Jim Jordan once again stole the show during our Pentecost Term course a few weeks ago. He’s still recovering from his strokes, moves slowly, gets tired easily, shakes when he stands too long – and he’s still the most stimulating teacher anywhere.
Jim devoted several lectures to explaining how women drive history. He started by pointing to the two-step rhythm of creation, which manifests the work of Word and Spirit. On Day 3, God speaks, and then causes plants to sprout. The Word provides a plan or pattern, but the energy of growth comes from the Spirit.
The same Word-Spirit dynamic is evident in the creation of Adam and Eve. God breathes life into Adam’s nostrils, then builds Eve from Adam’s rib. Man is the “image of God,” linked with the Second Person; woman is the “glory of man,” linked with the Third Person.
The Spirit isn’t feminine, but the Spirit is linked with femininity. “Women are more Spiritual than men,” Jim said.
That Trinitarian framework reveals the character of feminine power. The Father begins all God’s actions, the Son executes, and the Spirit completes. Made in the image of the Word, men initiate. Made according to the Spirit’s glory, women beautify. Men start, women finish.
When the Spirit does initiate, it’s in a hidden fashion. The Son makes the Father visible. The Word is made flesh. The Spirit works in secret, blowing where He will, speaking not of Himself but of the Son. In the few instances when the Spirit is visible, He appears as a wispy cloud, a flickering fire, or a flitting dove.
In Scripture, women are often at the hinges of history, but their world-changing acts aren’t usually played out on the battlefield, in the courtroom, or from the throne. They change the direction of history from secret places.
Genesis, for instance, focuses a great deal of attention on miracle pregnancies – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. Righteous Tamar saves the royal line of Judah from extinction. Later, Israel takes new directions when barren women bear sons – Manoah’s wife conceives Samson, Hannah conceives Samuel.
Before he saves Israel, Moses is saved by a crew of women – his mother, his sister, Pharaoh’s daughter, and her maids – just as other Hebrew boys are saved by midwives. (Moses’ father is briefly mentioned, then disappears.) Jim speculated that Pharaoh’s daughter asked her father to stop killing Hebrew babies after she found the beautiful baby, Moses.
Like the Spirit, these miracle mothers don't speak of themselves, but of their sons. They are no less crucial for that.
Israel’s heroes have fathers, but the incarnation of the Son, the hinge of history, doesn’t involve a man at all. Mary’s humble acceptance of the Spirit, alone in her home in the backwater town of Nazareth, is more world-changing than any heroic action of any male, excepting only the Son she conceived.
Women also shape history by influencing men who shape history. Rebekah directs Jacob’s deception to ensure Isaac’s blessing goes to the chosen younger son. Ruth advances the genealogy of Jesus by approaching Boaz under cover of darkness. Esther saves the Jews, not by issuing just decrees, but by convincing her husband to issue a just decree.
Many claim men make history. It’s true: The vast majority of political and military leaders, scientists and CEOs, philosophers and scholars, past and present and future, are men. True, but superficial. It relies on a historiography of sight, rather than faith. Women aren’t less historically significant than men, but their effect is hidden, like the Spirit’s.
To trumpet the achievements of men is like confessing the Second Article of the creed without also confessing the Third, like clinging to the Son while disparaging the Spirit of the Son. This is a good reason not to be an advocate for patriarchy.
The feminine power in history is the church, Bride of the Son and Mother of us all. Undetectable as the Spirit Himself, she gives birth to and nurtures men who lead the public world. Her quiet faithfulness has a far more profound effect on the direction of history than all of the feats of macho, macho men.
She advises her Husband in prayer, and He acts on her counsel. She turns the tide of battles, overthrows tyrants and raises just rulers – all without making a single headline. She feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, shelters the homeless – all away from the cameras.
In the Spirit, she preaches the gospel that is the power of God to salvation. In the Spirit, she sings Psalms that shake the earth. In the Spirit, she forms a new humanity, a global nation, at the Lord’s table.
When feminists strive to gain masculine forms of power, they diminish rather than enhance feminine power. Yet today’s culture warriors can be unwitting feminists, who scorn the secret, feminine, Spiritual weapons given to the Bride.
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