(4) Notes and Quotes from “The Making of Biblical Womanhood,” by Beth Allison Barr: Chapters 7-8

Listen to “S2E6: Down With the (Christian) Patriarchy!” — it’s an episode all about this book from your favorite podcast Red Weather Christians.

Need to get caught up? Here are the first three posts for chapters 1-6:

Chapters 1-2

Chapters 3-4

Chapters 5-6

Chapter 7: Making Biblical Womanhood Gospel Truth

“Forgetting Our Past”

In 1934, no one at this Southern Baptist church had a problem with Mrs. Lewis Ball preaching.

Oh, how quickly we forget. This just shows how inconsistent we’ve been in our “rules” about women preaching. And not only was Mrs. Ball preaching, she was the revival preacher for the one-week revival event at First Baptist Church Elm Mott near Waco, Texas. Barr goes on to reference a 2017 essay by religious scholar Timothy Larsen “showcasing the long history of female leadership in the evangelical tradition, including the Baptist tradition”:

[Larsen] went so far as to call women’s involvement in public ministry a “historic distinctive of evangelism.”

Well wow. I don’t think people associate women in public ministry with evangelism anymore. What happened? Let’s rewind a bit and walk through Larsen’s essay:

[Women in public Christian ministry] is historic because evangelical women have been fulfilling their callings in public ministry from the founding generation of evangelicalism to the present day and in every period in between.

It really makes you wonder how we came so far from this. Women used to have no issue preaching, teaching, and pastoring.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, moved from prohibiting women as preachers to embracing them.

“It is fascinating,” writes Larsen, “that [Wesley] affirmed the ministries of these women in explicitly egalitarian language as of the exact same order as that of the men who had not received Anglican ordination whose public ministries he was also affirming.”

Despite John Piper’s hardline complementarian stance, even Calvinist evangelicals of the past have affirmed women’s calling by God as public ministers. Larsen explains how the first American Calvinist denomination to emerge from the eighteenth-century evangelical revival was founded by a woman, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.

So how did we get from this history, rife with women in ministry, to … this:

Many evangelicals believe that supporting women in ministry is a slippery slope leading to liberalism and agnosticism.

To which I reply, liberalism and agnosticism never looked so good. But seriously, how do we ignore history like this and simply rewrite the rules to benefit men? Because people like Wayne Grudem and John Piper — without proper historical context — are the ones speaking out about how if we support women in ministry, we are “succumbing to the peer pressure of modern feminism instead of remaining faithful to the timeless standard of God’s word.” And might I interject here: the word “feminism” means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” Based on what? EQUALITY OF THE SEXES. It’s not saying that women are better than men, even though maybe we should use the word “better” to compensate for how we’ve been treated for much of history and still today. But back to Larsen:

Larsen inverts [Grudem’s and Piper’s] argument: “When evangelicals have cared more about the Bible and the gospel than they did about being perceived as respectable by the wider society, these commitments have often led them to affirm women in public ministry.”

Barr elucidates further:

When evangelicals have supported women in public ministry, they are most closely aligned with the gospel of Jesus. It is when evangelicals succumb to the peer pressure of contemporary culture that they turn against women in public ministry.

Boom. Read it again. Let it sink in. We are most closely aligned with the gospel of Jesus when we support women in public ministry. OK, so let’s align!

“Redefining Orthodoxy”

…it is impossible to write women’s leadership out of Christian history. We can forget it and we can ignore it, but we can’t get rid of the historical reality. It is also impossible to maintain consistent arguments for women’s subordination because, rather than stemming from God’s commands, these arguments stem from the changing circumstances of history.

Whether it’s keeping women out of leadership, justifying paying women lower wages than men, or keeping women out of the political realm, patriarchy has a way of shifting to meet whatever “needs” men happen to have at the time. In 1938 Dorothy Sayers actually wrote an essay with the title, “Are Women Human?” Why — I wonder — would she feel the need to write this essay? Oh, well perhaps she felt as though women weren’t being treated like humans!

“Championing Biblical Inerrancy”

…inerrancy creates an atmosphere of fear. Any question raised about biblical accuracy must be completely answered or completely rejected to prevent the fragile fabric of faith from unraveling.

