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Archive for June, 2011

The following continues a series of posts reading through Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?.  If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series.

Ch. 2: The Historical Connection Between Liberalism and the Endorsement of Women’s Ordination in the Church
In this chapter, Grudem refers to sociologist Mark Chaves’s book Ordaining Women for information on when various denominations began ordaining women.  Notably, he skips American Baptists, which made me sad.  Chaves, Grudem explains, has found that denominations resistant to ordaining women are either those that (1) place a premium on “sacramental ritual” (like the Roman Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodox Church; supposedly this also explains why Episcopalians took until 1976 to ordain women) or (2) believe in biblical inerrancy.  Grudem admits that some inerrantists do embrace women in ministry, too—in particular those emphasizing the Holy Spirit or congregational autonomy—but generally, he still thinks it is significant that even if all egalitarians aren’t liberal, all liberals are egalitarians.  He specifically identifies a pathway to liberalism he believes everyone is taking, which begins with “abandoning biblical inerrancy” and “endorsing the ordination of women” and ends with “ordaining homosexuals to high leadership positions in the denomination” (28).  This is an unfortunate slight against the many inerrantist egalitarians that are a part of organizations like Christians for Biblical Equality, as well as an annoying conflation of two separate theological and ecclesiastical issues (women’s ordination and LGBT ordination).

The best part of this chapter, by far, is when Grudem talks about the “more liberal ‘moderates'” in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who were later ousted by those who again believed in inerrancy and traditional gender roles.  (Conservatives—some would say fundamentalists—took control of the SBC in 1984.)  Hilariously, he calls the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (a new movement from the 90s, gathering many moderates formerly affiliated with the SBC) liberal.  He also specifically complains about my alma mater, Fuller Theological Seminary, because it removed inerrancy from its doctrinal statement in 1971 and is filled with egalitarian professors.  He offers a letter from his friend William Mounce who adjuncted a class on the pastoral epistles at Fuller in 1987, in which Mounce complains about student and administrative responses to his more traditional views.  I was proud to see that the Women’s Concerns Committee got a shout-out, since this is the historical precursor to my own position as VP for Women & Gender on the 2010-2011 All-Seminary Council.

Ch. 3: Saying That Genesis is Wrong: Some evangelical feminists deny the authority or truthfulness of Genesis 1-3
Here Grudem makes two complaints:  First, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis’s book Good News for Women says that any patriarchal bias in the Hebrew language should not be equated with God’s own opinion.  Grudem says that, “[s]he talks about ‘the languages in which the Bible was written’ as if the debate were about words that occur outside Scripture.  But she glosses over the fact that the story of God’s naming the human race man… is found in the Hebrew language in the text of the Bible… deny[ing] the authority of this part of Scripture” (36).  Besides the fact that I consider ha adam to be a little more gender inclusive than Grudem gives it credit for, his argument is clearly based on an insistence that every single word of Scripture be hand-picked by God to convey some special meaning—something not even all inerrantists would say.

Grudem’s second complaint is that William Webb (Women, Slaves, and Homosexuals) doesn’t see Genesis 1-3 as “historically accurate” because Webb says there are possible literary reasons why the passage would seem to support patriarchy.  Interestingly, Webb seems to see the text itself as more inherently patriarchal than I do, but he says that this might be because (a) Gen. 1-2 are in some sense foreshadowing the curse in ch. 3, (b) the text is trying to explain things in ways that would make sense to Moses’s audience, or (c) the text is anticipating the agrarian society which Adam and Eve will soon enter.  After an attack by Grudem, Webb defended his views in a paper presented at the Evangelical Theological Society, saying that he did believe Gen. 1-3 gave a historical count of creation, he just thought some details might be “ahistorical” or “nonhistorical” instead of meant to be relied on for history.  However, Grudem has not changed his mind: Tragically and hilariously, Grudem picks at this poor scholar over such a small concession to moderate theology.  Our dear Dr. Webb apparently qualifies for ETS membership (unlike us heathens at Walking Towards Jerusalem), speaks as if Moses wrote the Torah, and even claims to believe that this portion of Scripture is historically accurate.  For goodness sakes, I think it is clear that he is not coming even close to liberalism, so I’m not quite sure how this advances Grudem’s argument.  However, I’m sure there are plenty of readers who would disagree!

