Episode 129

Change: Dr. Nijay Gupta- Uncovering Her Story: How Women Led, Taught and Ministered in the Early Church

In this episode of the World of Difference podcast, Dr. Nijay Gupta, a Hindu background Christian and seminary professor, uses his privilege to uncover the hidden female figures in the New Testament and challenge the long-standing patriarchal lens on the Bible to foster an atmosphere of equality and inclusion in the church.

"Just like that with the Bible. And we have failed. I have failed in the past to see these women, to recognize them, to admire them, and to tell their story." - Dr. Nijay Gupta

Dr. Nijay Gupta is a professor at Northern Seminary of New Testament and author of the book "Tell Her Story: How Women Led, Taught, and Ministered in the Early Church". He is a Hindu background Christian who has dedicated his life to studying the Bible and training Christian leaders.

Dr. Nijay Gupta was raised in a Southern Baptist denomination and experienced a male-centric view of the Bible. He realized that many of the stories about the women in the Bible had been hidden, and set out to make them known. After many years of research and writing, he released his book, "Tell Her Story," which explores the roles of women in the Bible, and their importance. He explains how the cultural and socioeconomic status of these women was incredibly important to understand their stories, and how they were able to lead, despite the patriarchal views of the time. Dr. Gupta hopes that by uncovering the hidden figures of the New Testament, the Church will be able to recognize the importance of women's voices and use their God-given gifts for the benefit of all.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. Exploring the nuance of women leading in the early church, how has the long-standing tradition of egalitarian theology impacted the way we view women in the Bible today?

2. Examining the role of women in the church, how can we create an environment of shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration between male and female leaders?

3. Leveraging male privilege to elevate women, how can we use our male privilege to create a space for women to use their God-given gifts and preach the gospel?


Resources:

Order Tell Her Story here.

Other episodes you'll enjoy:

Allyson McKinney Timm on the Faith 4 ERA Campaign

Dr. Mimi Haddad on Christians for Biblical Equality

Kate Wallace Nunneley on the Junia Project

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Chapter Summaries:

[00:00:02]

Dr. Nijay Gupta is a professor at Northern Seminary of New Testament. He is the author of a book called tell Her Story. How Women Taught Led. We're thrilled to have him on the church during Women's History Month.

[00:02:57]

Dr. Nijay Gupta is on the World of Difference podcast today. He talks about his new book, Tell Her Story. He says it's moving towards spring in California. People are really excited for your book release.

[00:03:45]

Lori: What brought you into being interested in biblical studies? Lori: I grew up in a Hindu family, became a believer in Jesus as a teenager. I've been teaching for almost 15 years. I love the work I do. Lori: It really is important to me to know who was part of the translation process.

[00:07:08]

There's been a lot of misunderstanding around women in the New Testament. The author changed her mind after doing a blog series called Why I Believe in Women in Ministry. Tell us more about the book and what readers are going to gain from it.

[00:14:37]

A lot of my book is about stepping out of some of the artificial frameworks we use. Where women were teachers, apostles, prisoners for the Lord. It's far past time that we give them the credit that is owed to them. The church job or office of pastor is a modern phenomenon.

[00:25:09]

Lydia is a businesswoman. Paul preaches to her, and her whole household is converted. She is a natural leader, and the apostles don't chide her for that. When we're not letting women use their Godgiven gifts in the church, we all miss out.

[00:27:40]

Southern Baptist Convention has kicked out Saddleback Church in California. Lori Penny: In many churches where it looks as though women can lead, but in reality they're not really leading. Penny: We need to return to some older ways of careful, honest, authentic, open, vulnerable discipleship.

[00:41:00]

Paul says Junior is a prisoner for the sake of the Gospel. She represents what we think of as the first generation of Christianity. Just imagining the bravery and the faith of these women that we don't talk enough about inspired this book.

[00:43:58]

EJ: How can people find you? I want to make sure people follow your podcast your blog, all your writing and what you're doing. For our patreon supporters, we're going to do an exclusive episode here in a second with him around some of the stuff that's gone on at Northern Seminary. Sign up for this month so that you can be a part of hearing this conversation.

[00:46:04]

Dr. Nijay Gupta's latest book is Tell Her Story how women led, taught and ministered in the early Church. We recorded an exclusive interview with him around what's going on at Northern Seminary. Join our patreon community for as little as $5 a month and get free merch.

Become a patron of this podcast, and enjoy free merch. Join other patrons of this podcast at Patreon.