The evangelical fight for inerrancy was inextricably linked with gender from the beginning. Kristin Kobes Du Mez explains how, in the SBC specifically, the direct challenge to male headship caused by the rising number of female Baptist preachers put conservative Baptist leaders on the defensive. Inerrancy wasn’t important by itself in the late twentieth century; it became important because it provided a way to push women out of the pulpit. It worked extremely well.

Well, well, well. Isn’t that interesting. Inerrancy being used to push and keep women out of leadership. Annnnnd now you know.

“Reviving Arianism”

Quick aside: if you don’t remember what Arianism is, it’s a heresy denying the divinity of Christ.

So in this section, Barr writes about nonchalantly sitting in a church service when all of a sudden, the preacher starts speaking about how Jesus is subordinate to God. She says she would have dropped her coffee had she been holding one. She says she looked around to see if anyone was reacting to this heresy. Nothing.

This teaching, called “the eternal subordination of the Son,” has infiltrated the evangelical world. Aimee Byrd describes a 2001 Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood document that teaches “the Son, the second person of the Trinity, is subordinate to the Father, not only in economy of salvation but in his essence.”

Spoiler alert: Christians are using this teaching (which, friendly reminder, is “outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy”) to claim that if the Son is subordinate to the Father, then women, of course, must be subordinate to men. Wow, nothing like using heresy to justify subordination of women. I mean, ya gotta love the creativity there.

On to the final chapter…

Chapter 8: Isn’t It Time to Set Women Free?

And the crowd goes wild. “Yes!” they cry. “Yes, yes, yes!!”

Barr talks about how at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention, Rachael Denhollander captured her experience:

“I think it is very telling that I have heard hundreds, literally hundreds, of sermons directed on the quiet and submissive sphere that a woman should have,” she said. “I have heard not one on how to value a woman’s voice. I have heard not one on the issue of sexual assault.”

Barr goes on:

Not one time during those years did I hear a preacher speak out against abusive relationships; not one time did a pastor speak about the dangers inherent in patriarchal power hierarchies. What I did hear was what Rachael Denhollander heard — women are called to be wives and mothers, submissive and silent.

And I have to concur with both of these women — neither in my experience have I heard any sermons about the dangers in patriarchal power hierarchies.

The harshest words Jesus utters in the Bible are to strict male religious leaders functioning as self-appointed border guards of orthodoxy. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth” (Matthew 23:27).

Hmm, male religious leaders functioning as self-appointed border guards of orthodoxy — this feels familiar. It’s almost as though some current male leaders are these exact people. (Piper and Grudem, I’m lookin’ at you.)

And even though people like Piper and Al Mohler and Russell Moore claim that their “Christian patriarchy” is different, Barr directs us to Kristin Du Mez’s point:

… that the conservative church model of authoritarian leadership combined with rigid gender roles fosters a culture of abuse (decade after decade, church after church, leader after leader).

Conservative evangelicals preach “a mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity — of patriarchy and submission, sex and power,” Du Mez writes. “It was a vision that promised protection for women but left women without defense, one that worshiped power and turned a blind eye to justice, and one that transformed the Jesus of the Gospels into an image of their own making.”

But it left women without defense. The recent report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention claims in its nearly 300 pages “that top church leaders suppressed and mishandled abuse claims, resisted reforms and belittled victims and their families.”

Well.

And if that wasn’t enough:

Katie Cannon explains, “The institutional framework that required Black men, women and children to be treated as chattel, as possessions rather than as human beings, was understood as being consistent with the spirit, genius and precepts of the Christian faith.” Patriarchy walks hand in hand with racism, and it always has. The same biblical passages used to declare Black people unequal are used to declare women unfit for leadership. Patriarchy and racism are “interlocking structures of oppression.” Isn’t it time we get rid of both?

Oh, oh, call on me! I know the answer!

It’s YES.

What if evangelicals remembered women like Christine de Pizan and Dorothy L. Sayers? What if we remembered that women have always been leaders, teachers, and preachers, even in evangelical history? What if our seminaries used textbooks that included women? What if our Sunday school and Bible study curriculum correctly reflected Junia as an apostle, Priscilla as a coworker, and women like Hildegard of Bingen as preachers? What if we recognized women’s leadership the same way Paul did throughout his letters — even entrusting the Letter to the Romans to the deacon Phoebe? What if we listened to women in our evangelical churches the way Jesus listened to women?

What if we finally stood together, united by our belief in Jesus instead of divided by arguments over power and authority?

