Rachel Held Evans Living Biblically?

Editor’s Note: Brad’s thoughts here are intentionally restrained, and are only based on interviews and blog posts. We are ultimately withholding judgment until we read the book, because that’s just the fair thing to do.

We do plan to have a review of the book as soon as possible. You can expect a proper review around the first week of November. We look forward to engaging with the entirety of her book!

I am usually delighted when anyone begins to take the Bible seriously, and because of this, attempts to live their lives as biblically as they can. Rachel Held Evans wanted to do this for a year, and for that, I commend her. She did it as an idea for a book, which is also fine, but the idea that this would somehow involve something radical, since she is already a Christian, is a bit odd.

According to Rachel’s interviews and her blog, she has done this for several reasons. One is that someone else already did it, but she wanted to do it from a woman’s perspective. Another is that she is tired of the Bible being used as an adjective. Finally, I believe that she was going with the thesis that everyone picks and chooses certain things to follow from the Bible and yet they ignore others.

I have a few immediate gut-reactions to the concept of this book that I thought I would note.

At our church we have a few dozen women that live biblically day after day, year in, and year out. Yet, they have never felt compelled to call their husbands “master”, and neither have their husbands demanded it. They have never slept in a tent outside because of their monthly period, and they never sat on the roof when they were contentious. (Wouldn’t the husband be the one who would be better off on the roof anyway?) We are folks who are inerrantists, so it isn’t as if we haven’t noticed what the Bible says or taken it seriously. In fact, this experiments strikes me as a bit insulting, as if by not doing these things our ladies are living ‘unbiblically’.

The bottom line is this: Rachel Held Evans may have had a good time cobbling together some interesting things that people are free to do. But it seems to me that these stunts were hardly Biblical, because if they were, Christians would actually live like this. So what, in the end, is she trying to mock? Christians who claim the Bible seriously but don’t live in tents during their menstrual cycle or the Bible itself? Maybe next year, she could try taking hermeneutics more seriously.

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston

    Have you by chance read the book?

    I was privileged to read an advanced copy, which I’ll be reviewing properly next week. Rachel’s work is considerably reverent and hardly mocking. I understand the concern some have had about her project, but reading the final exposition proved challenging, engaging, and helped me think more faithfully about the Scripture. She exegetes passages with consultation of the Tradition as a whole, shows that she has done her research, and communicates all of this in a lay-friendly, gracious way. She pokes fun at the more interesting mental gymnastics people have attempted to use when appropriating certain parts of Scripture, but she does so by juxtaposing their claims in context with the Scripture as a whole. It’s funny, but funny because of how silly it reads, not because she’s belittling.

    I’d strongly encourage everyone to neither judge this book nor the project by its cover.

  • http://neyhart.blogspot.com Jennifer

    I wholeheartedly agree with Preston.
    And Preston, in case you see this, I greatly look forward to your review.
    Most of what I’m seeing right now are people ripping her to shreds without even reading her book.

  • http://michaelrjones.wordpress.com Michael

    Brad mentioned in the post that he took the information about her book from two sources: her interviews and her blog posts.

    Unless she misrepresented her own book in her interview on the Today Show or on her own blog, Brad’s brief review accurately describes it since his review and critique is consistent with (and does not go beyond) her own summary and explanation of it in those two sources (her interviews and her blog posts).

    But then, I guess you have to find some way to plug your own review of it, don’t you.

  • Richard Clark

    Editor-in-chief here with a brief note: Brad’s thoughts here are intentionally restrained, and as Michael said, are only based on interviews and blog posts. We are ultimately witholding judgment until we read the thing, because that’s just the fair thing to do.

    We do plan to have a review of the book as soon as possible, considering our requests for a review copy were ignored. You can expect a proper review around the first week of November. We look forward to engaging with the entirety of her book!

  • Brad Williams

    Preston,

    I think Michael has pretty much summed up what I have done here. We are planning a more thorough review that someone else will be writing. I find it hard, very hard, to imagine that my complementarian gymnastics are any more dizzying than her living in a tent during her menstrual cycle. Finally, I will be straight shocked if she advances any new arguments here. She is just rehashing liberal arguments in an evangelical sheepskin. I don’t have to read the book to find that out, she has said as much on her blog and in her interviews.

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston

    (My apologies, too, because I did not mean to plug my own review, but to say that I was making these comments before actually going into the specifics of them. If I could edit my original comment, I would remove that line since it didn’t come across as I had intended.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    I really appreciate your post, Brad. I haven’t read the book myself but it’s obvious (from other reviews, her own interviews, and—most importantly—from the concept of the book) that RHE is applying a ridiculous hermeneutic to mock the very concept that a person can live “biblically.”

    One aspect that I hope you touch on when CaPC reviews the book is that it’s the same type of derivative Christian copycat product that usually elicits mockery when done by conservative Christians. The idea for the cocept was lame when A.J Jacobs—the king of stunt books—did it 5 years ago. It was even lamer when the first Chrisitanized rip-off came with Ed Dobson’s “The Year of Living like Jesus” did it two years later. For RHE to be praised by Christians hipsters for copying an idea that has already spawned copycats years before is baffling.

    To each his own kitsch, I guess.

