The implications of what I saw worked out in the church for me, someone called to ministry, was that if I wanted to be taken seriously as a Bible teacher and if I was to have any merit in my vocation or my seminary degree, men must be in the audience. As a result, I had a personal crisis: was I wrong in discerning my calling or was the church wrong in its view of women? Simply put, there was little to no vocational ministerial space for me in which to serve as a complementarian with theological training. And as a result, I began to perpetuate the lie that teaching women the Bible was not enough, not worthy enough, because women themselves were not as important as men. I was in effect allowing an incorrect view of my audience to determine the worth or value of my calling.Read More
I love writing down my prayers. For me, writing prayers is a devotional experience. Starting on Wednesdays, I'd like to share portions of some of these prayers. My prayers, like everything else I write, do not carry the authority of Scripture. My words must always be tested and approved. However, I hope that through this form of devotional writing, that it will minister to your souls in ways that my other writings do not. And perhaps these prayers will draw you into a time of prayer as well. To the glory of God. Amen.
"Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I open your Word, and it is like a treasure chest or treasure room filled with countless precious things. It is beyond rich, food that satisfies my soul. I never go hungry or in want when in your Word. Everywhere I turn I gaze upon treasure. My eyes are round and big, and I cannot get enough. Unlike the treasures of the world that have the power to destroy man, your treasure brings life. Your treasure doesn't rust or disappear with age. Your treasure doesn't produce greed or envy. Rather, your treasure is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Many may think we are poor, but they don't know we are rich! You are so good to give us treasure that we do not deserve. Your Word is that treasure. We cannot know you apart from your Word. Your Word is life. Your Word tells us -- proclaims to us -- your salvation! The more I'm in your treasure getting to know you better, the more I want to stay. Keep me in your Word. Embolden me to share your treasure with others. Help me to proclaim the good news to the poor, both physically and spiritually. Help me to protect those who are in the path of those who want to exploit the treasure for evil and false purposes. May I be corrected and rebuked by your Word when necessary but also encouraged and strengthened by your Word always. May your treasure continue to go forth into this world, unhindered, revealing truth where there is falsehood. And may others find the richness of faith in Jesus Christ through your holy Word.
As a mom I have found it more difficult now more than ever before in my life to spend quiet, reflective time with God. Before Philip was born, my morning routine consisted of coffee and reading Scripture and praying. Rarely do I get that time anymore. I don't know about those of you who have children, but my son has a sixth sense about when I wake up. Our bedrooms are on opposite sides of the house, but the minute I decide to get out of bed I will hear our bedroom door open or see him at my feet. My mornings are no longer my own. Then once the day starts, we go from 0 to 100 mph and we don't slow down. Chasing, running, feeding, picking and dusting him off, cleaning after him, calming him down, playing with him, disciplining him...Whew! I'm just exhausted typing it all up. These days are long and hard but so much fun!
However, finding that quiet time with God and His Word has been a daily struggle. And because I have not been consistent in going to the well to receive spiritual nourishment, I have seen the effects in my attitude, thoughts, my relationships, my words, etc.
You don't have to be a stay-at-home mom to share my plight. You can be an outside-the-home working mom or dad. You can be a caregiver for an adult. In fact you can just be any adult with any responsibility. Life is simply busy and complicated.
But if you are like me, then you yearn for that time with God. You yearn to protect and treasure the relationship you have with your Creator and Savior. You yearn to hear from God, to feast on His Word and be fed by Him.
I haven't figured it all out, and this is not a comprehensive list, but the following are some ways I have found to foster spiritual formation and spend time with God in the midst of a busy and crazy life. I hope some are helpful to you. Perhaps you are already doing many of these, and perhaps you have more to add! I'd love to hear ways you find to spend time with God.
1. Use The Book of Common Prayer. I grew up Southern Baptist and am still a Southern Baptist girl in many ways. If you have any knowledge of Baptists, then you know, for the most part, we do not use The Book of Common Prayer nor do we use written prayers (nor creeds, nor confessions) in our corporate or private worship. One of the many advantages of going to an interdenominational seminary was that I was exposed to other evangelical traditions in corporate worship, in the classroom and in conversations. One aspect of Anglicanism that I really like are their written prayers. These prayers are rich in theology, Scripture and doctrine, and they are fashioned in such a way that the words are almost poetic in nature. Consider this prayer: "Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved thee with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in thy will, and walk in thy ways, to the glory of thy Name. Amen. What I love about this book is that it has prayers for different days (Monday, Tuesday, etc.), different times of the day (morning, afternoon, evening), holy days in the Church (Advent, Lent, Easter), and seasons of life (marriage, birth, adoption, sickness, and death). It also contains the Psalms and a reading plan for the year. While there are doctrines that I do not agree with (e.g., prayers for the dead), I find this book very enriching to my spiritual life. What are some other books or devotional guides that you use in addition to your Bible?
2. Download a Bible, Bible study tool or devotional app. In the beginning days of Philip's life, I spent most my days holding him, whether it was feeding him, soothing him or getting him to sleep. There were times that I could barely keep my eyes open because I was so tired. In those moments I would turn to my iPhone to keep my mind busy and awake. I wish I could say that I used those times to go to the Bible on my phone or a devotional app, but I didn't. However, that would have been the best time to do so! Just recently I discovered that there are many apps designed to help one who is always on the go spiritually, some good and some not. My favorite app (surprise, surprise) is a Book of Common prayer app called Mission of St. Clare.
As you can see, it gives me the option of a morning or evening prayer. The word prayer is a little deceptive here, because when you click on a prayer option it gives you Scripture readings (Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament) in addition to prayers. It's quite lengthy, and so I only have time to read part of what it has to offer. However, this tool has been great! When I wake up and before I get out of bed, I grab my smartphone and spend time in Scripture reading and prayer. When I sometimes rock Philip to sleep, after he has fallen asleep in my lap, I grab my iPhone and go to this app. When I am at a doctor's office, in carpool line, in the grocery store parking lot, wherever I am that I can stop and spend a few minutes with God, this app comes in handy as it is convenient, thoughtful, structured and rich theologically. It doesn't have to be this app. It can be an app that is your favorite Bible translation or another app with prayers. What are some of your favorite Bible-related apps?
3. Listen to sermons and podcasts online. One of the many things I miss about being a seminary student is being able to listen to great sermons during the week. Chapel time was my favorite time each week. After graduating seminary, my husband (who teaches at the seminary) would come home telling me what a great sermon he heard in chapel. Thanks to technology, it dawned on me that I could listen to chapel sermons too! At least once each week (if not more), when Philip goes down for his nap I pull up a sermon online while I fold laundry or do other chores. Listening to sermons has not only focused my mind on the Word of God but it helps usher the divine into the mundane. It is much easier to do mindless, endless household chores when I am hearing a sermon about the glory of God. Beeson Divinity School has its past chapel sermons online available for viewing and listening here and has a weekly podcast you can listen to here. Overall it is a trusted center for excellent, expository sermons.I also like to listen to the sermons of my dad, who is pastor of First Baptist Church, Big Spring, here and I like the sermons of Don Guthrie, pastor of First Baptist Church, San Antonio, here. I also like the sermons of Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C., here and Time Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, New York, here. Many of these churches and institutions will have podcast apps that allow you to listen to sermons on your smartphone. I also recommend listening to sermons in the car, especially when you are going to be travelling for quite sometime. In addition I think it is a great idea if you are a pastor or someone who preaches weekly to listen to someone else preach at least once a week so that you are being fed and sharpened by other preachers of the Word. Who else would your recommend? What other institutions with sermons or podcasts would you recommend?
