in which Timothy found himself at the time? In other words, do you believe that the only true interpretation of this I Timothy text is that a woman cannot ever teach or ever have "authority" over a man whether it be in culture, the church or the home? Is that your view? If so, just say it. If not, then I think you must allow for differing interpretations of this text. Interestingly, you yourself refrain from defining the boundaries of I Timothy 2:9-15 in your article. If they were important, it would seem to me that you would have listed them in your "paradigm."
"Every woman serious about selfless service to Christ must ferret out the divinely appointed design from the Creator Himself even if that prototype does not appear palatable to contemporary standards and agendas." Dorothy Patterson, from the last paragraph, "Is There a Biblical Paradigm for Womanhood?"
The SWBTS news magazine goes on to profile women at Southwestern, including Mrs. Patterson, who are all homemakers, married, and committed to raising children in the home while the husband makes the living. I enjoyed reading all the profiles and commend each woman for following God's design for her life.
However, these Southern Baptist Theological Seminary women, including Mrs. Patterson, need to realize that there are some Southern Baptist women who are divorced or single, some Southern Baptist women who are living as a single-parents raising their kids alone, some Southern Baptist married women who work outside the home while raising their children as well, and some Southern Baptist women who are are missionaries, teachers, and corporate officers with authority over men - and they all are fulfilling God's design for their lives. I commend these women for following God's design for their life just as much as I commend the SWBTS women who stay at home, raising kids, while their husbands preach.
And, I have Scripture on my side as I commend both groups. The biblical paradigm for womanhood Mrs. Patterson gave in her article is fulfilled by each of the categories of women listed above. It seems to me that the real cultural dilemma going on in the Southern Baptist Convention is the pushing upon all women an extra-Biblical paradigm for women that reflects the 1950's "Leave It to Beaver" model of womanhood and has nothing to do with Scripture, but everything to do with middle class America a generation ago. Southern Baptists must learn that to believe in the inerrant, infallible, sufficient Scripture is the ability to lay aside all cultural biases and follow Scripture alone.
I believe Mrs. Patterson has been clearer in previous years regarding her personal convictions about womanhood. For instance, in the article she wrote in 2001 entitled Lies vs. Truth: The Question is Biblical Womanhood, she argues for Convention wide acceptance of her interpretations of I Timothy 2:9-15. I'm hoping that Mrs. Patterson's vagueness about her personal convictions regarding women in the SWBTS Fall 2008 newsletter reflects a more cooperative spirit with other Southern Baptists who do not share her personal convictions that exceed the clear biblical paradigm of womanhood. I hope so. However, if Mrs. Patterson's article is simply a subterfuge to hide the real paradigm for women that is held by Fundamentalists in our Convention, then I have a prediction to make. If we as a Convention do not resist demands that all Southern Baptist conform to an extra-biblical paradigm of womanhood, a paradigm that is often passed off as "biblical," we will find our growth and influence in the kingdom of Christ diminished for decades to come.
In His Grace,