This article is about the importance of study and education for the (future) wife and mother.

Source: Christian Renewal, 2005. 3 pages.

Christian Women and Education: Wise Helpmeets, Able Mothers

My husband and I recently attended a function where an assort­ment of churches from the Dutch Reformed community were represent­ed. I began to chat with a woman whom I did not know and she asked me what I did. I told her that I was working on a liberal arts degree at uni­versity. She wondered what I could "do" with that; I told her that I hoped to get into grad school. Like most people I speak with about my education, she assumed I wanted to become a teacher. I did not. Why, she wanted to know, would I spend all of that money to "do nothing" with it? So I can be a better wife, was my answer, and the woman laughed out loud at the idea.

In our Reformed circles, where we rightly believe that marriage and moth­erhood are high callings for women, this attitude is widespread. Why get an education beyond high school if you are going to get married and have kids? The answer is very simple - because you are going to get married and have kids. The Bible places such a high value on able wives and mothers that, with the possible exception of a biblical prophetess like Deborah or a mission­ary like Mary Slessor, they are the high­est callings you can fulfill as a Christian woman. Caring for your fam­ily goes far beyond changing diapers and putting meals on the table. Being a wife and mother are occupations which will fill your entire life, affect the lives of those who are closest to you, and have great impact on their eternal condition. Should we not prepare more carefully for such serious callings than we would for any others, given the emphasis Scripture places on them?

Matthew Henry says in his Commentary that God created woman not to rule over man, nor to be tram­pled upon by him, but to be equal to him - to rule with him. As consorts to our husbands who rule over their households as well as the church and creation, we need to be educated - to know what is going on in our chil­dren's minds, hearts and bodies; to know what is going on politically in the world. As wives, we should under­stand the Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church well that we can wisely counsel, advise and encourage our hus­bands. As mothers, we should know literature so we can tell better stories, understand music so we can sing better songs and be familiar with biology so we can talk about the bugs our little boys find.

Unless a woman has a serious learn­ing disability, she should be using the intellectual talents God has given her, not letting them lie unused like the ser­vant who buried his talent, not even making interest on it. Even for those women who never become wives and mothers, a decent (university) educa­tion beyond high school should be the natural thing to do. Though a single woman will not have children and a family of her own to minister to, she has a church family to minister to, and younger women to teach - she should equip herself for that! Daniel Defoe writes in his essay on "The Education of Women",

If knowledge and under­standing had been useless additions to the sex, God Almighty would never have given them capacities, for He made nothing needless.

We gain the tools we need to be good at what we do as women through edu­cation. Defoe writes: Women should be taught all sorts of (subjects) suitable both to their genius and quality. And in particular, music ... they should be taught languages, particularly French and Italian ... they should be taught all graces of speech and all the necessary air of conversation, which our com­mon education is so defective in ... they should be brought to read books, and especially history, and read so as to make them understand the world, and be able to know and judge of things when they hear of them.

I would add to that list, writing almost three hun­dred years later, biology, chemistry, geography, literature, art history, music and drawing. It would also not hurt to have a little astronomy, physics, phi­losophy, nursing and political science, all of which can be very useful in run­ning a household and teaching chil­dren. This does not mean that you need a degree in each of those subjects - we would all be in our sixties before we married in such a situation - but it does mean that you should be able to find the Big Dipper, explain accelera­tion, understand why the recipe calls for baking powder and not soda, know how a cancer grows, point out Surinam on a map, tell your teenager why Hinduism is destructive, sketch your campsite, etc. Some women will be better at chemistry than music, others would rather draw than dissect worms. However, we should have general out­lines in our heads of the main concepts of subject which we do not love. My mother-in-law studied geography, but she knows what happened in 1688.

For a Christian wife and mother, however, the most important tool is a knowledge of the Christian faith. As the ones who look after their children in infancy, teach them to speak, and perhaps educate them at home, moth­ers have an incalculable impact on their children's spiritual condition, just as Eunice impacted and trained Timothy. A wife is also her husband's closest companion, and their two spiri­tual lives are closely linked; they affect each others' walk with the Lord. Therefore, women should be intimate with the Scriptures, perhaps learning a bit of Greek and Hebrew to understand the meaning better. We should know the Psalms so we can sing them to our babies, understand apologetics and Church history so we can train our children why and how to answer the Jehovah's Witnesses at the door. We should know some systematic theology and the creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith so that we can teach the younger women, as well as council our own husbands and give advice on spir­itual matters to children and friends.

Having an education similar to the one outlined above is not an option. It is part of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever as a wife and mother. God created the world and designed it to be studied and appreciated by His people, who ought to be the first to glory in what He has done in creation, includ­ing history, the sciences and redemp­tion. Being the best wife and mother you can be to God's glory involves get­ting the best education you can. Neglecting education and your own mind leads to creating an impotent helpmeet and a mother who is unable to reach her full potential; unable to do her best with what God gave her. How we get the education is up to us (uni­versity, tutors after high school, extensive reading and research on our own), but we do need to get it.

These ideas are beginning to circulate in the Reformed community right now, especially with the growth of classical curriculum for Christian schools, and many women who are already wives and mothers feel that they are too far along in life or too far behind in edu­cation to catch up to the biblical stan­dards. It is more difficult to get an edu­cation when you have three little chil­dren and a husband, but it is very pos­sible. A friend of mine knew practically nothing about the arts when she began to home school, but now excels many historians in ancient history and church history. She taught herself using the means available to her in a small community. Start taking books out of the library and reading them. Get clas­sic works of literature on CD and listen to them while you feed your baby or wash the dishes. Find a composer you like, and listen to their music in the van. Visit art gallery collections online with your eight-year-old. Learn from a friend who is well educated on a partic­ular subject. Husband and babies con­sidered, if you want to educate yourself informally, you can.

Hosea has some very strong warnings in chapter four of his book for those men and women who feel that a well trained mind is an option:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge I will reject you from being a priest to me and I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery, for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding will come to ruin.

Lack of knowledge, according to Hosea, leads beyond mental immobility to mental darkness and immorality. But on the contrary, when we are educated we will benefit our families and the church, spreading the light of the Word and the wonders of creation.

Charles Dickens once noted, How much may depend on the education of daughters and the conduct of mothers; how much of the brightest part of our old national character may be perpetuated by their wisdom or frittered away by their folly...

I am not arguing that women should lead in the home or the Church. Rather, like Defoe, "I would have men take women for companions, and educate them to be fit for it;" have wives become mothers and teach them to be skilled in their work.

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