  • http://www.carisadel.com Caris Adel

    “At our church we have a few dozen women that live biblically day after day, year in, and year out.”

    But what does that mean? That’s the point of this whole thing. Do they have long hair? (1 Cor) Are they meek and gentle? (1 Peter) – what does that mean? Is that being quiet and timid, or can it be rooted in strength and resolve? Why aren’t they calling their husbands lord or master if 1 Peter says to? Are they wearing a head covering? (1 Cor) Are they wearing jewelry? (1 Tim)

    What does it mean for them to be biblical? This experiment and book shows us that there are many, many options to be biblical, and they all could be valid ways of living. If the idea of a woman living biblically is reduced to being mothers and keeping house and being quiet, then indeed, the Bible is being mocked.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    ***This experiment and book shows us that there are many, many options to be biblical, and they all could be valid ways of living.***

    But it doesn’t show that at all. No one who uses the phrase “living biblically” in a meaningful way thinks that the Bible is open to such relativism and “anything goes” interpretation. For a Christian woman to avoid touching her husband during menstruation is the very opposite of “living biblically” and shows a childish understanding of the Bible and the Christian life. That is why I assume that RHE is being mocking. No intelligent Christian thinks that the OT purity laws apply to us so I doubt RHE could believe that either.

  • http://www.eloranicole.com Elora Nicole

    “But it seems to me that these stunts were hardly Biblical, because if they were, Christians would actually live like this.”

    This bothers me. I realize I may be missing the point, and for that, I apologize. But, this sentence leads me to believe ALL Christians live biblically. Am I wrong?

    I don’t know the answers, but I do know we miss the mark in so many areas. Can you help me understand what you mean?

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    This strikes me as a startlingly tone-deaf response to what Evans is actually saying. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the book yet, either, so I could be wrong, too, but I do follow her blog regularly and I feel like I have a sense of her ideas. And based on that, you appear to have literally gotten the opposite idea from what was intended.

    “We are folks who are inerrantists, so it isn’t as if we haven’t noticed what the Bible says or taken it seriously.”

    Evans’ point is that even people who claim to take the Bible completely literally in every particular do not literally do everything the Bible says. Thus, even they are engaging in some level of personal interpretation as to what the Bible means. Now, I don’t know anything about your church, and maybe that wouldn’t be a huge revelation or concession there, but I know a lot of churches where it would be, because it is commonly assumed that *their* reading of the Bible is the only correct one because they are the only ones taking the Bible at face value. This sows seeds of foolish discord among believers, and that is what Evans is addressing.

    “In fact, this experiments strikes me as a bit insulting, as if by not doing these things our ladies are living ‘unbiblically’.”

    My jaw dropped a little bit when I read this, and I’m almost at a loss as to how to begin explaining why this statement is . . . utterly bizarre. I think Rachel Held Evans would be flabbergasted and distraught if she saw it. She, like most Christian women in the United States, has spent her whole life being told all sorts of things about what it means to live biblically if you are a woman. And, conversely, that if you don’t do those things, then you are living “unbiblically.” Her book playfully examines this idea, yes, but in doing so, she is making a serious point . . . a point which is *clearly* not about casting judgments on other women or pulling out a stick to see who is measuring up to the biblical standard.

    “So what, in the end, is she trying to mock?”

    That you would even ask this question says to me that it might have been wise to do a little more reading and a little more thinking before publicly expressing an opinion about Evans or her book. This is absurd.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    ***Evans’ point is that even people who claim to take the Bible completely literally in every particular do not literally do everything the Bible says. ***

    No Christian—and I do mean none—takes the Bible “literally” in the sense that they believe we are required to “literally do everything the Bible says.” That’s a complete strawman. If you actually know someone who believes this, please invite them to repsond in the comment thread because my claim is that such people do not exist. They do not exist.

    ***This sows seeds of foolish discord among believers, and that is what Evans is addressing.***

    That is exactly the opposite of what Evans is doing. She herself is “sowing seeds of foolish discord among believers.” She is taking things that no Christian considers to be relevant to “living biblically” (i.e., purity laws) and saying, “See, because Christians don’t do this they are picking and choosing what they want from the Bible.” Now if this were a claim made by an elementary school student we could patiently explain why it’s silly. But for it to come from an adult is a sign that she is either completely ignorant about Christian history and theology or she is intentionally being intellectual dishonesty to stir controversy and sell books. Evans is not dumb, so I can only assume she knows she is knocking down a strawman position that no Christians actually argues for. And again, when I say no Christian I mean none.

    I understand why some people want to defend Evans. But by defending her silly stunt book the are not only showing that she shouldn’t be taking seriously but that they shouldn’t be taken seriously either. She is absolutely making a mockery of God’s Word and making claims about her fellow Christians that are simply not true. But sadly we live in an age where if you have a popular blog you’ll find people who will defend you to the death for such loathsome behavior.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Brad Williams

    Look at this! I go to lunch and do work and ‘boom’, discussion is happening everywhere. Nice.

