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J.A.A. Purves

A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012)

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Alright, if Hipster Christianity can have it's own thread here, then this book certainly can.

Rachel Held Evans is a young and energetic writer whose voice is beginning to be much more noticeable. Her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town (2010), was both provocative and gracious, challenging and moderating. She has a way of writing that combines the amusing with the persuasive, and she's persuasive, I think, particularly because her tone is never bitter, condescending or antagonizing. Her second book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012) is being banned from Christian bookstores. Depending on what you think about a few things, her book is timely in the sense that there is a probably a reasonable argument to be made now that the American church is one of the last bastions in our society of patriarchy.

I personally find Evans interesting also as one of a rising generation of new writers (among Sloane Crosley, Brett McCracken, Samantha Harvey, David Griffith, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Lauren F. Winner, Amy Frykholm, and perhaps Kevin Powers, among others).

Fred Clark in Slacktivist:

... The Powers That Be of Christian patriarchy — The Gospel Coalition, the Southern Baptist bishops, etc. — see Evans as the most prominent example of something that terrifies them. Their male authority depends, largely, on the consent of the governed. And that consent, in turn, depends largely on their maintaining a monopoly on information and permission. TPTB are losing that monopoly on information and permission. Women are writing things. They are talking to one another outside of officially sanctioned church channels. They are spreading and absorbing information not approved by the patriarchy. They are granting one another permission to ask questions and to demand satisfactory answers ...

Ben Witherington in The Bible and Culture:


... As it turns out, a good deal of the Bible is R rated, especially the parts that involve women, and their involvements in sex, and war, and ministry, and politics. Actually few of those aforementioned women were stay at home gals in the modern sense. But then, as I like to say, the problem with women like these in the Bible is not that they are strong women. The problem is that then as now, weak men have a problem handling strong women whether inside or outside the Bible, inside or outside the church, inside or outside the family. It’s sad, but it’s true, perhaps especially in conservative Christian churches.

Rachel Held Evans has come by her writing awards honestly. There is some fine writing, and some very funny writing in this book, and Rachel herself is often quite transparent and self-effacing about the ways she falls short of any sort of model of a ‘Biblical woman’ as she tells of her adventures in an entertaining and informative way.

Consider for example the following passage where she rightly objects to the silly Christian allegorizing of the Song of Songs anatomical descriptions (in this case 1.13-16 and 7.7-9) by various rather prudish early church fathers: “According to Origen the two breasts that the suitor is so eager to grasp represent the OT and the NT. The lips he longs to kiss represent the Eucharist, noted another medieval scholar. The luxurious bed on which the lovers lie represents the convents of the Church, said Saint Bernard. Sure. And Hooters represents the American affinity for owl culture.” (p. 111) ...

Here's a charming interview with Evans, where she talks about both of her books:

 

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I only watched part of the video but i thought it and your preface deserved a response.

I don't know Rachel Held Evans's blog or books, and at first I was sceptical. Her point (No one takes the Bible literally. No one) seemed disproportionate to a year of tents on the lawn and headscarves in church and the sequel of public appearances and book bannings. Only that's not her point.

She caught my attention - literally i put down what i was holding and turned to my laptop screen - when she called the documentary she saw in college a turning point. She had been taught all her life that the next stop for an Afghan woman, executed in a playing field , was Hell. She had acquiesced in damnation for unbelievers till suddenly, she couldn't. That experience is powerful for me. I want very badly to believe in an internal analogue to the Lumiere train - that film has the power to animate the part of our being that's bent on truth, to stop us in our moral tracks and send our thoughts racing. I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies.

But less abstractly, here's a woman damned by the laws of two faiths, adamantly conceived as oppositional. Here's the risk of adhering to the letter and losing the spirit of faith, of how far mercy can inform justice, writ large.The evocation of John 8:7.

I glimpsed Evans's own writing and a few responses: hasty defenses of something i'm not sure she even attacked. i think her true critique is of unexamined faith, less what we hear and who from than whether we ever listen. At some point in your life, you need to open the lid of dogma. If you've been taught the Afghan woman is going to hell you'd better know why you believe it.

I've chafed at the term Biblical Literalism, wishing i had a better grasp, a grasp period, of the semantics of religion. I've heard difference boiled down to rigor (my approach: subjective interpretation, cherrry picking; somone else's: God's inerrant Word.) The someone else is invariably sensitive, compassionate, intelligent, steeled in assurance. There's no space for what I'm really thinking:

You believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God?

