“Each sphere of life has its own set of restrictions regarding gender roles. In the previous chapter, we saw that the Bible provides certain restrictions for female saints in the sphere of the church. Earlier we saw that the Bible gives principles for women in the sphere of the family as wives and mothers. As we move into the sphere of the public square, we notice that the Bible is much less precise in regulating the roles and activities of women. As we cross the river into this final chapter, I believe the Scriptures speak less dogmatically and provide more liberty to women in their decisions about their roles in the public square (politics, military service, recreation, employment, etc.). Therefore, I will write this chapter in a more flexible tone. Instead of saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ I’ll be saying, ‘Come, let us reason together.’”
We appreciate this chapter as much for what it does not say as for what it does say. Mr. Chanski takes care not to insist on points where Scripture is silent. But he also provides wise, gracious, and reasonable counsel as it relates to a godly woman’s role in various public arenas—politics, the sports field, combat and the workforce. If you are facing decisions related to one or more of these areas, this chapter is well-worth a thoughtful read.
And so we conclude our Womanly Dominion book club study. We hope you’ve benefited from Mr. Chanski’s bold appeal for women to fulfill their God-given calling.
We chose this book—and in fact, we write each post—with one ultimate goal in mind. Long-time readers hopefully know what that is, but it’s best summed up by my husband in this short video clip posted by CBMW. He’s speaking to pastors, but his words apply to us as well.
“To the extent that the church understands and applies biblical manhood and womanhood I believe the church will be strengthened in her role as a pillar and support of the truth of the gospel.”
“May the Lord enable you, dear ladies, to tune out the sour notes and shrill shouts of God-defying feminists who groan and complain about what God has not directed or designed them to do in the church…Instead, may you “play your position” with a “win it” mindset as you gratefully and enthusiastically perform your God-given ministries. Be a Christlike woman of dominion in the church.” p. 207
I love the vision Mark Chanski casts for the beautiful, noble, essential work women are called to in the church.
He echoes John Piper and Wayne Grudem who more than twenty years ago urged women: “not [to] measure your potential by the few roles withheld, but by the countless roles offered.” They go on to list about 100 strategic areas of service for women in the church.
These areas of service aren’t superfluous. God has fashioned us for particular, vital tasks, and if we fail to use our gifts, the church suffers and Christ is dishonored.
So the question comes to each of us: are we gratefully and enthusiastically performing our God-given ministries in the church? Or are we sitting on the sidelines, complaining that there is no place for us to serve, or disgruntled about what we consider to be our less-than-glamorous role?
To put it simply, do we love the church more than we love ourselves?
If we follow the Savior who “made himself nothing” and if we love the Church for which He died, we won’t be so preoccupied with the “importance” our role. We’ll be too busy playing our God-directed and God-designed position for His honor.
“Feelings of love follow acts of love…. A woman of dominion is not pushed around and bullied by her feelings and emotions. On the basis of her solemn covenantal commitment to her husband, she loves him.” p. 164-165
On October 15 of the year 1998, it was a few short weeks before my wedding. Brian had already moved to Chicago in September of that year and I remained in Maryland until our wedding day (November 7). I remember how much I missed him those nine weeks we were apart. But I was busy packing up my room, finalizing our wedding plans, attending my bridal shower and excitedly anticipating our new life together.
November 7 was a wonderful day—everything I had hoped it would be. We went on a glorious week-long honeymoon to Florida, before flying back to Chicago to begin our new life together.
Then “real life” blew in with the harsh Chicago weather. I was still deeply in love with Brian, but I also began to realize the magnitude of the decision I had made. I had left my family, friends, and the only church I’d ever known to follow my husband. Everything was new and unfamiliar: my home, friends, job, grocery store, and especially the weather!
Brian has joked that we should have bought stock in Kleenex, given how much I cried that first winter. Eleven years later, I am more grateful than ever for the godly, patient, man I am married too.
