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P1070269In May 2015, I had a 2-part review of a book entitled:

Biblical Femininity, Discovering Clarity and Freedom in God’s Design for Women, Edited by Chrystie Cole, Grace Church Publishing, 2013 (Greenville, SC).     Part 1  —  Part 2

I’ve since wanted to share further concerns about this book, in connection with an article that turned on a light bulb for me about women. I am sometimes puzzled at how so many women can read a book like this or sit under similar teaching, and at least some of the problems don’t jump out to them. Before I get to the article…

Part of the problem with this book is the indoctrinating approach. It is like an agenda. Instead of truly teaching women and encouraging them to think, women are told what to think. I observed this in various ways in the book. For example, some concepts would be mentioned and presented as fact, without any explanation of how “the fact” or conclusion was reached in the first place. That is wrong. Especially since presuppositions, presented as a given, are not a given! A presupposition likely required much analysis, interpretation, and thought before it came to be a presupposition in the first place. It is patronizing to provide minimal info or leave out explanatory information. A learner also has a right to know that there are other legitimate approaches. Other evangelicals with a high view of the Scripture (not just “liberals”) have different presuppositions and conclusions.

The article I read was enlightening in this regard, Women Policing Women. Read it! It talks, in part, about how women learn, and here is an excerpt:

“One of the conclusions was that the majority of church-going conservative women come to know through ‘received knowledge’… Received knowers do not construct their own knowledge—they receive it. They rely on an authoritative source to tell them what is right or wrong…To a received knower, there is only one right interpretation—one right answer—to a problem. Ambiguity or paradox cannot be tolerated. Concepts must be predictable, easily consumed, and clearly laid out. It is important to note that these same studies indicate that received knowers aren’t born that way. Their behavior is not innate, but learned. One dramatic result is that, when women are faced with Biblical or theological decisions, they tend to be very uncomfortable with the idea that understanding can take place over time, or that it might require an involved process of reasoning on their part. Trapped in the box of ‘received knowledge,’ many women will not read, attend, or participate in anything their authorities have not recommended, for fear it might lead them astray. Again, no woman or pastor would say they ‘prevent their people from gaining knowledge’ – but don’t they?”    [Italics in the original, but not the bold.]

“But don’t they?” – Yes, they do! The approach of this book perpetuates “received knowers” rather than developing the critical thinking skills of women.

We have a circular problem that will not be resolved unless a jump is made out of the self-perpetuating circle! Women are intelligent and have a God-given ability to think. The command in the Bible to love God with our mind is not only for men. Women are to love God with their mind too.

Note the above excerpt mentions fear, a fear of being led astray. There is a healthy type of fear, but fear is not generally a proper reason behind something. The Bible repeatedly tells us not to be afraid. We should not fear mere exposure to another viewpoint. If your beliefs are so fragile that simple exposure to another view will topple your belief or lead you astray – there is a much deeper problem. That would be the problem of being a received knower.

Some other things about this book are insidious, perpetuating a situation where women are kept in that box of received knowledge.

  •  The book teaches that the God-ordained role of women is to be a helper (of the male leaders). This is “glorified” by emphasizing how important this role is – it is a position of strength to bring necessary assistance to another. With the sneaky “glorification” of helper, why would a woman want or even consider more for herself? She is, after-all, a glorious and powerful helper! YET…Many godly women in the Bible stepped up in bold and independent ways, ways that were not solely helping men, or ways that even bypassed men.Note: As clarified in part-2, there is nothing wrong with being a helper. Jesus was a humble servant. The problem is the book’s unilateral emphasis. All Christians, male or female, should seek to emulate our Savior by serving others. Great article here: Do women have a special obligation to be helpers? Being a helper is not a gender role.
  • The book teaches that the core temptation or sin for women is to abandon their role as helper, becoming guilty of autonomy, by failing to come along side men or remain under the authority of men. Therefore, to even consider differently than what this book teaches is to end up in…SIN!  Wow. What an insidious way for the males in power to keep their female helpers in line! 

Women are trapped in the box of received knowledge…whether they realize it or not. Ironically, the book’s intent is to help women “discover clarity and freedom in God’s Design for them.”   –  God’s design.

But is what they present God’s design?

The previous 2part review highlights the faulty interpretation that leads to such a narrow definition of God’s design for women. God has a broader, richer design for women (and men) than the narrow one presented in this book.

In conclusion…This book indoctrinates women instead of educating them, and insidiously makes them receptive to the narrow interpretations.

I identify as egalitarian, but I am not insinuating that an egalitarian position is the only end result for those who think this issue out. [Read that bold again.]

I highly respect a number of soft/mild complementarians who share some of the very same concerns as those of us who identify as egalitarian. I really appreciate these complementarian women authors: Wendy Alsup, Aimee Byrd, and Professor Sandra Glahn (of Dallas Theological Seminary). I am quite certain – although I can’t speak for another – that they would also have problems with this book.

Regardless, lets all make sure we are helping women develop critical thinking skills, and not hiding information from them. Let the women think!

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