The crazy thing is, so do i.

i also believe it's richly figurative, that it contains remnants of a socio-historic past and that for me to insist on each word literally is, metaphorically speaking, to put lies in God's mouth.

So I crave the more-than-literal truth - just like you - and if we arrive at different readings, that's more than ok.

But I should stop here, before I stray further from books I haven't read. . . .

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I don't know Rachel Held Evans's blog or books, and at first I was sceptical. Her point (No one takes the Bible literally. No one) seemed disproportionate to a year of tents on the lawn and headscarves in church and the sequel of public appearances and book bannings. Only that's not her point.

Right. Her take on "interpreting the Bible literally" is more traditional than it first appears. Many a theologian or seminary professor would make the same distinctions that she does, but she makes them clearly and simply for the layperson.

She caught my attention - literally i put down what i was holding and turned to my laptop screen - when she called the documentary she saw in college a turning point. She had been taught all her life that the next stop for an Afghan woman, executed in a playing field , was Hell. She had acquiesced in damnation for unbelievers till suddenly, she couldn't. That experience is powerful for me. I want very badly to believe in an internal analogue to the Lumiere train - that film has the power to animate the part of our being that's bent on truth, to stop us in our moral tracks and send our thoughts racing. I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies.

But less abstractly, here's a woman damned by the laws of two faiths, adamantly conceived as oppositional. Here's the risk of adhering to the letter and losing the spirit of faith, of how far mercy can inform justice, writ large.The evocation of John 8:7.

If you found that thought provocative, then I can only strongly recommend you read both her books. She's willing to question and compare things in ways that so many evangelicals have not. Every once in a while, we need a writer to come along and challenge us to be consistent and to take our beliefs to their logical conclusions. Evans is such a writer. We have been taught some things that we've just accepted without thinking. It is not very healthy for us if nonbelievers see the logical conclusions of some of our claims while we don't.

I'm about halfway through the book. When I have time, I'm going to have to write more about some of her ideas on here.

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A few excerpts:

pg. xvii:

According to James Dobson, women weren't inferior to men, just created for different roles. Our ultimate calling, he said, is in the home, where we can serve God and our husbands by keeping things clean, having supper on the table at six, and, most important, making babies.

pgs. xviii-xix:

Many were influenced by evangelical complementarianism, a movement that began as a reaction to second-wave feminism ... The theological bulwark of the movement can be found in the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Led by conservative pastor John Piper and theologian Wayne Grudem, the CBMW produced two pivotal documents that extended the influence of the movement beyond the confines of the Reformed tradition: "The Danvers Statement" (published in 1988) and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (published first in 1991 and again in 2006) ... According to the Danvers Statement, the acceptance of feminist ideology among Christians has led to a "threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity."

pgs. 16-17:

What they forgot to tell us in Sunday school is that the "gentle and quiet spirit' Peter wrote about [i Peter 3:3-4] is not, in fact, an exclusively feminine virtue, but is elevated throughout the New Testament as a trait expected of all Christians. Jesus used the same word - praus, in Greek - to describe himself as "gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29). Gentleness is one of the nine fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:23), and Paul told the members of the Phillippian church, "Let your gentleness be evident to all" (Phillippians 4:5) ... "Blessed are the praus," Jesus said, "for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5).

pg. 23:

The importance of homemaking in the contemporary biblical womanhood movement cannot be overstated, and proponents tend to use strong, unequivocal language to argue that the only sphere in which a woman can truly bring glory to God is the home.

pg. 48:

... If you're intent on trying to keep all the commands, you should know ahead of time that you're going to bump into at least three or four that you simply can't (or won't) keep.

pg. 52:

The irony of course, is that while advocates of biblical patriarchy accuse everyone else of biblical selectivity, they themselves do not appear to be stoning adulterers, selling their daughters into slavery, taking multiple wives, or demanding that state laws be adjusted to include death sentences for rape victims ... at least not yet. Those who decry the evils of selective literalism tend to be rather clumsy at spotting it in themselves.

pg. 76:

Old Testament scholar Ellen F. Davis notes that the poem [Proverbs 31] was intended "not to honor one particularly praiseworthy woman, but rather to underscore the central significance of women's skilled work in a household-based economy." ... And yet many Christians interpret this passage prescriptively as a command to women rather than as an ode to women.

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: pg. 52:

: The irony of course, is that while advocates of biblical patriarchy accuse everyone else of biblical selectivity, they themselves do not appear to be stoning adulterers, selling their daughters into slavery, taking multiple wives, or demanding that state laws be adjusted to include death sentences for rape victims ... at least not yet. Those who decry the evils of selective literalism tend to be rather clumsy at spotting it in themselves.

