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As one might expect, much of the research in the area of wife abuse has been done by feminists, some of whom themselves have been victims of wife beating. They speak with an understandable bitterness and anger toward a society so insensitive that it only publicly acknowledged the plight of battered women decades after having established laws to prohibit the abuse of animals. And often they have given up on the hope that change will come through social institutions such as the church. Rather than seeing the church as part of the solution to the abuse of women, they almost unanimously perceive the church as a big part of the problem.

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Ephesians 5:15-6:9 is a Haustafel (a table of household duties) and is the central passage for Pauline teaching on Christian marriage. The passage, along with its reduced parallel in Colossians, is well known by persons of all persuasions on the issue of the relationship between wives and husbands. Often used in wedding ceremonies, these verses are home to the traditionalists and to biblical feminists as well. (Unfortunately, secular writers such as Bullough 1 see only subordination in this passage.)

Hazards exist for us any time we approach a familiar, well-worn passage of Scripture. The mind and heart can wander down familiar ruts and miss the beauty of sauntering down different parts of the pathway. It is the thesis of this paper that we need a fresh look at these verses. While volumes could be written on the deep truths found here, we will limit ourselves to looking freshly at issues of the text, issues of the context, the need for new terminology, and ramifications of the passage.

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The battle over women leaders and the church continues to rage unabated in evangelical circles. At the center of the tempest sits 1 Tim. 2:11-15. Despite a broad spectrum of biblical and extra-biblical texts that highlight female leaders, 1 Tim. 2:11-15 continues to be perceived and treated as the great divide in the debate. Indeed for some, how one interprets this passage has become a litmus test for the label “evangelical” and even for salvation.

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Several years ago I got an idea for a biblical novel; placing myself in the world of Mary the mother of Jesus’, I would write in her voice — a diary spanning thirty years and titled Mary’s Journal.

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I foresee days when the gift of words will feel like a curse. On mornings when the labor is hard, I must remember to hold on to the hope of the joy. I must remember that I’m not alone. Annie Dillard reminded me of this: “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace...you search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then—and only then—it is handed to you.”

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I have had a burden for women for about ten years, but, with my African background of marginalization and oppression of women, I had failed to stand alone and fight for equality until I discovered Christians for Biblical Equality. My burden for women was burning because of the oppression my own mother went through.

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Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)

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For today’s “traditionalists,” 1 Timothy 2 mandates the subordination of women to men in the church because the headship/submission principle is grounded in the created order, an order that Christianity redeems, but does not alter. Today’s traditionalists/male hierarchists also claim to be upholding the historic interpretation of this passage. New research on early Protestant beliefs concerning natural law and the spiritual and civil kingdoms, however, brings their claim into serious question. 

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Perhaps one of the most often-asked questions of a child concerns what he or she wants to do or be upon growing up.  While many of us probably did not fulfill our own childhood expectations to be president of the United States, a supermodel, a superhero, a professional athlete, or an astronaut, the topic of one’s calling – of which career is an aspect – still warrants consideration in adulthood.  In the realm of theology the doctrine of vocation comprises such reflections.  Defining this area of study, Nancy Duff states, “The doctrine of vocation affirms that every individual life with its unique combination of gifts and limitations has divinely appointed purpose and that we are called to glorify God in all that we do." Every individual has a divine calling and is to give God the glory in the pursuit of this life mission.  In considering the applications of this doctrine, Christian feminists have a twofold charge, both in understanding their own vocations as well as in service to others who are attempting to discern and fulfill their own life purpose given by their Creator. 

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A correct interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 within the context of the epistle as well as the historic and cultural situation does not support a restriction of women.

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