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|Format: DRM Protected ePub|
Vendor: Baker Academic
Publication Date: 2008
"Compelling, informative, and comprehensive! This book does exactly as the title suggests--liberates. If one wants to read a single book to understand gender issues, this is it! Simultaneously, the reader is inspired to 'lean into all God created us to be.'" -Jo Anne Lyon, founder/chief executive officer, World Hope International
"LaCelle-Peterson has written a book that is at once biblical, engaging, comprehensive, forthright, balanced, and caring. It should be especially helpful for those on the 'women's side' of the debate to read something as irenic as this; and hopefully these same features will calm some of the rhetoric on the other side. I am glad to commend it to all." -Gordon Fee, professor emeritus, Regent College; coauthor, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
Liberating Tradition provides readers with a clear Christian perspective on the issues that women face in the twenty-first century. The book does not provide a Christian gloss on the field of gender studies as it exists, but rather provides Christian women with a gender-informed, scholarship-based, Christian platform from which to enter into dialogue with the scholars and scholarship that constitute that field.
I am but a dabbler in egalitarian theory and thought. While I believe strongly in biblical equality, my convictions have always been vaguely defined, informed more by emotional sensibility and experience than by intellect and formal study. After all, I did not need religious scholars to tell me the Christian tradition has often treated women badly, nor that some evangelical interpretations of Scripture have squelched women’s voices: I experienced as much every time I sat silently in my church’s pews.
Without a schooled basis for my thinking, it was hard for me to intelligently discuss exactly why I believed men and women were created equally, why I assumed some people read the Bible incorrectly, and why I thought some church tradition had it wrong. Somehow, saying “this is truth because I feel it is” was not good enough, especially when debating with religious studies scholars at the conservative Christian university where I teach.
What I needed was a primer in biblical egalitarianism: a book that could lead me, step by step, through Scripture, showing me how women fit into the narrative of God’s people, how Jesus valued women as part of his ministry, and how women served as leaders in both the Old and New Testament. Such a text might also include a re-reading of church tradition, one which considers the role of women in the early church, and the ways those roles were undermined— even eradicated—by patriarchal systems. An ideal book might even suggest ways egalitarianism works well in contemporary evangelical homes and churches, helping me to navigate the real world in which I live and work.
Kristina LaCelle-Peterson’s Liberating Tradition: Women’s Identity and Vocation in Christian Perspective provides such a primer in biblical egalitarianism. LaCelle-Peterson, an associate professor of religion at Houghton College, does a credible job of outlining the important arguments for why Christianity has traditionally excluded women from equality with men and for why women need to be released from the narrow roles in religious institutions where they have for too long been held.
LaCelle-Peterson begins her text with the Bible, premising her exploration on the important question of what Scripture “actually says about women, about gender, and about how we conduct our lives together.” Her careful reading of Genesis is compelling, though perhaps familiar to most, as is her discussion of the significant women characters in the Old and New Testaments. Nonetheless, LaCelle-Peterson’s command of Scripture is impressive, and she provides ample evidence that the Bible establishes women’s equal place in the story of God’s people.
A subsequent chapter on marriage in the Bible covers interesting ground, and should be required reading for young women and men entering marriage trying to determine whether a hierarchical relationship is in fact biblically- based and God-blessed . Indeed, La Celle-Peterson seems most animated in this and in other chapters that confront the contemporary dilemmas raised and sustained by patriarchal church traditions, such as the harmful influence of church tradition on women’s body image and the ways language makes women invisible. For those wearied of hearing that “all men are created in God’s image,” LaCelle-Peterson convincingly shows that even a seemingly benign phrase carries numerous barbs, as she argues such language undermines the very ideas women hold of their selves, leading to unhealthy—and unholy—body images.
Other chapters address the role of women in church traditions, tracing the history of women’s place in Christianity through the early church, into the medieval period and later reformation, and up through twentieth century evangelicalism. While interesting, this section on church history seems uncomfortably situated between chapters on egalitarian marriage and inclusive language. Certainly, there is a connection between church tradition and contemporary evangelical practices, and LaCelle-Peterson makes those relationships clear. Yet, at times, it seems Liberating Tradition cast its nets too widely, and a sense of a cogent narrative is challenged in trying to consider so much.
