Q and A with Dorothy Patterson

Communications Staff — January 15, 2010

Dorothy Patterson has been one of the leading complementarian female writers and speakers among evangelicals for many years. She is the author of “A Woman Seeking God” among several other books. She also co-edited the Women’s Evangelical Commentary on the New Testament and is editing the second volume on the Old Testament.

Patterson is the wife of Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She serves as professor of theology in women’s studies at the seminary.

Question: You travel and speak a lot at schools and churches around evangelicalism. What major gender-related issues do you see on the horizon right now?

Dorothy Patterson: One big issue that is always with us is “what is the authority of Scripture?” You have two polar opposite positions: egalitarianism and complementarianism. Both claim that they are standing under Scripture and that they are doing exactly what Scripture says. Now, when you start debates, you can narrow that down very quickly, but that’s the broad response. So a basic ongoing issue is: “Does the Bible mean what it says and are we going to follow it?” That has always been the big issue.

Question: It seems that we always need more female complementarian writers and scholars on gender issues. How can we encourage women to be studying and writing about gender issues?

Patterson: We need to get past the notion that women are incapable of learning certain things and that we really don’t need these extra things for women. Paul said we should learn, and I take that very seriously. I think the key is for women to get a vision for the importance of learning because we have to teach women. We need women teaching women. We need it in every discipline, and we need it across the board because the women of this nation, whether they are single or married, they have in their DNA this matter of maternal nurturing. That’s in the DNA of a woman.That’s why you find so many women in helping and teaching professions who have that gift, and we need to encourage women in whatever they are doing, whether it’s homemaking, as I am doing, or something else, because they will be molding the next generation whether it’s raising their own child or teaching in a classroom. It may be in a church setting or a community setting or a neighborhood setting. As evangelicals, we need to make training for women available.

Question: What do you say to those who dismiss a great number of women by saying, ‘Oh, they’re just stay-at-home moms?’

Patterson: I’m going to write on the homemaker next year because I’ve been told that since I travel with my husband and do all these things, that I’m not a homemaker. But I do these things to support my husband because I am a homemaker. Every homemaker is a helper, every homemaker is different, and that’s a vision we’ve lost. I think we need to see that homemaking is a professional pursuit in that you need to prepare for it and give yourself to it with all your energy and all your creativity and with all your commitment. And you must bring to it all the preparation you can because it is an overwhelming task. It’s not just keeping the home. It’s helping your husband, it’s rearing your children, it’s doing volunteer work. We’ve lost a lot of our volunteer workers because we’ve denigrated homemaking to the point that every woman thinks she has to have a paid job. This is true in churches, schools and communities.

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