4. Listen to praise and worship music. One thing I have started doing recently is writing down song titles we sing in worship each week at my church. I am REALLY bad at remembering names/titles. In the past I would want to listen to a song sung on Sunday but couldn't remember the name of it. Now I keep a list and either find the songs on YouTube, iTunes, or Pandora. I turn off the TV and put on these songs while I am getting ready in the morning (Or afternoon or night! You never know when it will happen with a toddler.). I'll put on music when I workout at home or when I am not listening to a sermon while doing chores. Sometimes when my son and I are playing quietly, I turn on worship music. What this music does for me is to fashion my mind on God, His glory and, if the songs are written well, on Scripture. It is much more difficult for my mind to wander, to worry, to be distracted, or to be tempted when I am focusing on God through music (not to mention it's a nice break from Veggie Tales!). I am also realizing that my son is picking up on lyrics and singing about Jesus. This is a great way for him to be exposed to who God is, His Word and the love of Jesus. My all time favorite person to listen to is Fernando Ortega. I find playlists of his music on YouTube. Some of my favorites are: Our Great God, Sing to Jesus, Give me Jesus, and Lord of Eternity. I also love Keith and Kristyn Getty and Kari Jobe. Who do you like to listen to and what are some of your favorite songs?
5. Make time for silence and prayer. It is VERY difficult to cut out the noise in our lives when we are addicted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. I am speaking from personal experience! Social media, our phones, our iPads, our laptops are our biggest distractions, I believe. I have noticed in my own life that when I do have a few moments of silence I immediately want to try to fill it with the things mentioned above. I am allowing these things to steal my time, my thoughts and my energy away from God and family. I am in the process of learning to put these things down and give it to God. Obviously I haven't given it up all together, but I am learning to not give it first place. I want to learn to use these social media tools in moderation and only after I have spent time in prayer, silence and mediation with God. The more time and practice I put into being quiet and still before my God, the easier and more natural it becomes. Just recently I stopped listening to music for the entire duration of my running/walking. I'll listen to music for part of my run and then spend the rest in complete silence. I use to try to fill up my time driving in the car by talking on the phone; now I try not to call people as much. I substitute talking on the phone with quiet prayer. I have noticed lately that by setting aside time to be silent and to pray, I am more aware of the sin in my life and equally, if not more powerfully, aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. What are some ways you cultivate silence and prayer in your life?
6. Don't forsake Scripture. None of the five above options are meant to replace reading Scripture. As Christians we confess that Scripture is the Word of God. If this is indeed true and if we want to hear from God and know God's heart, we must remain in Scripture. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Some of these suggestions, like the aforementioned app, provides daily Scripture readings, but a devotional app or worship music or sermons should never be a substitute for reading God's Word. Practically speaking, I have found personally that I don't do well with the reading the Bible in a year plan. I feel overwhelmed and rushed. Instead of understanding what I am reading, I feel like I am checking off a box. For some, however, this works well. If it works well for you, then don't stop. However, what works for me is to pick one book of the Bible or two books (one Old Testament and one New Testament) and read little chunks at a time. I like to consult good biblical commentaries on the specific book I am reading and go slowly enough that I understand what I am reading. If I am unsure which book of the Bible to read next, I consult the reading plan in The Book of Common Prayer so that I am reading what many Christians and churches are reading at the same time. Sometimes I spend an entire week on just a couple of verses because they are so powerful I am not ready to leave them. Because my son is a morning person (like me!), I have given up reading my Bible in the mornings (unless I can on the app mentioned above). Now, I try to read when I eat lunch or when I am about to go to bed. Or, I read Scripture when my husband and son are playing together. I have had to change my thinking and my routine. This has been hard, but I realized if I didn't do it I would never find time to read Scripture.
I hope these suggestions have been helpful to you. I am still on a journey of trying to give more of my time and thoughts to God and less to things of this world. I am still trying to figure out how to be creative in receiving spiritual formation and spending time with Jesus Christ during the week. I would LOVE to hear from you. Perhaps there are blogs you like to read because they are spiritually edifying. Perhaps there is a book that you would recommend as an addendum to reading Scripture. Let's keep this conversation going so that we are encouraging and helping each other in this Christian walk!
