BOOK REVIEW: Half the Church

Posted on May 22 2016 - 3:46pm by Rebekah Schrepfer

Carolyn Custis James wrote this book as her own addendum to the best selling secular book, Half the Sky, which is a book based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky.  It is a cry for justice and action against the oppression of women and girls around the world.  Without having read Half the Sky, I think I might agree with it actually.   There is no objection from me if we want to encourage people to help end the degradation of women around the world.  But Carolyn Custis James has gone too far when she extends that narrative to the church, and indicts the New Testament Church for contributing to female abuse because of our teaching on gender roles.  

I say the book is half the truth!  There is just enough Christian-ese and caricatures of traditional churches to make a reader wonder if she’s right.  She points out stories of the Bible, but fails to really exegete the passages.  Half truths, though, are lies.  Although I am tempted to pick apart the hundreds of ideas with which I disagree, I will try to answer the main points of her book.

Is the church partly to blame?

Her premises is found halfway through the book, and Carolyn James is not the first to ask this.

Does the gospel’s countercultural message only overturn degrading cultures, or does it also overturn our own more civilized but equally fallen culture by leading us back to God’s original vision for humanity? Are we even asking questions like this? Are we right to think we’ve figured out how God means for us to live as his image bearers because we don’t sell our daughters, or do we have blind spots too and lots more ground to gain? Do our teachings, and more significantly our practices, measure up to the gospel’s view of women, or are we selling Jesus and his gospel short because we aren’t fully valuing and mobilizing half the church? 1

These are typical questions from the egalitarians and the Christian feminists, but they are the wrong questions.   The question should be “what does the Bible really teach?” and “do we really trust God that He knows what He’s doing?”   Her view of “God’s original vision for humanity” is not any sort of hierarchy (as I will explain below), so she has begun her arguments with a huge assumption.  She is saying that by not allowing women to have leadership over men in the church that we are basically making the same mistakes as in an abusive situation.  Denying a woman her desire to be a pastor, in her view, is degrading.  It is abuse waiting to happen.    

The idea that we should be free to pursue every burden we have, that our desires and so-called “vision”  must have come from God is very simplistic.  If a woman feels called to be a pastor, it is not God who is calling her!  I don’t know how one can read Scripture and come away with any understanding other than “Our ways are NOT God’s ways.”   What about David’s desire to build the temple (1 Chron. 28:2-5) or, Paul’s desire to go into Asia (Acts 16:6-7)?  No, our desires and wishes are not preeminent.  Only God’s desire for us it what matters.  Just because a woman desires to be a pastor doesn’t mean her desire is right.  She disdainfully looks down on any attempt at finding out what God really says in Scripture in favor of highlighting abuses which really can be found in any walk of life, not just in patriarchal societies.

My view is that male headship is part of God’s “very good creation” and not a part of the Fall (See my article, “God Created a Woman“).  Her argument sounds familiar to me:  “Did God really say that?” and it is the oldest deception of all time!  Abuses and degradation of women is an abandoning of gender roles.  Men have abandoned their roles as a Godly leader in these abusive situations.  My answer to her main question is that by fulfilling gender roles of complementarianism, (which I believe is the Biblical teaching,) then we ARE mobilizing all of the church.  Carolyn James is advocating half the church abandoning their posts rather than fulfilling their duty given by their Commander in Chief just because they feel like it!  

So when we see degradation and abuse of women, the problem is not the church.  The problem is sin.

