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Priscilla Papers

The theme of this issue of Priscilla Papers is Theology. The cover photo is Martin Luther, one of the world’s best-known theologians. He is the topic of one of our articles; moreover, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Read more
I have long deliberated the possible efficacy of another Wild at Heart critique.1 Although many excellent critiques arose in the years after the book’s initial release in 2001, it still sells unusually well, progressively working its way into churches, homes, and minds. The English language version has sold over 4.5 million copies, annual sales exceed 100,000, and it currently holds the #1 Best Seller spot in Christian Men’s Issues on Amazon. To date, the book has been translated into thirty languages. Beyond this, the ideologies of Wild at Heart find expression in subsequent books written by John and Stasi Eldredge, most notably Captivating, as well as numerous contemporary Christian works on sex and gender that display direct influence from the Eldredges’ teachings or promote similar ideas. Hardly a year passes without some popular Christian book on gender or parenting acknowledging the Eldredges and their teachings or listing Wild at Heart as recommended reading. Stephen Mansfield, for example, calls the book “masterful,” listing it first in “The Ten Essential Books for Manly Men,” because it provides men with “the tools for understanding and living out the essential passions of manhood.” For Eldredge himself, such steady reception confirms its timeless truth. It is somehow paradoxically “truer” than before, because “it rings eternal, and universal. God was in it then; he is in it still.” Read more
St. Luke tells us that the women who followed Jesus to the cross “were beating their breasts and wailing for him” (Luke 23:27 NRSV). Some feminist and womanist theologians still wail at the sight of the cross—they reject traditional theories of atonement that regard the torture and death of an innocent man as a good intended by God. Many feminists and womanists find God’s saving activity hidden beneath this senseless and tragic brutality. Our goal in the present article is to analyze what feminist and womanist theologians have to say about the cross of Jesus, and from this, to examine our understanding of God’s saving activity in light of their helpful critique. Read more
Etienne Gilson spoke of medieval theology as an attempt to build great “cathedrals of the mind,” mental constructions meant to bring glory to God and to inspire worship as soaring stone cathedrals across Europe have since the same time period. Like any architectural achievement, these mental cathedrals brought together the many pieces of Christian doctrine into coherent and often beautiful structures of thought, building idea upon idea until great theological and philosophical systems emerged from scriptural foundations. This architectural analogy implies something important—it is rarely possible to shift the ground floor of a building without the entirety of the construct tumbling down. Only with great caution and preparation, whereby new supports are carefully constructed before the old are removed, can such a change go smoothly. Unfortunately, evangelical theology finds itself today in a situation where a great shift in a foundational doctrine of Christian theology has occurred—in the doctrine of the Trinity. This shift threatens several important Christian teachings and compromises the basic orientation of Christian ethics. As complementarian theologians increasingly speak of the eternal functional subordination of the Son (hereafter EFS), they move a central pillar of the cathedral of Christian doctrine, unaware that such a change could bring down the entire edifice of Christian theology. Read more
At the intersection of socioeconomics, ethnicity, and gender lurks one of the most insidious forms of violence against girls and women: sex trafficking. What theological insights should inform Christian ministry to victims and survivors of sex trafficking? Female theologians who are well-acquainted with histories of multiple forms of oppression should inform Christian practice. Therefore, mujerista (Spanish for “womanist”) and womanist scholars ought to be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, many evangelicals and other Christians whose praxis has primarily been informed by white, Western, male theological perspectives, are hesitant to consider theologies by and for women of color. This is a mistake. Whether or not a person fully embraces all the theological points of womanist and mujerista theologies, these contextualized liberation theologies contain powerful and poignant biblical truths that are particularly relevant to today’s victims and survivors of sex trafficking. This paper will first highlight relevant definitions and themes in mujerista and womanist theologies, then examine the implications for ministry among today’s sex trafficking victims and survivors Read more
Thomas Jefferson. Napoléon Bonaparte. Ludwig van Beethoven. Jane Austen. Darwin and Dickens. Wordsworth and Whitman. Lincoln and Lee. Crazy Horse and Custer. Karl and Groucho. By now you have discerned the topic—the nineteenth century. The War of 1812. The American Civil War. The Crimean War. The Industrial Revolution. The Victorian Era. The Gilded Age. First-Wave Feminism. The list could go on indefinitely. Sacagawea. Marie Curie. Clara Barton. Adoniram and Ann Judson. Indeed, someone should write a nineteenth-century companion to Billy Joel’s rapid-fire summary of the twentieth century, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Read more
On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, Alvera Mickelsen was welcomed into the loving arms of Jesus. Our beloved leader, mentor, mother, and friend died at the age of ninety-seven. A founder of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), she was CBE’s first board chair in 1987, worked with grassroots CBE chapters, and served for years as a CBE board member. She authored accessible books that remain bestsellers not only in CBE’s community, but around the world. Read more
Since the beginning of the feminist movement over a century ago, historians have debated the role religion played in the lives of the great British women’s rights leaders. Olive Anderson dismissed any agency religious experience gave to these women, contending that it “contributed nothing to the spread of feminist ideas.” Gail Malmgreen described their spirituality as a “central paradox” that historians struggle to keep in context while discussing their subjects’ lives and work. She went on to point out that religion is a neglected part of feminist history, yet historically there is a direct connection between faith and political activism within the feminist movement. In response to these works and others, Helen Mathers made a simple yet profound point: many of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century feminist leaders were devout Christians who drew upon faith as their main source of inspiration and strength, so a study of their beliefs is crucial to understanding their lives. Josephine Butler was one of these leaders. Read more
Alexander Campbell is arguably the most influential leader in the history of the American Restoration Movement, which emerged from the Second Great Awakening in the early nineteenth century and sought to reunite Christians by rejecting human creeds, breaking ties with denominations, and rediscovering the essential core Christian beliefs and practices in the Bible alone. Some four million people in a handful of Christian groups today find roots in this movement, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, the a capella Churches of Christ, and the International Churches of Christ. The earliest major document in this movement was the “Declaration and Address,” written by Alexander’s father, Thomas Campbell. In that work the senior Campbell denounced denominationalism as a great evil which divides the body of Christ. In 1832, the group led by the Campbells merged with a similar movement in Kentucky that began under the leadership of an American-born Presbyterian named Barton W. Stone. Thus the terms Restoration Movement and Stone-Campbell Movement have come to be used interchangeably. Read more
When the first American missionaries prepared to leave the shores of New England in 1812, Jonathan Allen, a respected minister of the gospel, delivered an exhortation to the women of the company. Speaking to them directly, he reminded the women that they were “now engaged in the best of causes,” specifically, the delivery of women in foreign lands from oppression. Allen proclaimed the call for American women to “enlighten” the minds of their foreign sisters and to “raise their character.” The American women were to “bring them from their cloisters” so that these subjugated foreign women might “enjoy the privileges of the children of God.” Ultimately, the work of American women in missions would teach women in the non-Western world that “they are not an inferior race of creatures; but stand upon a par with men.”   Read more