My experience as a new bride, missing home, was a helpful lesson: feelings are unreliable! But chapter ten of Womanly Dominion was a great reminder of what’s important for us as wives: to respect, be grateful for, and passionately love our husband—regardless of how we may feel at times. When, by the grace of God, we choose to love our husband, we will reap the sweet rewards of ever-growing affections.
I was freshly challenged by this chapter. I want to continue to grow in showing love to my husband. I’m inspired to thank Brian once again for his faithful love and care for me. And I am going to ask him: what is one way I can grow in expressing my love for you?
So will you join me? Whether you are a new bride or celebrating your fiftieth anniversary, let me encourage you to ask your husband this question, and do one thing to show him your love today (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
Your mission, dear mother, is not to make your children happy, but to prepare them for eternity…You must relentlessly evangelize their never-dying souls.” (Womanly Dominion p. 127-128)
In chapter eight of Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski highlights the most important job we have as mothers: to preach the gospel to our children. This passion should infuse every part of our daily lives, whether in word or action. God has graciously provided many tools to help us evangelize our children. Here are a few age appropriate ideas:
Of course we can’t save our children or force them to turn to Christ: “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). But we must intercede for their never-dying souls, and daily, passionately, tell them the good news: Holy God in love became
“There’s a time for a woman to resignedly sit back and wait for the Lord to change her husband’s mind. And there’s a time for a woman to assertively rise up and take matters into her own hands. Abigail knew how to tell time.” Womanly Dominion, p. 77
Elizabeth asked on facebook: How did Abigail know that this was the time to take matters into her own hands? Great question!
Abigail was a “discerning” woman (1 Sam. 25:3). How can we become such a woman? How can we learn to “tell time”? How can we know when to humbly speak up and when to wait?
1. Know God. “Discernment comes from sound doctrine, not subjective impressions” is a phrase my dad often repeats. The better you know God’s Word, the better you will understand His ways, and the more discerning you will be. Abigail knew what was important (the protection of her family), but also how to act (decisively, humbly, boldly). The Bible is not a reference manual that we pull off the shelf only when we have a question. It is God’s revelation of Himself and His ways. We must read it daily to grow in wisdom. This is the only way to learn how to accurately “tell time” (Ps. 25:12, all of Psalm 119). 2. Know your heart. Abigail “wasn’t motivated by pride or vanity” explains Matthew Henry. These two sins throw off our time-telling ability. For some of us, self-protecting pride causes us to shrink in fear from conflict or to excuse inaction for the sake of “peace.” Pride also fuels the desire for “control” that lashes out in anger; it is the source of the slow drip of a nagging, critical spirit. We must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal how “pride and vanity” are warping our ability to “tell time.” We must seek Him for power to change, and wisdom to know how to respond to our husband in a manner pleasing to God (James 4:1-10 and Cravings & Conflicts). 3. Know your husband. We must be a faithful friend to our husband. We must study him: learn his strengths and weaknesses so that we can give timely help. Abigail knew her husband, so she knew she had to take matters into her own hands. But maybe your husband only needs a gentle word and a few days to pray and read God’s Word. Maybe he needs a chance to get it wrong in small ways so he can learn big lessons. If we fail to know our husband we may get it wrong—by waiting indefinitely or cowering before our husband when he needs the faithful wounds of a friend; or by giving into manipulation and bitterness when our husband needs a patient, forbearing (and not a self-righteous) wife. If you are interested in more on this important topic, I highly recommend Mom’s message “Watch Your Man” which you can download in our resource section or from Sovereign Grace Ministries (Prov. 27:9).
Abigail acted after Nabal refused to act. We need to give our husband a chance to act, and we must appeal to him to act, if need be. But if he won’t act, we shouldn’t give up. We may need to wait—prayerfully and prudently—but always with an eye toward the next step.
We’re glad Womanly Dominion is raising questions like Elizabeth’s (that’s one of the reasons we like this book). Questions like these don’t have easy answers—they throw us back on the wisdom of godly counsel and most of all, God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Blogs and books (ours included!) cannot replace the local church, pastoral care and counseling, and godly friends. Let’s pursue these conduits of grace to help us tell time in our marriage.