Is it the church’s responsibility to do social work?   There is nothing wrong with soup kitchens, food pantries, rescue missions, hospitals, pro-life involvement, homeless shelters, and rescuing persecuted people.  I’m annoyed that the assumption is that if our church isn’t doing social work in an organized way, then we must not be doing it at all…and therefore we are not compassionate, and therefore we aren’t really fulfilling God’s purpose for us in the world.  We ARE doing these things.  My family did help someone just this week, in fact.   On an individual basis our folks have done all these things in their own lives. Sometimes a local church will involve itself in one of these areas of need in an official way.  I have nothing against organizations that seek to right some societal wrongs, but it’s not the church’s primary job.  J. Gresham Machen famously said,

Christianity will combat Bolshevism; but if it is accepted in order to combat Bolshevism, it is not Christianity: Christianity will produce a unified nation, in a slow but satisfactory way; but if it is accepted in order to produce a unified nation, it is not Christianity: Christianity will produce a healthy community; but if it is accepted in order to produce a healthy community, it is not Christianity: Christianity will promote international peace; but if it is accepted in order to promote international peace, it is not Christianity. Our Lord said: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” But if you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in order that all those other things may be added unto you, you will miss both those other things and the Kingdom of God as well.2

I would add that true Christianity will combat female degradation and abuse, but if it is accepted in order to combat female degradation and abuse, then it is no longer Christianity.  Her logic says that because there are atrocities happening around the world at the hands of men against women and girls, there must be a problem with patriarchy. 

Ezer kenegdo and the Image Bearer

I think Carolyn James sees the imago dei, the image of God that we all bear, as a role.  Often she says that women are “to be image bearers” or that women are to do this act of “image bearing”.  However, I think the context of Genesis 1:27 shows that man’s being in the image of God is not a statement of the role of man or woman, it is a statement of being.  Carolyn James desperately wants the reader to see only the “roles” of ruling and image bearing, yet shuns the idea of having individualized roles for man and woman in the next chapter (Gen. 2:23).  I see the imago dei as a statement of essence, and having dominion being a role given to all of mankind over the animals and the earth.  Even if image bearing is an action we must take, a role, this doesn’t negate another layer of roles within humankind in my mind.

The traditional view is that for a woman to flourish, she must do what she was created to do, be a helper meet (or suitable, or corresponding)to the man.  Carolyn James wants to redefine what “help meet” means (Genesis 2:20).  She says that the term does not denote subordination, but rather equality since God Himself is a Helper to us.  So because God helps us, and woman helps man, then woman cannot be subordinate to man, she says.  

This concept is also stated in the Declaration on “Men, Women and Biblical Equality” by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), and it is has been rebutted by Wayne Grudem and John Piper in their immense book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

[CBE’s statement is this:]  2.  The Bible teaches that woman and man were created for full and equal partnership. The word “helper” (ezer), used to designate woman in Genesis 2:18, refers to God in most instances of Old Testament usage (e.g. 1 Sam 7:12; Ps 121:1-2). Consequently the word conveys no implication whatsoever of female subordination or inferiority.

The phrase “full and equal” has the same ambiguity referred to in the first paragraph of the declaration—some will take it to mean a partnership of identical roles, and some will take it to mean a partnership of different roles with equal value. It is true that God is called our “helper,” but the word itself says nothing about the kind of helper intended. The context must decide whether Eve is to “help” as a strong person who aids a weaker one, or as one who assists a loving leader. The context makes it very unlikely that “helper” should be read on the analogy of God’s help, because in Genesis 2:19-20 Adam is caused to seek his “helper” first among the animals. But the animals will not do, because they are not “fit for him.” So God makes woman “from man.” Now there is a being who is “fit for him,” sharing his human nature, equal to him in God-like personhood. She is infinitely different from an animal, and God highlights her value to man by showing how no animal can fill her role. Yet in passing through “helpful” animals to woman, God teaches us that the woman is a man’s “helper” in the sense of a loyal and suitable assistant in the life of the garden. The problem with the CBE statement is the assumption that because a word has certain connotations in some places it must have them in every place. With regard to the word inferiority, two comments: 1) the Bible never suggests that the differing roles of men and women imply differing worth; 2) women and men are inferior and superior to each other in various ways, but these are not made the sign of varying value as persons.3

Here are some statements from Carolyn James about this term, ezer.

