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Priscilla Papers

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
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
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
When Constantine became Emperor at the start of the fourth century, the entire course of Christian history changed. Under the leadership of prior Emperors Decius and Diocletian in the third century, Christians endured great persecution and thousands were martyred for their faith. However, following Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in ad 312, the Church and State became completely enmeshed. Because persecution ended, the ardent faith manifested by the martyrs waned, and, accordingly, the number of nominal Christians drastically increased. One ramification was that, in the fourth century, monasticism and its associated asceticism flourished, as Christian believers attempted to distinguish themselves in devoted service to Christ. Read more
In the latter part of the twentieth century the doctrine of the Trinity captured the attention of theologians more than any other doctrine. At no time in history since the theologically stormy days of the fourth century has there been so much discussion on this topic, and the discussion does not seem to be ending! Books on the Trinity by Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox theologians continue to be published as I write. No longer is it thought that the Trinity is an obtuse, secondary, and impractical dogma. Today theologians are generally agreed that this doctrine is foundational to the Christian faith because it articulates what is most distinctive in the biblical revelation of God—he is triune. Read more
Throughout history why did the church frequently use feminine language for God? In what way did this feminine language serve the church? Why do we evangelicals, in contrast, appear so uncomfortable with feminine imagery for God? Read more
Two hundred years before Martin Luther’s reformation, a woman now known as St. Bridget of Sweden (1302-1373) challenged wayward kings, priests, and popes, calling them to repentance. As a young woman married to a nobleman, she dedicated herself to prayer and service to the poor and sick, even as she mothered eight children and served as a lady-in-waiting to the queen. (The royals remained fond of Bridget even as they ignored her pleas for moral and legal reform.) Read more

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Book Review: The Private War of Mrs. Packard

Every time discouragement sets in because of the slow progress of egalitarian ideas, we ought to be able to reach over our shoulders and pull from the shelf a book such as Sapinsley's. The story of Mrs. Packard (1816-1897), set in the American midwest, should remind all of us how much has been accomplished by our forebears.

Book Review: No Time for Silence

Chosen as one of ETERNITY magazine's best books of the year in 1987, this book encourages women to use their gifts fully in proclaiming the Gospel. Dr. Hassey presents the significant contributions made by American women engaged in public ministry in past years, and who were enthusiastically supported by such institutions as Moody Bible Institute. She writes, 'The earliest Bible conferences welcomed women preachers and Bible teachers . . .

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.

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