Book Review- Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

If you couldn’t tell from my update post, the topic of gender and Christianity is something that I am very intrigued by. The last book I reviewed from Baker Academic- Paul and Gender by Cynthia Westfall focused on the Apostle Paul’s theological corpus, and how his references to Gender have been inappropriately applied. A combination of a western worldview and ecclesiological tradition has neglected the context of these gender passages by cherry-picking “proof texts” only to develop an exegetically inaccurate doctrine, both demeaning and hierarchical. You can read my review of that book here if you’d like.

neither-egalitarean-nor-complementarian

This review of Michelle Lee-Barnewall’s new book Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate bravely elevates the conversation to a new level of thinking by offering what she calls “a kingdom corrective” as an alternative to the already established schools of thought. Not only is her corrective argument informative, but also unapologetic, respectful, and simultaneously free of pompous candor or dogmatic assertions. This book is refreshing glass of water for the theologically parched, and a breath of fresh air for the either/or way of thinking that has brought hostile disunity to the church.

My review for this book will be a little different then my recent reviews. I will not expand in summary as I have prior, but not due to any form of laziness. The reason being that the kingdom perspective Lee-Barnewall argues for is what I consider to be an enormous contribution to the ongoing gender debate. Of every book I’ve reviewed, this is my highest recommendation for anyone willing to approach a new framework that goes beyond the egalitarian or complementarian sides of the coin. If you are even the slightest bit familiar with the conversation then this book will be beneficial, which is why I highly encourage all who are reading this to consider purchasing it. All that to say my review will be more reflective rather than informative, hoping that my ambiguity will intrigue you enough to consider reading it. Maybe we can even dialogue about it on here! Either way, I have a copy and would love to let anyone borrow it who is interested, but doesn’t have the funding. Comment on here and I’m sure we can work something out.   Continue reading

Book Review- Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ

Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ is an attempt to shed new light on the Pauline passages concerning gender roles. Authored by respected scholar Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall, this book urges all who have studied the apostle to do so through the theological lens of the Pauline corpus, distinguishing between the assumptions and presuppositions that they use to make sense of the texts (2). The layout for this book is not a systematic approach as one might expect. I’ve found that books dealing with specific Biblical issues tend to be laid out that way, devoting each chapter to a different problem passage. being devoted . With the exception of chapter 9 dealing exclusively with 1 Timothy 2:11-15, each passage is regarded as is fitting to the chapter’s topic, moving the reader toward a canon-based Pauline theology of gender. The chapter layout is as follows— paul-and-gender

  1. Culture
  2. Stereotypes
  3. Creation
  4. The Fall
  5. Eschatology
  6. The Body
  7. Calling
  8. Authority
  9. 1 Timothy 2:11-15

This holistic approach to Paul’s work enables Westfall to address the issues effectively. Her method helps make sense of the apostle’s writings in their context, refreshing the reader with new insights regarding Greco-Roman culture. In turn, viable alternatives are offered for Paul’s infamous passages and they encourage ongoing discussion. Westfall is re-framing the gender issues from what they were at one point, clearly seeking to stimulate critical thinking for a newfound understanding of Paul’s theology of gender.

I have read a few books, articles, and journals dealing with Paul’s view of gender. I have found the majority of them to be similarly thematic in their structure and their argument with Paul, gender, and how they handle the topic’s key texts (1 Cor. 7; 11; 14; 1 Tim. 2)—that Paul is addressing specific problems occurring with a specific people group. What makes Westfall’s book stand out is her method holds social, historical, and cultural context in very high regard, from which she builds her textual case. She does not choose one or the other, rather, demonstrates the equal importance of both. Most books looking to gain deeper understanding of the text would never ignore these aspects because they are an exegetical necessity; however, I am thrilled with her emphasis the text’s context as the hermeneutical foundation she proves it to be. Not everyone knows Greek or Hebrew, but when you study social, historical, and cultural contexts, you don’t need the language prerequisites. This aspect makes the book more enticing to those who are not versed in Biblical languages, and would benefit those just starting with Biblical Greek. I think reading someone else’s assessment has always helped me with exegesis, and I’m sure it would help other’s as well.

Coming back to my love for her focus on context, here are a few examples of things that stood out to me specifically…

In chapter 1 Westfall exposes the Greco-Roman culture and its influence on Paul’s writing. She argues Paul’s language exploits Hellenistic literature, philosophy, symbols, and language to take every thought captive for Christ (8). Specifically, the study analyzes the women head coverings in 1 Cor. 11:10. Most interpret this passage as Paul usurping a husband’s authority over his wife, but this assumption of the veil in 1 Cor. 11:10 is a prime example of presuppositions developed from the influence of western thought. Westfall argues that our culture has influenced traditional reading of the phrase ὀφείλει ή γυνή ἐξουσίαν ἒχειν, to be interpreted as “a woman should have a sign of authority over her head.” Her rendering of it is, “because o this a woman should have authority over her head. Her argument is built on the cultural study and explains the grammar of the phrase for further support as well (35).

