Rachel Held Evans’ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, presses evangelicals on the right spot.  But what she doesn’t do is as important as what she does, and therein lies a tale.

I’m going to skip the backstory, as intriguing as it is, and go straight to the substance.  Don’t thank me–it’s a long review.  That said, Rachel has written a book meant to demonstrate how people “pick and choose” their verses when reading the Bible.   As she puts it:

For those who count the Bible as sacred, interpretation is not a matter of whether to pick and choose, but how to pick and choose. We are all selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something, and we all have a tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?

It’s “biblical” she’s worried about as an adjective, so she sets out to spend a year living as a “biblical woman.”  Again, I’ll quote:

Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This quest of mine required that I study every passage of Scripture that relates to women and learn how women around the world interpret and apply these passages to their lives. In addition, I would attempt to follow as many of the Bible’s teachings regarding women as possible in my day-to-day life, sometimes taking them to their literal extreme.

The results?  Well, if you really like earnest and authentic writing about a manufactured year, then this is the book for you.  I can’t wade through all the layers of meta at work in all this, honestly.  I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out what it means, culturally, that we’ve reached the point where we’re paying people to spend a year doing what amounts to performance art, so that they can write about our normal lives.  I’m still not sure, but that Mayan prophesy thing makes a lot of sense to me these days.

Still, there is much more good here than Rachel’s critics have allowed.  For instance, her defense of singleness needs a broad audience.  It had me cheering, but then these days any defense of singleness will.  What’s more, I was happy to see that she took down the deeply problematic idea that women owe men sex (even if she does reach Driscoll territory by tacitly sanctioning strip poles in the bedroom).  Her writing about her husband, Dan, is really quite lovely.  And this bit, well, it’s spot on:

The writers of ancient Scripture seemed to acknowledge what all women instinctively know— that our bodies change as we get older, as we bear children, when we get sick, and as we experience joy, pain, life, death, victory, heartache, and time. And frankly, the suggestion that men are too weak to handle these realities is as emasculating as it is unbiblical.

Precisely.  I have been stunned by the willingness of Christian men and women to consider plastic surgery as they age in order to stay up with the young folks.  It’s a scandal, I hate it, and I am thrilled that Rachel has said it.  I hope she says it again, louder and with even more passion.

I realize that right now you’re waiting for the “And yet.”  And it’s coming, I suppose.  But the fact that it feels inevitable makes me sad.  I don’t want to pass off my praise as cursory or simply prefatory.  The thing is, I mean it when I say there’s more good than her critics make room for.  In fact, while Rachel made the idea that women should be homemakers one of her central points of critique, I walked away impressed by how much work homemaking can be.  It’s not easy to make a place and then to keep it, and Rachel’s efforts and acknowledged failures made me all the more grateful for those women who do.


One other point of concord, actually, that sets up the critique.  I think Rachel has the right target in mind by challening our use of “biblical.”

Take the issue of women working outside the home.  The question of whether women are “permitted” actually presupposes a structure of the household that Rachel ably points out did not drop out of heaven.  Were the home the center of economic gravity for a city, the question would be meaningless.

And lo and behold, so it once was.  But I didn’t learn that from Rachel, but from Nancy Pearcy, who makes a similar point.  I wish, as a complementarian, that complementarians had a little more fear and trembling before enscribing current household realities with the authority of “biblical.”  In doing so, we potentially cut ourselves off from reimagining households and economics together, and how marriage might provide a more stable basis for both.  And now I’m going to stop, because I might start sounding like Wendell Berry.

That to say, Rachel wants to put the difficulty of interpreting the Bible before us, to remind us of how hard it is.  I remain uncertain of her view of the Bible’s authority—she says she loves it, and I believe her, but then I love Shakespeare and he’s not the rule for faith and practice.  But I continue to think that the question of interpretation that Rachel highlights needs to be disambiguated from the question of authority. Allow me to drag my own intellectual hero, Oliver O’Donovan, into all this:

Behind the crisis of authority there lurks a crisis of Biblical interpretation, which means that even those who proclaim their respect for the Bible still cannot decide how it should be used in moral discussion. How may we induce the waters of Shiloah to flow gently to quench the thirst of Zion? Could it be that if we are ready to pay disciplined attention to the logic and meaning of moral language, its nuances, its varieties of function, its modes of expression, its implications, we might at last succeed in building a channel? I leave the question with you.


What of Rachel’s solution? I’m tempted to say it might be worse than the disease she identifies.   For instance, she says that she takes some texts to the “literal extreme.”  I know what she’s getting at here—because I’ve read the book—but still find myself frustrated.  Her “extremes” suffer from the problem of not being literal at all.  The literal reading of a text isn’t whatever happens to come to mind when your eyes cross the page.  It’s the meaning of the text set within the genre.  One can read a metaphor literally, but that just means reading it…as a metaphor.  To do otherwise to it is simply to read it badly or not read it at all.

In that way, her use of these terms actually sets evangelicals back a long ways.  Seven or eight years ago, evangelicals—led by Kevin Vanhoozer—spent all sorts of time working out what they meant by Scripture and how to do theological interpretation.  Most of that conversation went on outside the context of the gender debates.  And what happens at the theological level doesn’t always make it to the churches.  But it’s as though none of that went on for Rachel’s project, which gives the book an almost exclusively critical feel.

What’s more, I understand her worry that we are smashing texts together to find a unity when one isn’t apparent.  Biblical exegetes have warned against that for years, so it’s not exactly new.  And frankly, her point about all looking for something in the text and wanting to find it there is a basic hermeneutical problem, too.  I’m not so sure she’s commending eisegeses so much as arguing for what the church fathers would have called a “rule of faith” for biblical interpretation.  Augustine thought texts had to conform to charity, after all, which I take her to be (unintentionally) echoing when she says:

Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?

My problem, though, is that the “prejudice of love” can end up being sentimentalized to the point of unhelpfulness and that it leaves the how of our “picking and choosing” arbitrary and capricious.  The language of “pick and choose” even points in that direction, which is precisely why folks like me are going to resist it.  She makes biblical arguments throughout the text—but are those arguments for a biblical position or are they merely about the Bible?  It’s hard to say, really, since once Rachel’s deconstructive work is done whether we can say “biblical” at all anymore.  And it really matters, because it is possible that we would adopt a biblical nihilism that allows the “prejudices of love” to be determined by our experience, primarily, which we then read back into the text.