“The mother is the hub of the home, holding all the spokes in place. Without her being at her post, the family spins out of control and falls apart.” p. 110
When school starts, do you find that it gets more difficult to “hold all the spokes in place”? I sure do.
On a typical day I must get my son, Andrew, out the door for school (with homework, lunch and back-pack), clean up from breakfast, homeschool my two younger boys, pay the bills, drive to an afternoon activity, get home in time to meet Andrew and help him with homework, prepare dinner for my family and a guest, do dishes, catch up on laundry and finally clean up my house which looks like it has been visited by a tornado.
Just another ordinary day in the life of a mom (pp. 110-111). But so often, I go through these ordinary days far more aware of what I am giving than whom I am serving.
This chapter lifted my gaze beyond my daily duties to my eternal mission as a mother. And while we girltalkers weren’t comfortable with the inclusion of Dr. Laura, we thought the rest of the chapter was inspiring, invigorating, and refreshing to us as moms.
Mr. Chanski brings us encouragement right where we need it:
“There she sits exhausted on the edge of her bed, her face in her hands, wondering, “Where’s the glory in this?”
She needs something more empowering to keep her going.
She needs to gain and maintain the deep conviction of the glory, honor, and nobility of selfless service. This she finds at the foot of the cross, looking up to the One who earned for Himself “the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9), by “emptying Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” (2:7), humbling “Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:8). There she beholds her Savior who mopped up the damning vomit of her own sin with the precious sponge of His perfect life and atoning death. The love of Christ constrains and compels her to press on (2 Corinthians 5:14). The Spirit of Christ empowers her” (pp. 120-121, emphasis mine).
Are you having a hard time being “the hub” today? Then reread this chapter. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2-3), ask Him for help and strength, and thank Him for the honor of being a mother.
P.S. - Read chapters eight and nine for next week’s book club.
“By definition, motherhood is that dignified and strenuous life vocation taken up by a woman who has resolved to give herself fully to the task of nurturing godly children from a godly home environment. Women who dedicate the best years of their lives to this challenging endeavor are not to be laughed at and pitied, but highly esteemed.” p. 98
Do you ever feel as if motherhood has turned your brain to mush? That your IQ has plummeted to a Baby Einstein level? That your short and long-term memory has been permanently short-circuited? That your powers of communication have been lost in a sleep-deprived fog?
Well, I’ve got good news for you: you didn’t lose your mind when you became a mom. You actually became a genius.
Author Charles Murray suggests as much in his book Human Accomplishments: a study of which human beings have accomplished the greatest things” in history. Author and pastor Kevin DeYoung recently reviewed this book on his blog, and here is his summary and an excerpt:
Murray is bold enough (or foolish enough) to consider why so few women populate his rankings. Legal and educational inequalities throughout much of history provide part of the answer. So do societal pressures and limited opportunities. But Murray offers one more explanation: motherhood. His argument has an interesting twist to it.
“Exceptions exist, but, as a rule, the experience of pregnancy and birth appears to be a more profoundly life-altering experience for women than becoming a father is for men. So closely is giving birth linked to the fundamental human goal of giving meaning to one’s life that is had been argued that, ultimately, it is not so much that motherhood keeps women from doing great things outside the home asit is men’s inability to give birth that forces them to look for substitutes” (287, emphasis mine).”
Read that last line two or three times. It is a bold argument. Could it be that motherhood, instead of preventing women from achieving some great purpose, is actually the accomplishment of something great already? It is a thought worth pondering.
Cheer up guys, at least one of your child’s parent is a genius.
I have to confess, I made sure my husband took note of Mr. DeYoung’s last line!
My fellow mothers: may this encourage us to stay focused on our God-given task. May it reinforce our commitment to ignore the “shouts from the cultural sidelines” that would seek to persuade us that our life’s meaning is measured only by what we accomplish outside the home. May we gladly give the best years of our life to the “dignified vocation” of motherhood, remembering the words of our Savior: “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11).
In chapter five of Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski profiles four women from the New Testament and explains what we can learn from their example. As we did for chapter four, we’ve created a study guide to help you get the most out of this chapter. Again we encourage you to discuss your answers with a wise friend.
Study Questions for Womanly Dominion Chapter Five By Carolyn Mahaney
*Mary, the Lord’s biological mother:
“Let us seek in our daily practical Christianity to exercise the same blessed spirit of faith which we see in the virgin Mary. Let us be willing to go anywhere and do anything and be anything, whatever the present and immediate inconvenience, so long as God’s will is clear and the path of duty is plain.” (J.C. Ryle) p.85
Question: Are there duties God has called you to that you have avoided because they are inconvenient or difficult? How can you emulate Mary’s example: accepting the Lord’s will with joy and walking in obedience?
*Mary, the sister of Martha:
“Mary refused to permit her environment to dominate her; instead, she chose to dominate her environment. She manhandled her schedule in such a way as to make time with the Lord Jesus a non-negotiable priority.” p. 87
Question: Do you consistently practice the spiritual disciplines? If not, how can you “manhandle your schedule” in order to make this time a priority?
“Paul identifies [Phoebe] as a ‘servant of the church’.... Dear ladies, peculiarly gifted by God as helpers suitable, heroically play your God-appointed positions in the church. You weren’t assigned to be corporately leading and publicly preaching, but supportively helping and humbly serving…. The church of Christ desperately needs Phoebe-like women of dominion.” pp. 91, 92
Question: Do you spend more time complaining about the men whom God has appointed to lead and publicly preach than aggressively “playing” the position God called you to in the church? How can you repent and begin to serve the church like Pheobe?
“The Apostle Paul… commendably recognizes [Priscilla’s] rich deposit of grace, wisdom and gift by granting her priority treatment over her husband in the Romans 16 parade of saints. Clearly it is unbiblical and inaccurate to conclude that the ‘weaker vessel’ is the ‘less competent vessel.’” p. 94
Question: Are you tempted to use excuses like, “my husband isn’t a good leader” or “the single men in my church aren’t passionate for God” to excuse your own failure to faithfully seek God through His Word and prayer? Or, do you shrink back from using your God given gifts in appropriate ways in the church? How does Priscilla’s example challenge your assumptions?
“The Bible is teeming with…women who refused to give excuses, play the victim, listen to lies, and passively use them to exempt themselves from the responsibilities which God, in His providence, had dealt them.” p. 63
Do you want to fulfill the responsibilities God has dealt you but aren’t sure how?
Sometimes we misunderstand what biblical womanhood means; and in chapter four of Womanly Dominion, Mr. Chanski skillfully exposes these errors in our thinking. He profiles several major (and minor) female characters from the Old Testament who provide a godly example for us to follow.
We’d encourage you to study this chapter and examine your practice of biblical womanhood. So, for those of you reading along we’ve created a mini study guide with key quotes and questions. And consider reviewing your answers with a wise friend so you may “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Above all, these women of the Old Testament, “Stand as reminders both of our fallenness and our potential. Speaking together as one, they all point us to Christ” (John MacArthur).
May we look to Him for grace to cultivate womanly dominion.
“Women of dominion…have been appointed to undertake a wonderful life mission. God has called them to take on grand projects which will nobly touch lives in earth-shaking ways. Sure, they’ll encounter pain and thorns and thistles in the process. Sure, they’ll need to exercise Herculean discipline and self-denial. But the wonderful final-day revelation will leave them with no regrets.” p. 47
It’s not easy playing our position. We encounter “pain and thorns and thistles.” We have to contend with the triple threat of the world, the enemy, and remaining sin in our hearts.
Mr. Chanski outlines the dangers—how we are deceitfully assaulted with lies that, if believed and embraced, will hinder us from “winning it.” He exposes both the evil root of these lies as well as their potentially serious consequences. But how we can we resist these “contemporary lies”? How can we possibly overcome the triple threat and play our position to the glory of God?
We can’t. Not on our own anyways. We need the power of Jesus Christ.
