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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. Read more
Like many women in the church today, I wear several hats: wife, mother, and professional. And, even though I find support for those roles within my own church, I am discovering that my experience is rare and that what women and men should do about family, work, sex roles and raising children is a heated issue. There seem to be two camps vying for our allegiance today – the pro-family movement and feminism. And according to some, a Christian can’t be both pro-family and feminist. Read more
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. Read more
In 1664, a young Puritan minister named John Cotton Jr. was found guilty of “lascivious unclean practices with three women.”1 Mr. Cotton was a Harvard graduate, a descendant of well-respected parents, and a husband and father. As a punishment for his sinful deeds, English officials in Massachusetts forced Cotton to give up his pastorate of a local church. The question was, what could he do to support Joanna, his wife, and their children? Puritan leaders found the answer in an unlikely place: Martha’s Vineyard. For many years, members of the Mayhew family had labored as missionaries on the island, trying to teach local Indians about Christianity. The Mayhews needed help, and John Cotton Jr. was sufficiently qualified, in the eyes of the English at least, to preach to Indians. So, in 1666, John Cotton Jr. began a long missionary career on both Martha’s Vineyard and in the town of Plymouth. In many respects, his legacy lasted beyond his death, for his two sons, Josiah and Roland Cotton, preached to Indians in Massachusetts long after their father was gone.2 Other scholarly works have examined male members of the Cotton family and how they interacted with Native Americans.3 In this article, however, I wish to explore the experiences of Joanna Cotton, a wife and mother of missionaries in colonial America. In particular, I will explore the extent to which Joanna fell in line with expectations regarding gender roles in colonial New England. These roles typically involved a degree of female subordination to males. Read more
A closer discernment of biblical influence on spousal relationships can help humanity model pervasively the image of God. In his divine image, God created “man” both male and female (Gen 1:27). A new fleshing out of the bare bones of marital oneness can foster health within Christian marriages by exploring biblical matrimonial ideals. Based on the example of the Trinity, the egalitarian stance of reciprocal mutual submission displayed through marital oneness more fully reflects the imago Dei. Read more
Currently, the debate surrounding women’s role in church and home in conservative circles focuses on the issue of headship. The Evangelical Thelogical Society in 1986 devoted its plenary sessions to a discussion of this topic. Because each side debated the meaning of kephale, the Greek work for head, by quoting their favorite lexicons in an attempt to bolster their position, Aida Besancon Spencer referred to this meeting as “the battle of the lexicons.” Read more
Evangelical Christians can agree: marriage is a foundational relationship ordained and blessed by God. It is the beginning of healthy, stable families and forms the groundwork for children navigating through the world. It provides the basis for their worldview and even for learning about God. Evangelicals also agree that premarital counseling can be a good way to start off a strong marriage. Jack and Judith Balswick explain that the premarital stage is the stage of differentiating from the family of origin: “The goal of differentiation is to develop a clear sense of self that enables one to relate to and interact with others in interdependent ways. . . . Success in differentiation gives one the best chances for a mature marriage.”1 Read more
M. Madeline Southard (1877–1967) is known among Methodists today for her pioneering work for ecclesiastical rights for women, particularly for the pivotal role she played in the 1920s in opening up ordination to women in the Methodist Church.1 Among religious historians, she is known for founding the International Association of Women Ministers (IAWM) in 1919, an interdenominational organization that, by the 1920s, included around 10 percent of female ministers in America, and which continues to this day.2 Southard also achieved a certain notoriety in her younger years, when she accompanied the infamous Carry Nation on one of her saloon-smashing crusades, and later when she traveled the country preaching and speaking on women’s rights, suffrage, and sexuality from a biblical perspective.3   Read more
Quick Bible quiz: Name one African person in the Bible. Did you mention Hagar, Simon of Cyrene or Apollos of Alexandria? What about the Ethiopian eunuch, or Queen Candace? If none of these characters came to mind, perhaps it’s due to a lack of understanding of the cultural and ethnic forces at work in the Bible. Understanding these forces can bring new light to familiar passages. For example, even though the word “Africa” is not mentioned in the Bible, the word “Cush” is, which scholars think refers to Ethiopia or to Africa as a whole. Countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya are also mentioned. While they might not correspond exactly to the countries on a 21st century map, they do refer to places in Africa. Read more
We have always liked the idea of an equal marriage, but there are vexing questions. Do we both need to earn the same income, or is it better for us to work an equal number of hours? How do we share all the responsibilities of maintaining our home? If we’re both going to work full time, who will raise our children? There are many options, but one solution is to spend less time at work. In fact, for most of our marriage, we have both worked part time.  Read more

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