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Book Reviews: Women in the Church

Carroll Osburn's second edition of Women in the Church is a welcome contribution to the ongoing conversation on this topic, and he has reworked the book to take advantage of new developments and research. It feels like a textbook, but nonstudents will still glean valuable insights.

Book Review: Women of Influence: Women of Devotion Through the Centuries

Cheryl Forbes's first book, released in 1983 when she held a managerial position at Zondervan, was titled The Religion of Power. As that title suggests, she holds strong views. "At a certain point, a Christian must say no to maneuvers and manipulations, to politics and pretendings."

Book Review: Feminist Theology Through the Ages: Why We're Equal

Val Webb, adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota and author of four books, including In Defense of Doubt, has written an engaging, readable, and mostly historical approach to feminist theology. Her thesis is straightforward and often restated: "The goal of this book is to look at the diversity of the feminist movement and show how limited and inaccurate negative stereotyping is" (p. 3; also see pp. 9, 12, 47).

Book Review: Women and Men: Gender in the Church

This book emerges out of a rich Mennonite heritage that rather consistently deals with major social issues as they relate to biblical faith. Carol Penner's panel of authors, representing various segments of the North American Mennonite scene, have produced a very usable book suited both for adult Bible study home groups and for adult Sunday School classes. The authors are all egalitarian in their approach to Scripture and practice.

Booke Review: What Does She Want From Me Anyway? Honest Answers to the Questions Men Ask About Women

In an ideal world we would not need a book like this. Husbands would frequently fulfill one of their basic marital duties by sitting down and listening to their wives. Wives would be able to express their needs, wishes, and desires with clarity, and husbands would be committed to working on solutions. Likewise, wives would be eager to sit down and listen to their husbands to provide a similar function for them. But we do not live in an ideal world and apparently there are countless husbands who have no idea how to function in their marriages.

Book Review: Mae Elise Cannon's Social Justice Handbook

As the director of finance and planning services for a community action agency, I spend my working hours "engaging the community to end poverty." Yet, it is my belief that the Bible calls upon the Christian community to be associated with the economically vulnerable and, as part of church life and discipleship, to seek to address the issues of poverty. It is my passion to connect Christians to those affected by poverty and to help the Christian community to think about the ways they can engage the issues of social justice.

Book Review: Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is intended for a broad readership with the aim of uniting those who might otherwise be divided because of their religious and political convictions. The authors, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism on an earlier project. They use their expertise to cast a light on the global sex trafficking industry of young women.

Book Review: Wayne Grudem's Evangelical Feminism

Evangelical Feminism is written to further a cause that has consumed the author's working life: the permanent subordination of women as God's ideal. It judges all fellow evangelicals who disagree on this matter to be "theological liberals," or implicit liberals. The fundamental seismic fault in the author's thinking is that he cannot differentiate between the interpretation of Scripture and Scripture itself.

Book Review: Carolyn Custis James's Half the Church

Carolyn Custis James is an established author; she has three previously published books, When Life and Beliefs Collide, Lost Women of the Bible, and The Gospel of Ruth. She holds an MA in biblical studies and is the founder and president of Synergy Women's Network. In this, her fourth book, Half the Church, James writes with passion and intensity to encourage women to fulfill God's call on their lives.

Book Review: Nancy Hedberg's Women, Men, and the Trinity

This very accessible book is an excellent place to start one's exploration into what has come to be called the "New Subordinationism" in current evangelical discussions of the Trinity. Author Nancy Hedberg, who is vice president for student life at Corban University in Salem, Oregon, is accustomed to communicating with young college students and brings that clarity over to her discussion of theology. She is a philosophical thinker who is gifted in understanding what an author is communicating as well as in relaying an accurate description of that position to readers.

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