“To this end I toil” writes Paul about his passion to help the Colossians reach maturity in Christ. But how does he do it? “Struggling with all [Christ’s] energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Col. 1:29)
We cannot conquer sin or “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” on our own (Eph. 6:16). But the good news is that if we have repented and believed in Jesus Christ, we aren’t struggling on our own. We are struggling with Christ’s energy that “powerfully” works within us. We can “win it” only by relying on “the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:10-11). And He will be faithful to supply all the strength we need.
There’s much more that I could say about the Holy Spirit’s power at work in the believer’s heart and our own responsibility to depend upon that power. But I want to recommend a little book that has helped me immensely in this regard. I’ve mentioned it before: The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. This book has simple, yet profound counsel for applying the gospel to every day life—including our efforts to grow in womanly dominion. I think you’ll find it a wonderful companion to our current study.
So as you seek to resist the “flaming darts of the evil one” and “play your position” for the glory of God, may you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).
We’ve been excited to hear encouraging reports from those of you following along with our Womanly DominionBook Club—like this email from Lisa:
I just wanted to thank you for your encouragement to be a biblical woman. I thank the Lord that He was merciful in giving me a Proverbs 31 mom who faithfully taught me what God’s Word says about my role as a woman from childhood on up. I am discovering more and more that most women (at least in the area I live in) have not been taught their role and are poisoned by the lies of the enemy in regards to it. Thank you for promoting the book by Mark Chanski. Reading it brings tears to my eyes as I see the convictions of my heart reaffirmed in black and white and spelled out so clearly for the average woman to understand. I lead a book club for college age young women and this is our next book pick. Their comments in regards to reading “Womanly Dominion” have included: “Let’s read something that talks about our role because this is the only all girls study we are part of.” And “I’m glad we’re doing this book because these are things I’m not learning from my mom.” So thanks for your encouragement. Keep on keeping on for the truth of the Word!
“Dear beloved and blessed wives and mothers….I know that some of you have been long on the field, and it’s late in the game, and you’re fatigued to the point of exhaustion. Though the outside world may not applaud you, and your inside flesh may scold you, I cheer you on to “play your position.” Press on with your womanly dominion assignment. I assure you. At the end of the day, you’ll not regret it. You’ll be draped with the only medal that really matters…the Lord Jesus Christ, will personally commend you with history’s highest honor: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Womanly Dominion, p. 43
As wives and mothers we want to serve the Lord with “joy and gladness” but we’re often “fatigued to the point of exhaustion” aren’t we? We need to have our minds realigned to the truth of our high calling. We need to have our hearts filled with holy delight in God’s purposes and plans. To that end, I recommend rereading this chapter at least once a year!
But we want to cheer on the single woman today. As much as we love this chapter, we don’t think the author clearly defines your role in the creation mandate.
You might not be able to literally “be fruitful and multiply”, but as Elisabeth Elliot says, “A single woman can have children!”
Here’s how: “She may be a spiritual mother, as was Amy Carmichael [missionary to orphans in India], by the very offering of her singleness, transformed for the good of far more children than a natural mother may produce.”
As a spiritual mother, you may do good to many more children than a natural mother. I pray God will give you a vision for the many ways He wants to use you to care for these little ones. (Read more here.)
And you might not be married, but as we’ve written before “Your helper design isn’t something you cash in come marriage….You were born feminine. Your helper role is called for today.” So, consider: how has God has called you to be supportive, responsive, and nurturing in the various spheres of your life?
“Marriage and singleness both present us with unique trials and unique opportunities for our sanctification. There will be unique rewards for each, and which is greater will not depend on whether you were married or single, but on how you responded to each.”
Single women, we want to be your cheerleaders! Some of you are “fatigued to the point of exhaustion” and we want to encourage you to “press on in your womanly dominion assignment” By the grace of God, strive with all your might to hear “well done good and faithful servant!”
Mark Chanski is right about this: You’ll not regret it.