“[The warrior – helper woman image] give us powerful feminine images of strong, open-throttled living for God’s kingdom, which makes it difficult to imagine that God wants his daughters to sit on the sidelines while our brothers do kingdom work without us.  (Loc. 1602). “

Whoever said that? By fulfilling our subordinate roles we are fighting on the front lines.  It is not sitting on the sidelines.  We are right where our Commander-in-Chief wants us to be.

“God is Israel’s helper” ( Loc 1176). 

But He’s not Israel ‘s helpmeet.  He gave the woman the role of helpmeet.  Why doesn’t she note that God never applies the same label to Adam?  Adam is not called a helpmeet for Eve. 

“The ezer is a warrior. Like the man, she is also God’s creative masterpiece— a work of genius and a marvel to behold — for she is fearfully and wonderful made. The ezer never sheds her image-bearer identity. Not here. Not ever. God defines who she is and how she is to live in his world. That never changes. The image-bearer responsibilities to reflect God to the world and to rule and subdue on his behalf still rest on her shoulders too.” (Locations 1375-1377)

Why then did Jesus did not overthrow the oppression of Rome?  How do we truly love the Lord with all our souls and might and strength?  By not working for our own good (Matt. 10:39; Matt. 15:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24).  I know it’s counter-intuitive.   It is not self preserving.  It is the opposite of full-throttled, activist living.

She defines hayil, the description for the Proverbs 31, woman as “valor”  (Loc 1570).  She’s correct.  But again, a captain can be just as valorous as the general, but he can’t give the general orders. Subordination is not inferiority.  This is a common and aggravating misconception with feminist and egalitarian writers.  The subordinate role of helper is a statement of her role not her worth.  

Good Grief

At this point you could skip the rest of my review, since I’ve hit all my main objections.  But I’ve included a few more sections below.  I think sometimes in books like these, if the author has persuaded the reader to agree with her main points (the ezer kenedgo concept and the image bearer concept in this case) then the reader tends to gloss over some pretty outlandish statements.  I want to highlight these, not because I want to be mean, but to point out our tendencies to swallow a lot of nonsense while trying to be compassionate and seemingly biblical.  I implore women everywhere to be sensible.  Take special note on how often she generalizes and caricatures the church’s teaching and response.  I don’t know what kind of church she went to, but no fundamental Baptist church I’ve ever been a part of ever taught these things, nor marginalized any women!  And any church who honestly teaches the Bible exegetically will not shy away from the descriptions of women and their strengths and contributions.  To the following quotes from the book, I say, “Good grief!” 

 1.  “In our culture, the church has tended to concentrate on a tiny segment of the female population— a narrow, prosperous, protected, well-educated female demographic located in the comfortable midsection of human society” (Loc 264).

2.  “We overlook all the other seasons of a woman’s life— which impacts every girl and adult woman and excludes entirely women whose lives follow a different path” (Loc 347).

3.  “If you follow the formula for right Christian living, we are told, you too can have the perfect marriage, perfect children, perfect health, the perfect home” (Loc 666).

4.  “Christianity is teaching that the only attribute in a woman’s arsenal is submission.”  Please! (Loc 1466).

5.  “Boaz, along with other men in Elimelech’s tribe, are in for some measure of criticism for not doing voluntarily what they could to assist Naomi and Ruth, which in God’s eyes represents a passive abuse of power. But the fact remains: Boaz answers to no one for how he responds to Ruth and can do what he wills with impunity” (Loc 1023).  

Wow, that is such a mischaracterization of the mosaic law and of Boaz. Yes he went above and beyond his obligation, because he loved her! Then he followed the Law to protect and care for her. He wasn’t trying to abuse power. He was using his power for good.  Good grief!

