November 27, 2014

IM Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

RHE-project-rachel_vs_rachel

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”
by Rachel Held Evans

Thomas Nelson, 2012

* * *

A-year-of-biblical-womanhood-book

Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday. What better time to offer a gift to all the women in our community, as we prepare to honor the most special women in our lives? I therefore present to you one of the most thoughtful, engaging, and invigorating books I’ve read in a while — Rachel Held Evans’s, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

This book narrates a serious search for understanding wrapped in the delightful account of a creative personal experiment. Evans, who is from a southern U.S. evangelical culture with strong ideas about the appropriate roles of women in the home, church, and society, sets out to answer this question:

Could an ancient collection of sacred texts, spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own, really offer a single cohesive formula for how to be a woman?

By means of a year-long “performance art” project, Evans finds some answers to that question. In the end, she appeals to her readers to put nouns above adjectives, people above “principles,” and love above long-held cultural prejudices when we approach the subject of gender roles. In particular, she deconstructs the very idea that there is any such thing as a supra-cultural set of roles known as “biblical womanhood” to which women of faith are to conform.

At the heart of the matter is this tricky word “biblical,” about which she says,

Now, we evangelicals have a nasty habit of throwing the word biblical around like it’s Martin Luther’s middle name. We especially like to stick it in front of other loaded words, like economics, sexuality, politics, and marriage to create the impression that God has definitive opinions about such things, opinions that just so happen to correspond with our own. Despite insistent claims that we don’t “pick and choose” what parts of the Bible we take seriously, using the word biblical prescriptively like this almost always involves selectivity.

After all, technically speaking it is biblical for a woman to be sold by her father (Exodus 21:7), biblical for her to be forced to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), biblical for her to remain silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), biblical for her to cover her head (1 Corinthians 11:6), and biblical for her to be one of multiple wives (Exodus 21:10).

What then, is “biblical womanhood?” Well, what Rachel Held Evans decided to do was to give it a try. She would attempt to follow as many of the Bible’s teachings regarding women in her daily life as possible, taking up practices from both Old and New Testaments in order to determine if there is such a construct as “biblical womanhood.”

Each month for a year she focused on engaging in practices that reinforced a different virtue the Bible commends for women, from domesticity to valor, from modesty to justice. She read Bible commentaries, seeking out various Christian perspectives on pertinent passages. She spoke with and sometimes developed ongoing relationships with women who were seeking to practice what they held to be “biblical” mandates in their lives — including an Orthodox Jew, Amish and Quaker women, a daughter from a “Quiverfull” family, a woman pastor, even members of a polygamist family. She studied the stories of women in Scripture, and one of the most valuable parts of her book, in my opinion, is a set of devotional summaries of what those women contributed to the Bible’s Story of salvation-history. She includes the voice of her husband Dan throughout the book, citing journal entries he kept that reflect on what they were learning together.

At times, this book is laugh-out-loud funny. There are priceless descriptions of the contortions it requires to keep an Alabama fan exhibiting a “gentle and quiet spirit” during football season. And she writes with lively and self-deprecating wit about the time she literally sat on the roof to symbolize penance for being a “contentious” woman, her valiant attempts, successes, and failures while learning the domestic arts, her adventures camping out in the yard during her monthly period to mark her ritual “impurity,” the effort it takes trying to find good kosher food and wine in her neck of the woods, the experiment of caring for a computerized baby to learn about the demands of motherhood, and her attempts to quiet the noise in her mind and cultivate silence in a Benedictine monastery.

In a later reflection on the process of writing this book, RHE said:

Biblical interpretation is a messy, imperfect, and at times frustrating process. I wrote this book with humor and with love because I think both are needed in the conversation, particularly as it pertains to something as complex and beautiful as womanhood.

RHE-project-tentI found several parts of the book deeply fascinating.

It is rare, for instance, for anyone discussing the issue of what the Bible says about the family, and men’s and women’s roles, to seriously examine the practice of polygamy. And yet there came a point, relatively early in the year, when RHE had to confront the fact that many of the ancient texts in the Bible “routinely describe women as property” and that the familial cultures portrayed in the Bible long predate our Western constructs of the nuclear family. Those cultures took practices like slavery, concubinage, arranged marriage, bride price, levirate marriage and clan inheritance laws for granted. Women had few “rights,” and laws relating to virginity, sexual misconduct, divorce, etc., were all skewed heavily to give advantage and power to males.

Most Christians and people in general in the Western world have long moved past these kinds of perspectives and practices, though there are religious groups that maintain a commitment to forms of “hard patriarchy,” such as Vision Forum, and RHE discusses some of their viewpoints.

But then she went a step further in her research when she contacted a group called Biblical Families. This is a community of self-described Bible-believing and evangelical Christians who “recognize the Biblical soundness of plural marriage.” A man named Eric, married to two women and having a family with both of them, communicated with her, and Rachel and one of the wives corresponded so that she could learn about their experiences in a polygamous household.

I find it fascinating that the Bible never explicitly condemns the practice of having multiple wives. God’s chosen people, the twelve tribes of Israel, came forth from Jacob and his wives Leah and Rachel. This was the common “biblical” way among all the patriarchs and matriarchs (along with maintaining slaves and concubines). Even in the days of the kingdom, the practice of having multiple wives was common. And, how’s this for “biblical?” — according to 2Samuel 12:8, the prophet Nathan declared to King David that it was God himself who gave the ruler his (multiple) wives.

It is true that, by the time we get to the New Testament, we hear Paul instructing the church in Ephesus that an elder should be “the husband of one wife,” testifying to the fact that the apostles lived in a different culture and time when polygamy was no longer the norm. However, Paul does not base his counsel on any scriptural mandate or universal prescription.

This one small portion of Rachel Held Evans’s book exemplifies a couple of key points made throughout —

  • It is a complex interpretive matter to separate out time-bound cultural practices described in the Bible from timeless divine instructions prescribed in its pages.
  • Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to realize how much of our own experience and preconceived notions we carry to the Scriptures. This often leads us to see the cultural practices we have come to accept within our religious traditions as valid representatives of what “the Bible teaches.”

Few of us would assert that polygamy is acceptable practice in contemporary society. But why? It would be extremely hard to argue against it using just the Bible. There is more going on here. This suggests that we may be on shaky ground when we try to use the adjective “biblical” to advocate for particular social or cultural practices as though the Bible always has a clear mandate about such matters.

The same could be said about the “household codes” of Greco-Roman society, which form the background of the apostolic exhortations to husbands, wives, and other household members in Ephesians, Colossians, and elsewhere. Though the apostles infused them with Christian content about what it means to love and serve others in one’s household, the codes themselves represented the culture of the day, which presupposed that men had unilateral, military style authority over their wives, children, and slaves. Evans takes this up in her chapter on “Submission,” noting that the apostolic instructions actually end up subverting the hierarchical nature of the household codes, granting dignity in Christ to those without cultural dignity and calling for mutual love and service regardless of one’s position in society. (We wrote about this HERE on this blog in 2011.)

But I don’t want to make it sound like A Year of Biblical Womanhood reads as a didactic study or argument. It is much richer, more personal, creative, and winsome than the debates its subject generates.

Rachel kitchenHow can you not love “hula-hooping with the Amish,” learning why the sex lives of Orthodox Jews may be the steamiest around, or getting lessons on how to sound a shofar?

Who could not be moved by the lessons she learned about the worldwide sufferings of women? — “It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, then men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century,” she learned from reading Kristof and WuDunn. The kind of feminism that Christians can and should get behind is that which embraces “the radical notion that women are people,” a view still not universally acknowledged.

As part of learning that faithful women in Scripture were committed to justice and helping the poor, Rachel received an invitation to travel to Bolivia with World Vision to see for herself some projects for empowering women and improving community conditions there, and she writes about it with a wonder that is exhilarating.

Some of the most poignant words in the book come from Rachel’s husband Dan, such as this reflection near the end of the project:

At its core, our relationship isn’t a hierarchy; it’s a partnership. What kind of person doesn’t want success for their partner? A weak, insecure person. What kind of man doesn’t want success for his wife? A weak, insecure man. I’m not supporting Rachel like a passive piling supports a dock. I’m supporting her like the Saturn V supported Apollo 11. I want her to succeed in her pursuits, and will do everything in my power to make it happen. She wants the same for me.

That sounds eminently “biblical” to me. Those words exemplify the true “one flesh” kind of relationship men and women should have in marriage, the partnership specified in the creation narrative when God makes a “helper corresponding to” Adam (an equal, complementary partner, not a helpmeet — as in an assistant). It’s about two people living in mutual submission to one another, loving and serving as Christ did, each seeking the ultimate benefit, welfare, and flourishing of the other — no matter what “roles” we play and without regard to who “leads” in any given situation.

In the end, Rachel Held Evans concludes that the way to be a “biblical woman” (or man, for that matter), is to let Jesus’ definition be the final guide.

Far too many church leaders have…attempted to define womanhood by a list of rigid roles. But roles are not fixed. They are not static. Roles come and go; they shift and they change. They are relative to our culture and subject to changing circumstances.

A calling, on the other hand, when rooted deep in the soil of one’s soul, transcends roles. And I believe that my calling, as a Christian, is the same as that of any other follower of Jesus. My calling is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Jesus himself said that the rest of Scripture can be rendered down into these two commands. If love was Jesus’ definition of “biblical,” then perhaps it should be mine.

That is ultimately why I love this book.

I love Rachel’s spirit and creativity, her transparency, the gift she has for writing, the vivacity with which she embraces life. These winsome qualities come through on every page of this fine book. I was especially struck by her humility and willingness to stretch herself beyond comfort to learn new lessons, even from those whose views and experiences were vastly different from her own.

But it’s that final note of a “Jesus-shaped” approach to life that I love best. If the pursuit of the “biblical” does not lead us to that, we are nothing.

Comments

  1. Argh. RHE might be right about her conclusions. But I never can take her arguments seriously. Here’s my problem: I don’t know if this is true:

    >This book narrates a serious search for understanding

    But I know that this is not true:

    >Well, what Rachel Held Evans decided to do was to give it a try. She would attempt to follow as many of the Bible’s teachings regarding women in her daily life as possible, taking up practices from both Old and New Testaments in order to determine if there is such a construct as “biblical womanhood.

    What RHE did was creative performance art if you like. But it it was not a serious effort to follow the Bible’s teachings regarding women and it shouldn’t be described as such. I think the sitting on the roof part has been beaten to death already but I’ll observe once more: if you want to be stupid and literalistic in a way that NOBODY is (no fundy Christian, no ultra-orthodox jew) you could read the wry observation of Proverbs as a command and make your husband go live on the roof to escape you. How it is that you end up on the roof and claim its what the Bible teaches I’ll never know! And of course that incident sort of typifies RHE’s approach in the book. Oh look – I’m praising my husband in the Gates! Ha ha – who does that! I guess I’ll go back to my tent now!

    Honestly I’m not around anybody who talks about “Biblical Womanhood”. I’d be thrilled if everybody would take a Christological approach to defining what it means to be human. And if I was around people who actually taught that “Biblical Womanhood” can defined by submission to men & skillful casserole making I hope I’d mock them too. But I mostly feel, watching the interviews on the Today show and so on, that the book is a project aimed at giving Christians who want to be with it an opportunity chuckle knowingly at those wacky complementarians who think the term “Biblical” actually means something. And that project just leaves me cold…

    • I’m going to let this comment stand because it represents the kind of mocking that will not be tolerated in this comment thread. So if you read it and are tempted to pile on, just realize that your comment will be deleted.

      • Mike

        This ‘kind of mocking’ is engaged in and tolerated pretty much every day on IM. WHat makes metapundit’s comment so awful? I completely agree with his last point.

        • I’m not allowing it simply because I have decided to moderate this discussion more closely. I think it merits that kind of attention.

          • That’s might big of you Chap. I follow this blog pretty closely and I have seen you moderate very very few things since you took lead here. Sure the original IMonk moderated a lot, but you not so much. I wonder if you would be so protective if this post were not by a woman? HMMM.

          • I chose to do so for several reasons, Austin. First, because this subject is important to me. Second, because I respect RHE as a person and for her work. I also chose the time to post this review because I knew I would have adequate time to do more moderating. Fact is, I wish I could be more involved every day on that end of things.

          • I’m not seeing the mockery…am I missing something?

          • As a regular reader of IM (but a first time poster!), I have to admit I have a hard time seeing anything mocking in the above post (or anything wrong about tone). And, when asked point blank (and multiple times by multiple people), CM still hasn’t stated what where he finds fault with the above post other than the fact that he disagrees with it. If the new litmus test for moderation is “whatever CM happens to disagree with at the moment”, then this site has taken a marked turn for the worst.

            With that being said, it’s not a general pattern I see and seems to be limited to this one issue. As some people have pointed out below, it appears like this issue is a blind spot for CM where tribalism/partisanship replaces what is normally a very balanced approach. In fact, CM specifically states that the sole reason he ran this review was because he would have adequate time to moderate on this particular post…in other words, he could delete posts that were critical of the book and/or its premise.

            Just as many in the A29 churches have erroneously identified complementarianism as sacrosanct, placing it on par with the resurrection, I have found that many egalitarians have swerved into the other ditch, placing their particular views on equal footing with the divinity of Christ. It seems to undermine the idea that “I am a Christian who practices my faith in the ______ tradition” when we start shutting down people who differ on the non-essentials of our shared faith.

            *Full disclosure: I am probably something like 60% complementarian / 40% egalitarian, enough of each to be thrown out by many from both camps.

      • Mike,

        I appreciate you letting this comment stand. While you may object to metapundit’s tone, the concern is valid. I’ve been reading RHE for several years now and was following the YOBW project when she was blogging it. I felt the same way as metapundit on more than one occasion as I read her accounts.

        The best thing about Evans’ book is what you highlight – that “Biblical” as a descriptive adjective is little more than a weasel word. The next best thing is the compilation of conversations and her report “from the front lines” on issues of womanhood in an Evangelical context. I believe those two things alone make the book worth reading.

        However, to gloss over her flawed hermeneutic and even shut down conversation on it (unless I’m misunderstanding what you find objectionable in metapundit’s post) seems like a whitewash. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that such a worthwhile project as this was based on a form of interpretation that is disconnected from the larger body of Evangelicalism. I believe she could have arrived at the same conclusions without the histrionics (although they do make amusing reading). In my opinion, this is the weakest point of the whole project.

        I laud her attempt to “live out” the teachings of scripture. I just wish it had been done with a little more finesse and understanding. On the other hand, if this is a “search for truth” type of book, then her crude hermeneutic makes a great place to start, even if it is exaggerated for effect.

        • It is the tone to which I object, and I want us to have a serious discussion about the serious issues that this book addresses. Yes, the author uses a playful tone, and no, the point of the project was not to seriously submit to every law in the Bible regarding women. Rather, as her quote in the post explains, the discussion about these matters is often so gawd-awful serious that she thought some creativity, humor, and playfulness might be a helpful thing. Sometimes people go “outside the box” and thereby draw attention to matters that need discussing on a different level. One may dislike this method and still not mock it as unserious or silly.

          I totally disagree with your assertion that she has a “flawed hermeneutic.” If anything, her approach is designed to lay bare the flawed hermeneutics of those suggesting there is such a thing as “biblical womanhood.”

          • The problem is, RHE is seen as playing at the edges of orthodoxy (and threatening to fall off the cliff). If this is an attempt to reach out to those who see her that way, being “playful” and “fun” with what is seen as serious error is not the way to go about it. And portraying a strawman of our hermeneutic doesn’t help.

          • As expected, I disagree. The actual hermeneutic of “complementarianism” is much worse than any straw man she or anyone else could build.

          • I understand you disagree, although I do not see the source of your opposition. Wouldn’t you agree there is a difference between Christ and the Church? That is what complementarians want to proclaim through their lives.

          • One does not need to be a complementarian to proclaim that through one’s life. And in case my own viewpoint has not come across clearly enough over the years, I really have no objection to a married couple choosing to live according to a more “complementarian” style of relating. I believe in Christ we are free to order our relationships as we choose, according to love and wisdom, for the blessing of our families, our neighbors, and the world. What I object to is a theology that insists there is a divine pattern of male/female roles that is supra-cultural and inviolable.

          • But isn’t the relationship between Christ and the Church supra-cultural and inviolable.

            Isn’t reversing the roles for humans a proclamation of the reversal of the spiritual roles they correspond to?

          • Yes.

            No. Because the texts to which you are referring are not about “roles” in the ways we think of them. They are about the responsibility to love and serve.

          • But love (and the service which flows from it) is not a homogenous syrup which can be poured over any relationship.

            Christ dies for the Church, the Church submits to Christ. Christ gives, the Church receives. If you reverse the people in those analogies, the meaning is changed.

          • Nedbrek, I would refer you to my post on the NT Haustafeln (Household codes) in the epistles.

            Also, I would add that it is tricky to extrapolate completely from analogies and illustrations in the NT. I think the results would be untenable. Are you saying that a wife should not lay down her life for her husband? That it is only the husband who gives and the wife is only and always a recipient? That a husband should never show love in a way that submits to the wishes of his wife? That a wife who is gifted in certain skills should never take the lead in making decisions or providing something for the family?

          • Obviously, these are not hard and fast rules. There is no “script” which Christians can follow for their lives. But it is not totally ad lib, either.

            Our society is seeking to eliminate the distinction between male and female. We should not automatically accept that, and try to fit ourselves into it. We need to be able to evaluate it, and possibly come to the conclusion that society is wrong.

          • Phil M. says:

            Our society is seeking to eliminate the distinction between male and female. We should not automatically accept that, and try to fit ourselves into it. We need to be able to evaluate it, and possibly come to the conclusion that society is wrong.

            It depends on what you’re meaning by that… Certainly a woman being paid the same for doing the same work a man does isn’t a bad thing. Nor is it a bad thing that women be able to pursue the career path they feel called to. This is huge deal in the church right now. There are many smart, talented, and strong women who are told either explicitly or implicitly by churches that the only thing they can contribute to the church is making meals for sick people or watching kids in the nursery. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things. It’s just that it doesn’t take a vagina in able to do them.

          • What’s not totally ad lib is the call to love one another, lay down our lives for one another, and so on. As I say in the post to which I directed you, the instructions to households in the epistles always follow instructions to the entire church, which specify relating to one another and submitting to one another by means of the fruit of the Spirit.

            I agree that there is much confusion in our world and culture about sexuality. But I don’t think imposing an improperly derived “biblical” mandate about male and female roles is the answer. When those in our culture look at Christians — male and female — they should say, “Wow, there is a flourishing human being, a person filled with love, grace, and truth. There’s someone who looks like Jesus.” They should see strength of character and the fruit of serving others. They shouldn’t see someone who is most concerned about fulfilling a particular gender role. One of the best contributions of the book, as I say in the post, is the summaries of women in the Bible, who shattered the expected cultural roles of their times (even those of their religious “biblical” communities) and exhibited faith, hope, and love.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:
            Our society is seeking to eliminate the distinction between male and female. We should not automatically accept that, and try to fit ourselves into it. We need to be able to evaluate it, and possibly come to the conclusion that society is wrong.

            It depends on what you’re meaning by that…

            In a Chrsitianese context, you always have to take “hint at playing Teh Gay Card” into consideration.

            Especially when the most vocal activist proponent of “eliminating the distinction between male and female” you remember was a flakeout case best described as a “Bisexual Supremacist”. As far as I could tell, his rationale was “eliminating the distinction” in his desired sex partners. Like I said, the guy was a flake. A LOUD one.

            factor in a Communism-begets-Objectivism dynamic, and you get a knee-jerk Christian reaction to anything that could be interpreted as “eliminating the distinction” and a 180 flip to Maximize the Distinction (i.e. Complementariansm).

          • HUG, you should know by now I am not the typical conservative :)

            I see the world’s current confusion on sexuality as the conclusion of much earlier missteps – the primary being thinking that men and women are interchangeable cogs.

        • Phil M. says:

          In order to understand the “hermeneutic” Evans is using (I don’t think it’s really correct to call it that, actually), you need to take a look at A.J. Jacobs book The Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs undertook a project where he dedicated a year of his life to following the letter of the Biblical text as literally as he could possibly do. Of course this leads to doing things that are somewhat absurd, but that was part of the project.

          The interesting thing about doing this sort of thing is that is does lead to some insights every now and then. I haven’t read RHE’s book, but I have read Jacobs. From everything I’ve read about Evan’s book, her project is essentially in the same vein as what Jacobs was doing. It isn’t really mocking Scripture. If anything it’s a way to point out the disjointed way most of us do Scriptural interpretation.

          • “Christ dies for the Church, the Church submits to Christ. Christ gives, the Church receives. If you reverse the people in those analogies, the meaning is changed”

            Huh?

            The husband is Christ and the wife, the church?

            This is the problem with taking metaphors too far.

      • Chaplain Mike I don’t understand and I would personally feel grateful if you would help me understand what I said that is ban-worthy.

        I’m not mocking RHE – I’m complaining that she is mocking a particular point of view with actions that convey sarcasm. Despite the fact that I am not a complementarian and probably more culturally similar to RHE than Doug Wilson, that approach turns me off.

        I suspect that you object to my tone and particularly the line:

        >Oh look – I’m praising my husband in the Gates! Ha ha – who does that! I guess I’ll go back to my tent now!

        and again – I’m not adopting that tone to mock RHE, I’m objecting that this is the tone she seems to have chosen for some of the book and some of her projects.

        • You say point blank that the book does not represent a serious attempt at understanding. And then continue with a tone that pushes the margins.

          Yours was one of the milder comments that I considered deleting. The others are long gone.

        • Dana Ames says:

          meta,

          why don’t you read the book, in order to have a better basis to decide if, or how much, she meant her actions to convey sarcasm?

          Dana

        • Have you read my book?

          Not sure how one can judge a book’s tone without reading it. I think you will find it less sarcastic than you imagine.

          • Slightly OT–Rachel, do you ever watch the show “Parks and Recreation”? I’m reminded of an episode you might find amusing given the right perspective. ;)

      • CM,

        I echo the thanks for leaving this comment up on the thread. I neither agree nor disagree with it as I have not read the book and I am still processing the whole thread. I was very surprised to read your reaction. I did not perceive anything like mocking – simply clear disagreement. I worked through the rest of the comments and then returned to read it again. Still didn’t see it. So I’m glad it didn’t get struck down.

        This whole issue is so fascinating to me. I first heard about RHE and this project through vague rumblings in the press that barely penetrated the outer perimeter of my awareness. My first major exposure was reading Kathy Keller’s excoriating review on the Gospel Coalition site. Your review here provides good balance. Thanks for that.

        It is also fascinating because my pastor is an old friend of mine, and the church has strong ties to Acts 29 and all that goes with that. I think complementarian is a huge blind spot for them. They/we talk a great deal about being Gospel Centered and Jesus + Nothing = Everything. But they seem to insist on raising complementarianism to the level of gospel. As if they are inextricably intertwined. It makes no sense to me. I have huge respect for my friend, the Pastor and I’m trying to more clearly understand where he is coming from. It’s not that I think the Bible has nothing to teach us about gender roles and how to live as men and women. Rather I think we are still trying to figure out how to read the Bible rightly on this issue. It is not settled and ought not to be made law.

