“So, what will you do when you’re done with seminary?”
This innocent question has rendered many a female student at a complementarian seminary catatonic. It’s a reasonable query; the person asking is assuming that since we’re spending money on a graduate degree, we must have some end goal in mind. They (probably) know that we’re not pursuing a call to the pastorate, and they don’t want to insinuate that we’re husband-hunting, so they’re trying to think of a nice way to say, “What exactly are you doing there?”
Why should women study theology, particularly women who believe that the offices of the church are appointed to men? What do we need to know about the Mosaic economy, supralapsarianism, and covenant theology? If preaching isn’t an option, what are we supposed to do after we’ve finished spending all that money and reading all those books?
We read in Genesis that God created our first parents male and female, and he blessed them and named them (Gen. 5:2). Both sexes were created, carefully, thoughtfully and intentionally, with a common purpose; specific, unique gifts and particular roles. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that the primary purpose for human existence is to glorify God forever, and in so doing, find our greatest and deepest joy, satisfaction, and contentment. We glorify God by fulfilling his law in Christ, and loving our neighbor. The law is the expression of God’s holiness and perfect character, and if we really want to know him—to know who he is, what he’s like, and what his will for our lives is—then we must look at who he shows himself to be in the law, and what he has done for us in the gospels. It’s in the pages of Holy Scripture that we find where we came from, who we are, and where we’re going, by having our eyes lifted upward from our sinful, tired, angry, broken hearts, and turned to our Creator, Savior, and Redeemer.
In a culture that encourages women to define themselves by their titles, social standing, and looks, it’s easy for us to become focused on temporal callings and circumstances. Because the material and relational (rightly) demand our attention, care, and resources every day, we readily believe that this earthly American life is all there is and all there ever will be.
This is why, at the beginning of every week, we turn off our cell phones, put away our computers, and go to church. It’s there, in that small, plain building, with our ordinary brothers and sisters that we remember that we are (before anything else) image-bearers, called to worship. We (men and women) show forth the likeness of our Creator, by whom and for whom we were made, and as such possess a dignity and worth that transcends any earthly calling. Whether we joyfully or grudgingly serve our families, employers, and dreams, on Sunday morning, we put all things aside in order to worship our Father, through our Savior, by the Holy Spirit—whatever our callings may be, we are, and always will be, worshippers of the Triune God. This is who we are, and what we are made for.
Ladies should study theology because in so doing, they develop, refine, and deepen their understanding of what it means to be an image-bearer created for worship. The fact that we were created (not arbitrarily, spontaneously generated) and created for someone and something (not blindly groping through life, trying to create meaning in a meaningless world) is simple to grasp, but difficult to comprehend. Sin clouds our hearts, temptation distracts our minds, and the Enemy is ever-ready to suggest that our happiness, fulfillment, and potential would be better realized if only we could find the right man, the right job, or the right mission.
My theological training showed me that my happiness, fulfillment, and potential have already been secured for me in the finished work of Christ—the image that I bear is daily being renewed in him, by the Holy Spirit, and my joy and satisfaction are secured in the worship of the Father, in communion with my fellow saints. This isn’t something I completely understand, and it’s not something I’m entirely comfortable with—I daily labor under the delusion that I’ll be better if I go ‘somewhere else’ and ‘find something new’—but I’m comforted in the knowledge that I don’t struggle alone, and that the day is surely coming when I will finally see the fulfillment of all I hope for.
Brooke Ventura is assistant editor at Modern Reformation magazine.
This piece continues our Wednesday series on Women & Theology. Read the introduction to the series here, and come back next week to see how one woman's seminary education helped her deal with demonic activity on the mission field.