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Transcript

Welcome to the A World of Difference podcast. I'm Lori Adams Brown, and this is a podcast for those who are different and want to make a difference. Our guest on today's show is Dr. Nijay Gupta. He's a professor at Northern Seminary of New Testament. Previously he was a professor of New Testament at Portland Seminary where he oversaw the master's thesis program. And he advises doctoral students that he is the author of a book that's creating so much buzz that's just releasing. It's called Tell Her Story: How Women Taught Led. Sorry? How Women Led,Taught and Ministered in the Early Church. There is so much buzz around this book. It is just getting into the hands of so many people that are needing to read it. And I hope you are reaching out to find out more about this book and that's why you're here today. This book, we're going to dig into all of his scholarship around women in the New Testament and a lot of the nuance around it that we may not have seen before. He's also the author of a book called Worship that Makes Sense to Paul and Prepare, Succeed and advance a Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and beyond, along with many biblical commentaries, over a dozen academic articles and theological journals. He writes often for many spaces, including at his blogs. We'll link it in the show notes, cook's a blog, and then he speaks widely about Christ, working through our weakness and so many different things. He is on the show today with such a beautiful perspective. He is a hindu background christian. He dug into biblical studies early on to go deeper in his faith and now as a seminary professor digging into all things related to women in the church in this book. So we're so thrilled to have him on the church today during Women's History Month because as we look at not just history but her story, we're narrowly looking at it today in the lens of the New Testament and he talks a little bit about the Old Testament. He has a whole chapter on Deborah in there as well. But we're specifically going to be talking about some of the hidden figures in the new Testament and why we have not preached on them or spoken about them or dug into the nuances of how they were actually leading. And using their godgiven gifts at that time in ways that in certain spaces today, we find women are not allowed to do so because of the allergies that have missed these hidden figures and what they were doing all throughout the scriptures. So I'm thrilled today to have a man on for Women's History Month talking about women's history in the New Testament and helping us see things that we may not have seen before. If this is new information to you, then please tune in to this episode today. So it is such an honor and privilege to introduce you today, if you've not already known him, Dr. Nijay Gupta. Hello, Dr. Nijay Gupta. Welcome. A very warm welcome to the World of Difference podcast today. How are you doing today?