    Since Joe Carter is kind of wearing my cape right now, I’m just going to say ditto to what he said. (Thanks, Joe.) Except for one caveat, which is a pretty important one. I would say, Joe, that the defense that people are already mounting over Evans’ book indicates that we should take her seriously. By that, I mean we are going to have to make a good case as to why this book is a stunt and is ridiculous in all the ways that you have mentioned. Even though, as I said before, I will be greatly shocked if any argument is advanced that hasn’t already been answered a hundred times. Part of the call of the ministry is to patiently answer these things over and over again if we have to.

    Now, I do not want to say a great deal on this because 1) I haven’t read the book and 2) I am not the reviewer for it. I have every confidence that our reviewer is going to do a great job and address each concern in an engaging fashion that will win the day.

    Elora Nicole,

    What I meant by that sentence is that if we believed that the Bible called for women to refer to their husbands as “Master” or to live in a tent during one’s period, our ladies would do that. We aren’t simply ignoring such passages. In fact, we take them seriously. The point is that we have a hermeneutic that engages these passages and makes sense of them in a way that does justice to the text. It is a ‘literal’ interpretation, but that doesn’t mean we treat poetry, wisdom literature, and narrative as if they are all the same thing.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com Kelly J Youngblood

    ” The point is that we have a hermeneutic that engages these passages and makes sense of them in a way that does justice to the text. It is a ‘literal’ interpretation, but that doesn’t mean we treat poetry, wisdom literature, and narrative as if they are all the same thing.”

    I think you might have more in common with RHE than you realize.

  • Carrie

    Actually, I DO know educated Christians who take things like purity laws seriously. Including how many days after the birth of a baby of one gender or the other one can resume intercourse. Perhaps you are not aware of the Christian sub-cultures that do in fact practice the exact things that you are proclaiming “no one does that” and criticizing Ms. Evans for childish believing that those folks exist. I’ve met plenty of them. Have you met and talked to every Christian in the world to know that your obtuse statements that “no one does that” are, actually, true?

  • Michael

    Brad says: “we are going to have to make a good case as to why this book is a stunt and is ridiculous”

    Wow, what a healthy approach to critiquing a book that you haven’t even read yet!

    Seriously, this is nearly every Christian fundamentalist cultural criticism that I’ve ever encountered in a nutshell.

    “I haven’t read/watched/listened to/experienced that myself, but in theory I think it might challenge my rigid (and 100% correct) interpretation of the Bible, so thus it’s ridiculous/wrong/sinful/stupid/hurtful.”

  • Brad Williams

    Carrie,

    What denomination of “Christian” believes these things? I don’t know of any that would fit under the evangelical tent. Could you help us out by naming a few of these Christian sub-cultures?

    Michael,

    You don’t have to be a fundamentalist Christian to know a publicity stunt when you see one, and I don’t have to read someone’s book to realize when someone denies the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. Her blog and TV appearances make that quite clear.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    ***Except for one caveat, which is a pretty important one. ***

    You’re absolutely right, Brad. One of my biggest failings is a lack of patience (and, alas, charity) when people start making claims that have been debunked countless times throughout history. I want to bang my head on the desk and rant “Do we really have to go over this again?” But you’re right, we *do* have to go over it every time it pops us.

    ***Actually, I DO know educated Christians who take things like purity laws seriously. ***

    Whoa, wait a minute. Let’s clarify our terms. There is a huge difference between saying some educated Christians take the purity laws seriously and saying they think purity laws are necessary for living biblically. I’m saying the latter does not (by definition) exists.

    It might be legitimate to say that if God expected to do X in the past then there may be some wisdom in doing X in certain circumstances (e.g., don’t eat shellfish or pork). That would be to take the purity laws seriously. But if someone says following the purity laws are necessary to “live biblically,” then they are denying what Christians have taught and believed for over two thousands years. Such views are more in line with cults than with Christian traditions.

  • Alan Noble

    Some quick thoughts:

    1. It is perfectly legitimate to critique the claims an author puts out in describing his or her book. Did Brad go too far by making a fairly confident claim without having read the book? Yes, I think so. However, RHE has giving a description of her book many times, and insofar as Brad is challenging the stated premise of the book by saying that it assumes a strawman of the complementarian position, he makes a reasonable point. We can debate whether or not it is a strawman, or whether or not the book will reflect the same ideas as the promotions have, but I think it’s reasonable and even helpful to discuss the premise before reading the book, after all, that’s why she’s told us the premise of the book.

    2. Where I take most issue with Brad is his last sentence: “Maybe next year, she could try taking hermeneutics more seriously.” To be honest, I strongly suspect that she hasn’t taken the hermeneutics of Scripture seriously enough based on the things I’ve read from her on the book. However, Brad’s statement is too confident and dismissive.

    3. One person commented on my feature. I’m jealous. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2012/10/becoming-a-slave-again-to-edifying-habits/

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    “You don’t have to be a fundamentalist Christian to know a publicity stunt when you see one, and I don’t have to read someone’s book to realize when someone denies the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. Her blog and TV appearances make that quite clear.”

    Yeah, this is exactly the reason why I responded in the first place . . . Not because I don’t see stuff like this all over the internet. I generally do, and just quietly move on. I’m just not used to seeing it from a CaPC writer. Troubling.

  • Michael

    Sorry, Alan, you can defend this post all you want (and I honestly do respect your opinion quite a bit) but this one is a pretty big misstep for CaPC.