Please point me to one New Testament passage that commands any of these things.

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Carissa Smith, "As Biblical as Apple Pie: Rachel Held Evans’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood":

On her blog, Evans has recently said that “the playful, humorous experiments” in her book “are clearly meant to be hyperbolic and provocative . . . My goal is to make readers first laugh, and then think, about the ways in which we invoke the phrase ‘biblical womanhood,’ because I believe both the Bible and womanhood are more complex than a list of rules and acceptable roles.” The main problem is that these experiments aren’t really all that funny, in part because we can so easily see through them and in part because Evans’s persona (note: her persona, not Evans herself) seems to be a distillation of all the charmingly messy, neurotic, self-deprecating women pop culture has given us in the past decade. For me, this persona is wearing thin, even in its “smart” Liz Lemon variety. I’ve begun to wonder if the type isn’t ultimately just another way for women to apologize to men for being competent: “Look, you don’t have to feel threatened, we’re just a cute little bundle of raw nerves and hormones” is the message it sends. In Evans’s case, this persona, who seems to prone to constant crying jags, undercuts her emphasis on celebrating “women of valor,” both in the Bible and throughout history. Sure, even women of valor have their weaknesses, but they don’t have to manufacture them to fit the current popular version of womanhood.

In most chapters, Evans adopts a preferable persona–the curious scholar–when she proceeds to explore various interpretations of relevant Bible passages, usually including a look at genre, context, or both. Proverbs 31 is meant to be poetry, she discovers, not a recipe for behavior. In the best chapter of the book–the “Beauty” chapter–Evans, after examining what the Bible has to say about beauty, opts to completely skip the stunts she had planned, determining that they’re unnecessary. If only she had decided the same for the whole book. What we get in the “Beauty” chapter, unhampered by the facade, is an indictment of evangelical subculture’s double standards for female appearance and sexuality and a celebration of the Bible’s better priorities–mutuality and mystery–in these matters.

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Please point me to one New Testament passage that commands any of these things.

There aren't any. The problem is that many Christians still teach that many Old Testament commands still apply to us today. Evans has found herself up against the accusation that she is selective in merely picking and choosing which parts & commands of the Bible still apply to her today. I've heard this before. Conservative evangelicals do criticize cherry-picking when deciding what parts of Scripture to try to follow. But, the very existence of the New Testament demands that we be selective. I think Evans' point is that every reasonable Christian actually ought to be selective.

It's not just an Old Testament/New Testament problem, either. Evans notes how the same passages that tell women to submit to their husbands are also telling slaves to submit to their masters. You could say that there is a hermeneutical stripe that used to interpret these passages as an implicit Biblical endorsement of slavery. Today, interpreters of the same hermeneutical stripe won't say the slavery endorsement exists anymore but will still use these passages to endorse what is essentially patriarchy. It may be bad interpretation of Scripture, but it's also logically inconsistent bad interpretation of Scripture.

We have to make distinctions between things like cultural and moral, even with what the Apostle Paul wrote.

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J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: The problem is that many Christians still teach that many Old Testament commands still apply to us today. . . . But, the very existence of the New Testament demands that we be selective.

Well, there you go. Pretty much every Christian I have ever known has been aware of the fact that Jews have a bunch of rules to deal with (whether they follow them or not) that we Gentiles don't. If Evans wants to cite evidence of "clumsiness" at "spotting" selective literalism in ourselves, then she would do better to single out *New Testament* rules that literalists no longer follow (such as, e.g., the one about women covering their heads in church -- a point that Paul is surprisingly adamant about ("If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God"); in some Orthodox circles, head coverings are still expected, though the churches I have attended so far leave it to the individual woman's choice).

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This was good enough to quote in my sig. Thanks!

I have no idea what that first sentence means, but you're very welcome/thank you!

If you found that thought provocative, then I can only strongly recommend you read both her books. She's willing to question and compare things in ways that so many evangelicals have not.

I hope I do make time to read at least a few chapters, and that willingness is what attracts me.

Pretty much every Christian I have ever known has been aware of the fact that Jews have a bunch of rules to deal with (whether they follow them or not) that we Gentiles don't. If Evans wants to cite evidence of "clumsiness" at "spotting" selective literalism in ourselves, then she would do better to single out *New Testament* rules that literalists no longer follow (such as, e.g., the one about women covering their heads in church -- a point that Paul is surprisingly adamant about . . .