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

I'm doing well. I've been traveling and I'm back with my family, and it's moving towards spring, so I'm very excited about that.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Yes. And you live in a very cold place. I actually am experiencing a lot of rain here in California right now. We just keep getting hit by thing after thing and snow in the Bay Area not long ago. So definitely ready for the spring to bloom. But I'm also excited to talk to you today because I received a pre release copy of your book, Tell Her Story, which has so much buzz right now around all of people we all know and love that are talking about it. And people are really excited for your book release. That's why you're on the show today. But first, before we get into your book, I really wanted you to give you an opportunity to talk about who you are, your background a little bit, and also kind of what brought you into being interested in biblical studies.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah. Thanks, Lori. I grew up in Ohio. I'm a Heartland boy, born and raised. I grew up actually in a Hindu family, became a believer in Jesus as a teenager. And we could talk about that another time if you want. I just immediately had a passion for serving God and following Jesus wherever he wanted to take me. Eventually, that led to seminary because I just had a hunger and thirst for better understanding the Bible. And I knew that if I wanted to do that, I had to learn Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic and all those nerdy biblical studies stuff. And when I went to seminary, I wasn't sure what I want to do in my life. But I discovered teaching. I was able to be a Ta, and I just fell in love with the classroom. I fell in love with the opportunity to go deeper in a context of commitment, accountability, learning, all of those things. So I kind of found my home and I got my PhD. And I've been teaching for almost 15 years. I love the work I do. I get to work with pastors, missionaries, Christian leaders from across the country and even some outside of North America. I see my job as training and pastoring and coming alongside pastors and leaders. It's gratifying work.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Well, I'm so grateful for you and the work that you do and just your perspective of your Hindu background. And I love, especially when I choose the Bible translation, it really is important to me to know who was a part of the translation process. And I'm excited that you've been involved recently with the Nlt version, my version of preference. I don't know if this is controversial, but I love the CEB because there's a little more diversity in terms of women and different cultural backgrounds that are involved in the translation. For a long time. As a Southern Baptist, I was one of those who just read the ESC because that's what everybody said was the best, but it's this unabashedly, complementary translation, and I think those might even be their own words. So thank you for the translation work that you're doing.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah. I'm like minded with you that not only do I want to know who is translating the Bible, but I want to know that it's going to be a diverse group. Not for the sake of just diversity, but to know that many different perspectives and the richness of all the different Christian traditions come together for mutual understanding and agreement as best they can. When you have all the people of the same kind making decision, there's going to be blind spots and there's just beauty in that multi perspective. Committee work on the same page.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Just so good to hear. It just really resonates with me as a person who knows and loves languages, a fellow polyglot, understanding that language really is so important and language changes and understanding a word might be different from your different perspectives. And that leads us to your book, because there's been a lot of misunderstanding around women in the New Testament, and you took on this project with so much scholarship and just as a woman, just so appreciative of the work that you've put into this incredible book. A lot of women have been writing about these kinds of things for a while that I've been reading and scholarship around women over the last many years. We've had more information, but for a man to take this on, it means a lot that you would use your male privilege in this way, because there's going to be people that read your book that would never pick up a book by woman. So, first of all, just thank you. But as your book is releasing for people that haven't had a chance to get a copy of it yet or haven't seen it, you're examining roles of women in the Bible. So tell us more about the book and what you hope readers are going to gain from it.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah, you know, I'll give you a little bit of backstory on my journey in this topic. We can come back to, you know, the story of how I changed my mind, but I went into seminary, part of the John Piper Wayne Grudom movement. This was the late 90s, early two thousand s, and I had just kind of fallen in love with the idea that John Piper Wayne Grudom and people of their kind were passionate about theology, passionate about the Bible. And I felt like if I was going to be passionate with them, I had to accept everything they were selling. I call this package theology. If I love missions, if I love an errancy, if I love a high view scripture, if I love a high Christology, if I love the Gospel, then nothing can be left out. And so I entered in a seminary, convinced in my own mind that you have to draw lines of where women can and should be and can't be and where men should be, and that needs to be preserved to respect the Bible. That was kind of what I entered. And then I started studying the Bible, and some of the in more depth and some of the assumptions I took for granted were starting to be challenged. So I was told by some professors, if a woman is studying for ministry, especially in the Mash divinity, that she's disobeying God, that she puts her ideology before the Bible and all of that and actually started to meet women students, like, later on, the woman that was going to be my wife Amy. I met women like that, and they love the Bible, they love Jesus. They just want to follow their calling. They want to use their gifts. And they weren't self assured that I'm going to bring this agenda, but they are just like, what does God want from me? What does the Bible say? How do I study this in light of church history and theology? So I actually went through a process of studying that changed my mind. And fast forward several years later. I ended up doing a blog series called Why I Believe in Women in Ministry because I felt like the time had come for me to do something. I had changed my mind, but I didn't really do much about that. I supported my wife, who's a pastor. I've supported other people personally, but I thought, as a scholar, I have one tool that I can use for the good, and that's my voice. That's my writing voice. And so I wrote this blog series, and Lori, it just took off in a way I could never imagine, with tens of thousands of views within a day or two. And I ended up writing 22 blog posts over the course of a month, and people just couldn't get enough of it. And I wondered, there's already stuff written out there written, but the hurt and the problems are so ongoing that it's never going to be I'm sad to say this is never going to be an issue that we're just going to put behind us. It's never going to be something where we're just going to say, remember back in the day where women were harmed? Remember back in the day where churches were atrophied by not being allowed to have women leaders? So I wrote that, and then publishers came to me and said, you should write a book, and that's a typical thing for a publisher to do. And originally, Lori, I said, I don't really have anything new to say, but the reason I wrote Tell Her Story is I write a lot of very detailed biblical commentaries on Philippians or colossians. And one thing that really struck me in this kind of granular work that I do in Paul's letters and I've written on the Lord's Prayer and other parts of the Gospels, one thing that really stuck out to me is we create these boxes of where women should be. And when I actually work on the New Testament for my job, when I put my job hat on, I put the pieces together. Women are everywhere. We say women can't be in the Elder meeting, or they can't be in the pulp, or they can't be the famous go home for Dbethmore. They should be at home. And what I noticed is not only are women out, but they're out of the command of the apostles, and they are apostles. I mean, this is stuff that I didn't hear growing up. This is stuff I didn't hear in high school. This is stuff I didn't hear in college. And to a large degree, this is stuff that I didn't even hear in seminary. And it made me realize, what am I missing here? And so I actually start the book and you know this, but I start the book with the story of Hidden Figures. And if you remember the book or the movie Hidden Figures, it's about the history of the American spaceflight achievements. And you open up history books and it's about the men, right? And then Margaret Lee Shutterly wrote this story of the women behind these great achievements that it couldn't have happened without them. And the pieces started to fit together. That it's. Just like that with the Bible. And we have failed. I have failed in the past to see these women, to recognize them, to admire them, and to tell their story. That's the backdrop.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Yes. And I have failed, too. I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination, and especially in the white portion of that, I was given a particular lens, a very male centric lens. The reason I separated is because my Venezuelan upbringing and then my time in Indonesia and Singapore and the churches wasn't the same. There's something about the white male version of the patriarchy lens on it that was particularly strong but didn't allow me to see Deborah and Junior and Phoebe and all of Romans 16. I never once heard a sermon on it until I preached one, basically. And I preached the first sermon on Junior that I ever heard, basically. And yeah, I think that what you're saying is they were hidden, but they were always there, just like it was. I think the year was at 2020 when NASA and Virginia finally named their building after one of the women. 2020. That's unbelievably late. But once you see, then you try to change things, and I hope that's what your book does. Yeah. You alluded earlier that you went through this process of changing your mind about women in the Bible compared to how you used to view them. Do you remember when you first heard about Junior being prominent among the apostles? Not just an apostle, but also prominent among them?

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah, I think I explored this in seminary a little bit, but it wasn't a hot topic at that time. It was really later on that I read a book by a scholar named Eldon EP, who was kind of historian they called a textual critic because he studies biblical manuscripts. And he wrote this book about Junior as an apostle. And he made this really convincing argument that if you go back to the early first few centuries of Christianity, the theologians of that time called them the patristic writers because they call it the church fathers period. In that time, the Church fathers, you know, 90% of them were on the same page that Juneau was a woman and an apostle. And then sometime in the medieval period, there was some kind of what I think is intentional corruption of the biblical manuscript tradition because they said, hey, women can't be apostles. So either she wasn't a woman or she wasn't an apostle.

