A couple of hours after posting below, I discovered that my review of John Stackhouse’s Finally Feminist is now online at Books & Culture.
(Ducking down behind my concrete bunker now. If you want to know why, see what happened the last time I said something nice about this book. If only you could see the comments that I declined to moderate…)
January 29 update: Because of this, I wrote this. (Only click if you’re interested in Reformed types arguing about theology.) SWB.
Showing 27 comments
I read your review of Stackhouse’s book online and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your perspective is very much needed as egalitarians of the world slowly and gently try to show that their view is reasonable.
I am sorry to hear about the negative mail you’ve been getting. It takes all the grace God has been nice enough to grant me to contain my anger at that type of attitude and I respect your ability to respond well.
My wife recently stopped attending the denomination we’d been involved with for years because of a lack of movement on this issue. I’m still not sure it was the right decision but it was not one we made lightly. I firmly believe in taking the long view of scripture and that this view CANNOT produce any opinion on women in leadership other than egalitarianism.
Thank you again for your writing, I am now a new fan of yours and will come back to this blog often.
My adult daughter (a very intelligent young woman like yourself) sent me the link to your recent entry on the Stackhouse book. I found it to be well-reasoned and quite restrained given the history of the retorts to your prior post on the subject. I am ordering the book and look forward to reading it. I get so infuriated by the “slippery slope” rationale for continuing to perpetuate injustice.
I also read many of the replies to your prior post on your blog and was discouraged to see that current followers of Christ continue to struggle with the concept of Eph 5:22 (wives submit to your husbands) becuase they have not been taught (or they choose to ignore) that Paul precedes that statement in 5:21 with the charge that all Christ followers should submit to one another out of reverance for Christ. In my view (and I believe Paul’s) submission is about Christ-like selflessness not obedience in heirarchial human authority structures – that’s what happens in the world’s system as Jesus teaches in Mark 10.
Hopefully, well intentioned and well reasoned approaches to some of the seeming paradoxes of scripture like Stackhouse’s book will deliver us from out-dated cultural restirctions on women and allow the Holy Spirit to determine who fills our pulpits and sacrificially leads our local churches.
Keep preaching it.
I bought the book when you recommended it way back and so enjoyed the perspective. Your article was a well-written; my husband and I both so appreciated the way in which you addressed the slippery slope argument. I intend to use some of Stackhouse’s ideas when speaking to our church council next month on the issue. Thank you for your work in summarizing him, and especially for your courage in publicly speaking out.
Thank you so much for your fantastic and clear review (or might I say even rebuttal 😉
of Stackhouse book. I have been waiting two decades for a book to address these very issues that resonate so deeply in my own soul. The idea that God would devalue half of humanity to subordination to the other was the reason I left the church. My faith has since been a struggle to align Scripture, logic and Christ’s teachings in a personal way , and this book does it more clearly and eloquently than I could ever have hoped.
Although not naive enough to feel it will ahve an immediate effect on those so deeply entrenched , I am hopeful that it will provide the spark in some to get change started. Again, thank you for the excellent review.
I thought your review was great as well and I really appreciated you pointing out Paul’s philosophy of doing what is best for the gospel within the culture. This isn’t the only reason to be egalitarian, but is a compelling one. Another great point is how this issue is closer to that of slavery than homosexuality (the Bible never says practicing womanhood is a sin!), and although I believe the above mentioned philosophy has called for restraint in recent decades, we are past that now (at least in Canada) and need to consider, especially as men who can’t be accused of trumpeting their own horn, how we might address the moral obligation involved in freeing women from unnecessary restrictions in God’s Church. THis all must be with grace of course, and you have seemed to model that well. Thanks.
Oh my, I can only imagine some of the responses you received! Although I have not read the book, my own bible study and your reviews lead me to believe that I would agree with Stackhouse on some points and disagree on others. I am very thankful that the church at large is beginning to recognize that there are really only a few things absolutely central to our faith and in the rest of it, there’s plenty of room for varying opinions and lots of grace. Regardless of my own opinions, I am thankful for people like you (and Stackhouse) who are willing to engage in the culture debate, because when the church disengages from the culture around it, we become irrelevant to that culture… and then we’ve missed our calling.
The Stackhouse book looks interesting, and I look forward to reading it (if it isn’t too scholarly for me, which I suppose it may be). We are Episcopalians, and our church is currently being torn by the issue of women in leadership (as in, a woman appointed as Presiding Bishop), which only exaccerbated the problems caused by different views of how the E. Church should deal with homosexuality. From your review, it sounds as though this book clarifies Biblical teaching on these points in a very helpful way.
Well, I am grieved that you have had such awful responses to something that the church should be talking about…and engaging in (with open and frank minds). I enjoyed your review…and I’m finding the book straightaway!
I do not know much about the female minister debate in Protestant circles, but I try to make sense of it for my daughters in a Catholic light. If, for argument’s sake, women are not meant to priests, but use their talents in other areas, could it be a test of obedience, submitting our will to God’s? I just wonder because this past Sunday, the children in my Sunday School asked once again, “Why couldn’t A & E just eat the fruit of THAT tree, or why did God put that tree in the garden anyway?” Then the guy, sorry for the lack of reference, in the bible who was told to dip in the water a number of times to be healed. Maybe the point is obedience even when another path seems to make more sense. Jesus was a scandal, a stumbling block. He lost followers over the, “eating my body” speech. Maybe everyone is not supposed to feel warm and fuzzy and serve where and how they want to serve. Maybe not allowing female priests is a test of obedience and submission to God not culture. My mother gave me a book about marriage not making one happy, but holy. Maybe church hierarchy is a bit of that.
I wonder if the current “church” is too corrupt to ever be able to allow women to minister without it leading, as you say, to the acceptance of homosexuality. The concept of the slippery slope is so entrenched, that I begin to think that there is little hope for the larger “church” structure.
Having visited the community of believers of which you are a part, I will say that the little I saw was refreshing… But developing that sense of community, mutual respect, and love in a church of 300 or 3000? I don’t hold out much hope. It is much easier to have the respect that we ought for each member of the body when we actually know the person’s name.
I stumbled across the review this afternoon. I enjoyed the war swirling about your going public as much as the review and the book itself. Stackhouse does a fine job arguing the egalitarian position and raises important contextual questions that are sometimes dismissed by those of us in complementarian church traditions.
Let us know when you are headed to Philly…
Your review in Books and Culture was wonderful, and I enjoyed reading it. I’m going to have to get Stackhouse’s book. I’m an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene (who has ordained women since its beginning in 1903). I really want to thank you for talking about the slippery slope. That is one thing that has always frustrated me about the hierarchal argument. The first time I saw it I remember thinking–that is not logical or biblical. Thank you for showing that biblically, women in leadership and homosexual marriage, are not related. Your description of the difference between the political movements and what should happen in the church was insightful as well.
I’m sorry for all the negative comments you received. Thank you for taking that and turning it into the wonderful piece for B&C.
Rev. Shawna R. B. Atteberry
I read Stackhouse’s book last year along with several other books written by evangelical, inerrancy defenders on this topic (RT France, ‘Biblical Equality’ by Groothus, Fee among them). I was most intrigued by the translation of the word authentein, which is what complementarians translate “spiritual authority”, as in “I do not permit women to have spiritual authority….” It all seems to hinge on that word, which if the Biblical Equality book is correct, doesn’t mean Godly spiritual authority at all. I have not yet found a cohesive argument against their premise and am wondering if you could share what you know or share a name of someone who does.
What an excellent review! I’ve linked to it on my blog today, hoping that many will read it.
I remember when CNN had a female reporter who refused to wear a burka while in Afghanistan. They told her they understood, but if she wouldn’t they would send someone to take her place who would be willing to. It’s not that CNN believed that a woman should have on a burka; it’s that they knew they were in a culture where a woman could not have access to leaders for proper reporting without one.
If our church were to send missionaries to Afghanistan today to plant churches, I’m quite certain we would follow practices like some you read about in the NT. We wouldn’t want the presence or absence of a burka to keep someone from hearing the good news of Christ.
However, in our culture this becomes an unnecessary barrier. Among the people of God we catch a glimpse of the reign of God — “already, but not yet” — which reminds us that in Christ barriers of male/female, slave/free, Jew/Gentile are broken down.
Thank you, Susan, for your well thought out argument. I enjoyed your review very much and am looking forward to reading Stackhouse’s book.
I enjoyed reading your review, and posted a (delightfully recursive) review of your review on my blog. link to post. I am somewhat critical, but the opposite direction of some of your other critics. I wanted to let you know that was out there, as it is always my goal to engage respectfully.
Thank you for such a thoughtfullly reasoned (and apparently courageous) review of this book. I’m delighted to learn there is a conversation on this issue as it’s been one that has perturbed my peace for some time. Off to buy the book….
Enjoyed the review and look forward to reading the book. It’s interesting to look at this issue as we church hunt right now.
I saw the link to your article at Diane’s brilliant blog (*ahem*) and thoroughly enjoyed your review.
Several homeschooling moms have been talking, reading and praying (and blogging!) over these issues the past months. The conversations can definitely become …intense. I thought your piece was so well-done, I emailed it to the whole group.
Thank you for taking a calm, reasoned, intelligent stand on the issue.
God bless and thank you,
Thanks to Ms. Wise Bauer (whom I have yet to enjoy the pleasure of meeting) and to her blog-friends here who are encouraging her. The fear, rage, and spite of her opponents (and mine) do tend to discourage us, and so the encouragement and reassurance of friends is most welcome–and necessary.
I have written a little bit about this sort of thing on my own blog: http://stackblog.wordpress.com. But I don’t say anything any better than Ms. WB does.
But I’ll just point out that “speaking the truth in love,” the great commandment to “love your neighbour as you love yourself,” and the Golden Rule seem to be Scriptures that these self-satisfied defenders of Scripture ignore. And one wonders just who is ignoring the “plain meaning of Scripture” and thereby setting aside “the weightier matters of the Law”…
You have got to see this:
It is titled “Women Know Your Limits” and it is a scream
As you know Susan, I was pleased and proud (in a non-sinful kind of pride, I hope!) to be the first blogger to post a public rejoinder to Rev. Phillip’s condescending and insulting “response” to your article. My response can be read here.
I have also been pleased with the caliber of irenic discussion (now over 50 comments long) that followed that post. Thank you for being willing to take the heat on this important issue. Karyn and I look forward to visiting you, perhaps this summer after Mel and Justin move down.
And Mr. Stackhouse: thanks for the book. My wife and I enjoyed it thoroughly. For those who have not read it: first of all, it is relatively “painless”–written at a lay level and readable in a few hours. More importantly, it is not what you might think: it is not a polemical all-out defense of egalitarianism. Rather it is a well-balanced approach that sees right and wrong on both sides of this issue, but argues that (wherever culturally possible) the missiological movement of the NT age is ever toward the eschaton, the final reality where there will be “neither male nor female….but all are one in Christ.”
Wow, lots of stuff going on in cyberspace around your review! It has been interesting to read. Good job with keeping your level-headedness.
I must say that after reading it all, I am more determined than ever to pursue the study of logic and rhetoric with my kids as they get older (I SO wish I had been trained in this when I was in school). I have a hard time following arguments (is that the right word?) when they get “wordy” and involved, but your writing is FAR easier for me to understand – you just write so clearly!!!!
Mark Traphagen: thanks for telling us that it’s a painless, readable-within-a-few-hours book – that makes me want to go out and find it now!
Susan, I have another book recommendation for you, if you are interested: “Why Not Women? A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership” by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton, with Janice Rogers. This was the first book of this whole issue I ever read, and it was eye-opening for me. It’s available through YWAM Publishing.
Thank you for all you do.
susan – i never had the pleasure of meeting you 2 years ago when you spoke at WTS. i have been following the thread on your comments on stackhouse’s book. thanks to my mentors, tuck & frances (all of us are former redeemerites), they have both inspired me to do my homework of reading about this topic before i moved south of NYC – philadelphia. thank you for encouraging us women who are passionate about Christ. that even when we raise important contextual questions, that are sometimes dismissed by the complementarian church traditions, our pursuit for the truth does not make us less godly nor change our standing in Christ. hope to meet you someday. arlene
An interesting discussion, although (like Michele in a post above) I am a Catholic who believes that women are not meant to be priests, and that we should accept this. In your review of the Stackhouse book, you wrote as follows: “As a defense of the Bible, this is very peculiar. If allowing women to be ordained will destroy the authority of Scripture, why doesn’t the slippery slope argument go, “Ordain women, and Christ’s bodily resurrection will be the next thing to go,” or, “Ordain women, and we may have to relinquish our belief in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of the sins, and the life everlasting”?” Actually, William Oddie did make that broader slippery slope argument in his 1988 book, “What Will Happen to God? Feminism and the Reconstruction of Christian Belief.” I reviewed the book at the time, and found it persuasive. Oddie was an Anglican minister when he wrote the book, but has since converted to Catholicism.
One of the more stunning aspects of this debate is the charge (like the one made by Rev. Phillips) that proponents of Biblical feminism have capitulated to the egalitarian ethos that presumably pervades present-day secular culture. (I, for one, am not convinced that such an ethos exists any more; perhaps it did during the years of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the push for the Equal Rights Amendment, and into the term of George H. W. Bush.) In my experience, many of the same people who make such arguments (and I was, once upon a time, one of them) uncritically espouse an individualistic, non-Biblical theological or philosophical anthropology. Practically, the effects of this includes the formation humans who will function as reliable worker bees and consumers within the present-day American capitalist system.
Inculcate good Protestant virtues so that people can thrive in the present-day economic order! Does that not represent a more subtle–but also more pervasive and insidious–capitulation to contemporary norms than what folks like Stackhouse espouse?