    I understand Brad’s perspective. The book probably isn’t perfect. But to take this strong of a stance, and to dismiss her so boldly, without having read the book, is a huge mistake at best. This feels a lot like Piper’s “Farewell, Rob Bell.”

  • http://www.goodshepherdsinternational.com Dickens Cheung

    Pastor Brad,

    I normally don’t leave comments after reading blog posts, the resulting discussion, and heated debates because I feel that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion; having said that, I do believe that some opinions are more absurd than others, but the fact that we’re all sinful humans cements the fact that our opinions are not perfect either, and if rebuking is not done out of Love and with His Word, then it is futile in His Sight. Thanks for what you’re doing for The Lord by shepherding His people, and don’t worry about RHE mocking God’s Word because It says “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 KJV). If there is any sort of mockery or belittling of His Word, or any intent of making merchandise of It, on RHE’s part, then she will have to answer to The Lord herself, and she will be assigned her portion according to her works in this life. I get really angry myself when people mock His Word or pervert His Gospel and His Grace, but I sometimes realize that I don’t have perfect information or perfect knowledge of other people’s hearts and intents, so I should not place judgment on them without praying and seeking The Lord’s Peace and His Answer. I am always filled with joy to see my fellow brother and sisters defending His Word and His Name, but I pray that this will not turn into another “who’s right, who’s wrong” debate that has always served to sow discord amongst The Members Of The Body Of Christ throughout history; just look at all the denominations in The Church today, it truly saddens me and I’m sure it breaks His Heart as well.

    May The Lord Bless you and your congregation abundantly!

    With Love and Unity In Christ,

    Dickens

  • http://sayable.net Lore Ferguson

    I find it strangely ironic that in almost every review of the book I’ve read, and in the book itself (which I received an advance review copy of and HAVE read), there is not much mention of the fact that Christ came to *fulfill* the very law (not abolish it, as some would suggest) Evans is attempting to follow.

    The main issue I have with Evans’ book is the same issue I have with AJ Jacobs’ book. Though both entertaining to read, they miss the main point of the gospel, which is that the law was given as a measuring stick—there to show us we will fall hopelessly short and Christ is our only hope for womanhood, manhood, or any other hood in which we want to live.

    Instead of arguing semantics here and who is following which law and who is not, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that all have fallen short—AJ Jacobs with his experiment as an unbeliever, Evans with hers as a believer, you, me, and everyone we know.

    The book can have entertainment value—but as a rubric for the gospel, it’s not going to measure up. The issue is when a book (or an author) is placed on some sort of pedestal for truth and the root of that is people aren’t discerning enough to know when something IS espousing truth or not.

    People want measuring sticks, but they don’t want to be shown coming up short, and they most certainly don’t want the Gospel alone to be the only remedy.

  • http://petiteartichoke.com sara

    “But it seems to me that these stunts were hardly Biblical, because if they were, Christians would actually live like this.”

    … circular reasoning much?

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    This is the Christ and Pop Culture equivalent of “Farewell, Rob Bell.” And it’s beneath the quality I expect from you guys.

  • http://nickrynerson.com Nick Rynerson

    Thanks for this Brad. This is the exact same vibe I got from the RHE PR.

    You may be taking some comment heat for this, but stay true to your convictions.

  • Michael

    “vibe”
    “convictions”

    And this is the problem, right here. Read. The. Book. First.

  • http://nishhappens.com Nish

    “We are ultimately withholding judgment until we read the book, because that’s just the fair thing to do.”

    …and yet…

    “So what, in the end, is she trying to mock? Christians who claim the Bible seriously but don’t live in tents during their menstrual cycle or the Bible itself? Maybe next year, she could try taking hermeneutics more seriously.”

    Pretty strong judgment right there.

    Was it just too difficult to wait to read the book? Why even bother commenting on a mish-mash of blog posts and interviews? What’s the point? If you’re going to say you’ll withhold judgment until you read the book, then withhold judgment until you read the book.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    Michael: ***And this is the problem, right here. Read. The. Book. First.***

    Do you really think Brad will need to come to a different conclusion after reading the book? It’s not exactly a secret that RHE has a low view of scripture. She has made that quite clear on her blog. Did she suddenly have a complete change of heart? Does she say in the conclusion of the book that she was wrong, and that the bible should be treated more seriously than she treated it the previous year of her stunt? If not, then why all the complaints about not reading the book?

    If we had nothing to go on but her Today Show interview, it is obvious that Brad’s assessment is spot on.

  • http://jasonboyett.com Jason Boyett

    Totally agree with Nish. Why even write a post about a book if you have to qualify everything by admitting you haven’t read the book and then even the editor has to soften the post with a statement about restraint? If that’s “the fair thing to do,” wouldn’t it have been more fair to just, you know, hold off on this post altogether UNTIL YOU HAVE SOME ACTUAL CONTEXT FOR JUDGING THE BOOK? The conclusions were weird enough. But the fact that the post exists at all is even stranger.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    The book is available on Amazon. You can read it and review the actual contents of the book rather than a 2 minute interview on a morning news show.

