Some men have used a twisted view of biblical manhood to assume authority they did not have over women. Others have twisted Scripture to lord authority they did legitimately have over others in domineering, harmful ways.
This was perhaps the most notable section of this book, otherwise it is a ‘think of heaven as the ultimate goal and put up with what you’ve got for now’ kind of book in my opinion. I really hoped that Alsup was going to write a book of the truth for women but as usual, it fell short of the goal for me. Alsup takes a good long while looking at what the Old Testament says about the fall of mankind and then slowly works her way up to what she believes the bible is saying about how women should act and behave today.
Alsup begins the book by looking at the first wave of feminism and how it has its roots in the church in its desire to give women a vote and equal rights. She then says that the second wave of feminism is where the church and the cause parted ways. She encourages the reader to look at the baggage of what they currently might interpret the bible says about women and the motive for reading the book before really researching the topic (which one would imagine would include reading her book and agreeing with its conclusions) and getting to grips with the topic from a Jesus-centred understanding of Scripture.
Alsup is good at teaching big theories and concepts with her background as a mathematics teacher. She suggests that if you don’t understand the Bible generally, you won’t understand it specifically about women. She then goes to great length to look at some disturbing areas of the Old Testament. Such as Genesis 34, Deuteronomy 22 and Judges 19, which involve the abuse and rape of women which is often very troubling parts of Scripture to people who don’t have the necessary knowledge of what these stories actually mean. She also takes us through a journey through the whole Bible to see how (in her mind) all things bleed together to form a consistent thread of knowledge and understanding on where women stand with God whilst they are on Earth.
She teaches that women are called helper, which in our modern culture is not seen as a very important role and often is despised by further explaining that the word used in the original language is ezer. God Himself is called our helper, our ezer, the same word used of the first woman in Genesis 2:18…. If we hold in to the dominant cultural attitude that being a helper is a substandard identity, we mock the name of God and His character. This is an interesting part of the book in which the role of women are highlighted and held up high in value.
After spending a great deal of time looking at the narrative throughout the course of the Bible as to the value of and role of women, she then goes into deeper exegesis as to Scriptures and the hope they hold for women. This is when it becomes a whole, ‘think of the blessings later and don’t worry so much about the now’ sort of teaching. It became really frustrating in that she excuses herself from answering questions we may have as not being possible this side of heaven.
Note that we will not resolve all questions in the New Testament pertaining to women. I can’t imagine that is possible this side of heaven! Even questions I am able to answer for myself I may not answer for you. … But in the end, I will leave you to wrestle with the Spirit in your own study of the Word to draw your personal conclusions and private applications. Perhaps this is where I would encourage readers to get a hold of a copy of “Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage” by J. Lee Grady as further reading towards understanding what a woman’s role in this world and church is to be.
There are distinctions in the church, particularly relating to the spiritually authoritative role of elder, or overseer, which Paul reserved for men.
Is this passage good for women? We are called again to consider our definition of good here…..
It is important to note that my personal views of church authority structures play into the application here. By conviction, I follow a Presbyterian view of church authority, in which elders are those with spiritual teaching authority, and deacons are those called to serve the needs of the church under the elders’ leadership.
We are taken through some difficult passages in the New Testament that have been misunderstood, miss-interpreted and misused by men and leadership in the church in regards to women. The way each troublesome passage is explained in and of itself is fairly done, but in the end it left me feeling that rather than empowering women, this book tells women to stay in their holding pattern and wait for heaven. I wanted it to be a book that explained how Jesus dealt with it all (the impact of sin on our lives) on the cross and set women free, but just never got that impression from the work. It teaches that women are allowed to be in limited leadership within the church, but still not allowed to gain positions of authority and power. The feeling of disappointment is the overriding sense of this book.