Thoughts about “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans

Thoughts about A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I had planned to wait until the last week of October to review this book—as requested by the publisher. The book’s official publication date is October 30, but it is already being widely discussed and criticized by people who have received “advance reader’s copies” (like me). Some complementarian bloggers are attacking it without reading it (based on what they’ve heard about it from others who may or may not have read it). This reminds me of the brouhaha over Rob Bell’s Love Wins. I’d like to challenge people to either read the book or shut up until they’ve read it.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is a delightful read—funny, sad, bewildering, shocking, thought-provoking. It’s Rachel Held Evans’ report of and reflections on attempting for one year to live as much according to biblical instructions about women, interpreted as literally as possible. She made every effort not to be selective, but to practice everything the Bible says about women’s behavior. Ironically, some complementarian bloggers are criticizing her for being insufficiently selective when they are the ones who have urged women not to be selective about conforming to biblical “standards” of womanly behavior.

The book’s subtitle is “How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master.” Each chapter describes her adventures as she researched specific biblical instructions both in biblical scholarship (she clearly read a lot of complementarian as well as egalitarian theology) and in practices of traditional Jewish and Christian traditions.

For example, the chapter entitled “April: Purity—The Worst Time of the Month to Go Camping” reports in detail on her twelve days living in a tent during and after her monthly “period.” The chapter “June: Submission—A Disposition to Yield” tells about her month of determined submission to her patient husband Dan who finally orders her to stop submitting to him! (Dan turns out to be one of the two real heroes of the story.)

Now I’m not going to go into much detail about the book. You should buy it and read it. And I won’t give away Evans’ big conclusion at the end of her year. (But it’s on page 294.) Instead, I’ll just mention her penchant for poking at complementarian inconsistencies and (occasional) outright nonsense. For example, on pages 253-254 she points out how John Piper and Wayne Grudem, the two founders of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, fall into inconsistencies bordering on silliness in trying to apply 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 to contemporary life

Evans quotes Piper’s response to a question about popular female teachers like Beth Moore. He affirmed it’s okay for Christian men to listen to her speak unless they become too dependent on her as their “shepherd-teacher.” Evans concludes “In other words, a Christian man can learn from a Christian woman, so long as he doesn’t learn too much.” The she points out Grudem’s list of eighty-three items that a woman can and cannot do in the church. For example, “she can write a book about theology that is read at Christian colleges and seminaries, but she cannot teach theology at a Christian college or seminary herself.” (p. 254)

Don’t assume that Evans is snarky, though. She’s not. The tone of her book is mild and kind. Sure, she disagrees with evangelical complementarianism and is out to show its impracticality, but she doesn’t aim insults or hurl anathemas at anyone. And, you might ask, what about complementarianism’s biblicality (to use a non-word)? Well, read the book. Evans uses a lot of Scripture to show that anyone who tries to take it all literally will simply fail. She says “The Bible isn’t an answer book. It isn’t a self-help manual. It isn’t a flat, perspicuous list of rules and regulations that we can interpret objectively and apply unilaterally to our lives.” (p. 293) Also, “The Bible does not present us with a single model of biblical womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits –all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.” (p. 294)

The model for Christian marriage is hers and Dan’s. It’s based on mutual love, respect and submission. Both seek the good of the other and of their union, not of themselves or some abstract notion of authority. In such marriages, there’s no need for complementarianism (as taught by some conservative evangelicals).

Needless to say, I agree with Evans whole heartedly. But I live in a different world than she does. I have never lived in that world of “male headship” fundamentalism even though I’ve seen it—sometimes close up. I know about it. I’ve read the books and talked at great length with its advocates. I taught at the same college as Piper and Grudem, arriving only a year or two after they left. Their influence was very strong among the students, so I made it my business to learn all about their views. Eventually I met them and we had mostly cordial relations in spite of our different opinions.

I grew up in an evangelical subculture that abounded with strong women evangelists, pastors, teachers and leaders. Both my birth mother and stepmother were licensed, if not ordained, ministers of the gospel. Among our heroes were two independent women church planters who started churches of our denomination all over the upper Midwest. Four the sons of one of them became powerful pastors and evangelists and kept their mother’s memory alive among us. Many of our denomination’s founders and leaders were saved under the ministry of Aimee Semple MacPherson. Kathryn Kuhlman was the lead convention speaker at one of our annual conventions.

Then I joined the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. (ABCUSA) which ordains women and has many women pastors and leaders including presidents of the denomination. My wife and I have been members of two Baptist churches pastored by women with other female pastoral staff members. The church we attend now has more women than men deacons and the church council has been led by women frequently.

All that is to say that I don’t live in Rachel Held Evans’ world—at least not in the one she’s struggling with in her book. I see it and hear of it, but I stay out of it. However, I see the damage it does to young women called to ministry. They are among my students and I watch them struggle to be affirmed by their home churches and families. Often they are not affirmed.

I simply don’t know why anyone, especially any woman, would want to be a part of that world. My advice to them is “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” However, I know how difficult that can be. In some cases it means losing friends and even loved ones.

Reading Evans’ book got me wondering about other possible books with similar titles. I wish someone would write A Year of Biblical Manhood. One thing such an author would have to do, of course, is lift his hands without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2:8). That would be hard for many conservative evangelical men to do!

How about A Year of Consistent Feminism? Maybe one month would be devoted to lobbying congress to change the law to require young women to register for the draft! I don’t see it happening.

How about A Year of Obeying Jesus? But then, the author would have to give away all his or her possessions to the poor.

As anyone who has read my blog consistently for a long time knows, I am steadfastly against so-called “complementarianism” as it is taught by leading conservative evangelicals. In a truly godly marriage there is no need of it. And it reeks of male resentment, fear and desire for control. On the other hand, I’m no fan of feminism. Of course, much depends on what “feminism” means, but far too often these days it means implicit, if not explicit, belief in female superiority and requirement for men to become like women in order to be acceptable. It too often means the total obliteration of masculinity (I’m not talking about “machismo,” but non-threatening male ways of relating).

Some years ago I was asked to give a speech at a national gathering of egalitarian Christians. I was happy to do it. But I don’t think it benefits anyone to hear what they already believe. So I spoke on “Beyond Equality to Interdependence.” My talk was not very well received by many of the audience. I spoke about how feminist slogans like “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” are unchristian and how Christian egalitarians need to resist such anti-male attitudes. God created us male and female and we need each other. That’s true complementarianism.

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    What is up with the random argument against a spectre of feminism as emasculating toward the end? You’ve completely destroyed any reliability of this review and made it impossible for me to recommend it, which is sad as the first 3/4ths of it are important. But then you go on this (unsupported, unsubstantiated) rant against contemporary feminism – a point that requires much more than a paragraph and an assumption about how feminism is about women wanting to emasculate men.

    I’ve told you this before, but you need to stop characterizing feminism based on the worst stereotypes of it. Feminism is not about making men become women or making women become men. It is about allowing individuals to fulfill and perform their gender as they see fit within their own lives without being beaten into submission by a patriarchal culture. When you say, essentially, that men have something to lose by becoming feminists, you undermine your entire egalitarian point because you imply that men must lower themselves to the position of women in feminism. You are still reinforcing a patriarchal ideal when you say that feminism is about emasculating men, as though feminism is centered around “pulling men down to our level” versus being seen as human beings, full stop.

    I’m a Baylor alum, but when I read unkind caricatures of positions I hold dear, coming from professors who taught many friends of mine, I worry.

    • rogereolson

      With all due respect, I think you do protest too much. You know the kind of feminism I’m talking about. It may not be what you mean by “feminism,” but it is rampant especially in academia (fortunately not where I teach). What do call it? Give me a name for the feminism I’m talking about and I’ll use it. Radical feminism? And what do you say about books like Are Men Necessary? and The End of Men? Why can’t these feminists celebrate women’s rise without implying that men are inferior? Sure, they don’t say it right out, but the implication is clear. As for your worry–ask any of my female students how I treat them and how I encourage them to disallow anyone to hold them back from being whatever they want to be or feel called to be. Finally, what do you think about women being equal with men in selective service registration? You didn’t say, so I’m curious. Should young women have to register for the draft if young men have to (which they do)?

      • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

        It is not within your purview to tell me whether or not I am saying too much or too little. In fact, if you click over to my blog, you’ll find a 1500+ word response to what you’ve written here. I think you’ll find a lot of answers there.

        Your definition of feminism appeared to be stuck in the 1970s. No one in modern day feminism uses the fish-bicycle slogan anymore. Modern day feminists, if you bothered to know them and interact with the giant, diverse internet community in which feminist activism is based, quote bell hooks and Audre Lorde instead of pithy slogans. Modern day feminists fight against prison rape (which affects mostly men) and have discussions about how patriarchal assumptions and gender roles negatively affect men by stunting emotional growth and making it impossible for them to report when they are sexually assaulted. Most modern day feminists are concerned about racism, transphobia, homophobia, religious intolerance and bigotry of all kinds, not just against women. Modern day feminists are concerned about sexual assault and rape – especially in light of right-wing remarks about “honest rape,” “legitimate rape,” and “some girls rape so easy.” Modern day feminists, for example, got the FBI to change their definition of rape (which excluded men!) to be more broad, in part so that MEN could seek justice for crimes done against them.

        You, sir, do your title of “academic” a disservice when you refuse to listen to a group’s definition of themselves, ignore multitudes of writing that reject the anti-male feminism of the 60s/70s, and write off the massive gains that feminism has made that enable us to have this discussion.

        Your insistence on the draft as a ‘gotcha’ for feminism, for example, is ignorant of the massive conversation happening in feminism today surrounding the draft as an unconstitutional and untenable practice in of itself (not because it’s unequal, but because it’s unconstitutional – we’re not pushing to sign up, we’re pushing to have the draft removed). Not to mention the draft argument is narrow minded and ignorant of the ongoing conversation about women in combat (which is still not allowed!) and the epidemic of rape in the US armed forces. You think it’s a clever question, but when you say it, modern day feminists roll their eyes at having to explain, yet again, that if you just googled it, you’d be privy to pages after pages of discussions and arguments and advocacy surrounding women in the armed forces and the history and constitutionality of the draft.

        • rogereolson

          You still haven’t answered my question, though. IF men must register for the draft (as is the case) should women have to register for it, too? Go ahead and roll your eyes. I don’t care. It’s a huge injustice and double standard that feminists ought to address. Sure, I’m against the draft and even registration for it. Let’s abolish that. But, in the meantime, let’s have a civil discussion about whether women should have to register for it as well. You just brush it aside as unworthy of discussion. I am for all the causes you mention, but “feminism” is not just one thing. I said in my original post (to which you angrily responded) that much depends on how one defines feminism and made clear that the feminism I’m against is that which implies that women’s experience is normative and superior. I specifically did not say that’s all feminism. But, because that word carries those connotations, and there are feminists in Women’s Studies programs who still think that way, I decline to label myself such. I embrace “women’s liberation” and absolute egalitarianism. I think your vitriol aimed my way, when I was being very cautious not to tar all feminism with the same brush, is self-defeating. You come across as the typical angry feminist to someone who agrees entirely with you and your feminists goals but simply prefers not to use the term which carries such baggage.

          • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

            dr. olson, you weren’t as cautious as you imagine about not ” tar[ring] all feminism with the same brush”. your words: “far too often these days it [feminism] means implicit, if not explicit, belief in female superiority and requirement for men to become like women in order to be acceptable. It too often means the total obliteration of masculinity (I’m not talking about “machismo,” but non-threatening male ways of relating).”

            what you describe is not mainstream, academic, or cultural feminism. it would be like someone arguing that a racist tea party militiaman were the spokesperson for conservatism. it is your caricature of feminism/feminists, not your disinterest in personally embracing the term, that we challenge.

            also, tone policing is an authoritarian silencing tactic used to put people (“typical angry feminist”) in their (her) place. it’s not very egalitarian of you.

          • http://moviegoings.com Jared

            I still don’t understand why you’re being so insistent that women and the draft is something that MUST be discussed NOW in the context of THIS review so that any feminists in the discussion can prove to you that they are what you would consider consistent. Speaking of unanswered questions, I’ll repeat mine: Why on earth did you even bring the issue up?

            I don’t sense anger in what Dianna has said, and there certainly wasn’t any in her initial response to you. Saying there was makes it sound like you’re just trying to label her and dismiss her. I don’t think that’s what you mean to do, that’s not the sense that I get from your response, but that was a false step. Women who speak up in discussions like this are constantly having emotions attributed to their words, which makes it easier to ignore what they’re actually saying.

            And, yes, you specifically used some conditional words in key places in your review, but you also said that you don’t like “feminism.” Period. And you said that much depends on what “feminism” means, but then every example you gave of what feminism means was an extreme caricature. Taken together, you didn’t leave a lot of room to suggest that you didn’t actually mean to generalize about feminists in a very negative way. I believe that you did not meant to do so, and you have said as much. But I still can’t intuit that from what you wrote in your review.

            You said below that “we are in a debate about the meaning of ‘feminism,’” but at this point, it feels like a debate about who gets to choose what “feminism” means (you or them), and whether you’re as in touch with the tone and priorities of mainstream feminism as you seem to think. And there are some smart, active, bona-fide feminists here carefully explaining that you are not.

            I would think, at the least, that you would be happy to see people whose goals you share and agree with “entirely” trying to reclaim a label that you keep insisting only implies the negative connotations you yourself are attaching to it. Which is why there’s some frustration in the air.

          • rogereolson

            I’m not entirely convinced that we (some of my more critical interlocutors here) and I share exactly the same goals and agree entirely and not only about the meaning of “feminism.” I have said that I am whole heartedly supportive of equality of women and men in every area of society and church life. My own experiences with self-identified feminists (and by that I mean intellectuals, not just people who use the label) have convinced me that feminism aims for something more. All feminist theologians I’ve had any conversations with (with the exception of Elaine Storkey which is why I carefully qualify that “much depends on how one defines ‘feminism’”) believe that all hierarchy is patriarchal and therefore evil. Admittedly, of course, there may be and probably are other feminist intellectuals who don’t believe that. But my world is theology and religious studies in general. In my world, anyway, were I to label myself a “feminist,” that is how it would be understood. I would be putting myself generally in that movement of theologians who disdain talk of God as Father and believe in some kind of panentheism if not pantheism. In my opinion, the issue of females registering for the draft (while there is a draft) is a simple test case of consistency. If feminists (or anyone) argues that women should serve in combat roles (if there is going to be war which there is even if they are opposed to war), they should also argue that women should have to register for the draft (if there is compulsory registration for the draft which there is). I have not heard any feminist advocate that. To me it is a huge injustice that only young men must register for the draft. I’m opposed to draft and compulsory registration for it, but if there is such (and there is), then equality should mean everyone of a certain age, regardless of sex, should have to register for it at that age. That, to be best of my knowledge, no feminist advocates this is a signal of some inconsistency.

          • Shefali

            I’m a woman, and I totally get where you are coming from. IF feminism maintains men and women are the same and so they must be allowed to fight in combat in the armed forces, sure, then they should be subject to the draft. End of story.

            I am a Christian and believe men and women are of equal worth and value but they are not the same – they have different strengths and weaknesses. As a Christian, we are supposed to love and respect each other, not put people down. Lifting women up should not involve tearing men down. Some of the anti-male tone of modern feminism turns off a lot of women as well as men. And I would consider myself a feminist IF feminism is about treating women as adults with legal rights, responsibilities, etc.

          • rogereolson

            Thanks for expressing what I tried to say so much better. And coming from a woman it has more credibility.

      • http://sarahoverthemoon.com Sarah Moon

        I’m a student in feminist academia. I have male classmates and I’ve never encountered anti-male attitudes unless we were critiquing them as simply mirroring and reproducing existing systems of domination. The name is radical feminism. Most feminists would actually be liberal feminists. I would label myself a contemporary political theory feminist. Radfems are actually pretty rare, and though some (like Mary Daly) have produced some really important theory, we feminists are intelligent enough to read their theory critically. We embrace the good (really good early radical critiques of rape, the porn industry, heteronormativity, etc), while recognizing that gender binaries are harmful even when they are reversed so that women are the dominant gender. We just ask that you do a *tiny* bit of research before caricaturing us as all radfems (including us academics…) when you haven’t looked at the wealth of diverse feminist theory that exists. There’s no excuse for that in this age of technology.

        Here. I’ll even help you get started. Google bell hooks.

        • rogereolson

          Obviously “feminism” is an essentially contested concept. I did not say all feminists are radical. In my original message I said much depends on how feminism is defined. The feminism I’m not sympathetic with is the radical feminism of Mary Daly and those like her.

      • Daniel W

        Roger,

        I have to agree with Dianna here. Your characterization of modern feminism is not accurate. You seem to be describing a feminism of the past or a feminism that is not very widespread at all. I am a PhD student in the humanities at a public university, and I did my BA and MA at a public university as well. I know personally many feminist academics. They do not behave in the way you say they do. They do not express any desire to “emasculate men” or “make men like women,” though they will problematize the ways in which society decides what behavior is “masculine” and what behavior is “feminine.” The feminist academics I know have also never expressed, in words or action, that men are inferior, worthless, or unnecessary. In fact, I have never heard a feminist seriously say anything like “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” It sounds like your experiences come from earlier waves of feminism in past decades. Feminist thought has most certainly been critiqued and refined by the current generation of feminist thinkers.
        You certainly decry the fact that the media and others often characterize modern evangelicalism as a whole based on the books published and the speeches given by neo-fundamentalists. Now you are characterizing modern feminism based on the books published and the speeches given by extremists past and present. You are not properly representing the majority of modern feminists.

        • rogereolson

          Obviously we are in a debate about the meaning of “feminism.” It’s not a label I like. I prefer women’s liberation–a movement I whole heartedly embrace.

        • tim

          dude, calm down. Roger clearly left it open that there are various brands of feminism. he qualified his statement quite well and he made no claim to know how your colleagues behave. did he pick an extreme form of feminism? Yes, but so what?

          Can’t we just enjoy this review? He is positively reviewing what sounds like a wonderful book that furthers the cause of women’s issues no matter how you slice it. And in the context of evangelicalism, this is no small matter!

          Roger, I applaud you for your fair minded review and charitable approach to theology. But I also loved it when you told people who haven’t read the book to shut up about it. That is always an important reminder because we are all so quick to typecast and assume when know what is going on.

      • Bradm

        Are Hanna Rosin, Maureen Dowd, and Molly Ivins seriously your idea of “radical feminists?” (As opposed to, say, Dworkin or Daly?) Did you read any of those books past the title? Does it matter to you that reviews, by feminists, of Dowd’s book generally disliked it because she essentially said that feminism is no longer necessary (and therefore not feminist)?

        And I think when Dianna said she worries, she probably didn’t have in mind how you treat your students but rather how you marginalize women’s voices by labeling them “radical feminists.”

      • Liralen

        With respect to the fish/bicycle issue, my recollection is that at the time it originally appeared, women’s liberationists were being attacked as being “dykes” or so unattractive that no man would want them. I don’t hear it said much these days, despite that women are still verbally attacked for their physical appearance.

        With respect to women being drafted, yes, I agree they should be required to register. However, I enlisted in the Army Reserves as one of the last groups to go through basic training still wearing the Pallas Athene (obsolete symbol for the Women’s Army Corps), and there were some issues. For example, I initially failed the physical for being under the 100 lbs. minimum weight requirement. I spent a few weeks bulking up in order to pass, but had difficulties such as my face being too small to make a tight seal with standard issue gas masks. Going through the gas chamber was painful. A couple of years later, I joined a sport parachuting club sponsored by a Dutch army group stationed near an American army base in Germany. The canopies were modified army surplus and even the smallest of them would land me literally miles away from where a much heavier person would land. I could understand how my fellow soldiers might have considered me a liability in combat. However, that doesn’t mean that all women would be. My niece is a fine soldier who has been to both Iraq and Afghanistan, as have other American women, albeit in combat support groups. There would need to be objective, performance-based standards that applied to all equally, but I’m sure that would be gamed by drafted soldiers of either gender.

        Would I lobby Congress? Probably not. If I bestirred myself to lobby Congress, I’d probably lobby against laws that keep so many of our young men in prisons. The statistics are really atrocious. See for example, http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/24/the-facts-about-americas-priso Or maybe to abolish the draft entirely, if it were ever to be put in use again, and improve veterans benefits, starting with re-instating the old GI bill. The fact that the draft has not been used for nearly 40 years is probably why it isn’t on our radar screens and your argument is ignored.

        I think your heart is in the right place and I’ve enjoyed your blog, but you appear to think that feminists are more radical than we are. Most of us just want an end to sexism and double-standards. I’m willing to fulfill my end of the bargain, and have, to the extent possible. I was rejected from active duty military because of motherhood. I subsequently received my degree in electrical engineering in 1985, as a working Mom, and for the most part, have no complaints. The fact that my initial Professional Engineer license said something to the effect that I was duly licensed to practice engineering until “his license expired” was a source of hilarity, which has since been changed. I did relate to your former student’s tale about over-reactions upon hearing what my profession is, but I more often get uneasiness. Except from my peers, who tend to be pleased and accepting. Engineer egos tend to be centered around math/science skills, and since I qualify, that seems to be good enough for them. If not, then they have enough brains not to make an issue of it. After all, if I couldn’t cut it, that fact would have soon been apparent. However, I’ve enough evidence to convince me that most guy geeks like gal geeks. I am very happily married to another engineer, my husband and soul mate, who seems quite proud of me.

    • rogereolson

      Also, why do you think the Evangelical Feminist Caucus changed its name to Christians for Biblical Equality?

  • Ben

    Not to be nit-picky here, but it sounds a bit like a rip-off of A.J. Jacobs Year of Living Biblically. I don’t have any problem with interacting with others’ ideas and even recasting them. However, I do take issue when it comes to Christians aping popular media months (and in this case, years) behind an initial largely secular success. She may as well have called it The Secret or Fifty Shades of Being an Evangelical Woman. Now the title was, perhaps, a publisher’s idea. But the premise is completely Jacobs’ (with the twist on her being a woman). Please tell me she gives credit where credit is due.

    • rogereolson

      I don’t see the problem you see. What’s wrong with borrowing from someone else’s book title? It’s done all the time. In fact, maybe you don’t know this, book titles aren’t copyrightable. There is a long tradition of authors taking off on other books’ titles. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

      • http://mattdabbs.wordpress.com Matt Dabbs

        Haven’t read the book but it would be appropriate to give credit for Jacob’s title having an impact on her own title choice, especially if she read the other book. Not being critical of Evans here…just saying that is my opinion. I have no idea if she did or not.

        • Darcyjo

          She already did. Multiple times, in fact.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      Ben, I don’t have the book yet, but on her blog Rachel Held Evans makes no secret of the fact that her idea was inspired by A Year of Living Biblically. She was not “aping” it, however. There is a lot in the Bible specifically about women, which I’m sure Mr. Jacobs never even tried to live by or address in his book. The female voice and perspective is much-needed in something like this, particularly when there are large groups of people insisting that “biblical womanhood” means a certain way of living taken straight out of the first century, then given a Leave-It-To-Beaver 1950′s white American spin. In short, women are being asked to live “biblically” in ways men have never even thought of. Kudos to Evans for shining a spotlight on it.

    • Bradm

      Not to be nit-picky here, but books of the format “my year doing such and such” are very common and didn’t start with AJ Jacobs. So, no, the premise is not completely Jacobs’. True, there were a lot of books that were published in the wake of Jacobs’ book but most of them weren’t “Christian” books. I happen to have been compiling a list of these types of books (I’m weird) and below are some of books of this format (I know at least the first 3 on the list were written before Jacob’s book, possibly others, too):

      Radio On: A Listener’s Diary by Sarah Vowell
      Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously by Bill McKibben
      Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine
      A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument by Jasper Rees
      A Year at the Movies : One Man’s Filmgoing Odyssey by Kevin Murphy
      Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
      Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith by Suzanne Strempek Shea
      Yes Man by Danny Wallace
      Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea
      The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
      Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days by Vanessa Farquharson
      The Year of Living like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do by Ed Dobson
      Sweater Quest: My Year Of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini
      No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan
      Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year without Sex by Hephzibah Anderson
      My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen
      Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant
      Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over

      In addition, there are a bunch of others that don’t follow “the year of” format strictly but were written in the same spirit:

      The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose
      Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
      Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back by Norah Vincent
      The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben

      • rogereolson

        So let’s start a thread (!) about where this fad began. I say it began with Black Like Me–a classic book of someone living a certain way for year (I think it was a year) to see what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes.

    • Gail

      Ben, it was Jacobs’ book that gave RHE the idea to write this one. Having read both, I can tell you that they are more different than alike.

