If you are a woman who attends church on a regular basis, you have probably heard discussions about the roles women can and can’t play in God’s Kingdom. Those of us raised in the feminist era have been trained to begin feeling angry whenever we are denied something a man is given – period. We have been told life must be fair – which to the world means equal.
One of the most difficult things for people to truly accept in the core of their beings is that God sees life very differently than humans do, and because He is the all-knowing, all-wise God, He gets to make the rules. These rules are in our best interest because they were created by the one who created us and loves us more than we can understand.
Yet, often mankind has made rules where God never intended them to be. In fact, that was one of God’s problems with the Pharisees. They had created so many extra rules, the people could barely breathe without breaking one of them. Or, we want to discard the rules we don’t like as being outdated or only “for those people in that time” – not for us.
So I was interested (and a little nervous) about reviewing Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy Alsup. First, let me reassure you. This is not an “I am woman hear me roar” feminist manifesto. Nor is it an “I’m a doormat, walk all over me” 1950’s housewife how-to book. Rather, the author takes a look at the scriptures through the various lens and arguments given by both ends of the spectrum and gives a different perspective that may leave both sides feeling justified and upset simultaneously.
Without giving away everything, I love that she turns the argument about culture and women’s roles in the Bible on its ear. She correctly points out that though culture does play a role, it’s not the role people want it to play so they can do whatever they want. She argues God’s standards don’t change, but that much of what people hate is actually reporting – not endorsing (like chopping the concubine into bits) or substantially improved protections for women compared to how they were (and are still in many places) treated. Those laws we consider barbaric actually protected women from being thrown into prostitution (in many cases) or killed, and made sure they were respected and well cared for by society.
On the other hand, she goes into great depth explaining why we can’t throw out the few commands specifically denying women certain roles and blame them on cultural ignorance. She builds a solid scriptural argument that will support some things each side in the current debate wants and deny some others they may think are essential for churches to be fair and godly.
I really only have two cautions about this book. First, I wish she had written it in more consumer friendly language. The writing style is often like a college textbook. I understand some of the information is more detailed than most churches provide today, but it is such an important issue I wish she had found less pretentious words from time to time. (Not as bad as some professors who I’m pretty sure write lectures with a thesaurus by their side, but a touch of it is here for sure.)
The other is that I think she did such a balanced, scripture-searching job of the topic, I wish she had spent more time on the other two aspects I think often play into the debate. First, I always wonder when people begin fighting about women’s roles what happened to their humility. Why is everyone so concerned about power when Jesus made it clear Christians aren’t supposed to be seeking power and control, but humble service? Boil both sides’ arguments down far enough and it is purely an ungodly power struggle. In fact, I think the church would be better served having more discussions about doing away with manmade power structures and “superstar” roles and returning to biblical servant roles than worrying specifically about women’s roles. The author touches on humility a bit, but I believe it’s probably worth an entire chapter.
I also wish she had addressed giftedness and the opportunities God gives us individually. The majority of us need to worry more about what God has already put on our plate to do and stop worrying about what He hasn’t given us to do. We aren’t touching the hem of the skirt of the garment in accomplishing what God already has asked us to do as far as obedience, serving others and sharing our faith. Why should we demand more things to do when we haven’t done what is already on our plate well? Why worry about whether I can preach on Sunday morning in worship when I haven’t even been given the gift of public speaking and would faint if actually told I had to preach? Why demand to be an Elder when I don’t even show up for my current volunteer assignments at church prepared and on time? Why are we worried about what “hypothetical” women can or can’t do, when we should be worried about our own assignments from God?
I would highly suggest you read this book and encourage your spouse and older children to read it too. Or at least discuss the various points she brings up with your family. Look up the scriptures and read them (I wish she had written out the verses, but she doesn’t in most cases.). Add to your discussions of the book conversations about humility, service, gifts and God’s opportunities for each of us to serve Him. I think if we all do that, the conversations about women’s roles will be very different.
A copy of this book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.