Conference defines biblical view of gender roles
Keith Collier, SWBTS Communications
October 07, 2011

Conference defines biblical view of gender roles

Conference defines biblical view of gender roles
Keith Collier, SWBTS Communications
October 07, 2011

FORT WORTH, Texas – Long before Betty Friedan’s 1963 book

The Feminine Mystique called into question the value of motherhood and

homemaking in the lives of women, a full-scale assault on the nature of gender

definitions and roles was launched in a garden. The assailant: sin.

Southwestern Seminary’s Conference on Biblical Manhood and

Womanhood aimed to cut through chauvinist and feminist rhetoric and examine the

biblical definitions and distinctions of gender roles, Sept. 13. The

conference, co-sponsored with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

(CBMW), featured prominent Southern Baptists who addressed hotly-debated topics

surrounding men’s headship in the home, women’s roles at home and in church,

homosexuality, and ministry to men and women in the church.

Jason Duesing, vice president for strategic initiatives at

Southwestern, began the conference with an examination of the state of the gender

debate within the Southern Baptist Convention. Starting with Addie Davis’

ordination in 1964, the first of its kind in a Southern Baptist church, Duesing

traced mounting egalitarian and evangelical feminist pushes as well as efforts

to recover and defend biblical manhood and womanhood in the denomination over

the past half-century.

“Are Southern Baptists ancient Neanderthals chasing a

mythical Bigfoot?” Duesing asked.

“After surveying the past and present of the debate over the

complementary differences between the roles of men and women, a fair-minded

person should agree that the only thing modern-day Southern Baptists have been

chasing is a living and active Bible.”

SWBTS Photo/Ben Peacock

Russell Moore, dean of theology at Southern Seminary, preaches in chapel Sept. 13 at Southwestern Seminary on the gospel implications on gender. Moore was on campus as part of Southwestern’s Conference on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Thomas White, vice president for student services and

communications at Southwestern, examined the biblical foundations for gender

roles based on the first three chapters of Genesis. Both Jesus and Paul

reference the created order when making statements on marriage and gender


“I contend that if we lose the battle over the gender debate,”

White said, “we lose the proper interpretation of God’s Word, we lose

inerrancy, we lose the authority of the Bible itself, and that is detrimental

to the gospel.”

Recognizing that those claiming inerrancy of the Bible have

landed on both sides of the argument, White outlined how the first two chapters

of Genesis demonstrate the created order of ontological equality between men

and women as well as distinctive gender roles, including male headship. The

Fall, White said, distorted gender roles, and mankind has fought against these

created roles ever since.

Russell Moore, dean of theology at Southern Seminary,

preached a chapel message as part of the conference on the gospel implications

of gender. Using Eph. 5:15-33, Moore asserted that God designed manhood and

womanhood as a picture of Christ and the Church. Thus, men should lead and love

their wives sacrificially, following the pattern set by Christ.

Likewise, wives should humbly yield themselves to their

husband’s headship, as the Church does Christ.

Accordingly, Moore said, the divorce culture in the church

is a “blasphemy against the gospel.” Moore challenged weak-kneed husbands to

fulfill their God-given leadership role in the family.

“Husbands, if your wives are refusing to follow after your

leadership, it is probably because your wife has seen and observed in your life

a kind of leadership that is either absent or self-focused, and what she

is saying to you is ‘I don’t know where you are taking us. I don’t know if I can

trust you at all.’”

“For some of you in this room, in your rebellion, in your

self-serving, in your addiction to pornography, you are showing her that she

has no reason to trust your leadership because you cannot even exercise

headship over your own appetites much less the family that God has given to you

through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The afternoon conference sessions addressed issues related

to homosexuality, biblical womanhood, men’s ministry and the future of the

gender debate.

Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern,

spoke on the challenges of homosexuality for gender roles. Lenow said

definitions of homosexuality range from sexual orientation to sexual behavior.

He contended that both reject the biblical position of God’s ordained gender


Lenow said homosexuality attempts to dissolve gender

distinctions and treats male and female as synonymous, thus rejecting the

complementary natures of sex, gender, marriage, and the Christ/Church


A panel of women from various walks of life—including Dorothy

Patterson, wife of Southwestern president Paige Patterson and professor of

theology in women’s studies; Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs at

Southwestern; Candi Finch, a doctoral student at Southwestern; and Karen

Yarnell, wife of Southwestern professor Malcolm Yarnell. The four offered

perspectives on topics related to the roles of wife and mother in the home,

ministry to women in the church, biblically permissible roles of women in the

church, etc.

“In college, I would have considered myself a very committed

evangelical feminist,” Finch said. “I got to seminary, and I was opening God’s

Word and saying, ‘What is God’s plan for womanhood?’ I had to change when faced

with the truth of God’s Word. It was not the position I wanted to hold, but

it’s God’s plan for us.”

Randy Stinson, president of CBMW and dean of the School of

Church Ministries at Southern Seminary, spoke on how to minister effectively to

men within the church. Reading from 1 Peter 3:7, Stinson said many men in the

church could be frustrated with their lives because they are under the

discipline of God for not living in an understanding way and showing honor to

their wives.

Stinson also lamented that many churches have patterned

men’s ministry after successful women’s ministry methods. Recognizing the

differences between the ways men and women develop relationships, Stinson said,

“Men’s relationships are forged, not forced.”

“It’s a collision, and there are sparks, and you have to

give men a chance to collide. The way they collide is by doing something

together, and they’re forged together by sacrificing and completing a task and

developing a solution.”

In the final session, Southwestern president Paige Patterson

spoke on the future of the gender debate.

“The family is now under attack worldwide,” Patterson said.

Yet, Patterson said, “The family remains both the first and

the most important social unit created by an all-wise, omniscient God.” He

asserted that the family unit is a powerful platform for transforming society

and that we must hold strong to the biblical paradigm.

That evening, students gathered in the student center for a

Q-and-A panel regarding biblical manhood and womanhood. Students asked

questions to Moore, Duesing, Stinson and Lenow on topics such as women teaching

in the church, mothers in the workplace, Christian romance novels,

gender-neutral Bible translation and the future of the debate in the SBC.

To listen to audio from the CBMW conference, visit


(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and

information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)