        My friend and I have discussed this and I think we will have more discussions about it yet.

        Thanks for the review. I’m adding it to my list.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Umm…the church has strong ties to Acts 29? Did you read that chapter on April 31, or is that a typo?

          • Marcus Johnson:

            No, that wasn’t a type by Dave D.

            The Acts 29 Network is an association of churches that was started by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill fame, and about 1-1/2 years ago (?) the presidency went to Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Flower Mound/Highland Village, TX – 1.5 miles from our house, in fact.

            http://www.acts29network.org/

          • “typo” :D

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Hmm, that’s good to know. Thanks, EricW.

            I’m going to try very hard not to be cynical, but I’ve encountered Driscoll’s theology before, and it doesn’t surprise me that he created a network of churches under a phrase that refers to a chapter of the Bibile that doesn’t exist. Very appropriate.

          • I’ve always heard the term “Acts 29″ used in sermons to refer to what the church did/does after Acts 28. I.e., the acts of God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit in the church(es) in the history/time since the late first century (i.e., after the events in the NT canon). So it’s not original with Driscoll.

          • Technically speaking, there is no Acts 28 in the Bible either…nor any other verse or chapter…

          • Driscoll distorts the Bible by leaving our verses. Adding a chapter shouldn’t be a problem for him.

            Sorry! Off-topic and snarky.

          • I apologize for not clarifying the reference. I made unwarranted assumptions about the audience’s familiarity with certain corners of American evangelicalism. Mea culpa.

            So I always understood the title “Acts 29″ along the lines of what EricW suggested. It refers to the ongoing work of God in building his church. Acts 29 Network specifically identifies itself as a church planting network.

            I think the title is consciously or unconsciously a riff off of the idea of the “8th Day of Creation.” That term is used variously to refer to the Day of Resurrection or to the ongoing creative work given to humans in the creation mandate to take responsibility for and to cultivate the “garden.”

        • Dave D.:

          “They/we talk a great deal about being Gospel Centered and Jesus + Nothing = Everything. But they seem to insist on raising complementarianism to the level of gospel. As if they are inextricably intertwined.”

          Some Acts 29 churches may put a strong emphasis on that, but not all, and they don’t even come close to thinking it is equal, or part of, the gospel.

          The Gospel Coalition (which is close to, and overlaps some with Acts 29) has had people ask it about that issue in relation to the gospel, and here is its position, which goes to your comment, “Rather I think we are still trying to figure out how to read the Bible rightly on this issue”:

          http://www.dennyburk.com/why-complementarianism-is-a-gospel-issue/

          • Dan Pharr says:

            As all things biblical, it comes down to hermeneutics. I’ve been leading a Lutheran adult forum in the “Lutheran way” to read the Bible for the past 3 Sundays. So far we haven’t even cracked open the Bible! I’m convinced the law/gospel hermeneutic is the way out of the “liberal vs. conservative” battles we find ourselves in. I’ve been using a paper written by retired prof. from SeminEx as the basis for the forum. It’s located on Crossings.org. Do a word search for “hermeneutic” and you’ll find lots of info. (It’s been so long since I’ve pasted a hyperlink, that I don’t remember how. If someone would be so kind?)

            http://www.crossings.org/archive/ed/IsThereLutheranHermeneutics.pdf

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Watched the video on the attached link. The explanation given by the panel does not provide the kind of clarity I would have hoped. True, Keller argues that complementarianism is not necessary or vital to the gospel, but he does affirm that egalitarianism threatens to subvert and undermine the gospel. His position leads me to wonder what he considers to be “the gospel,” if egalitarianism could threaten to undermine it. Is it possible that he means that the way that he perceives the gospel exacts some control over gender roles, and that, as a result, egalitarianism undermines his approach and concept of the gospel?

            If so, could the problem merely be that there is something wrong with the way that he envisions the gospel?

          • Thanks for the link RDavid. I recall watching that video when it was first posted and, like Marcus, I was less than overwhelmed by it. It seemed simply a restatement of the thesis rather than providing supporting evidence or explanation.

        • A friend had that review exposure and was SHOCKED that I was enjoying the book. His take away was that she wasn’t even a Christian and she was mocking Christian faith. Hmmm. Gave the book to him to read. He was really surprised that there was some wisdom found in its covers.

          • “True, Keller argues that complementarianism is not necessary or vital to the gospel, but he does affirm that egalitarianism threatens to subvert and undermine the gospel.. Is it possible that he means that the way that he perceives the gospel exacts some control over gender roles, and that, as a result, egalitarianism undermines his approach and concept of the gospel? ”

            Perhaps Keller’s wife review of RHE’s book holds the clue you are looking for?

          • I read Kathy Keller’s review before I read Rachel’s book – as her book was not released until a few days? after Keller’s review. I had enjoyed Rachel’s first book “Evolving in Monkey Town” and I was looking forward to her next book. When I read Keller’s review I wondered if Rachel had misinterpreted some things. The comment thread – that went on and on – made Rachel sound rather obnoxious in the book. However, I got the book and burned through it in a few days.

            My comment on Keller vs. Held-Evans is that Keller tried to slam Rachel before anyone bought the book and most of the commenters had never read the book, but had firm opinions. Keller made it sound like Rachel misrepresented the Bible by saying God never supported polygamy (and Rachel claimed he had), that Rachel was dripping with irony and disrespectful of her hermeneutics. I was shocked to learn Rachel was right (I carefully looked up all scripture references). God did indeed tell David he was giving him the concubines in the palace. This made me re-read the comments on Keller’s blog. Way down the thread, I noticed some commenter’s had now read the book and were amending some of their earlier comments. Rachel is not ironic in her book, commenters complained about how disrespectful she was for being ironic.

            I don’t really get the “she had bad hermenutics” complaints either. She just tries to follow the parts of the Bible that seem to say (or what evangelical culture tells us it says) that women need to be this way or that. But before she goes on a domestic adventure, she reads the Bible for herself. For any women today, Proverbs 31 would be hard to do – most of us don’t make our own clothes or go buy fields. The Proverb women also has servants (so, maybe churches should hire housekeepers for the poor members of their congregations – those who can’t afford servants – before reading Proverbs 31 to the women in their church). We also don’t tend to go buy booze for the poor, as Ms. Proverbs 31 does, but I have heard youth pastors say to young men that making a list about your future wife is biblical – and refer to Prov. 31 as an example of a man’s ideal list. And that that list shows that it is a good thing for young men to go make their own (unreasonable) list – never mind that most Jewish women would never of had servants or money enough to buy that field and that a common Jewish man in those times expecting a wife like her to come along would still be waiting in their graves. But that is not hermeneutics, that is just pointing out how poorly supported the Counsel of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is in scripture. There is no magic list we can live by, no correct interpretation to read it through and I, for one, am truly thankful.

            Rachel’s book upset the Gospel Coalition because it rocks the notion of an ideal for women. If there is no gender ideal for women and men to follow in the Bible, then everyone can question gender. I think that is what they are so, so afraid of.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      All my life I have had people tell me my church is spiritually dead at best, if not openly apostate. Exhibit A demonstrating this ecclesiastical failing is that it “interprets” scripture, in contrast to those good churches that read scripture “literally.” The fruit of “interpreting” scripture inevitably is to twist scripture into saying what we want it to say, while those churches reading scripture “literally” submit to the Word of God, even when it is hard.

      In my callow youth I worried about this. I was (and am) all too aware of my church’s failings, while those people espousing “literal” reading often seemed admirably dedicated to their faith. I got through this by looking into what this “literal” reading of scripture actually meant. It quickly became apparent that it was no such thing as actually reading scripture literally. Rather, it entailed taking certain culturally important passages literally, cherry picking verses from here or there to meet the requirements of the moment, and discreetly ignoring huge swaths of the Bible. Fortunately, my religious education was too good for me not to notice.

      What I have found over the years is that when someone tells me he reads scripture “literally” the best case scenario is that he is using it as a tribal identifier holding no other meaning: piously intone “literal” periodically, and go about your business. More often it means that this person either does not know what the word “literal” means, or has never actually read the Bible apart from carefully pre-selected snippets and otherwise believes what he is told to believe. In the worst case this person is a full-blown idolator. We need only look to Westboro Baptist to see where that can go.

      What Rachel Held Evans has done is call the bluff. She has followed not the actual hermeneutic of self-described literalists, but rather the hermeneutic they claim to follow. The reactions are inevitable. If one takes “literal” as merely a tribal identifier, then the book can be dismissed as stating the obvious. A better, more considered reaction would be to note how this illustrates that “literal” isn’t such a good choice as tribal identifier, and to smile quietly at the exercise. But among those who imagine that they are using “literal” seriously, she presents a serious problem by exposing the emptiness of the claim to “literalism”. They have to find some way to dismiss her without simultaneously dismissing literalism. We see an interesting solution here, where she is denied the honored status of “literal” and instead is “stupid and literalistic.” What does “literalistic” mean, and how is a “literalstic” reading different from a “literal” reading? Heck if I know. (Neither does Merriam Webster, by the way.) But by placing her in the “literalistic” category we are saved the awful necessity of thinking seriously about how to read scripture. Whew! That was a close one!

      • Exactly.

      • +1

      • Very well said.

      • Richard has said just what I had thought about posting… Yes, you can argue, as Metapundit does, no one does such “ridiculous” things such as sit on a roof etc. But one of the MAIN POINTS of the book is that even the most conservative interpreters of women’s roles and male-female relationships pick and choose which verses to follow and elevate to “God’s law” and which they decide to ignore. In this context, those actions do have a part to play.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Richard summed it up very, very well. What the first poster here did was an attempt at sounding learned and theological. What RHE did was to smack the pinata to show that all the wrappers inside are empty….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          What the first poster here did was an attempt at sounding learned and theological. What RHE did was to smack the pinata to show that all the wrappers inside are empty….

          Wasn’t that something Jesus used to do a lot?

          And before him, prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah?

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Beautifully rendered, Richard.

        So, Chaplain Mike, I wonder if you can swap out Richard’s name on his response with mine, so it would look like I’m capable of stating something so clearly…just kidding, of course…

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Well, as it happens, I always wanted to be called “Marcus Johnson,” what with “Dante Gabriel Rossetti” and “Praise-God Barebone” already being taken…

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          I’m writing those names down for future reference, just in case I have kids.

      • Richard Hershberger said:

        It quickly became apparent that it was no such thing as actually reading scripture literally. Rather, it entailed taking certain culturally important passages literally, cherry picking verses from here or there to meet the requirements of the moment, and discreetly ignoring huge swaths of the Bible.

        I’m amazed at how some people can insist on a literal six days X 24 hours, a literal “wives submit”, and at the same time condemn the Catholics for their blasphemy and idolatry in the transubstantiation of the mass.

        “This is my body,” said Jesus; “this is my blood.”

        Well, he couldn’t have meant THAT, they tell us.

        Did he feed the 5000? Make wine from water?

        No, that was grape juice.

        *sighs and pounds head on keyboard*

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “This is my body,” said Jesus; “this is my blood.”

          And the entire idea of Transubstantiation followed from taking those particular words of Jesus at face value.

          It’s like something out of South Park — ultra-literal Biblicists suddenly going “that’s symbolic” about those particular literally-recorded words. (Cue Professor Wagstaff singing “Whatever it is — I’m Against It!”)

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “And the entire idea of Transubstantiation followed from taking those particular words of Jesus at face value.”

