Book Alert! The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr
It’s book launch day!!!!
When I heard this book by Beth Allison Barr was coming, I was THRILLED! I jumped at the opportunity to be on the book launch team! I am so lucky I had the opportunity to read it pre-launch, it is truly extraordinary!
Beth is a deeply needed truth-teller. And her book is so timely and important. I urge you to go get it today!
I love church history, in particular when it comes to women’s stories and the scandal of how their efforts and leadership have been silenced.
Beth tells the stories of women, (medieval women in particular), and the history of the church, and contrasts it with our modern understanding of what biblical womanhood is.
Beth explains how the church has gotten so lost in the patriarchy of the culture that we’ve forgotten biblical truth.
Patriarchy is not biblical. It was established through cultural moments that shaped history and deeply impacted the church, leading to the subordination of women.
It is time for Christian patriarchy to end!
Q: Why did you write The Making of Biblical Womanhood?
A: I wrote it for two reasons, really.
First, because it was just time for people to know. I have known for so long, as both a historian and a Christian, that scholarship completely undermines ‘biblical womanhood’. Yet ‘biblical womanhood’ continues to be the message we hear in evangelical churches; we continue to hear that the only way to be biblically faithful is to believe in ‘separate but equal’ gender roles. I wanted people to know the truth about where complementarian theology came from—that it is made in history, not the Bible. I especially wanted people to know how it became written into the Gospel. Even if I didn’t change minds, I wanted evangelical Christians to understand that biblical faithfulness isn’t tied to following ‘biblical manhood and womanhood.’
Second, because I really felt called by God to write it. When my husband was fired, one woman, an artist, gave us a wooden block that she had painted black and written these simple words on it in white: looking unto Jesus. I have kept it always where I can see it. I know she gave it to me out of bewilderment--not understanding what was going on, but she trusted God was doing something. The words she wrote, looking unto Jesus, is really what I felt like we have done these past four years. It is so miraculous to me how our life, which seemed to be completely falling apart, began to be rebuilt in such an incredible way. When I received that email from Katelyn Beaty, asking if I would be interested in submitting a book proposal, all the pieces of my life seemed to fall into place. I had the academic credentials needed for a book like The Making of Biblical Womanhood; I had the solid evangelical pedigree to keep me from being booted immediately into the heretic camp; I had the lived experience of 40 years in the complementarian world, including living through the worst of what it had to offer; and I even had a small social media platform through blogging as well as networks connecting me to so many Christian scholars and public intellectuals. God had given me all the tools I needed to make a difference for women, and I decided to take the chance.
Q: Who is this book for?
A: It is for the people in my evangelical world who are willing to listen. I don’t pretend that I will change the minds of the hard line complementarian leaders who have built their reputations and ministries on maintaining patriarchy. This book isn’t really for them, although they are welcome to read it. This book is for the women and men in evangelical churches who realize the disconnect between what the Bible teaches and what biblical manhood and womanhood demands; those who are beginning to ask questions and don’t know where to find answers. I want them to know that the reason the misogyny and sexism, even racism, that they have uncovered in their churches doesn’t look Jesus because it isn’t from Jesus. I want them to know that they don’t have to walk away from their faith.
Q: What are the main takeaways you hope for the reader?
A: Really, there is one main point: biblical womanhood isn’t biblical. It’s that simple. What we have been taught about the “God-given” limits placed on women’s leadership and roles stem from human culture, not from God.
But within that bigger point, I hope that evangelicals will approach scripture more judiciously and better understand how Bible translations impact their ideas about gender roles. I hope that evangelicals will stop settling for church histories and sermons and Sunday School lessons that leave women out of the narrative. I hope that evangelicals will come to realize that—rather than a worrisome trend—women as preachers, teachers, and leaders have always been a significant part of the Christian story.
If I can add one more--I hope evangelicals will begin to ask more questions about why they believe what they believe, and that they will realize the God we serve is big enough to handle all the questions we ask.
Q: Where do you see biblical womanhood doing the most harm?
A: Despite how pretty we try to make it with words like “servant leadership” and “complementarity,” the crux of biblical womanhood teaches that women are divinely designed to support men and that—because of the way God made us—women are lacking men’s leadership capability. Women, in other words, are taught that we are less whereas men are taught that they are better. History has shown us over and over how harmful this idea is for women. It places women perpetually under the power of men and excludes women perpetually from decision-making roles. We literally have no place at the table; or, at best, a place that is also less than that of men. Biblical womanhood teaches women to not question the authority of men and silences women who find themselves in dangerous and abusive situations. Ideas matter; and the idea of biblical womanhood teaches that women are less than men, which leads to men treating women accordingly.
Q: What is your greatest hope for the impact of the book?
A: That it helps women. That it allows evangelical women and men to realize that complementarianism is not the divine order created by God. That women and men will know that they can continue to be biblical faithfully even if they begin to question or abandon complementarianism. That it will break the abusive stranglehold in so many complementarian churches that has silenced women and contributed to decades of spiritual and sexual abuse. That evangelical women who do feel God’s calling to preach, teach, and lead will be free to do so. That, instead of forcing women into a one-size-fits-all mold, it will empower women to be who they have been made to be. More than anything else, I pray that The Making of Biblical Womanhood gives women hope for a better Christian world.