Which is to say, even if we do read our experience back into the text, the question is whether we should—or whether in doing so, our reading into is challenged and corrected by the text itself. At what point, in other words, is the standard of finding love and justice determined and decided by the text itself?  Rachel points to the double-commandment to love God and neighbor, and that was Augustine’s move too.  But Augustine thought love needed ordering if it’s to be any good, and Scripture was at every point a correction on us for doing so.  But I think all this is ambiguous in Rachel’s book, which is why interpreters have come away with the impression she’s hollowed out the Bible despite her protestations to the contrary.


This is the longest review ever, but let me make two more points.

First, for someone who has staged a “Rally to Restore Unity,” this is clearly not a book that is intended to pursue that.  And that strikes me as tragic, for a lot of different reasons.  I think Rachel Marie Stone’s point about Rachel’s conservative critics not practicing a charitable reading of the book is probably right.  But that’s a buzzsaw that destroys everything in its path, and Rachel’s own project shows very little hermeneutical sympathy with the targets of her critique.

She didn’t set out on her journey attempting to find out what her intellectual foes thought, or why they thought it.  She set out from the conclusion that they were wrong and then read their texts accordingly.  I mean, after she notes that Proverbs 31 is recorded by King Lemuel “as an oracle his mother taught him,” she comments that this “totally upset my plan to cast the Proverbs 31 woman as an unrealistic archetype of the misogynistic imagination.”  That may be sarcasm, and I might have missed it.  I was born in Canada, which means I don’t do sarcasm.  But it sure seems like she set out on her reading with her conclusions predetermined, which isn’t exactly modeling the sort of hermeneutical sympathy that we might admire.

I’ll go one step further down this road.  Rachel tends to lump “patriarchalists” together, such that John Piper is treated as equivalent to the Vision Forum.  I realize distinctions don’t sell well, but I am also aware—having read a number of feminists and feminist theologians—that painting intellectual movements with a broad brush can be a way of unfairly marginalizing people we might otherwise be impelled to listen to.  And feminists have resisted having that done to them for years (I noted, for the record, that I described feminism with an overly broad brush in my own treatment on the subject).  If I was to put Mary Daly and Rachel Held Evans next to each other and go on about “feminists” and what they think, you might think that I’m being uncharitable to one or both.  It may be the case that John Piper and the Vision Forum have more in common than it seems (though I am skeptical), but from reading Rachel’s book no one will be able to tell.  And we all wonder why the Reformed community is so frustrated by how they’ve been treated?

All that to say, it saddens me that Rachel approached this subject as she did, in part because these are such weighty issues for all evangelicals to wrestle with and I worry that her approach has taken us backward on them, rather than forward.   These questions deserve the care and labor that comes with making distinctions, weighing arguments, and reading very closely.  I realize none of that sells well.  It’s boring, which is very near to death.  But it seems obvious that this sort of project is liable to easy misinterpretation, and Rachel’s hope of retreating into “irony” and protestations seems totally tone deaf.  It feels–and I am happy to be wrong–as though her desire to provide levity has crossed into the flippant.  (I was struck by how she included “deal with a crisis of faith” in a brief list of otherwise disconnected chores, as though such a profound moment could be one thing among many.)  Rachel’s readers can blame the critics for not getting the irony—and I may have missed it too.  If anyone’s still reading, I’m sure they’ll happily point it out.  But at what point does knowing that a way of approaching an issue has a likelihood of causing a major controversy actually make the author culpable?  Given the state of the evangelical world, this book is the equivalent of carrying a torch through a forest that hasn’t seen rain in years.  The odds of a fire are somewhere in the neighborhood of one.

Still, a word to those who I find myself in agreement with, my friends in the conservative evangelical world.  The responsibility to pursue unity is on us all, and when I read the reviews it strikes me that the first and clearest impulse has been to make the boundaries of interpretation clear first and foremost.  I understand the reasons why, I think, and the pastoral sense of responsibility to hold firm to sound doctrine and challenge those who seem to undercut it.  I write at a blog named Mere Orthodoxy, after all, which I’m pretty sure makes me anathema to most people my age.

But such a duty should be conducted, I think, with something of a heavy heart and sorrow at the tragedy of a divided church.  And maybe it could be done the day after a book comes out, or two days after, or three.  It seems unfair to accuse writers of creating controversy in order to grab attention, a charge that I’ve seen here and there, when our most prominent outlets seem quick to press publish on their rebuttals.  I understand the responsibility to respond and the freedom because these are public matters.  But when such responses happen quickly as quickly as this one did, they only fuel the controversy.  And that is something that I am increasingly wary of.


I really have gone on too long.  It’s late, and I am tired.  Which means I have officially reached “rant” mode.  But I really will be done with this:  I am increasingly saddened by the state of our Christian discourse online, including my own involvement in it.

I’m no Roman history expert, but I take it that it was their love of entertainment that led them to the Coliseum.  It’s a bloodthirsty idol, entertainment, for it knows no boundaries nor respects no persons.  Over the past two years, Christians have engaged in a variety of controversies—which they have been doing for a long time, but which seem to be coming and going with a greater rapidity while being discussed at a significantly more shallow level.  I think of Rob Bell’s book, Jesus>Religion, Mark Driscoll’s book, the Wilson dustup, and now this conflaguration.  And there are, I think, others I am forgetting.

In each, the form of arguments have rarely been commendable and the level of discourse ennobling.  We have increasingly, it seems to me, been taken by these controversies and fought for pageviews in the midst of them.  And that has meant mostly fighting each other, clashing verbal swords and letting the digital blood flow in the streets.  I know well that there is a time to disagree and to draw lines.  And I also know that when the controversy is upon us, the drumbeats of war always beat the loudest, and it is usually in such moments that we should speak of peace.  Perhaps we would all do well to wield our intellectual swords with a good deal more care.

Eight years ago, I thought that blogging held promise for the church to improve its dialogue and help minds think more Christianly.  I now wonder whether that is true, or whether the intrinsically shallow nature actually induces an entertainment-oriented mindset that prefers the action of a controversy to silence or to the boring, mundane work of saying the same old thing.  I see the tendency toward degrading speech in myself and have watched it come to the fore over the past year.  And I am not at all certain it should continue, either in me or in the rest of this small corner of the internet.   Because if evangelicalism continues to be a movement that lives on controversy, then it is certain that it will someday die by it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Matthew, I’m *so* with you on the controversy thing. It’s incredibly wearying and frustratingly shallow. I’m not sure what you mean by charitable reading as a “buzzsaw,” though. Do I think RHE has necessarily read patriarchalists in a charitable light? Not necessarily, but I also think Rachel would agree with that. I’m just suggesting, like you, that there’s “more good here than Rachel’s critics have allowed” and that a tempered response is better than a “hard-hitting” one.


