The Legacy of Biblical Womanhood

The Legacy of Biblical Womanhood

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Overview

A timely call to women to live out and leave a legacy of biblical womanhood to the next generation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781581344547
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 03/07/2003
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Susan Hunt is a mother, grandmother, pastor’s wife, author, and the former director of women’s ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. Hunt has written a number of books, including Spiritual Mothering.

Barbara Thompson is a former member of the Women’s Advisory Sub-Committee (WASC) to the Christian Education and Publications Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America and currently serves as a consultant to this committee. She has a Master of Social Work from Louisiana State University and experience in biblical counseling.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Call — Legacy of Grace

... we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling. ...

2 THESSALONIANS 1 : 11

* * *

Barbara and Susan

We have been friends for a long time. It's a good thing. It seemed obvious that we would write a book together. We spend countless hours talking about biblical womanhood. Our hearts beat as one on this topic. We can finish each other's sentences. After several stimulating times of sharing what each other was learning and teaching in women's conferences, it clicked — why not put our material together and — voila! — a book. We had a great plan. Susan would write Part One, Barbara would write Part Two, and whoever finished first would write Part Three. This would be easy. We could turn this baby out in record time and move on to other projects.

We were so wrong, and that's an understatement.

This book taxed our brains and our spirits, and there was an undercurrent of fear that it would tax our friendship. The book simply did not come together, but somehow we knew that we were supposed to persevere, and we suspected it would be quite an adventure.

Susan: Barbara has been involved in most of my writing projects. She reads and reacts. Her insights are invaluable. We often laugh that she understands what I have written about womanhood better than I do. Her life experiences and professional background as a counselor give her an edge on knowing the culture and understanding why we need to articulate a biblical philosophy of womanhood.

Barbara: I was a liberal feminist social worker before becoming a biblical counselor. I know the world's paradigm for womanhood firsthand.

Susan: I love to hear Barbara teach. I'm amazed when I watch her facilitate group discussions. Her thoughts and words come fast. She can synthesize people's ideas and list them on a flipchart almost before they speak. Her knowledge of God's Word and ways is matched by her love for Him and His people. Her counseling skills are wrapped in wisdom. I knew that if this book was going to explore how biblical womanhood is lived out in various relationships, I needed Barbara's expertise. I also knew that it is difficult for her to harness her thoughts and put them on paper, but I assumed it was simply a matter of slowing down and taking the time to do it.

Barbara: When Susan asked me to coauthor this book, I rather glibly agreed. I assumed that putting ideas I had taught into written form would be difficult but not impossible. Wrong! I hit the wall of God's severe mercy and realized that I cannot put ideas on paper. I write in a stream of consciousness, and one needs a Faulknerian dictionary to interpret. I struggled. My inability to write my chapters was pricey. It cost my notion that I should always carry my own weight and that I can do anything I set my mind to. It made me dependent on my sister in Christ in a way that is uncomfortable. It cost me ownership of this book. I cannot say to my parents or others, "I wrote that chapter."

Susan: My struggle was guilt. I felt that Barbara's struggle was my fault. I felt that I should be able to help her, and I didn't know how. I was fearful that if I took her thoughts and put them into my words, I would cheat her. I did not want to rob her of her voice. Plus it seemed the epitome of arrogance even to consider taking her fertile thoughts and putting them into my feeble words. Barbara is the quick, articulate one. I am the slow plodder. I was baffled.

Barbara: I kept thinking, Let's go back to the old way — Susan writes, and I speak!

Susan: We both knew theologically that we needed each other, but this book took us to the outer limits of that reality. We realized that Plan A was not going to work, but we were both convinced that our passion was right. We wanted to explore the height and depth and width and length of biblical womanhood, and we wanted to take other women on the quest. We were willing to find a new way to do it.

Barbara: I realized that I had to stop putting a higher value on Susan's giftedness. We both have strengths and weaknesses, and we needed to figure out how to blend them to accomplish this particular task. Susan and I realized in a fresh way the wonder of Christ glorifying Himself through an unlikely relationship between two sisters united by Him, in Him, and for Him. I began wondering: Is this the covenantal way?

Susan: We were convinced that the concept of covenant is the key to discovering new dimensions of biblical womanhood. Finally the "aha!" moment came. The problem was not with the concept; it was with the plan. We were taking a noncovenantal approach to teach a covenantal concept. We were writing individualistically, and our gracious Father had something far better for us and for this book.

Barbara: We could not believe it took such struggling to see what should have been obvious. We were stopped in our tracks. Even when we know the theological concept of covenant, we are easily ensnared in the trap of individualism. God simply would not allow us to function that way.

