Life, Doctrine and Women's Ministry

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Whether through books, Bible studies, retreats, or conferences, a central focus of women's ministry has been on the practical dimensions of Christian living, either presupposing the theological understanding of the audience—which isn't always wrong to do—or simply neglecting to ground the practical in a richer theological framework.

Of course, I'm not suggesting we aren't teaching women Scripture, but in the rush to fill in the blanks, we aren't teaching women to handle the Word as theologians. Some women's ministry leaders have made statements that undermine the process of doing theology, suggesting that because knowing theology is not provisional for salvation that somehow it lacks practical value. We are good at teaching principles and precepts from the Word, but are we communicating interdependence between life and doctrine? Is there a place of theological education in the context of women's ministry?

"Life and doctrine are interdependent." These are the words of John Frame who serves as the chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. From his book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, he argues for a more integrated understanding of the practical and the theoretical, suggesting that one cannot exist without the other. He writes: "The Greek terms based on didasko typically refer in the Pastoral Epistles to a teaching of the word of God that leads to spiritual health. This is ‘sound' or ‘healthy' teaching. So doctrine, defined as this kind of teaching, also has an ethical goal. It is not given to us merely for intellectual contemplation."

Life and doctrine were never intended to be separated and any attempt to teach about the day to day Christian life without Christian doctrine provides for a limited or empty experience. By ethical, Frame is referencing the ongoing process of sanctification of becoming more conformed to the image of God.

Granted, the "ivory towers" of academia have given at least the perception that the theoretical has no real relationship with the daily struggles of everyday people, but the content and tapestry of our worldview plays an extremely relevant role to how we live. This means that what we believe (or don't believe) directly impacts our daily lives. As Christian women who are able to spend time together in small groups, Bible studies, retreats, and conferences, a more concentrated focus needs to be devoted to teaching women to own the content of their faith so that they are equipped to apply the eternal truths of Scripture to their lives on their own.

October30, 2009 at 10:20 PM

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