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Priscilla Papers

Within both mainstream and Christian media outlets in the United States, the dominant message about sexual desire is that men want sex more than women do. Within marriage literature, in particular, Christian writers often urge wives to respond favorably to their husbands’ advances. Embedded within this advice is the assumption that women do not often want to engage in intimate acts. Authors suggest that it is normal and natural for men to desire lots of sex while women purportedly agree to sex on an infrequent and often reluctant basis. In terms of sexual relationships, men are supposedly suited for active pursuit while women are inclined toward being passive and responsive. These assumptions have profound implications, since they set up relationship dynamics that are often unhealthy. Such beliefs can also lead women who have strong sexual desires or assertive personalities to feel excluded or abnormal. Read more
For enslaved members of the African diaspora in America, the biblical story of Exodus provided a way of understanding and framing discussions about slavery. Enslaved people would eventually use the Exodus story to shape their arguments for the abolition of slavery. If enslaved people found comparisons between their situation and that of the children of Israel, might not contemporary literary scholarship turn to the Moses narrative to understand and frame discussions, especially theological ones, about the enslaved experience as recounted in slave narratives, whether narratives of the African diaspora in America, of modern-day sex trafficking, or other instances of slavery? Read more
The claim is often made that Christians who advance the shared leadership, authority, and ministry of men and women in the church and home do so only by circumventing the authority of scripture. Because of this claim, egalitarians are accused of theological liberalism. I was inspired to write this paper after an evangelical scholar confessed candidly to me that, though he was trained in a tradition that viewed egalitarian theology as pernicious, through a series of circumstances including a positive encounter with an egalitarian leader, he determined to study egalitarian theology more thoroughly. Cicero reminds us that a fair hearing of any position must include a full grasp of the historical context. This paper briefly considers historical material often overlooked by evangelicals in assessing the theological orthodoxy of egalitarians. 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
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
Since the middle of the twentieth century there has been an ongoing, sometimes acrimonious debate over the meaning of “head” (Greek, kephalē) in Paul’s letters, especially 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23. The literature is extensive. The debate continues, but few have taken the time to read all the significant discussions or have access to the actual articles, much less the resources to critique such. This article is an attempt to review the most significant scholarly literature that has emerged in the debate and to summarize each without critique. The focus is narrow and should not be taken as a meta-study of the whole debate on male and female relations in the church, home, and world. Read more
I was very pleasantly surprised and honored when Mimi Haddad asked me to serve as guest co-editor of the twentieth anniversary edition of Priscilla Papers. Though I have been writing on the emancipation of women in the life of the church and the home for thirty years. My unchanging goal has been to contribute to the development of a coherent, holistically biblical theology of the sexes that grants to men and women the same dignity and the same freedom to use God-given gifts of leadership. This biblical theology conceives of marriage as a partnership in self-giving agape love, yet never forgets that God has made us men and women to complement and enrich each other’s lives. 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
From the 6th century b.c. the examples of King Nebuchadnezzar and King Cyrus teach us that God’s purposes can be carried out by nonbelievers, pagans who do not know the Lord. The Lord said, “I call you [Cyrus] by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me” (Isa. 45:4 nrsv). The Lord used both kings to discipline the disobedient Jews. Nevertheless, God still wanted Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus to learn that the Lord was the only real God (“and there is no other,” Isa. 45:5) and had been the One sovereign or active in their success, even though they had not known that “the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals” (Dan. 4:25 nrsv). In the 19th century a.d. the Lord also used several ruling women and men in Hawaii to ignite a spiritual and social and economic revolution. Pagan gods were outlawed, women were elevated, and the poor were financially relieved. God through these nonbelievers had prepared the way for Christian missionaries to spread the good news about Jesus, God among and for us. Read more
In recent years, more and more attention has been drawn to the Church in Mainland China from the Western World from both inside and outside of the church. David Aikman’s masterpiece Jesus in Beijing, Tony Lambert’s China’s Christian Millions and a series of books by Paul Hattaway have offered a vivid picture of the Church in Mainland China and thus stimulated a great interest among scholars to study the church in China and to predict her future. 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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