Barbara and Susan: This is a relational book, and it had to be written out of the context of a relationship. It took about twice as long, but we're not complaining. It truly became a seamless, collaborative effort. We are not even sure which thoughts came from whom. This book is not two voices. It is one voice. To personalize Romans 15:5-6: The God of endurance and encouragement granted us to live and write in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together with one voice we glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And the relationship? A little taxed but a lot tighter — the covenant way.

* * *

As eyesight dims, perspective clears. Part of the joy of growing older is that the mingling of the bigness of life and the dailiness of life is more comprehensible and comfortable than it was thirty years ago when I (Susan) was in the midst of mothering three little children. My perspective peaked when our family gathered in a Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Alabama, to participate in a glorious event. Our granddaughter Mary Kate made her public profession of faith and was received as a full communing member of the church.

Our family has decided that this is perhaps the most momentous event in the lives of our grandchildren. It is the event that should determine every other decision that child will make — from how she will spend the Sabbath to how she spends her money, from her choice of clothes to her choice of a husband. This milestone calls for a pull-out-all-the-stops celebration, and we had that for Mary Kate.

As we sat together on the front two pews of the church, I experienced a multitude of emotions and thoughts. My mother was with us, and there was a moment when I realized that three generations of women were watching the fourth generation do what each of us had done. There was a rush of gratitude for the legacy of grace that God has given to another generation. There was also an overwhelming desire to tell Mary Kate everything we had learned about being a redeemed woman. I longed to hand her a recipe and say, "Mary Kate, follow this, and life will turn out delicious."

But I know better. I know that life is not always delicious because these same women stood at a grave when we buried Mary Kate's baby sister Annie Grace.

However, I am convinced that everything Mary Kate needs to know in life and in death was encapsulated in seed form in those few moments when she took her covenant vows and pledged herself to Jesus and to His people. That event is an object lesson that we can use to teach Mary Kate the grand themes of Scripture. And it is those overarching themes that she needs to know and to bring to bear on every decision, circumstance, relationship, and role she will face.

Much of the confusion about womanhood comes because we isolate the discussion from the major themes of Scripture, and then we reduce the discussion to roles and behaviors. This approach fails to recognize the unity of God's Word and usually results in distortions. It fails to give the rich legacy of biblical womanhood to the next generation.

The themes that I want to teach and pass on to Mary Kate and her generation are applicable regardless of the life-journey God has prepared for them.

Big Theme #1 — God created woman to be a helper.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1 NIV). These opening words of Scripture teach us that God is the reference point for all of life. The power of His Word brought creation into existence. His Word is the authority for all of life. At the end of each creation day God said, "It is good." Creation was good because the Creator is good.

On the sixth day God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness ..." (Genesis 1:26 NIV). Being created in God's image gives identity and purpose. Mary Kate stood before her family and church as an image-bearer of the sovereign Creator (her identity) with the capacity to reflect His glory (her purpose). So did our grandson when he made his public profession of faith, but Mary Kate stood there as a female image-bearer. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27 NIV).

The apostle Paul tells us, "There is neither ... male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28 NIV). There are no distinctions or preferential treatment in our union with Christ, but this does not negate God's creation design and order.

"The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'" (Genesis 2:18 NIV). Why was it not good for the man to be alone? This question pushes us back to the relational, covenantal character of God. The unity and diversity of the Trinity are reflected in God's image-bearers. The man and woman were equal but different. Gender distinctiveness flowed out of their equality in such a perfectly complementary way that it blended into a mysterious oneness. In marriage this oneness is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.

This does not mean that a person has to be married to reflect fully the glory of God. But it does mean that gender distinctiveness was essential before God gave His stamp of approval: "It is very good." And yet we live in a culture where hostility against this design and order has raged for several decades. The feminist philosophy says that equality means sameness, but that absurdity has created chaos and confusion.

In her book What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us, Danielle Crittenden writes:

For in all the ripping down of barriers that has taken place over a generation, we may have inadvertently also smashed the foundations necessary for our happiness. Pretending that we are the same as men — with similar needs and desires — has only led many of us to find out, brutally, how different we really are. In demanding radical independence — from men, from our families — we may have also abandoned certain bargains and institutions that didn't always work perfectly but until very recently were civilization's best ways of taming the feckless human heart.

Mrs. Crittenden's research and analysis are helpful, but her solutions are flawed because they make woman the reference point.

I pray that Mary Kate and her generation will write books entitled What Our Mothers Told Us. These books will gratefully declare:

Our mothers boldly told us that our reference point is God; we are His image-bearers; His Word is our authority; our purpose is His glory.

They told us about our helper design, which is never outdated because it transcends time and place. It is larger than any role in life, but it impacts every role. It is the design stamped upon us at creation. It is intrinsic to who we are as women. It is good because God is good.

They unwaveringly told us about our mission to be life-givers in every relationship and every circumstance.