            Well, yes and no. It also requires running the whole thing through the sieve of Aristotelian metaphysics. Run it through a different sieve and you will get a different result. I agree, however, that a literal reading of that passage implies real presence in some form or another.

  2. DaisyFlower says:

    I’ve been wanting to get a copy of this book for awhile now, and will eventually.

    I find it so fascinating that so many gender complementarians are perturbed, annoyed, or extremely alarmed by it, like the first reviewer guy on this page.

    There isn’t hardly anything “Biblical” about “Biblical gender complementarianism.”

    There is, however, a lot of reading of American, secular 1950s black and white television family situation comedies, (where wholesome, stay at home Mom wears pearls, and clean-cut Dad wears sweaters when he gets home from work), into the Bible and insisting that all Christians should be living our lives that way, because 1950s television family suburban living is “biblical”.

    • >so many gender complementarians […] like the first reviewer guy on this page

      Perhaps you have me confused with someone else?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And again we touch on the widespread Christianese cultural myth of 1950s America as A Godly Golden Age.

      And it isn’t even the REAL Nifty Fifties (which did have its good and bad points), but a Mythic Fifties according to Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed.

      • James the Mad says:

        “And it isn’t even the REAL Nifty Fifties (which did have its good and bad points), but a Mythic Fifties according to Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed.”

        And as a friend of mine is fond of saying, it is typically only those of, umm, shall we say, fairer skin that remember the 1950s so fondly. Those of darker hues who might trace their lineage back to southern Europe and “south of the border,” Africa or Asia need not apply.

        While this might not be as true in the area of marriage as it is in other areas, Evangelicalism’s love affair with this “cultural myth” certainly has a racist component to it as well. As you stated, it “did have its good and bad points.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          AKA White Supremacy was considered as basic and obvious a Law of Nature as Gravity until well after WW2. The much-mythologized year of Maximum Church Attendance (1953) was also the age of Jim Crow, lynchings, the Third Klan, and the Cold War.

          (Stephen Jay Gould wrote a lot of essays and at least one book — Mismeasure of Man — on how bad science was used to prop up White Supremacy from Victorian times well into the 20th Century; he wrote almost as many essays on History of Science (including that) as on Biology and Evolution.)

  3. Marcus Johnson says:

    I bought two copies this week: one for my Mom, and one for myself. It’s going to be a race to see who finishes first between the two of us.

    I’ve grown weary of the way folks use the term “Biblical.” There is an assumption that, if we do the “Biblical” version of whatever, then we have claim to the moral high ground in any argument on proper behavior and belief. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore the reality that our interpretation of what is contained within the Bible is filtered through our respective cultural lenses, our prejudices, and our personal preferences.

    I’m going to use a Rob Bell quote, and then I’m going to duck for cover: The Bible is not the point. The purpose of the Bible is to show us who God is, and to reveal the nature of the relationship between Him and humanity over time. I see in the Bible a continuing narrative in which our relationship with God grows, matures, and changes from the Creation narrative to the final epistles of the apostles. By reading the Bible, as we become more aware of this relationship, we become changed, not by following Law A in this verse, and Law B in the other. By defining the role of a woman by what we interpret as “Biblical,” we miss the point where the Spirit is trying to lead us.

    So, yeah, I’m expecting Evans to get pretty satirical in her memoir, but just from reading the back cover and the first chapter, I suspect that the truth that she is trying to uncover makes this book worth the read.

    • I would say “playful,” not satirical, and there is a serious thread that holds it all together, even while she has fun engaging in certain activities.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        From when RHE was covering it on her blog, my favorite picture is RHE in headscarf standing at the city limits sign holding up a handlettered sign reading “DAN IS AWESOME”.

        • I agree. She looks very happy holding up that sign. And, from what she says, Dan is awesome.

          What a pleasure to be able to declare the awesomeness of one’s husband. Yay for Rachel and Dan.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’ve grown weary of the way folks use the term “Biblical.” There is an assumption that, if we do the “Biblical” version of whatever, then we have claim to the moral high ground in any argument on proper behavior and belief.

      AKA the adjective “Biblical” (or “Scriptural”, or “Gospel”) becomes nothing more than another weapon to club the other into the dirt. This is one of the things that gave me an allergic reaction to the word “Scripture(TM)”.

  4. I would like to see women live in the New Covenant. To live under the Old is to much for anyone man or woman. Sorry I will not be reading this book.

    • Your comment betrays a complete misunderstanding of the book. Did you read the end of my review?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      The phrase “live in the New Covenant” is very Christianese. Rather than use the jargon, maybe it would be more appropriate to explain what “living in the New Covenant” means to you without falling back on vague terminology.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Maybe Andie doesn’t speak mainstream American English, but only Christianese?

  5. For the last several years, since I found and started reading I-Monk, I have been both fascinated and appalled by the beliefs and expectations of non-Catholic Christians. My formal education [Catholic High School and University] , included much study of non-CHRISTIAN world religions, but almost nothing about what was politely called “our separated brethren”.

    Other than YEC (yes, I am learning a new language!), the most off-the-wall concept that I have found in Protestant theology is “complementarianism”……..also known as “men are charge, so shut up and make dinner”.

    Therefore, I have followed the genesis of this book from the planning stages until now, although I have not yet read the book (with a thesis and full time job, reading is on a back burner until the summer). I thought the entire concept was well thought out and that the author gave it all an honest shot. I was sure that it would tweak many a patriarchal nose, and of course it has brought the subject out into the sunshine to be given a good look.

    All that I can add is that the RCC, who is so often accused of “hating women”, gives so much more dignity and respect to women than any church who puts a man in total charge of “his” wife and children. Yes, I submit to my husband and go out of my way for his comfort and happiness…………and he does the exact same for me.

    • Other than YEC (yes, I am learning a new language!), the most off-the-wall concept that I have found in Protestant theology is “complementarianism”……..also known as “men are charge, so shut up and make dinner”.

      Pattie, you’re very perceptive about this concept. I think “complementarianism” has been hijacked by male-dominated patriarchy in the same way that “intelligent design” got hijacked by the Young Earth Creationists.

      • RHE actually made this same point on her blog a while ago, entitled “Would the real biblical complementarian please stand up?” – or something like that. In logic, we call this the equivocation fallacy. I don’t have a link to RHE’s post, but I recommend it.

    • Pattie – Keep in mind that not all Protestants are caught up in the kinds of thinking and cultural issues that RHE discusses in her book. But then again, I come from a church (Lutheran – ELCA) that is often described as either “dead,” “liberal” or both. ;)

      • Thanks, I do understand that. As I mentioned, that is why I-Monk has been a primer in non-Catholic Christian beliefs and denominations for me. Before this, I had a hard time telling the players apart without a scorebook…..but I was well aware that there were sacramental churches (such as yours, I beleive) and others that were decidedly NOT! Even though I am in the upper south (Virginia) the area is fairly rural, and their is a tiny church, usually but not exclusively Baptist, about every five miles on the backroads!

        • Yep, most definitely both liturgical and sacramental, as with some other Protestant denoms. Granted, we’ve got our own quirks (including cultural ones), but they’re different than the kinds of things that seems to be so common in many parts of the evangelical churches today.

          I mean, all the patriarchal (etc. etc.) attitudes that are making inroads in other places just would *not* fly in most Lutheran churches (though there are some exceptions) any more than they would in most RC churches (in the US, at least) today.

  6. As an adult female reared in a fundamentalist Baptist culture, I found this book able to put to words what I believe about my childhood’s world view. It captured my feelings after every mother’s day sermon – as we looked at Proverbs 31 and that woman – perfectly. It renewed a bit of my dignity.

    I can remember the day a friend’s dad (who was Presbyterian) held open a door for me. I was 13. I stood behind him waiting for him to go through the door as my father would have done. I think we were both shocked at our cultural perspectives.

    This book is a journey to face RHE’s past. In it she has helped me face my own.

  7. This quote said all I need to know…

    “it requires to keep an Alabama fan ”

    Nuff said.

    WAR EAGLE!

  8. I’ve read the book and enjoyed it, though I thought that a lot of the material in it was stuff I’d read before on her blog (but I got the book for free, so I can’t complain too much).

    On the issue of how she interpreted and acted out passages, I think some of her critics have missed the point of why she chose to do what she did. I think the book was supposed to be hyperbolic. No, few complementarians expect their wives to stand at the town sign and brag about how awesome they are, but I feel like Rachel did this to make the point of “How did we decide which of these passages is binding and which are not?” Complementarians shouldn’t expect every example in the book to be something that they would do, because the real concern of the book is the interpretive process that leads them to those conclusions in the first place.

  9. I may be completely missing it, but does anyone know what type of church RHE attends? A quick google doesn’t turn up anything I can find?

    • As far as I’m aware, she currently doesn’t attend a church. She was part of a church plant that stopped meeting a few years ago, and has not since then found a church to attend regularly. Though of course she is often on speaking tours, so attends a lot of churches intermittently.

      http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/church-plant-failed

      there are several posts that discuss the church plant, including this one

  10. Just a couple of stray thistles got stuck in my mouth –

    I’m glad RHE wrote this book. I will need to read it. Already, she sounds like Evangelicalism’s version of our beloved Frederica, whom we don’t know what to make of ourselves. It is good for a man to know many women who confound him.

    1) Off the block, I find myself resentful of RHE because she graduated from a college my Evangelical daughter applied to, but I couldn’t afford. Nothing like starting out with an envious spirit to predispose you against what someone has to say.

    2) I get a little scared whenever I see this sort of sola cultura attitude popping up in Evangelicalism. Culture and Religion are sort of like hand and skin-on-hand, that is, they grow up and change together. There are lot of very ill-understood feedback loops between “religion” and “culture”.

    To RHE’s credit, she was willing to talk to a lot of people who don’t agree with her. She was willing to go outside her cultural comfort zone.

    3)The Sexual Revolution of the late 60s and early 70s is sort of the camel in the tent impeding any discussion of relationships between men and women in the early 21st century. I know know know know you aren’t supposed to criticize a writer for not having written the book you want her to write, but a lot of her discussion reminded me of someone dusting the tea table in their New Orleans mansion while Katrina was blowing the trusses off.

    Just sayin’

    • Dana Ames says:

      Mule,

      good points.

      On the last, in my experience as an Evangelical, if there was any discussion at all about the sexual revolution in the ’60s and ’70s, it was very much tied to the abortion issue, and not really examined very well apart from that.

      I love Frederica, and am grateful for the help she has given me, listening to her podcasts and reading some of her books, on my way into EO and since. Sometimes in her comments she dips into a gender-essentialist way of looking at things, which gives me bad flashbacks. This line of thought is one of those often connected to the idea of EO as a “conservative” church. I don’t want people to come to Orthodoxy because it’s “conservative.” If it is the fullness, it has to be so in terms of the relationship between men and women as well, even (especially) factoring in the feedback loops.

      Thanks for listening.
      Dana

      • Thank you, Dana

        You do know that the Orthodox Church is conservative, don’t you? I understand your point that people should come to the Church because it is the fullness of Christ, not because it is the last bastion of the Masculine Burly Hairy Manly He-Men with Giggly Submissive Wives [which it isn’t] or because it is the last Church likely to adopt female ordination short of the heat death of the Universe [which it is].

        You have to admit we do have a lot of men in our services, which is refreshing. Including single men.

        What do you mean by gender essentialist? First of all, gender to me is a grammatical term, not an anatomical one, but I’m getting over my fussiness. Our venial age is getting so loose about everything that you can put just about any adjective in front of any noun and not raise any hackles.

        Is the opposite of a gender essentialist a gender existentialist? I don;t want to occasion any “flashbacks” but I have been accused of “gender essentialism” myself and have been told that it is a bad thing. However, my ‘gender essentialism’ proceeds much more from my Platonism than from my reading of Scripture, and I have been told that is a bad thing too. What I mean is that I see sexual differences as a physical representation of a division that occurs throughout the physical world rather than a generalization we make from observation of the actions of individual men and women.

        I invite others to pile on. I am unlikely to give up my Platonism anytime soon.

        Thank you, Dana

        • Dana Ames says:

          Mule, I’m not going to “pile on,” I truly want to understand. Of course Orthodoxy is conservative, in that it has conserved what has been handed down. No argument there. And if C.S. Lewis (and the 4th c. Greek fathers) admired Plato, then Plato is okay in my book, and I wish I knew more about him and the connection with the fathers’ theological thoughts.

          This:
          “What I mean is that I see sexual differences as a physical representation of a division that occurs throughout the physical world rather than a generalization we make from observation of the actions of individual men and women.”

          is helpful. I would like to know what division you see occurring throughout the physical world, other than physical sexual differentiation.

          What I mean by gender-essentialist is much more like what follows your “rather than” above. It’s the notions that “all men are _____” and “all women are _____”. It’s the touted “biblical masculinity/femininity” that is actually nowhere to be found in scripture, and I think US converts from Evangelicalism have brought this into EO, most likely because of a deficient understanding of the iconic nature of things.

          For example, I hear FMG and some other O. commenters say that EO attracts men because of its rigors, challenge, discipline, etc. and that men enter the church for theological reasons, but their wives are reticent, and/or are attracted by the smells and bells. (Pardon me, but I see that kind of talk feeding into your hurly-burly example above – which made me lol! – which is more in line with M. Driscoll than, oh, Fr Sophrony Sakharov…) Well, ISTM that O. women, especially in the “old country,” are every bit as capable of living within the rigors, challenge and discipline of Orthodoxy (and life, for that matter) as men are. St Gregory Nazianzen thought so, too…

          I’m a woman, and my turning to EO was theological *all the way* – N.T. Wright basically led me to the doors of the church, though he could not lead me in… It’s my husband who resists anything connected with theological discussion, as well as liturgy, “men in dresses,” tradition, and smells and bells. The culture in this country is overwhelmingly Protestant, and within that, disproportionately influenced by Evangelicalism, and the feedback loops therein carry very strong pressures for women to not worry their little heads about theology. I think the cultural conditioning in this country is what accounts for the difference in conversion “reasons” between men and women. I also think the comments along the above line by some EOs here have something to do with wishing we could have more of an O. culture already, like in the “old country,” and looking at the more “traditional” spheres of influence of men and women as part of that.

          As I was on my way in, an O. friend recommended C. Yannaras’ book “The Freedom of Morality” and Y’s discussion of the iconic meaning of the 2 sexes in humans made spectacular sense to me. Helped me tremendously.

          Well, this comment is already too long, but you asked :)

          Dana

    • I couldn’t afford to go to Bryan either. My dad works there, so our tuition was paid. Otherwise, it would have NEVER happened.

  11. Michael says:

    It is good for a man to know many women who confound him.

    Here here. (Or is it hear hear? Stupid homonyms…)

  12. I did learn one thing from the book that I honestly never heard about prior, and that was the story about the Proverbs 31 woman.

    Much to often you see these verses used as a ‘to do’ list in Christian circles, and yet in the Jewish tradition it is sung to the woman during the Friday night supper as a way of thanks and encouragement. It isn’t used a list as in – to be a Christian wive you must do this, that, or the other as the Proverbs 31 woman. Its taken to literally in some circles, and yet in the Jewish prospective is more of a reminder to say THANK YOU for their contributions that week. Its not used as women need to do things this way, or that way. Its a way to say Thank you for doing it your way to the benefit of the family.

    That to me was quite refreshing.

    • Proverbs 31:1 “A virtuous woman, WHO CAN FIND?”
      She’s a hypothetical, doesn’t exist. No need to try and measure up.
      :)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And a hypothetical in that context is probably over-the-top to begin with.

      • Sorry, typo, I meant 31:10.

      • I don’t mean to brag, I mean, really, but my wife does happen to come pretty darned close. I’d say I’ve found a virtuous woman, and so would anybody who’s met her. (If putting up with me for goin on 6 years isn’t proof enough…)

        …but she’s not trying to fit any “P31″ gender stereotype of perfection. She’s just being herself, who God made her to be, and pouring out here love liberally and selflessly on everybody around her. I think if she made Proverbs 31 into some sort of checklist it would suck the life out of her.

        • Hope you realize what a blessed and lucky man you are……and your bride is equally blessed to have a man who appreciates her. Were that there were more couples like you and yours, and mine. {blushing]

          I married a prince, and know it more every day!!! I so hurt for those without this incredible love.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Much to often you see these verses used as a ‘to do’ list in Christian circles, and yet in the Jewish tradition it is sung to the woman during the Friday night supper as a way of thanks and encouragement. It isn’t used a list as in – to be a Christian wive you must do this, that, or the other as the Proverbs 31 woman.

      American Evangelicals (and Truly Reformed) seem to be as obsessed with checklists as the Chinese Classics and then some.

      • The irony of “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” is the first word: If the Bible really is just a set of instructions, there’s nothing basic about it. Seriously, I get the respect for scripture and hardcore Biblicism, but the Reformed would reduce the most beautiful story ever written to a recipe collection or a dictionary. The Bible is not a reference book for your life. It is a life-transforming true story, not a life directing set of instructions.

    • Proverbs 31 is interesting, and good for Mothers’ Day too, which is coming right up.

      In verse 18 it says “her lamp does not go out at night.” Does that mean literally, that she’s careful with the oil and the wicks, so that there will be a night light as well as a means of lighting the cook fire in the morning, or is that a biblical sexual innuendo?

      Maybe both? And should I be struck dead for suggesting that?

      Rachel?

  13. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that RHE originally wanted to write a book that was much more direct in poking holes at the claims of reading scripture in a “literal” manner. But her publisher didn’t think it would go over well so she settled on this tact instead.

    I think it’s a fair criticism to say that the point she is trying to make can get lost in all of the “biblical womanhood” activities that she does throughout the year. You kinda have to read between the lines at some points. Either that or I’m just not an astute enough reader. :)

  14. OlyAnnie says:

    CM

    You reminded me again with this post as to why it is that IM is still one of my favorite blogs. One of the reasons I love it is that the discussions following the posts are usually very thoughtful and insightful, especially compared with so many other sites.

    So when I saw this post last night right after it went up I was really dismayed (and shocked!) at the comments I saw. Thanks for deleting those and keeping this a respectful safe place for discussion.

    Also thanks for the review of the RHE book – I know several people who have read it and been really encouraged by it. It’s so sad to me that there are way too many women who need that encouragement after being beat down with so called ‘literal’ interpretations that have been used as an attempt to suffocate who they are meant to be in Christ.

  15. People who claim the term “biblical womanhood” are so angry at RHE that they can’t even read what’s in the book. I think they believed that she was going to live a year according to the CBMW, and the book is so much more, because the Bible is so much more, and womanhood is so much more. That is the point.

    So many reviews were critical or mocking any part of the book that isn’t CBMW without understanding why those parts are in the book.

  16. Here’s a link to a post in which I address objections to my approach:

    http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/biblical-womanhood-and-the-illusion-of-clarity-a-response-to-kathy-keller

    Obviously, there’s room for disagreement here. Some would say the experiment was a good way to start the conversation and others would say it was a bad way. But it started a conversation, and that was the point!

    Hope this helps.

    Thank you all for reading and engaging.

    • De nada, and thank you! I really enjoyed the book and appreciate your willingness to tackle more than a few difficult topics… (fwiw, I’m probably about the same age as your folks, and am so happy to see younger women stepping up to the plate!)

  17. Final Anonymous says:

    CM, thank you for such a thorough and thoughtful review of Rachel’s book.

    And thank you for proactively keeping the discussion civil and welcoming. Commentors here often have good thoughts and ideas that get lost in the (maybe unintentionally) hostile barbs directed at entire groups of God’s children, all in the name of a Theological Point.

    If that attitude is driving people away or stifling commentors with other views, we all lose the opportunity to learn from one another.

    Thanks again.

  18. I haven’t read the book, but having followed her blog (and this one) for a while now, I think I’ve picked up a pretty good understanding of Rachel’s arguments.

    What I especially like about her writing is the way she speaks for a generation of young evangelicals, who’ve grown up with a particular ideology (biblical womanhood, biblical innerancy, Hell as endless torment, for example), but for whom those ideologies no longer seem to hold up anymore. These christians still want to follow Jesus, but to do so in a way that doesn’t involve accepting things that sounds and feels wrong.

    On Rachel’s blog you find the same doubts being talked about, and wrestled with – the doubts about the Caananite genocides, and what they reveal about God, about the need to perform a set of roles to live up to one’s gender, about how God could let a person go to Hell for ever just because they never heard about Jesus. It is for these reasons that her writing is so compelling and inspiring, and I await her next project with anticipation.

  19. I have yet to finish reading this book so I won’t review it, but I will say one thing that frustrates and confounds me about how these conversations tend to go online these days.

    I did not grow up, as many commentators on these sites did, within the evangelical subculture of the USA. It was all around me, but my parents were a nominal Quaker and a nominal Lutheran and we were mostly unchurched and outside all the Billy Graham revivals and CCM concerts and whatever else most of my peers were doing through their churches. I was baptized as an adult and now am a moderate member of a moderate denomination (ELCA) and so most of this language is foreign to me.

    But as a relative outsider, I feel like I am qualified to identify a false dichotomy at work. It seems like the whole complementarian vs egalitarian debate is premised on the idea that the only Christianity worth discussing is the one that exists in American evangelical culture. Either you’re with the Gospel Coalition and whoever, or you are sneering at it. Either you are with Rachel Held Evans or you are calling her a heretic. It strikes me as really baffling and ridiculous. Especially because I read like, Martin Luther’s writings on marriage from the actual 16th century and it seems less rigid than contemporary evangelicals! There’s an assumption on both sides of this debate about cultural values, and an upper middle class white American POV. Complementarianism as I see it described online could only exist in a suburb where there’s a Menard’s and a Kroger’s and everyone drives on the freeway and owns a home. It is held up as biblical but has no relation to the world of the ancient Hebrews, the oikos, the Reformation or…anything but right now in the last 40 years. But by the same token, “egalitarianism” doesn’t seem like a true return to biblical egalitarianism (which I think is, in a way, really a thing that exists) but a reaction against this which is equally dependent on an affluent suburban milieu.

    The problem is, neither “side” in this seems to recognize how miserably culturally specific their terms are. Paul said nothing about crockpots, and he also wasn’t a “misogynist d-bag.” Can we take off the spectacles of 20th century evangelical church culture and just really re-read these words, for instance in Ephesians, again? And understand that NO ONE outside some American fundamentalists has ever viewed the actions of the Hebrew patriarchs (with their multitude of wives and handmaidens) as a command and model to be imitated? These are narratives, not a blueprint…to EVERYONE from the ancient Jews to modern Catholics and Orthodox.

    Meanwhile, the Catholic church has a different view of this issue (see: Edith Stein, JPII, etc) and the Orthodox church has a different view and there’s just such a broader picture we could be looking at to try to understand these difficult passages in Scripture. I don’t call myself either a complementarian or an egalitarian because that debate does not apply to my corner of Christendom. But I do want to look seriously at what the Bible says about marriage and manhood and womanhood, without just sneering and rolling my eyes, and without adopting the cultural practices and baggage of suburban American evangelicals of the Bible Belt ca. 2000 AD.

    I’m not sure how much sense this makes outside my head, but there it is.

    • It may be history now but don’t forget the huge battles the Protestant mainline denominations had over women’s issues a few decades ago. This is not a problem peculiar for evangelicalism; they’re just late to the party.

      • I think you are missing what I am saying. I don’t actually think the ELCA, for instance, is a perfect untroubled gender egalitarian paradise. I think we have deep problems around gender issues but because they are not framed in terms of “woman, make me a sandwich!” they are mostly completely unnoticed. Even by the very vocal feminists within the church body.

        What we have is an odd kind of squeamishness common to “progressive” environments, most perfectly encapsulated by the mutilating translation of the Nicene Creed I must currently suffer through weekly in ELW, wherein we are informed that “and became man” is no longer to be used to describe Incarnation, but rather, “became fully human.” Well becoming fully human involves incarnating into a body with specific primary and secondary sexual characteristics of some sort. What are we trying to say, here, or rather, what are we trying too hard NOT to say? For whose benefit is this not to be said? Not women, I would argue, not at all, but rather men who seek to dodge something, some kind of responsibility.

        There is a reality to our physical bodies, and, indeed, to the Incarnation that we are now afraid to grapple with face to face. We try to sweep it under the rug, for fear that addressing us will taint us with the associations of something like complementarianism–and all the low brow cultural associations nice, upper middle class NPR-listening Lutherans would never want. But we live in our bodies. If we avoid them, gnosticism awaits. We have to see that the alternative to this PC avoidance is not “woman, go make me a sandwich” but something much more profound, something on another level entirely. And I think THAT is in Scripture–but not in “complementarian” or “egalitarian” debates.

        • Since you brought up the creed, how do you feel about the line “for us men and for our salvation?” Would you feel silly saying that as a women? …do most women saying the creed notice that?

          • I don’t know about most women, but I don’t find it awkward at all since grammatically it is gender-neutral. English is not the only language to have a word or three like that. To say “one” does something in German of course is “man”; in Hebrew too, of course, we are all b’nai adam, sons of man. Is this sexist in origin? Probably. Is it intended to exclude women? Definitely not. Is it worth considering the impact of the language? Sure. Is it worth taking personally? For me, not in the slightest.

    • Damaris says:

      It makes a lot of sense, Katherina, but that’s what I’d expect of a woman your age . . .

    • >I don’t call myself either a complementarian or an egalitarian because that debate does not apply to my corner of Christendom.

      +1

    • JoanieD says:

      “Paul said nothing about crockpots.”

      Funny, Katharina!

  20. dumb ox says:

    “Talk of a Peaceable Kingdom
    Talk of a time without fear
    The ones we wish would listen
    Are never going to hear”
    – Neil Peart.

    • dumb ox says:

      Satire as a literary form grew out of a time when criticism of the powers that be was a ticket to the dungeon. Satire seems like an effective tool to chip away at the insulary walls around the neo-reformed movement, which seems completely void of acceptability and self-criticism. Unfortunately, it looks as if even satire directed against them is a ticket to the evangelical character gallows.

      • dumb ox says:

        Accountability, not acceptability. But in this case, iPhone’s spell check may have been right.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Satire seems like an effective tool to chip away at the insulary walls around the neo-reformed movement, which seems completely void of acceptability and self-criticism.

        True Believers — Christianese, Islamic, Communist, Objectivist — rarely have any sense of humor. Especially regarding The Cause.

        “There can be no humor in Islam.” — attr to Ayatollah Khomeini

  21. Final Anonymous says:

    Katarina,

    The reason it matters is because fundamentalist ideas have been quietly infiltrating conservative evangelical (and even some mainline) ideology, and evangelicism has inserted itself into the political and cultural landscape of America, often with the express intent of influencing legislative and judicial decisions that affect all of us.

    If one of the main tenets of “the gospel” according to an influential voting bloc is that women are separate but equal, designed to be under the authority of men… well, a cursory look at the platforms of the Tea Party candidates from the past two elections is example enough of where we might wind up. Scary as hell, imo.

    RHE and others who are working to open the eyes of people within the evangelical subculture, to really read what Jesus said and did, to stop the mind-numbing paralysis of parroting what they’ve been taught by their “authorities” and really THINK about these issues, about how their cultural beliefs about women translate outside the perfect nuclear suburban family… their efforts affect all of us, and I thank God they are following that calling.

    • Again this is assuming that if I am even slightly sympathetic to anything traditionalist, I must be opposed to RHE. (And if I am supportive of RHE, I must shoot down anything that smacks of “complementarianism” as it is most broadly defined.) However this does not reflect reality. I can appreciate the good RHE does while also offering a critique of the assumptions she works from. I can critique the contemporary fundamentalist framing of gender roles while also critiquing the shortcomings of their opponents. My whole point is that framing this so narrowly, as RHE vs Kathy Keller and that’s the whole of Christendom, somehow, is a huge mistake.

      And oh my goodness, American party politics are a total mess. When that gets dragged in, I have to just yawn and cringe. Tea party this, Obama that, Jon Stewart this, FOX news that…no thank you. I do not buy into the idea that “the republicans will bring about the handmaiden’s tale!” Nor do I believe that the democrats will bring about a socialist utopia or dystopia. The reality translates to so much six of one half dozen of the other, the chicken little routine really does lull me into a deep, snoring sleep at this point. Enough.

      • Final Anonymous says:

        Ugh. My apologies, that is NOT what I wanted to communicate regarding political implications. I am loyal to neither Republicans nor Democrats, I think they all descend from some sort of humanoid imposter race of demons, and I was somewhat shamed to admit I hadn’t voted in the last several major elections, until the birth of my granddaughter jolted me out of my apathy. Tea Party politics was the most banal thing I could think of to make my point outside of actual women’s issues, which always dissolve into the A-word debate and I did not want to start that.

        Ten, even five years ago, I’m sure I rolled my eyes a bit at the complementarian-egalitarian mishmash. Hadn’t women already won this war? We can work, we can vote, birth control, military service, feminist backlash, blah blah blah… I was always a member of churches where women could preach and teach, and no one can take away rights we’ve already won, can they? I thought it was much ado about nothing.

        Then my Presbyterian church started leaning heavily on the “reformed.” Focus on the Family leaflets were folded into the bulletins, and “family” was strictly defined. Women were encouraged to join the new Titus 2 groups. I heard a lot about a woman in Proverbs…

        Fast forward several years, and I am amazed at how much Vision Forum, Mark Driscoll, and John Piper baloney has infiltrated our conservative (and largely Catholic!) community, affecting everything from school board decisions to church policies to local elections in our non-southern state.

        I agree Orthodox, Catholic, and other mainline voices could bring so much more depth to the gender conversation, but so far they’ve been relatively silent. Or at least aren’t being heard above the comp-egal roar, which seems to have the attention of some powerful people making decisions for us in our community as well as our churches and that, for me, was reason enough to stake out a position.

        • Hmm perhaps there is a regional or denominational aspect to this. I cannot imagine anything like the transformation you describe happening in a Lutheran church in my part of the country. The big picture view of the state of the church and the nation doesn’t confirm a slow slide into arch-conservatism, either, though I can see how it would be alarming to have a community where you are comfortable seem to suddenly change.

          I think most interesting discussions about this in the mainlines happen in private. That’s certainly where I have experienced such conversations. In public, it’s very much tow the line with platitudes, which of course no one hears because it’s incredibly boring. But in private, there is some interesting discussion and exegesis. Of course NT Wright has written about this, coming out on the side of female ordination but without throwing the Pauline baby out with the bathwater. I am reading a book from LCMS thinkers on the vocations of the family that is both traditionalist and rather egalitarian–I feel it defies the comp vs egal classification to some extent even though they like a lot of LCMSers would probably call themselves complementarians. But it is miles away from the Driscoll stuff, defending women’s vocations outside the home and admonishing men that it is a sin and a failure to expect to be served in marriage, so not really fitting into that either/or debate framework. I think the Lutheran “vocation” framework helps let the original, radical mutuality of Paul come through, rather than macho nonsense.

          I don’t know, it’s all very foreign to me. I live in a whole different world. I hear about people getting emotionally enmeshed in these megachurches with home groups and people checking up on their personal lives and I am at a loss. The ELCA can’t even throw avowed neopagans out of the ministry. No one is going to force me to apply Scripture to my marriage in any certain way around here!

  22. I really appreciated RHE’s book that I have not read because the Patriarchal wing of what they call “complementarian” went into code blue, 911, orange alert status. Oh, yes, it got the convos going.

    Look, those guys are hanging by an exegetical thread and they know it. CBMW is revamping and I hope getting rid of all the Mormonish stuff. They made up a word that was supposed to communicate something that wasn’t true. A lot of folks fell for it until social media got really going. Now, they are fighting a losing battle. Too many people can read scholars they had never heard of before give perfectly sound interpretations. Some discovered taht “desire” was really badly interpreted when it meant “turning” to Adam instead of God. So their entire doctrine is teaching women how to sin by turning to their husbands instead of God!

    Enter RHE. She is irenic so that does not help them at all. So all they have is feminist. She is a liberal so they can use that. Actually, I am a liberatarian egalitarian so I usually avoid her pro Obama blog.

    So I have a question for all those who are concerned about mixing up genders. Jesus was male. God in the flesh was male. So if staying in your strict gender role is so important, how are women to be Christlike? Who is their model.

    For those who get real snarky about roles, I usually point them to Luke 8. Let’s see…..We have Jesus traveling around the country with men and women. One of women, a married woman who left her husband back home to travel around with Jesus. These women are supporting Jesus financially. You can’t get more anti complementarian than that.

    • We are called to imitate Christ in attitude, not in body. We’re not expected to wear loin cloths and robes and sandals, to eat olives and drink weak wine. We are called to imitate self-denial, sacrifice, loving kindness, forgiveness, and humility. That’s not chromosomally determined, so what is your point, exactly? The problem is, if you pay attention for even a few minutes in reading the Gospels, we cannot do it. Just can’t. None of us. We have moments and maybe for some saintly people even prolonged stretches of being Christ-like, but mostly we are bound to fail. We need Christ because we cannot ourselves be Christ, or Christ-like. We cannot save ourselves with our good deeds.

      Next, you demonstrate so well why I feel this “complementarian vs egalitarian endless war” distortion has really hurt our ability to usefully discuss these issues. As a woman, I certainly hope to find more meaning from any given episode in Scripture than “neener neener, the specific subgroup of people in American 21st century evangelical culture who I personally dislike a whole lot are WRONG and this PROVES it!” But too often, that’s what interpretation gets reduced to–on BOTH sides. It is so far from the point, so far from productive, and so very sad. And, I might add, really frustrating to those of us who are serious about biblical interpretation and faith but do NOT come from one of these two perpetually warring factions nor the culturally myopic subculture from which both of them generated!

      it surprises exactly no one with a long view of history or for that matter, a non-upper-middle-class-urban view of society, to learn that women in the 1st century near east traded cloths or Martin Luther wrote about changing his baby’s diapers. There was nothing un-womanly or un-manly about these things. Which might make one think that maybe Paul, et al, were talking about something more profound than who takes on what chores, might it not? And I address that question to both entrenched sides of the comp vs egal debate.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        I’m thinking you’re arguing from two faulty assumptions: a) there are only two sides to this debate (complementarian vs. egalitarian), and b) there is only one kind of debater for each side–the petty, spiteful kind. If that is all that you have seen in this debate, then I’m sorry–you have got to get out more. There are people who really want to ask where we got these concepts of gender from, how much of it comes from a certain interpretation of Scripture, and how much comes from socially constructed perceptions of gender. There are folks who are really asking what Scripture does (on both “sides”), and they are coming up with some answers that are not beholden to either polar opposite.

        My suggestion to you: Hold off on the generalizations about where this entire complementarianism vs. egalitarianism debate is going, go to the bookstore, and buy and read Evans’ book. After that, you might be more prepared to make a decision about how polarized everyone really is in this debate.

        • On the contrary, it’s my very point that there are more than two “sides” to this. And I think that it has become a debate rather than an issue of discernment is precisely the problem.

          I have not finished Evans’ book so I will not pass judgment on it as a whole at this point. I feel that in general, both there and on her site, she makes good points. I think she is especially good at refuting the specific errors of certain very particular groups of Reformed thinkers in the USA. I think it’s best to read her in that context. Trying to apply the fundamentalist-to-doubt lens to other sectors of Christendom will be, in my experience, much more frustrating. Many of us were raised with “meh” and are suspicious of being urged to return towards it. Many of us are members of mainline denominations with aging membership and are fighting an uphill battle just to keep things relatively orthodox, if progressive and egalitarian, and keep the outright Buddhists and Wiccans at bay. For us, the struggle is not “how to escape this oppressive model of womanhood that has always been imposed on me?” but “how to constructively engage with ideas in the Bible that contradict our secular beliefs or habits?” Snark and doubt and questioning authority is our native tongue, we are not uncomfortable with it per se. Instead, I would argue, we are weary of it. We are looking to move on to another level.

      • Katherine,

        I am not even sure what your beef really is with what I wrote but your comment reads like I am being scolded for something. Not sure what, though.

        I am not immersed in the egal/comp debate except when it comes up on blog posts I assume it is ok to comment on the topic?. Comp/egal are just some words we use to describe different views. I prefer “mutualist”

        Personally, I think the whole gender debate is pointless in light of the fact that we are ALL heirs. Believing women are even referred to as “sons” in scripture because they are FULL heirs. However, I have studied this issue in the past quite deeply so feel a need to defend my fellow siblings in Christ who are being called sinners for not being in their correct gender role. Or using insulting language to try and shame them they are not biblical when I happen to think the Patriarchalists are the ones who do not have a hermenetical leg to stand on.

        BTW: Luther wrote horrible things about women and Jews. Perhaps you missed those? Or perhaps you subscribe to the view he was a man of his time or he was mentally unbalanced when he wrote them but we should not think that about the other things he wrote?

        • It’s always amusing when someone thinks that Lutherans worship Luther and can use the fact that he was a human being as a “gotcha.” Or that we’re not aware of it. If there is a specific writing of his that you want to discuss, why don’t you cite it or quote it and we can discuss it. If it’s not on topic, well, there you have it–it’s not on topic. I think it’s a bit untoward to simply reference “he said a bad thing once!” (which yes, he certainly did) as a way to discredit the entire Lutheran perspective.

          • “It’s always amusing when someone thinks that Lutherans worship Luther …”

            Not sure where you got the ‘worship” part but Luther-an is the name of the denomination so I would assume you affirm his doctrinal stances? Using the name of a human for a doctrine, ST or denomination can be confusing. His stance on women, Jews and the Peasants is pretty commonplace for those who read history. Perhaps you might want to read up on the man the denomination is named for?

          • I think it is important to recognize that the Lutheran church is probably not the same as when it was first established. On the other hand Luther did say a lot of bad things, more than once! It is my understanding that he believed that Jewish children should be taken from their parents and raised as Christians. Also any Jew who taught his religion to others was to be put to death. I really find very little admirable about him at all as a person. On the other hand, there is no reason to condemn Lutherans now since they do not subscribe to that belief anymore. Religions change and (hopefully) grow better with time.

          • Neither his antisemitic rantings nor the vast majority of his thoughts on gender–nor his many comments on flatulence–are in the Book of Concord, thus, no, they are not “Lutheran doctrine,” they are simply the opinions of one Dr. Luther ca. 1520 AD. Much as Pope Francis’ opinion of the trout almondine served tonight at dinner, or the best soccer team in Argentina is not “Catholic doctrine.” Off the top of my head, the only thing about gender in the Book of Concord would be what is in the Small and Large Catechisms about the household. Here it is in the Small Catechism:

            http://www.bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php#tableofduties

            Simply a collection of relevant passages from Scripture sans commentary or interpretation. Thus no more problematic to accept than it is to accept the Bible itself. On searching I don’t really see anything relevant in the Large Catechism or elsewhere in the Confessions.

            Luther need not be a saint (indeed we do not think of him as one) because we need not accept all of him or his thoughts. We affirm the Book of Concord as a valid interpretation of the faith of the church, and the Augsburg Confession in particular as a true witness to the Gospel. That’s it. Beyond that, many of Luther’s writings are interesting, and many of them do hold valuable theological ideas. But we are not bound to them in any sense, and we are free to criticize and even condemn where he was wrong.

            If you are looking for an early modern religious thinker who was untainted by bigotry, especially sexism, well, you’re just not going to find one. Thus I am not certain what your point is, here.

          • Katherine, If you do not want to give the impression you are sold out to Martin Luther, you might want to rethink your moniker and avatar. (wink)

            Btw: I was not named after him.

          • “Sold out”? Anyhow, can you address what I actually said instead of commenting on my attire?

  23. Didn’t read the book, and I don’t think I’m going to. It just wasn’t written for me. I appreciate that for recovering fundamentalists this book can help bring some real closure. Glad for that. But this just isn’t a big deal for me.

    I don’t think the Bible tells me how to be a man, culture does. Godly men can model for me what it means to have character as a man in this culture that gives men these particular roles, and the same for women, but godly character doesn’t come in 2 flavors. At the same time, I don’t think the Bible mandates the kind of egalitarianism we see in our culture today. It shows very little concern for giving women the opportunity to vote or work or whatever. In fact, Paul and Jesus seem to have little to no concern for the regulation of culturally determined roles whatsoever, but are more concerned with how a Christian should fill those roles. Women were like property in Patriarchal culture. Paul’s message wasn’t for women to has some self-respect and throw off the shackles of oppression, but to fill that role with humility and grace. Men likewise weren’t counseled to consult their wife for every decision. Culture expected them to lead their households and Paul didn’t expect them to buck this trend, but rather, to do it with a Christ-like spirit.

    I just kind of think that if we could really work on the humility and grace thing, it wouldn’t really matter what gender we are. Our inner masculinity or femininity is brought to perfection in the reflection of Christ, not the overturning or repristination of cultural roles. The summary of the law is to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. That and the ten commandments are some gender neutral instructions. I think that God’s law is truly enough instruction, and to the extent that we preach gender roles (or sterilized the lack thereof) as a spiritual mandate, we are adding unhelpful additional requirements.

    I imagine RHE has given some great food for thought. But I just don’t find these issues that troubling in my own life. My struggle is to be a faithful disciple, not a “biblical man.”

    • Brilliant analysis Miguel.

    • OlyAnnie says:

      Beautifully stated!

    • Um Miguel,

      You do realize the New Testament actually tells the same things to slaves as to what you say he said to women (“Paul’s message wasn’t for women to has some self-respect and throw off the shackles of oppression, but to fill that role with humility and grace.”)? Yet, the next centuries worked to throw off the shackles of oppression for slaves.

      Jesus and Paul weren’t actually for marriage – that is the western reformed church’s endless obsession since about the 15th C.

      Also, your comment “Our inner masculinity or femininity is brought to perfection in the reflection of Christ, not the overturning or repristination of cultural roles. ” does not reflect the early church, where women defied their fathers wishes and burned at the stake rather than marrying the men their dad’s wanted them to. This whole notion of a passive, simpering Christian woman doesn’t exist in the early church. I suspect most modern Christian women (myself included) wouldn’t last a day in the early church.

      Sorry, but Christians were the first people in history (post-agricultural societies, anyways) to overthrow slavery. They DID throw of the shackles of oppression. If anything, Christian women became spiritual warriors, defying Roman authority structures and defying social norms – not marrying, rescuing and raising unwanted (girl) babies off garbage heaps, treating slaves with dignity. Early Chrisitans were hated because they didn’t care about societal conventions. They were persecuted because they weren’t properly respectful or fearful enough of Roman authorities. That hardly sounds like early Christian women remained under any form of male oppression. They preferred death over worldly submission (submission to human authority).

      • You do realize the New Testament actually tells the same thing to slaves as what you say he said to women

        Um, yes. Paul didn’t tell slaves to rise up and free themselves, but to submit to their masters. Because Paul wasn’t interested in a social revolution. Neither was Jesus, and it practically got him killed. The disciples and expected Jesus to lead a revolt against Caesar, but we should let him define his own agenda and describe the kingdom He wishes to bring. The revolution Christ brings is a spiritual revolution. Subsequent social upheaval or reform may be a direct consequence of this, but it is important to maintain that distinction and not call social revolution the mission of Christ.

        Yes, Christians have consistently overthrown slavery, and rightly so. However, they obviously didn’t do this because the Bible forbids slavery and says it is evil. They did this because the believe the slave is their neighbor and is suffering great injustice. If the slavery system were fair and honorable along the lines of what God gave the Israelites in the Levitical code, you may have seen a different story. But the Christian abolitionists were not known for throwing off their own shackles of oppression: they were acting in the defense of their neighbor, not their self.

        Jesus and Paul weren’t actually for marriage – that is the western reformed church’s endless obsession since about the 15th C.

        Jesus: “What God has joined together…” Paul: “It is better to marry…” The pre-Reformation church: Marriage is a Sacrament.

        It’s not that Christians should never challenge cultural mores. But doing so is not the substance of Christianity. Those women didn’t resist their Father’s because Christ told them to liberate themselves from his authority. They did so because to submit would be to violate their conscience.

        I’m not talking about passive, simpering wimps. I’m just saying that the kingdom of Christ is not the kingdom of this world and ought not be linked inseparably with our petty political causes. Out of Christian love for our neighbors we may associate with a movement geared toward making change for the common good, but that doesn’t Christianize the movement. Government is a secular affair, and something Jesus took precious little interest in, much to the disappointment of many.

        I would argue that those who lay down their lives before betraying their beliefs are models of humility and grace: they recognize some things are more important than they are. Those deaths preach. Surely you wouldn’t be arguing that the early church was not known for being a reflection of Christ?

        • I think I need to be more clear about marriage, there is the Early church (up to about 300 years after Jesus), the Roman Church (started officially with Constantine, but actually very romanized for a few decades before then) and then the Reformation (in Western Europe).

          So, marriage is a sacrament in the Roman church – after the 11th C. Before that few Christians got formerly married – it was another infamous cash grab by the papacy waaaay back then (make it a sacrament, and people will have to pay us to get it done – OK, I’m a little cynical here, but it was something like that and some have attributed it to a money grab, not sure the cash motive is entirely proven, though).

          Jesus and Paul were celibate – Jesus says he has come to turn family members against one another and he had married women ministering with him whose husbands were elsewhere (Luke 8:3)

          The’ What God has joined together’ verse is about divorce, not getting married in the first place (Matt 19:6)

          Paul actually says it is better to remain celibate and he wishes everyone were like him, the better to marry than burn is a concession of sorts.

          Now, the Early Church (pre-Romanization) valued celibacy over marriage. That is well documented. Nuns, Desert Fathers/Mothers, Monks and Priests were all viewed as following the true calling more successfully, the Reformation just reversed that (making married men more hireable as clergy).

          OK, back to slavery/wife bondage as a neighbourly act (not something slaves/women should seek for themselves).

          So what are you doing about the oppression and silencing of women in our churches? How do you respond to how poorly Rachel has been treated for stating the obvious?