    1. Yeah, that probably wasn’t my clearest moment. : ) I was writing this all at around 2 AM this morning, which is the only excuse I have. My main point there is simply that it does seem like if we disagree with how the critics have read Rachel’s book, we should similarly be critical of how Rachel approached complementarians. What’s good for the goose, in other words.



  2. I made it to the end and I’m so glad I did. A thorough reading and review, fair and centered. Grateful you addressed the unity implications as I think that’s an even greater loss than the rub we reformed complementarians or the progressive feminists might feel. Excellent.


    1. Thanks, Lore, for trudging all the way through that. I appreciate it immensely.



  3. Thanks for writing this Matthew. I haven’t gotten around to read this yet. My inclination is that I will like it. I am not complementarian, I understand many of the hermeneutical and exegetical problems that Evans has and how she deals with them (even thought I think I have come to a lot of different conclusions.)

    But I am glad that she is writing. For all of the weaknesses of her writing, I know many that have grown up in the conservative, complementarian world and found it without the hope of Christ.

    I don’t want to over play, but I think that for at least some, the cannot learn to love the Lord until they learn that the interpretation of scripture is culturally bound. And for many women, the place of women as bound people is what keeps them from finding Grace.

    I had a conversation the other day with a bunch of people that grew up in the church. For all of us as good bible believing people that grew up in loving homes, the main issue we have with really living out Christianity is understanding Grace. There is something about growing up in the Church that makes it hard to comprehend Grace. My pet theory is that we get taught how to behave at the same time we are being taught about Christ and we catch the implicit assumption that God loves us because we behave.

    I went to Divinity School with a number of women that grew up in conservative homes, loving God, but told that they were ‘not good enough’ to serve him in the way that they felt called. Most of them left the church for at least a little while and then returned to a different stream.

    So I want to uphold people like Rachel Held Evans, even when they are not completely right (and I commend you for graciously pointing out the problems). Because the older I get the more I see that being right is not always the best place for us to be.


    1. Adam,

      Thanks for the kind words and interesting reflection. I should note that I really do think her writing is quite a bit stronger than my own. If EV had half the liveliness that her latest does, well, I think a few more copies might have sold.

      The cultural contextualization problem is, of course, a problem. That’s what makes reading fun. The question is, how much and where does it stop? That was, I think, the underlying point of your review of EV….and it’s something we should all spend a lot more time thinking about.



  4. Thank you, Matthew, for actually engaging the content of my book. We may disagree on some things, but it really means a lot to me that you took the time to listen first, and disagree respectfully. Yours is one of the first from the complementarian side to do so, and I both appreciate the affirmation and am grateful for the critique. We share the same goals, I think – to interpret and apply the Bible well, and when we disagree, to do it with both conviction and love.


    1. Thanks, Rachel, for the kind words. I didn’t expect to persuade, though I did of course hope! : )

      Also, opposition is true friendship! I hope we get to meet in person someday to hash out these things “for real,” as they say.




      1. Indeed! You make a great point about not making a clear enough distinction between, say, Vision Forum and CBMW. That’s something I could have done better.


        1. I remember meeting Matthew at a CCDA conference in St Louis several years ago, though I must be honest – I haven’t visited this blog since that time. We were invited to have coffee and talk about blogging. We didn’t agree with each other on many things, but it was an enjoyable and civil conversation, nonetheless. I still consider the encounter fondly. All that to say, I enjoyed this critique. Thank you for demonstrating how to disagree without tearing down. And I hope y’all do get to meet in person & share coffee & conversation – I know from experience it will be delightful.


          1. Hah! I totally remember that conversation. Great to hear from you again…and thanks for the overly kind words. I’m not sure I could describe any conversation with me as “delightful,” but there you have it. : )

  5. Matthew,

    You consistently make sense and I find this annoying. What’s more, you’re quite clear about it, which makes it harder to “misunderstand” and go off on a rant anyways. ;)

    But seriously, thank you for the review. I’m going to read the book, but I’ve found myself with the curious feeling that, although many of my sympathies lie with the critics, I’m sure it’s not that simple of a story. There probably is an irony gap, and given my acquaintance with RHE’s blog, a bit of a caricature problem, which is a personal pet peeve. It’s nice to see someone conduct a critical review with charity and grace, all the while providing reflections worth reading on their own.

    The problem I instinctively have with the project is the fact that, in the wider culture, the adjective “biblical” doesn’t need destroying. It’s already verbum non gratum in the wider world. It’s increasingly so even in “evangelical” circles. It doesn’t need any more bad press–it needs reclaiming, redeeming. As you pointed out, there’s already been great work on that done by people like Kevin Vanhoozer (my personal, theological hero). What we need is popularizations of the careful work already done, not simple declarations that it can’t be done. That might work for RHE who has the time to read and think through what that does and doesn’t mean. In the hands of the average, biblically- and theologically-illiterate congregant, the idea that there is no such thing as a “biblical” concept of womanhood, or anything else, is just alarming to think about.

    Well, this comment is too long. Blessings!!


    1. Derek,

      Heh. I suspect it’s more the 3000 word rants you find annoying. : )

      Still, totally agree about rehabilitating “biblical.” And I agree that we need popularizations–or at least crossover books–that get it done in a way the massive Vanhoozerian tomes do not, as excellent as they are.



  6. Famous last words coming up in 3…2…1 … I haven’t read the book but this review seems about right. In fact, I haven’t even read very many reviews of the book. You might say I’m practicing a principled non-reading of the book (as Pierre Bayard calls it). Which is to say I’m more interested in how the book fits in to the conversation than the book itself. And I think you’ve done a service in that respect.

    This book actually has 2 genres. The first, obvious one is the “live a year doing something and write about it” genre. The second that nobody has really commented on is the same one as her first book … the “recovering from and/or learning to live in a world that is radically different than my evangelical upbringing told me about” genre. Perhaps “gimmick” is a better word than “genre,” but either way I find the latter one to be more interesting than the former. I mean, I’m sure the first gimmick is the one that provides more humor and probably keeps the reader’s attention better than the second gimmick but this second one probably tells us more about the controversy the controversy that has stirred up.

    Let’s face it, “I’ve put my childish ways behind” stories always run the risk of angering those that still see those ways as, well, not childish. These stories also run the risk of painting the other in a bad light. Especially when the author was literally a child when he/she believed them.