6.  This quote needs a little bit of response:

 “Israel’s first and only female judge, Deborah — the Sandra Day O’Connor of her day— wisely led the nation and settled their disputes. She summoned Barak into a battle of ridiculous David-Goliath odds against the formidable forces of Sisera and his nine hundred iron chariots and didn’t flinch when Barak insisted she go too. The David-Goliath odds for Jael, an ordinary homemaker, were laughably hopeless compared to what David and Barak faced. That didn’t stop her. Armed only with a bowl of milk, a blanket, and a tent peg, Jael with the stealth of an undercover agent and the power of the Lord, finished off the invincible Sisera. Deborah and Barak paid tribute to her as “most blessed” of women (Judges 5: 24). Rahab the Canaanite prostitute, a notorious Jericho traitor, risked her life to harbor Israelite spies and to embrace their God. She saved her family. Abigail subverted her husband Nabal’s wickedness by shrewdly appeasing an armed and dangerous David, thus preventing needless bloodshed. Esther overcame her well-honed skill at submitting to confront the two most powerful men in the world, and in doing so rescued a nation from genocide. Mary of Nazareth risked enormous personal disgrace, the threat of abuse and honor killing for bringing shame on the family, and almost certain poverty to give birth to Jesus and save the world. The Bible doesn’t look askance at any of these women, but to the contrary acknowledges God’s hand on their lives and reveres them for their faith, strength, and bold activism. Why is it that no matter how many strong, heroic ezer stories we find in our Bibles (and there are plenty more), we are never called to this kind of bold proactive living? It seems to be more than a little ironic that with this amazing line-up, the attributes these women exhibit seldom appear on checklists of men who are in search of a wife. As one man sheepishly admitted, “Men generally feel threatened by the strength of a woman. If she is weaker and dependent, that makes it easier for him to lead.” This kind of thinking is difficult to sustain in light of God’s creation vision for women and for men. It is significantly undermined by two well-known brides in the Bible— one in the Old Testament and one in the New— whose husbands delight in and are blessed by their many achievements” (Loc. 1495).

The way she characterizes these accounts in the Bible is off just enough to make the reader tilt her head and wonder.  Read my article, “What about Deborah?” for my view of Deborah.  Esther’s bravery was thrust upon her.  She only proceeded at the encouragement of her father figure, Mordecai (Esther 5:12-16).  It was not a case of “overcoming her well-honed skill at submitting.”  She worked within the system believing that God had led her to this opportunity for a reason.  And as far as men being afraid of strong women, I beg to differ.  Maybe there are some weak-willed men like that, but the men that I have respected and admired (my own husband included!) were not afraid of strong women.  Rather they sought them out, wanting and welcoming them to stand by their side.  So again, the problem is not the system of patriarchy.  The problem is men and women who have not followed the God-ordained hierarchy of godly and worthy men lovingly leading their helpers and friends and sisters.  The problems come when either the woman is not fulfilling her role, or the man is not fulfilling his role, or both.

7.  “I grieved (still do grieve) at how unaware we in the West are of our own cultural blindness — a sort of tunnel vision that plagues us all —and of our feeling of absolute certainty that without leaving our American shores, we are capable of explaining the Bible’s message to ourselves, and to the rest of the world as well. I marvel that we could imagine understanding God’s message for women without acquainting ourselves with the ancient cultural context through which that message is communicated. What have we been thinking?! And how much has this cost us?” (Loc. 248)

 I marvel that she never had considered the cultural context!  This whole section of her book is a caricature of traditional Sunday School lessons. 

8.  “We have seen the kinds of ongoing suffering women are experiencing and need to ask ourselves what impact this debate might have on them. Is the gospel truly good news for women who live in entrenched patriarchal cultures — behind veils and under burkas and Taliban rule? What is good news to these women if the gospel reinforces men as leaders and women as followers? How bone-chilling does this sound in the ears of women who are being oppressed or who have been caught in the clutches of human trafficking?”  (Loc.  2005).

Actually, the author follows this statement up with a note about Sapphira and what she would think of absolute submission to authority.  And I think on this point she is exactly right.  Submission never is required when sin is involved.  We never have to sin, and if an authority figure is asking you to sin, you do not have to submit.  My objection to the statement is that we cannot omit parts of the Bible’s teaching in order to save face with some people.  The truth about gender roles in the Bible can be easily explained to a woman who is abused by simply stating that the abuse is his failure, not hers.  Sapphira should have said “No” to her husband.  This only reinforces my view that the Bible does not teach patrocentrism, but rather that men are our primary authority, not sole authority.

