Re-release focuses on what women can do in the church
March 13 2012 by Ashley Allen, Book Review

The Role of Women in the Church by Charles C. Ryrie (B&H Academic, October 2011)
 
Originally released in 1958, Charles Ryrie’s book, The Role of Women in the Church, was re-  released in its second edition by B&H Academic (2011). The book is written from a complementarian perspective and, using careful exegesis of scripture coupled with historical record, investigates the role and function women should have in the church. Complementarians believe scripture gives precedence for men and women being equal in their standing in Christ, yet different in their function within the church.
 
Egalitarians believe men and women are also equal in their standing in Christ, as well as equal in their church role, meaning any role or office a man can assume a woman can also.
 
Ryrie, an acclaimed theologian and former professor and dean at Dallas Theological Seminary, guides the reader through an understanding of the status of women in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as Judaism. He also examines the way women ministered to Jesus and the way Jesus ministered to women. He notes that Jesus taught women and He received their public testimony, which was different than the way women were treated in ancient culture.
 
But, Ryrie observes, “what is not said about women is as important as what is said.” He points out that women were not among the Twelve disciples, nor were they among the 72 men Jesus sent out in Luke 10:1-17. He also notes that women were not present at the Lord’s Supper. Ryrie concludes, “it is evident that all these significant facts put together are proof that the activities of women were different from those which our Lord assigned to men.” Jesus did not view differences in spiritual privileges between the genders; but certainly differences exist in spiritual activities between men and women. Ryrie continues to prove his thesis using the Pauline epistles and writings of the early church fathers.
 
Ryrie concludes his work by writing that “in the inspired writings we have the mind of God concerning the full development of women.” He fleshes out this statement by explaining, “… this will mean full worth as a creation of God, subordination and honor in the home [and] silence and helpfulness in the church according to the teaching and pattern of the New Testament.”
 
Ryrie’s book was first released in 1958, prior to the wave of feminism that swept across the United States in the 1960s and 70’s.
 
As Ryrie uses historical records of early church fathers in his study of women’s roles, one can see this has always been an issue for the church. But, when one examines God’s Word, it is evident that from Creation, God had different roles for men and women. There is an order given in how God created mankind – Adam was created first and Eve came from one of his ribs. The Apostle Paul reiterates the importance of creation order in his first letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:3-16) and in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:9-14) in speaking of order within the church.
 
However, the Apostle Paul also notes throughout his letters that women played a significant role in the early church. Women still play a significant role in our churches today.
 
Often the women are the backbone of prayer support for pastors, church staff, church members, visitors and missionaries. Additionally, women are many times the force behind the scenes giving attention and care to people that enable the church to be the Body of Christ.
 
Women are also the teachers of children and youth, as well as teachers of each other. The influence of women in our churches today is still as vast and significant as it was in the early church.
 
While scripture is clear that women should not exercise authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12), women still play pivotal roles in the church.
 
In his letter to Titus, who was a church planter at Crete, the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus to have the older women teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5).
 
Interestingly, in the same second chapter of Titus, Paul gave instructions for the older men to teach the younger men. Paul recognized that women have connections with one another and those connections are important for the Kingdom of God. Within the Cretean culture there were people teaching inaccuracies for “sordid gain” (Titus 1:11) and the believers at that church were claiming to know God, “but by their deeds they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). Yet, it is within this context that Paul admonishes Titus to have the older women teach the younger women in areas ranging from the home, relationships and their walk with Christ. Paul is quick to note the importance of why the older women needed to teach the younger women: “… so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:5). Even still today women can take part in this important and significant role as women are used by the Lord to influence and teach another generation who has influence in the home, society and the workplace. All too often in the church today we focus on what women cannot do as opposed to the biblical role of what women can do. Much like Paul’s admonishment to the church at Corinth regarding spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12) and the need and importance for each believer to use the gifts God has given, men and women within our churches today need to recognize and rejoice that we have equal standing in Christ, and God desires to use us in His Kingdom – significantly, albeit differently, for each gender.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ashley Allen is director of Embrace, the women’s ministry at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
3/13/2012 7:38:34 PM by Ashley Allen, Book Review | with 1 comments




Comments
cconley
I am thankful for this review, for the author who clings to what scriptures say. As a woman who grew up in an egalitarian church, I understand the struggle it can be when presented with idea of what women "cannot do." Yet, it has been freeing as God has taught me about his complementarian way of creating women. I'm thankful for the reviewer pointing out how we should focus on how God created us, equal but different not where our roles differ. It has been so satisfying in my life to trust God and see how he blesses me as I serve him the way he intends.
3/15/2012 11:36:27 AM

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