The Hebrew word that is translated helper in Genesis 2:18 is ezer. In the Old Testament this word is used primarily to refer to God as our helper. When we consider how God is our helper, we begin to see the richness and the strength of this word. Moses spoke of God as his helper who saved him from the sword of Pharaoh (Exodus 18:4). In Psalms we read that God is the helper of the victim, the fatherless, the needy, and the afflicted (10:14; 72:12; 86:17). God is referred to as a helper who is our support, strength, and shield (Psalm 20:2; 28:7; 33:20).

Helper is not a fragile word, and we are not called to a mission of fluff. This is a life-giving ministry of nurture, defense, comfort, and caring. Adam celebrated the purpose and privilege of this design when he "called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20 NKJV).

Two words summarize the helper ministry: community and compassion. But sin marred woman's design, and now she thinks about her womanhood in terms of her own self-fulfillment. She seeks her own completeness. She is her own reference point. She is her own authority. She abandons her design and mission for a never-ending quest for her own happiness. Woman became a life-taker rather than a life-giver.

Big Theme #2: The Gospel empowers and compels us to exercise our design.

Mary Kate's church graciously invited my husband to officiate as she took her vows. Gene's eyes glistened, and his voice trembled as he asked his granddaughter:

Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope, except through His sovereign mercy?

Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Saviour of sinners, and do you receive and trust Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

As Mary Kate answered in the affirmative, I thrilled at the knowledge that God is the initiator in her relationship with Him. He chose her before the foundation of the world, set His affection on her, claimed her as His own, and pledged Himself to her in covenant faithfulness (Ephesians 1). I was struck with the thought that no matter how long I live, I can never exhaust the wonder of redemption. I will always have something fresh and sweet to tell Mary Kate about our Redeemer.

Then Gene asked:

Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you endeavor to live as becometh the followers of Christ?

It is because of our redemption that we can live out our helper design. Redeeming love breaks the reign of sin in our lives and empowers us to fulfill our creation mission. And it is our knowledge of our Redeemer's love that compels us to do so. We are products of our theology. What Mary Kate believes about God will show up every minute of every day. I want her to understand grace so well that she never becomes entangled in "works righteousness." I want her to know that she is justified by grace and that she is sanctified by grace. I want her to know the expanse of God's love for her. I want her to know that His love is not conditioned on her performance.

The redeemed woman who has a biblical apologetic of womanhood has a focus and clarity of purpose that enables her to be a true helper and to fulfill her life-giving mission. Her "teaching ... is a fountain of life" (Proverbs 13:14 NIV), her "tranquil heart gives life to the flesh" (Proverbs 14:30), and her "gentle tongue is a tree of life" (Proverbs 15:4).

She is so grateful for God's mercy in her life that she is a stream of mercy and forgiveness to others.

She is so captivated by the reality that she is clothed in the righteousness of Christ that she joyfully extends this love and acceptance to others.

Her sights are on her heavenly home. This pilgrim mentality helps to protect her from being trapped by the materialism of the world.

She values the calling of wife and mother, but this is not what defines her. She does not make an idol of her family.

She fiercely guards her family, but she holds them loosely before God because she trusts His sovereignty and His love.

Her theology produces a maturity that enables her to move with grace through different seasons and circumstances of life.

The redeemed helper is not inward focused. You will find her visiting the sick and elderly, crossing social and cultural barriers to extend the boundaries of the covenant to the oppressed and needy and afflicted, often taking her children or a younger woman with her so that she trains another generation to live covenantally.

The redeemed helper who is not married understands that she is a mother in Israel, and she joins with other women to be corporate helpers in God's covenant community.

The redeemed helper who is married knows that her marriage is to be a gospel picture to her children, to the covenant community, and to the world. In order for it to be so, she knows that her husband must be the first beneficiary of her capacity to bring community and compassion into a relationship and that he must see the brightest reflection of her redemption.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Legacy of Biblical Womanhood"
by .
Copyright © 2003 Susan Hunt and Barbara Thompson.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments8
Foreword9
Part 1The Legacy
1The Call--Legacy of Grace13
2The Covenant--Legacy of the Promise29
3The Continuity--Legacy of Hope49
4The Commission--Legacy of Fruitfulness65
Part 2Living and Leaving the Legacy
5Daughter--Legacy of Gratitude87
6Sister--Legacy of Unity107
7Neighbor--Legacy of Mercy121
8Wife--Legacy of Intimacy137
9Mother--Legacy of Life157
10Pilgrim--Legacy of Fruitfulness173
Part 3Equipping Women to Live and Leave the Legacy
11A Covenantal Philosophy of Women's Ministry193
12Designing and Implementing a Spiritual-Mothering Ministry209
Conclusion218
Notes220

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