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Over the past several decades, women have made strides toward equality in the secular world as well as the church. While some claim these changes have happened too quickly and mourn what they see as the loss of tradition, others believe they have been too long in coming and lament that we still have so far to go. While studying certain aspects of the debate, we—this article’s authors—began to craft a research project: Cameron posed a question while a student in Susan’s Gender Studies course, a question which has focused our attention on a related but unexplored aspect of the gender equality struggle. Here is what happened.

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As people and institutions demonstrate socially appropriate ways of being male or female, children become apprentices and learn what it means to be a boy or girl in their culture.

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Human beings begin to develop gender identities very early in life as they pick up on cues and clues given off from the sociocultural contexts in which they find themselves. As people and institutions demonstrate socially appropriate ways of being male or female, children become apprentices and learn what it means to be a boy or girl in their culture.

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Authors Jason Eden and Naomi Eden consider, in light of the case of Naomi's 104 year-old grandmother, a well-respected leader in her church community, how age might affect debates and controversies regarding the status of men and women within contemporary Christian circles.

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What are the experiences of women in Christian leadership? Do they have salaries comparable to men? Do they encounter stereotypes based on gender? Do they have the respect of their congregations? Howell and Thompson provide a glimpse into the experiences of these women to inform present and potential church leaders, and to increase the awareness of congregations and denominational offices.

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Is there a divinely ordained hierarchy in the life of the church and home that is based on gender alone?

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Many adolescent girls face psychological struggles. For example, eating disorders disproportionately affect adolescent girls compared to the rest of the population. Approximately 40 percent of anorexia nervosa cases occur in females ages fifteen to nineteen.1 The prevalence of this disorder is of special concern given that the mortality rate for anorexia nervosa is more than twelve times greater than the annual death rate due to all causes of death for girls ages fifteen to twenty-four years in the general population.2

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As unwitting children of the Enlightenment, we seem to have a Tower of Babel–like craving for absolute certainty. And so both sides in the debate recruit biologists and social scientists as latter-day natural theologians who are supposed to help close the theological gaps by telling us, from a “scientific” perspective, what gender complementarity “really is.” Thus, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBMW)1 has chapters on biology, psychology, and sociology, and Discovering Biblical Equality (DBE)2 has chapters written or cowritten by therapists, a sociologist, and an academic psychologist.3 But as an academic psychologist and gender studies scholar who did not contribute to either volume, I am now going to try to explain (not for the first time)4 why this is a misguided exercise. My basic points are these:

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Throughout American history, gender theologies have been used to signify a religious organization’s level of tension to the surrounding culture. As a result, religious organizations have changed their gender theologies in response to cultural change. This process can be illustrated by a tale of two Baptists. Invigorated by the First Great Awakening of the 1740s, a robust American tradition of female piety was born. Revivalists broke with Puritan orthodoxy that equated Christianity to a hierarchical family. The revivalists, instead, envisioned a new covenant—one that emphasized individual rebirth within a community that was related, not by biological ties, but by grace. Within the bond of spiritual fellowship, the revivalists affirmed that men and women, rich and poor, lettered and ignorant, were as capable as ordained clergy of discerning spiritual truth, leading to communities of relative egalitarianism.

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Two competing visions—egalitarianism and complementarianism—are embedded within Christian pre-marriage counselling. This article examines how differing interpretations of Scripture shape marriage advice.

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