          Fact of the matter is, Driscoll and Piper need to be overthrown. If the men won’t do it, the women will, it is not loving for me to allow the church to treat or talk about women the way they do. It is not loving to my daughter, or young women in seminary or anyone to be raised with a silly notion that women a) can’t defend themselves and the male with them in an attack, b) can’t disagree with their husband in public, c) can’t be seen influencing a man – but can write a commentary, just remain invisible and anonymous, d) need to take abuse for a night – etc, etc, etc.

          Fact is, marriage is second to life in Christ. If a husband is beating his wife or threatening her, and she is dying inside and physically in danger outside. She needs freedom from his demonic rage. The church needs to free her from her oppressor, not send her back to him.

          CJ Mahaney’s church is an example of what happens when a husband is so paramount to following God that everyone else needs to accept being in danger of being broken and abused to follow the “Bible”. Well, my God is not a God of oppression, rather, He is a God of love. Anyone who loves God and wants to be like him, would make sure the woman and her kids were safe and cared for first, and foremost. If the husband repents, the church needs to know what sort of man he is (if he’s a pedophile THAT needs to be made known) and why his wife and kids are absolutely not to view him as authoritative ever again (he lost that role permanently). If (and I would discourage it) the family were to reunite – the most Godly way would be to let the wife be entirely in charge. If she felt unsafe for herself or the kids, then she would be supported in sending him away.

          When the idol of marriage is held up over the Freedom of Christ, something is wrong. It has been wrong since Ancient Rome (not the modern Catholic Church) got a hold of Christianity. Today, we view the secondary teachings of the church as more important than dropping all (including family “roles”) to follow Christ as the norm. We go on “mission trips” to safe, and often already Christian countries, because we can’t die for our faith. The early Christians didn’t go on “safe” mission trips. But then, they never married, so they didn’t have a pile of obligations they needed to tend to in this world.

          Which leads me to your own point: ” it is important to maintain that distinction and not call social revolution the mission of Christ.” (can’t do your fancy quotes)

          Yes, so when do you plan to stand against modern nuclear family marriages as something the church should be involved in? I live in a country where same sex marriages have been legal for over a decade. I am like, why is the church even involved in a state institution? It really doesn’t matter if a state allows gay marriages or not, as the church, you said yourself, should maintain a distinction from the state and not call saving heterosexually exclusive marriages as a mission of Christ, nor should we insist others follow random gender roles that pastors love to say are oh so clear in the Bible. As the mission of Christ has a longer history of being pro-abolishon than it does pro-marriage.

          • The early church was against marriage? Give me a break. Peter was married, as were many of the early church leaders. Jesus did not come to abolish marriage, and his goal was not to split up the marriages of those who follow him. The married women from Luke 8 were not encouraged to leave their husband, despite how their behavior may have been considered controversial at the time, and when Jesus talks about turning families against each other, he is warning that his message will have that effect, not saying that was his original goal. I can give you that the early church favored celibacy. That makes sense from the writings of Paul. But they were not against marriage. I have yet to hear any reason from Scripture or historical evidence that suggests that the nuclear family was invented by James Dobson. :P

            So what are you doing about the oppression and silencing of women in our churches? How do you respond to how poorly Rachel has been treated for stating the obvious?

            Nobody is being oppressed. If you don’t like the teaching, leave the church! Nobody is forcing you to be a part. Go see the oppression of women in countries where they don’t have rights. Rachel has not been “treated poorly.” She has been disagreed with, vehemently. Whoopdeefrickindoo. You put forth your ideas in the public sphere, expect to have them criticized there. If you don’t wan’t people saying your thoughts are crazy, keep ‘em to yourself! It’s not like any of her detractors don’t have plenty of their own. They stick their neck out to say what they do as well, and have been duly eviscerated online and elsewhere for doing it. So somebody calls her a heretic. Everybody is a heretic to somebody.

            Fact of the matter is, Driscoll and Piper need to be overthrown.

            Those men have no power. They have a platform and influence, but there is no revolution against private enterprise in the free market. People follow them because they agree with them: if you cut off the head, another will grow in its place. The only thing you can do to diminish their influence is convince people to see otherwise. You don’t have to dethrone them: just go somewhere their doctrine isn’t taught. You are free to makes those decisions for yourself. I’m with you 100% on A, B, C, and D. They are textbook illustrations of the silliness of puritan sanctification and the Reformed 3rd use of the law. Besides, no matter how dominant their pontifications seem now, I believe they are a flash in the pan. Such craziness will not reach the third generation.

            marriage is second to life in Christ

            Amen! Any church that denies your following point is at the very least psychologically abusive.

            Yes, so when do you plan to stand against modern nuclear family marriages as something the church should be involved in?

            I have a nuclear family, and I came from a nuclear family. I think they are good things and benefit society when they are done well. The thing is, marriage is not just an issue of politics. Civil union is, but marriage is an institution of God through creation, sacrament or not. There’s a difference between politics and morality. Christ and the apostles had much to say about morality and sexuality. Legislating the morality is not the cause of Christianity, though as I clearly stated, it can be a result or consequence of it, but the church is to absolutely keep with the explicit instruction of her founders. But I can give you this: the church has certainly idolized marriage in our culture and spends too much time focusing on it. It’s therapeutic deism playing at moralism: We pretend something is our divine mandate, but honestly, it just makes our own life better. It’s almost it’s own subtle prosperity gospel. Jesus didn’t come to heal broken marriages, he came to raise dead sinners.

          • Ali Griffiths says:

            @Miguel – if you have influence and a platform then you have power. I agree with much of what you say but you are not taking into account the very real power that is exerted over people who are part of a sub culture by men like Driscoll and Piper. If you reject their teaching then you leave behind your entire social life as well as your church. Friends will shun you or patronise you – it is not a small thing for people who have been brought up with this teaching to reject it – for women to reject it who are still married or in families who practise it, it can be too hard to contemplate. I don’t think you are giving sufficient weight to this aspect of rejecting the teaching of men like this.

          • You are correct, Ali, and thanks for pointing that out. I always get caught up in reacting against anti-institutionalism. What I really meant is that these guys don’t have genuinely coercive power like the clergy of theocratic nations do. It may be difficult to sever ties with an abusive church, but it is still within your right to do so. The spiritual abuse of American Evangelical celebrity pastors still pales in comparison to the physical abuse women suffer under Sharia law. If friends shun and patronize you, I understand it hurts. But you are better off, in the end, without friends whose conditional acceptance is membership of their cult. As painful as it is to break free, I think those who have done so would say it was well worth it.

        • “Um, yes. Paul didn’t tell slaves to rise up and free themselves, but to submit to their masters”

          He also told them to win their freedom if they could. And more radically, he told Philemon to treat Oni as a brother in Christ when the codes at the time said one could execute a run away slave.

          As to women, except for wealthy Roman/Greek women, they were property and most were arranged marriages in very confined circumstances often living with the children and slaves in another part of the home. If you read Eph 5 in that light instead of through Western eyes, it is quite radical. Remember, Paul also mentions those who want to spy out our liberty which was a problem.

          • Good points Maritin,

            FYI Miguel I never said Jesus was against marriage, but that marriage was second to life in Christ. It was the early church that viewed marriage as second best. There is a difference.

            Women are being oppressed in certain churches, other churches don’t oppress women. There is no one church universal, so you can’t make a blanket statement that women are not being oppressed. The real question is, Miguel, what are you going to do about it?

            Jesus called me so I won’t be leaving the church – I like the part where In Christ, there is no male nor female we are all one in Christ. If you don’t like it, you have much to learn.

            But again, what are you planning to do about oppression in the church? Deny that it is there?

          • Oh, I’m not denying that Paul’s instructions weren’t extremely radical. The teachings of Christ were too. But you are still illustrating my point: their goal wasn’t social reformation, it was personal reformation. Paul didn’t say that the slave/owner system was wrong, he goes right for the root of the problem: slaves/owners ought to be more concerned with the reflection of Christ than their own personal rights. If all owners treated their slaves like Christ, you wouldn’t need an abolitionist movement. It’s not that Paul is against social reformation. It’s just that it isn’t his agenda: that is the kingdom of this world, and his concern is the kingdom of God.

          • Loo, I agree that the early church gave priority to celibacy, so long as marriage is still a viable option.

            Women are being oppressed in certain churches, other churches don’t oppress women. There is no one church universal, so you can’t make a blanket statement that women are not being oppressed. The real question is, Miguel, what are you going to do about it?

            I’m sorry, but even though it’s difficult, women still have the right to leave those churches. When that right it taken from you, then you have some real oppression. When the church wields the power of government to exact corporal punishment, that is oppression on another scale entirely. I don’t deny that many churches are abusive. My response would be the same as to any other cult: to reject their doctrine and strongly encourage others to avoid/leave such cults. The only power I have to “overthrow” them is to not send them any money.

            I’m glad you’ve able to stay in the church. I hope you have found one free from these harmful prescriptive gender roles. But I’m a big fan of Galatians 3:28, especially when read in the light of Ephesians 5 and 6. Let’s not replace one fundamentalism with another. Egalitarians I encounter are rarely open to an exegetical exchange on the actual meaning of the Galatians passage. “It means what is says!” is fundamentalist for “It means what I want it to!”

  24. “I don’t think the Bible tells me how to be a man, culture does.”
    “I just kind of think that if we could really work on the humility and grace thing, it wouldn’t really matter what gender we are.”

    Bazinga.

  25. Things have changed at Imonk. There is little of the Jesus shaped spirituality that Michael Spencer yearned to see. There is, however, a great deal of liberal legalism. I wont be back.

  26. I still can’t figure out why our friend Chaplain Mike can see 20/20 on so much of the schtick there is out there that masquerades as serious Christianity and cannot see some of the same with Rachel Evans.

    All of the publicity she has generated in the media around this makes it hard to take her seriously, I have read her blog and still get a real feeling that she is looking for attention not unlike the way others do.

    We had a local pastor who did some silly thing up on top of a telephone pole to get media attention. Another guy builds a giant Ark, every week IM lampoons some of these guys.

    And then a young feminist writer comes along and somehow is not subject to similar scrutiny. What’s going on here? You even have pictures of her schtick!

    Come on Chaplain, whats going on? Can you enlighten those of us who are wondering?

  27. Marcus Johnson says:

    Just started reading. I’m up in the air about how I feel about Evans’ memoir.

    On the one hand, by the end of the first chapter, I was pretty aware that Evans is a blogger who writes, rather than a writer who has a blog. As such, the narrative does not seem very grounded, and Evans doesn’t seem to take her experience with the kind of gravity I would expect from a memoirist. I would attribute that to the fact that this narrative was a manufactured experience, instead of an organic one. As such, I have to work to take her experience seriously.

    On the other hand, I think Evans does provide some space for exploring the rules dictating female behavior in the Bible. There are even points in which she approaches a sort of concession as to the legitimacy of some of those social mores.

    So far, I’m giving it a B minus, maybe a B. I still have a ways to go before I can settle on a definite response to her memoir.

  28. Late to the discussion but curious–would love to hear thoughts from those who also read “The Year of Living Biblically”” that YOBW was patterned after. I read it after I read YOBW and the similarities were a bit too much for me. Not that you can’t model another writer’s work–we all “borrow” regular y–but I’m surprised that this angle hasn’t been part of the discussions online. Putting comp/egal issues aside, I’m curious as to what it means (if anything) when an agnostic Jew and an evangelical Christian can basically take the same approach and write the same book.

    • I haven’t commented much on the obvious similarities because it seems too obvious–I thought everyone could see that her book was clearly positioned as the “female version” of his book. Maybe not? It definitely made for some redundancy imho though. Enough with these memoirs premised on the author doing something campily ridiculous for a year!