Last week, Jen Wilkin, a well-known Christian author and Bible teacher, made a troubling statement at the Acts 29 Regional Conference concerning Women in the Church. About two and a half minutes into what she had to say, Wilkin claimed, “Women’s bodies, every 28 days, tell them a parable about the shedding of blood for the renewing of life.”
Wilkin apologized for making anyone uncomfortable before she made this statement, but no one – not conference leaders, volunteers, or anyone in the crowd listening – spoke up to correct something that seems to be at best grave hermeneutical error and at worst borderline Gnostic heresy. Earlier in her talk, Wilkin referred to people as “embodied females or embodied males,” which seems to suggest something outside the realm of orthodox beliefs, although it is not abundantly clear what she means by “embodied.” Gnostics, who appeared in the First Century alongside Jewish and Christian sects, stressed personal spiritual knowledge over orthodox teaching presented through Scripture. Gnostic teaching avoids terms like ‘sin’ and ‘repentance,’ instead emphasizing enlightenment and distortion of reality through illusion. The idea was that some people could have reasoning or knowledge through spiritual intuition and insight given to them by some sort of divine being.
When Wilkin likened women’s menstrual cycles to the shedding of Christ’s blood and the renewal of life given to us through that sacrifice, she was teaching something dangerously close to heresy. I don’t want this to appear as if I’m renouncing Wilkin’s Christianity over one instance of perhaps ill-advised or not very well-thought-out nuance, or that I’m kicking her out of the kingdom, because I am not. But none of us are exempt from falling into the realm of false teaching, especially when that teaching is shrouded in what looks like truth or appeals to our emotions in ways that Scripture doesn’t. It’s worth pointing out legitimate false teaching when it happens regardless of the reputation of the teacher because, as Wilkin states later on, women tend to gravitate toward teachers whom they personally like. It is much harder for any person to denounce any teaching by leaders they love and respect. That loyalty is commendable, but it is not infallible. And as a personal opinion, I think this nuance stems from a sincere desire to see women connect to the text in a specific way as it is obvious Wilkin cares deeply for women. Nevertheless, plainly speaking, women do not have some higher understanding of the atonement of Christ’s blood because of our periods, nor do our periods offer poetic metaphor in our everyday lives, however much we’d like to believe that.
Apart from the worrisome hermeneutic applied in this portion of her talk, Wilkin seemed to misunderstand the purpose of women’s menstrual cycles altogether: they are part of the curse in Genesis 3. Before the Fall, Eve didn’t bleed for days on end because she didn’t need to. There was no death, no shedding of blood, no cramps or PMS symptoms to overcome. When God confronts Adam and Eve after they sin, He says to the woman, “…I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) Our pain in childbirth includes the pain of monthly menstrual cycles, just as it includes the pain of every ache and added pressure to the body when the baby grows, as well as the pain of labor at the end.
Thankfully, this pain is not without purpose and it should serve to point us (as women) to Christ and the hope He brings us with His gospel. What would have served women better, should Wilkin have decided discussing women’s periods in a theological framework could benefit the Body, is if she had earnestly urged women to pray for faith during those times of pain. Pray that God would bear them up and through it, and that we would remember the curse given to Eve, while simultaneously remembering and praising God for Christ’s propitiation for us. Our pain and shedding of blood is not an allegory for the shedding of Christ’s blood, but it should serve as a reminder that though despair and death is the consequence for our sin, Christ has given us hope and life in Him.
Wilkin is not exempt from erroneous teaching, but we can, and likewise should offer grace along with space to repent as all Christians are given time and time again through our ongoing sanctification.
Watch the clip here: