Bible Gateway interviewed Julie Roys (@reachjulieroys) about her book, Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood (Thomas Nelson, 2017).
How do feminine souls and masculine souls differ?
Julie Roys: For years, I didn’t think they did. I was a quintessential tomboy growing up and loved playing sports and competing against boys. I also loved debating issues and sparring intellectually. I was a Christian and believed God had created men and women for unique purposes, but I had trouble figuring out what those purposes were. Other than our anatomy, it seemed like women and men were pretty much the same—at least when considering people like me who never really fit a gender stereotype.
Then God allowed me to go through a very painful experience that showed me I was far more feminine than I ever would have imagined. I realized that I had a strong craving for relationship and intimacy—and when I didn’t get it, I resorted to a stereotypically feminine way of trying to get it.
This experience sparked a spiritual, emotional, and intellectual journey that eventually led me to see that women embody nurture and relational connectedness in a way that’s unique to them. Conversely, men embody initiation and strength in a way that’s unique to them. This is revealed in numerous Scriptures, but perhaps most explicitly in the gender-specific curses in Genesis 3. God causes women to experience pain in childbirth, and men to be frustrated as they work and try to take dominion over nature. Yet, neither women nor men fit neatly into the gendered caricatures the church often communicates to them. We’re far more complex than that.
You write that women are destroying themselves. How so?
Julie Roys: Many women have been wounded, dismissed, or even abused simply because they’re women. In addition, our culture values masculine virtues like strength and power over feminine ones like compassion and empathy. So it’s not surprising that many women are rejecting anything that’s uniquely feminine about themselves and instead becoming, as feminist icon Gloria Steinem once wrote, “the men we wanted to marry.”
The problem is that God didn’t make women to be men. And becoming like them requires us to die to something essential within ourselves. Yet that’s precisely what’s happening today. Many women have traded motherhood for jobs in the marketplace. We’re serving in combat positions in the military. And we’re even competing in sports like weightlifting, wrestling, and boxing in the Olympics. These changes supposedly represent progress, yet studies show we’re less happy than ever before. Unfortunately, we’ve lost sight of who God made us to be, and have adopted the perverse values of our misogynistic culture. And it’s making us miserable.
How has the theologically conservative Christian church become a “boys’ club”?
Julie Roys: I don’t think conservative churches intend to be a boys’ club. But when churches exclude women from full participation in the church, that’s what often happens. Men take all the main leadership roles in the church, and it often never occurs to them that women possess certain gifts and should be invited to contribute in significant ways.
Of course, many male leaders don’t allow women to serve in certain capacities because they believe Scripture advocates specific, rigid roles for each gender. While these roles have validity, the church unfortunately has become rather myopic, focusing almost obsessively on sex roles while missing the greater and grander vision of why God created gender in the first place. As I say in Redeeming the Feminine Soul, conservatives often miss the forest for the trees. On the other hand, feminists have razed the entire forest!
How is understanding what male and female symbolize critical for understanding God and his purposes?
Julie Roys: God created male and female/husband and wife to serve as spiritual symbols, revealing deep truths about himself and the way he relates to his church. Theologians have long taught that God designed the one-flesh union of Adam and Eve in Gen. 2:24 to be a symbol of the Trinity, showing how multiple persons exist in a life-giving union of love and mutuality. Then, in Ephesians 5, we learn that Christ’s church is invited to share in this Trinitarian union. We’re his bride and he’s our bridegroom. We become one with him as he’s one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
This is the greater and grander purpose of gender and sexuality, and if we miss this symbolic meaning, we lose our ability to comprehend God and our relationship with him. As Pope John Paul II once said, marriage and family are the bookends of Scripture and key to interpreting what’s in between. Scripture begins with the wedding of Adam and Eve and ends with the wedding feast of Christ and his bride, the church. Gender and sexuality encompass much more than designated roles or procreation. That’s likely why they’re being fiercely attacked today.
Unpack your chapter titled “A Man in Every Woman and a Woman in Every Man.”
Julie Roys: C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There ought spiritually to be a man in every woman and a woman in every man. And how horrid the ones who haven’t got it are: I can’t bear a ‘man’s man’ or a ‘woman’s woman.’” By this, Lewis wasn’t advocating for androgyny or gender ambiguity. Men should still be masculine and women should still be feminine. But Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were made in God’s image, “male and female.” So there seems to be something about masculinity and femininity that reflect God’s image. And since God apparently possesses both characteristics, we who are made in his image should likewise possess both masculine and feminine in a degree appropriate to our particular sex.
A woman who possesses only feminine characteristics is sickly passive and unable to act or say no. A man who possesses only masculine characteristics is warlike and incapable of empathy. Rather than promoting overly masculine visions of manhood and overly feminine visions of womanhood, the church should teach that healthy men and women contain a balance of both qualities. This is a much healthier vision for men and women than the reductionist visions so prevalent in many churches.
How should a woman pursue God’s design for the feminine ideal?
Julie Roys: I don’t think we should pursue a feminine ideal. For one, the feminine ideal presented in many churches isn’t biblical, but simply a uni-dimensional feminine caricature. Plus, trying to force ourselves into a certain mold often just makes us depressed, exhausted, and angry. It’s like pounding a square peg into a round hole.
That being said, there’s no doubt that many of us have been shaped by our culture in false and unhealthy ways. Yet rather than trying to pursue an ideal, we need to pursue Christ and personal transformation. We need to identify wrong attitudes and beliefs about our own gender, and confess them. We need to accept our limitations and agree to be the women God has made us to be. We need to seek healing and maturity. If we do this, we’ll eventually become, not some idealized woman, but an authentic, healthy, and godly one.
What’s a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Julie Roys: I have two passages, but their meanings are similar. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Similarly, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces, contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Both speak of this wonderful promise of Scripture that we can shed our broken, sinful selves and become glorious creations, reflecting Christ himself. The last chapter of my book is titled, “The Glorious Becoming,” and talks about the transformation I’ve experienced as I’ve followed Jesus over my lifetime. I never could’ve become the woman God created me to be without God’s transformative power.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Julie Roys: I love Bible Gateway and use it constantly! It’s the best resource for finding Bible passages using a keyword, and also for finding the best translation for a given verse. In fact, the two verses I quoted earlier are from the ESV and the NIV. I love that I can go to biblegateway.com and instantly read multiple translations of a given verse. I don’t know what I’d do without it!
Bio: Julie Roys is host of Up for Debate, a popular talk show on the Moody Radio Network, which is carried on more than 140 stations, reaching a potential audience of more than 33 million listeners. The author of Redeeming the Feminine Soul and a graduate of both Wheaton College and the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she is respected for her ability to tackle difficult conversations with both courage and fairness. Her work has appeared in World magazine, Christianity Today, and the Christian Post. She also is a sought-after speaker at mega-churches, conferences, and special events. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago area and have three children.
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