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Priscilla Papers

For many Seventh-day Adventists (SDA), July 8, 2015, will go down in history as the Second Great Disappointment. For those not familiar with Seventh-day Adventist history, the first Great Disappointment occurred on October 22, 1844, when Jesus did not return, as some had predicted he would. This time, the issue was not the return of Jesus, but the culmination of a long, hard-fought campaign for equal treatment of women in the ministries of the denomination. Read more
In the previous edition of Priscilla Papers, my article, “The Genesis of Equality,” outlined the prevailing view that the Bible’s opening chapters make substantial or essential equality of the two sexes the creation ideal, and that the subordination of women is entirely a consequence of the fall. I further noted that Pope John Paul II made this interpretation of Gen 1–3 binding on Roman Catholics. In this essay, I move on to discuss four key terms—“role,” “equality,” “difference,” and “complementary”—which “complementarians” consistently utilize to give a different interpretation of Gen 1–3 and of other biblical texts important to their cause. Again, I bring in the Roman Catholic voice to give a wider perspective. Read more
When God speaks in the Bible, it is with authority—and this is no less the case when God speaks through women. Sometimes it is privately through ordinary women like the matriarch Rebekah (Gen. 25:25) or the young woman Mary of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-38). Elsewhere, women serve as public heralds of Israel’s deliverance (Ps. 68:11, Isa. 40:9), and later of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-18, Luke 24:1-12, John 24:1-12). In the book of Proverbs, the very wisdom of God is personified as a woman who calls the foolish to repentance and the wise to obedience. She also provides an idealized model for a person of wisdom as the “woman of valor” in the poem that King Lemuel’s mother taught him (Prov. 31). And throughout biblical history, the official “thus saith the Lord” of the prophets is heard through courageous women like Miriam in the exodus from Egypt (Exod. 15:20-21,Mic. 6:4), Deborah during the era of the judges (Judg. 4-5), Huldah at the time of the kingdom’s fall (2 Kings 22:14-20, 2 Chron. 34:22-28), as well as the New Testament examples of Anna (Luke 2:36), Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), the unnamed women who prayed and prophesied at Corinth (1 Cor. 11), and the prophesying daughters of Israel in the last days announced by the prophet Joel (Joel 2) and celebrated by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). Read more
One source of tension between egalitarians and complementarians is the frequent complementarian claim that egalitarians are the theological descendents of radical feminists such as Betty Friedan, Mary Daly, and Daphne Hampson. This is inaccurate. Egalitarians in fact see mentors in people like Catherine Booth, Jessie Penn-Lewis, Frances Willard, A. J. Gordon, Katharine Bushnell, William Baxter Godbey, Amanda Smith, Fredrik Franson, Sojourner Truth, B. T. Roberts, and Pandita Ramabai. Our theological moorings, as egalitarians, are directly linked to the first wave of feminists—people whose passion for Scripture, evangelism, and justice shaped the golden era of missions in the 1800s. These people not only advanced the biblical basis for the gospel service of women and people of color, but many of them also labored for the abolition of slavery and for voting rights for women. Read more
First, some preliminary remarks about this sort of debate. I have read through some of CBE’s literature with great interest, but also with a sense that the way particular questions are posed and addressed reflects some particular American subcultures. I know a little about those subcultures—for instance, the battles over new Bible translations, some using inclusive language and others not. In my own church, the main resistance against equality in ministry comes, not so much from within the Evangelical right (though there is of course a significant element there), but from within the traditional Anglo-Catholic movement for whom Scripture has never been the central point of the argument, and indeed is often ignored altogether. Read more
Much has been written about prophetic leadership, especially in the charismatic side of the evangelical church. For mainline Christians, prophetic leadership tends to be understood as a particular stance toward justice and peace, a hermeneutic of suspicion toward world systems of domination. Walter Wink’s concept of “engaging the powers” is an example of this approach to the prophetic task. Evangelical charismatics, on the other hand, have tended to think of prophetic ministry as the expression of an individual’s spiritual gift that calls the church to repentance, that unmasks sin and falsity in the church, and that holds forth supernatural words of knowledge for individuals and corporate bodies. Prophetic ministry for charismatics includes foretelling and forthtelling, an intercessory sensitivity to the voice of God. Rick Joyner is one example of several well-known prophetic leaders in the charismatic tradition. Read more
Men who love women have for centuries sacrificed their jackets, relinquished their seats, and held doors open for women. In recent years, some have considered manners like these to be “chauvinistic,” but, for egalitarian men, politeness has the added benefit of hard lessons learned. As a result, we see these protective respectful acts of kindness including more than just opened doors and sacrificed jackets. They also include the role of advocating for women. Read more
In terms of gender, language is very important. Words carry connotations and definitions of key concepts that ultimately delineate the point one is trying to make. Since the topic of gender is very broad, it requires very precise language with very precise meanings so writers will not be misunderstood. One author expressively makes this clear in an 850-page polemic against egalitarianism entitled Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (EFBT). Read more
Arguably, Mary Wollstonecraft can be as relevant today as she was in 1792 when she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her critique of societal norms and the education of women and children was revolutionary when she wrote it, and it still has the capability to be influential today. Why is this the case? Is her work so rich that it can be interpreted across cultures and time, or has society not changed as much as it might seem? Certainly, Wollstonecraft’s writing is interpretively rich and able to speak to many people; however, there are some elements of our contemporary society that might hinder the progress of the feminist movement, of which Wollstonecraft is considered the foremother. I intend to investigate Wollstonecraft’s argument for why men and women are equal in rationality and consider why her criticisms of society might still be applicable today by reflecting on applications to our broader society and, more specifically, the evangelical church. I will also suggest that it is unfortunate that a critique such as Wollstonecraft’s still needs to be applied in contemporary society, but that, if we can understand it in today’s context (and by neglecting it we would be causing injustice and miseducation to go unchallenged), then we should indeed apply her proposals. Read more
Women of the graduating class of 2005, it is both an honor and a joy to be able to join your family, your friends, and other members of the seminary community in celebrating this last leg of your seminary journey with you. You have worked hard to arrive here, and, as you leave, you take with you a wealth of skills, wisdom, and insight as you go forth as ministers of the gospel. As one of the many faculty who has invested so much into seeing you succeed in your journey, I cannot resist taking this opportunity to ask you to be sure to take just one more theological insight with you as you leave. The one insight that I would like for you to take with you is this: A sure understanding of who you are. Read more