What if we realized that, even when the male disciples pushed women away, Jesus always listened to women speak? Complementarianism is patriarchy, and patriarchy is about power. Neither have been about Jesus.

Jesus listened to women speak.

Women, it’s time to speak.

Men, it’s time to listen.

Wanna Make a Running Log?

Listen. I am not a fast runner these days. When I started running again, I knew I was so slow that I refused to time myself. After a couple of months, though, my curiosity started getting the better of me. So on occasion, on a weekend, when I didn’t have to deal with the jogging stroller . . . I’d grab my husband’s watch and start the timer.

I don’t have a fancy watch that tracks all the things. It simply times my run. And I can time my “laps” as well. But there’s no GPS or blood pressure monitor or anything like that. So I did some research and found an app called “On The Go Map*.” This lets me map my run very accurately so I can see exactly how many miles I am running and certain mile markers along the way. At one point, there’s a pretty obvious spot that’s at the 2-mile mark. This is neat for me because I can glance at the timer, mentally divide by two, and know my mile pace. Yay!

*So, yes, it’s an app, but that doesn’t mean I bring my phone on my runs. I don’t. When I get home, I manually draw my route onto the map, and it calculates distance, altitude (over 9,000 feet here in Quito, Ecuador!), and some other fun things.

OK, so I get home, take a look at my timer, and get out the calculator to figure out my pace simply type my time onto a spreadsheet my husband helped me make, and voila — I get my mile pace.

Here’s how to make your own (I use Google Sheets, but Excel or any other spreadsheet document should work similarly):

1. Label your columns: Date, Total Time, # of Miles, Mile Pace (and any other useful-to-you info — perhaps Start Time so you track the time of day you run or Place or Route if you’re running in different areas)

2. Highlight the Total Time column. Click on “Format,” then hover on “Number,” then click “Duration.” Now when you put in your time (eg. for a run that took 31 minutes and 21 seconds, you’d type 0:31:21).

3. Select the cell directly below the Mile Time cell. Type an equal sign, then click on the cell below Total Time, then type a backslash, then click on the cell below Miles (and in the same row as the cell you clicked on under Total Time) and press Enter. This should create a formula for calculating your mile pace. Easy! If you’d like, you may copy-paste that formula to the cells in the Mile Time column. I do this each time I enter my time because I don’t love the look of #DIV/0! in every cell.

Here’s what mine looks like:

DateTotal TimeMilesMile Time
May 14, 20220:31:213.30:09:30
May 15, 20220:13:261.50:08:57split
May 15, 20220:15:001.690:08:53split
May 15, 20220:17:291.930:09:04split
May 15, 20220:31:413.30:09:36
May 17, 20220:17:021.50:11:21strollersplit
May 17, 20220:38:483.30:11:45stroller
May 18, 20220:14:421.50:09:48strollersplit
May 18, 20220:34:433.30:10:31stroller
May 20, 20220:34:233.30:10:25stroller
May 23, 20220:15:151.690:09:01split
May 23, 20220:31:183.30:09:29

Happy running, happy logging, and happy all the things! Let me know if you have questions about making the log. I’m happy to help!

Much Ado About Evil (but approximately zero solutions)

Red Weather Christians

Season 2, Episode 10

There is a long-standing problem with an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect Creator and the existence of evil in this world. While bringing the discussion and theoretical solutions to the table, Jen and Steve offer approximately zero concrete solutions. Perhaps a shoulder shrug is all they have, but they remind everyone that attempting to ignore the problem does not make it any less of one. Can good cause evil? Can evil cause good? Without evil as an option, are we even free to choose?

Sources: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

to-do list

every 
tick tick
item
on my 
tick tick
list
is a 
tick tick tick 
from the
tick tick 
end
when I
tick tick
get
to the 
tick tick
end I cele—
tick tick
—brate
the ticking
tick tick
end
but the 
tick tick
items
on the
tick tick 
list regener—
tick tick
—ate
I ticking
tick tick
hate
that I can’t
tick tick
get
to the 
tick tick
end 
the end’s a 
tick tick 
lie

and I lie 
down
let the list 
slip
from my fingers
it floats to the floor
so many boxes
unticked
always

so many
boxes
un 
ticking
ticked
un— 
ticking
—believable
I’m
ticking
done
let’s
just
kiss
instead.

“tic clocks toc don’t make a toctic difference to kisskiss you and to kiss me”

E. E. Cummings