I have only tried to explore difference in Scriptural interpretation a few times in conversation with other Christians. But I've encountered exactly what Jeremy describes. There are conservative evangelicals who think, or at least claim, that their approach to the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments alike, is consistently, unswervingly literal. Until 5 seconds ago when i read both your posts I thought they were legion.

These are people who would find stoning on O.T. principles abhorrent and whose disregard for the injunction that women cover their heads is complete and unthinking. Their own selectivity is patent, yet they insist it doesn't exist. I'm quick to admit that the Gospels are my spiritual touchstone and that I consider reading, above all this living mystery of a Book, a demanding, interpretive act. So I am very conscious of my own selectivity. But I genuinely try to mesh meaning with moral and spiritual truth and to respect the little formal exegesis I've encountered. To be admonished, however gently, not to take a laissez-faire approach to the Bible by people whose own position is so poorly articulated can be frustrating!

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If Evans wants to cite evidence of "clumsiness" at "spotting" selective literalism in ourselves, then she would do better to single out *New Testament* rules that literalists no longer follow ...

pg. 202:

There are three New Testament passages that instruct wives to submit to their husbands ... [Colossians 3:18, I Peter 3:1-2, Ephesians 5:22-24]

pgs. 215-216:

A little more research revealed that all three of the passages that instruct wives to submit to their husbands are either preceded or followed by instructions for slaves to submit to their masters ... The implications of this pattern are astounding. For if Christians are to use these passages to argue that a hierarchal relationship between man and woman is divinely instituted and inherently holy, then, for consistency's sake, they must also argue the same for the relationship between master and slave.

pg. 218:

The question modern readers have to answer is whether the Greco-Roman household codes reflected upon in Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter are in and of themselves holy, or if their appearance in Scripture represents the early church's attempt to blend Christianity and culture in such a way that it would preserve the dignity of adherents while honoring prevailing social and legal norms of the day. The Christian versions of the household codes were clearly progressive for their time, but does that mean that they have the last word, that Christians in changing places and times cannot progress further? It is the question that divided Christians during the Civil War, and it is the question that divides those in favor of the hierarchal-based gender roles and those who believe that the best kind of submission is that which is mutual.

pgs. 254-255:

I'm not the only one to struggle with the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11. Even the spokesmen for the biblical womanhood movement who claim to take the silence passages literally engage in some dizzying mental gymnastics when applying them.

When asked if it is wrong, in light of 1 Timothy 2, for men to listen to popular female teachers like Beth Moore, founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW), John Piper said, "No, unless you begin to become dependent on her as your shepherd-teacher. This is the way I feel about women speaking occasionally in Sunday school ... The Bible is clear that woman shouldn't teach and have authority over men. In context, I think this means that women shouldn't be the authoritative teachers of the church."

(In other words, a Christian man can learn from a Christian woman, as long as he doesn't learn too much.)

Even more confusing is the fact that Piper cites the first half of 1 Timothy 2:12 (a woman should not "have authority over a man") as universally applicable by discouraging women from becoming pastors, but disregards the second half ("she must be silent") by encouraging women like Moore to continue speaking.

Cofounder of the CBMW, Wayne Grudem offers equally confounding advice for women by extracting from 1 Timothy 2:12 an eighty-three-item list detailing exactly what women can and cannot do in the church. A woman can be a choir director, but not preside over a baptism or communion service, he says. She can write a book about theology that is read at Christian colleges and seminaries, but she cannot teach theology at Christian colleges or seminaries herself. She can teach vacation Bible school to children, but she cannot lead a Bible study with adults.

________________

I just finished the book this afternoon. So, this is a book for a popular readership. It's written with personal stories, jokes and humor, and from a "Generation X" point of view. But, I must say that, the more I think about it, the more impressed I am by Evans' hermeneutics. She wields a sharp pen when it comes to making Biblical distinctions and interpretative arguments. She respects the authority of Scripture. She values the older traditions of past generations and seeks out the good in them. And, she attacks, carefully and calmly, misguided error when she sees it. I suspect that the mere use of a couple specific words is not the only reason why her book is being banned by established Christian retailers.

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Josie wrote:

: There are conservative evangelicals who think, or at least claim, that their approach to the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments alike, is consistently, unswervingly literal.