Still, LaCelle-Peterson’s wide-ranging effort is especially useful for those desiring a basic understanding of biblical equality, of its thought and application. Though those well-schooled in egalitarian theology will find LaCelle-Peterson’s too fundamental, this should not be seen as a limitation in LaCelle-Peterson’s work, only a suggestion of audience. Readers who need a basic course in biblical equality will find this an important, accessible, and encouraging text—one that will liberate Christian women and men to “join hands to serve God fully in our homes, our churches, and our world.”
---by Melanie Springer Mock, author and associate professor of writing and literature at George Fox University, in Newberg, Oregon
---Used with permission from Christians for Biblical Equality
Kristina LaCelle-Peterson writes a compelling outline of Christian feminism that serves as a valuable tool for the average evangelical seeking more refined and informed thinking about gender from a biblical perspective. The book's title hints at its ambitious purpose: to liberate evangelicals from cultural trappings that have misdirected our reading of Scripture, our family structures, and our models of church participation. The author invites all Christians to look at Scripture with fresh eyes and to listen to the voices and experiences of Christian women through the ages so that we can gain a more accurate understanding of gender as it relates to Christian identity and vocation. Having cleared the way with exegesis and historical research, she issues a clear call that her readers begin to construct a way forward that recognizes that both men and women are created equally in the image of God and are meant to carry out God's purposes in the world together.
LaCelle-Peterson's approach to Scripture is thoroughly evangelical and in line with CBE's position that "the Bible, in its totality, is the liberating Word that provides the most effective way for women and men to exercise the gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit and thus to serve God." Rather than viewing Scripture as an oppressive text, the author builds her case for full gender equality based on an approach that asserts that "Scripture, rightly understood, is affirming of women's full humanity and full participation in the people of God" (21). The Bible then becomes the liberating force behind the book as a whole. Fallen human culture, and its frequent presumption of gendered hierarchy, must then give way to the ancient and liberating message of Scripture.
In this vein, Liberating Tradition begins by putting forward a clear and concise biblical theology of gender equality in the first two chapters. LaCelle-Peterson roots this view of women's identity in a capable exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2 and continues by giving attention to the variety of roles, offices, and tasks that have characterized the women presented in the biblical text. Although only cursory treatment of most passages is offered, the broad scope of the author's investigations successfully achieves her intended effect. Her whirlwind tour of female judges, prophets, disciples, and deacons serves to challenge male-centered readings of Scripture. The combined weight of the plethora of examples given in the book should weaken the culturally constructed blinders that have allowed some evangelicals to interpret female church leadership as a new development manufactured by modern liberals. The book continues to include careful study of Scripture as it explores women's identity in the Christian family and the usefulness and limitations of gendered metaphors for God.
Liberating Tradition is not, however, simply a survey of Scripture. It also offers keen sociological and historical insights that push its arguments forward. In fact, the strength of the book lies in the author's recognition that deep-seated cultural attitudes reflect and contribute to distorted perceptions of Scripture and tradition. In one of her most intriguing chapters, titled "Mistaking the Industrial Revolution for the Garden of Eden," LaCelle-Peterson challenges the legitimacy of what many assume to be "traditional" marriage. She asserts that the phenomenon of a breadwinning husband leaving the home to work and a domestic wife taking care of household duties is a highly localized historic occurrence produced by the specific economic and social forces of the Industrial Revolution. Such a statement calls into question views of "tradition" that many Christians take for granted while simultaneously infusing the Christian community with a more accurate shared heritage that sparks our imagination as we together seek to realize God's intention for the full participation of women and men in God's kingdom.
By parading a wide variety of texts and arguments before her audience, LaCelle-Peterson convinces us that there are vital Christian voices we have not been hearing. Her book will confront those who remain unwilling to embrace a position of biblical equality with informed arguments and voices that are deeply subversive to the theological legitimization of "traditional" gender roles. The broad scope of the book commends it to be used as an introduction to the Christian discussion of gender. Such a work would be an ideal text for college or seminary courses on pastoral ministry or gender, local church book studies, or Sunday school classes. It is also a perfect recommendation to any Christian newly grappling with issues of gender in the context of Christianity.
---by Mark Mathis
---Used with permission from Christians for Biblical Equality
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