Book Review: The Making of Biblical Womanhood

Is Biblical Womahood Really a Conversation About Culture?

Situating Barr’s work in the midst of other efforts on the concept of biblical living, I think of Rachel Held EvansA Year of Biblical Womanhood, which conveyed the absurdity and futility of living in the 21st century as a woman who follows a wooden interpretation of the Bible. Before that, AJ Jacobs, editor of Esquire, published The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Hermeneutics (how to interpret a text) has become key for the identities of many faith groups. I would suggest that the use of hermeneutics has been infected with culture, and more recently the political lens of the “left” or “right,” which are relatively new worldviews.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Language and culture shape us, but we don’t have to be uncritical about them. As soon as we become aware of critical thinking, we need to start questioning them. Having cross-cultural experience helps to increase our awareness of linguistic and cultural difference. Developing friendships across cultural divides is another step in the right direction. We need to keep checking the interpretive lenses we use.
At some point I became aware that I’d grown up in a patriarchal world and church. I’ve become increasingly critical of both as I’ve worked to clean up my lenses. I now have some new starting points. I now accept gender equality as a given. Both man and woman were created in the image of God, created as gods, with individual freedom to think and to do. This means rejecting gender role theory and male headship theory. I also accept the full equality of persons regardless of their sexual orientation. Once I came to terms with the Bible’s “clobber texts”, I realised that the writers were not addressing sexual orientation.
Life is a process of investigating and eliminating prejudice against others based on stereotypes and misunderstandings. I no longer assume the culture in which I grew up is normative. Nor is it superior; in fact, it has limitations.
And what about the church? The church that’s so right about so many things? I’m still a Sabbath keeper, but I no longer look askance at Sunday keepers and judge them as second-rate believers. Many great believers have been, and are, Sunday keepers.
It’s a good idea to bring a scientific approach to these things, a questioning approach that produces tentative answers, not certainty. No scientific theory is the last word. Theories are replaced as knowledge increases and better theories come along. Believers could bring a more critical approach to their understanding of present truth. It’s a mistake to cling to the conclusions of the pioneers as if they had somehow established the absolute limits of faith. We have much to learn.

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My favorite quote from the book:

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Christians that oppression is godly. That God ordained some people, simply because of their sex or skin color (or both), as belonging under the power of other people.

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