Lori Adams-Brown:

She was a genius. Yeah.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

So then there was a manipulation of the information to make it seem like this person is a man. And that persisted for a very long time, until the modern period. And it really was only in the middle of the 20th century that scholars tried to trace this and say, no. Hey. So if you read old translations, many of them not all of them, many of them have what you just mentioned the name JuneOS with an S, which is meant to signal this is a man. But JuneOS or Juneau wasn't actually a name back in the Roman period that the New Testament was written in. So it was a lot later that I got into this conversation about Junior, but a lot of my book is about stepping out of some of the artificial frameworks we use and start to think about how those first Christians actually thought and talked. So just to give an example, we might hear today women can't be pastors, right? But the word pastor, even though it occurs in Ephesians four and shepherding, which is what pastor means, does appear every now and again. The church job or office of pastor is a modern phenomenon. I'm not saying it shouldn't happen. I'm not saying it's sinful or bad. I'm just saying we have to be careful not to anachronistically impose that. I provide some evidence that for the first three centuries plus of Christianity, they didn't actually call any leaders pastor. Now, they did recognize that all leaders shepherd as a verb shepherding, but they didn't actually call anyone pastor. So when we say the Bible says this, I just want to make it clear the Bible doesn't say that. And the Bible actually doesn't say that women can't be elders either, although people put those pieces together, they make these kind of chain links of things to say hey, this is what the Bible says. We could talk about one Timothy two later. But what I want to focus on in my book is the fact that these women are present and involved and exercising leadership whenever and wherever men were, and they were affirmed by the risen Lord Jesus, or by the angels that announced the resurrection, or by the apostles like Paul, or by other Christian leaders. And we need to step out of our what I sometimes call snow globe version of what we think the New Testament world was like and step into the reality of what was actually going on. Where women were teachers, apostles, prisoners for the Lord. They were doing public, dangerous, cutting edge, front lines, laborious ministry, and it's far past time that we give them the credit that is owed to them.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Amen to that. Oh my goodness, yes, absolutely. And I feel like we should just play a song and have an altar call now, but we'll keep going. I really love that you put it that way, because I remember when I was in seminary, I went to Southern Baptist Seminary, golden Gate Seminary, in the late ninety s, and one of the professors of theology was the first to really say it in that way, this concept of pastor, when people would ask him, what do you believe about women pastors? That was always his answer. Show me male pastors in the Bible. Like, show me where that is a title for a person. It's a job. And then suddenly you realize, oh, you couldn't find it. Right. Like you said, there's this lens given. So if you start with this lens and then the assumptions are made, then you see the lens you've been given until you take those glasses off and either put new glasses on or just see with your own fresh eyes. You probably don't see that because it's been inserted into your brain as if it's there. But the scholarship and this is not new, right? Egalitarian theology is not new. It's not something that was invented by feminists, although that can sometimes be the narrative. This is a long standing tradition that goes all the way back, like you said, to the New Testament and women leading. And so you dig into a little bit about the different. I love how you mentioned it's not just that there was a culture where men and women had different expectations in society or different rights, but it's also about socioeconomic status. Maybe education level property might be owned by a few women if there were no men left in the family. Or you have someone like Phoebe, who it seems as though she's mentioned in Romans 16, in the very beginning for a reason, was very heavily involved in the drafting of Romans. The whole book, which is arguably the most theological book in the entire Bible, and was responsible most likely for preaching this book to the Roman house churches. So how was the status of a woman like her so important to understand? And why do we need to know about Phoebe in terms of the church today?

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Absolutely. I recently wrote an essay that's not in the book, but it's related, about women and the art. So this is going to help people put the pieces together on how status and social capital can change someone's level of influence. So I talk about women in the 20th century, let's say the early, early and mid 20th century, pre civil rights in America. And you know, there's going to be traditional gender roles in the family, and yet women in the music industry or women in the acting industry can have voice that is more powerful than politicians, is more powerful than preachers. Why is that? That's because sometimes those status opportunities give you a platform and give you credibility that can exercise influence. Well, if we go back to the Roman world, it was a very organized world in terms of how someone grows in power and voice and status, and they had different, what I call, indexes of power. One is patriarchy, which means men are going to have a lot more privilege when it comes to voting, when it comes to the law, when it comes to income and all kinds of stuff. And I affirm in the book, the Roman world was definitely patriarchal. It wasn't good for women. It was everything you would imagine in terms of oppression and abuse. I'm not trying to make it sound like the Roman world was good for women, it wasn't. But there was more than one index of power. One index is patriarchy, but another index is social class. Now, in America, we don't exactly have social class, but in the UK, they still have some of that, in India, they still have some of that. And so it's not a crazy idea that your name, we might say your zip code now gives you a bump in some ways. Right? We know what that's like. In terms of passport, the kind of passport you hold gives you power in many cases just by virtue of birth, rather than some kind of achieved something. So a woman of high status, even though she couldn't vote, even though she couldn't hold public office, could wield a massive amount of social power. And we actually have lots of examples like that. And so then you ask, what did the early Christians do about that? Did they ignore that? They definitely ignored that when it came to salvation. They don't care who you are. Everybody deserves to get to know Jesus. But the apostles were strategic in using what people got in terms of their ability to navigate the world, their ability to get to places that other people can't get to. So just to take the example of Phoebe, she seems to be a person of means, because Paul calls her a benefactor of me and of many, which was coded language of that time for being a high status, wealthy patron. Someone that can get you out of a sticky situation, someone that can help fund your project, someone that can get themselves into meetings and locations to meet important people. And Paul didn't say, everybody, give up all your money and everybody. I think he realized there were people of high status that could navigate the world and get his letters, get the Gospel out to far reaching places. And Phoebe is one of those people we could talk about Lydia. Lydia also appears to be one of those people. She's a businesswoman. She believes in the gospel. Paul preaches to her, and her whole household is converted. Now, by mentioning her and her household, it kind of assumes that she is the head of her own household. And what's fascinating about that story for the Book of Acts she's in Philippi is she becomes a believer, goes home, her whole family converts, and then the apostles go off on some adventures. And then when they get out of prison, where do they go? They go to Lydia's house. Why? Because believers are gathering there. Why? Because as someone of some status, she's going to be a natural gathering point for those people. She's going to have some intelligence, some leadership capabilities, naturally, based on being a household leader, based on being a business person. And it's not a coincidence that they go to her house. She is a natural leader, and the apostles don't chide her for that. They recognize that and they utilize her skills.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Yes. And as a businesswoman myself who preaches in pulpits here in Silicon Valley on occasion, I really love Lydia. And I think that when we put roles on women, which that whole word is not really a Biblical language, there's no part of the Bible to say, this is your role, this is your role. It's sort of a lens we've put on it. Right then we miss the beauty of Lydia, of Deborah, like you wrote about. And we need more sermons, we need more scholarship, we need to talk about them more as leaders, servant leaders in the church in the same way we do men. But we like the hidden figures. We have tended to sideline them or diminish them or explain them away or just not teach about them really at all. And I think that's hurt us in a lot of ways because our theology ends up playing out in how we live our lives, but also when we're not letting women use their Godgiven gifts in the church, we all miss out. Like Dr. Beth Alison Barr, who knows, written a forward for your book and is very excited about it. She's a friend of the show. We had her on the day making a Biblical Woman Head was releasing and her whole Hashtag and Christian patriarchy and all the movements she has started to create. This hurts everyone. And I wholeheartedly agree. We're going to talk a little bit about something kind of controversial, and that is the Southern Baptist Convention at the moment has kicked out Saddleback Church here in California. I have a complicated relationship with Saddleback because the current lead pastor is someone I used to work for and was bullied and intimidated and coerced me and many others, and aka. Spiritual abuse, psychological abuse as well. And then Rick Warren, who asked the man who abused me and many others to replace him, also turned a blind eye. And it's an odd world because these two men are now seen as fighting on behalf of women pastures, while at the same time not allowing women to speak or believe them or listen deeply to their stories or really do the hard work of being shoulder to shoulder. What is your perspective on what's happening? And not just the center of Baptist necessarily, but in many churches where it looks as though women can lead, but in reality they're not really leading?

