Grounded in the Body, in Time and Place, in Scripture is a compilation of theological essays written by contemporary Australian woman scholars. Many of the essays were presented first as papers at the Evangelical Women in Academia Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in August 2019. Following the conference, Jill Firth and Denise Cooper-Clarke gathered these essays into a rich, scholarly anthology focused on the conference theme of the same name: “Grounded in the Body, in Time and Place, in Scripture.” Their goal is two-fold: to bring the scholarship of women—Australian women in particular—and their contributions to theology to the “male-dominated discourse” in academic publishing, and to, “offer accessible readings by Australian scholars in the evangelical tradition, for students and lectures in biblical studies, theology, and applied subjects” (2).
The book is divided into four parts: “Context, Old Testament Explorations, New Testament Explorations, and Applied Theology.” Within the four sections, each essay is focused on one of the grounded themes: “the Body, Time and Place, and Scripture.” All the chapters are cemented in Scripture, some focusing on a specific text while others are topical, drawing from a number of biblical texts.
Part one, “Context” contains four essays that explore the ideas of the land and its indigenous people, the neighborhood, and women’s bodies.
Part two, “Old Testament Explorations,” contains four essays that explore the transformation of the identity of the Israelites in the Exodus, worship embodied in the senses (the Psalms), embodiment as elucidated in the Song of Songs, and an in-depth look at Jeremiah’s negative and positive comparisons of Israel to a woman.
Part three is titled, “New Testament Explorations.” In this section, writers explore the stories of Jesus, Mary, and Martha (Luke 10:38–42), the Samaritan woman (John 4:1–42), and sensory experience within the Gospel of John.
Part four, “Applied Theology,” introduces contemporary issues such as the theology of (dis)ability, abortion, women’s rights, the connection of place to theology, and work and leadership.
The anthology is bookended with an introduction by the editors, and a final chapter sharing the names of over one hundred “Grandmothers of Intention: Women in Australian Theology.”
The diversity of the subjects covered and the depth with which the authors write makes this book a pleasure to read. Each chapter is its own entity, and the book can be read straight through, or the reader can choose the essay that appeals to them in the moment. Though several essays—particularly those under the theme of Grounded in Time and Place—are specific to the peoples, history, and geography of Australia, a thoughtful reader will be able to broaden their perspective and apply it to any location. For example, reading the chapter, “Grounded in Australia: Learning from Our First Peoples,” we can easily consider Indigenous people groups that correspond to the Indigenous Australian groups in the essay. In “Tethered between Reality and Aspiration: Grounding and Formative Practices for Australian Leaders,” the concepts flow naturally to leadership in any place or culture.
The theme of gender equality appears throughout the pages of this book. In some places, it is explicitly addressed, in others, subtly woven into the context of the particular subject. Each chapter shares the unique voice of a woman speaking her message from a deep and rich study of the Bible, theology, or a specific subject related to the Grounded theme.
With these thoughts in mind, this book may not be intended for those simply seeking information on gender equality. However, for those who want to segue their gender equality studies into how women are making inroads into male-dominated areas of the Christian academic experience, this is an excellent addition to your reading list or library. It is also a gem for the reader looking to stretch their minds through thoughtful engagement with scholarly text. I found myself stopping several times to allow my mind to turn over sentences, paragraphs, or ideas the authors were communicating. While I didn’t agree with everything I read, their ideas made me think outside my own box and find value in differing approaches and viewpoints to complex subjects.