    This explains, I think, why AJ Jacobs’ book caused little or no controversy (Challies’ review at the time was critical of it but it garnered a grand total of 1 comment) while Rachel’s book, not so much. Jacobs’ book’s genre was purely of the first variety above, not the second.


    1. Eric, not sure if those “last words” will be famous, but they’re pretty good all the same. I wonder, though, whether the proximity of the respective writers (Jacobs and Rachel) to a real, lively community had more to do with the controversy they engendered. I mean, maybe Jacbos’ book was controversial in his own circles. I have no idea. But it’s worth thinking about as an alternative hypothesis.



  7. Good review–this conversation needs more of this sort of charitable dialogue across the divide. =)

    The book surprised me. I’d assumed that it was going to be all about deconstructing complementarianism, but if that was the goal, I don’t think it worked very well. I doubt that this book is going to change anybody’s mind about gender roles, or even cause anyone to ask hard questions that they weren’t already asking.

    But as someone already struggling with all the same questions, though, I was startled to find her calling me to charity and peace as I grapple with the sillier side of complementarianism.

    Reviewers have criticized her for exploring gender roles in their most absurd forms, rather than in their more robust manifestations, but the fact is,it’s the absurd stuff that holds women in bondage.

    Some ideas are powerful by virtue of their very absurdity, since any critique can be dismissed as a straw man argument–or a straw woman as the case may be. It may not be sportsmanlike to fight a straw man, but sometimes it’s the straw men that are running the show.

    One of the strongest arguments in favor of complementarianism is the difficulty of overestimating the potential absurdity of the “empty doctrines that take in silly women.” The problem isn’t really with men like John Piper, but with the reams and reams of shallow teaching by women for women, to which such men lend their credibility and platform, but not their theological carefulness.

    RHE blows the silly stuff away like a pack of cards, but then she hangs on to some of the good stuff from her ideological opponents, and turns her deconstructions in on herself to expose her own sinful attitudes. Ironically enough, I found the book valuable as a helpful exercise in not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t entirely agree with her on which is which, but I think she does a good job of modeling the sorting process.

    (Whew. Sorry about the long comment.. it’s sure a hard topic to address briefly!)


    1. Elena,

      Really sharp thoughts. I’m particularly interested to hear more about your final paragraph, and what particularly you think Rachel saves from her opponents. I have my guesses, but I bet your thoughts are more interesting.



      1. Matt,

        Hodgepodge reflections:

        The chapters where she grappled with domesticity and crafts really resonated with me, and I loved how she honored the women who excel at that sort of thing, while still affirming that hers is (and ought to be) a different sort of vocation… but also picking up a new and nurturing interest in cooking and hospitality. As someone who questions her gender identity every time anyone talks about giving the home “a woman’s touch,” I found her winsome and generous sense of security to be refreshing and helpful.

        I was pleasantly surprised to find that the part about Chip wasn’t a schtick to make fun of motherhood after all, but a humorous way to genuinely confront her fears. While she (rightly) critiques the idea that all women must be mothers, she also comes away believing that this is a place where God wants to change her heart.

        I thought the chapter on modesty was very insightful; as she explored the relationship between the full biblical virtue of modesty and modern dress codes, she honored women who practice a modest modesty, while calling out immodest modesty… and repenting of her own judgmental attitudes.

        Also, as you noted, the stuff about Dan was great. The “Dan is Awesome” sign was funny, but it wasn’t a joke. She really does praise her husband in the gates.

        I love the distinction between silencing yourself before God, and being silenced, and Rachel’s reflections on the women saints in ages past who found their voices through holy silence. That’s gospel stuff right there. And I love the call to just put on a head covering and prophecy. I know it probably sounds like a snarky little jab about women’s ordination, but to someone in my shoes, it’s an important reminder that the whole debate (about which I’m of a half-dozen different minds!) is really beside the point. It’s not about fighting to get men to recognize us, or to give us voices, as though that’s something any human can give or withhold; it’s about simply, quietly, and submissively responding to the Holy Spirit, and living out lives of full discipleship to Jesus, just like the holy women of old. And against such things–whether you’re egalitarian, complementarian, medieval or ancient–there is no law.



        1. Thank you for these kind thoughts, Elena. It’s hard to put into words how encouraging it is to hear someone respond like this to something you poured your heart and soul into.


        2. Elena,

          Right in line with my guesses. I really resonated with the domesticity part too, which is what I was trying to get at in my badly worded bit about being impressed with how hard homemaking is.

          And I almost mentioned the modesty part as another section that I thought was very good.

          Thanks for specifying, though. It is really very helpful.



  8. Great review, Matt. I may pick up the book after I’ve finished the billions thrust upon me. And a great concluding rant. Erudition has gone out of style in evangelicalism, both in the pew and the pulpit, and this has bled onto the blogs and forums.

    This was my favorite:
    “We have increasingly, it seems to me, been taken by these controversies and fought for pageviews in the midst of them. And that has meant mostly fighting each other, clashing verbal swords and letting the digital blood flow in the streets.”


    1. Thank you, sir! Always great to hear from you. But even better when it comes in this form! : )



  9. Yes and amen. Thank you for a thorough and legitimate treatment of YBW and the surrounding controversy. I can now go back to baking cookies and tending house without the weight of a fair comp response weighing on my shoulders. :-)

    Seriously though, I appreciate that you allow for the problems that RHE is calling out at the same time that you find her process and conclusions problematic. So much of the “dialogue” has failed to distinguish between these two and we all lose because of it.

    Again, thanks for tackling this–you have done good work.


    1. Thanks, Hannah, for the kind words. Also, send cookies. I might need the pick-me-up when this is all said and done. : )



  10. I would like to mention a few things that may be helpful in light of the problems in evangelical Christianity today. They will be brief statements with little explanation less requested.

    First, is that the crisis in evangelical Christianity is a lost cause. It is a failed experience. I spent 12+ years in it and much of that time was in ministry and seminary. I left it for the one true Church (Eastern Orthodoxy) 5 years ago and do not regret it. Protestantism and evangelical Christianity are built on division. They are not redeemable movements.

    Second, there are certain things no one should dialogue about. The push to dialogue about everything is a foolish one. For example, we should not dialogue about Naziism or Communism. They are dangerous ideas that need to be condemned. Our Lord did the same in his ministry as did John the Baptist (“You brood of vipers” is no way to begin a “dialogue”. Neither is “Woe to you ….” That’s because they did not have dialogue in mind). Again some things are foolish to dialogue about and just need to be condemned.

