I'm a huge fan of Rachel Held Evans and this book does not disappoint. Well-written and humorous, she takes tough passages in the Bible, related to women, and explores what modern life might look like if we lived those passages literally. I know there's been a lot of hoopla about how she misconstrues the Bible, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. She has done solid research and simply lays out a different way to view Biblical passages.
This book would be a fantastic small group study for so many different reasons. You could decide to talk about the things she experienced, you could reflect on the Bible passages she includes, or - perhaps my favorite part of the book - you could look simply at the stories of overlooked women in the Bible included before each chapter.
Whether or not you agree with what she has to say, this book DOES make you want to dive into your Bible and really look at what it says about being a woman. There aren't enough books out there that do that. That alone makes this book worth buying and reading.
Rachel Held Evans expressed both her questioning of Biblical womanhood and her mission through this quote,
"This is why the notion of biblical womanhood so intrigued me. Could an ancient collection of sacred texts, spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own, really offer a single cohesive formula for how to be a woman? And do all the women of Scripture fit into this same mold? Must I?" page xx in the introduction.
She then vowed to spend 1 year living out the Scriptures in the Old Testament and the New Testament pertaining to women.
Rachel read and studied Scripture.
She interviewed and studied women of different cultures, denominations, religions, races, in how they lived out their lives through Biblical womanhood.
She made the decision to not "pick and choose."
She began the year of living under Biblical womanhood October 2010.
My View of Positive Points:
There is a transformation that happens during the course of the book. If all that was read was the introduction and beginning chapters the reader would fail to find that Rachel grew both in character and in her spiritual growth. She had an attitude of teachableness that opened up the door for the Lord to reveal things in her own thought life, or character, that needed to be fine-tuned.
Rachel is honest in her disappointments, faults, misconceptions, misunderstandings, wrong thinking, judgments, fears, anxieties. This book offers an honest and fresh story, not bringing us a person we cannot relate to that seems far up on a pedestal. Through her story (at least at some point) we can relate.
She addressed in her introduction what her goal and mission was, and how she went about achieving them.
Her focus was to be light-hearted and this came across in the book through various projects, for example the issue of calling her husband "master." On the other hand she could also be serious and contemplative about what she learned in her heart, "I don't know for sure, but I think maybe God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness, with security. A great tree is both moved and unmoved, for it changes with the seasons, but its roots keep it anchored in the ground. Mastering a gentle and quiet spirit did not mean changing my personality, just regaining control of it, growing strong enough to hold back and secure enough to soften." page 16.
She learned to be a better cook, to sew, she met people of other religions and denominations that dressed and or believed differently, she slept in a tent alone, she learned about the horrors of sex-trafficking, and traveled to Bolivia for World Vision. Her life branched out of "her comfort zone," and to think she thought she was already an independent type gal.
Important questions were asked, for example: how are we interpreting Scripture? Are we using it for our own interests? Are we using Scripture to demean or judge others? Are we interpreting Scripture out of love for God's Word itself and for Him?
My View of Negative Points:
The evangelical women she interviewed or spoke about through their writings were on the extreme side of rigidity on adhering to the male dominant view. Personally I feel this is a small minority. I know of no one in my world that holds these views. I wish Rachel had interviewed Beth Moore, or Priscilla Shirer, or Kay Arthur, or Anne Graham Lotz. These are women of substance, integrity, and credibility, in the Christian community.
I tried not to, but I cringed when she would use the word Bible belt, or fundamentalism, or evangelicalism. When I think about the word evangelicalism I envision a different meaning than what its become to many. The word is from the root word evangelize, in Greek it's euangelizo, meaning "to bring a message, announce good news." Mounce's Expository Dictionary. I disliked what I felt was a hurling of words in order to mock. Although I also feel she used these words as a call to arms so to speak, a way to radically change and or motivate others to question these cultural and traditional held beliefs.