Another good example of emphasis on context is her assessment of 1 Timothy 2, the most popular of the passages regarding Paul, gender, and leadership. Westfall sets the stage with her explanation of 1 Timothy being a personal letter authored by Paul and for Timothy. Several scholars believe 1 Timothy was either a general writing or pseudonymous, not to mention skepticism on whether or not Timothy was the intended recipient during his time in Ephesus (282-285). Prefacing the chapter with this inaugurates the overarching focus on context, giveing the reader cultural insight prior to her position on the text’s interpretation. It is here that Westfall reveals this is not the “church-government-gender-standard” passage many have made it out to be; the social setting is not that of a public worship service, nor is it addressing ministries in general. On top of this, the ethical weight given justifying gender discrimination of the female population from ministry leadership is dogmatic, chauvinistic, and an exegetical fallacy. Specifically, she says, “There is nothing in 1 Timothy 2:1-8 that would narrow the context to a ‘public worship service,’ without even considering that worship services took place in the domestic sphere of the home, not in a public location” (287). She follows with a section arguing the letter’s purpose, helping the reader to understand the purpose/placement of 1 Timothy 2:1-15 entirely; Paul seeks to provide Timothy with antidotes correlated to the present false teaching. She presents his antidotes threefold: an antidote for false teaching amongst men (vv. 2:1-8; p. 304), an antidote for economically appropriate attire (vv. 2:9-10; p. 305), and an antidote for false teaching among the women (vv. 2:11-15; p. 305). Summarizing her final thoughts, here is an excerpt from the concluding paragraph of this chapter:

“The controversial passage that addresses women in 2:9-15 does not fit the setting of the church service. It is better understood as a type of household code, whereby the heresies involving women that had invaded the household were to be corrected in each household by the husband, who was in the best position to take responsibility for the spiritual formation of his wife. Rather than prohibiting women from participating as leaders in the church, Paul addresses the lacuna in discipleship that is holding the Ephesian women believers back from maturity and sound teaching” (310-311).

These are just two examples that barely scratch the surface of the book’s informational density, and is far from elementary. If you have read anything regarding Paul and Gender, I urge you to not write this off. I can assure you it is not the regurgitation of problem texts you may be expecting. It is unique, affordable, edifying and life-giving. The gender debate has gone on for centuries and has been influenced by several different traditions. If you have been looking for a thorough overview on the discussion of the apostle’s theology of gender, then Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ will be an excellent tool to dismantle traditional western thought whilst maintaining sound exegetical integrity.

This book is phenomenal, and I recommend it to anyone even remotely curious on the subject. The examples listed above hardly do her arguments the justice each deserves. Westfall’s study incorporates the apostle’s theological corpus in the social, historical, and cultural contexts of each problem passage, deeming it beneficial to all wanting a better understanding of Paul’s theology of gender. This book both erudite and enjoyable, this is a book I will love to recommend, but hesitate to let others borrow.

You can buy this from Baker Academic’s website here. Baker Book House has a few copies currently available in their bargain section if you are in the Grand Rapids area as well. Thank you to Baker Academic for providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not affect the review in any way.

Update: Reading List, Women Leadership, Take Hold Church

chi-rhoGreetings! As the title indicates, this is an “update” post. My initial intent was to post this at the beginning of the year, but needed to postpone because several book reviews I needed to catch up on, and several more to follow for this semester. In no particular order here are the books I will review over the next few weeks: I have developed my reading list for two reasons. The first is because of a class I’m taking on Greco-Roman culture and New Testament backgrounds, and the second is to further research gender and leadership roles in a first century context.

  1. Neither Egalitarian Nor Complimentarian (Baker) by Michelle Lee-Barnewell
  2. Paul and Gender (Baker) by Cynthia Long Westfall
  3. Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans) by John M.G. Barclay
  4. World Upside Down (Fortress) by C. Kavin Rowe
  5. The First Urban Christians (Yale) by Wayne A. Meeks
  6. The Ancient Church as Family (Fortress) by Joseph H. Hellerman
  7. Destroyer of the Gods (Baylor) by Larry W. Hurtado

I have developed my reading list for two reasons. The first, because I’m taking a class on Greco-Roman culture and New Testament backgrounds, and the second is to further research gender and leadership roles in a first century context. I grew fond of this subject because of a lecture I listened to by Ben Witherington III that completely captivated me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered this was the focus of his he doctoral dissertation. Following this, I was drawn to a book I found online called Man and Woman, One in Christ (Zondervan) by Philip Payne that was absolutely brilliant. Since then I have been drawn to this field of study, finding more interest in the misinterpretation of the “go-to” proof texts against women in leadership roles. All things considered I will be posting a 2-3 part series of my personal stance on the subject based on what I’ve found to be misunderstood scripturally. I will post this 2-3 part series in addition to my book reviews.

