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Editor’s note: Prof. Bock’s post is part of series of posts (see here and here) related to the publication of Power Women: Stories of Motherhood, Faith, and the Academy (IVP Academic 2021) that we’re posting this week and in the following weeks. 

Few areas have been as contentious for the church as the expanding role of women in our modern world. The opportunities and pressures this transition have produced impact the family and society. They are clearly a concern of Power Women: Stories of Motherhood, Faith, and the Academy edited by Nancy Wang Yuen and Deshonna Collier-Goubil (IVP Academic 2021).

This essay is one in a series of thoughtful responses in dialogue with Power Women. I want to consider two theological concerns that should help frame these conversations. That consideration rotates around two questions: What do we mean, at least in part, by power? What are we seeking in asking this question?

What Do We Mean by Power?

Power is normally seen in our cultural conversation as dealing with role and rank. I’d like to suggest that is not the primary way key New Testament texts see the term. Romans 1:16 says that Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and to the Greek. The entire epistle explains what Paul means. We go from people who are incapable of walking with God (Romans 1–3) to those who are able to do so through Christ and the enabling gift and guidance of the Spirit (Romans 6–8). In that very move we see what power means. It is about enablement and capability. Those in touch with the gospel are enabled to walk with God. They are equipped to serve and follow him. So when I see a phrase like “power women,” I am seeing it neither as a cultural declaration nor as a word of defiance, but as an acknowledgment that God has equipped women as He has all of us to serve Him. Much more can and does need to be said, but starting here is important. Power that means enablement from God is part of the gift that comes with salvation.

What Is This Power Designed To Do?

But what does that mean and what is such enablement for? I’d like to suggest that the answer to this question emerges in Genesis 1. Salvation is about restoring what was lost in Genesis 3 because of sin. What Genesis 1 tells us is the account of why God made us male and female. He made us in His image and asked us to steward the creation well, together as male and female made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). The creation did not go from good to very good until the woman was placed alongside the man to make that stewardship whole. What I see in this text is the call to be good collaborators together. This is shown through the first pairing of man and woman together, but the point transcends the marriage. It is about man and woman in the image of God. The enablement God gives to women is designed to place them in a position to be good collaborators in God’s program. That is what stands as the most important foundation for anything we say about how God’s design for women and men, including men and women together.

Some of our current debates may have lost sight of this starting place. All of us may need to reclaim it.

Darrell L. Bock

Darrell L. Bock is Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.