9.  “Kingdom opportunities are missed and suffering spreads because not everyone is on high alert or accepts responsibility for what is happening in our world. It is not godly to hold back our gifts and to know less (or pretend we know less) so that men can lead” (Loc 2033).  

Her statement is not incompatible with complementarianism.  A godly leader will use all of the strengths of those around him.  However, just because a strength is not used does not mean that something wrong is happening.  A woman should not complain that her talents and abilities are being squandered because a man won’t acknowledge them.  Complaints like that reveal a deeper problem that may need addressing first.

10.  “Like an actress imagining herself standing before the millions of fans to accept the Oscar or the athlete envisioning herself standing atop the winner’s rostrum with Olympic gold hung round her neck, we are invited to picture ourselves at the marriage of the Lamb, wearing that fine white linen dress that proclaims the good works we have done to build the Lamb’s kingdom….There she stands, dazzling in a gleaming white, fine linen gown woven of her righteous works. Vera Wang would be sketching images right along with John” (Loc. 2363).

11.  “The strongest voices speaking into women’s lives in the twenty-first century are Islam and feminism — systems that reside at opposite ends of the spectrum. Does the church’s message for women stake out the middle ground, or does the gospel lead the way to something much better?” (Loc. 377)  “We aren’t rocked by a radically different view.”  (Loc. 497)

Why does a voice need to be the strongest for it to make a difference? Why do we have to be “rocked”?  Matt. 10:39; 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24; 17:33, John 12:25 all come to mind.  

12.  “We have only to recall the story of the three girls buried alive in Islamabad to grasp the danger Mary faced. It should send a chill down our spines when Matthew informs us that Joseph “was a righteous man” (Matthew 1: 19). That is not good news if Joseph buys into the Pharisees’ exacting definition of “righteous.” But this is where Mary’s story changes, for unlike the Pharisees, Joseph’s brand of righteousness foreshadows Jesus, for whom righteousness means doing right before God no matter the cost” (Loc 1801-1805).  

Yes! but Joseph is still her authority. What is this woman’s point? Joseph was still acting within the Law.  Joseph did not shut down the carpenter’s shop and follow Mary.  They were a good Jewish couple.  Judaism is NOT Islam.  This is where Carolyn James’ view that patriarchy enters in.  She sees it as a result of the Fall, not of God’s very good creation.  In her view, redemption is a restoration of equality.  To her, Jesus came to overthrow the status quo of hierarchy. To reinforce this view, the accounts of women in the New Testament and their relationship to Jesus and the apostles is routinely taken out of context.   This is a bedrock of feminist and egalitarian theology.  Of course, I disagree.

13.  “In America we’re no different than in Yemen” (Loc. 1447). 

Yes we are different!   TRUE Christianity has been a boon to women throughout history and today.  If America is losing ground in the way we treat women and girls, it is not Christianity’s fault.  It is the lack of TRUE Christian teaching and doctrine. 

14.  Gospel living is defined as putting others ahead of yourself (Loc. 1822).

 

Half Truths

I’m going to just list the half-truths that I came across.  Space in this post prevent me from fully quoting each of these, but I’ve footnoted them