Continue with this series–read about ch. 4-5!

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Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? By Wayne GrudemTonight while bored in the library waiting for a book from the closed stacks to be brought to me, I decided to go find a couple books critiquing an egalitarian position.  I’ve read many such articles, but I’ve never stomached a whole book, and what better book to start with than Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?  I am finding it useful because it helps me better understand the arguments circulating in complementarian circles, which I think is helpful for understand if/where/when/how greater space for women can be made in the evangelical world.  I also am finding the book amusing when I don’t find it exasperating or sad.  And so that you, too, can be better educated on what some complementarian spokespeople are saying—and join me on the ups and downs of my emotional journey through this book (so far most of them have been ups, actually, because again, many aspects very amusing!)—I have decided to blog a short summary of each chapter as I go through.  Let the fun begin!

Ch. 1- Introduction
This is where Wayne Grudem explains his passion for the topic and why he thinks “evangelical feminism” is leading people toward liberalism.  Interestingly, he really prefers the term evangelical feminism over egalitarianism, I’m guessing because it sounds scarier to many conservative Christians.  Additionally, he emphasizes specifically that evangelical feminists don’t recognize the special roles of men in the church and home—saying very little, in fact, about women’s (I thought supposedly equally special?) roles in complementarian thinking.  He appeals to Francis Shaeffer so you know other good conservative evangelicals are on his side, though Grudem does admit to being friends with a handful of egalitarian men (they are all men) and encourages people to not try to be “more ‘conservative’ than the Bible” by restricting women’s contributions even more he is willing to do.  He also adds a specific word to egalitarians: maybe even if they don’t change their views as he hopes, they will at least start avoiding the sorts of arguments he thinks are bad and lead to heresy.  And to complementarians, he hopes the book will be a battle call of sorts, it seems.

Continue with this series–read about ch. 2-3!

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When my friends Liz and Kris got engaged this spring, I was quickly sent back to my own memories of engagement, wedding planning, and such.  Liz and I are not ideological twins or anything, but a lot of the assumptions about women and weddings that irked me so much during my engagement were beginning to irk her after only a few weeks, a fact which I found both unfortunate (for her) and reassuring (for me).  This led me to do some Amazon-based research on books approaching weddings from a feminist perspective, or at least an anti-wedding-industry perspective, of which I found a few and bought one (for now).

I Do, But I Don't: Walking Down the Aisle Without Losing Your Mind by Kamy WicoffEarlier this summer I really enjoyed reading the book I chose, I Do, But I Don’t: Walking Down the Aisle Without Losing Your Mind, which mixed memoir with cultural critique.  The author, Kamy Wicoff (pronounced like “Amy” with a K), was funny, easy to relate to, and as passionate a feminist as I am.  I particularly appreciated the fact that she questioned nearly everything about weddings… and yet, she wussed out of actually going against the grain all the time when it came to hers.  Even though there were points where I thought she didn’t go far enough to live our her beliefs, I related to the tension she felt and was comforted that I was not alone in “compromising” in certain ways.  I think many readers who identify less strongly as feminists would appreciate that Wicoff didn’t simply discard all traditions and that she can relate to herself and others as women walking a confusing path—not as simply being sell-outs.

