Why Should a Woman Pursue Theological Education?
Every woman ought to study God’s Word, seeking to know the heavenly Father, to understand His principles for godly living, to discover His solutions to problems and disappointments, and to equip herself for service in His kingdom. An education in “theology,” a compound word transliterated from Greek and meaning “a word about God,” calls you to immerse yourself in a study of God and His words.
1. Every woman needs to edify herself spiritually. In Luke 10, Mary of Bethany is contrasted with her sister Martha, a good woman, an efficient homemaker, a conscientious hostess. Yet when she asked the Lord to reprimand her sister Mary for not accepting more responsibility in assisting her in these mundane matters, Jesus’ rebuke reminded her that Mary had chosen the “good part” of sitting at His feet and hearing His Word. The Lord has given to women the opportunity to study His Word, not while neglecting their household responsibilities but by avoiding being “cumbered” with “much serving.” You are never to neglect personal spiritual training and preparation—not even for the joy of serving others.
Knowledge of the Word is not optional because through that Word comes our knowledge concerning salvation: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:14-15). Psalm 119:11, 105 demands memorization of Scripture in which is found instruction for living the Christian life.
Among the helpful admonitions richly efficacious for women is the reminder of 1 Peter 3:15, impressing upon us the responsibility of personal sharing of the gospel: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
2. A married woman also needs to assist her husband. The woman was created for and from the man (1 Cor 11:8-9) to help, assist, and undergird her own husband in his assignment from God. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable [Hebrew ͑ ēzer kenegdo, literally “a help like or corresponding to him”] to him’” (Gen 2:18). God created the man with a need for the woman—physically, he craves a lover; mentally, he desires a counterpart; emotionally, he needs a companion; spiritually, he seeks a co-laborer. Being a helper is a demanding and rewarding responsibility, i.e., a “universal spare part.” She must keep her home as a prepared shelter for her family and a ready haven for the needy. She certainly should keep herself attractive in order to enhance her “living letter” testimony (2 Cor 3:2). She is often called upon for entertainment of “angels unaware,” family and friends, fellow believers, and unsaved men and women from the community.
The most outstanding ministering couple in the New Testament, Aquila and Priscilla, traveled the apostolic world together, sharing the gospel of Christ and explaining the Word more fully (Acts 18:2-3. 18, 26). Priscilla must have been a diligent and discerning student of the Word of God, or she could never have made an impression on the learned Apollos. Obviously, she was encouraged to take an active part in ministry by her husband Aquila. When a godly wife is all she ought to be, she completes, complements, and extends her husband, and their joint ministry reaches beyond what either of them could do alone (Ps 34:3). Paul commends BOTH OF THEM as “my HELPERS in Christ Jesus.” When Paige Patterson invited me to join my life to his, irrevocably and inseparably, he asked me to join him in preparation as long as God made that possible. How grateful I have been for the formal studies of seminary, but how much more grateful I am for the hours we have spent together preparing for the resulting multifarious ministry God has given us.
Husbands need to encourage their wives to learn. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission” (1 Tim 2:11). The context of this passage indicates that the divine blueprint calls for the husband’s direction of his wife’s learning and teaching. The word translated “silence” (Greek, hēsuchia) is literally “quietness, calm, tranquility” in contrast to the word meaning literally “to stop talking” in 1 Corinthians 14:34. This indicates the responsibility of husbands to encourage their wives in learning and suggests the opportunity for wives to acquire knowledge.
3. Women who have no children of their own and women who are mothers and grandmothers need to nurture children in the Lord. By God’s design, women are uniquely equipped to love and nurture children. In the lives of countless children who do not have godly mothers and grandmothers, God desires to extend His love through women who have no children of their own but freely offer Him their unique gifts as women. From the establishment of the home in the Garden of Eden until now, women have uniquely shared in producing the successive generations, nurturing and sheltering the fetus until its birth, training and caring for the child through childhood, supervising the molding of the youth into adults. Whether biological mothers, spiritual mothers, or both, women are entrusted with such powerful influence and responsibility in rearing children that this task alone demands their thorough preparation in biblical and theological studies. What a difference there would be for future generations if children were taught by parents and grandparents the Word of God through family worship and individual instruction (Deut 6:4-12). Likewise, what a difference there would be if women without their own children answered God’s call—in one creative way or another—to help fill that void in the lives of children and nurture them in following Christ.
Nowhere in God’s creation should there be a more precise and vivid theological textbook than the Christian home. Certainly the home should offer to the family circle and to the world looking in “a word about God.” As Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice diligently and zealously passed on to him “the unfeigned faith” (2 Tim 1:5), so women in all stages of life can contribute to the rearing of children in the knowledge of the Lord.
4. Older women need to teach the younger women:
“The older [i.e., spiritually mature] women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-5).
The pattern for womanhood, the design for marriage, and the blueprint for the home have been greatly distorted through the years. Women are clamoring for greater authority and for pastoral leadership roles in the church. However, in Scripture, the role of the woman in the church is clearly based upon God’s divine order for the home—submission to and honor of the husband by the wife. Whether in teaching biblical truth, extending Christian hospitality, or engaging in individual ministries, a woman must always work under the clear authority of God’s Word, neither seeking recognition nor demanding higher office, but making every effort to serve Him who is Lord and trusting the providence of God to open opportunities and give usefulness beyond human limitation and expectations. Unless the direction of womanhood is turned back to the divine design, we stand to lose ground in the home. What greater reward could a spiritually mature woman find than passing on to other women lessons in biblical womanhood! There emphatically is NOT direction or permission given to women to occupy a ruling position in the church (1 Tim 2:12) or to seek ordination from the church (1 Tim 3:1-4). Church leaders are admonished to rule their own houses. If directed to women, these words would be in direct opposition to the New Testament pattern.
Sources of Theological Education through Southwestern
- Personal Bible study with the aid of evangelical books and commentaries. See http://dorothypatterson.org/publications/.
- Enrollment in online courses or classroom study (see http://swbts.edu/academics/ schools-programs/womens-programs/)
- Listening to scholarly teachers and preachers via podcasts, CDs, or other audio-visual resources available online. A variety of resources are available as “Media Resources” on the seminary web site (http://swbts.edu/media/), including, for example:
- Sessions from recent Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Conferences (http://swbts.edu/media/collection/57 and http://swbts.edu/media/collection/110);
- President Paige Patterson’s sermon series delivered in chapel (http://swbts.edu/media/category/2); and various lectures.
SWBTS Chapel audio podcasts are available at
- Study of theologically focused web sites—see, for example:
- Biblical Woman (http://biblicalwoman.com/);
- Theological Matters (http://theologicalmatters.com/); and
- “Ethics as Worship” blog written by Dr. Evan Lenow, chair of the ethics department at SWBTS (http://evanlenow.com/).
In summary, what could be a better background for any endeavor a young woman may pursue than a strong biblical foundation? In my humble opinion, women should be encouraged to make every effort to take advantage of opportunities to study, if not in the classroom then online. Yes, theological education is for women, too!