    I have not read the book and reading the review does not give me enough to make a judgement. However, the premise of “year of Biblical womanhood” and the mention of “Feminist Theology” causes justifiable suspicion.

    My advise is to not be duped into a “dialogue” with those things that need to be condemned. And do not try to salvage, the protestant/evangelical movement, that which is incapable of being salvaged. Ask an important question, where is the one true Church where the fullness of Christ dwells? To whom did Christ give authority? Who holds the keys to the interpretation of the Bible? The answers to these questions will lead to one place.


  11. Bravo, Matt. As always, I am grateful for your voice.

    Your last paragraph brought to mind the GodBlogCons, especially the first, which was so charged with idealistic enthusiasm. I confess that I got caught up in it as well, thinking naively that blogging had the potential to raise the level of spiritual and intellectual engagement of us all. And I think that it did, to a degree, and that we had a ball in our hands that didn’t need to get punted. But I’m not sure the punt was due to the shallow nature of blogging. Brevity of content need not equal lack of depth or quality. But we all are human, and sinners, and the honeymoon always ends; the charm wears off, and then we are faced with the real work of life. The challenge is to put away our basic nastiness–our partisanship and our political motivations (using those terms in the most general of senses, though they apply specifically), and get about the business of repentance and fighting the *good* fight, and extending mercy to all. May we all receive God’s grace in large measure to do this.


    1. Bonnie,

      Thanks for the kind feedback. I used to not blame the medium, too. But….well, it certainly makes certain responses more plausible, doesn’t it? I mean, it seems like the one-sentence paragraphs are proliferating everywhere, and I’m not sure that’s going to be good for how we all engage in discourse. But it also might be necessary….



      1. Necessary for what, is the question of course. Necessary for pageviews, for popularity, for immediate impact. Not so much for writing of the lasting quality Mere O aims for (as you obviously agree). But that constant thirst for pageviews, for popularity, for perceived impact, drives us toward confrontation of the snarky, biting variety rather than the much deeper and harder work of disagreeing while evincing charity, arguing at the level of real ideas rather than rhetorical interest, and laying a solid foundation for future believers.

        The immediacy of the internet drives us to precisely the sort of unconsidered, hasty response you rightly critique here—even from people I generally respect. It leads us to tend toward self-promotion and self-protection. It allows us to mistake “shouting about my own topic” for “guarding sound doctrine.” There is sound doctrine that needs to be guarded—and I think, with respect to Mrs. Evans, that she has at times gone rather far afield of it. But the way in which we do it needs to take into account where the person is coming from and the cultural context into which we are speaking. Sometimes, a stern rebuke is necessary (“I wish they would emasculate themselves…”). Other times, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”

        We really need a more careful media ecology here, and to be prepared to push back against the unhealthy shapes that internet discourse tends to take. There’s an interesting project, in fact: exploring the particular shapes of internet discourse and identifying the good to be kept, the neutral to be used carefully, and the bad to be resisted. ::wanders off to sketch out some ideas for such a piece::


      2. Certainly the medium has its limitations, as does any medium…but there is a difference between the capabilities of a medium and the way they are (or aren’t) used. As with anything, there are social conventions which govern a medium’s use, or come to be associated with its use, some more honorable than others…We can either allow ourselves to devolve (or go with the flow, as they say), or redeem the medium and use it well. The latter is usually more challenging, but a noble calling :-)


  12. My absolute favorite thing about this article is the last few paragraphs. We Christians spit vitriol at one another as if we aren’t ultimately on the same side at all. It’s completely, mind-numbingly silly. Just think of what the outside world thinks of us. Yet we are supposed to be known for our love. It’s sad and ironic.

    The problem in America, I think, is that because we have little persecution or things going on that actually challenge us to come together and show love, we have a lot more time to squabble about the “jots and tiddles” of the law.
    Yes, American Christianity is not about grace, but the law. We make many of the same mistake the Pharisees made in Jesus’ day. Notice Jesus didn’t sit down and tell people exactly what was biblical about every single thing in Scripture. No, He said “love God” and “love others.” He blew people’s minds with the simplicity and yet depth of His message!
    Yes, theology and being “biblical” is important, but we are ALL finite beings trying to wrap our heads around an infinite God. We will ALL get some things wrong no matter how perfect we try to be in interpretation. And I don’t believe God is as concerned about it as we have been led to believe. Yes, we must follow the convictions He places in our hearts, knowing full well we are fallen and stumbling even when we try so desperately to obey. The rest will work itself out in the course of eternity. Not before. So let’s show each other a little grace in the meantime.


  13. Matt,
    Some of the points you bring up also apply to Jonathan Dudley’s “Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics” in the sense that his book isn’t really about its four topics – abortion, homosexuality, environmentalism, or evolution – any more than Rachel’s book is about femininity. Instead, both books use popularly hot topics to discuss ideas about Biblical interpretation that have been limited to the academy (Vanhoozer).

    Christian Smith makes the same point – “Anyone can make the Bible say anything” – explicitly in “The Bible Made Impossible” but there are no blogs about it because it doesn’t use a popular hook.

    In each case, I appreciated the point, but I was left without much sense of forward direction. Evans offers us “love” and Smith “Christocentrism” but it seems those are no less susceptible to abuse than claiming to be “biblical” …


    1. My take away from Smith (and his movement toward Catholicism) is that his next step is community interpretation. Which has a whole other set off issues.

      I think my biggest frustration with hermeneutics over the past couple years has been the fact that lots of good questions are being raised. But not many satisfactory answers are being found.


      1. Hermonta Godwin November 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm


        I think that Smith doesnt simply move towards community interpretation, but instead divine community interpretation. I am not a Catholic but he is not saying that if we simply take more people into consideration then we will get the correct answers.

        As far as getting some answers to hermeutical questions, I think the path to a solution is finding common ground on natural revelation/natural law. By that I mean hammering out a common set of assumptions that one is to bring to the Bible. People do not come to the Bible with a blank slate, but instead a number of different assumptions etc. Until we can hammer out which assumptions to bring to the Bible, we will not be able to come to agreement on what conclusions to take from it. If such a goal is impossible, then the discussion just needs to be given up.


        1. I think you are mostly right about this. More people is not what Smith is arguing. Although I think is not quite divine community interpretation, at least in Bible Made Impossible. I do think it is submission to the community and not large groups of individuals discussing the meaning of a passage.