I wanted to take some time to note a few things she brought up in the book, as well as to describe my own experience as Jeremiah’s feminist fiancée, in the blog series, which will be forthcoming.  I’ve been interested in blogging about this for a while, but I think the distance of a year and a half from our own wedding, plus reading Wicoff’s book, has finally motivated me to organize my thoughts for the blogosphere. As a preview, though, let me say this:

Once someone asked me, “Don’t you just love being engaged?”  I tried to stay calm, but part of me wanted to scream.  NO!  I hated being engaged.  On so many levels.  I am not a very patient person, so I hated waiting to be married, generally.  I hated the fact that I felt so married and yet wouldn’t be so recognized by others until I had a ceremony—which has its value, but is not as important as our relationship itself, for goodness sakes, so why did people see me as 86% not-married until that day, rather than the 93% married I felt?  But most of all, I really hated all the assumptions about gender roles in the wedding planning process, everyone’s supposing my glee about being a bride, and the pressure to have a certain sort of wedding.

Jeremiah always thought it was easy enough to do things our own way and move on, but for me, it always felt there was this monstrous sociological force pressuring me to be a certain kind of woman and looking at me with bewildered pity every time I deviated from the norm.  Obviously I, like Wicoff, have some insecurities in this realm, but I don’t think those should discount our experiences.  It was disconcerting to see myself becoming more concerned about how others saw me and “fitting in” than I’d been since middle school, but I guess that’s what happens when you feel like some sort of alien of a woman.  Getting married pushed me to confront our culture’s expectations about gender in a way I had never anticipated, and while it’s made me a more aware feminist, I still look on it as a rather stressful—and in many ways, lonely—experience.

Some of the topics I plan to cover over the next few days/weeks (not sure yet!) include getting engaged, rings, the dress, the planning process, bachelor- and bachlorette-type things, and details of the ceremony and celebration.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your own experiences or reflections relating to gender and weddings!

This series is continued in Pt. 2a.

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The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible by Sean GladdingA long time ago I started The Story of God, the Story of Us, then set it aside to read school books and other things that seemed more pressing to my personal life and intellectual curiosities.  With no real classes right now, it was on my agenda to get done—if for no other reason than to mark it off my incomplete books list—and now, at last, it is finished.  I know I’m talking like I didn’t like the book, and that’s not true.  I did like it, but…  it also had its flaws.

Here’s what I loved: Sean Gladding tells the whole big story of the Bible in a way that could make sense to someone who either (1) is new to Christianity, (2) has not been exposed to much besides moral lessons, Bible heros, and bullet-pointed doctrinal statements, or (3) is the average pretty-darn-committed-and-decently-educated evangelical who still probably is underexposed to certain periods of history (ex: prophets, exile, etc.) or certain elements of the big story which Gladding highlights (as N. T. Wright says, “more on this anon”).  He has two primary scenes: an old man retelling the story of his people to the Jews in exile and a Jewish Christian woman explaining the story of Jesus in a house church setting.  While not a literary masterpiece, the book is well-written enough, and the invitation for readers to imagine a realistic dialogue about the Scriptures and their contents from the perspectives of these characters is exciting and challenging.

Here’s what could have been improved:

  • Better coverage of the intertestamental period
  • Clarification about pseudepigrapha (that whether or not people at the time acknowledged something was pseudepigraphal, most scholars today think it is—he should put this in a footnote, rather than the main text, of course)
  • Not working with texts that didn’t exist during the time of the dialog (he admits to doing this with John)

More than anything however, I wish that the book had more general theological clarity, by which I mean, making it clear what is the author’s theology vs. a reasonable portrayal of the probable theology of a character.  I do not feel I have the expertise in the Second Temple Period to tell you precisely how everyone at the time was thinking about various things, but I don’t think it was as clear-cut as the book makes it out to be, nor as perfectly aligned with moderate evangelicalism as the author seems to imply.  (Perhaps after going back to re-read my texts from my Jodi Magness class five years ago, I will have more to say on this.)