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah, sadly, these stories happen all too often. And I think of the recent issues with Josh Butler's article on sex for the Gospel Coalition and you're mentioning the Southern Baptists. I've been processing this with my students, not just these issues, but many of a similar kind. And I keep going back to Caitlin Beatty's book, Celebrities for Jesus. It's a great book. We've created a culture that immediately gives credibility to celebrities and people that seem important, and they haven't been held accountable, they haven't been tested, they haven't been challenged. And we support what looks good on paper, what looks good in the spotlight. And so this is kind of a cultural dynamic that has just like a train running out of control. I'm very sad. What happened to you? We've created this world, right? We've created a world where what's most important is the flash. I encourage, if any, of your listeners interested, I have a podcast with my friend AJ. Swabota called Slow Theology, and we're trying to counteract that. Lori, we believe that formation needs to stop happening on social media through instant gratification of complaining or spotlighting yourself or whatever it is. We need to return to some older ways of careful, honest, authentic, open, vulnerable discipleship. I don't know where to begin with a movement like the Southern Baptists or the Gospel Coalition because it comes from a deeper place of power. I mean, this all comes back to power and how power is utilized and in whose hands it is invested. It's funny when I talk to my students about the term elder, which occurs a lot in the New Testament, it literally means old person. Like, we've turned it into a technical term for a church leader. But it would be crazy in the biblical world to have, like, a teenage elder. Now, their life expectancy was shorter, but for them to see us have, let's say, a 25 year old elder would be crazy given the life. Expectancy we have. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't have as a matter of law, but the idea of an elder means the church's guardians, the church's protectors, the church's mothers and fathers ought to be proven, tested, wise and mature Christians who have demonstrated their wisdom through a life lived in holiness, justice, obedience, humility, faithfulness. And I worry about the megachurch movements that we have, the celebrity movements, how book authors are chosen, how they're paid. That's one of the issues with Celebrities for Jesus platforming. So what you're talking about with Saddleback, and I'm not an insider in some of those details, is the dangers of passing on such a massive responsibility of that church to what appears to me to be a young person who hasn't been tested. But then again, I don't know if Rick Warren, when he started, was either. So it's so complex, I wouldn't even know where to start. But I would encourage anyone listening to read Celebrities for Jesus because we need to be able to put our finger on a much bigger problem in American Christianity, which is focusing on optics, focusing on the 15 minutes of fame rather than the lifetime of obedience, what Eugene Peterson calls long obedience in the same direction.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Yes, absolutely. And it just tends to be in a world that is swimming in patriarchy, which has been my world my whole life, everywhere I've lived. And when it's the oxygen we all breathe, we just prefer the male voices. I myself did for a really long time. Here it is, Women's History Month, and some people, just during Women's History Month, will make commitments to only read books by women or listen to podcasts by women and that type of thing. But even if it's only one month a year, that's not really enough when it comes to situations, especially around abuse in the church, where women's voices are often silenced when they don't have positions in this hierarchy. We've created in the church, where it's mostly male centric, systems made by males, for males, tables built by men, for men, that if a woman shows up, it's very awkward even to be there. Maybe her body is welcome, but not her brain or her soul, her voice. And so that's often where we get into trouble in situations like the situation at Saddleback, right? Having Rick Warren and then the guy that he brought in to replace him be the ones to give the narrative and never once asking those with a different perspective, a lot of whom are women, to even chime in because male voices are so authoritative. And when we're looking at the New Testament, that was also very prominently a part of that culture. And yet what's so beautiful is that we have so many women written about in the Bible with so many different types of spiritual gifts that we're doing incredible things for God's kingdom. And we see Jesus on purpose welcoming that and elevating these women so that they would be heard giving Mary Magdalene the microphone to announce the gospel to the men as the very first woman to human to have seen the resurrected Christ as a woman. My perspective is that these were intentional choices within patriarchy to show us if we were willing to see what was going on. In your perspective, how do you see the role of women in the church evolving in the coming years? What is your hope for people who are in the middle of trying to study first Timothy Too, for example, and figure out what this all is?

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

I think one issue is seminary and how we train pastors, because if we don't get it right in the seminary end, then it's going to go wrong on the churches. And so when we look at churches, whether it's saddleback or other churches, we have to go back to their training, because if we don't see women in college and seminary, then those blind spots are going to get harder and harder to remove. So my hope is there's going to be more conversation across difference in the academic world, the world that I live in. One of the things I'm proud about with my book is there are people reading it from the Southern Baptist or conservative Presbyterian traditions that say, even though I didn't agree with everything in the book, I was challenged to see women who showed up and women that were models of faith. That's a start. I mean, that's an important start to say, I can champion women, I can recognize women in Scripture, and today I see signs of hope. I think one of the difficulties is the political climate, the polarized political climate. We live in red state, blue state and all of that, that makes it harder to have a conversation because we experience this righteous outrage. We have to find ways, especially in the church and Academy, to turn off those magnets that propel us from one another and be able to come together to listen without fear of what I call contamination. That, oh, if I listen to someone from the other side, I'm going to get their cooties and then I'm going to be shamed by my people. We have to get over the cooties and we have to be able to sit down, have conversations. That means we can't lob grenades at each other. We need to build bridges and have conversations. Lori there's a challenging tightrope there. When do I speak out with a strong voice against and when do I try to build bridges? I think there's discernment and wisdom there, but I guess my perspective is the academy is an important place to do a lot of that conversation.

Lori Adams-Brown:

It is. And I thank you for the role that you're playing in the academy, and it's not easy to be in that position. I think all of us are having to make choices like which battles to enter and which ones to not. We can't fight every battle, but I think that the beauty of all of us at least trying to posture ourselves to say we're seekers of truth, we're curious, not certain of every single thing for all time that will never, ever change what we learned at six years old and that it will always be. If my faith was exactly how it was at six years old, that would mean I hadn't done a very good job of studying and being curious and being open to being wrong about how I saw something. And I feel like part of Jesus's ministry here was to show us this Socratic method of questioning. He often asked questions as a response to a question he was showing us all along. We need to stay curious because he's moving and showing us what change looks like. But that's a scary place because our brains prefer certainty. It's hard to think through difficult, controversial issues. It's hard to be out there and think you might get canceled for taking a stand. These are very emotional things that we're dealing with in our generation that are real. But there's also a fear that if half the church and if we're being honest, women often make up more than half the church.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah, I agree.

