Does Christianity Squash Women? A Woman Looks at Womanhood
It seems that Christian women living in a post-Christian era are often an enigma to society. There is far too little ammunition to combat the increasing mentality that Biblical womanhood is outdated and irrelevant. Rebecca Jones' provocative book provides readers with an arsenal full of cogent arguments based on Biblical truths. She also enlists the support of a virtual "Who's Who" among conservative Christian scholars. In just over 200 pages of text, she quotes from more than eighty of the most respected evangelicals of our time as well as from the recent past. Her thesis, not surprisingly, is that Christianity does not squash women:
[Women] are, on the contrary, given a place of high honor in the Bible....They play a huge part in the accomplishment of God's will and in the arrival of the promised seed.
While the book makes logical arguments that fly in the face of feminism, it also serves to bring encouragement to women who are seeking to uphold Biblical femininity but often feel like they are swimming upstream. This work is written "by a woman, for women and about women." The discussion questions at the end of each of the twelve chapters would surely lead to a lively and soul searching dialogue.
Rebecca Jones reflects first on the results of the fractured feminist movement. She quotes a feminist who is clearly confused as she seeks to define liberal feminism. Rebecca accurately concludes:
This woman affirms differences she can't discern and claims rights she can't define.
The root of the problem, accurately identified in this book, is the starting place...
[We] begin with our own definitions of what we expect. We end up creating God in our own image rather than accepting the fact that we are made in His. God defines the rules in the game of life. We don't get to pick what color piece we want on the board... The wonderful thing is that God has told us these things. He doesn't hide the truth from us, but tells us clearly in His Word who He is and who we are.
It is important to note, as Jones does, that there are some Christians who clearly seek to squash women. These men serve to blight the gospel as they seek to squash, stifle and silence women--all in the name of Scripture. Francis Schaeffer warned us
long ago that we never have the luxury of fighting a battle on only one front. It is not surprising that the media sniffs out the outrageous and plasters their stories on the front page. Jones tells of one church that refuses to sing hymns written by women. This type of ridiculous practice is certainly not commonplace but even one occurrence is dreadful and provides a basis for ranting blogs and exaggerated stories. Mrs. Jones makes a key point about abusive husbands as well:
A man who understands the gospel cannot "lord it over" anyone, especially his wife, who is his own flesh. "Christian" men who misuse their position will one day answer to the perfect man, the head of the church.
Mrs. Jones spends the majority of the book exploring Scripture. She carefully outlines the importance of hermeneutics. She proceeds to provide a detailed analysis of four Old Testament women: Eve, Sarah, Deborah and Abigail. She makes the point that God used these women powerfully to change history but not as queens and heroines but as wives and mothers. How radical is that? She also reminds us in descriptive narrative of four notorious Old Testament women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba who were "dubious characters in the line of the Savior." The vivid point is that women are given a place of high honor even before the advent of our Lord. He used them to unfold His eternal purposes just as He is using us today.
Moving on to the New Testament, Mrs. Jones embarks on two chapters which present vignettes of Jesus' earthly encounters with women. As she carefully cites the references in the gospels for each account, Rebecca makes the case that Jesus Christ met the needs of women as He encountered them. Jones' "cut to the chase" writing style makes this point clearly when she states:
Jesus doesn't sit under a fig tree writing vague poetry about women. He meets their needs by stimulating their minds and teaching them theology.
She is honest enough to include two encounters in Scripture when Jesus appears to be "abrupt, almost rude." She admits that His dealings with the Syrian woman in Matthew 15 and with Jesus' mother on several occasions could be construed as fodder for those who believe that Christianity squashes women. Yet, with careful examination, she guides to reader to look past what may first appear as harsh to see that Jesus words are carefully selected and full of meaning. He esteems women highly. In the case of His earthly mother, it was powerful for Him to show that even she could not have a relationship with Him outside of one obtained by faith--and faith alone. This will surely bring gasps to those who support the heresy that Mary is the Co-redemptrix or Queen of Heaven.
Mrs. Jones readily admits that she is not a theologian. That is actually encouraging to those of us who, like the author, consider ourselves to be diligent, intelligent Christian women but do not hold theological degrees. Such credentials are not necessary to articulate a Biblical view of womanhood. While we certainly appreciate the work of both men and women who have studied the languages and earned terminal degrees, women who have been dedicated wives and mothers at home need not shy away from stating boldly and proudly what we believe. We are not on the lecture circuit to expound on our views but we hold them with deep conviction nonetheless.
No one can accuse Mrs. Jones of side stepping the word that seems to make feminists bristle the most: submission. She spends a significant portion of the book spelling out what submission in marriage looks like. It will challenge women who affirm scripture but prefer to gloss over how that plays out on a daily basis. At one point, she pauses to simply state, "Radical stuff. Biblical stuff." That's true enough. While our culture shakes its head in disbelief at our adherence to this "radical stuff," we must be ever more resolved to show them that we are not going to go away but will seek to model the role of Christ and the church until He comes.
Continuing in her truly politically incorrect form, Jones makes this bold statement:
All Christian women are called to be homemakers.
A careful reading of her convincing Biblical arguments will serve to motivate women who may tend to feel intimidated to stand up and take notice. She exhorts women to stop feeling sorry for themselves when they seem to be working in the shadows and receiving no accolades for being "merely wives and mothers." This is timely advice in spite of the fact that it sickens the same feminists who were irritated forty years ago when women proudly described themselves as "homemakers" on census forms.
Admittedly, there is very little fanfare with this role. Jones notes that we often don't see the significance of our faithfulness nor do others. She humorously quips that the role of a homemaker will not "earn you a spot on 'Fox and Friends.'" But, we should be assured that the honor earned in the sight of the Lord is priceless.
Like a district attorney making a closing argument, Rebecca Jones drives her point home in her concluding chapter titled "Why It Matters." She applauds Southern Baptists for taking a stand in making clear what we believe about the family. As one of the two women who served on the committee to add the family paragraph to our doctrinal statement, I know first hand what a firestorm resulted. Our statement comes directly out of Scripture but sounds so radical to a Biblically ignorant world.
Yes, the gender issue matters. Yes, it goes beyond being a peripheral issue because it is anchored to the primary issue of Biblical authority. How heartening it is that as evangelicals, we can join ranks in this pivotal debate and let the chips fall where they may! The more our families are seen as happy and holy places where submission and sacrificial love actually work; the more our churches reflect the amazing phenomenon of men and women joyfully working together based on God's design; the more the world will wonder. However, we realize that the beautiful picture of Christ and His church in our homes and our churches will draw men and women to Himself. As Rebecca Jones says:
We women can delight in showing the world that God made women glorious, in His image, not to be squashed, but to work for His honor in our homes, churches and society with grace, power and eloquence.
What an awesome role we have as women! It's time to embrace it for all it's worth. We will never come close to exhausting all the ways that the Lord will use willing women. Squashed? No way. We are loved and cherished by a Holy God who has remarkable work for us alone to do. For the sake of the Kingdom, let's get on with the task. This book will boost you along the way.
Rebecca Jones - Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005
Review by Mary K. Mohler