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    it’s nice to see positive buzz for rachel’s book, but i’m not sure why you insist on slamming feminism (which is about humans being *equal* not granting women superiority!). you go out of your way to show that you have been largely insulated from the ugliness of the Church’s treatment of women. your insulation combined with apparent blinders to how women are still not equal (even within “egalitarian” christianity) demonstrates that you aren’t in a position to define (or malign) feminism. interdependence can be great–but we aren’t “Beyond Equality” in culture or church. not even close.

    • rogereolson

      Well, in my church we are (equal, that is). If you’re caught in a patriarchal church culture, leave it. Find one that isn’t (patriarchal). What do you say about Molly Ivans (RIP) who said publicly that she thought the world would be a better place if women ran it? Isn’t that granting women superiority? I hear these sentiments all the time from some feminists (e.g., that men are not necessary, that the “end of men” is a good thing, etc.). Have you really never heard the saying “A women needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle?” It was common around the University of Minnesota when I lived and worked near it. (All one had to do was read the newspaper to read such sentiments being shouted by women professors and students.)

      • http://arewomenhuman.me Grace

        Do you really believe one feminist, or one phrase from one predominantly white stream of feminism that was most influential in the 1970s represents the entirety of feminism? That’s astonishing. Feminism is an international, multicultural, multifaceted group of movements. It can’t be boiled down to one catchphrase – except in reductionist caricatures of feminism that, yes, are sexist and patriarchal.

        I also find it rather astonishing that you seem to believe that women (or anyone!) can escape patriarchal culture by simply finding a new church. What a luxury it must be able to believe that.

        • rogereolson

          Come to my church. I doubt you’ll find a hint of patriarchy there! :)

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

            Unfortunately, it’s probably still there. Just not as obvious. It’s still present in our country 100 years after women got the vote. It’s in the background, taken for granted and not noticed, like we don’t notice the molecules in the air we breathe.

          • rogereolson

            I agree. But sometimes I wonder what kind of world (society) would satisfy some feminists? If we ever achieved real, genuine (not surface, merely legal) equality of the sexes, would that satisfy them? Perhaps so. I’m just curious. That’s my goal; it should be every reasonable person’s goal. But I wonder if just being male makes one patriarchal in some respects (in some feminists’ eyes)? I agree that legal equality does not guarantee death of patriarchy. But, then, we need to talk about what patriarchy means. Some feminists seem to mean by it any hierarchy. Rosemary Ruether, for exmaple, in God and Gaia suggests that even belief in life after death (objective immortality) is patriarchal because it puts humans over the rest of nature. What would a world without patriarchy look like? That’s what I’d like to talk about with feminists. Unfortunately, all my attempts to talk about anything related to gender or sex with feminists I have known have been unfortunate (for me) even when I am being as absolutely open as I can possibly be and wanting genuine instruction and dialogue.

          • Carrie

            Dr. Olson, I respect you immensely and enjoyed your review, but I must pick at this comment you just made.
            I do know your church. In fact, I was once a member there, but we have since moved. I agree with you that they have done an amazing job exiting patriarchy, but it is certainly not absent. It is still present in the minds and hearts of those who have been hurt by patriarchy in the past, it is in the experiences of those raised under patriarchal systems. I don’t believe that it is possible to completely escape patriarchy when we are still dealing with so many issues of inequality in the world today. It does, and will, spill over into the church. The church, after all, is where we bring our burdens and hangups. And those will, inevitably include struggles with patriarchy. It is a good church to be sure, but it is still very imperfect (like any church).

            I appreciated this thoughtful critique by one of your former students. I think her comments on the subtlety of patriarchy are worthy reading. http://kyndallrae.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-scariest-thing-i-have-ever-written/

          • rogereolson

            Of course, that’s not what I meant. I meant that patriarchy is not how we organize or govern ourselves. That woundedness still exists is a given. But saying that patriarchy still exists because woundedness still exists is like saying fundamentalism still exists because many members exited fundamentalism and still suffer its affects. The latter is true, but I don’t think it would justify saying “Fundamentalism exists at that church.” Everyone would understand that to mean fundamentalism is a still a factor in the teaching and preaching of the church. That’s false. I respect Kyndal very much; she was one of the best students I ever had. I am flattered that she takes anything I say seriously enough to correct it. And I am open to what she says. But I don’t think patriarchy is universally present; there are places here and there where victory over it has been won (unless we are simply talking about the wounds it leaves behind in people’s psyches).

      • John I.

        Even U2 got into the act by using that phrase in one of their songs. It was and is quite a common approach.

        • rogereolson

          Yes, it goes back at least to Black Like Me which I read in junior high school!

      • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

        i’m not caught in anything. i served as a youth minister in a denomination that clearly has no official problem with women in leadership, but i can tell you that in an entire city and metro are, there were only two of us who weren’t spouses or volunteers in programs run by men. progressive/egalitarian denominations stifle women in subtler ways, and it’s apparent from pews to pulpits to publishing. imagining that the Church’s “women problems” were solved when we let women go to seminary is a staggering blind spot.

        as for women who are “caught,” i hope you realize that leaving is not as simple as you describe (and will we just write them off for their “choice” to stay?).

        you dismiss feminism based on a humorist and old slogan you don’t like? (there is, of course, a difference between *needing* a man’s protection/provision and choosing to build a life together as equals and partners.)

        if you think feminism is about anything other than achieving women’s equality with men, please read more. if you believe we’ve evolved past the need for feminism because we’re already equal, please spend some time listening to women’s stories. ed cyzewski’s series would be a great place to start: http://inamirrordimly.com/category/women-in-ministry/

      • http://sarahoverthemoon.com Sarah Moon

        You need to read bell hooks, for a more nuanced opinion of feminism (really, read bell hooks. She’s amazing, intelligent, and easy to read). Feminism is a movement that has been evolving since it began in the 1800s and continues to evolve. It is a movement that has been perpetuated by many different theorists with many different opinions. It might actually be more accurate to say “feminisms.” Radical feminists represent a marginal group that other feminists have heavily critiqued. Your dismissal of them ignores what is perhaps a majority of feminist writing (writing that you likely have never heard of because so many great theorists are dismissed when people like you make a caricature out of feminism). It’s really disappointing.

        I speak this as someone with extensive knowledge of the feminist movement. Really. bell hooks. Start with Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.

        • rogereolson

          Did you read my post? I said “much depends on how one defines feminism.” I do not reject all feminism; I reject the feminism that implies that women’s experience and ways of relating are normative for all of society and that men must become like women to be acceptable.

        • tim

          It’s one thing to suggest to a scholar further reading in an area that is not his expertise, especially if you have “extensive knowledge” in that area. It is quite another to blame him for furthering the ills of patriarchy because he didn’t mention more moderate feminists in his OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE review of a book that promotes the equality of women.

  • EricMichaelSay

    Looking forward to reading this book with my wife. Rachel Held Evans has been my favorite evangelical (gasp!) personality for a couple of years now.

  • Sam

    Sounds like an entertaining read! Does a lot of this come down to Genesis? That headship is a pre-fall idea? I remember reading Piper saying that whilst a similar logic to his had been used to justify slavery, slavery is not in the pre-fall Genesis account and such is a man made institution. Headship however, is God ordained.

    What do we draw from the household codes in the NT if not a set of boundaries to run a family and church?

    • rogereolson

      Read Evans’ book when it comes out. She has a good section on the meaning of the household codes.

  • http://OurRabbiJesus.com Lois Tverberg

    Thanks for your balanced and thorough review. Very helpful.

    I assume that you know about the bestseller by A J Jacobs, “The Year of Living Biblically” that came out in 2008. I’m pretty sure that it’s the inspiration for Evans’ book. Jacobs is a secular Jew and a humor writer. His book tells about how he tried to follow every command in the Bible literally for a year. It’s obviously a secular book, but I thought it was great (and absolutely hilarious). He was actually quite generous toward people of faith, and by the end he admits he learned a lot from them.

    Other books have come out since then that were inspired by Jacobs’ book. Ed Dobson did do what you suggested – he wrote “The Year of Living Like Jesus” after trying to follow every command of Jesus. Benjamin Cohen, a Jewish writer, wrote “My Jesus Year” after he tried out life as a Christian for a year. I’m guessing there are others too.

  • Tom

    “Of course, much depends on what “feminism” means, but far too often these days it means implicit, if not explicit, belief in female superiority and requirement for men to become like women in order to be acceptable. It too often means the total obliteration of masculinity (I’m not talking about “machismo,” but non-threatening male ways of relating). …
    I spoke about how feminist slogans like “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” are unchristian and how Christian egalitarians need to resist such anti-male attitudes. God created us male and female and we need each other. That’s true complementarianism.”

    I agree 100% and yet that is why I call myself a complementarian. For whatever reason God has made me a man rather than a woman, in Genesis he made both men and women as his image bearers. So I can’t say that gender is unimportant and can be ignored., Men and women are not made to be alone but to compliment each other, a church without women is as incomplete as a church without men. Perhaps my experiences with Christian egalitarians has been overly negative (and also experiences in churches where a large majority of the congregation and leadership were women who did not seem to care if men are involved or evangelized to by the church) but a stumbling block for me being egalitarian is the underlying assumption that sex and gender do not matter and that men and women are pretty much interchangeable.

    But here is my question, if we accept that God made men and women different from each other (as you seem to) then why is it not also OK to say that they were made different to play different roles? I’m not saying we need to agree what those different roles are in the church, just can we say they were made different for a reason?

    • rogereolson

      The issue for me is power. “Different roles” for men and women almost always equates with more power for men. I think a man and woman in relationship (dating, engaged, married) need to work out their different roles based on competency and interest, not that one automatically has more power than the other one. Some women happen to be better than some men at, say, finances. In that case, she should handle the money. Some men happen to be better than some women at, say, cleaning house. In that case, he should clean house. In a true egalitarian relationship, roles may differ (by mutual consent) but power should be equal.

      • PLTK

        Amen and amen! I am always amazed at complementarians who refuse to acknowledge this power issue.

        • PLTK

          BTW, I posted the prior at 12:03 EST. What time zone is Pathos working on?

          • rogereolson

            I don’t know.

      • Tom

        Thank you. i would agree that men and women should agree in a relationship what roles they will play depending on what they’re good at. But that still leaves me with my question, if all the roles are non-gender specific was there any reason God created two sexes? Why not just make us all hermaphrodites?
        It would seem to me that God chose to create two sexes for a reason and that reason may have an impact on how we understand gender relationships now.

        • rogereolson

          I’ve written much about that here in the past. Being different does not mean one has power over the other just because of that difference. Men and women complement each other. What’s that got to do with power over?

    • Joshua Wooden

      Tom,

      Egalitarianism does not imply (though it may have in your experience) that men and women are and androgynous. Complementariansim is somewhat of a misnomer – many egalitarians believe men and women were created to complement one another. The issue is whether or not those roles are wooden or fluid, and the extent to which they are IMPOSED on men and women as a rule, rather than as a help. Unfortunately, the term egalitarian may be somewhat misleading, but so is complementarian. In fact, by complementarian, most people are referring almost exclusively to female submission to male headship and male authority in the home and the church.

    • John I.

      “far too often these days ” – hmm, I disagree, and of course that depends on whether you are referring to the water cooler, the old media, the new media, or academically.

      There is very interesting research being down on what are stereotypically considered to be male and female approaches to leadership and to decisionmaking. It is not as black and white, nor as obvious, as one would think given what’s been reported in the past on this issue (which is largely anecdotal, traditional wisdom, or merely asserted).

      • rogereolson

        For example, I read an article a while back about research into adolescent males’ emotional responses to friendship. The social researchers found that adolescent males (before about age 16) were usually very emotional about their friendships with other males. It exploded the myth of the unemotional male. Unfortunately, they also found that around age 16 (I’m going by memory here so it may have been earlier) most adolescent males changed and refused to express their feelings about friendships with other males in any emotional ways. I chalk that up to social pressures among peers and, to a certain extent, social attitudes about what being “a man” means. In other words, I think most, if not all, of the negative attributes people (including many feminists) attribute to men are the result of external socializing, not something inherent in being male. However, the role of testosterone should not be overlooked, either.

    • John I.

      “Sex” is biological, whereas “gender” is the social construction of sexual differences.

      Although humans (whether male or female) are not interchangeable as individuals, they are interchangeable when considered as groups, except in so far as pregnancy and child rearing. The former is obvious, and the latter is relevant given that studies have consistently shown that children (considered as a group) require both a male and female parent in a nuclear family for optimal development.