Lori Adams-Brown:

If we are not letting them use their God given gifts and we're quenching the Holy Spirit, and that's on all of us, then we have to answer at the end of time for how we have stewarded as a body of Christ or not stewarded the gifts of women. And personally, for me, it came down to, I have to answer for my gift, and am I going to leave it, like my coach Joe Saxton would say, wrapped up under the Christmas tree and just keep letting it collect dust? Or am I going to use the gifts that God gave me for flourishing for myself and all of humanity? And I think that for me, that's where the greater fear lies. Not that we should be motivated by fear, but I don't want to get to the end of time and look Jesus face to face and say, I was too afraid to use my gift. I was afraid I'd be canceled. So I hope that people can see both sides of it and not just be swept up into this arena where we're just devouring each other and it gets kind of nasty out there. So I just appreciate you as an academic speaking into it for writing this book that you are getting, southern Baptist, whether they agree with you or not, at least read it and to acknowledge the women there. That's well done, good and faithful servant. You've done a good job there and I really appreciate it. I want to just ask you one last question and then give you a chance to share how people can find you. But is there anything that you want to leave our audience with today that you feel like is really important to talk about around this topic.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

I know you have all different types of listeners. I would say, whether reading my book or another book, just spend some time noticing the women in the Bible and what they're doing and where they are and what they're risking. One of my favorite little details of the New Testament is this woman, Junior, Paul says, is a prisoner for the sake of the Gospel. She's experienced time in prison. And through my study of ancient Roman prisons, there were very few women in prison, and women and men were not separated. So she was putting her purity and her life on the line in a way, even more than men. I would say what she was risking was even greater than men, greater than her husband. Andronicus and for her to for Paul to commend her means she left prison alive, which is saying something in and of itself. And then she went back into ministry, hence Paul's greeting to her churches of Rome. That's incredible. I mean, I've not even come close to suffering from my faith in that way. And Paul also says she's andronicus and Junior were earlier than me in the faith, and Paul's pretty dang early in the first century. So she represents what we think of as the first generation I think she represents the first generation of Christianity, maybe even a follower of Jesus while he was in his earthly ministry. And so I like to call andronicus and Junior Paul's auntie and uncle, because in India, we call everyone aunt and uncle that are older than us. And what an amazing thing if anybody would qualify to be Paul's heroes, people that Paul wanted to emulate, humans that Paul wanted to emulate, because it wasn't Peter, probably. But if you wanted to have humans, it would be these people that were probably also older than Paul. A lot of my book is just stopping and thinking about the situation and what that means, whether it's prison or whether it's Mary showing up at Pentecost, mary, the mother of Jesus, or whether it's Deborah arguing as a judge with the people probably mostly men, over their law cases. I mean, it's just imagining the bravery and the faith and the faithfulness of these women that we don't talk enough about. That's what really inspired this book, and that's why, I hope, will inspire others.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Well, you've inspired me, and I know you're inspiring so many people that I'm reading that are excited about your book releasing. Congratulations on this very thoughtful scholarship that you've put into it. And I really hope that it gets into the hands and the minds and souls of people that need to make that mindset shift that you made and understand really what it means for women to be image bearers alongside men in this kingdom work. So how can people find you? I want to make sure people follow your podcast your blog, all your writing and what you're doing.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Yeah, I mentioned my podcast. Low theology with AJ. Swabota. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts, and I blog at Crux Solo. It's a pathway's blog. I do a lot of academic stuff. If you're interested in more kind of pop level stuff, I have a magazine column with Fathom magazine where I do a lot on the Bible and spiritual formation. And if you're interested in seminary, check out Northern Seminary.

Lori Adams-Brown:

That's right. Northern seminary. So great. We have many friends there. And for our patreon supporters, if you're one of our patrons, we're going to do an exclusive episode here in a second with him around some of the stuff that's gone on at Northern Seminary recently where the president has stepped down from allegations of bullying and intimidation and abuse, essentially. And then also Dr. Lynn kohik has now left, and that's super sad because we love her. So we're going to talk to you a little bit about your perspective with that in our exclusive episodes for patrons. So if you're not part of our Patreon community, then sign up for this month so that you can be a part of hearing this conversation. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart and my soul for this book. It's just so wonderful to read this written by a man. So few men really dig into the subject, and so we're just thankful to be shoulder to shoulder with you and helping to see the women of the Bible and what it means for us in the church today. So thanks for being on the show today and EJ.

Dr. Nijay Gupta:

Thanks, Lori.

