There are few phrases that can stir up argument as readily as “biblical womanhood” or “biblical manhood.” Patriarchists particularly have used those words to define roles within hierarchy–telling women that the bible restricts their participation in the body of Christ.
Laura, who blogs over at Enough Light, came across a book published by a local church in her state (South Carolina), entitled “Biblical Femininity.”
Laura has tried to be diplomatic in her review, but notes
“While Biblical Femininity attempts to be diplomatic and avoid extremes, the remainder of this review will be more critical. The book is based on faulty exposition of Genesis 1-3 and imposes things on the Scripture that is simply not there. Of course, we can all be guilty of this and no one is purely objective, yet I hope to graciously point out some major flaws and inconsistencies in the foundational principles this book is based upon. When the foundation is off it leads to conclusions that are also faulty.”
Read her entire review here. It is very well done.
Please click over and read her review of this book. And then consider the question: why does a church feel a need to write a book like this? What does it accomplish? It seems to me that someone is wanting women to know their place, to behave.
I don’t know the story of this church or why they published this book.
But I do want to say: it is possible to believe in the truth of the Bible, but interpret Genesis 1-3 in a completely different way.
I’m also curious to hear your stories. Have you been a part of a church that teaches this interpretation, that says women and men have different “roles” (which are restricted for women, but not for men)?
I am of the opinion that I don’t want to be in a position to tell someone they cannot use the gifts God has given them. So, restricting people from service based on gender is a problem and has justice implications. And when there are justice implications, I feel compelled to speak up; to act.
I grew up with significant constraints on women in my worship setting (as well as society) and have found them all to be wrong. But, because I grew up in those environments, the old “gotcha” verses that are/were used to support more oppressive approaches to women still make me cringe.
There seems to be a similar path (for me) with LGBT folks in the church as well. And those gotcha verses cause the same cringe. Much more to be said on this, but the spirit of the post is related to feminism, etc so I will refrain from a hijack.
Thanks for you comment! It’s interesting, Tom, that we call those verses the “gotcha” verses. (And what a label, right? Where is the grace in “gotcha”?) Many never question the interpretation of those verses. I firmly believe that we can believe the Bible is true but also believe that these troubling passages might have been misunderstood or misinterpreted or pulled out of context. I got a surprising comment in a Facebook thread saying that looking at the cultural context into which the bible was originally written would cause us to misinterpret scripture. I would say it’s just the opposite: we need to understand the culture surrounding, especially Paul’s letters. We are listening to half the conversation–Paul’s response to situations these churches faced. Knowing the cultural context would seem, to me, to be essential.
The fault in the book starts with its title “Biblical Femininity”. The Bible doesn’t say we are created feminine and masculine; it says we are created male and female. One is gender and the other is sex, that is, one is cultural and the other biological.
And I agree with Tom about gifts and abilities. If someone in the Kingdom if God has the ability to do a particular ministry, they get to pursue that ministry regardless of genitalia.
Thanks, Tim, that’s a helpful summary of a very important distinction.
Thanks Keri for sharing my book review. “why does a church feel a need to write a book like this? What does it accomplish? It seems to me that someone is wanting women to know their place, to behave.” If you don’t drink the gender role cool-aide at this church, there is no place for you. There is something else troubling about the book in that it really emphasizes the strong and valuable position of being a helper. Well, being a helper is good, but it is like a sneaky or backhanded way to keep the women in their place. If that makes sense? As discussed over on my post, someone helped me see that the book is an agenda and indoctrinating. It is not helping women really think and understand the issue. Which is further patronizing to women to only give them minimal info.
Yep, I think you are right. What is troubling to me is why women would stay at a church like that. But maybe they don’t feel they have a choice. It’s like they are stuck in a time warp. I get very tired of arguing with the men who hold this position, but I would like to figure out a way to “set free the captives”–let women stuck in this kind of churches know that there is another path, and they don’t have to abandon their faith to walk in it.
Keri, just fyi, I now have a part-3 of this review where I interact with the book in a broader way in regards to how women think.