However, there were also many other great things about the book, which still, probably, redeem this book for a general audience.  It is very affirming of women in ministry, it constantly reiterates God’s concern for the poor and marginalized, it emphasizes the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultural contexts more than most, it weaves together a number of theological points and biblical texts into a cohesive story…  it even avoids terrible interpretations of Revelation!  All in all, it is a great effort and is a good book to serve as an intro to thinking about the Bible more deeply.  It is not, however, written by a biblical scholar.  While all fiction is fiction, I would still feel more comfortable recommending The Lost Letters of Pergamum to someone wishing to get a peek at the world of the NT church, and I wish to goodness the book didn’t include Rob Bell as a “source.”  I suppose I feel Gladdings’ work is good, but it’s only as good as I myself could write as a seminary graduate… and I question whether that is ultimately enough.

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The last year or so I’ve spent a lot of time and energy focusing on historical backgrounds. I’ve read a lot of discussions about Jewish intertestimental literature and the Jewish relationship to the Roman Empire. Today, while reading about 1st-century Jewish attitudes toward the land of Palestine in the midst of Roman occupation, I started to wonder how Samaritans thought about and responded to Roman occupation. For some reason, I’ve never heard anything like that discussed nor come across it in my reading. Can anyone recommend an article or book chapter that deals with Samaritan views of occupation? I honestly don’t even know if any ancient texts beside the Samaritan Pentateuch survive. I likewise was wondering if we have Samaritan examples of the apocalyptic genre. Any of you brilliant folks know of anything?

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How People Find Us

One of the coolest things about having a blog is that you can see what search engine terms have led people to your site.  This is something both exciting and amusing: exciting when you feel like people who have important questions are finding places where those questions are being answered, amusing when people search for bizarre things and find you whether they want to or not.

Most popular search: SBLGNT
Not surprising.  We seemed particularly popular when we were giving stuff away.

Second most popular search: walking toward jerusalem blog
This one is exciting because it means people are looking for us, specifically!   Other less popular variations of our blog title (including ones that get the “towards” right) are also prevalent.

Apparently we are sought out by those seeking moderate viewpoints:
moderate christian denominations, moderate denominations, +evangelical +blog +moderate, evangelical moderates, moderate evangelicalism, moderate evangelical, moderate evangelical church, most liberal evangelical denominations, moderate church denominations, list moderate evangelical denominations,  christian denominations moderate, moderate evangelical churches, denomination conservative theology moderate socially, moderate evangelical organizations “2010”, moderate evangelical church associations, moderate mainline churches, moderate evangelicals, what is a good christian denomination for a moderate protestant, moderate evangelical christians.

It makes me happy to think that we are there for them, hopefully providing hope that they are not alone in the world.  I remember when I was first transitioning into moderate evangelicalism in late high school, I knew nobody in real life who was asking the questions I was, and hence the Internet was very important for me.

We also get a TON of searches for things relating to Tertullian and women.  Tertullian is apparently a very popular/unpopular fellow, and hence we are becoming popular by proxy.  Kinda awesome.

Some more amusing ones:
5.7mmx28mm ballistics
“power of sin” “boy and”   (Anyone have any idea what that means??)
right mind  (Yes, we are in our right minds, thank you very much.)
liberated from the christological madhouse
monty python help help I’m being repressed

buying a gun in jerusalem
680 gre verbal good enough theology?
boy blogspot
  (Blogs are now gendered?)
everything that is wrong with christianity
silly bandz  
(Have we blogged on Silly Bandz and I didn’t know about it??)
is epilepsy considered demonic
resurrection humor
complementarian blog  
(Haha—search FAIL!)
walking toward have sex  (I don’t really know what this means.)
rick perry jesus
is feminism sin
complimentarian [sic] argument weak

The last one is probably the one that made me the happiest.  Yes!  Let us tell you about its weaknessess, muahahahaha!

Anyway, that is a nice little summary of how people get to our blog.  Also, at least once person keeps clicking to us from Google Kenya.  We don’t know who you are, but we think you are AWESOME!

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