Lori Adams-Brown:

Well, if you are a person who has read the New Testament before, or have read it multiple times in multiple languages, or have never once read it and have been listening to this today, I hope it's piqued your curiosity to learn more and to want to check out Dr. Nijay Gupta's latest book that's releasing just this week called Tell Her Story how women led, taught and ministered in the early Church. It is such a fascinating read. He puts together things that some women scholars have been saying for a while with, you know, a few little things here and there that you might not have read other places. But if you're not used to reading women authors on the New Testament, then he's lending his male privilege to the conversation, which I absolutely am so grateful for. We need men speaking about these things too, and I'm glad he's shoulder to shoulder with some of the wonderful women scholars and theologians out there who've been talking about these types of things for a while. It's wonderful to see this and it's wonderful to read it. So I hope that you check out this book. He talks about all kinds of different women, deborah, who was a judge. He talks about his own journey of when he was reading Judges and started to see that for the first time in a different way and also just women in the New Testament like Phoebe and Junia that he mentioned. Lydia. So definitely check out this book to give you deeper perspective on what women were really doing in the early church. And I think you might be surprised if you haven't dug into this subject very much. I also just appreciate his vulnerability today to talk about things that we end up talking about in the exclusive interview for all of you in our patreon community. So you can join our patreon community for as little as $5 a month and you get free merch as well if you stick with us for a little while. So you are just warmly welcome today. I want to personally invite you to join in because we're going to have this exclusive interview that we recorded with him around what's going on at Northern Seminary. Some of you have probably seen some of that in the news where the president of Northern Seminary has stepped down due to allegations of bullying and intimidation, you know, aka psychological spiritual abuse allegations. And so he has stepped down and it's also meant Dr. Lynn Kohick has recently stepped down, who's a biblical scholar. That's just an incredible woman and her scholarship has really influenced me as well. So it's sad the things that are going on. But he also, in this exclusive interview gives us the hope that he has for the changes that are potentially going to be made in the next days and weeks and months ahead to sort of be more transparent and truthful and to put safeguards in. And so that's our hope and our prayers. So he definitely gets a little more vulnerable in our exclusive interview for all of you patrons. So join this month if you haven't been a part of us so that you can hear this interview. And yeah, I think that I would really love to hear from you what you thought about what he said today. Is this conversation new for you? Have you seen women leading teaching and ministering in the early church in the ways that he described in this interview today? Have you bought the book? Have you been reading it? Are you excited to buy it and read it? We'll have a link for how to get a copy of his book and the show notes as well, but I would love to hear from you. So stop into our Facebook group if you're not there. And then also we discuss these types of things like I said in our patreon community, which is where we try to get the conversation really going to talk about each of our episodes. So I'd love for you to bring your perspective, your differences to our table and our community and let us know your differing perspective on how this landed with you. And I do encourage you to keep following Dr. Nijay Gupta and all of his writing in the different journals, where he writes on his Pathios blog that he writes for and maybe take one of his classes. You don't have to be a full time seminary student to just sign up for one of his classes. I'd just love to hear what your perspective on this episode was today. He's definitely somebody I wanted to introduce you to, if you haven't already heard him. And even though we wanted to have all women on during Women's History Month, I made an exception for him because it was wonderful to see a man writing a book like this on behalf of women. And I think he's an example of how men can be involved in Women's History Month, too. Women's History Month isn't all just for women, by women. It's for all of us to learn about women's history. And he has certainly done the work to learn about women and dug deep in there. And he's a great example of what that looks like to find these hidden figures in women's history, her story. So happy Women's History Month once again to each of you women out there. And we are celebrating your stories. We're learning from your stories. So also reach out and let us know what you're learning in Women's History Month. That would be really fun to hear. I got to hear a lot from different women as I was recently at the Forbes 30 50 International Women's Day Summit in Abu Dhabi, where I got to hear so many different women speak on panels. I couldn't even list all of them. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to GLoria Steiner to Billie Jean King to Ellen of Zelenska, who's the First Lady of the Ukraine. People like Catherine O'Hara, who's the actress that plays in Home Alone as Kevin's mom. The famous scene Kevin and also is on Sheds Creek as Mara. Got to see her ride a camel. So fun. And she spoke about just being an actress playing roles as a mom. And Jessica Alva was speaking about her honest company with Ayesha Curry, talking about her company and the work that she and Steph career have done in Oakland and the community. So, so many different women. I was learning and soaking in so much in Women's History Month. It was a lot of fun to be there. But yeah, I'd love to hear how your Women's History Month is going, what you're learning, what you're reading, how you're spending time with women and listening to their stories, and especially if you're listening to women whistleblowers or women who have been abused when their stories have been covered up by men in power. I would really love to hear how that's going because that's something particularly close to my experience in my heart. So I'd love to hear about that. In the meantime, so grateful for each of you and keep making a difference wherever you are.

About the Podcast

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A World of Difference
A podcast for those who are different and want to make a difference

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Lori Adams-Brown

Lori Adams-Brown is a combination of business executive, international speaker and podcast host of a top 10% global podcast, whose over 20 years of leading global teams has made her a strong and inclusive leader of teams who exceed expectations. As a former international relief & development leader, she has led diverse global teams in multiple cultures where she learned to speak six languages. Lori improves systems, motivates teams with relationship building, and achieves global results. She is a culture connoisseur and a people first global manager. Her happy place is sipping a flat white coffee while having a deep conversation and enjoying either a beach or mountain vacation with the love of her life, Jason, and their 3 teenagers.