I was nervous about the book.
I'll admit that to you candidly. As much as I respect and admire Rachel Held Evans, we don't agree on certain issues of interpretation. Though I was not disposed to believe her book would be mockery, I wondered if her razor wit would drown out the beauty of her meditations. She's clever, direct, and has a few messages that need sharing.
I wondered if A Year of Biblical Womanhood would do those messages justice.
Having read the book twice now, I feel confident in saying this: Rachel Held Evans is a dangerous woman. She advances the radical, revolutionary claim that Christians should read the Scripture with care, discernment, and prayerful consideration of all its particulars.
Evans has crafted an erudite, humorous, and engaging reflection on the Scriptures and the problem of treating the Text as an adjective, not as the collection of God's people encountering their God.
Yes, it is a book about women. It tackles the problem of biblical womanhood as a concept and challenges teachings that have lead to saying women cannot be pastors or that their primary responsibility is in the home. I happen to side with Rachel, here, and am as egalitarian as the book proposes to support. However, if you were to total the pages that deal expressly with the egalitarian issues versus the issue of faithfully interpreting Scripture and humbly loving God, the balance tilts firmly toward the latter.
I don't want to give too much away in this review, because Rachel here has given an unfolding story of her life as much as a perspective on exegesis. It is a book that should not be read in part but the whole. For in the whole, you come to see what stands out far more clearly than anything else: Rachel and her husband Dan have a beautiful, authentic marriage in which God anchors their decisions and respect is the law that binds them. You'd be hard-pressed to walk away from the text believing that an egalitarian marriage could not glorify God with joy, humour, and abiding love.
Indeed, chapter after chapter, Evans harpoons a lance of grace and wit into contrived conflations of the Bible and brings a salve of context, wisdom, and prudence to heal. Using sound exegetical principals, she carefully consults Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament, challenges Reformation ideals, engages the contemporary church.
Critics have mistaken her wit for mockery, have missed that Evans champions the Bible's infallibility without undermining its unique and complex structure. She is the bright and shining face of future, faithful Evangelicalism, which gives me great hope for the conversations that shall be shaping the Faith in the coming years.
This book may be to a point about women and their relation to God, man, and each other, but it is ultimately the story of us all---seeking after a God who disclosed Himself to us not through easily reducible terms but through the unfolding of a narrative we have been invited to participate in.
Eshet chayil! Woman of valour!
Regardless of where you position yourself within the argument, it is a book any faithful Christian who appreciates the complex beauty of the Scripture can find truth within.
[However. If I had to say something negative about the book, it would be this: Rachel's characterisation of the medieval view of women is narrow. The world of women in the Middle Ages is more nuanced than many have believed and scholarship of the past two decades have helped refine this perspective. As this, however, is a very small point in her book and is also a point that does not detract from the truthful accuracy of what Evans proposes and engages, it is not an overall detractor from the narrative.]
So, would you like the chance to win a copy of Rachel's stunning book?
Inspired by Rachel's attention to global poverty and the crisis it presents for women specifically, I looked into statistics detailing the countries that present some of the greatest threats--sexually, physically, economically--to women.
Below is a list of fifteen countries that have been ranked some of the least progressive for women's rights and equal opportunities. In order to be entered into the giveaway, please leave a comment below with the name of one of these countries that you will commit to pray for every day for the next month. Pray that relief organisations make headway. Pray legal changes within the county shall make it possible for women to be protected as well as supported. Pray for the churches already there, that they would be places of safety, hope, and social change.
- Serra Leone
- South Sudan
I'll be spending this month praying for the women and men of Sudan. Who will you pray for?
[I have arranged for the winner to receive the book directly from Thomas Nelson, so this giveaway is open to US residents only. The contest shall close at 11:59 PM CST, today, Monday, October 29, and shall be determined by some magic generator I'm able to find on Google.]
I drew (digitally) a name from the hat today and am thrilled to announce that Kelly is going to be receiving the giveaway copy of Rachel's book. Here's the digital work at its finest:
Thank you to all of you who committed to praying for nations and I do hope we each see a remarkable shaping of our hearts as we journey this month praying for nations together.