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Book Review: I Suffer Not a Woman

Until now, this reviewer had to acknowledge he simply did not understand Paul's statement: "I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man" (1Tim 2:12).

No explanation rang scripturally true: e.g. "rabbinical male bias" or "a local cultural problem." Exceptions for women teaching or preaching ("only occasionally" or "under male authority" or "if there aren't male missionaries") sounded like semantics.

Book Review: Beyond the Curse

Subtitled "Women Called to Ministry," Dr. Spencer's book presents a new look at Scripture's description of women's roles. She writes, "Whole dimensions of God, ministry, education and theology are being obscured and ignored if women are not properly trained, then invited, even more so welcomed, to participate as significant and affirmed once they do lead." Dr. Spencer reminds the reader that "God has often surprised the church by the workers He sent out."

Book Review: How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership

Alan Johnson, emeritus professor of New Testament and Christian ethics at Wheaton College (Illinois), has put together autobiographical accounts of twenty-seven evangelical leaders, both men and women, from many denominations. These stories recount journeys from belief in a restrictive role for women to a realization of freedom for women to use all their gifts and callings for God’s kingdom. In many of these accounts, the implications for Christian marriage are brought out: a side-by-side partnership of mutual love and submission, where no one is “boss” and no one needs to dominate.

Book Review: Christian Standard Bible

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The CSB was published in March 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

Book Review: Does God Make the Man? Media, Religion, and the Crisis of Masculinity

Does God Make the Man? is a fascinating look at how evangelical and ecumenical men process the messages they hear about masculinity from religion and media. The authors organized focus groups and recorded hundreds of hours of conversations to see if religion is vital to developing masculine identity. They conclude that, although evangelical men may claim to learn gender roles from the Bible, the actual sources of this knowledge are media and culture.

Book Review: Women's Socioeconomic Status and Religious Leadership in Asia Minor in the First Two Centuries C.E.

This book is a PhD dissertation, published in Fortress Press’s selective “Emerging Scholars” series. Indeed, it reads like a dissertation, and only specialists will resist the urge to skim through the survey of scholarship and explanation of method in the introduction and first chapter. (That is not to say these sections are of no value.)

Book Review: Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vison for Men and Women in Christ

In the often-heated evangelical debate concerning the ordination of women, one struggles to find a coherent and exhaustive work that covers more than the relevant Pauline texts. For example, the respected works by Philip Payne and Craig Keener provide concentrated exegesis on the significant Pauline texts.1 Cynthia Long Westfall’s recent book offers a larger interpretive framework for the evangelical gender debate, a framework that is lucid, compelling, and profoundly refreshing, and one which does not miss the theological forest for the exegetical trees.

Book Review: What's Right With Feminism

Many people are aware that women's wider opportunities to use their leadership gifts in both society and the church are due primarily to the efforts of women's movement—a feminist movement that began in this country in the mid-eighteen hundreds and was closely allied with the abolitionist movement. Yet as Christian women confront the complex (and often negative) baggage carried by the word "feminist" today, these women can often feel ill-equipped to sort out the many social and theological issues regarding women's roles in the nineteen nineties.

Book Review: Call Me Blessed: The Emerging Christian Woman

Faith Martin begins her book by stating: ''In the eyes of the church, a woman's humanity is overshadowed by her being perceived as a sex. Woman is the spiritual equal of man, but the church teaches that a woman's sex prevents a practical working out of that equality...All of this contrasts with the Holy Scriptures. When reading the Bible I am not conscious of my sex but conscious of my humanity. And so felt the women who flocked to Jesus. No man before or since has treated women as so completely human."

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