      There are also some biological difference that might make a difference for certain kinds of work (e.g., female natural wild pearl divers can remain under water longer than their male counterparts), but there is considerable biological overlap between males and females for all work relevant attributes and in any event technology makes the differences irrelevant in the western world.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      Christian Egalitarians do not believe that women and men are interchangeable. I don’t know what group you were interacting with, but that “underlying assumption” doesn’t exist and is in fact a straw man. Christian Egalitarians believe in complementarity, only without hierarchy and with freedom for each married couple to complement one another as they fit together, not according to pre-set molds. But for complementarians, “different roles” actually means, “he is in authority” and “she is under authority.”

      • Tom

        One of the groups I was interacting with was trying to say that we should learn to be gender blind and sex blind, there was no such thing as men or women outside of social constructs and one day full equality would be reached when we stopped seeing any difference at all.

        From what you and others have said I understand that egalitarians have no problems recognising gender, that there are certain innate differences between men and women, but those difference should never mean that we say men are better suited for one role and women are better suited for another role. Would that be correct?

        • rogereolson

          I specifically denied that. I said men are, generally speaking, better suited to be fathers and women are, generally speaking, better suited to be mothers.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

            Agreed. And I think Dr. Olson would also agree with me that there is nothing inherent in womanhood that makes women suited to be subordinate to men, or inherent in manhood that makes men suited to be in authority over women. The role of father does not include getting to be in charge of the mother, and both are suited to be in charge of the kids– though if the couple finds it natural and comfortable, given their personalities, for the man to take the lead in the home, egalitarians have no objection. We only object to the idea that he has a God-given right to be the leader, or that he holds some kind of “I get the final say” divine trump card in decision making. My husband and I have always been able to work out a mutually acceptable decision together, for almost 25 years of marriage. We have never found a need for a trump card.

          • rogereolson

            Exactly the right kind of marriage and what Paul surely meant by “submit yourselves to each other.”

  • M. 85

    Dear Dr. Olson, thanks for the very balanced post. I’m thinking about doing my thesis on this issue (role of women) and i was wondering if there are any books you would recommend? I already have Grenz’s book (Women in ministry), two of Witherington’s and i recently ordered Kroeger’s and i’ve been reading just about all that i can on the subject.

    • rogereolson

      I think you have the best ones already. Off the top of my head I can’t think of other ones you should read. But I’m sure some others will. :)

    • Joshua Wooden

      “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals” by Webb (his book is debated OFTEN), and you should check out JesusCreed (Scot McKnight is an egalitarian whose written a couple books on the issue, such as “The Blue Parakeet” and “Junia is Not Alone”).

    • John I.

      Role of women in society? in church bureaucracy? in ministry? in evangelical subculture? currently? historically? geographically? Just curious, as it is an important topic.

      • M. 85

        Probably on women preachers/preaching in church. Thanks everyone for the suggestions! God bless you.

    • E.G.

      “Finally Feminist” by John Stackhouse.

      Also “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership” is a great collection of personal testimonies/essays from fairly prominent evangelicals who… changed their minds.

      And, as someone already said, Scot McKnight’s “Blue Parakeet.”

      Read those three and the others that you’ve mentioned and you should be able to hold your own in any argument.

    • Wayne Shaffer, Jr.

      I recommend “Discovering Biblical Equality — Complementarity Without Hierarchy.” It’s a multi-editor, multi-author book that gives a good overview of the topic. Besides the chapters dealing with specific Bible passages, I enjoyed the chapters that traced how the Church has treated the relative statuses of men and women historically. The chapter that showed that several early proto-fundamentalists such as D.L. Moody and A.B. Simpson were egalitarians at least in terms of ministry roles was surprising.

      Also, P.B. Payne’s “One in Christ” deals with numerous Pauline passages in great detail, and even more info is available at his Web site. (He couldn’t fit everything into the book.)

  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    “I’d like to challenge people to either read the book or shut up until they’ve read it.” Exactly! Well said, Dr. Olson.

  • http://TheBereanObserver Bob Wheeler

    I myself am a complimentarian — the NT injunctions about gender roles have to mean something. And if “women’s equality” means that men and women must be treated the same way, I think that it will stumble on the fact that men and women are generally different from each other, both physically and psychologically.
    Having said that, I was astonished recently to read a history of the Bible college I once attended – a very conservative Fundamentalist Baptist school, and learned that of the first four full-time faculty members, three were women! Since one of the the aims of the school was to train Baptist pastors, I’m not sure how they managed to justify that! (It was probably a pragmatic decision on their part).

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      It is my understanding from church history that the Baptists were very female-inclusive at their inception, as were many, if not most, new movements within Christianity as they started out. The full participation of females was often necessary when a movement was small and young– and it was often perceived that the Holy Spirit was gifting certain women as leaders, in ways that were very difficult to dispute.

      Historically, these movements would then almost invariably become patriarchal again as soon as they were well established and seeking respectability and a good reputation. It’s quite surprising, reading Christian history, to watch this scenario played out over and over again.

      • rogereolson

        I agree. Unfortunately, this has happened (IMHO) among Pentecostals. I’m not saying women were ever fully equal in most Pentecostal groups, but early on there was real progress in that direction. Aimee Semple MacPherson was heralded by most Pentecostals in the 1920s and 1930s as a, if not the, great Pentecostal leader. Then a reaction set in. Some of her male converts/followers broke from her to found their own denominations. (The same happened with Florence Crawford’s group the Apostolic Faith Mission.) Most of these groups continued to affirm ordination of women while subtly, gradually accommodating to the larger evangelical community’s rejection of women’s leadership. Today very few women are lead pastors or denominational executives in Pentecostal denominations. That’s sad and a travesty. Pentecostal leaders need to recover some of their earlier distinctives including women in leadership and emphasis on peace. (Most Pentecostals were pacifists up until WW2.)

        • Wayne Shaffer, Jr.

          I’ve spent most of my Christian life among Pentecostals. My early Christian experience was at a Christian and Missionary campus fellowship in the early ’80s. It was quite open to charismatic gifts — more so than the denomination as a whole. When I returned home in the mid ’80s, I joined a small local “Full Gospel” church, where I remained for about 10 years. Each of those constituted what I would call a “gently complementarian” environment. I got the impression the local AG and Christian Assembly churches were similar, perhaps even more to the comp. side of the scale. I was stunned to learn a few years ago that the AG is officially (per one of its “position papers,” I believe) egalitarian in terms of ministry roles. (Their “Statements” and “Position Papers” regarding roles — hierarchy — in the home, OTOH, are muddled and inconsistent.)
          I’m not sure about the current official practice of the Foursquare Church. My little local one seems to regard its leadership as a husband-wife team with no blatant hierarchy, but that’s based on limited evidence.

          • rogereolson

            It would certainly be ironic if the Foursquare denomination or any of its churches did NOT believe in women’s equality with men in ministry. After all, the denomination was founded by a woman (Aimee Semple MacPherson)! I grew up in a small Pentecostal denomination (offshoot of the ICFG) that had women church planters and lead pastors.

    • John I.

      Injunctions? or pastoral advice to a specific church in a specific context based upon what Jesus said? I don’t see that the passages re “gender in the church” are moral commands. It is possible to give Paul’s discussion meaning for our times without resulting in normative moral gender structures vis a vis current church bureaucracies.

  • Pingback: Pastoralia » Roger Olson reviews “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans

  • Sue

    I too find the ending very disturbing. Why not use the phrase “some feminists.”. I too don’t know how to use this review.

    • rogereolson

      That’s why I said much depends on how one defines feminism. In my world, it generally means women’s experience is normative for all people. Okay, not all feminists believe that. Maybe a term other than “feminism,” then, would be helpful.

      • Sue

        I like to google definitions before I write a post. In almost every case, feminism means that women should be equal to men. That’s it. For me personally, feminism means being able to work, vote, and not be raped.

        • rogereolson

          If that’s all it means, I’m a feminist. But most feminist intellectuals/theorists I know would probably not count me one because, for example, I believe that, normally, men make better fathers than women and women make better mothers than men.

          • Sue

            I would love to read the feminist literature on women being fathers and men being mothers. I haven’t run into that yet.

            However, I most emphatically regard women as equal providers and men as equal nurturers. So does the Bible.

          • rogereolson

            Okay, you give me an opportunity to confess that some of my negative impressions of feminism are shaped by popular culture’s appropriations and adaptations of feminism. I have watched The View, for example, and have noticed how many television (and other celebritiies) celebrate single women adopting boys as if they could fill a father role just as well as any man and even implicitly denigrating fathers as totally unimportant. So i know someone will demand an example. A couple years ago on Mothers Day three morning show hosts were talking about a study that estimated a mother’s monetary worth IF she were being paid for everything she does. It was an wnormous amount and, of course, everyone agreed a mother’s worth was immeasurable. Then one of the male hosts said “I wonder what a father is worth” to which the female host quickly replied “about seventy five cents.” She didn’t smile or retract it. She clearly meant to put down men and fathers. I find that kind of behavior very common in popular culture. I won’t blame feminism for it, but I do think popularizers of feminism tend to portray being pro-women as being ant-male.

          • Sue

            I am a single mother and a survivor of male violence. In return, you are able to mention one anti-male joke that you can remember. Let me mention that as a teenager, in that blissful era before the really bad feminism got going, some man walked up the stairs behind me in a public but isolated place, in daylight and reached under my not so short skirt, to pinch my privates. And not once in my life did I ever even think to complain about this. Nor do I blame all men. I just accepted as part of life that is not so great.

            But you can actually remember hearing an anti-male joke. Did that damage your ego irreparably?

          • rogereolson

            I believe the cumulative effect of anti-male “humor” can be damaging to boys in our society. On television men are almost exclusively the objects of denigrating humor and allegedly humorous violence (women slapping, kicking, punching) men. My concern is not with truly gentle humor but the kind of vicious put-downs aimed at males in general that are pervasive in popular culture today. As for the story i recounted about yhe morning talk show host: I offered it as one example of a trend in popular culture to treat males as worthless. You don’t help your own cause by pooh-poohing it or referring to my “male ego” in a caustic, sarcastic manner.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

            Dr. Olson– actually, I think this idea that fathers are worth “about seventy-five cents” is part of the imbedded patriarchy of our culture, which we imbibe without realizing it. It’s the same reason men are not taken seriously when they report abuse from women. It’s the same reason women are often given custody of children over men, even when the man is being a decent father and the woman an inadequate mother. The word “father”, deep down where we don’t even notice it, connotes a distant authority figure who works to provide, while all the care and nurture is wrapped up in the connotations of the word “mother.” But as far as abuse is concerned, the woman is considered weak and the man strong, so if he really wanted to stop her from abusing him, he could– and the fact that he doesn’t means he’s a “hen-pecked” wimp.
            It’s all still imbedded in our long-standing attitudes. And so this woman who said fathers are worth seventy-five sense was actually functioning as a perpetrator of patriarchy and sexism. Whether she meant to or not.

          • rogereolson

            Thanks. I agree with you in essence, but I wonder how helpful it is to continue calling dominating hierarcy “patriarchy.” I believe words use us as much as we use them and it seems to me that to forever link dominating hierarchy (which I oppose) “patriarchy” gives the impression (no doubt unintended by most who use it) that fatherhood itself is somehow bad and that oppressive domination (a tautology but said for emphasis) is unique to males.

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    Very nice review. Made me want to get the book. I hope it finds its way into the hands of some women who will be encouraged by it.

    I really have to ask about the end of your review, though: Why bring up feminists and the selective service? It has nothing to do with Evans or her book, and it feels like you’re wandering away down a rabbit trail on a rant because you have a personal ax to grind. And now it’s in danger of hijacking your comment thread. What gives?

  • John I.

    Though there are mixes and blends of various feminism, the types of feminism commonly recognized include:

    “liberal”, which is the the equality (especially legal and commercial) between men and women focussed type. Steinem (sp?) is usually grouped here.

    “socialist”, which sees the inequality as structural and so requires changes to the structure(s) of society

    “radical”, which is the type that has the “men are the problem”, “we don’t need men” type, and also wants (radical) societal changes. Was very popular last century (at least still to some degree in the 80′s when I was in various universities).

    “conservative”, which is similar to liberal (legal, social, commercial equality), but includes an emphasis on the availability of specifically feminine options such as child rearing or staying at home as legitimate options for women.

    “cultural feminism” – kinda the new name for radical feminism, but emphasizes the importance of culture in the oppression of women without being committed to marxist or socialist structuralism.

    And there are smaller groupings and focii, such as black feminism, eco-feminism (male approach threatens the environment / female approach is better), etc.