Oh, sure. But *within* that literalness, you still find the idea that many of the laws which were binding on the ancient Israelites are no longer binding on modern Gentiles (assuming they ever *would* have been binding on Gentiles). And many people would argue that, in some cases, the New Testament is *stricter* than the Old Testament (see, e.g., Jesus' instructions on marriage and divorce -- which happen to be among the very few words of his that are repeated in Paul's letters!).

Incidentally, I've always loved the bit in one of John Dominic Crossan's books where he points out that, on one of the few *other* occasions when Paul quotes Jesus, he immediately proceeds to justify the fact that he is *disobeying* the quote in question. The case in point is I Corinthians 9, where Paul takes Jesus' instruction that his followers rely on the generosity of others and turns it into a "right" that he, Paul, chooses not to exercise -- at least not when the "generosity" in question is coming from those squabbling Corinthians. So you could argue that there was some selectivity there, too, but it was justified by the context.

J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: pgs. 215-216:

: A little more research revealed that all three of the passages that instruct wives to submit to their husbands are either preceded or followed by instructions for slaves to submit to their masters ... The implications of this pattern are astounding. For if Christians are to use these passages to argue that a hierarchal relationship between man and woman is divinely instituted and inherently holy, then, for consistency's sake, they must also argue the same for the relationship between master and slave.

Uh, no. I mean, yes, of course, as a *practical* matter, Paul encourages a certain respect for existing hierarchies. But Paul also encourages slaves to attain their freedom if the opportunity arises, whereas he could hardly have encouraged women to become men. Mastery or slavery is not an *intrinsic* human quality -- it exists on a purely cultural plane -- whereas the state of being male or female, whatever that might mean, is built into our very bodies. (Incidentally, does the NT actually encourage women to submit to men, or only wives to husbands?)

: pgs. 254-255:

Heh. A lot of the issues here reflect not only the fact that the outside culture has changed, but the fact that evangelical churches have, to a significant extent, rejected the ecclesiology that guided churches everywhere for the first 1500+ years of their existence. If the Bible says "Women can/cannot do This", the issue that many people face today is not simply that the outside culture encourages us to think differently about the "Women" part of that equation, but that evangelicals have been redefining the "This" part of the equation for years, if not centuries.

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I just read the Clarissa Smith review, excerpted above . . . and a few more. Maybe I'm the one being unfair, but in dwelling on presentation (or persona) at the expense of content, these responses seem guilty of what they deplore in Evans. One review begins by stating that Evans is wrong, goes on to explain that her critique only proves her discontent (a discontent she mistakenly attributes to other women - mistakenly because the reviewer is one of myriad Evangelical women basking in the status quo) and ends with the sop that Evans's writing is often funny and appealing. This is disapproval at its most genial and kid-gloved. It's also an exercise in evasion and euphemism that left me mildly incredulous. Not only does the writer displace questions of logic and probity with a charge of emotional lability, she never voices a single one of Evans's concerns. Not to dispute, discard, dismiss, not even in passing.

Oh, sure. But *within* that literalness, you still find the idea that many of the laws which were binding on the ancient Israelites are no longer binding on modern Gentiles (assuming they ever *would* have been binding on Gentiles).

I honestly don't know what I would find, because I don't think the people I've had these conversations with have looked. I'm casteless, illiterate in religious terminology and identity - and that may be the problem. So I believe literalism is a hard-won, defensible approach to Scripture. I believe it's qualified and refined, as your post describes. But I have experienced literalism (and sometimes even conservative evangelicalism) as a break with reality and an ideological stalemate.

So you could argue that there was some selectivity there, too, but it was justified by the context.

I've never read Crossan but that's a lovely example.

The implications of this pattern are astounding. For if Christians are to use these passages to argue that a hierarchal relationship between man and woman is divinely instituted and inherently holy, then, for consistency's sake, they must also argue the same for the relationship between master and slave.

I would demur here too. I'd like to see what ensues, where she takes this next.

A flaw in her reasoning - or perhaps in her wording - is that the institution of matrimony is consecrated and celebrated within the Bible, where the institution of slavery is not. In isolation, the strictest, most patriarchal reading those passages support is that where a hierarchical relationship already exists, submission is holy. (Not that slavery itself is desirable or privileged. That marriage is both is affirmed elsewhere.) And the disturbing but 'consistent' conclusion I see Christians drawing from textual parity is that both relationships are hierarchal: someone lays down the law someone else is subject to.

I hope she pursues the metaphorical association - the Slave of Christ, the Bride of Christ - as in her explication of praus.

pgs. 254-255:

Redefinition or not, this is ridiculous!

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Kassian's review is starting off with rather large flaws in logic, funny enough:

Seriously? “The Hidden Art of Homemaking???!!” I just about fell off my chair. That book was written seventeen years before the inception of CBMW and about twenty years before we adopted the term “complementarian.” I have never even heard of it. I highly doubt whether John Piper and Wayne Grudem—the founders of CBMW—have read it. So to cite it as the first expression of evangelical complementarianism is hardly defensible. Complementarians would certainly not identify it as such.

Evans is addressing the earliest beginnings of what grew into the notions of complementarianism as it is now known. And the idea predates John Piper and the CBMW movement. Whether Kassian was aware of a particular book is irrelevant and meaningless. Her argument that CBMW is somehow the originator of the concepts of complimentarianism is kind of bizarre. The ideas behind it go a fair ways back, before anyone knew who John Piper was. I know I was hearing them-even if the exact word used was not "Complimentarian".

Also, she may say that "Complimentarians" do not hold to the housewife as highest status for a woman...but every complimentarian I have ever known does. The goal was always "stay at home mom" as the ideal-but they understood that was sometimes just not possible. I am not finding her analysis all that helpful or compelling...other than in it's making me more sympathetic to Evans.

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Hmmmm.... I don't think Kassian was saying the CBMW was the originator of the concepts. I just saw her reacting to Held Evans claim that the main group defending complementarian views today is the CBMW. Given that, her bit about never having heard of the book makes sense ... if the people who are associated with the CBMW haven't heard of the book then it probably wasn't an influence.

As far as your second paragraph goes, I've met complemenatarians who believe both but I've always seen it as personal preference, not some ideal that some people just happen to fall short on.

In any case, if Held Evans believes that the "theological bulwark" of the complementarian view is the CBMW, then I think Kassian gives plenty of evidence that the homemaking-as-highest-calling view is not the standard view.

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From a look online, complementarianism is a lot more complex, much further-ranging, than Kassian or maybe even Evans take into account. If you put the focus of Biblical authority aside for a moment, its questions about identity and equality are eerily similar to those that have plagued and even helped to form different strands of feminism. . .

But if I say Kassian's review is more revelatory of her own sense of grievance than of Evan's missteps, I don't mean that unkindly. The review stirred sympathy in me, I think because I could see why some evangelicals feel lampooned by the book and why the hyperbole stings. Also why the entire experiement is dismissed as a series of 'stunts' - unless Evans actually uses that word herself?

Much is made in the review of what CBMW complementarianism is not: not June Cleaveresque nostalgia, not inimical to divorced, childless, degreed, career-oriented women &c. Notably absent is a description of what complementarianism is. (And I can't help seeing a pattern in all this dodging. It's as if self-defense is perpetually hobbled by a reluctance to own what is- what is culturally controversial or unpopular.) So I looked to the rest of Kassien's site for answers.

And found a eulogy to June Cleaver (which grieves both the death of an actress and the demise of a cultural ideal. It was posted the day before the Evans review.):

In the early sixties, a landmark book, “The Feminine Mystique,” burst onto the scene. It claimed that women were NOT happy as housewives—at least they shouldn’t be happy in that role! Those women who were content as wives and moms simply hadn’t had their eyes opened to the extent of their oppression . . . . As this feminist message spread, women in the sixties and seventies began to vilify Billingsley’s June Cleaver ideal . . . . Whether a woman ought to pursue an education, career, or have a job outside of the home is not at question here. The question in my mind is, “Do we as a society believe that family is so important that we uphold caring for home and children as the best and most important job a woman might ever have?”

Let’s just hope that this quintessential June Cleaver-ish idea hasn’t died along with Barbara Billingsley.

and an elaborate entry about clothes:

First and foremost, your clothing ought to be becoming, fitting to, and consistent with your character as a child of God. But it also ought to be becoming to your body type, becoming to your femininity, becoming to your husband, becoming to the other clothes you are wearing, and becoming to the occasion and place you intend to wear it. There’s a tremendous amount of guidance in that small word, becoming. It challenges you to evaluate your clothes, shoes, purses, makeup, and hair from multiple angles as part of the harmonious, integrated whole of your life—to line up the seen with the unseen and the temporal with the eternal. . . .

So in that dressing room trying on that skirt, take time to sit, bend, and stretch in front of that mirror, and ask yourself, Is this skirt decent? Does it do what it should do? Does it properly cover me up? Does it showcase my underlying nakedness—or exalt the gospel of Christ? . . . .

And don’t forget to include your “Helper” in the process. The Holy Spirit is an invaluable source of assistance when it comes to figuring out whether or not your appearance glorifies God. If your heart is right and you seek His guidance, He will be your personal wardrobe consultant and teach you what and what not to wear.

I think these excerpts pretty much do support what Nezpop says about home-making. They also taught me something about myself: if Kassian is really a spokeswoman for this movement, I would make a horrible CBMW complementarian. I am not sure I could worship God as wardrobe consultant and personal shopper. But just in practical terms, it would take me c. 3 hours to buy jeans or get dressed in the morning.

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FWIW, this doesn't relate to Evans' book, but one of my priests just posted some thoughts on feminism from an Orthodox perspective. This was apparently written some time ago, and he has since expanded his thoughts into a full-blown book, Feminism and Tradition.

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... of course, as a *practical* matter, Paul encourages a certain respect for existing hierarchies. But Paul also encourages slaves to attain their freedom if the opportunity arises, whereas he could hardly have encouraged women to become men. Mastery or slavery is not an *intrinsic* human quality -- it exists on a purely cultural plane -- whereas the state of being male or female, whatever that might mean, is built into our very bodies.

Actually, multiple theologians and/or political philosophers have argued that mastery or slavery was a part of human nature. Robert Filmer, who John Locke destroys in his Two Treatises of Government, argued that the basic idea of a master and slave began with the creation of Adam & Eve, and then also the hierarchy in the family of parents over children, was the basis for both the divine right of kings and for slavery as part of the natural state of man. John Calhoun argued more or less the same thing (to the annoyance of John Quincy Adams), but Calhoun used Scripture (as interpreted by a large collection of Southern pulpits) to back up his arguments more than Adams did. To say that Paul didn't encourage women to become men only matters here if the relationship between men and women was meant to be hierarchical across historical ages and cultures. That it was hierarchical in Greco-Roman culture, just as there were Christians who owned slaves in Greco-Roman culture, does not mean that Paul's instructions for living in that culture ought to be applied universally.

A lot of the issues here reflect not only the fact that the outside culture has changed, but the fact that evangelical churches have, to a significant extent, rejected the ecclesiology that guided churches everywhere for the first 1500+ years of their existence. If the Bible says "Women can/cannot do This", the issue that many people face today is not simply that the outside culture encourages us to think differently about the "Women" part of that equation, but that evangelicals have been redefining the "This" part of the equation for years, if not centuries.

It's entirely possible that patriarchal structures in the church are being challenged now because the modern church has been ignoring church ecclesiology and history. But, if that is true, it still does not necessarily follow that attempting to save what is valuable in church history & tradition would also demand the saving of patriarchy, any more than it would demand saving a tolerance for slavery.

Evans is addressing the earliest beginnings of what grew into the notions of complementarianism as it is now known. And the idea predates John Piper and the CBMW movement. Whether Kassian was aware of a particular book is irrelevant and meaningless.

In her book, Evans does not pretend to present any kind of comprehensive history of patriarchial structures in the church, any more than she pretends to give us a comprehensive history of the complenmentarian movement. She merely uses CBMW because it is a popular voice with well known advocates like Piper and Grudem.

Hmmmm.... I don't think Kassian was saying the CBMW was the originator of the concepts. I just saw her reacting to Held Evans claim that the main group defending complementarian views today is the CBMW. Given that, her bit about never having heard of the book makes sense ... if the people who are associated with the CBMW haven't heard of the book then it probably wasn't an influence.

It's not the one book that matters. It's the idea itself, advocated for by theologians since early church history. CBMW supports the idea of a hierarchical relationship when it comes to a Biblical view of men and women.

In any case, if Held Evans believes that the "theological bulwark" of the complementarian view is the CBMW, then I think Kassian gives plenty of evidence that the homemaking-as-highest-calling view is not the standard view.

Well, the standard view is against women being in positions of authority in the church because part of gender roles includes the idea that men were made for leadership roles and women were not (at least when it comes to leadership roles over men). The idea that homemaking is a woman's highest calling naturally follows from the foundational idea that men are, in most cases, supposed to be society's leaders.

But if I say Kassian's review is more revelatory of her own sense of grievance than of Evan's missteps, I don't mean that unkindly. The review stirred sympathy in me, I think because I could see why some evangelicals feel lampooned by the book and why the hyperbole stings. Also why the entire experiement is dismissed as a series of 'stunts' - unless Evans actually uses that word herself?

Much is made in the review of what CBMW complementarianism is not: not June Cleaveresque nostalgia, not inimical to divorced, childless, degreed, career-oriented women &c. Notably absent is a description of what complementarianism is. (And I can't help seeing a pattern in all this dodging. It's as if self-defense is perpetually hobbled by a reluctance to own what is- what is culturally controversial or unpopular.)

I don't remember Evans using the word "stunts" but she does write light-heartedly about the months where she follows specific interpretations of Scripture for what women are supposed to do and not do. She does not rely on this alone, however. She gives extensive discussion to why certain traditions are practiced, how they do have some value, how some women find worth in them, and how many of them are really supported by a faulty and selective interpretation of Scripture. If complementarians feel attacked by Evans book, they should feel that way because Evans argues that their ideas are not derived from correctly interpreting Scripture. The complementarians are taking specific limited passages of Scripture to argue for certain limitations upon women. Yet, they often do not apply all the limitations that they could apply, and their selective reason for doing so, when explained, often make no sense. Either some of these passages from the Apostle Paul are cultural in nature, and therefore without universal strict application, or they are moral requirements that are of universal application. The complementarian, whether from CBMW or not, is faced with the problem that distinctions between the moral and the cultural need to have some basis other than arbitrary cherry picking.

Evans is never harsh or bitter about any of this. But when she sees a problem, like when the complementarian chooses to apply half of the sentence in I Timothy 2:12 and ignore half of the sentence in I Timothy 2:12, she points it out unequivocally. This sort of selective interpretation is logically inconsistent. This inconsistency is what this view of women is based upon.

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J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: Actually, multiple theologians and/or political philosophers have argued that mastery or slavery was a part of human nature.

Well, those theologians and philosophers would be wrong, for the obvious reason that St. Paul himself underscores: it is possible for a slave to become free. (And it is also, of course, possible for freeborn men and women to become slaves; it happened all the time when one nation conquered another, for example.) There is nothing intrinsic to any individual about either state of being.

If we're going to talk about Paul's notions of hierarchy, then let's stick to Paul's notions of hierarchy.

: To say that Paul didn't encourage women to become men only matters here if the relationship between men and women was meant to be hierarchical across historical ages and cultures.

True. But my immediate point has less to do with what Paul encouraged and whether there is a direct analogy between master-slave relations and male-female relations even in Paul's own writing, which seemed to be what Evans was saying.

: It's entirely possible that patriarchal structures in the church are being challenged now because the modern church has been ignoring church ecclesiology and history. But, if that is true, it still does not necessarily follow that attempting to save what is valuable in church history & tradition would also demand the saving of patriarchy, any more than it would demand saving a tolerance for slavery.

True, but again, that's a rather limited truth. The church never incorporated slavery into its very essence the way that it incorporated "patriarchy" (via the all-male priesthood etc.). And of course, Paul *challenges* cultural assumptions about master-slave relations in his letter to Philemon, etc., in a way that he never quite challenges cultural assumptions about male-female relations (yes, he does give women equal say in terms of how often married couples have sex, and he does encourage widows to stay unmarried even though the state would have forced them to find new husbands, etc., but he never argues for female priests or bishops, despite the fact that he had a number of powerful female patrons).

: Well, the standard view is against women being in positions of authority in the church because part of gender roles includes the idea that men were made for leadership roles and women were not (at least when it comes to leadership roles over men).

Though the New Testament does make room for female prophets, at least. There may be a certain kind of "authority" attached to that.

: The idea that homemaking is a woman's highest calling naturally follows from the foundational idea that men are, in most cases, supposed to be society's leaders.

Only if you assume normal domestic arrangements. But much of the New Testament is infused with a certain skepticism, for lack of a better word, with regard to normal domesticity. Jesus and Paul both encourage people not to marry, for example.

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Only if you assume normal domestic arrangements. But much of the New Testament is infused with a certain skepticism, for lack of a better word, with regard to normal domesticity. Jesus and Paul both encourage people not to marry, for example.

Which is kind of ironic given the heavy emphasis on marriage and family in the modern church and culture.

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I've already posted my deep dismay about this elsewhere, and I don't want it to appear I'm not acknowledging it here. Yes, this is a grievous loss to Christians, to seekers, to readers. The whole sequence of events leading up to her death seems maddening, avoidable, a complete nightmare. I cannot fathom the challenges now and in the future for her husband and two very young children. We are witnessing, though, just how deeply this is rocking a whole world of struggling believers who have found a lifeline in her honesty, her courage, her authenticity, her desire to know the truth and to be set free.

May her example inspire a great host of new voices and similarly generous hearts.

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