Being a biblical woman outside the church and home

Over in Hrothgar’s Hall, our citizens-only area, somebody asked a great question which I’m summarizing and anonymizing here because I think the conversation will be very beneficial to have available publicly.

Many men and women who are committed to the biblical teaching on man and woman have not, in all their lives, heard the biblical teaching on male and female applied to the sphere of the world (workplace, government, military, etc.).

Assuming those we are teaching have good will and a desire to learn, how do we apply biblical sexuality beyond the church and home to women? How should their sex be lived in the world, and how can they teach this to other women? It’s easy to give the principle that being male and female doesn’t stop at the door of our homes and churches, but there’s a lot less out there on how to take it further.

For men there is an obvious (though general) biblical application to protect and provide and lead outside the home. What is the equivalent for women?

How do you answer questions from a woman who has been appointed to higher leadership roles in local government and wonders if she was faithful to Scripture in accepting these roles? Or, how do you answer a woman who has done well at the executive level in the business world but now questions whether she was disobedient to God?

So many women, young and old today have these questions because they have succeeded in higher-level leadership positions in local government and business, but now are asking if they were outside of God’s will.

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I’ll kick things off by asking a question. Does the Five Aspects of Woman curriculum answer this question, @Fr_Bill? I think I remember that it does, and regardless, it will be a good resource for those who aren’t familiar with it.

Another recommendation would be Man & Woman In Christian Perspective by Werner Neuer. He is great on the biblical teaching and slightly hits on biblical sexuality in the sphere of the world.

Are you wanting practical stuff, like ‘how to not be a pushy broad’, or ‘yes you should quit your job as governor’, or…?

There’s not a lot out there for women (well, there is, but it’s nearly all corrupted by feminism, and if it’s not fully feminist, it’s complementarian/androgenous). Doug Wilson’s ladies have a little, and Lori Alexander has a little (she’s got her own theological problems).

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At the risk of this seeming like a plug, I actually have been thinking about this a lot lately. Many readers of It’s Good To Be A Man on Facebook have raised the question particularly of women in business.

I wrote this as a basic initial effort to formulate a principled answer:

To summarize the key principles, my thinking is that:

  1. The fundamental context for both manhood and womanhood is the household. This is the microcosm from which other social structures derive; ideally, things like governments and businesses are macrocosms of households.

  2. The fundamental question that people usually want answered about the role of women actually boils down to: are they exercising father-rule? God made men to represent his fatherhood, and women to help them. To put it in familiar categories, it seems that kingly and priestly tasks are excluded from women by merit of being intrinsically fatherly, but prophetic roles can extend to them in certain contexts (women rulers are condemned, women priests are nonexistent, but women prophets do sometimes appear, and are often positively spoken of).

To speak to the issue of women in government, higher-level bureaucracy certainly becomes sticky. At the highest level, I think we’d have to say that a woman ruler is a contradiction in terms, just like a woman pastor. She can take the title, and she can perform the duties of the office, but she is no more an actual ruler than two sodomites are actually married. But lower down the chain, it does seem fuzzier.


7 posts were split to a new topic: Should sexuality affect our work outside the home and church?

Well, there is the NT example of Lydia, “the dealer in purple cloth”; which almost certainly means that she was a fairly wealthy woman, although presumably she did not have a husband.

Once again we are faced with “the exception that proves (tests) the rule”?

Bear in mind that this is simply a description of Lydia as Paul meets her, and as she meets the Lord salvivically. There’s nothing there from Luke to suggest this is prescriptive teaching meant to be a pattern for others. It gives some background into Lydia and explains why she was able to welcome the saints into her home and serve as hostess of a fledgling church in Philippi.


I have found John Piper to be helpful on parsing this issue. In What’s the Difference? (which I think may also be the intro to Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood) he uses two continuums for considering the appropriateness of whatever work position a woman may be in:


To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order.

A woman may design the traffic pattern of a city’s streets and thus exert a kind of influence over all male drivers. But this influence will be non-personal and therefore not necessarily an offense against God’s order. Similarly, the drawings and specifications of a woman architect may guide the behavior of contractors and laborers, but it may be so non-personal that the feminine-masculine dynamic of the relationship is negligible.

On the other hand, the relationship between husband and wife is very personal. All acts of influence lie on the continuum between personal and impersonal. The closer they get to the personal side, the more inappropriate it becomes for women to exert directive influence.

But the second continuum may qualify the first. Some influence is very directive, some is non-directive. For example, a drill sergeant would epitomize directive influence. It would be hard to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant over men without violating their sense of masculinity and her sense of femininity.

Non-directive influence proceeds with petition and persuasion instead of directives. A beautiful example of non-directive leadership is when Abigail talked David out of killing Nabal (1 Samuel 25:23–35). She exerted great influence over David and changed the course of his life; but she did it with amazing restraint and submissiveness and discretion.

When you combine these two continuums, what emerges is this: If a woman’s job involves a good deal of directives toward men, they will, in general, need it to be non-personal.


Thanks for finding and posting this. I always remember how Piper got skewered for attempting to do this work, but I never remember where it was.

Here’s a careful look at the topic on one particular issue: women in the military. You’ll also find a lot of guidance for making more applications by studying it.

That’s the text of the Majority Report of the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly’s Ad Interim Study Committee on Women in the Military.


Yes, just as the wife directs her children, guests, and husband to the table by saying “It’s time to eat; would you all please come to the table.” Very directive very authoritative. Very much in home. It’s impossible in any society at any time no matter the economic or political system to escape the many cases in which it is natural and rightful for women to exercise the authority of direction/money/sales involving men. Rich women can’t help but lead all the time, as others have pointed out above concerning Lydia and Proverbs 31 wife.

That said is no allee-allee-in-free, though, because…

Wherever man as man is, Adam’s federal headship is the ruling principle of authority. He always stands in a different place than woman since Adam was created first, in Adam—not Eve—we all die, Adam is glory of God whereas woman is glory of man, and so on.

Hit your head hard on this: there is no place those ontological statements (meaning statements that go as deep as can be) about man and woman aren’t true or don’t matter. If you don’t start there, the rest of your thinking is sub-Biblical and therefore corrupt.

Now what that means in particular situations is very difficult, and partly because whereas we believers are in control (at least we like to think so, wink wink) of what goes on in our homes and church, we are merely one hated and dismissed voice among many everywhere else; in addition, this is one (albeit very important) principle among many involving leadership and authority.

Add to this the fact that those we live with and among (including conservative Christians) think female authority over men doesn’t matter anywhere but some very limited private Christian contexts. This is the fruit of the complementarians and CBMW and it’s directly contrary to Scripture. As Scripture says in many ways, it is a shame for men to be oppressed by children and ruled by women.

Beyond this, I would prefer to say it rather than having to write on it. Time time time.

BTW, the best thing written on this (which in the general, Calvin indicated his agreement with although he thought Knox unwise to take on the Queen in the particular) is Knox’s at-first anonymous but later acknowledged “First Blast of the Trumpet.”


I’m currently working on a public domain version of Knox’s First Blast with modernized spellings, with plans to then produce an audio book (hopefully my Latin won’t be monstrous). I think it will be an hour or two to listen to, the work is really pamphlet length rather than book length. To my knowledge there’s no existing audio book, nor any modernized text edition* in the public domain from which such an audio book could be made and freely offered.

I originally started on this project to help pastors, and churchmen such as myself, to be able to evaluate statements critical of Knox made by a Ms. Rowntree (here and here) against Knox’s actual writing. I hope its helpfulness extends beyond that.


*As an example of why a modernized text is needed, consider this quote from the existing public domain text, which is characteristic of the style of the whole:

I am not ignorant that the subtill wittes of carnall men (which can neuer be broght vnder obedience of Goddes simple preceptes to maintein this monstruous empire) haue yet two vaine shiftes. the fourth obiection. First they alledge, that albeit women may not absolutelie reigne by themselues, because they may nether sit in iudgement, nether pronounce sentence, nether execute any publike office: yet may they do all such thinges by their lieutenantes, deputies and iudges substitute.


Any ideas when you hope to complete and how this will be made available?

I do remember reading these things from Piper some years back. In thinking about the example of a woman designing traffic flow and the non-personal influence this has on all men. Yet, in the office, as she did her work, she would have very personal and directive influence over men. This may include engineers, architects, other staff, even men in the trades like electricians, etc. So, then, could she legitimately do her job as a woman without violating the truth that Adam was created first and Eve second?

I can’t see how, but that’s why I’m asking.

My plan is, text by end of this month, audio book by the end of the quarter. I was just going to publish it to my blog to start with. I’ll post on this site once it’s available.


I agree. Wholeheartedly. We ignore the ontological reality and then reduce the biblical teaching on male headship to “tie-breaking” in the home and preaching/pastoring/eldering in the church.

But, the questions come. The exceptions are brought up. The roles in past lives are reflected on and wondered if she was wrong to take the CEO role because of the principle.

I’ve been hesitant and fearful to answer many of those questions at this point beyond preaching and teaching the principle because I’ve not found much help in answer specific applications beyond stating the principle.


Thanks for the recommendation, Pr. Joseph. That curriculum contains much that would answer this question as far as the consequences of the syllabus is concerned. The purpose of the curriculum, however, is to lay out an answer to the what-ness of created womanhood as one finds it in its original creation, its corruption by the Fall and the Curse, and its redemption in Christ.

The “seed-passages” for this exposition are five in number (hence Five Aspects of Woman), and they contain as well seed concepts for a parallel exposition of manhood, laid out in Five Aspects of Man.

The seed passages are:

  1. Genesis 1 (Lord of the Earth; Mistress of the Domain)

  2. Genesis 2 (Husbandman; Helper-Completer)

  3. Genesis 3 (Savior; Lifegiver)

  4. Proverbs 1-9 (Sage; Lady of Wisdom)

  5. 1 Corinthians 11 (Man, Glory of God; Woman, Glory of Man)


Thanks for the link, @bnonn. From your article:

It’s no surprise that women have been getting progressively unhappier as they have been progressively “empowered” in the workplace; focusing on competition and advancement rather than nurture and flourishing forces them to treat their feminine strengths and virtues as weaknesses and liabilities.

Yes, and it’s ironic that this is happening at exactly the same time that men’s strengths are being denigrated (as documented by the article @Fr_Bill linked to over at the topic For your files on manhood).

For a woman to have authority in business is fine, because production is both a masculine and feminine mandate. A female executive is not representing God’s father-rule. But … It masculinizes many women—short hair, power suits, bossy attitudes—and makes them both unattractive and miserable.

I don’t think your arguments hold together here. You speak of authority, which flows from God the Father and is part of His nature as Father; you call business a “quasi-household” and an “emaciated household-knockoff,” and ignore your own point that in the real household she is acting “as a wife”; you acknowledge that it makes women unhappy and leads them to make obviously authority-connected changes to their sexual appearance, behavior and values, but then you deny that this is caused by her subverting “God’s father-rule.”

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…


That’s the way I’ve viewed it too. Executive authority deployed by women in the workplace over men inevitably rubs against the “grain” of both the woman and the man/men she leads. When such arrangements occur in the workplace, both the man and the woman must expect static, and coping strategies by both the female authority and her male subordinates is required.

One coping strategy, indeed a very common one, is that the woman leader masculinizes in her relationship to her male subordinates.

Another coping strategy is for a man to adopt a variety of demasculinizing strategies. Sometimes it amounts to a “pulling in your horns” posture, doing precisely what the female authority required, and doing so in ways that allow the male to document/validate that he complied to the letter. This usually reduces, not enhances, productivity.

One Christian female supervisor I knew (she’s long since retired from professional service in government) found herself managing a cadre of younger male attorneys. In order to put the sexual currents at their lowest possible voltage, he kept kept as much distance between her and these men as possible, engaging them (which often involved critiquing their work) with as little face-face interaction as possible. Email was a Big Tool at her disposal.

She also chose to “dress down” in the office - opting for very formal, very unadorned sorts of professional attire (always dark dresses/suits; no pants). She gave special attention to her hair - not to masculinize it, but also not to “flaunt” it in flamboyantly feminine fashion. She wasn’t adopting masculine modes of presentment; rather, it was more a veiling of fashions of dress/grooming which would accentuate her femininity.

It largely worked for her and for her cadre of research attorneys whose labors she managed. In other contexts, these strategies might not have worked so well, or even been possible.


Hi gentlemen, I think a major question we’d need to answer is whether behaviors that rub against the grain of femininity just are examples of representing father-rule, or whether father-rule is a subset of them.

The reason I argued that it’s not inherently problematic for a women to exercise authority in a business is because I was drawing a direct analogy between a woman exercising authority in her household. She has authority over the slaves or servants, for instance. That’s on behalf of her husband, true, but it’s not inherently problematic that she has it, nor would it be problematic for her to retain it should her husband die (at least, not that I can see; I’m willing to be proved wrong).

There’s a certain appeal to the simple symmetry of saying that masculinizing activities are co-extensive with father-rule, but my short time on this earth suggests that God is content to be a little less tidy.

I also don’t think it’s inevitable that women in authority in business become masculinized. One of the things that @michaelfoster and I discussed when we were working through this issue is that we’ve both been under two types of women in business: the ones trying to be men, and the ones trying to be mothers. And we both agreed that the ones trying to be men are terrible (though they often rise higher), but the ones who are motherly are often very good. So I’m not sure that business authority per se is masculinizing; I’d say it’s the business environment that strongly pushes women toward acting like men.

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Yikes. I’ve found the women who are trying to mother everybody to be worse by far. Perhaps we have two different types of mothering in mind.