    A basic divide is between feminisms that are about fairness–a more individualist and rights oriented approach–and feminisms that seek to change society / culture and see male cultural structures as problematic. Not to say that either grouping is exclusive of the other, but there seem to me to be two major strands or approaches to the issue of women’s historical and current oppression. This was all quite a big deal when I went through law school, and still is for most law societies / bars because even though more women than male lawyers graduate there are more women dropouts post grad.

    An interesting, but dated article (I’m no longer up on literature) is Gordon Graham (1988) “Two Types of Feminism” (American Philosophical Quarterly). He makes the differentiation between fairness and liberation, as the two main clusters of ideas.

    • rogereolson

      As always, very helpful. I have been in academia for over thirty years and have interacted with and read numerous feminist authors. I divide them into two groups: egalitarians (men and women should enjoy equality in every area of life) and gender (women’s experience is morally superior to men’s and should be made normative for society). Because the word “feminism” has come to be so closely associated with the latter viewpoint I prefer to call myself egalitarian and talk about women’s liberation (as a positive).

      • lucrezaborgia

        “I have been in academia for over thirty years and have interacted with and read numerous feminist authors.”

        That’s the problem. You are in the ivory tower of academia where ideas and explorations are about 15-20 years behind what is actually going on today. With the internet, feminism has broadened out to include much more average people and with it, less radical ideals. I’ve never even heard of the second viewpoint being discussed in earnest and I’m 31 years old.

        • rogereolson

          I don’t take “feminism” to be whatever people say it is. I look to intellectual women to define it. Sorry that doesn’t satisfy you. But otherwise the term is simply too flexible.

          • Sue

            Well that is a delightful put down! You are full of surprises.

            I will say about Christianity that I look to intellectuals to define it. I will ignore what it means to the community, what it means to the church, what it means to society, and find a group who don’t get out much, and let them define it!

            Anyway, I love the way you have made it clear that those women such as myself, who are labeled feminist for believing in their own equality, are not “intellectual” women. I guess now that we believe in ourselves as equal on the basis of gender, we can still be demonstrated to be unequal on the basis of intellect.

          • rogereolson

            In my opinion this is an example of how men are often not allowed even to talk about feminism. Whatever we say is often given the worst spin possible. By “intellectuals” I meant professors and other academics who write books on feminist theory. I didn’t intend to exclude anyone, but just as with, for example “evangelical,” I don’t look to lay people to define it, even though what they think it means matters, so with “feminism” I look primarily to academics to define it. However, as I have confessed in another response, I admit my impressions may be unconsciously colored by popular expressions that do not do justice to authentic feminist theory.

          • rogereolson

            In my opinion this is an example of how men are often not allowed even to talk about feminism. Whatever we say is often given the worst spin possible. By “intellectuals” I meant professors and other academics who write books on feminist theory. I didn’t intend to exclude anyone, but just as with, for example “evangelical,” I don’t look to lay people to define it, even though what they think it means matters, so with “feminism” I look primarily to academics to define it. However, as I have confessed in another response, I admit my impressions may be unconsciously colored by popular expressions that do not do justice to authentic feminist theory

          • rogereolson

            In my opinion this is an example of how men are often not allowed even to talk about feminism. Whatever we say is often given the worst spin possible. By “intellectuals” I meant professors and other academics who write books on feminist theory. I didn’t intend to exclude anyone, but just as with, for example “evangelical,” I don’t look to lay people to define it, even though what they think it means matters, so with “feminism” I look primarily to academics to define it. However, as I have confessed in another response, I admit my impressions may be unconsciously influenced by popular expressions that do not do justice to authentic feminist theory.

          • rogereolson

            I apologize.

          • Sue

            Thank you. I am an older Christian woman whose life has been damaged in the worst ways by anti-female sentiment. And I still don’t think that men as a class are bad or negative or anything like that.

            I don’t know how feminists have damaged you, but perhaps you could have a more positive spin on women as a class, who do not believe in their own subordination, and have had to fight for basic human rights.

          • rogereolson

            If you knew me at all you would know that I have great sympathy for oppressed women and men. But i also reserve the right to point out flaws I see in movements with which I sympathize and identify myself–whatever they may be. I am a critical thinker and cannot suspend my critical thinking just because I consider a cause basically right and just.

  • http://thinktheology.org/?cat=748 Deborah

    Thanks for this review. As for: “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” Sometimes, sadly, we simply have no choice. Even quietly questioning the normatives and studying egalitarianism within these contexts can leave us high and dry relationally but with simply nowhere else to go if we want any Christian fellowship. Sigh.

    I was very disheartened by your experiences talking to a group of egals! I have many egal friends who I met online across the world, and most of them take umbrage at certain variations of feminism as well. It is puzzling and disturbing that you encountered that. However, as someone who does not have the benefit of egalitarian in-face fellowship, I know what it is like to need to swim in the egal message when I can in order to strengthen myself, heal, and be better equipped to handle the topic when it is necessary. CBE and similar groups do a tremendous service even if they do attract a sampling of men and women who have not yet begun their healing process or are not letting go of their bitterness.

  • Craig Wright

    Here are some suggestions. “Discovering Biblical Equality” eds. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee. I just got “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership” ed. Alan F. Johnson. This book has a good bibliography in the back.

  • http://blog.herreidbaptist.com Brandon Jones

    Roger,

    Thanks for telling us about this book. It looks interesting. My comment here is only to bring you and your readers to consider reading Sarah Sentilles’s essay “The Pen Is Mightier” from the latest Harvard Divinity Bulletin. It may have some helpful information on what to look for when people review and assess Evans’s book. Here’s the link: http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news-events/harvard-divinity-bulletin/articles/the-pen-is-mightier

    Brandon

  • andy

    I’m going to get this book. It sounds outstanding and will be a good change of routine from what I’m reading right now. It sounds like it will be inspiring to me as a husband,as well.

    And reading Piper’s view on this makes me sad, once again, for those I know who are under his influence. I wish they could break free from his deterministic empire.

    Your comment that “different roles” usually implies power is very good and too true.

  • Quartermaster

    The review really doesn’t tell me a lot about the book beyond “I need to read it.”

    Have seen both the complementarian position and egalitarian position (I too was raised in a Pentecostal denomination* that women as preachers and pastors, and was a member of another** that did as well and both now ordain them) and having given both positions consideration in the light of the biblical witness, I have come down on the complementarian side. I see no inconsistency in attempting to apply 1 Cor 11 or 1 Tim 2 in the modern church and, if one follows the full counsel of God, it is not a matter of “power.”

    What I have seen of so called “Evangelical Feminism” gives me the spiritual chills. That is about power, regardless of how much “God noise” they make.

    I won’t go beyond that as I think your blog is not the place to argue the matter. I do make the point that I came from two complimentarian denominations and after giving biblical consideration to matter have reached the conclusion they are wrong in the position they have adhered to.

    Having said that, I think both Piper and Grudem are silly in some of their positions, and you have pointed out one in your post. They are both dead wrong in their Calvinist soteriology and the fact they seem to be blind to their inconsistencies is not surprising given their blindness to the aberrations of their theology. Their position would be far stronger if they were more consistent, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    *Church of God, Cleveland, TN
    ** Assemblies of God

    • John I.

      And complementarianism is not about power?

      It is complementarianism that gives me the chills because it’s advocates and acolytes do distinctly want more power for men.

      • Quartermaster

        The mistake you make is judging the content of their hearts. In the end, you place yourself in the position of judging God’s word as well. It is not about power, but God’s order.

        All *ARE* equal before God, but that does not mean that God does not assign different roles. Paul’s position says that it is a matter of headship based on the order of creation. That one point is what the egalitarian seeks to avoid with all the means at their disposal. I would say, point blank, and in so many words, if complementarianism gives you the chills, then you have serious problems with Paul.

        And, no Timothy (see below) I have made no assumption one way or the other. I have simply have a very high opinion of scripture and allow it to speak without attempting to get it to conform to what I want it to say. As a consequence, I have changed several doctrinal positions as I have have grown in Christ. I don’t have to like what the word says, but I do have to accept it. One can not be both egalitarian and complementarian. Scripture does not allow it.

    • Timothy

      I like to think all sides of this debate seek to apply 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2:11ff. It is just they apply it differently because they understand the passages differently.
      The assumption of Quartermaster does seem to be that one side, the egalitarian side, does not.
      There is an extended blog on Faith in Ireland that interacts with competing view on 1 Tim 2 and one of the key arguments of the series of postings (11 in all) is that the egalitarians apply 1 Tim 2 more faithfully than the hierarchialists.
      And the language of complementarity fits better with an egalitarian position than with hierarchy. So it always irks me when people claim to complementarian as opposed to egalitarian. One can be both. And it is far less clear to me that one can be complementarian and hierarchialist.

      • rogereolson

        Of course here we have been using “complementarianism” to label the hierarchical view of conservative evangelicals.

        • Wayne Shaffer, Jr.

          Yes. That’s a frustrating thing. At the risk of reading motives, I consider it a deceptive and manipulative ploy on the part of those coined and defined the term.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      Yes, it’s about power. The power that some have, that they are clinging too, when Jesus said “not so among you.”
      As an egalitarian, I want men to lay down power– not so that I can grab it up, but so that it stops being about power.

      • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

        Sorry – I meant “clinging to.”

  • John Mark

    Do you have an email address? Or a way to ask you a question without seeming to hijack your blog post?

    • rogereolson

      Why not? Plenty are doing it! :)

      • Quartermaster

        I thought you were supposed to hijack threads. :-P

        • rogereolson

          You’re supposed to try and I’m supposed to prevent. :)

          • Quartermaster

            Spoil sport :-)

  • Kyndall

    Dr. Olson,

    Great review. But as a feminist and as a woman, I found your comment against feminist at the end unfair. I grant there may some “loud” feminists who appear anti-male, but what group of people deserves to be identified by their noisiest members? (As Baptists, we can all relate to this problem.)

    I would even go so far as to agree that part of feminism IS helping men become more feminine . . . not to “obliterate” masculinity as you said but to balance it with the feminine side. My perspective is that patriarchy is pervasive enough to have penetrated our psyche: men as well as women exaggerate the masculine portion of their spirit to an unhealthy degree and silence the feminine. Men and women both would benefit from being less of afraid of their “feminine” side.

    Feminism is not about feminine “superiority,” and I think you are treating it far too dismissively. I think men need to tread carefully here, as you are not the ones who’ve endured centuries of silence: sometimes it is just harder to know what you are talking about because it isn’t your experience so much as it is ours. I am not saying this as a “power-hungry” feminist, and hopefully you know me well enough to know that. I am just trying to be honest.

    I say this with all respect, because I admire you greatly and you are a terrific professor. Also, I really did like the rest of the review very much.

    • rogereolson

      Thanks, Kyndall. I appreciate your gentle correction. I did try to make clear that my objection to feminism depends much on how it is defined. I am only opposed to radical feminism.

      • Kyndall

        Thanks Dr. Olson. It was just that your comment “it [feminism] too often means the total obliteration of masculinity” feels to us feminists the equivalent of saying “Baptists are too often like Westboro Baptists.” I know you support the full equality of women, so no complaints there. I do think feminists deserve more respect. Thanks!

    • John I.

      Also, one has to recognize that the term “feminism” when used without modifiers is ambiguous and so could require more qualification. It is widely and generally recognized that there are several distinct kinds of feminism.

  • Sue

    I have to say that I am broken hearted. Feminism has always meant to me the right to not be raped by a husband, as well as laws to prevent domestic violence. How I wish I had embraced feminism before I was so badly assaulted and deprived of the most basic of human rights.

    • rogereolson

      “Feminism” is more than that. One does not have to be a feminist to be against those things.

      • Sue

        What term would one use then? Egalitarian is a term which came a little late in the day, and is restricted to the Christian subculture. Egalitarians did not influence government for women to have equal rights to men. I cannot thank egalitarians for the laws which mean that women can be free from violence in marriage. First, women need to be free from violence and able to support themselves. They need basic human rights. And we need to recognize that it is feminists, those who believe in the equality of women who got women these rights.

        • rogereolson

          I thought I said I am completely in favor of and supportive of women’s liberation. I said that alongside “egalitarianism” knowing that the latter is distinctively Christian. In the secular sphere I support full equal rights and empowerment (self-determination) for women.

          • Sue

            I grew up in this culture so I am not a foreigner. In my experience, women’s libbers are awkward women who rejected wearing bras. That’s about all I know about them.

            But feminists are people, both men and women, who contributed to changing the laws so that women would not suffer so much.

            Regarding egalitarians, I am not aware of egalitarians making any changes to the law. I am talking about the things women need first, before they need recognition as seminary students. I am referring to basic safety in the home, from violence and rape. Women also need to be able to go to university, earn money, and save, and plan for retirement. It was early feminists who agitated for women to go to university. No women’s libbers that I know. The term women’s libber is just not going to stretch to cover what feminists did in getting women the vote, changing property laws, divorce laws, domestic violence laws, etc.

            I think it is a luxury to think of egalitarianism, being treated as an equal in the church – but feminism means there are laws that say a woman should not experience violence in her own home. So, somehow, for me, as a woman who needed those laws, I feel that I am now outside the boundaries of what a Christian woman can be, and somehow, I am not acceptable.

            But young women, who have not yet experienced the need for these laws, and are only seeking recognition in a seminary, may be comforted by egalitarianism. I am sorry to be one of those women who needed basic laws in my favour. I guess, as someone who accepted the label of feminist, a woman who does not believe in her own subordination, I am now not welcome in the evangelical world.

          • rogereolson

            I think there is a difference between women’s liberation/equal rights for women/empowerment of women and philosophical/theological feminism. But, as we are finding out again, “feminism” is an essentially contested concept. Before I identify with it I need to know what is meant.

          • Sue

            There are Christians who have very awkward beliefs, beliefs that many of us repudiate. But we don’t reject the label “Christian” for that reason. Likewise, there may be some feminists who do things that we disagree with, but that seems to be no reason to reject the term feminist.

            We need to distinguish between saying “men” do this or that, for example “men rape” but how much better to say “some men rape” or “a few men rape” and keep the term “men” as a respectable label. Likewise “a few feminists” do some very strange things, but ” feminists” are those who act to promote the equality of women.

            Since I naively did not reject the term feminist, which in every definition, refers to the equality of women, I found myself called many crude things. There is a deep Antipathy to women who believe in their own equality. I left complementarianism to find myself booted out of evangelicalism altogether, because I protested the violence of my life under hierarchy.

            I feel now no more accepted as a women by many egalitarians than I was by complementarians. But in my case, there was no choice. I had to engage with the law, and move into a place of physical safety. And in doing so, I neglected to vociferously reject “feminism” – after all – only feminists helped me put. Only feminists changed the laws. Feminists are those who say to society as a whole that women are equal.

            I feel deeply hurt by this post and wonder if there is a place in evangelicalism for women who have to engage with the law in order to keep themselves safe from assault.

          • rogereolson

            I certainly hope so, but, of course, much depends on how one defines “evangelicalism.” :)

  • Tom

    “How about A Year of Consistent Feminism? Maybe one month would be devoted to lobbying congress to change the law to require young women to register for the draft! I don’t see it happening.”

    Well, it’s not the same but an interesting book has just come out called The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek. He’s a conservative fundamentalist who spends a year living life as a gay man.

  • http://www.mariuslombaard.net Marius

    didn’t know about this title. it will go on my wishlist along with Dr. Payne’s “Man and Woman: One in Christ”

  • Joshua Wooden

    Roger, have you had a chance to read two posts on Desiring God reviewing the book by a woman named Trillia Newbell? If you haven’t I’m curious how you would respond. Here are the links (in order):

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-year-of-biblical-womanhood-a-review

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/biblical-womanhood-and-the-problem-of-the-old-testament?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DGBlog+%28Desiring+God+Blog%29

    • rogereolson

      Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read other blogs. Occasionally I peruse some, but rarely that one. But thanks for the suggestion. I’m sorry that time prevents me from reading and responding.

      • Joshua Wooden

        It’s okay, I know that you’re busy. I was just curious, really.

    • John I.

      Sheesh, and talk about using a hermeneutic of suspicion and unquestioned assumptions in a so-called review of a book, “But I fear she will actually have the greatest impact on those who are already sympathetic to her undermining of the truthfulness and sufficiency and relevance of the Bible, those who are already suspicious of Christianity, and who are already prone to deny that God has designed a special and beautiful role for women in marriage.”

      Rhetorically I ask, “can’t one disagree without accusing the other of ‘ truthfulness and sufficiency and relevance of the Bible’?”

  • http://eatatlevis.blogspot.com Steven McCurdy

    I will have to add this book to the pile of books I want to read.

    I am a hopeful egalitarian. Sometimes I get confused when reading the Bible but I ultimately can’t stand complementarianism (as taught by most).

    Any other books to recommend?

    • rogereolson

      Another commenter here offered some recommendations with which I concur: John Stackhouse’s Finally Feminist and Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet. Beyond those I recommend an older book: What’s Right with Feminism by Elaine Storkey. While I don’t call myself “feminist,” Storkey’s feminism is one I can embrace. Unfortunately, I don’t think it represents the general ethos of secular feminism or what most people mean by “feminism.” Still, if it is what feminism means, then I affirm and embrace it.

      • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

        I think it’s important to remember that in many sects of Christianity, particularly evangelicalism, “feminism” is a bad word, and self-identifying as a feminist can have negative consequences. It’s not surprising that the word has a negative “feel” for those who were raised hearing it used practically in the same way “the devil” is used. It’s also not surprising that they have a negative impression of what “feminist” means, or that they would want to distance themselves from that word.
        Personally, I often identify myself as a Christian egalitarian when talking to evangelicals, and as a Christian feminist when talking to everyone else. This is because non-evangelicals largely don’t know what “Christian egalitarian” means, and to them “feminist” is generally not a bad word.
        It’s too bad that feminism has been vilified in this way, but I think some understanding is due to those who are trying their best to be feminists while interacting mainly in environments where it has already been vilified.

        As far as the general ethos of secular feminism is concerned, my interactions with it in daily life have mostly been very positive. It’s only a small sect that I have found to be anti-male.

        • John I.

          Interesting, and good, points.

  • Pingback: The Scariest Thing I Have Ever Written « kyndallrae

  • Jon

    Roger,

    It is very sad, yet revealing, to see the consequences of what happens when you try to embrace the world and hold on still to some vestiges of Biblical adherence in the process. The result: you have only succeeded in making the world mad (as judging by the vehemence coming from the militant feminists that are berating you) in your attempt to compromise with them. And at the same time, you have dishonored the thrice holy God (and anyone who sticks to His Word) by completely throwing away the Biblical role distinctions God put in place.

    This verse seems appropriate: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24).

    It seems you have chosen the world’s definition of sex roles. Why not just go with it 100% and quit pretending to hold to the Bible?

    • rogereolson

      In my opinion, it is your view my feminist friends should be criticizing, not mine. Some of them don’t know a friend when they meet one. While I don’t prefer the label “feminism,” I do affirm women’s full liberation and empowerment based on the ministry of Jesus Christ and Paul’s affirmation that in Christ there is neither male nor female. On the one hand, for daring to criticize some inconsistencies I think I see among feminists, I get condemned by them. On the other hand, for daring to side with feminists with regard to complete equality of men and women in every area of life, I get condemned by you and your kind. Oh well. Such is the life of an opinionated blogger! :)

      • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

        “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful,” the Proverb says. Does criticizing you mean they are not your friends?
        Have any of those taking issue with your definition of feminism or certain word choices you made in your opening post, condemned you? I didn’t see it. On the other hand, Jon has just stated that you are trying to embrace the world and only holding onto “vestiges” of Biblical adherence. He has accused you of dishonoring God. He has called you a hypocrite by saying you are only “pretending” to the Bible.

        Jon, a hierarchalist complementarian, has just condemned you. Not one of your other commenters has done so. Why paint those who disagree with your choice of words, with the same brush as one who claims God Himself is displeased with you?

        I know it’s hard when you fundamentally agree with a group of people on an issue, to have them take issue with one particular thing you said or the way you worded something. But though I understood what you were getting at in the way you described feminism, I did think it was somewhat clumsily worded and sounded more negative than I think you may have meant.

        Just my two cents.

        • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

          Sorry– typo. That should have said:
          “pretending” to hold to the Bible.

        • Jon

          Roger & Krword,

          You both sure do assume a lot. The only hint I gave of my position is that I hold to “Biblical role distinctions.” Are you both saying there are NO role distinctions? None? Why then did God create men and women different? And why would role inequality equate to inequality of essence?

          • rogereolson

            I have said it several times. Are you not reading me? I have said loudly and somewhat vociferously that, generally speaking, only males can be fathers (a role) and only females can be mothers (a role). In emergencies one sex may have to stand in for the other, but it is best for a child to have a father (male) and a mother (female). In cases of single parenthood, I think it is good for a child to have a surrogate parent (aunt, uncle, friend, grandparent) of the other sex.

          • Jon

            Roger,

            Okay, you are saying there are distinct roles. Then, why would you disagree with my statement? All I said is that I believe in Biblical role distinctions. Wouldn’t you also affirm this?

            I have no doubt that we would have SHARP differences in the specific role distinctions, but my simple point is that I can’t see how you could so sharply disagree with me based on the small amount of information I gave. That’s all I’m saying.

            KRW called my a “hierarchical complementarian” based on my brief words. How could she judge this off my brief statement? Now, she is right of course :) But I am surprised how quickly she cast judgment. What if I were to call her a liberal militant feminazi based on her brief arguments? My guess is she would get pretty offended.

          • rogereolson

            I assume she (like I) knows you from other things you’ve posted here. But what does it matter if she (and I) were right? I don’t understand your reaction.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

            Jon, it is my experience that everyone I have ever talked to who holds to “Biblical role distrinctions” is a hierarchical complementarian– meaning that they believe men are to be in authority in the church and home, and women are to be under authority in those areas. If this is not your position, please clarify. But I really don’t think it is unreasonable of me to believe that you were identifying your position with the words “Biblical role distinctions.” Those who use that term do not mean, in my experience, that men and women wear different hats that they can put on or remove at will. They mean men are the leaders, women are the followers, always and without exception, in the home and church.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

            Jon– in what sense is “hierarchical complementarian” in any way the same sort of language as “liberal militant feminazi”? I’m frankly confused. I would have said that “hierarchical complementarian” is simply an objective description of what you believe. Pejoratives like “militant” and “nazi” are completely missing from that.
            If I’d wanted to be pejorative, I could have used terms like “extremist male supremacist patriarchalist.” I did not.
            So if you don’t want to be called a “hiearchical complementarian,” what would you prefer your position be called? You believe that males and females are in complementary roles in which a hierarchy exists. How is that not purely descriptive?

    • Joshua Wooden

      Jon, the feminists have been criticizing Olson because they don’t understand. If they did – they would just continue to criticize complementariness (as they already do). Apart from that – you’re just wrong. Egalitarianism IS faithful to the Bible as the Word of God. I’m not going to get into yet another long, drawn out debate here, but read their books instead of assuming they don’t care about the Bible. Read Blue Parakeet or something like it.

    • John I.

      Who is compromising? In my opinion your view is a compromise to western culture, to american culture, and to non-Christian ideas and views, whereas Olson is being faithful to scripture and Jesus’ view of women. The fact that his view has some surface similarities to feminist views respecting women’s abilities and rights does not indicate compromise. Reading and reflecting on his various posts and books indicates that the reasons he holds to his positions vis a vis women are based on fundamentally different assumptions and arguments from radical and structural feminists.

      • Jon

        John,

        So you think role distinctions were invented by American culture? You don’t think they existed during Biblical times? Hmm, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that.

        When the apostle Paul commands that only men are to be pastors and elders, is he not delineating role distinctions?

        • rogereolson

          But this has been answered already! Are we just going to go around and around it without engaging with the answers given? That’s what’s happening, I fear. Read every response to one of your messages and when a question you’ve raised is answered, engage with the answer. Don’t just ask the question again.

  • EZK

    Thanks for your review of RHE’s book.
    But the last couple of paragraphs of the blog entry are a little off-putting. I think the reason your talk was not well received is because you made wrong assumptions about the beliefs of your audience. Christian egalitarians don’t generally believe in female superiority. So you were telling them what they already believed, but as if they didn’t believe it. I thoroughly agree that interdependence is Christian egalitarian, that egalitarians can and should celebrate male and female differences. Thanks for writing. I enjoy reading your blog.

    • rogereolson

      That wasn’t my impression from the feedback afterwards. I was told by some that there is no place for talk about interdependence when full equality is not yet universal. I made clear that I was for full equality but had been in Christian contexts where full equality was already achieved without any real sense of interdependence. I won’t say it’s true of all feminists (I’m sure it isn’t), but I have met feminists (including Christian ones) who will gladly affirm that men are dependent on women (to be fully human) but bristle at any suggestion that women are dependent on men (for their full humanity). I was talking about “in the church,” “in the Body of Christ.” Not in secular society. I have no problem with a woman choosing to be totally independent of men in the secular world, although I think God made us for each other. But in the church and Christian organizations, we should structure our common life in ways that affirm our dependence on each other. For example, I am opposed to “Women’s Churches” just as I am opposed to churches for “men only.” (Both exist.)

      • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

        Part of what is going on here, I think, is that women’s resistance to being told she is dependent on men springs from centuries, even millenia, of being forced into dependence on men and then told that this was her nature. Being unable to support herself outside of marriage except by prostitution. Being unable to enter into a legal transaction without a male co-signer.
        I agree that Christianity teaches that men and women are interdependent– but also that each individual finds life in Christ alone, that singleness is a honorable way to serve God– in short, that men and women are also independent. But it can be hard to hear the language of dependence as a woman when it has so often been used as a weapon against you– and it doesn’t necessarily make you anti-male or female-supremacist.
        Your understanding is appreciated.

        • rogereolson

          Of course, when I spoke about “Beyond Equality to Interdependence” I acknowledged all of that. I only wished to correct the ideas SOME women (and men) have that men and women have no need of each other even in the Body of Christ. Have you heard of “Women Churches?” Now there are also churches for men only. For a while I attended a church where women did everything; men were not exactly excluded but were allowed to sit back and do very little as women took leadership. In my opinion, that’s no better than a church led only by men.

          • EZK

            “I was told by some that there is no place for talk about interdependence when full equality is not yet universal.”
            Wow! I assumed it was common sense that the goal of Christian egalitarianism is interdependence: no battle of the sexes, no one gender winning, just mutual submission and mutual encouragement. Overcorrect and you run the car off the road.

  • John Mark

    My question is a bit off topic, and may be out of line, but I’ll ask anyway. I haven’t read Rachel’s book, but have read a bit about it, including what she reports on her own blog as to the fact that Lifeway has (to my most recent knowledge) refused to carry it. I’m wondering if their reluctance is because of the use of a certain anatomical reference, or to not wanting to endorse her in general. I came from a pretty much egalitarian background, though *very* conservative and understand the desire to want to escape from fundamentalism: still, reading Rachels’ blog (which is always well written, demonstrating a fine mind, and a depth of knowledge on whatever the topic is) disturbs me. It is not so much what she writes, but her “Ask” series, which recently gave a platform to a man who emasculated himself and now is a self-described ‘transgender Christian’….whatever in the world that is, and the fact that this is considered…..completely *normal* really gives me pause. My question is, to be blunt, where do you stand on gender issues? This may be too personal, and if so, I can accept that. But Rachel, as much sense as she makes most of the time, makes me nervous. I don’t know why when we walk away from a pharisaical position we seem to drift toward extreme libertarianism/liberalism. I find myself hesitant to ‘endorse’ her (not that she needs my endorsement or will suffer without it :) ) because of this. Any thoughts?

    • rogereolson

      I haven’t read her blog, but as a blogger myself I sometimes offer a platform for people with whom I do not entirely agree. So I don’t judge a blogger by what others say on their blog. I wouldn’t want to be judged by everything even some of my guest bloggers have said. Sure Evans makes people nervous. What’s wrong with that? We all need to be made nervous. How else do we grow? Being nervous doesn’t mean agreeing or disagreeing (necessarily). Some things in A Year of Biblical Womanhood made me nervous, especially her use of the word “penis.” :)

  • http://eastofmidnight.wordpress.com Kim Hampton

    Just because someone stays stuck, does that make their original analysis wrong?

    Yes…Mary Daly was a radical feminist. Yes…she stayed stuck in the 1970s feminism that she was shaping. But should that discount her work in “The Church and the Second Sex” (1968) and “Beyond God the Father” (1973)?

    That whole “first” generation of women theologians/philosophers/theorist were radical. They had to be. Yet most of them moved beyond that. I think it’s a real disservice to yourself to not see that just because somebody is radical at one point, doesn’t mean that their actual argument is wrong. (And I think grossly mis-characterizes “The End of Men” and “Are Men Necessary?”)

    While everybody is recommending that you read bell hooks (and I agree that she is fabulous), I think that you might be better off reading Womanist theology like “Sisters in the Wilderness” by Delores Williams, “Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope” by Emilie Townes, “Battered Love” by Renita Weems, and “Making a Way Out of No Way” by Monica A. Coleman.

    Or if you want to go there, read “Journeys By Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power” by Rita Nakashima Brock, “Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us” by Rita and Rebecca Parker, and “Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixtion and Empire” by Rita and Rebecca.

    I think it’s not the definition of “feminist” or “feminism” that is causing the problem; it’s the definition of “radical”.

    • rogereolson

      Well, thank you. (I have read some of those womanist authors, by the way. My forthcoming book on modern theology will contain some paragraphs about womanist theology within the overall discussion of feminist and black theologies. My main “mentor,” if you will, in womanist theology was Patricia Hill Collins, author of (among other things) Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment.) I say thank you because you confirm (perhaps unintentionally) why I don’t call myself “feminist.” Why would these feminists want me, a man, to be one of them? Mary Daly, for example, wrote (among many things) that she is “finally, furiously, anti-male.” She refused to allow men into her classes. One cannot read her writings without getting the impression that she hates men. I don’t consider all or even the best of feminism that way. However, I thank you because you have given me some support for explaining why I’m not a feminist. While “contemporary,” “cutting edge” feminist may not be like that, you are right, I judge, that to a very great extent that kind of feminism is still around and colors how most of the world regards “feminism.” I prefer to identify myself with women’s liberation, women’s empowerment, full equality of women and men, egalitarianism. But when I read most feminist authors, with a hermeneutic of charity but also an eye of suspicion (looking for the subtext meanings of the words) I recognize a sentiment that “women’s experience” is normative for moral social conduct and organization. There are exceptions, of course, such as Elaine Storkey who I suspect most secular and many liberal Christian feminists would reject as too mild.

      • Kim Hampton

        Mary Daly stayed stuck; no doubt about that. Yet…while she didn’t want men in her advanced classes, she offered to tutor those men who did want to learn what she was teaching in those advanced classes. So even that is more nuanced than what it seems. How much of her strident-ness was caused by her being at Boston College for so long? We’ll never know.

        Here’s the real question: why are you painting all feminists with the Mary Daly brush? Even Mary Daly said that not all feminists were going to be like her. Feminism has many different faces; just as patriarchy has many different faces. And each face has it’s place.

        I still believe that it’s not the definition of “feminist” and “feminism” that’s causing your discomfort…it’s the definition of “radical”.

        • rogereolson

          I’m not painting all feminists with the Mary Daly brush. I mentioned her as a radical feminist, not typical of feminism in general.

      • Sue

        I don’t know about Mary Daly, but some women really have lived lives absolutely drenched in violence. It is hard to move forward if men keep on dumping on them as “feminists.”

        • rogereolson

          True. The problem of domestic violence has mainly affected women as victims. However, society is still largely unaware of and unwilling to take seriously the fact that some men are also victims of domestic violence–especially boys beaten by their fathers (and sometimes their mothers) and older brother and husbands smacked, punched, kicked by their wives. (Dr. Phil devoted an entire show to husbands whose wives beat them up. In at least one case the wife was much larger than the husband and admitted she might kill him. There was no particular reason for it, either. She just had issues of rage. Dr. Phil had nothing but sympathy for the wife in that case, telling her he would get help for what must be a hormone imbalance. In the meantime he didn’t say anything to the husband about how to protect himself (e.g., leave!). I have known young men whose wives beat on them–sometimes in the middle of the night while they were sleeping. Invariably they found no help from social workers or law enforcement.

          • Sue

            First, I know much more about the abuse of sons by their fathers than any human should. I know almost nothing about Dr. Phil, so that doesn’t interest me much.

            But let’s assume that Dr. Phil is an American, and he says things that we both disagree with . Now, are we goIng to say that as a class of people, Americans are reprehensible?

            If you wish to alienate, exclude and silence women who have been seriously abused under hierarchy, that would be your choice. You are free to do that, but please be aware that you are dIng that.

            Regarding men who are abused, I don’t think they have the same risk of being killed, so the social supports aren’t as extensive. However, I do think that there should be much more support for men who feel the need to divorce. No one should suffer abuse, man or woman! The church really needs to change its attitude about divorce in cass of abuse of both wives AND husbands.

          • rogereolson

            I’m saying that society as a whole needs to extend to (those admittedly fewer) men who are abused (by men or women) the same safety net that is evolving for women: police sensitivity and protection, shelter, apprehension of the abuser. As it is, very few boys or men who are abused ever say anything because society generally does not regard them as potential victims. Their claims of victimhood are generally rejected as spurious.

          • Sue

            “I’m saying that society as a whole needs to extend to (those admittedly fewer) men who are abused (by men or women) the same safety net that is evolving for women: police sensitivity and protection, shelter, apprehension of the abuser.”

            I unequivocally agree with you, and I have no harsh or negative words for those who advocate for men. In my job I must act equally for males and females.

            I personally have had two strong advocating/lobbying roles in my life, one for First Nations and the other for the autistic. I am concerned that both males and females be able to live lives of full inclusion and safety.

            However, in my personal life, I have been the victim of male violence, and the church has been less than helpful – much less. I don’t regard the churches that I have known in the past as extending safety or normalcy to women.

            So it is quite important on your part to advocate for men and their safety, but to exclude women who have benefitted from the equality that feminists have brought about for women is regrettable.

            I am glad to see your post of today. Thanks.

          • rogereolson

            I don’t see how I have “excluded women” who have advocated for female victims of male violence by criticizing feminism as a philosophy. Surely a person can advocate for women and especially female victims of male violence without adopting a philosophy that makes women’s experience normative for good and decent humanity. That has been my experience of feminist theology, but I’m open to learning that the majority of feminists do not believe that if that’s the case.

          • Sue

            It is not a matter of making a woman’s perspective normative, but it is about the struggle to get men to see that women have any perspective at all.

            You suggest that women can choose what church to attend, but any woman in a hierarchical marriage, or complementarian marriage, cannot choose to attend an egalitarian church. They probably are not allowed continuing education or reading material outside of a prescribed list. They may lack very basic human rights and freedoms. I just don’t see this perspective represented or understood by many men. So women struggle to express what it means to be a woman.

            At least half the books I read are by men, but what about the books men read?

          • rogereolson

            At risk of aggravating you further I will simply say that most feminist theory I have read (most of it in the realm of theology) implies to me that women’s persprctives on being good and decent human beings are normative. I doubt they would admit it and many are probably unconscious of it but that is the underlying message that comes across to me and many others who read and study their works. In other words it goes beyond equality and empowerment to elevating one gender’s experiences and perspectives over the other’s as normative for everyone such that a man can only be considered good and decent as a human being by shedding his basic male habits of heart (not just oppressive ones) and becoming female-like. A few years ago Newsweek published a cover story entitled The Boy Crisis in which an educator said contemporary schools tend to treat boys as “defective girls.”

  • http://www.robstarner.com Rob Starner

    Roger, I am grateful that one of my students drew my attention to this blogpost. Having read most of the posts on this thread, I offer a few observations and comments. First, it seems to me that the vitriolic tone of respondents who chided you for marginalizing their view by mischaracterization (a power move) suggests they might benefit from removing the plank from their eyes before trying to sweep the sawdust from yours. Ad hominem attacks may carry the appearance of “winning a debate,” but when the dust settles arguments stand or fall on their own merits or demerits. Significantly, calling a person to accounts nearly always implies an authority source from which to make such indictments–often the unspoken source is the plaintiff her/himself. For me, your original post made it clear that you were not painting all feminist views with the same brush. Second, having wrestled with the gender issue for most of my academic career (and indeed for most of my adult life in general), I still find myself unable to claim a single, definitive and “authoritative” solution. I am dissatisfied with some of the conclusions of both complimentarians and egalitarians. I am uncomfortable with any view that suggests a diminution of being for either of the genders, and I am equally uncomfortable with the complete abandonment of a hierarchical model for relationships between (male and female!) spouses. I see three fundamental and interrelated cruxes to the issue of relationships between the genders, and I submit them for critique: (1) to equate subordination with inferiority is a grave mistake; such an equation makes subordination difficult to accept. The mayor of a city is not necessarily more attractive, intelligent, wise, faithful, hardworking, etc. than the janitor who cleans the town hall toilets; she simply has a different function. (2) to view (a strictly and divinely delegated) authority as the right to achieve one’s personal desires by coercion is also a critical error. The divine model of leadership (including that exemplified by Jesus) has always been by invitation, servanthood, and self-sacrifice, not by coercion. (3) it is a mistake to view gender as an “add-on” attachment to “personhood.” Maleness and femaleness have dimensions that include but surely go beyond the “plumbing.” Is there value in considering whether God may have “wired” men and women in different but complementary ways for different but complementary purposes? The hierarchical model of family relationships that views the father as the head of the home and the children as subordinate to both the mother and the father offers children the best preparation for life beyond their home. By relating to her husband as the head of the home, the mother models for the children how to relate to those in authority (respect and submission, but not tolerating abuse). By administrating authority in the way commanded by God (not abuse or coercion, but servanthood and self-sacrifice), the father models for the children how to relate to those who eventually will be under their authority. It seems to me that deviations from this model–or the absence of it altogether–engender a generation that is disrespectful and rebellious to legitimate authority and, on the other end, abusive and despotic in relationships with their subordinates.

    • John Mark

      I wish your comment would have come way earlier in this thread, I would love to read some informed responses to it. Of course the whole thing seemed to get side tracked by accusing Roger of misrepresenting feminism….

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      Rob Starner said:
      “to equate subordination with inferiority is a grave mistake; such an equation makes subordination difficult to accept. The mayor of a city is not necessarily more attractive, intelligent, wise, faithful, hardworking, etc. than the janitor who cleans the town hall toilets; she simply has a different function.”

      As an egalitarian, I don’t equate subordination per se with inferiority. I equate subordination by one’s nature at birth with inferiority. In the modern Western world, no one is telling that janitor that she was born to be a janitor; that God designed her for janitor-ness, and that she is in rebellion against God if she tries to become something other than a janitor. But these are all things that complementarian Christianity tells a woman: that she was born to be subordinate to her husband; that God designed her for subordination (only they call it something like “joyful support of his leadership”); and that she is in rebellion against God if she wants joint leadership in the home.

      This is the problem with referring to the authority-subordination view as “gender roles.” A “role” is what a janitor plays. When she’s on the job, she’s a janitor. When she goes home, she gets to wear a different hat. The hat is not permanently stuck to her head. Her boss stops being in authority over her the minute she stamps her timesheet “out.” He doesn’t live in her home as her authority 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out, as long as they both shall live.
      “Gender roles” are not roles. They are castes. No matter how servant-like or self-sacrificing he is, he is still in the higher caste, and she is in the lower caste. And that’s called “inferiority.”

    • Wayne Shaffer, Jr.

      RS: “I see three fundamental and interrelated cruxes to the issue of relationships between the genders, and I submit them for critique: ”

      WS: I accept the challenge.

      RS: “(1) to equate subordination with inferiority is a grave mistake; such an equation makes subordination difficult to accept. The mayor of a city is not necessarily more attractive, intelligent, wise, faithful, hardworking, etc. than the janitor who cleans the town hall toilets; she simply has a different function.”

      WS: Rejoinder: Certainly subordination in authority does not equate to intrinsic authority. However, if a condition of one’s birth, specifically, one’s sex, necessarily places one in position of hierarchy of authority above or below those of the other sex, then claims of “equality of value” ring hollow. “Sure, all people are of equal value. But you darkies go on and move to the back of the bus.”

      RS: “(2) to view (a strictly and divinely delegated) authority as the right to achieve one’s personal desires by coercion is also a critical error. The divine model of leadership (including that exemplified by Jesus) has always been by invitation, servanthood, and self-sacrifice, not by coercion.”

      WS: This is a good point, and it is one most so-called “complementarians” espouse — whether or not they actually live up to it. But IMO it misses a couple of important points:

      (a) To what extent is such a “divinely delegated authority” really supposed to characterize relationships in the home and in the Church?

      (b) To what extent is that “authority” apportioned based solely on sex?

      RS: “(3) it is a mistake to view gender as an ‘add-on’ attachment to ‘personhood.’ Maleness and femaleness have dimensions that include but surely go beyond the ‘plumbing.’ Is there value in considering whether God may have ‘wired’ men and women in different but complementary ways for different but complementary purposes?”

      WS: It is probably true in broad general terms that men and women differ beyond mere issues of “plumbing.” Men are typically larger, have a higher percentage of bodyweight as muscle, have proportionally greater upper body strength. I believe some studies have indicated that children have somewhat different “play” styles depending on their sex, and that women tend to be better at “multitasking,” while men tend to be better at “focusing.” To the extent that any of those things are true, they are true only in general, not in all cases. And even if they were true in all cases, none of them equates to one sex being inherently better suited to “leadership.”

      RS: “The hierarchical model of family relationships that views the father as the head of the home and the children as subordinate to both the mother and the father offers children the best preparation for life beyond their home. By relating to her husband as the head of the home, the mother models for the children how to relate to those in authority (respect and submission, but not tolerating abuse). By administrating authority in the way commanded by God (not abuse or coercion, but servanthood and self-sacrifice), the father models for the children how to relate to those who eventually will be under their authority. It seems to me that deviations from this model–or the absence of it altogether–engender a generation that is disrespectful and rebellious to legitimate authority and, on the other end, abusive and despotic in relationships with their subordinates.”

      WS: Rejoinder: First, it is worth noting that the expression, “head of the home” does not occur in Scripture.

      Second, it is worth noting that in those places where “head” does occur, it is not at all clear that it means “leader.”

      Third, the logic of your view results in children learning that ideally, women *always* submit to men.

      Fourth, it misses the point that “in Christ,” “in the Spirit,” the ideal is “mutuality” — cooperation, colaboration, interdependence. The one to “lead” in any situation should be the one best gifted to do so.

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  • Bob

    ‘Evans quotes Piper’s response to a question about popular female teachers like Beth Moore. He affirmed it’s okay for Christian men to listen to her speak unless they become too dependent on her as their “shepherd-teacher.” Evans concludes “In other words, a Christian man can learn from a Christian woman, so long as he doesn’t learn too much.” ‘

    This is misguided on Piper’s part and Evans’ part. Is there really anything that Moore has taught that is not taught clearly in the Bible or is not articulated by some other theologian?

    Whatever someone might “learn” from Moore, he’d have to validate it with scripture (as the sole infallible guide) and with other theologians, at which point he should just stop listening to popular teachers altogether. That is the real question that must be asked.

    The fortunate thing about cases like this is that “feminist” preachers and theologians have never, even on the practical level, posed a serious dilemma for the question of complementarians:
    Usually feminist preachers wander off the ranch, as is the case with the Episcopalians.
    So Evans’ is implying a false dichotomy: “either learn from female preachers or be incomplete in your theological education”. Which is nonsense. Usually you will find heresy (ex. herchurch.org, Nadia Bolz-Webber, Karen Armstrong, Carter Heyward, Jefferts-Schori etc.) or if you do manage to find a barely orthodox female teacher, you can get the same teachings presented in the Bible, or by others that won’t violate complementarianism.

    I guess I don’t get what point Evans is trying to make above.

    • rogereolson

      And I don’t get why you don’t get it. If what Piper is teaching is simply God’s Word why listen to HIM?

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      And what this seems to be saying is there is nothing a woman could possibly teach you that you don’t already know; no perspective she could have that you couldn’t figure out for yourself; no insight she could share that God shouldn’t and wouldn’t just give you directly.
      Which, apparently, you wouldn’t say about male teachers.
      Wow. I guess as far as spirituality is concerned, we women might as well not exist. We’re completely superfluous. God never reveals anything to us that He might want us to share with anyone besides children and other women. And yet He considers us equal?
      Go figure.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/RACHELonREPORT RACHELonREPORT

    Thank you for your thoughts! It’s truly refreshing to hear a man in support of egalitarianism–and in support of this book. Will you help us get Rachel Held Evans on The Colbert Report (her dream show!) by joining our movement? Find us on facebook at Rachel on the Report or on twitter: @RACHELonREPORT.

    • rogereolson

      I would love to see that!

  • Oliver P.

    Roger,

    you say in your initial post: “…, fall into inconsistencies bordering on silliness in trying to apply 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 to contemporary life.”

    Just to correctly understand what you mean: Why should it be silly to do what the Bible says to Believers?

    • rogereolson

      You distort my meaning. I did not say it borders on silliness to do what the Bible says. I said the extremes to which some complementarians go in trying to apply those biblical passages to, for example, contemporary secular work (e.g., Christian women should not have jobs where they give orders to men). I won’t post any more messages from you (or anyone) who intentionally distorts my words and obvious meanings.

      • Oliver P.

        I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to distort your meaning. Maybe I just got that part of the sentence wrong, I understood it as if the applying of those passages to contemporary life in itself borders on silliness. I should have read the text less superficially and within its complete context.

        It’s perfectly OK if you don’t post my reply or any other messages from me, it’s your blog after all. Sorry again for bothering you.

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  • Neal Piwowarski

    As a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I have seen extremes from scholars (not to mention, glaring examples of eisegesis) on both sides of the ‘women in leadership’ debate, as I like to call it. I find that you and I have reached many of the same conclusions regarding the issues involved, Dr. Olson. While people will either agree or disagree with Evans’ book is not the real issue. I’m more concerned, as are other believers, that Evans will unwittingly become a pawn for the secular media to use in its attempt to ridicule the OT law in particular and Christianity in general. Atheists and secularists are already resorting to such tactics to bolster their argument that the Bible’s standards for marriage and various social issues (particularly homosexuality) are archaic and need to be abolished. The book itself seems innocent enough, but what about how its contents will be misunderstood by those outside the Church who already have adopted a negative view of Christianity? (I saw Evans’ Today Show appearance last week, in which no opportunity to explain why the OT ceremonial law was given. Her appearance on The View that was scheduled for today has been postponed for a later date due to Hurricane Sandy.) Do we really need more unnecessary ridicule slung our way by people who clearly know next to nothing about the historical background and original intent of the OT law and who are looking for yet another reason to ridicule Christianity?

    • rogereolson

      I agree with your concerns and I would discourage any evangelical to appear on “The View” (and similar shows) to discuss difficult issues of biblical interpretation and theology. In my opinion, this risks “throwing pearls before swine.” On the other hand, any book any evangelical writes that goes against tradition will inevitably be misused by Christianity’s enemies. I don’t think that should stop us from breaking new ground among ourselves (ie., Christians). I would urge Rachel to appear on The View and similar programs ONLY on the condition that she can make clear her personal faith commitment to Jesus Christ and holy Scripture. I’m sure that is her intention. The problem is, then, how her affirmations will be handled by others. But she can’t be responsible for that.

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    • rogereolson

      And predictable criticism from the usual suspects like Justin Taylor and the Gospel Coalition. :)

  • Jackson

    This post and thread, along with most other online sites of this sort, is a good reminder of why it is very difficult to truly affirm or critique a “movement,” whether it be feminism, egalitarianism, complementarianism, or any other sort of ism. These categories are always fluid and indefinite. I consider myself a complementarian. However, I am not only nervous by some of Grudem/Piper’s applications of their ideology into actual practice. I completely disagree with some of it. What kind of complementarian does that make me? Does that mean I don’t retain the moniker? I suppose it depends on who you ask. Some to my “right” would label me inconsistent, or a moderate egalitarian. However, that doesn’t capture what I actually believe.

    Again, most of these exercises are futile because they not only end in disagreement. They end in ambiguity over what anyone really means.

    JW

  • Casey

    Roger,

    Would you commend any of your students to apply the same hermeneutic and method to interpreting a historical text in the way RHE has interpreted Scripture?

    • rogereolson

      Are you missing the irony of her book or what? First, did you read it? If not, we have nothing to talk about. Second, if you read it, did you see that she isn’t interpreting Scripture so much as mocking some people’s inconsistencies in their interpretations of Scripture?

  • RD
  • chris

    I think.the.difference.between egalitarianism and complimentarianism is that egalitarians believe that women are people. O am so happy to believe that.some Christians believe.that women are.not commanded.to just.shut up.and obey. I left.Christianity because.I thought Christians were.trying to relegate women to “the.lowest.form of human life”. It is refreshing to see.that not all Christiana see.women in this.light. I may.reconsider christianity with these enlightened.views. btw

  • chris

    Btw, I am a.feminist. I would not.accept inequality in my.life in any form-in.religion, at.home, or in business. That’s what feminism means.to me. Thanks for the.information you provided. Maybe a.second.look.at.religion is.in.order.

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