by Nate Brooks
This is the last in a four-part series on ways complementarian men can degrade into patriarchy in the way they consider their wives’ interpretation of and reaction to situations and their desires.
Today’s post concludes this series with a word on theological aptitude. The three most manipulative or abusive husbands I have counseled all had studied theology formally or served in positions of leadership within the church. Like everything beautiful, the study of theology can turn ugly when not employed to grow humility.
4) Theological Aptitude
Pastors, by God’s design, are male. The briefest glance at any pastor’s bookshelf reveals that the overwhelming majority of theological books are written by men. I have been a part of three theological seminary communities over the last nine years and men outnumber women by at least a ratio of 4:1 at each.
An easy conclusion from these facts would be that men are inherently more gifted or more inclined towards serious theological study than are women. Such a conclusion fails to understand different ways in which theological interest is pursued and applied. Comparatively speaking, very few women are going to be working in a vocational environment where a theological degree is essential. If you’re called to be a pastor, you ought to get formal theological training. If you’re called to something else, formal theological training is much more optional.
A lawyer, a businesswoman, or a stay-at-home mom is not inherently less theologically adept than a husband who is a pastor, especially when we consider that the application of theology is the most important aspect of our theology. Not growing sinfully angry when the kids stuffed a corn tortilla into the DVD player is equally theological in nature as is writing a commentary on the book of Malachi. They’re simply different forms of theology. A belief that men are inherently better at theology than women is often a product of elevating academic theology over applied theology. We do well to remember that Jesus accepted a widow’s mite and excoriated the scribes.
Even if we only consider formal theology, the pages of Scripture offer substantial proof that women are every bit as adept as men. Consider the following passage:
His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him.
He has done a mighty deed with his arm;
he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts;
he has topped the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly
He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
He has remembered his servant Israel;
remembering his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he spoke to our ancestors.
Moses? David? A Minor Prophet? No, Mary, the mother of Christ. Mary’s “Magnificat” is quite the well-developed biblical theology. Mary covers the attributes of God, anthropology, sovereignty, and covenant theology in just a few lines of impromptu speech, spoken to another woman. Mary talked less, but she could go toe to toe with Stephen’s sweeping history of the people of Israel (Acts 7) any day.
For those of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to study theology formally, we have a particular responsibility to our wives. I have an undergraduate minor in Bible, an MDiv from a leading American seminary, and am a few weeks away from being handed another diploma that bestows upon me a PhD in biblical counseling. My wife took four bible courses in high school, sits under teaching in the church, and has listened to my theological ramblings for six years. I can use a lot of words she’s never heard of, and I can give complex theological reasoning for every decision I make in a way that she cannot. It’s easy to back her into a corner and make her agree with me through improperly using my knowledge of the Bible as a weapon.
I may be a better formal theologian than Kate, but that doesn’t mean I’m a better Christian. None of my training is because I’m inherently better at understanding God, his revelation, or the things of the Spirit than she is. For all of my studies, I see many ways that she’s much further along the path than I am. I have more tools, yes, but I’ve collected those tools because I have a different vocational calling.
Any short series on marriage will ultimately fail to address every important facet of having a healthy marriage. I’ve said little about how to discern when a husband ought to decline to follow his wife’s desires, how a wife can work to prefer her husband, and a whole host of other issues. Instead of seeking to be comprehensive, my purpose in writing has been to speak towards an issue in which I frequently see well-meaning husbands fail.
While I’ve given examples of my relationship with my wife, we are in no way the template for how marriage “ought” to look. Whatever harmony we’ve achieved is not the product of our uniquely matched personalities, but of the Spirit growing us in love and service towards each other. The principles in these four posts will look very different when lived out in various marriages, but the central truth is the same. The more a husband considers and treats his wife as equal in value, gifting, and wisdom, the more the Lord is honored and the more they will experience his blessings.