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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
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
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
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
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
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: The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity

The terms “page turner” and “doctrine of the Trinity” would not often be found in the same sentence, but they are appropriate in the case of Kevin Giles’s most recent book on the issue. I found this five-chapter account of a recent theological dispute absolutely riveting, even though I already knew how it would end! It is an extraordinary story, told by a major player in the drama.

Book Review: Building Your Family to Last

The secret of building families to last is found in Kari's emphasis on parents modelling the Christian life before their children. If the mother and father— who are responsible before God for what happens in the home—are not walking with God, and not walking in harmony with each other before God, how can they become models to their children? Hence this modelling has to start with choosing a life partner with the same foundation in life and faith and loving obedience to Jesus Christ.

Book Review: Is God the Only Reliable Father?

This small, highly provocative book by a staff associate for the General Assembly Mission Board, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has surprising premises and conclusions, worthy of the careful attention of pastors and serious students of the Bible. Tennis pleads with readers not to abandon the imagery and language of God the Father. Her conclusion is not surprising—but some of her reasons are.

Book Review: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

The four-volume Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (DDL) provides a well-rounded overview of life not only across time periods but also across the several cultures of the biblical world. Thirty-three scholars, including editors Edwin M. Yamauchi (Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University) and Marvin R. Wilson (Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College), have contributed to the DDL.

Book Review: Gender Roles and the People of God

Theologian and author Alice Mathews recently said in a Christianity Today interview with Hannah Anderson, “Satan knows that if he can keep women out of service, in the church and in the world, he will have won an enormous victory.” Mathews’s most recent book, Gender Roles and the People of God, takes back some of the territory gained by the enemy.

Book Review: Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry

Walter Brueggemann dedicates his seminal work, The Prophetic Imagination: “For my sisters in ministry who teach me daily about the power of grief and the gift of amazement.” As he describes the grief and amazement that together shape the prophetic imagination, he also describes the story of many women in ministry—lamenting what is broken in themselves, the church, and the world while also imagining what can be.

Book Review: The New Perspective on Mary and Martha

Recently, as I was listening to a Christian radio station, the female announcer shared that she was feeling guilty about her busy life. She made reference to the biblical “story of Mary and Martha,” typically feeling at fault because she was not taking ample time to “sit at Jesus’ feet” properly. She went on to say that Martha had it wrong because she was more concerned about her chores than she was about being in the presence of the Lord. These two sisters are examples, one positive and one negative.

Book Review: The Message of Women: Creation, Grace and Gender

As part of the “Bible Themes” series within the larger The Bible Speaks Today collection of Bible commentaries and themes, The Message of Women is an exposition rather than a detailed commentary. It explores the life of women in Old Testament times and in the life of Jesus and the subsequent life of the early church. Without actually saying what is suggested by the title of their work, Derek and Dianne Tidball find a message for the twenty- first century church.

Book Review: Her Story: Autobiographical Portraits of Early Methodist Women

Reading Her Own Story is like looking through an ancient, rusty trunk in your great-grandmother’s attic and finding, hidden under yellowing linens and fading daguerreotypes, the journals of a forgotten female relative. The journals make this unheard-of kinswoman come to life in such a way that you feel you know her intimately. She writes of her spiritual journey in all of its joy, splendor, pain, and frustration.

Book Review: Equal to Serve

When I attended the last Sydney Diocesan Synod I was aware that events outside the Chapter House were frequently of greater interest than those inside that hallowed structure. One of the exciting extramural activities was the visit of Mrs.G.G. Hull who spoke lucidly and informatively on the subject of the role of women in the church.

What Mrs. Hull said on that occasion is available on tape from the Anglican Radio Unit and is expanded in this book. The book has as its subtitle, ''Women and Men in the Church and Home".

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