I also want to share the IVP Bookclub with all of the readers out there. The IVP Bookclub is a monthly subscription to get books for 30%-60% off from IVP, but with no obligation. Simply respond by mail, email, or phone by the deadline and they wont send you the book offered at the discounted Bookclub rate. The best part about this bookclub is that you get 3 books for $1 (+$7-$8 for S & H) that they send to your front door within 4-8 weeks once you sign up. There are 50 or so books to choose from, and the selection is definitely worth it. Plus, there is no obligation to stay signed up with the club if you choose not to. You can cancel your membership whenever you like, no penalty whatsoever. I am a member right now, and there are no gimmicks or fees in this at all. It is as good as it sounds. In fact, I signed up shortly after Christmas and got my lot of books early last week! Here’s the link if you’re interested, and let me know if you do sign up!

In addition to all of this, I will be starting my 2 residency for my degree this May. During this time, one of my tasks will be to get together a plan of action for Take Hold Church’s Ministry School, projected to (re)launch in the Fall of 2018. Take Hold Church’s Ministry School started 5-6 years ago, and was created for those seeking deeper Biblical, theological, and ministerial understanding in a small group format. Now the idea has been bouncing around again, and many of us at Take Hold believe that it may be time to get the school up and running again. Nothing is set in stone, but I will follow up with details as they formulate. You can also check the church’s website for updates regarding this, as well as other things going on at the church such as shows, outreach opportunities, ways to get involved, small groups/ministries, Take Hold Fest, and even a blog once there is a tab set up (I will be posting on there occasionally in addition to my personal page).

That’s the end of this random update. I will have a review of Neither Egalitarian Nor Complimentarian up within the week.

Book Review: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Samuel; Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary

Exalting Jesus in 1 &2 Samuel is the newest release for B&H Publishing’s Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series. Written by Heath Thomas (Dean of Herschel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry) and J.D. Greear (Pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh, NC), they have taken on the task of writing a commentary focused on the gospel’s presence throughout all of scripture. There are a few distinctions about this commentary compared to others that I enjoyed. First, though this is an expositional commentary, the authors hold firmly to sound exegesis. I am hardly a Hebrew scholar, so I am not in any position to critique how accurately they do this. However, from what I’ve observed, there are no red flags indicating any exegetical fallacy from their interpretation of the text. Secondly, this is very teacher/pastor focused. Granted, this is not the first commentary to bridge the gap between scholars and small group leaders, but but is still unique nonetheless. Compared to Goldingay’s Old Testament for Everyone series, this commentary is very structured and provides more teaching/preaching examples. The price is roughly the same as those volumes as well ($14.99) which wins the favor of the penny pincher compared to the NIV Application Commentary as well. These observations alone lean my budget towards this series for future purchases. 

Each chapter starts with a main idea for the verses to follow. For example, the main idea for 2 Samuel 7 reads, “The Davidic covenant reveals that Yahweh has blessed David to be a blessing; those who bless him will be blessed, and those who curse him will be cursed” (192). Following is an outline, where the outline’s points/subpoints are highlighted by illustrations from the author(s) to assist with their comment. The chapter concludes with points of reflection and a few discussion questions, being a useful tool for both the pastor and small group leader.

Many people ignore the Old Testament today, myself included. Unfortunately, this negligence is a huge contributor to why Manu are turned away from the Christian faith entirely. Some will look at the Old Testament as God being the “angry God” and the New Testament is when he finally came comes to his senses (Isa 63-65); as if the cross were the perscription for relentless temper tantrums. Others look at the Old Testament and see it as the first written account where science is ignored (Gen 1-3). How about king David’s justification to steal a man’s wife as long as you take him out of the picture (2 Sam 11)? All of these are examples that have been known to turn people away from reading the Old Testament, all of which I have heard over the years. However, this is all the more reason on why it shouldn’t be ignored, and this commentary series is just one tool that will help anyone struggling with issues like these. Many think because Jesus is not in the Old Testament that it serves no purpose to them today, but this commentary specifically will help snuff out that notion. The Bible tells one story, and this story is one of redemption that points to Jesus Christ. 

All in all I found this book excellent. The OT historical books have always intimidated me. Partly because I feel I have been looking for a good “starter” book on the OT historical books, and haven’t yet found one that was both credible and affordable. I think this is an excellent choice.  You can buy this book on the B&H Website or from Amazon

Disclaimer: I received this review copy of the book from B&H in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed were not influenced by their provision of such