  14. I read your tweet about the length of your review and took it as a challenge. I appreciate the clarity of your discussion and the charity of your review.

    After reading it all, I can’t help but wonder if the biblical womanhood discussion might be enhanced with a more thorough conversation on biblical manhood. Our churches are filled with men that provide financially but do not provide spiritually for their families. Perhaps when men start behaving biblically, the discussion of womanhood might have the forward progress we all long for.


    1. Hah! I love that you took it as a challenge.

      And I think your point about launching a “biblical manhood” discussion is interesting. Not sure I’m on board with it, but it’s interesting.


      1. There have been all sorts of “biblical manhood” discussions (and “movements”) in the church in just my 15 years of adult awareness. They have “complementary” weakness to the “biblical womanhood” discussions and I really feel for the men who have been damaged by them.


  15. I’m not a complementarian. But Matthew you identify my uneasiness with the project – given the tone who is the audience and what is the point?

    Adopting a posture of irony makes me wonder if its just meant to excite agreement among those who already … agree? I mean in some ways there isn’t anything for the complementarians to actually take seriously and dialogue with. Nobody – not Rachel or the most fundy patriarchalist – thinks the Bible teaches that Christian women should live in a tent, exile themselves to the roof, say “master” etc. But if as a work it is an exploration of absurdity – it takes a very sympathetic commentator indeed to see the critique of absurdity and apply it to one’s own beliefs. Which leaves me with a book that traditionalists can hardly help reject as un-serious and egalitarians can enjoy as a snarky commentary about how silly the traditionalists are. Who does this help?


  16. […] Controversy and Interpretation: A Review of *Biblical Womanhood* […]


  17. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book, only what is likely to be a small percentage of the reviews.

    One of my greater sadnesses about this particular project was the choice of title. The use of “Biblical Womanhood” sets it up for immediate comparison with the CBMW, and yet what was tried was (at least in my eyes) nowhere near what they (or, indeed, other complementarian groups) suggest is “Biblical Womanhood”. I worry that egalitarian-leaning people will read this book as an attempt to be a complementarian for a year, and will then simply discard the position as an irrelevance.

    Having said that – thanks for a great, and sensitively written, article.


    1. Complementarianism sure means a lot of different things to different people, doesn’t it? Before reading YBW, I’d actually recommend engaging with some of the fluffy women’s-bible-study literature from the complementarian camp, since that’s mostly what she’s confronting. Ironically enough, I think that complementarian men have shirked their leadership responsibilities in this area, leaving unchallenged a whole body of massively influential literature that deceives women in really dangerous ways, and sometimes even distorts the gospel itself.


      1. This is absolutely the truth, Elena — I’ve been surprised and disappointed to see comp. men *promoting* intellectually inadequate work (not just bible study, but material purporting to address gender issues theologically) by comp. women…work that does not pass their own rightfully high standards in this area. And the result is as you say (although men are doing it too, and deceiving other men as well…) Thank you for bringing this up.


  18. I feel compelled to snarkily gesture in the direction of Chesterton’s The Napoleon of Notting Hill at your quote, “And that has meant mostly fighting each other, clashing verbal swords and letting the digital blood flow in the streets.” Not so snarkily, though: I agree strongly when you say, “I know well that there is a time to disagree and to draw lines. And I also know that when the controversy is upon us, the drumbeats of war always beat the loudest, and it is usually in such moments that we should speak of peace. Perhaps we would all do well to wield our intellectual swords with a good deal more care.” We ought to be diligent to preserve the bonds of peace.


  19. For what it’s worth, I am no scholar, and I haven’t read the book, and I agree with Matthew’s comments on the blogging culture.

    With that said though, any discussion on biblical femininity can pretty much predicted along two streams. The arguments aren’t really fresh. There seems to be a camp of either profound literalists, or of profound “interpretational” types and ne’er the two shall meet. Headscarves versus crewcuts.

    I would suggest two of the problems can be addressed immediately if two or three of the main chunks of Scripture used to justify the various positions are viewed as they ought to be.

    Firstly, the Virtuous Wife of Proverbs 31 is no more a woman than the Woman Wisdom. She is symbolism of wisdom coming alongside as a helpmeet, creating in her husband a richness of life that is unparalleled. That her “husband” may well be a woman, and the woman herself the possessor of the woman Wisdom, is only confusing to modern ears.

    Secondly, Paul’s and the New Testament’s hard to swallow comments on the roles of women are only hard to swallow if taken out of context of the rest of it, namely, that Paul takes the time to emphasize that Christianity ought not to be the religion of bedlam. A huge component of true Christianity lends itself to jihad: unafraid of death, unafraid of authority. Or, consequently, disrespectful of husbands because husbands more or less have been the authority since time began, and they were likely as not unbelievers.

    In addition to this, remember the passage in which Paul states “It is good not to be married”. That needs to be treated as extremely important because the logical flip side is that if a man cannot serve God as well because he is devoted to his wife as well, then a wife cannot serve God as well if she is devoted to her husband. Point being, if a wife does not want to serve a husband, don’t marry him in the first place. This is as hard a teaching as Christ said it was, to his disciples (only with them it was the flip, concerning divorcing their wives).

    Thirdly, review of gender roles as outlined in Genesis must be taken with common sense. Read strictly literally, a woman’s travail in childbirth would be an ordained fact of God and therefore, tampering with it by way of medication or surgery or help at all would be tampering with God’s ordained order. This is not so. Furthermore, without womanhood, there is no opportunity of redemption…people seem to forget that there was no man involved in the virgin birth, which elevates womanhood to an entirely new level. Womanhood needs to be viewed as “humanity”, the created thing — just as the pagans tag “mother” onto everything there is and people name boats “she.” If it is viewed as much other than symbolic, it gets unworkable.

    I wrote a book on it. I won’t plug too hard, but I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time on it and can put together a better argument elsewhere.

    Gender role is a worldview that has not to my knowledge been fleshed out accurately in any of the creeds because the times had never been suited. History and a lack of central heating has never allowed women to function without men, not really. Men still can not produce babies; in many ways, women are the superior creatures in our culture. Between these realities, questions are raised that need answering.