"And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them." Luke 5:29
Read Luke 5:27-32.
What type of person or what group of people would make you feel real uncomfortable to share a meal with? Think about this for a moment. Addicts? Sexual predators? Legalists? Rich people? Poor people? Someone of a different race or ethnicity? Homosexuals? People dying of cancer? Perhaps you'd feel uncomfortable sharing a meal with your extended family because of severed relationships. Be honest with yourself.
Now take that feeling you have toward a group of people and imagine seeing Jesus sitting among them sharing a meal. What would your initial reaction and feelings be? If I were honest, my first thought would probably be, "What is he doing with them?" "Of all the people these are the least deserving to be at that table." "Why would he extend grace to them?"
Turning to the text, we are told that Jesus calls a tax collector to follow him. Now I think it'd be helpful to know something about tax collectors to understand why the following actions of Jesus were so repugnant to the Pharisees. A tax collector, also known as a toll collector, was "a person given to dishonesty and abuse of authority" and viewed "in the wider Greco-Roman world as a person of low status." "Toll collectors as a group were despised as snoops, corrupt, the social equivalent of pimps and informants." (See Joel Green, Luke, p. 245-246) This really puts things into perspective! Stop for a moment and imagine sharing a meal with pimps. Now imagine seeing Jesus with pimps. Or, imagine seeing your pastor or your Bible study leader at a table with pimps. Get the picture?
If nothing else I want you to hear this today: To dine with Jesus is also to dine with sinners. We don't get to pick and choose who gets the invitation to follow Jesus. We don't get to pick and choose to whom we are to take the gospel. It simply doesn't work like that. If Jesus was lowly enough to go to the least desirable, the rejects of society, then so must we.
Sometimes as Christians we want to show grace to whom we want to show grace; but God's grace pushes the limits we so often put in place. We think that we are somehow more redeemable, more deserving of grace, than others. The fact of the matter is none of us is deserving. (Read Romans 1-2!) That is what makes grace grace. It is unmerited, undeserving. While the Pharisees were shocked by the group of people Jesus chose to associate with, it was for these people he came. Notice that Jesus doesn't try to defend them as innocent people. He acknowledges to the Pharisees who they are -- "sinners" (v. 32). In fact Jesus uses an analogy in which this group of people is compared to those who are sick (v. 31). What Jesus said might be interpreted as harsh in today's postmodern America. We don't want to call sin sin or people sinners. But if we don't acknowledge sin and our state as sinners, then we will never think we need forgiveness of sins or a Savior.
Notice too that although Jesus calls these people sinners, he doesn't expect for them to stay in their current state. Rather, he associates himself with them so that they might be transformed into the image of God through the process of repentance. His mission is to redeem people from sin.
But this passage tells us more than who Jesus dined with; it tells us about the identity of Jesus and his work. Here are some further reflections from this table:
1. Jesus is divine, the Son of God. If you were to read Luke all the way through, you would find that the author is concerned with the identity of Jesus. When an angel appears to Mary in chapter 1 he tells her the baby she will conceive "will be called the Son of the Most High," and "will be called holy -- the Son of God." Then in 5:17-26, right before our passage, Jesus does something that only God Himself can do -- forgive sins. Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic, and the words of the Pharisees are very poignant here. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (v. 21). They recognize that only God has the power to forgive sins. Jesus then heals the paralytic so that "you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (v. 24).
2. Flowing out of his identity as God is Jesus' mission and work of forgiveness of sins. His mission and identity go hand in hand; they are inseparable. Let's look at Levi's story. Luke tells us that Jesus calls Levi to follow him. The invitation to follow was an invitation to having a relationship with Jesus, to become a disciple. What is implied in following Jesus is repentance, seen in the act that follows in which Levi leaves everything behind. At first glance we might think he just left behind his career, his place of work, his possessions or salary. But then Luke tells us Levi makes a great feast in his home and invites a large group to come, which would have been very costly. Perhaps Levi did leave behind his work, but most likely what he left behind was his life of sin. He left behind that which was displeasing to God. We can perhaps see it symbolized in that Levi was sitting when Jesus called him to follow him and then Levi stood up and left everything. His repentance was active, a complete change. If we read Levi's calling in conjunction with what Jesus tells the Pharisees in v. 32, I think it is fair to say that Levi's change wasn't just a moral or economic or career change but a heart change. Levi had found forgiveness of sins.
3. I love how once Levi found forgiveness of sins he invited all of his friends to come meet Jesus. We aren't told if or how many people at that table also found forgiveness of sins but it is very likely given the context that many did. Isn't it such an awesome thing that when people experience the grace of God they want to share it with others? All the more reason that we should share our tables with people who need to hear about the love of God.
4. We often want to separate the identity of Jesus from the mission of Jesus. We also have a tendency to reduce the mission of Jesus to something that is merely physical and not spiritual. In the name of social justice, we give people bread and medicine. We want to change their economic status and provide them with education. We want to emulate Jesus by associating with the least desirable. These are all great things! But if we do these things apart from the identity of Jesus and his mission of forgiveness of sins then we are no longer particularly Christian. If we don't couple our social acts with the message that Jesus, who was fully God, also became fully human, to bring salvation and to forgive our sins so that we might be reconciled to God, then we really do not know the Jesus of Scripture. On the other hand, if we preach this but do not extend God's grace to the unlikely of people and dine with sinners, then we aren't being obedient either. We must do both.
So this Easter, we will dress up and look our best. We'll go to church and then have a family meal. Let me ask you, will you consider getting dirty and dining with those who most desperately need to hear the Easter story? Will you be messengers of God's grace to them?
(I took some of this material from a Bible study I wrote for mymissionfulfilled.)
So my response to Jen Hatmaker has received a LOT of traffic since posting it Thursday night. Because of that, I want to offer, what I think, is a better response to the issue of homosexuality. And this is where I will refer to someone else who has researched much on the topic, who is smarter than me, who did his PhD with my husband, and who, I think, talks about the issue with nuance and grace while holding to a traditional view of marriage. Preston Sprinkle has written (and continues to write) on the issue of homosexuality. You can check it out on his blog here. What I like about Preston's writing is that he engages with real people who have same-sex attractions or who were formerly living in an active homosexual lifestyle and then places the conversation within a biblical context. I don't feel like the authority of Scripture is in question or that Scripture cannot be trusted. Rather, it seems to me that he takes a posture of submission and grapples with the text and issues of hermeneutics in a responsible, mature way.
What do you think after reading his blog?
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." -- Mark Twain I hesitate to criticize the words of someone who is very popular and has a huge following in evangelical circles. First, I don't want to criticize; it's not fun. Second, critiquing someone's work takes away time from my own work. Third, when critiquing you run the risk of offending many people who are faithful followers of that person as well as hurting the feelings of the person you are critiquing.
But with that said, there was so much wrong with the following post that I will venture a few words. I will offer a response to Jen Hatmaker's blog post yesterday, World Vision, Gay Marriage, and a Different Way Through, and I hope that it will be heard in love and truth.
I don't know Hatmaker personally nor can I claim to be a faithful follower of her ministry. I do, however, appreciate Hatmaker and her ministry. I enjoy her sense of humor and her passion for Christ and His Church. In this post in particular, I commend her for her heart and desire for unity and peace. I agree that as Christians we must learn to rope in our tongues and speak in love to one another.
However, in Hatmaker's pursuit for unity and peace she walks the thin line of compromising truth. Hopefully this was not her intent, but I believe what she wrote yesterday basically undermined the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. And if not careful, her words can lead people down a dangerous path of interpreting Scripture how he or she chooses with no regards to hermeneutics or orthodoxy.
Here's what she said and the issues I have with it:
First, she basically says that if there is a plurality of interpretations we are hopeless. We might as well throw our hands up in the air and allow for an "anything goes" attitude. Hatmaker says, "Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been." To expect to have complete unanimity on any issue of Scripture is an unrealistic goal. It is usually the case that on secondary issues no one tries to reach for complete unanimity. This is the first of several bad arguments on her part, which I think she is saying that homosexuality is an issue of one's own interpretation. In other words, Scripture is not clear on the subject; therefore, we should allow all interpretations or at least accept them. Because we disagree on what Scripture says therefore means that Scripture isn't clear or doesn't speak absolutely on a subject.
Second, Hatmaker in her rant fails to distinguish between primary (Trinity, deity of Jesus, salvation) and secondary (baptism, spiritual gifts, role of women) issues of faith. She flattens them out. Here's an example: "There has never been "one way" to interpret scripture. There has never been "one way" to be a biblical church. Even the early church leaders had severe and lasting disagreements about the nature of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Salvation, Faith, Works, etc." Hold up. First of all, it is not true that the Church has been divided on the issue of homosexuality throughout history. Actually, this is only a recent, Western issue. Secondly, the issues she mentions that the early church dealt with were primary issues not secondary issues. One of the ones who disagreed with the early church was Arius; he argued that Jesus was not fully God. A second person was Marcion. He argued that the God of the Old Testament was not the same as the One of the New Testament, and he wanted to cut out half of the New Testament. The early church called these men gnostics and heretics! The church responded with creeds that outlined the basic orthodox beliefs one must hold to in order to be Christian. So should we accept the interpretations of Arius and Marcion simply because they had a different opinion? Should we include them in the tent of legitimate Christianity? Absolutely not. But if you follow Hatmaker's argument to its logical conclusion, then people like Arius and Marcion would have to be taken as part of the orthodox church. To the extent that Marcion denied the deity of Christ, we find the correlation today with Jehovah's Witnesses. So would Hatmaker consider Jehovah's Witnesses as part of orthodox Christianity?
Third, Hatmaker, in her attempt to make the homosexual debate a non-issue, puts Scripture and Christian theology on the stand. To someone who is a weak believer or non believer they might have walked away from their computer or smart phone with a schizophrenic view of Scripture. How can Scripture be trusted when there's "no one way" to interpret it, and when Christians have always been divided on its interpretation from the beginning? She says, "Historically, Christian theology has always been contextually bound and often inconsistent with itself; an inconvenient truth we prefer to selectively explain." Later, "Rather, it is simply a reasonable assessment of the trajectory of the kingdom as God has interacted with each new generation of the church." And, "Reason and humility occupies too small a place in the analysis of the historical church and the progressive interpretation of Scripture." I fault her for making provocative, pithy statements with half-truths and then not explaining them.
Incidentally, respected author William Webb in his book, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, takes a progressive trajectory hermeneutic. Webb says that the trajectory of Scripture never gets you to the place of acceptance of practicing homosexuality. So here's a work done in the spirit of what Hatmaker is saying about progression but concludes differently than her with the issue of homosexuality.
For Hatmaker to throw out words like "trajectory," "progressive," "inconsistent," in a blog post like the one she wrote yesterday without really explaining the argument is very unhelpful and unwise in my opinion. Instead of walking away feeling like I should be more accepting or respectful or loving of others, I walked away from the post asking myself, What is Scripture? Can it be trusted? What does all this mean in regards to other issues? Where does the progression stop?
Here are some wrap-up thoughts:
1. A big pet peeve of mine is when I read blog posts from well-intentioned, very popular people (especially women) who get in over their heads when it comes to what they know. As the saying goes, "A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing." Unfortunately, many of these authors have no theological education, no background in biblical studies, and yet they want to engage in theological/biblical issues without the knowledge to do so. By God's grace, I have been able to attain a masters degree in seminary. But if it's taught me anything, it's taught me how little I know. In fact I hesitate to write on issues unless I do so after thorough research because I don't want to mislead people. I say this because the arguments used in Hatmaker's post, especially in regards to the early church and issues of biblical hermeneutics, tell me that Hatmaker is speaking on issues that she really does not know much about. It doesn't impress me that she says Scripture "was written across several cultures, 40+ writers, 1500 years, 8 genres, and an entire worldview shift once Jesus hit the scene." That is very basic. The fact that she flattens primary and secondary issues and doesn't differentiate between the two OR that she doesn't argue from a particular hermeneutic but rather from a logic that says because we all disagree it means there's no absolute truth on the subject tells me she is lacking the knowledge needed to talk about the issue in the way that she does. I'm not trying to be hurtful or prideful in this point. God can, does and will use her despite of (probably) no theological training. However, I would urge her to either stick with what she knows or go to seminary and spend time learning more about church history, biblical theology, etc.
2. If you, after reading Jen's post, are left confused about Scripture -- can it be trusted, is there absolute truth, is the Bible inconsistent -- then please e-mail me. I will be glad to help in any way possible. Or, I will point you to resources that will help you.
It’s been more than a year since Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood book came out. So why review this book now?
First, Evans keeps growing in popularity thanks to this book, which is a New York Time’s Best Seller. Since publishing A Year of Biblical Womanhood, her platform to write and speak on subjects such as Scripture, women in ministry, faith, etc., have grown to reach a much wider audience. Through the means of this book and her blog, Evans is becoming a formative voice for young evangelical Christians. Secondly, The only negative reviews and criticisms on this book that I have found have come from those in the camp which Evans criticizes in much of her book. I hope my contribution comes from the fact that I am neither strictly complementarian nor egalitarian (although I come closer to the latter than the former); therefore, my response will hopefully be more nuanced.
Evans is a self-proclaimed “liberated woman,” having emerged from the fundamentalist, evangelical tradition of which she grew up in. After becoming frustrated with the views held by those in The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and others on the far right (as she sees it!), Evans decides to challenge the hermeneutic and thereby the adjective “biblical” they utilize for an interpretation regarding women. To achieve this she set aside one year to follow all the commands in Scripture for women—literally. Her book reads like a satire, showing through narrative and sarcasm how it is impossible and foolish to apply all the commands of the Bible literally and universally.
Another purpose for writing this book was to liberate women from the fears of getting Scripture wrong, Evans said during an interview on The Today Show. One way she accomplishes this goal in her book is by using comedy relief, a transparent writing style, and being open to discuss typical “forbidden” issues such as sex, fears of becoming a mother, etc. She also engages with her readers by using diary entries, photos and many personal stories throughout the book.
This book is divided by months, and each month of the year is given a chapter. She begins each month with a to-do list, concludes with a “read more” section that directs readers to her blog and a feature of a woman in the Bible. Instead of following all the biblical commands for women collectively for the year, with the exception of not cutting her hair, she divided the commands into months. She either kept the commands for an entire month or for a shorter length of time within the month. So, for example, she only practiced being modest for the month of March, and she only followed the “command” to praise her husband at the city gate (Prov. 31:28) on one particular day in the month of January.
First, in way of a positive review, I share in Evans’ grievance with those on the far right who fit Scripture’s picture of a woman into an image of a 1950s June Cleaver. She is right in highlighting the inconsistencies in the application of what women can and cannot do in Scripture by those in The Council of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and the like. For example, some on the far right will make 1 Timothy 2:12-14 the guideline for women in ministry while not grapping sufficiently with passages of women prophesying, teaching, serving as deaconesses, etc. (see 1 Cor. 11:5, Judges 4:4 or Luke 2:36). I also agree with Evans that some women have gone too far in their application of Scripture. Evans summarizes one woman’s belief saying, “Ambitions that might lead a woman to work outside the home … constitute the kind of ‘evil desires’ that lead directly to sin.” She quotes another saying, “A young mother’s place is in the home, keeping it, guarding it, watching over those entrusted to her. To do otherwise will surely cause the Word of God to be blasphemed. Even if you could disobey God and it not produce visible ill consequences, it would only prove that God is long-suffering … but the judgment will assuredly come.” (pgs 23-24) These women whom Evans quotes, I believe, have it wrong.
While I sympathize with some of Evans’ criticisms, I had a number of concerns with this book.
First, Evans employs a classic liberal approach to Scripture. She calls this approach a hermeneutic of love, echoing perhaps back to St. Augustine’s hermeneutic of love for the neighbor. But the question is whose definition of love does Evans use? The one she seems to employ is not the one defined by God; rather it sounds more like something from Rob Bell’s Love Wins book. For example, she writes, "I ... am no longer convinced that everyone different from me goes to hell.” What does she do then with John 14:6? Perhaps she is just being provocative here, which she tends to do a lot in this book, and in saying “different” she is referring to believer’s baptism versus infant baptism or Calvinism versus Arminianism. However, since she does not explain her meaning she is being unhelpful and setting up a broad understanding of love that is not consistent with Scripture.
Another common factor of classic liberalism is the tendency to interpret and apply Scripture with you, the interpreter, at the center. It is a humanistic approach. In conjunction with this is a tendency to replace a relationship with Jesus with a mystical spirituality, where the person’s spiritual journey is the most important aspect and Jesus is reduced from an incarnate, crucified, resurrected God-human to a “divine,” “a spirit,” “a presence.” Sometimes I felt as if I were reading Schleiermacher! Consider these examples. Evans writes, “And sure enough, I found myself connecting to that same presence that I encountered during contemplative prayer, the presence that reminded me that the roots of my spirit extended deep into the ground. I got less done when I worked with mindfulness, but somehow, I felt more in control” (page 29). And, “Instead, meditation filled me with a sense of security, strength, and unyielding resolve. As I prayed, it felt as though my feet were extending through the ground, growing into long, winding roots, while my torso stretched like a trunk, my arms and fingers extending like branches. With every prayer and every silence the image of a great tree returned to me again and again until I found myself sitting up straighter, breathing in deeper, and looking up. I don’t know for sure, but I think maybe God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security. … Mastering a gentle and quiet spirit didn’t mean changing my personality, just regaining control of it, growing strong enough to hold back and secure enough to soften” (p. 16)
Count how many times the pronouns, “I,” “me” and “my” were used. Jesus is nowhere to be found; the interpreter takes center stage. This is also an example of spiritual mysticism. Scripture has no concept nor teaching about prayer the way Evans described it. And if so, Evans does not give a Scriptural model for it. Also, if context determines meaning, the God she mentions is not necessarily the God of Scripture.
There are many other examples I could cite, but I want to narrow in on one other significant example. During the month of January as Evans sought to follow the guidelines of Proverbs 31, she was told by one Jewish woman (who was not a student of Scripture but was simply Jewish) that Proverbs 31 is sung by her husband to praise her in everyday tasks. Proverbs 31 can be reduced to “eschet chayil” or valorous woman. Evans runs with this and then determines that Proverbs 31 should be condensed to a blessing we should give every woman – “a woman of valor.” Valor then is determined not by who we know (God) or what He does through us or what it has to say about wisdom but rather about what we as women do. “The woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor” (p. 90). She will continue with this idea throughout the rest of her book. When she gets to the chapter on justice and recalls her trip to Bolivia with World Vision, she spends pages 238-246 admonishing “women of valor” by what they had accomplished despite their poverty and with the help of World Vision. Jesus isn’t mentioned as having a part in this. Only at the very end of the chapter does she credit Jesus for His ministry to the poor.
I think Evans’ lack of theological training and maturity is evident and problematic to her wanting to be taken serious in evangelical Christian circles. Instead of her offering work that is helpful to further along the discussion of women in Christian ministry, she widens the gap and confirms conservative complementarian belief that a woman’s place is in the home and not in biblical teaching. And irony above all ironies, I think that she is one woman who would do better to remain silent at this time.