    You don’t have to like the way Rachel conducted her research or agree with her conclusions, but this is just laziness.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Ben Bartlett

    I have a question. Let’s concede, for a moment, that it would have been wiser to not post this commentary at all until Brad had read the book. At the same time, let’s also concede that RHE has been pretty clear about her stances toward many structures and beliefs in more conservative Christian circles.

    If RHE’s book does say the things that Brad expects it to say, and we repost his comment AFTER having read it, is that then ok?

    I ask because we are comparing this to Piper’s “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Lots of people were angry about that. But I read, “Love Wins,” and I did a very careful, detailed look at all the claims it was making… and it turns out Piper was right. Rob Bell’s book is a clear rejection and/or misinterpretation of biblical theology as understood by inerrantists, and as such is deservedly categorized outside the “evangelical” camp.

    If a conservative evangelical writes a book on women’s roles, and in interviews he discusses the importance of staying at home and male leadership, isn’t it likely that more liberal websites will preemptively discourage interest in the book? Would I really be so right in demanding that they read the book first when the theological battle lines are so clearly drawn?

    The simple statements made by RHE that Bible “Also commands… (insert Old Testament command that sounds weird in the modern context here)” already highlight that her theological outlook and hermeneutical understanding are inherently different from the classic evangelical, inerrantist understanding.

    The inerrantist believes that Old Testament cultural commands had their time and place in redemptive history, but that the coming of Christ and the ingrafting of Gentiles as adopted sons brought significant changes (which the apostles were very strong in affirming). When RHE suggests that we are “picking and choosing,” she is automatically telling us that she either does not understand or does not accept that hermeneutical view, and Brad is rightly frustrated by that because it is a very old and tired straw man used by liberal theologians throughout the 20th century.

    I don’t deny it would be better to read the book first. But I also don’t think it is much of a leap to say RHE isn’t going affirm Scriptural inerrancy on the basis of unfolding redemptive history, and therin lies the rub.

  • Brad Williams

    If I may, I’d like to say a couple things briefly. First, I am reading the comments, so don’t think that I just took my ball and went home. Like all bloggers, I enjoy feedback, both positive and negative. It makes me a better writer. Secondly, I hope that you will all bring this discussion back when the full review comes out. There are at least two things about it that will certainly make it more engaging for most of you: 1) The reviewer will have read the book and 2) she will bring a woman’s perspective. I am excited to read her point of view.

    So yeah, you can disagree with my critique of the book based on Evans’ promotion of it. I find that puzzling, as if the book would be greatly different from what she said it was about on her blog and on the Today Show. I am not unfamiliar with Evans’ work, that is, I didn’t come to this conclusion based on a quick viewing of the Today Show.

    Be that as it may, you can still pound me mercilessly for being so brazen as to write what I wrote without having read the book. But please, come back and read the review, and if my concerns turn out to be unjustified, you can all boo/laugh me to scorn. I will wear the writer’s cone of shame for a day. Joe and I will go have lunch somewhere and talk about how dumb we are.

    Also, Alan is my editor and this is all his fault. Or Rich. Or one of those guys.

    Dianna, where have you BEEN?

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    “It’s not exactly a secret that RHE has a low view of scripture.”

    What a snotty, judgmental thing to say, when what you CLEARLY mean is, “It’s not exactly a secret that RHE has a different view of scripture from mine.” And that’s what all of this is about. Pathetic.

    “If we had nothing to go on but her Today Show interview, it is obvious that Brad’s assessment is spot on.”

    Well, we don’t, so that’s a ridiculous way to frame the discussion. But let’s say we did, maybe THAT should have been the subject of this post. And maybe you should start getting specific about what it was that she said in that interview that confirms every one of your obnoxious presuppositions about her book (because I must have missed it).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Ben Bartlett

    Jared, a “low” view of scripture isn’t assigning value to the person’s view one way or the other. It’s just the common way of describing whether that view sees Scripture as primarily literature (the “low” view) or as inerrant communication from God (the “high” view).

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    “I ask because we are comparing this to Piper’s “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Lots of people were angry about that. But I read, “Love Wins,” and I did a very careful, detailed look at all the claims it was making… and it turns out Piper was right. Rob Bell’s book is a clear rejection and/or misinterpretation of biblical theology as understood by inerrantists, and as such is deservedly categorized outside the “evangelical” camp.”

    Piper was right about what? How do you get that from those three words, that simply dismiss another believer and everything they have to say without having heard them out or granting them the courtesy of a careful, detailed look at their work.

    We might be having this exact discussion about a review of the book itself, and that would be fine. I don’t know why you’d be confused over the difference between judging something before you’ve read it and giving a thoughtful response to it afterward, even if you come to the same conclusion both times . . .

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    If that’s the context of his use of the word, fine. Coupled with the accusation of “not taking scripture seriously” later in the comment, I’m not convinced.

  • http://theamericanjesus.net Zack Hunt

    “We are folks who are inerrantists”

    No you’re not. If you were, you would gouge out your eyes and cut off your hands when they caused you to sin, instead of just cherry picking verses to follow that you’re comfortable with. And before you reply (or even think it in you’re head) that Jesus was being metaphorical, know that that is an interpretative move and thus erodes the inerrancy you claim to hold so dear.

    Rachel isn’t mocking the Bible or Christians who take it seriously. She’s mocking people like you who pretend to take it seriously, but really just turn the Bible into a bad joke.

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    Look, I have a feeling that I just don’t agree with Brad or with the people defending this post, and that’s fine. We can agree to disagree about this whole issue, and we probably will. What irks me about this post isn’t that we disagree, but that the spirit in which it was written and in which it is being discussed feels so unfair towards Evans. I’m seeing her accused of being self-promoting, of mocking scripture, of mocking and attacking fellow Christians . . . That strikes me as inconsistent with what I know of her, and if the discussion is going to continue in THAT vein, maybe some of the critics should start pointing to some actual primary-source evidence to back up those very serious accusations.

    My irritation is perhaps most acutely directed here:
    “We are folks who are inerrantists, so it isn’t as if we haven’t noticed what the Bible says or taken it seriously. In fact, this experiments strikes me as a bit insulting, as if by not doing these things our ladies are living ‘unbiblically’.”

    I haven’t seen anyone show that Evans is doing anything like this, or saying anything like it. Instead, I’ve seen more than person suggest that SHE is the one not taking the Bible seriously. Which is a bit ironic, now that I think about it . . .

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Ben Bartlett

    Jared, I believe Piper meant that “Love Wins” showed Rob Bell to be outside the boundaries of inerrantist, evangelical theology. And in that, he was correct. I know this because I read the book carefully and evaluated it carefully.

    I’m not confused about the value of reading a book before commenting on its author’s theology and intentions, and I made multiple caveats to express that fact. I’m merely pointing out that it isn’t a great leap to take RHE at her word regarding her beliefs on Scripture, and to then express that you don’t agree with her stance.

  • Michael

    Evans, by taking the Bible too seriously, isn’t taking the Bible seriously enough.

    Evans, by loving scripture enough that she’ll wrestle with it’s difficult parts, even the parts that she wants to disagree with, doesn’t love scripture enough.

    Evans, by undertaking a year-long experiment in which she attempts to follow the Bible as accurately as possible, is taking a “low view” of scripture.

    Evans doesn’t believe the Bible exactly the same way you do, so she’s clearly wrong.

    Evans gave off a vibe you didn’t like during an interview on a secular TV news program, so you feel properly informed to write a dismissive post about her book.

    Evans, who has written for years about what she’s learning about being both a feminist and a Christian, is engaging in “a stunt” by researching for and writing a book that fits perfectly within the sphere of her past work.

    Is that the gist of it?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Brad Williams

    Zack,

    I don’t think you understand what inerrancy means. We are allowed to make “interpretive moves.” Where did you get the idea that we weren’t? We just happen to believe that God inspired it and that it is without error. I have a Master’s of Divinity with a concentration in Biblical Languages, I certainly have taken Jesus very seriously. Just because I do not think he literally wants me to poke out my eyeballs I am eroding inerrancy?

    And I make the Bible into a joke? Dude, who is jumping to conclusions now?

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    I read all of Rachel’s posts announcing the project from the start and at first I was skeptical, but as I saw that her methods would include reading lots of commentaries and speaking personally to people who hold to a wide variety of interpretations of scripture, she really won me over to this project before the book was released. And having read her blog AND the book, I can say with quite a bit of certainty that she is firmly in the camp of theologians such as Roger Olson, NT Wright, and Scot McKnight. These are not Reformed all stars, but they are evangelicals in every sense that you would find in the works of Stott, Knoll, and Bebbington. She’s an evangelical Arminian, and while her project is innovative and unique (some would argue it’s a gimmick), her theology is firmly in the historical evangelical camp, and I can’t see how anyone could conclude that she has a low view of scripture. She’s not a Reformed inerrantist, but for crying out loud, these attempts to paint her as a threat or as someone who attacks the Bible just invalidates those making the accusations. There are points to disagree over, but the inflated accusations like this post are a bridge too far.

    ** SPOILER ALERT **

    She ends the book by saying that she loves the Bible even more than before.

    I hope that doesn’t ruin the experience of reading the book.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Brad Williams

    Michael,

    No, by acting like the things she is doing is somehow taking the Bible more “literally” than say, every woman in our church, is ridiculous. She doesn’t search it out any harder or more vigorously than they do. That is the insulting part. And look, these ladies believe that the Bible is the very Word of God, without error. Does Evans love it like that?

  • Betsy Taylor

    I haven’t read this blog post, so I’m going to reserve judgment on it because that is only fair. However, I can infer from comments and what I’ve heard other say about it that it’s really crappy to go after someone’s hard work and damn it as a mockery of faith because you are too afraid to actually read it and address it in it’s entirety.

    Kudos! on being completely irrelevant and pointless!

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston

    I’ll admit that because I consider Rachel a friend, a lot of these comments disappoint me. Not because they disagree with her, but because of how they speak of her. I’m pretty off-put by some of what has been said here, but I think it weak and unloving to resort to some of the polemics and caricatures that both sides in this apparent debate have engaged. I being one of them. My apologies for that. But in any sort of defense of Rachel, I think it fair to take her at her words across the spectrum of what she’s written, particularly about Scripture. Yes, it’d be nice to read every post, because I think that even when I disagree with her, she has a grace about her. But, again, I concede that I call her a friend. And because of that I can’t help but think of posts like this: http://rachelheldevans.com/i-love-the-bible

    Her own words, not too long ago in fact. “I have wrestled with the Bible, and it has left me with a limp.” … Can’t all of us say the same? I’m not trying to be a relativist or say that all interpretations are valid, but when we’re talking about fellow Christians who are, in fact, Bible-believing and Gospel-sharing in word and deed–even if we don’t always like how it looks–isn’t there some room for a certain kind of grace that recognizes their limp isn’t so different from our own?

    We can disagree, strongly, with conviction, but there are only a handful of times that Christ forms a whip to clear a temple. The word of Love and grace, even when speaking of the harshest and most sobering of things, permeates the Scripture.

  • Michael

    I’m sorry, Brad. Did RHE say to you that she takes the Bible “more literally” than every woman in your church? I must have missed that part of the Today Show interview.

    And who am I to say who loves the Bible more? I didn’t realize this was a Bible-loving pissing contest. I’m sure the women at your church love the Bible very much. And I know Rachel has stated many times that she, too, loves the Bible and that this year of “Biblical womanhood” has made her love the Bible even more. Clearly, that’s not good enough.

    I COMPLETELY understand that you have a different theology than her. And I would welcome a post that actually honestly and graciously dissects the book through the lens of your own Biblical hermeneutics. You haven’t done that here, though, and you’ve been quite dismissive of both the book and her as a Christian blogger. That’s what I object to. (Also, I’m reacting more strongly because this type of post seems so out of character for CaPC).

  • http://www.goodshepherdsinternational.com Dickens Cheung

    Hours later and why is everyone still arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong? What’s the point and is this kind of finger-pointing doing any good for The Body Of Christ and Advancing His Kingdom? Sometimes we as followers of Christ tend to think that our knowledge or understanding of Scripture is “more right” or “more refined” or “more Biblical” by some kind of personal merit, but The Truth is that The Lord Has Chosen To Reveal varying depths of His Truth differently to each and every unique individual, and this is By His Grace and His Grace ALONE, and just because you are “less deceived” than a fellow brother/sister or an unbeliever doesn’t give you the right or the justification to bash on him/her, no matter how absurd their views/agenda may be (Please prayerfully refer to Scripture Verses below). We should try to reach out to them in Love, and to be salt and light for them, for that is pleasing to The Lord.

    Matthew 11:25 – 27, KJV:

    At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
    Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
    All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

    Romans 9:15 – 18, KJV:

    For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
    So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
    For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
    Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

    If anything you say or do is not said nor done out of the same kind of compassionate Love that The Lord Jesus Christ Commands us to have, then check your heart and ask The Lord To Give you a heart transplant. For He Had Mercy on all of us by withholding His Wrath from us, which we justly deserved, and if we do not have mercy on others from our hearts, then He Will not Have Mercy on us at The Judgment Seat Of Christ (refer to The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35). I want each and every one of us to have as much Eternal Rewards From The Lord as possible! Let us all rejoice and put aside our petty differences!

  • http://theamericanjesus.net Zack Hunt

    Brad,

    If the Bible is inerrant, then it doesn’t need you or anybody else to interpret it. After all, that would imply some deficiency in the text that requires interpretation, but surely Paul wasn’t serious when talked about scripture being a treasure in earthen vessels, right? Likewise, if the Bible is perfectly delivered from the mouth of God, then your M.Div. was a waste of time. And yes, claiming that the hand of man was not significantly involved in the writing of the Bible, yet picking and choosing which Biblical prescriptions (which according to inerrancy all come directly from the mouth of God) you are going to take literally, while inexplicably not taking others literally because they don’t conform to your culturally conditioned reading of the Bible does turn the Bible into a bad joke.

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    I remain baffled by why you continue to double-down and insist on treating a fellow Bible-believing Christian as though she were a hostile enemy of the faith.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture Brad Williams

    Zack,

    Have you read the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy? You can view it here: http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/icbi.html

    I don’t believe that inerrancy necessitates what you are arguing. This statement does a good job of talking about what an evangelical hermeneutic looks like.

  • http://www.jimmyspencerjr.com Jimmy Spencer Jr

    I have not read the review posted here but I am comfortable saying that it is nothing more than a stunt to mooch some blog traffic from the book—maybe next post the author could take blogging a bit more seriously. ;)

    Seems only fair.

  • KSP

    To any potential reviewers of the book: I thought based on descriptions of the book that she was taking to task literal interpretations of scripture (at least in part), so I’m really curious to understand her methodology in, for example, going on the roof herself (instead of her husband, as the passage literally states) and praising her husband herself at the city gates (when Proverbs 31 doesn’t say that the wife praises her husband there). Without having read the book, I’m confused about how literal misreadings of the scripture fit into her project, so I hope the book (or the reviewers) will address that.

  • http:/dancingpastthedark.com Nan Bush

    Two observations: One, that I see not a whiff of recognition in these comments that a sense of humor might help one understand what Evans is doing.
    Two: The comments are, so far as I can tell, almost all from men. Who will in all likelihood not get it.
    Which is ultimately part of her point.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    ***The comments are, so far as I can tell, almost all from men. Who will in all likelihood not get it.***

    Good grief, what a load of sexist drivel. If that is ultimately RHE’s point—men don’t get it—then it’s even worse than we had imagined.

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    “Good grief, what a load of sexist drivel. If that is ultimately RHE’s point—men don’t get it—then it’s even worse than we had imagined.”

    So . . . Gonna keep snarking at individual comments and twisting them around to deliver another baseless swipe at Evans rather than articulate any actual criticisms, then?

    Mm-kay.

  • Alex

    I’m not a Biblical scholar or theologian at all, but from RHE’s reputation I’m assuming she falls more into the Biblical infallibility camp as opposed to the inerrancy camp. But even if she believes this, would not her whole antic about “living Biblically” for a year still be puerile because if you believe that the Bible is infallible in that certain details in the Bible (such as scientific information) may be erroneous you still are obliged to interpret the Bible in a certain manner as opposed to a pick-and-choose approach.

    Besides that though, as a previous poster has already commentated, not all the OT laws even apply to today’s Christians because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law and we know longer practice the civil law. The only law that is still binding on today’s Christians is the moral law. So all this effort to live by the OT laws (e.g. living in a tent outside her house during her menstruation cycle) don’t even apply to the standards of Christians today.

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  • Sarah

    Many of you in this thread should be incredibly ashamed of yourselves for the words you have used and the tone you have taken with one another. The fact that you can dismiss someone so readily and harshly for the theogical beliefs they hold is both terrifying and depressing. You know the conclusions I have come to by reading the p

  • Sarah

    Sorry, I’m typing on my iPhone and that first comment published before I finished…

    Here’s what I’ve concluded:

    1) I am even more thankful for the grace and redemptive work of my Savior who is above all of this and who’s love and compassion is not readily represented here.
    2) I am very embarrassed by my brothers and sisters in Christ who have taken to fighting to prove they are right and that their reading and understanding of scriptures is the correct one. Meanwhile we leave the broken to tend to themselves while we craft our next argument.

    I believe that God works even when I mess up or hold the wrong belief. And I believe the same for others. I’m just incredibly saddened by how we go about the conversation. I want to see these things discussed, but when we start throwing accusations about someone’s character or salvation, we are missing the point and are on dangerous ground. I can see why many don’t want to have anything to do with the Church…

  • Jh

    In short; no your ladyfriends is actually not living biblically correct if they dont follow the rules. So, yes you do cut and paste in order to live in a modern society… Most have no problems with this unless it happens to lead to double standards, ie i live correct you dont type of situation. All Rachel is doing is to highlight some of the more illconcieved concepts inte good old book.

  • Ben Westra

    Joe Carter,

    Your tone is ridiculous, divisive and demeaning. There is a way to disagree, and disagree strongly to what someone has written without insulting the original author and all who agree even minutely with her point. Why you feel the need to bash a woman who is very deeply struggling with how she should live her life and follow what scripture says makes me question your motives. RHE has come to different conclusions than you. She is your Sister in the Faith, a woman created in the image of God, and worthy of your respect. She is not a false prophet proclaiming false Gospel or anything of that ilk. If that was the case I would understand, and even support a swift and harsh debunking. But it is not, so please show some class as you appear to be a well educated and informed guy who has a of solid insight. I would like to be able to read your thoughts without cringing.

    Evan’s book is written so that christians will realize there are certain portions of scripture that we focus on and derive things from that may be entirely different from what was being said in the original context. If I wrote a letter to a group of Christians today and someone read it 1500 years later would everything I said be interpreted the same way by them as it was the original audience? NO, IT WOULDN”T.

    Evan’s is calling people to look at why they live their lives the way they do and what biblical evidence they have for doing so. She has chosen to live ridiculous to illustrate that many of us do things that were not what the author had intended for the original audience or what is truly applicable to us today.

    I have read about 80% of the book. I skipped and skimmed parts. I find it to be humorous, a bit silly, thought provoking, and challenging. Evans is a feminist and fights for the cause of women world wide and we see that in the book. Reminding and enlightening others to the treatment of women across the globe is her greatest accomplishment here as women are oppressed in ways that we oftentimes find unfathomable in this country.

    If you are going to review the book, don’t make Evans out to be something she is not. She is not a theologian and some of her theology and hermeneutics are shallow in their grasp. She is not reformed and huge segments of evangelical Christianity are not either. That is only an issue the church has been divided upon for hundreds and hundreds of years, no need to bring it to this discussion, no one will be convinced by your internet post on it, I almost guarantee that.

    I ask that all of you who read the book who come to that undertaking while throwing aside as much preconceived bias as possible, then make your conclusions. I think every author is deserving of that.

    Take care and God Bless,
    Ben

  • http://www.projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

    I haven’t read the book, but I think that you can make a general assumption of RHE’s intent based on her previous writings, interviews, etc. It doesn’t mean that we SHOULDN’T read it first, but that some critique is fair regardless.

  • Mark Farmer

    The more one talks about that of which they know not, the more their foolishness is apparent for all to see. I hope you will grovel and apologize to Rachel when you have read her book.


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