“On the field of life, God challenges every woman to live and run in such a way as to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). In whatever she puts her hand to, she’s to ‘do it with all her might’ (Ecclesiastes 9:10) in order to hear that blessed commendation from the Lord, ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21). And if she’s to achieve this noble goal on the field of life, she needs to be convinced of living according to these two fundamental principles: ‘Play your position!’ and ‘Win it!’Womanly Dominion, p. 18
In Womanly Dominion Mark Chanski calls for a recovery of true feminine strength—strength endowed by our Creator, redeemed by our Savior, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It’s in recovering this strength that Chanski sees women fulfilling the call God has on their lives or, as he puts it, “playing their position.”
These “fundamental principles” of “play your position” and “win it” are not Oprahesque cheers for women to take self in hand and realize their dreams. They come straight from Scripture. God’s Word repeatedly urges us to spend our strength to fulfill His call on our lives for the praise of His glory.
So what are we giving our strength to?
We may run ourselves ragged doing many good things and yet miss what’s most important. Given the incessant “shouts from the misguided cultural sidelines” and our own wayward hearts, we easily become muddled, scattered, confused, and then overwhelmed. We lose the clarity of purpose found in Scripture’s guidance for our lives: both in the creation mandate and the wonderful privileges afforded us through the gospel.
But we must be careful that the good, even the very good, never replaces what Scripture says is most important. We must not try to “win it” in many good areas at the expense of “winning it” in the essentials. We must be clear on what Scriptures says are the priorities of our “position”: our spiritual growth, service in the church, evangelism, love for our husband and children, caring for our home.
We must ask ourselves—what am I spending my strength on? Where does most of my time and energy go? Where am I trying to “win it”? Have I allowed the good (even the very good) to distract me from Scripture’s clear assignment to me as a woman? Am I giving myself to temporal matters at the expense of the eternal? Have I unintentionally wandered from my position? Are there any good things that I need to give up in order to fulfill the role assigned to me in Scripture?
These questions are just to get you started. As you prayerfully consider them in light of God’s Word, He may prompt you with other probing questions that enable you to view your life through the lens of Scripture.
But let me encourage you to take time to evaluate your life and priorities. After all, what we’re playing for is nothing less than the commendation of our Lord and Savior: “Well done, you good and faithful servant.”
And never forget: it’s all because of His grace and for His glory.
“Why,” asks a woman, “am I here?” What am I supposed to be doing with my time? How am I to go about my business?” Womanly Dominion seeks to provide answers—answers at a critical hour when misguided voices from both sidelines, and even from inside her own head, are shouting at her all kinds of foolishness.” p. 20
These questions rattle inside the head of every woman; and the answers have immediate and long-lasting consequences. So often, though, the voices in our head and all around us seem louder than the truth of God’s Word.
Mark Chanski uses the analogy of a soccer team to urge women to “Win it” and “Play your position”— to don the “bracelets of strength and dignity” and do your job with all your might, to live according to the pattern of God’s Word, no matter what the other side is shouting.
You may not always like the “plays” that Mr. Chanski suggests. The illustrations may disrupt a previously settled opinion, or you may think obedience looks different than what he describes.
The more we drill down into application, the more we may disagree. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid getting specific. We must wrestle with truth and seek to understand how God’s Word applies to “every square inch” of our lives, our homes and our relationships.
Randy Stinson, president of CBMW, explains why this is so important:
“Over the years I have been most criticized when I have tried to detail matters of application based on what I believe are the parameters of the complementarian position. Someone always disagrees. Yet if we do not continue to make these attempts, the gender debate will end up merely being fodder for discussions in seminary cafeterias.”
Womanly Dominion brings the debate out of the seminary cafeteria right to the kitchen table. And we think it’s a debate worth having.
Several of you newbies have asked about the book club. Our latest selection is Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski. We want to give everyone a chance to order a copy, so we’ll begin the second week in August, after we return from our annual family vacation.
If you want to participate, simply order the book now, and read the Introduction and the first chapter by the week of August 10. We’ll post a review that week, and then continue at a pace of two chapters per week. In the meantime, check out Mom’s initial thoughts.