Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

 A Year of Biblical Womanhood : How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master", Rachel Held Evans
I had just became acquainted with Rachel Held Evans, and while reading her site I stumbled upon the ability to be apart of the review team for her new book. After acceptance, I was sent a pdf. file of the book. I read the book before its release date of October 30, 2012.  
A Year of Biblical Womanhood has caused a commotion.....sensation....attack and counterattack responses. I cannot think of another book that has caused a stir this year in Christian publishing. I'm reminded of the book Love Wins by Rob Bell. This book published in 2011 caused a "stink" that echoed among blogs, and websites, and pulpits, for quite some time.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood has gained media attention through venues that are usually not receptive or interested in promoting press coverage to a Christian book. Rachel and her husband were interviewed on The Today Show, as well as The View. 
Articles about Rachel and her book have appeared in The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.
Over the past 3 weeks I've read everything I could Online, both from those who dislike the book and those who fell in love with its message. I also studied up on definitions of words I was not familiar with.
I studied hermeneutics, egalitarianism, dominionist, and complementarianism.
I read about Christian groups I'd not heard of before, for example: Christians For Biblical Authority.
I read a post on judgmentalism from Credo House Ministries/Parchment and Pen Blog.
Recently I read Mary Kassian's view of 'Year of Biblical Womanhood'.
And another review from Slave of the Word blog.
Today I watched a video courtesy of The Gospel Coalition that has Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss speaking about their views on complementarianism, and the role of women in the Church.
Link for this video:
http://thegospelcoalition.org/resources/a/complementarianism_without_the_traditionalism
Yesterday I read a review post on Tim Keller's new book, Center Church. In this post 3 important ways are addressed that, "every believer, through the Holy Spirit, is to minister to others."
Link for this post:
http://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/tim-keller-on-every-believer-as-prophet-priest-and-king/
Although this last post I mention was not written in response to A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I don't believe it was a fluke that I came across it.
Finally I want to mention that Rachel herself further explained in a post on her blog, some of the questions raised about her book, as well as questions about what her beliefs are about the Bible. Her explanations helped to clear up a few questions and reservations I had. I appreciate Rachel's' forthrightness in responding.
Link for her post:
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/biblical-womanhood-and-the-illusion-of-clarity-a-response-to-kathy-keller

Before I begin my review I want my readers to be aware of a few things.
  • If you were in hope of reading a review that is harsh, demeaning, argumentative, or persuasive for either side of the debate this book has caused, look elsewhere! 
  • I read this book with a critical eye. Critical not in the sense I was looking for fault. I poured through every Bible verse, every chapter, every word, every statement. I wanted to make sure I understood as much as is possible what the author wanted to achieve in purpose; did she express herself soundly and understandably, were the goals established met. 
  • Perspective and objective are important in writing a review. The word perspective (one of its definitions) means "a mental view of the relative importance of things." Objective means "expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived with out distortion by personal feelings, prejudices or interpretations. Both definitions from Oxford Pocket American Dictionary. 
  • Included in my review I will note both positive and negative points, and giving my reasons why. 
  • One blog post review could never bring out every single dot and slash of this book. Those points I chose to point out I felt were most important.

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.

Published by Thomas Nelson October 30, 2012
352 pages
Non-fiction/Christian Living/Women/Old Testament/New Testament
Link for book @ Lifeway Christian Bookstore:
http://www.lifeway.com/Keyword/A+Year+of+Biblical+Womanhood
Paperback $15.99

Link @ Christian Book:
http://www.christianbook.com/biblical-womanhood-liberated-covering-calling-husband/rachel-evans/9781595553676/pd/553676?product_redirect=1&Ntt=553676&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP
Paperback $10.49
eBook $9.99

Link @ Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Year-Biblical-Womanhood-Liberated-Covering/dp/1595553673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352304201&sr=8-1&keywords=a+year+of+biblical+womanhood
Paperback $9.62
Kindle $8.63

Authors site:
http://rachelheldevans.com/


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