On page 260, "Like the rest of the bible, the Epistles were written for us, but they were not written to us." I agree the authors of the Epistles had no idea that future Christians for centuries would read their letters, but God certainly did. So I disagree with Rachel, the letters were written for us and to us. The Holy Spirit that led these people to write the Epistles and gave them the inspiration as to what to write, knew they would be read by us!
Especially in the introduction, I felt her writing expressed itself more on an emotional level rather than by the Spirit who lives in her. For example: "Evangelicalism is like my religious mother tongue. I revert to it whenever I'm angry or excited or surrounded by other people who understand what I'm saying. And its the language in which I most often hear God's voice on the rare occasion that it rises above the noise." Page xviii.
Am I glad I read this book?
Yes, and I recommend it. It is packed with thought-provoking-type-questions. It is a great book for a book discussion group. It caused me to interview friends and relatives asking them how they felt about Biblical womanhood, and women's roles in the Church. It caused me to search Scripture, not in defense of Rachel, or myself, or other's who have written reviews of the book, but what possibly did I need to learn from this topic from God through His Word.
This book should be considered a tool. It is not a quasi-theological-seminary-type textbook, nor was it meant to be. And this maybe exactly why so many have grasped a hold of it with warm reception. It is an approachable book from an approachable gal. She speaks the language of a generation of men and women who do not want to do as the earlier generations have done, just because its always been done that way. They want dialogue, response, and a new vision that holds realness.
Finally in summing up, there have been misquotes and fabrications written from both sides on this book.
It's been said Lifeway was not carrying the book because the word vagina was in the book. I don't believe this is accurate information. Lifeway does have the book for order. I've not seen it in their store, but it is available to order.
I do not believe Biblical womanhood or women's roles in Church is a core belief or a morality issue. It is a cultural and traditional viewpoint.
At this time women hold roles on church staffs across the board in Baptist Churches in Texas. As of yet there are no women pastors. There are women deacons in some Baptist Churches. Women are allowed to teach men, for example teaching in couples classes. Although Baptist's let the individual churches set their own guidelines on this, and it is the pastor who usually sets the tone.
Thank you to Rachel Held Evans, Thomas Nelson Publishers for my free review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Though this somewhat outlandish project, Rachel wrestles genuinely with tough questions about what it means to be a woman and with how we apply biblical teaching to our everyday lives. Far from being belligerent or aiming to divide, this book takes seriously the values and experiences of women who attempt to practical "biblical womanhood" quite differently than Rachel ultimately decides to after the project. For example, she gets to know an Orthodox Jewish woman, Amish and Mennonite women, women coming from the Quiverfull movement, etc. Always respectful towards others, Rachel tackles a complicated issue with creativity, humor, and a commitment to openness to what God and other women might be able to teach her.
Although Evans raises some interesting issues about womanhood, I just can't accept her view of the Bible as so "negotiable." As a Christian I believe we ought to try to be guided by the Bible, not to impose our own preconceptions about the Bible, which in effect means that it says what we want it to. I respect the people who have enjoyed the book and rate it highly, but I really can't recommend it as a serious contribution about living as a Christian woman.
I wanted to like this book, and the author does write fairly well, but her approach to the Scripture isn't quite right. She claims that the Bible cannot be used as a list of do's and don'ts, and that if Christians agreed on interpretations, there would be no questions or challenges, but that is nonsense, and she seems to be assuming that just because we may not agree on every detail of the Bible (something most Christians accept), there is no core of Big Important Beliefs in the Bible, and that is not the case. She quotes Jesus' words "seek, and ye shall find" as if Jesus would approve of her "method" of finding in the text what she is looking for.
While her year of obeying all the Bible's commands literally may amuse some readers, it strikes me as making a joke of the Bible - she abides by the kosher laws in the Old Testament, but surely she knows that NO Christians do that any more, and it's as if she's mocking the aim of living by the Bible.
I'm tempted to give the book 2 star because it is not boring, but her approach to the Bible is not sound, and I fear she may lead a lot of readers to follow her example to "find what you're looking for in the Bible."