  20. Thanks for this review. I too am on the “complementarian side” (to the extend that I’m on a side), but I am also disheartened by the gintleless and disrespectful dialogue (on both sides, mostly “mine”). I have found, with many in the egalitarian camp, they end up arguing against a charicature of my view. But, I suppose the same could be said the other way round. This is why, I believe, biblical arguments are key. “this group did that” or “that group said this” isn’t helpful in any arena. I don’t claim the statments of anyone else. I claim no “-isms” and i’m no “-ist” except to say I’m a biblicist. But that’s why, in general, I find Theology such an icepick to the temple. If we could move the church into more of the Biblical Studies side, we would be better off (but that’s my prejudice). I think Rachel means well and has the right spirit. Great review.


    1. Thanks, John Mark. I’m not sure that moving this conversation into teh world of biblical studies is going to solve it quite that easily, but I do think that’s the first place where it needs to happen.


  21. Hermonta Godwin November 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm


    I think overall this was a fair review. I do have a disagreement that no one seems to have addressed.

    You wrote: “What’s more, I was happy to see that she took down the deeply problematic idea that women owe men sex.”

    From your other writings, I think I should understand that statement as “Wives do not owe their husbands sex.”

    I simply disagree. However, I think taking a wider view could be more helpful. Do spouses “owe” each other anything and how do we determine what fits into that category.


    1. I think ‘owe’ is deeply unhelpful language. It is language of obligation and not love. It is not language that I really want my wife using toward me. I am happy to dispense with it. I think it is part of my problem with complementarianism as a whole (although probably with a subgroup more than the whole if I am being fair.)

      I think that men and women complement one another. I think spouses almost always complement one another. I think that in general men and women are made different and gifted differently. But the language of obligation is what will keep me from ever claiming complementarian as a label (that and the fact that I believe in women’s ordination.)


      1. Hermonta Godwin November 7, 2012 at 6:17 am

        I don’t see owe as somehow mutually exclusive with love. I would say that a person who loves another gives the other what they are due/owed graciously and without hesitancy or bitterness.

        Also if we do away with the concept of owe, then we would also lose any criteria by which to judge anything. A person is not a good or bad husband without one being able to say that he does or does not give his spouse what is due/owed her (according to the Bible/natural law etc.)


        1. I agree Hermonta. Especially in the Christian world where marriage is meant to be a life-long, exclusive relationship – I personally have no problem with the idea that a husband/wife owes the other sex. I thought that was somewhat naturally implied when you choose to get married (but I could be wrong).


          1. I think we are using words differently. I think my love for my wife obligates me to care for her in all ways that I can. That should include sex. But to use obligate (or owe) apart from love seems to make the relationship based on transaction. Transaction that involves sex seems to be not far from a form of prostitution. I know you are not advocating for prostitution, so I think we are not talking about the same thing.

            I think that it is easy to evaluate the relationship via love, much easier than obligation. Love is not based on what my spouse has done for me, but on the free gift that I give to her. So I do not evaluate what she is or is not doing for me based on my love or her obligation. Instead the evaluation should primarily be be of my own love for her and how I am doing at furthering her joy in the world and facilitating her relationship with Christ.

            I know there is biblical support for covenantal language within marriage. But God’s covenants are primarily about grace. Yes he expect us to live up to his covenant, but what we get is not based on our obligation to him, but on his love for us and the grace that he shows us.

            So a language of obligation within a human marriage I believe is not biblically supported by Christ’s relationship to the church, or God’s convental relationship to Israel.

            I am of course speaking of the ideal here. I all of the time wish for my wife to lavish gifts and services up me. I all the time do not show her the adequate love and support that I should. But these are examples of failure and sin, not inadequate obligation.

          2. This is a conversation that deserves more than combox contributions. The relationship between love, norms, and obligations is one that I’m spending a fair amount of time thinking about these days. That only to say, even if we *don’t* end up using the language of obligation, we might still say that “love” has certain norms that we….should?…..abide by. It’s hard to move away from obligation language, turns out!

          3. I get the difficulty in completely moving away from a language of obligation. But it still makes me uncomfortable because of the misuse of the power language that has gone before. Particularly when the we use obligation toward the powerful (the wife owes the husband sex) without making the corresponding obligation more clear. What is the corresponding obligation here? Most of the time I only hear it going one way. Is the obligation providing? Because many women do not ‘need’ a husband to provide. My wife has made more than I every single year of our marriage. It is emotional support? Spiritual leadership?

            I realize that I am far afield of the original post. But I think that if we do not deal with the realities of how language has changed we are not adequately interpreting scripture. Which might be back to part of the original point of the post.

          4. Hermonta Godwin November 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm

            I am unfamiliar with any time where obligations/duties of the wife are addressed without corresponding duties of the husband. Whenever the Biblical command for wives to submit to/obey their husbands is addressed, the corresponding command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church is close behind or perhaps even before.

            I think it is fair to say that emotional support and leadership are duties that a husband owes his wife.

          5. I agree that in scripture there is usually parity. My point wasn’t scripture but Evangelical teaching. But maybe I am just totally wrong and not getting a representative sample of what Evangelicals really are teaching.

            However, when I have lead small groups for newly married, women have internalized care for husband in a very different way than men have internalized care for their wives.

            It is pretty rare for women to say you are not caring for me emotionally or spiritually. It is pretty common for men to say you are not caring for me sexually. I think the difference is more in what people are free to express and what churches emphasize rather than a real difference in parity of care.

            And I am not male bashing. I think many men are stepping up in ways that they are not being acknowledged for. But those that are stepping up are not using language (at least in my experience) of obligation but language of love.

            When language of obligation is used, it is usually a sign of an already damaged marriage or relationship.

          6. I agree that a spouse using the language of obligation inside marriage will probably be very unhelpful — but it in no way negates the fact that the obligation is there.

            As a practical matter, the trick is to figure out how to help wives and husbands work out their differences and come to a mutual agreement on how to proceed. I think most husbands are probably timid (for a variety of reasons:previous generations attitude, not wanting to seem selfish, own personal uncomfortableness, etc) about expressing their need for sex.

            I find it close to unfathomable that if a husband said to his wife “This is very important to me and this is something I really really need, is there a way that we could work it out” that his wife would be unwilling. In my observation, most husbands don’t say that, they just try to be increasingly “nice” (helping with kids, dishes, housework) and hope sex is forthcoming.