  1.  She groups word like diminished, silenced, marginalized, and devalued with objectified, trafficked, degraded, discarded.  To the first half of these I say, boo hoo.  Nobody loves me everybody hates me, etc.  The other half is truly sinful oppression. 
  2. Theology is thrown out, or at least theologians are disdained (Loc 488), because they don’t say what she wants to hear (Loc 496).  Of course it’s ok for her to parse words and focus on the trees instead of the forest for a while.  (Loc 704, Loc 1912, Loc 1986.)
  3. Spiritual ministries of women are indispensable (Loc 1395).   We do influence, inspire, guide, teach, and strengthen, but we don’t usurp the authority of the men in the process.  (Loc 1404) 
  4.  “Naomi would have been thrown out with the trash”  (Loc 909).  No.  Mosaic law had provision for the needy and destitute.  Boaz was taking care of her via Ruth even before they were married.   Ruth is proclaiming to be a proselyte.  God blesses her because she is placing herself into God’s economy and rejecting her pagan roots.  He doesn’t bless her simply because she’s a woman.  And He doesn’t bless her with leadership.  He blesses by putting her in a noble family as a respected wife and mother, a noble family that the author looks down on (Loc 974).
  5.  Ruth’s proposal was highly irregular (Loc 1063).   No. It was completely within the Mosaic law.
  6. “Within patriarchy worldwide, sons are the gold standard for assessing a woman’s worth” (Loc 1559).  She’s redefining patriarchy, but Complementarianism is a subset of patriarchy and does not assign worth based on anything outside of the woman herself and her identity in Christ. 
  7. “Esther and Mary’s crises jarred everyone out of their status quo” (Loc 1776).  No, the crisis was solved within the status quo of God’s established patriarchy.
  8. Joseph and Mordechai gave up their right to lead (Loc 1822).  But not to the women.  They followed God.
  9. Jumps in logic from subdue and rule the earth, to now whatever happens in this world is our business, to God expects us to pay attention and become activists on His behalf (Loc 762).   This is a perfect example of her mixing truth with error.  The right thing does not necessarily mean being an activist.   A parent sometimes actually DOESN’T advocate and become an activist for her children, and wisely so.  There are times to jump in, and times to let the children work it out.  A mother must know that one child may fight his battle and another may fight hers.  To infer that all children must fight the same battle and climb the same hill would be lunacy.  This balance is true in all leader-follower relationships.
  10. “God created both man and woman to rule” (Loc. 819)  Yes, but to rule the earth.  Woman was created the helper.  Man was created the leader.
  11. The Church should be a showcase of men and women flourishing (Loc 828).  Yes.  In their own roles, though.
  12. She says, “kingdom leadership” doesn’t mean being first, but being last, but then later she’s going to tell us that women need to be first (Loc 1376).
  13. Mary was Jesus’ first teacher and mentor (Loc 1404).  Whoa.  How do we know that?  Teaching and usurping authority are two different things.  Plus, the command to submit is to men not boys.  Jesus submitted himself to the Father, and in many other ways.  Yet He has the authority still.
  14. A Hindu burning of a little girl was “the world’s most appalling value statements of a woman” (Loc 870).  Yes!  This is the world’s value system.  Not God’s system. 
  15. Her definition of complementarianism leaves much to be desired and is only half true (Loc 1932).

 

I somewhat agree on these points

Carolyn James criticizes the emphasis on wife and mother to the neglect of the rest.  I somewhat agree here.  Bible does give great honor and encouragement to single virgins and to widows.  In defense of the (perhaps) over emphasis on domestic roles, the role of mother is so pivotal and a sort of one-shot endeavor.  Mothers are prone to distraction and the consequences of neglecting her task arguably affect more than just herself.  It can affect generations to come.  (Loc 1204).  But I think this is a mischaracterization of what churches teach.  I appreciate the call to guard against this error, but it still doesn’t negate the main premise that women are not to lead men.

Spurgeon himself, 100 years ago, encouraged women to use their intellect.  He pointed to Mary who pondered the Lord’s work in her heart (Luke 2:19).  

There was an exercise, on the part of this blessed woman, of three powers of her being:  her memory – she kept all these things; her affections – she kept them in her heart; her intellect – she pondered them; so that memory, affection, and understanding were all exercised about the things which she had heard….Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus.  Meditate upon what you read: stop not at the surface; dive into the depths.  Be not as the swallow which toucheth the brook with her wing, but as the fish which penetrates the lowest wave.”4

True Christianity doesn’t demean women and never has.  I also agree with this statement of hers:  

“Oneness [in marriage] is the preeminent theme. Male and female begin as one, for God forms the woman from the man’s side. From one, male and female become two distinct individuals. She is not a mere extension of man; she possesses a unique individuality in her own right.  But the trajectory of their relationship will return them to oneness. From one to two and back to one again.”

