In my conversations, another claim brought up was that the Bible supposedly addresses men more often than women in regard to matters of salvation. Tied in with this was a notion that the Catholic Church in particular has been one of the most guilty of reinforcing such a notion through its liturgy, rituals, and leadership.
As to the latter point, there’s clearly a difference between what an organized religious group affirms (whether it be the Catholic Church or the Southern Baptist Convention) and what the Bible itself actually teaches. I’d be glad to look at specific verses that anyone understands as teaching salvation for men alone and not for women, but I’d still maintain that such passages don’t exist. Again, as I stressed in my previous post, the word “men” used in the context of salvation always refers to humankind in general (as the original Hebrew and Greek language usage requires) or we otherwise see women mentioned alongside men. As an example, what could be clearer than this Old Testament passage quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost?
“Then Peter stood up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and addressed the crowd … this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out My Spirit on all people;
your SONS and DAUGHTERS will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on My servants, both MEN and WOMEN,
I will pour out My Spirit in those days,
and THEY will prophesy…
And EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Acts 2:14-21
Peter was insisting that Pentecost was the fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy from Joel. Not only this, but the prophecy includes men and women as recipients of salvation and the spiritual gift of prophecy in the New Testament era.
Whether someone was raised in an environment that had male priests or servant-leaders exclusively, or where people spoke more highly of men than women, is beside the point. There is simply no evidence of any Christian group in history (cf. Michael Nolan’s comments on claims regarding the Council of Macon) that didn’t affirm the salvation of all people, and not just biological men, who believe in Christ.
The idea of women and their role in ministry or official church functions is a completely different topic. But even in this area, I don’t see the Bible teaching any difference between males and females—there are clearly women throughout the Bible who were teachers, deacons, prophets, and healers. Deborah, of course, was a judge and prophet of prominence in even the pre-monarchic period of ancient Israel. For a more in-depth and solid treatment of these type of ministerial issues, I’d personally recommend the book Man and Woman, One in Christ by Philip Barton Payne. For time’s sake, there’s also a helpful summary available of his book’s contents and main arguments.
Now, I’m certainly not Catholic. But I still know that this main idea that was claimed about their teaching on women is a bit unfair. To simply say that souls of women, their salvation, or women’s existence in heaven was never mentioned by some parish’s leadership is just an argument from silence: even if those in an individual’s church/parish may have never explicitly “talked” about this idea, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t believe in women having souls, being saved, and so forth. Obviously, many of us believe fundamental things that we don’t openly talk about all the time, and we don’t have to affirm these things every single day in order to demonstrate that we still believe them.
Also consider: the Catholic Church clearly venerates many women as saints and martyrs in heaven, and they have always had women receiving baptism and the Eucharist (which both require a person to have a soul). So, again, even as a non-Catholic, I have to point out that this criticism is very unfair.
That being said, though, if anyone was ever directly taught that women can’t receive salvation or don’t have souls, then I’d agree that they were taught something needlessly hurtful and negative. But I’d also maintain, as millions of others do, that it’s not what the Bible teaches. And neither have any significant Christian denominations or sects throughout history believed such a nonsensical thing.