"Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles" by Kathy Keller. A Review
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This short little work, 48 pages, covers the issue of men's and women's roles in the church. It is not an exhaustive, in-depth study but written on a serious yet popular level; therefore it's very readable. The author, Kathy Keller, is the wife of Tim Keller, co-founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and co-author with her husband of "The Meaning of Marriage".
The book is autobiographical, exegetical, theological and anthropological. In the autobiographical she tells of her own conversion, her journey as she sought ordination, and the epiphany she came to with regard to the authority of Sacred Scripture. Once she came to submit to Scripture she removed herself from seeking ordination. Since then she has worked with women who want clarification on their role in Christ's church.
Exegetically Keller takes on 1 Corinthians 14.33-38 and 1 Timothy 2.11-12, though she does draw in other passages in passing. It is clear and obvious that the author holds both passages as authoritative and part of God's infallible design for his church. In the end she sees them as prohibitive, but prohibitive in a narrow sense, "what is being forbidden to women...is...some kind of teaching that carried with it an authority not found in other, allowable forms of oral discourse" (19). In other words, the position of pastor and elders is not open to women because that position requires teaching that speaks judgment between truth and heresy, and carries the power of discipline (20). This brings her to conclude that from Scripture women "are encouraged to be active, verbal participants in the life of the church - teaching, exhorting, encouraging, and contributing in every way except in the office of elder..., where teaching and doctrine are judged according to the canonical deposit of truth, the Scriptures" (29-30).
With regard to the theological and anthropological Keller shows that in the ontological Trinity there is equality in power and glory, yet economically the Son submits to the Father (36). This becomes the ground for differing gender roles of men and women in the church and in the home, in distinction to the egalitarianism in society (36-8). Rightly she then observes that the "justice behind God's creation of male and female and his arrangement of the different roles he chose for them may not always be apparent to us. Why one and not the other? But should we expect our finitude to understand the infinite, omnipotent, wise, good, lovely, gracious justice of God" (38-9)?
"Jesus, Justice and Gender Roles" is a quick read through a subject cluttered by a society that stands in judgment of God, Scripture and Christianity. Therefore it does not answer all or many of the issues. Nevertheless Keller does get to the heart of the matter and generally takes it in hand dealing well with the subject. Though I find myself in disagreement with her narrow, limited applications to 1 Timothy 2.11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14.33-38 (I see them as actually prohibiting more actions than she does), yet the core of this teeny booklet takes the reader to the right questions and in principle leads to the correct answers. It's a book worth reading.
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