This still doesn’t rule out the leader-follower relationship, though.   Oneness is truly the goal.  But God declared Eve the helpmeet for Adam.  Not the other way around.    Carolyn James’ point, though, is that oneness means an egalitarian relationship, and that is not the case.

In one sense I agree with her statement, “Not once have I heard anyone tell men fulfillment of their manhood hinges on having a wife and fathering children” (Loc 1270).  Although if you were to ask my husband what is his first responsibility in life, he would say to me first, then to our children, then to his job.  So his fulfillment of his manhood does hinge on his role as husband and father.  She could be right that it’s more of a cultural thing than a biblical thing to emphasize a man’s career and a woman’s domestic role. 

I agree with her definition of submission (Ch. 6.  Loc 1456).  Husbands and fathers may be the primary authority, but not sole authority.  There is provision for women in trouble in Scripture.   And perhaps it is true that we tend to place too much emphasis on submission for women, but I think that’s a result of feminist and egalitarians redefining the roles.  So we find ourselves talking about it and trying to fix the misconceptions.   Our solution is to rediscover true submission and gender roles.   Her solution is to stop talking about submission altogether because some may take it too far. 

“1+1=1”.  The Trinity logic is only half employed.  I agree with her that Jesus and the Spirit submitted to the Father (Loc. 2308).  There is a hierarchy within the Godhead, though.  The Father never submitted his will to the Son or the Spirit.

I agree with the assessment of the debate in Loc 1932.  However, just because there are hard questions doesn’t mean there aren’t answers.  To her, erring on the side of egalitarianism is the safe side.  To me, it’s not (Loc 2005).

Chapter 6 describes some atrocities committed against two women.  Carolyn James describes the cultural settings which were non-Christianand that is right!  Christianity and Mosaic Law actually honored and respected women above what the surrounding culture did, and still does today.  But she’s still not making the case for me that this necessarily means women have to lead men.   If her indictment is against the church, then why contrast proper view of women with secular or pagan culture? To me that only reinforces that true Christianity is correct. 

Conclusion

The way Carolyn James makes her point is most aggravating to me.  She slides between Biblical accounts taken out of context, reads into it her own interpretation, then moves quickly to anecdotal stories of abuse around the world from non-Christian world-views or distorted Christianity, then makes a forceful point.  (It is almost like one of those debates and interviews in which the questions are raised, my mind begins a thoughtful response, but the opposing view continually interrupts the train of thought.)  The thoughtful and analytical debater is left in the dust by passion and impetuousness.  She jumps around from making statements filled with half truths to telling an anecdote, and never really answering her questions or my objections.

At the end of her book, she wonders about the wasted talents and the “immobilization” of half of the church.  But in my thinking, if God has established patriarchy,  then the gifts and talents He gives women will not be in conflict with that.  For example, I tend to test high in prophecy and teaching on spiritual gifts tests and wouldn’t you know it but I ended up a preacher’s wife and teach a ladies Bible study and have opportunity to write and speak.   [Caveat…personality tests are just curiosities and spiritual gifts tests are disputed.]  God knew when He created me what my talents would be, yet He made me a woman, not a man.  

For all her talk about kingdom building, Carolyn James rarely mentions the gospel and how it changes sinful people from the inside out.  There is no mention that atrocities against women and girls around the world are the direct result of societies and cultures that have run amok being steeped in Islam or Hinduism or secularism or other paganism.  Rather she blames the good guys.  She blames Christianity not doing enough to make the world a better place to go to hell from. 

The problem is not patriarchy.  The problem is sin. 

The answer is not egalitarianism.   The answer is the Gospel!

 

 

  1. James, Carolyn Custis; James, Carolyn Custis (2011-04-19). Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (Kindle Locations 1487-1491). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
  2. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 152.
  3. Grudem, Wayne (2006-08-08). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Kindle Locations 10256-10272). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
  4. Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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