            It seems to me, looking in from the outside, the evangelical church is on the pendulum swing and now over-emphasizing the responsibilities of the husband, compared to his wife. In my circle of evangelical acquaintances, I know of two couples where the wife had an affair with another man. My 0.02 cents :)

          7. Hermonta Godwin November 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm

            >>I agree that in scripture there is usually parity. My point wasn’t scripture but Evangelical teaching. But maybe I am just totally wrong and not getting a representative sample of what Evangelicals really are teaching.<>However, when I have lead small groups for newly married, women have internalized care for husband in a very different way than men have internalized care for their wives.<>It is pretty rare for women to say you are not caring for me emotionally or spiritually. It is pretty common for men to say you are not caring for me sexually. I think the difference is more in what people are free to express and what churches emphasize rather than a real difference in parity of care.<>And I am not male bashing. I think many men are stepping up in ways that they are not being acknowledged for. But those that are stepping up are not using language (at least in my experience) of obligation but language of love.

            When language of obligation is used, it is usually a sign of an already damaged marriage or relationship.<<

            You have yet to demonstrate that love and obligation/the language of obligation are mutually exclusive. To go even further if love is separated from an "ought", then the term love is reduced to, "that which I have a positive response towards." Without an ought, one could never say, "Hey you have a distorted/bad view of love."

    2. This whole conversation reminded me of Romans 13:8 and the “obligation” to love.

      “Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”

      Still, love as an abstract concept is fairly meaningless apart from specific actions; so I do think there can be a sense in marriage where we could “owe” each other sexual availability as a way to fulfill a debt of love.


      1. Thank you for this stimulating discussion. It is so encouraging to see conversations being had at a level of engagement rather attack and defense. This is a general reply to the above thread of discussion.

        I find the term ‘owe’ or the language of obligation problematic in that it implies a certain ‘deservedness’ or entitlement on the part of the spouse which in essence distorts the way that we view love. If we are to love as Christ loves, the emphasis shifts away from obligation to a deserving spouse and onto sacrifice for an undeserving human. It is a love based on grace. It is an ideal in that it is modeled on the perfect love of Christ, and something we have to continue to strive for (and will often fail at) for the rest of our lives. Yes, this love will present itself in certain actions, but I find shifting the focus onto what the manifestations of this love ‘should’ look like has the potential to stunt growth towards practicing and experiencing Christ-like love. It seems to me that it isn’t an abstract concept, it is patient, is kind, is not self seeking, keeps no records of wrongs, it doesn’t boast, it respects, it isn’t selfish, it isn’t jealous, it always protects, always hopes, always trust, rejoices in truth – these are all active choices.


  22. lauramanythings November 7, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    your blog has actually restored my faith in blogging – I found this post model of how to respectfully disagree and engage in a spirit of generosity and thoughtfulness. It’s not time to give up on blogs yet!


    1. Way too kind, Laura. Thanks. : )


  23. In reading through numerous reviews of this book, the central theme of the (negative) comments seems to be “why didn’t you write this book from my point of view, using my view of Christianity?”. I believe that this is a core problem, and can be related to your concern about blogging and other communication methods used by the Christian community. If you can’t agree on the starting point of a discussion, what is the chance of it going somewhere productive? In many ways, we have become Babel, with many groups using the same words differently, and thus not understanding each other. I don’t believe that Rachel was addressing her work to “academic” Christians that spend their days fretting over these things and comparing variations in meaning of greek words, but to “everyday” Christians that are trying to apply the Bible to their lives. We are not comfortable being told what others have decided, and need to participate in the dialog from our own perspective to find the path that God intends for us.


  24. […] “Controversy and Interpretation: A Review of *Biblical Womanhood*,” Mere Orthodoxy Tags: Social Conservative Review […]


  25. […] finally here’s a complimentarian review of the book from Matthew Lee Anderson. He doesn’t dismiss her as a ‘dangerous influence’, but gets into the […]


  26. […] “Controversy and Interpretation: A Review of *Biblical Womanhood*,” Mere Orthodoxy […]


  27. […] “Controversy and Interpretation: A Review of “Biblical Womanhood” by Matthew Lee […]


  28. Thanks Matthew for the thoughtful review. I’m actually a new subscriber at Rachel’s blog and as much as I like the hard questions she asks on so many things I don’t need a book to muddy the waters with straw-man arguments even if I agree with her premise that we all pick and choose passages in our muddled attempts at biblical hermeneutics. I’ve studied the issue long enough to “know” that there are strengths and weaknesses to each camp and as much as I long to go over to Mimi Haddad and company, I just can’t ignore the headship issue even if it’s politically correct to do so. That doesn’t mean I see it like the complementarians either. I think there’s middle ground with a multi-faceted approach to the many different dynamics we see at work in the Bible between men and women and husbands and wives if we let go of the gentilic view of authority (Mt 20:25ff) that we claim to have done (until push comes to shove), and we have to be faithful to follow Paul’s LIMITED use of the headship analogy.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me something to think about.



  29. […] and has the potential to confuse and misinform many. Other helpful reviews have been provided by Matthew Lee Anderson, Doug Wilson and Kathy Keller. Share this:FacebookStumbleUponEmailDiggReddit A Year Of Biblical […]


  30. Great Stuff Matthew! I noticed that the complementarians I was reading were not understanding the actual argument that Rachel was proposing. I figuring that the reasons are twofold. First, present day complementarians are a very textual people (contra. the stereotype of “traditionalists). They have taken their position against the cultural tide due to the texts they read. Thus, they immediately think on a textual level. If you are going to battle complementarianism you need to bring your bible and BDAG because we are going to work through the text. So they immediately responded to the book on a textual/exegetical arena which was not the arena of the book. Second, I think most we seeing only two sides: egal. vs. comp. Thus, Rachel’s main argument of plurality and uncertainty was missed.

    And I think your problem with her argument is spot on. “Pick and chose” language sets in motion the ability to openly defy Christ while having a verse to back one up in the defying. Our goal is not to pick and choose but to work hard in being the most faithful we can and rest in the patience and grace of our Lord.


  31. […] The issue of the performative quality of Rachel’s project has been suspected as much as her exegetical leanings. Matthew Lee Anderson’s review of the book, which goes on to offer a cogent criticism of exegetical problems he finds in Rachel’s work, nonetheless begins, “I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out what it means, culturally, that we’ve reach… […]


  32. Good critique. I appreciate the balance the the sources you provided.


  33. I think you meant “conflagration” instead of “conflaguration.”


  34. Well, I’ve just discovered Mere Orthodoxy and am finding old blogs to catch up on. Hence I am commenting when no one is paying attention anymore. But for what it’s worth… my husband and I have found that as we each focus on submitting to one another, whether I am submitting to him, or he is loving me as Christ loves the Church, it all starts looking very much the same. It’s not about filling certain roles or even who is in authority (besides God), it’s about each person seeking God’s help to sacrificially love and serve the other.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *