Biblical Womanhood: What Kathy Keller missed

I’m not sure how long the manilla package sat in the bin beside my desk. It was postmarked September 14th. I noticed the package yesterday a few days after I had written a blog post speculating about the postmodern language barrier that may have caused Al Mohler’s misunderstanding of Rachel Held Evans’ new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Inside the package was the book that had served as the excuse for my tangential theorizing. I opened it and dove in yesterday, heart-sick about all the online gloating I had encountered over Kathy Keller’s “hard-hitting” review of Rachel’s book (Kathy is the wife of famous reformed pastor and author Tim Keller who has been a huge theological influence on me). What is clear from the way that Keller framed her critique is that she decided ahead of time to interpret everything about the book as an attack on her own beliefs. She must have kept her arms folded pretty tightly to defend herself against the disarming self-deprecating genuineness that oozed out of the story of a year that a Southern Christian woman took to learn about Judaism, the Amish, contemplative prayer, babies, Martha Stewart-style homemaking, and a whole lot of Bible. Perhaps Keller was using Rachel’s book as a point of departure for building her own brand like I did with my silly theorizing. Having read the book, I realize how ridiculous my speculation was. Rachel is not a postmodern hipster like me; she’s way too earnest. The main problem with what Kathy Keller and I both tried to do is this: Biblical Womanhood is too much of a story to be treated like an argument.

It’s the playfulness of this book that made me enjoy it, and I don’t usually go for books about gimmicks, year-long experiments, and that sort of thing. Each month, she had a different female virtue to embody and a different mix of silly and genuine challenges she would tackle in order to cultivate this virtue. In October, when the virtue was gentleness, Rachel had grown fascinated by the “contentious woman” who haunted the book of Proverbs, which says in verse 21:9, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” So Rachel came up with a goofy way of embodying this verse. Does the Bible actually instruct contentious women to sit on a corner of their roof as penance for being contentious? Of course not! But why should that stop someone from doing something epic and ridiculous like sitting on their roof for an hour and twenty-nine minutes as penance for all the snarky things they said from that month?

I’m not sure why Kathy Keller felt the need to criticize Rachel for having fun with the practices  she chose to implement (“In choosing what passages you would take as models for your behavior, you chose narrative passages rather than prescriptive ones”). Rachel was not trying to make fun of the Bible by sitting on her roof; she was being playful in the same way that high school Young Life leaders are playful. Though there were some elements of farce, like calling her husband “Master” in an “I Dream of Jeannie” voice during the month on obedience, every month was a sincere spiritual journey that didn’t at all come across like Rachel was trying to belittle anyone. She really embraced the challenge of learning how to cook, sew, and clean the house. She interviewed and spent time with women who embraced more conservative gender roles such as the Amish and even a Christian polygamist wife. One of my favorite moments was when she discovered that the Amish lady she was visiting actually used a hula hoop to keep in shape even while wearing her ankle length dress.

One of the interesting twists that the book took was the degree to which it became an exploration of Judaism. Rachel befriended an Israeli Orthodox Jew named Ahava during January when she was exploring the nature of the Proverbs 31 woman whose name eshet chayil Rachel prefers to translate “woman of valor” rather than “wife of noble character” (wife and woman are the same word in Hebrew). Rachel’s friendship with Ahava becomes a narrative thread throughout the book. Ahava coaches Rachel through such things as preparing a Passover seder meal, the niddah (monthly time when Orthodox Jewish women must avoid contact with their husbands), and finally the rituals around Rosh Hashanah with which Rachel concludes her yearlong journey. Rachel also learns that the way Jewish culture uses the eshet chayil of Proverbs 31 is less about telling wives how to behave and more about teaching men to appreciate what their wives are already doing. Ahava shares with Rachel that her husband sings the words of Proverbs 31 to her every week at the Shabbat table.

Incredibly, Kathy Keller completely dismisses the fruitfulness of Rachel’s exploration of Judaism, writing “all Christians have known that observing the ‘clean laws’ of the Old Testament is no longer incumbent on them,” again revealing her unshakeable commitment to the presumption that Rachel’s purpose is to discredit the Bible. Rachel didn’t make a Passover seder to showcase the unreasonable expectations of a Biblical woman. Just because we don’t have to make challah bread since Jesus died for our sins, why shouldn’t we do it if it tastes yummy and provides us with a meaningful learning experience?

It is true that there are some very disturbing truths that Rachel has to name. In her chapter on beauty, she talks about how the erotic love poetry in the Song of Songs has been used by fundamentalist pastors to instill anxiety about body image into brides at their weddings: “It is your responsibility to delight your husband throughout all stages of life so that he has no reason to stray.” It’s a pretty astounding feat to turn the delightful Song of Songs into a source of oppression. Similarly, Rachel talks about the disturbing Quiverfull movement that the 19 kid Reality TV Duggar family is a part of, which promotes having gigantic families through a warped interpretation of a psalm as a Biblical prescription for family planning. As Rachel says, “Poems were never meant to be forced into commands” (112), which pretty well summarizes the way that so many parts of the Bible have been abused by those who need to turn the whole thing into an “owner’s manual.”

To her credit, Kathy Keller talked about the importance of not conflating “description” and “prescription” in Biblical hermeneutics. She writes, “I agree with much of what you say in your book regarding the ways in which either poor biblical interpretation or patriarchal customs have sinfully oppressed women.” If we presume that Keller is not engaging in a disingenuous rhetoric construction and take this statement at face value, we can be confident that Keller will share her thoughts on these matters with Gospel Coalition members like Mark Driscoll about how they should approach preaching and writing books on texts like the Song of Songs.

Truth be told, Rachel’s book is not just a story; there is a little bit of argument about how to interpret the Bible. It comes mostly at the end. Rachel quotes Peter Rolllins: “In being faithful to the text we must move away from the naive attempt to read it from some neutral, heavenly height and we must attempt to read it as one who has been born of God and thus born of love: for that is the prejudice of love” (294). Basically Rollins is calling out the modernist folly of pretending to read the Bible without an agenda. Everyone has an agenda; feigned “objectivity” is the agenda of privilege. Rachel asks whether we should read the Bible “with the prejudice of love” or “with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest, and greed” (295).

Kathy Keller responds to this with a very presumptuous and uncharitable indictment: “If you say, ‘Parts of the Bible express love, and other parts express power interests,’ you’ve clearly gotten your standard and definition of love from outside the Bible—specifically, from contemporary sensibilities—and these are your ultimate authority and norm.” Beyond the breathtaking unfairness of leveling such a strong accusation with so little supporting evidence, the palpable irony here is that Rachel, without naming (or perhaps realizing) it, has articulated the hermeneutical principle of the spiritual godfather of the Reformation, Augustine, who says in his opus De Doctrina Christiana: “If it seems to you that you have understood the divine scriptures, or any part of them, in such a way that by this understanding you do not build up this twin love of God and neighbor, then you have not understood them” (De Doctrina 1:36:40). Augustine is calling upon us to do precisely what Rachel tells us to do: read the Bible with the prejudice of love. This is similar to the hermeneutical standard of the famous 18th century British evangelical John Wesley who said, “No scripture can mean that God is not love or that his mercy is not over all his works.”

Neither Peter Rollins nor Rachel invented the hermeneutical standard of charity. It has been the core of what Biblical interpreters throughout the last two millennia have called the “analogy of faith”: using the most explicit passages from the Bible as the interpretive lenses for the less explicit ones. The reason that building up the twin love of God and neighbor has been at the top of the hermeneutical pyramid for Augustine, Wesley, and so many other Christians throughout the centuries is because Jesus said that “all the law and all the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). No other sentence in the Bible presents itself so explicitly as the basis for reading everything else.

Scripture is not a perspicuous, self-interpreting document. It is a recent modernist innovation to think that anyone is capable of reading the Bible “without an agenda,” which is how people subconsciously import their own self-serving worldly “standards and definitions” into their Biblical hermeneutics, the most prominent today being the idolatry of the mythical Eisenhower era nuclear family, whose archetypal Pleasantville housewife has no connection whatsoever to how Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Mary Magdalene, or any other Biblical woman who actually lived. The way that we attribute to the Bible completely un-Biblical affirmations about womanhood and marriage based on very recent, self-validating middle-class sensibilities is by convincing ourselves to read the Bible with the populist, ahistorical hermeneutical approach of Biblical literalism, which gives us permission to dismiss the need to read the Bible in conversation with its interpreters throughout the ages or with any consideration of its original historical context. And then we let our independent megachurch pastors, who operate outside the discipline of any magisterial authority, come up with the Biblical interpretation that will play the best with their target audiences. What’s utterly comical is the way that what so many Christians today call “conservative Biblical values” are really a market-driven reinvention of the Bible in the image of contemporary suburban sensibilities.

It would take a very determinedly unsympathetic reader to conclude that Rachel’s yearlong experiment living out her own playful, genuinely curious version of Biblical womanhood was reducible to some kind of mockery or lampoon. She learned a lot; she grew a lot. She came to understand a positive way of reframing each of the stereotypical female virtues that she had considered oppressive at the beginning. Moreover, Rachel models for us how to be a God-wrestler, which is the approach to the Bible we are supposed to follow if Israel is indeed the name of God’s people. We can’t just let our systematic theologians and megachurch pastors tell us what the Bible says if we believe in the priesthood of all behaviors. In Phillis Trible’s Texts of Terror, she said that she refused to let go of the Bible until it gave her a blessing. I’m glad that Rachel wouldn’t let go of the Bible, because what it gave her was a blessing to me.

95 thoughts on “Biblical Womanhood: What Kathy Keller missed

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  2. thank you John Meunier for your well-stated comment regarding Keller’s review of the book. unfortunately, the naivety of people like MG regarding the theological implications embedded in books like this really do contribute to shabby interpretations of scripture. it takes courage to point out that the politically-correct definition of love abounding in our culture has no roots in the Bible. shabby interpretations of scripture abound when we define love using our own “agenda” of sentimentality and culture-driven ideals of “cheap” love. if one’s definition of love makes sense to the natural desires and sensibilities, it’s probably faulty. anyone can write a book and a blog, they’re a dime-a-dozen. but when one like Evans decides to delve into theological interpretation, the dangers are great and their errors should be exposed. when you write anything and decide to publish it, be a big boy/girl and take the critiques with grace.

    • It’s not often a winning strategy to enter into a conversation by insulting the person you’re wanting to talk to. Does it take courage to write anonymous comments in cyberspace under the name “commenter”? Please write something of substance rather than stringing together insults because I have a feeling that God could use you to teach me something.

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  8. Thanks for responding to Kathy Keller’s post, I very much enjoyed reading your review of both her “review” and RHE’s book! I, too, was blessed by the book and hope God uses it to bless many others.

    I’ve also been loving reading through the comments, particularly your conversation with Hannah Anderson which made me feel all warm and fuzzy! I want to end with something like ‘Nice work!’ or ‘High five!’, but fear they’ll come across in a patronising way – I’ll just say THANK YOU again, and add your blog to my reading list.🙂

  9. “the way jesus quoted the torah”

    We have the way the Evangelists composed their contextual, kerygmatic treatises, based on the kerygmatic memory of the kerygma of the earliest messages about Christ Jesus, post-Ascension. I.e., 3rd Sitz im Leben, 2nd Sitz im Leben and 1st Sitz im Leben. We don’t have non-indirect quotes from Das Leben von Jesus in the gospels.

    • From a historicity perspective I’m with you. From a faith perspective, I choose to be canonical and say we deal with the text as is, even if a particular passage is Matthew’s polemic and not Jesus’s for example. I think at some point we have to say that the Holy Spirit gave us the text that God wanted us to have even if it includes “God-breathed” legends that are “useful for teaching and training in righteousness.” The other place I can’t go historical critical is with a scientific skepticism about the miracles. I can’t privilege science over God even if the miracles serve literary symbolic purposes for the evangelists, etc. If “natural law” governs what’s allowed to have happened, then “natural law” is God. I’m not ascribing any beliefs to you by the way. Just thinking aloud about where I draw boundaries.

  10. “the postmodern language barrier that may have caused Al Mohler’s misunderstanding of Rachel Held Evans’ new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”

    God bless Al; he goes looking for things to misunderstand.

  11. bro, I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about with full sincerety. how I got labeled in the reformed camp and all the rest of it, I’m totally clueless. you asked me a question, I answered you based on scripture. i’m not saying i’d have been better than peter, or cleopas, or anyone. if you remember, you made an argument about perspicuity, I responded. you said that the road to emmaus wasn’t a good example of perspecuity on the flawed assumption that no one EVER had a concept of a suffering messiah. i responded with the fact that there absolutely was a tradition of a suffering messiah and jesus used plain words to make it clear that he was destined to suffer. the point wasn’t that i was better than cleopas and peter or whoever. it was simply to illustrate that jesus apparenlty believed in the pespecuity of scripture otherwise he’s being uncharitable when he calls cleopas and his walking buddy foolish. then you went off to talk about kant, and penal substitution,and god being hideous and the like. another thing. why can’t ya’ll just say ‘I disagree with a penal/sub understanding of isaiah 53″ why do ya’ll have to take it to “orgies of wrath” and “hideous hegemonic” and all that. smh. and then ya’ll say “we just wan dialogue” for real? anyway like I said, my posts above was intended to deal with your assertion that perspecuity is some modernist concept that was totally foreign to the days of christ. that statement cannot be reconciled with the way jesus quoted the torah. he says “have you not read” a bunch of times and expected a certain interpretation. and called folk foolish when they didn’t get the right meaning. where this other stuff came from man, I have no clue.

    • It is really hard to engage you. You’re very slippery. Perspicuity refers to a means of reading the Bible that is completely different than the midrashic means of reading the Bible which 1st century rabbis employed. Just because Jesus said “Have you not read” in no way implies that He had a modernist, representational, univocal understanding of the meaning of the text. I do think that Jesus said things to get rise out of people and was often what we would call “uncharitable” in our age of politeness. It doesn’t make Jesus dishonest to notice that in His teaching method, He used a variety of tactics to confound people into seeing the truth. When you superimpose “reasonableness” onto what He’s saying, you’re implicitly arrogating an understanding to yourself that you don’t have. “His ways are higher than our ways” (by which I mean your ways since I understand His ways). It’s supposed to be scandalous. We are supposed to be scandalized by it. That might be a problem for people who worship their own logical constructs, but it isn’t for people who respect the mystery of God.

  12. well considering one of the messianic theories was that there was a “moshiac ben joseph” who was a sufferer, who was afflicted with leprosy etc… due to isaiah 53, ya i’d say it was self evident due to isaiah 53, psalm 22 etc.as well as the “binding of isaac”. (you should check out some of mike brown’s work in this regard) as far as them being numbskulls. when jesus uses the word “foolish” (as well as paul) he’s not making commentary on their intellectual capacity, but critiquing a heart-attitude (slow of HEART” to believe) (see also the character of “the fool” in proverbs and other wisdom lit) the point is the scriptures were CLEAR that the messiah was supposed to suffer prior to entering glory, they just didn’t want to see it b/c of the implications it brought. the same is true for peter right? jesus says “i’m going to be beaten, spit on, and crucified” he says it in plain english (aramaic lol) and what’s peter’s response? “this shall never happen!” why? he didn’t understand what jesus said? nope. he just didn’t like it. this is EXACTLY what we’re seeing happen today.

    • By the way, I see you moving toward a common trope in the neo-reformed ethos. It’s basically a modification of the Kantian understanding of objectivity. Kant said that we can’t trust our judgment if we have a vested interest in something being true, so the only way we can be sure that we’re being objective is if we believe what we don’t want to be true.

      I often find it to be the case that in your camp, there’s a certain reveling in the most distasteful theology possible because following a modification of Kant, it becomes more true the more disagreeable it is. That’s why penal substitution is so delightful especially when it’s not an expression of Jesus’ kenotic weakness but the Father’s orgy of wrath against His Son.

      But what if the scandal is not that God is hideously hegemonic in a way that offends people we want to exclude from the kingdom but that He’s beautifully cruciform in a way that doesn’t give us any basis for puffing out our own chests?

  13. I don’t know what i’m supposed to do with the above comments, seeing as how I was engaging specific issues with your posts as well as ms Evans’ posts and you pretty much dismissed me with a “pax vobiscum” I never called you a hypocrite. I simply said it’s ironic. and I used this word on purpose. I interpret a hypocrite as someone doing something knowingly, irony on the other hand is what i’m seeing from this entire discussion. the pharisee was making judgements about christ and the woman based on flawed data (ie this is an unrepentant sinner and jesus couldn’t be righteous if he was allowed himself around such) while jesus made judgements with perfect knowledge of the hearts of those around him. “for he knew what was in man” hardly an example of righteous inconsistency. I never said that the stepford Ideal is what the scriptures uphold as the biblical norm. but that’s the very point. neither do complementarians. but in ms. evans’ world it’s one or the other. either you’ve got women in the pulpit, or women under oppression, there can be no in-between, there can be no “third way” and it seems you don’t see the destructive and dvisive and yes hurtful consequences of this type of rhetoric. and on another note, are you making the argument that the doctrine of perspecuity is a modernist invention? so on the road to emmaus when jesus calls the two travelers “foolish” and “slow of to believe” what the scriptures was that one of those examples where jesus was being inconsitent again? because I mean the way he’s talking, it’s like the sciptures were clear about what to expect from the messiah?

    • Do you think that the prophecy of the suffering servant in Isaiah would have been self-evident and obvious reference to Christ to a 1st century Jew? I don’t think the Emmaus dialogue is a very good proof-text for perspicuity. It’s ironic that Jesus says they were foolish and slow to believe; I think we’re supposed to be a little bit dumbfounded that he says that. If you take his words at face value there and agree that Cleopas and his friend were clearly numbskulls, then what you’re saying is that you would have been more capable of ascertaining the meaning of the cross before Jesus’ reappearance than any of His disciples were.

    • I won’t speak for Evans, only myself. Serrevin, you say, “either you’ve got women in the pulpit, or women under oppression, there can be no in-between, there can be no ‘third way.'” Abso-damn-lutely. And it seems you don’t really believe in this third way either, otherwise why the scare quotes? The so-called comp view makes no sense to me at all. Women are full human beings. Any law, any custom, any theology that says otherwise or treats women otherwise no matter what it/they say, is oppressive and wrong.

      So please, teach me. What exactly are these “hurtful consequences” of what I just wrote. It’s not rhetoric to me. I love my wife, our daughter, my mom, my grandmother, my aunts, and every other woman in my life too much for it to be mere rhetoric. Yes, the comp view makes me very angry and that comes out here, but I’m not being snarky. I truly have no damn idea how stating that telling and treating women as less than human is fine but talking about that treatment as oppression is “hurtful.”

      • Dave. this is probably my last foray into this particular jihad. do you not see the logical leap in saying ” if a woman’s role isn’t to occupy positions of authority it therefore necessitates that she isn’t fully human” you don’t see the logical leap there at all? so christ is not fully god because it says “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him” so in the final eschaton after it’s all said and done jesus will hand over the finished kingdom to the father and be in subjection to him forver.this shows clearly that my muslim friends were right after all that jesus couldnnd’t be God b/c he’s going to be SUBJECT to god at the end of the age. and as you aptly pointed out, when a person submits to another person it means automatically that person is degraded in nature. right? right? come on dude. i’ve got a daughter myself (and no she’s not my favorite, it’s just that she’s my only girl out of my three kids!! I don’t care what anyone says lol) anyway i’ve got a daughter, and a mom who grew up in a pentacostal context. I grew up watching women preach (honestly moms was a WAY better preacher than most of the dudes up there) but at the end of the day my emotions and my preferences are subject to scripture not the other way around. my daughter told me the other day she wants to marry someone just like me. haha. I asked her why and she said because of the way I lead the family. she’s only five. smart girl. no for real, she’s really smart, she’s waaaayyyy ahead in her studies. and she’s only five! anyway regardless of what you say there is a third way. which is a man leading my daughter and loving her as christ loved the church. christ doesn’t have a 50/50 relationship with the church in regard to authority. nor does he have a 50/50 relationship to the church in regard to sacrifice. the last thing I want is a dude that’s going to encourage her to violate god’s law for the church under the guise of “support” I don’t think that type of rhetoric would affect lil zoe, but other women may be insulted with the insinuation that b/c they willingly submit to the scriptures and their husbands that they’re somehow “less human” that’s the logical outcome of that lil rant you had up there. good day to ya’ll. it was interesting as always.

        • Serrevin, I have no doubt that you love your daughter and that she is exceptional.

          It seems you and I have very different, and quite possibly irreconcilable, understandings of who G-d is, of how the Trinity exists within the G-dhead, of what it means to be human, of our relationship with scripture, and of what following Jesus means for how we treat people. So perhaps you are correct that further dialogue will prove fruitless. If you truly are leaving the conversation then peace be upon you.

        • “At the end of the day my emotions and my preferences are subject to scripture not the other way around.” This is a good example of how you embed your caricature of opposing perspectives within pseudo-autobiography. I’m glad you’re a rational man and you know how to keep your emotions and preferences in check. I guess that’s why God anointed you to lead your family. Again, this all goes back to Kant’s presumptions about objectivity. It shapes how you frame the question of your hermeneutics. You’re defending modernity, not Biblical authority.

        • Oh the use of the word “jihad” was rich also. You should probably go back to the world where rational and dispassionate men lead their families. Things are too emotional and theologically imprecise here for fruitful conversation to occur.

  14. ez ez killa! wow that didn’t take long. Hey boss it’s your show. i get the message loud and clear. it’s not about scoring points, it’s simply about setting things in perpsective. of course in typical pomo fashion you use the double-speak of “learn from me” to mean “agree with me and not point out any of my inconsistencies” which seems to be the ironic habit of the “let’s have a conversation” crowd.

    • I just don’t think it’s fruitful to play the hypocrisy game. You can always read what somebody else writes in a way that makes them hypocritical. The reason you can label my observation as hypocritical is because I was calling out a hypocrisy in making it. That’s the basis for the analogy that you’re making.

      And then when you say “In typical pomo fashion,” you’re labeling and dismissing me presumptuously and uncharitably for labeling and dismissing others uncharitably who labeled and dismissed others uncharitably.

      Screw postmodernity. I don’t have any fidelity to it. Engage my argument. What’s postmodern is to dismiss another person’s argument by finding a hypocrisy within it. Do you think it’s a crock for me to say that so-called “Biblical womanhood” today is more about Fifties nostalgia than actual faithfulness to the Bible? What about my assertion that Biblical literalism and perspicuity is a populist stance rather than a conservative one? Do you think that the suburbia that is created by people who are “focusing on the family” is what Jesus had in mind by leaving the world or something different? Don’t agree with me. Engage me but do so without being dismissive. Sure, I’m a hypocrite and I’m covered in irony. But I’m trying my best to be faithful to what I think God is showing me. And I’ve had a very rough few days in my personal life that has nothing to do with this particular discussion so I apologize if I’m not on my A game in terms of embodying the fruits of Spirit despite the fact that I preached about them last night.

    • Okay so here’s something I thought of regarding the nature of the “hypocrisy” critique. When Jesus is at the home of Simon the Pharisee and he sees Simon judging the woman for washing Jesus’ feet, is Jesus being a hypocrite when he judges Simon for not being a good host? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” I just think that Kathy went too far with too little to back herself up in saying that Rachel was getting her standard of love from the world. And that’s a critique that I’ve often heard being leveled carelessly in other contexts. You don’t get to banish someone from orthodoxy because they say, “Parts of the Bible express love, and other parts express power interests.”

  15. ya there’s tons of irony in the whole thing. ms. evans’ week-long “week of mutuality” was a WEEK LONG of these types of blog postings characterizing comps as patriarchalists who are mysoginists, and their wives as victims of a horrible system on par with slavery. nobody saw the “breathtaking unfairness” of that in the least. irony indeed.

    • If you don’t think it’s possible for you to learn anything here, then there’s no reason to engage me. I imagine you’re making yourself feel good with what you’re writing, but it’s really not having any influence on me. God’s peace be with you.

  16. “What’s utterly comical is the way that what so many Christians today call “conservative Biblical values” are really a market-driven reinvention of the Bible in the image of contemporary suburban sensibilities.”

    Just so I have this straight. When Kathy Keller points out that she thinks RHE’s hermeneutics are driven by contemporary sensibilities, it’s “presumptuous and uncharitable”, but when you do exactly the same, it’s different?

    • You’re not making an apples to apples comparison. Keller referenced a quote that provided no justification for her conclusion. I realize you’re likely just here to score points, but if you’re interested in understanding why I said what I did, then check out my post on Pleasantville Christianity vs. Kingdom Christianity.

  17. well mr guyton, I don’t have the spiritual gift of being able to read into someone’s heart. apparently you know the entirety of her reasoning for doing so was to further “DIG” at rachel. all I know is that she tried to reach out to her on two occasions, miss evans has never stated otherwise,nor has she stated anything about a “last minute” reach-out. she heard she was in ny, she reached out to her twice, and hadn’t recieved a response. I suppose your response indicates why you didn’t menton it in the review. all i’m saying is, for someone reading outside of your echo-chamber, it looks pretty fishy.

    • It’s very cynical to “believe” Kathy’s line for the sake of an argument. Mitt Romney has often said, “Why didn’t Obama call me?” when he criticizes the health care plan. It’s a very common rhetorical maneuver when you’re having a public disagreement with somebody else. “I tried to call you in private and if we had met face to face, then The Gospel Coalition would have been out of luck because they wouldn’t have had a review of your book.” Come on!

      • So basically – she lied?? Wow. It did not read like a ‘rhetorical maneuver,’ per Morgan’s guess – it read like she actually did call. Multiple times. I’d call that a lie, plain and simple. That’s a low blow and I’m sorry, RHE.

      • Well, to be fair to all parties involved… there was that little thing of a hurricane going on…😉 Seriously though, I think it’s a important for us to acknowledge the nuance between whether you didn’t receive any messages and whether Mrs. Keller didn’t try to contact you. That could be easily lost and in this heated context, it’d be best to stay on the safe side.

        • Sorry but let’s think about this a little bit, Hannah. The Gospel Coalition asked Kathy Keller to review a book for them. She didn’t suddenly send them a message out of the blue and say well, I was trying to get in touch with Rachel, but I guess because she won’t talk to me, here you go. Just knowing the process that you go through in journalism where there are assignments and deadlines, that story doesn’t make any sense. She overreached to the point of being dishonest because she needed to score an extra dig with the line about the “talk shows in New York.”

          • Ref: KK’s attempt to reach RHE.

            Yikes. Calling someone dishonest is simply somewhere I’m not willing to go until I’m privy to all facts and circumstances. I’m just saying I believe RHE when she says that she didn’t receive any messages AND I believe KK when she says that she tried to contact her but “wasn’t able to connect.” Whether KK should have tried earlier is moot–the statement in question was whether she attempted to at all and RHE’s clarification here was interpreted to mean that KK lied. I was simply drawing a line there–that assumption was completely out of bounds. If you reread the review, KK did not imply (like serrevin did here) that her failure to connect was RHE’s fault–simply that she didn’t have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with her personally. If she had, the rest of the “review” would have been the content of their conversation.

          • So you really think that The Gospel Coalition wouldn’t have run a review of Rachel’s book that they assigned to Kathy to write if their hadn’t been a hurricane and they had gotten coffee together in New York City?

      • lied? for real? she said she tried twice to contact her. she didn’t say “left messages on your iphone” i’m pretty sure Ms Keller wouldn’t come out and lie about that. ms Evans said she hadn’t recieved any messages. I believe that too. I don’t think it’s a case that one of them HAS to be lying. there are a ton of ways that circumstances could have conspired to make both of those statements true. man. why’s everything so vitriolic around these parts?

        • When you’re given an assignment to write a review, you don’t nix your review if you happen to be able to talk to the author of the book. It doesn’t make any sense.

      • (running out of reply prompts so i hope this gets in the appropriate place)

        Morgan,

        I understood Keller’s saying she tried to contact RHE not as an explanation for the review’s existence but as an explanation for the personal nature of the review. She was prefacing it in terms of what shape the “dialogue” would have taken had there been the opportunity to have a personal conversation with RHE. And certainly, the hurricane could have easily disrupted phone communication (it changed RHE’s schedule itself) and so I was simply offering an alternative explanation for why the contact never happened–maybe it’s just me, but I’m more comfortable with blaming a hurricane than someone’s integrity.

        And fwiw, Keller’s personal approach was part of the problem–trying to shape it in context of RHE’s appeal to dialogue made the review sound too much like an open-letter or a personal conversation that include only the two of them. I wish it had been a more professional evaluation of the entirety of the book for a reading audience. Still, regardless of what it should have been, we need to read Keller’s words through a “hermeneutic of love” rather than suspicion.

        • All right, Hannah. I can see that. Blessings to you. Let’s put this one to rest. It’s been a great learning experience for me. Again, I’m grateful for the way that you have pursued this conversation with patience, humility, and grace. I hope I haven’t been snippy with you. Please forgive me if I have. I’ve been trying to examine about myself what it is that sets me off and makes me catty and undisciplined in response to some of the other comments I’ve received on here. This is one of the first posts I’ve had in which I’ve had people responding outside of my usual readership base (which I guess means that I’m “moving up” in the blogosphere or something). I’m hoping that I will be in a more grounded and charitable place in addressing other peoples’ comments in the future. I firmly believe that whether or not we exude Christ is much more important than whether or not we have the right opinion. I’m good at calling this out about people who disagree with me and very bad at living it out myself.

  18. I always get a kick out of the arguments people invoke about fundamentalist’s warped view on things when most every “normal” Christian doesn’t give them a second of credit on anything. If you have to reach for that argument then to me it shows a shallow defense.

    Also, by calling out the Duggars for having a huge family with a warped view of family planning is pretty outlandish. There’s nothing biblical to back up that ridiculous opinion and to me shows a hidden bitterness on the person calling them out –whatever it may be.

    I appreciate some of what Rachel does and says. It’s good to wrestle with our faith for sure. But it’s hard to have it both ways with her book. As soon as you claim it’s a fun, lighthearted, sarcastic look at the Bible and then include some deep comments/exegesis/convictions, you’re inviting scrutiny. Just like Rachel basis for the book we are to test all things right? If you dish it you gotta be able to take it.

    • Fundamentalists are not straw men; they’re real people and there are people who are really oppressed by them. Just because there’s a more moderate version doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to critique the extreme view. I recognize that it’s unfair to tar the more moderate perspective with a fundamentalist label but I’m not sure Rachel did that.

  19. what’s interesting about this review is it fails to include a very important detail. ms Keller reached out to ms evans while she was in new york to have a face to face discussion with her. i got the impression the letter wouldn’t even have been published if ms evans would have found a way to connect with ms. keller. besides that i’ve been truly amazed at the response to kathy keller’s review. first off, ms keller is doing with ms. evans book, what scholars do all the time. they criticise areas of hermeneutics that she disagrees with. how that comports to being “breathtakingly unfair” is beyond me. keller calls out evans for the pseudo-demure “i’m just innoncenlty trying to explore and apply the bible in the most literal way possible.” approach to the book. come on. anyone who’s read evans’ blog knows full well she isn’t “wrestling” with or “struggling” with anything in regard to this subject in the scriptures (review her “week of mutuality” in which she comes out and calls complementarianism “patriarchy” and the like to see the point) so ms keller simply called her on it, and all of a sudden there’s this emotional backlash of “you’re being mean” for real? mean? we’re all adults here right? i’m sure ms. evans as a grown woman can deal with someone taking her arguments seriously and pointing out the glaring holes in them. it should be taken as a sign of respect shouldn’t it? in regard to love. this again is one of the strange odditites of the modern church. anything that hurts someone’s feelings is deemed as unloving. this indicates folks couldn’t have hung around with jesus long (“get behind me satan” to one of his most beloved disciples) or the apostle paul (“you foolish galtians” to one of his most beloved churches) or wesley for that matter who wrote page after page of invective in relation to george whitefiled and his calvinist theology/hermeneutic. a man he loved and admired deeply. what happens nowadays is that folk in the pomo/psedu emergent camp will make theological statements via “story” and then act in bewilderment when called on it and say “I was just writing a story?!!” come one. as for poetry not being intended to communicate commands, please go back and read the torah, there are portions throughout the torah that are couched in poetry but are clearly instructive of behavior. instead of all the bickering and emotionalism, ms evans and her supporters should have taken it as a sign of respect and love that keller went in on her instead of patronizing her.

    • You really buy that? I have trouble taking it seriously. Kathy just put that line in to land another dig about Rachel’s celebrity appearances. You don’t call somebody last minute like that if you’re serious about meeting with them. Sorry, that’s not going to work for me.

    • “Bickering and emotionalism.” You must be a guy. I’m glad you’re calm and rational. Keep patronizing away.

  20. Thank you for your gracious and insightful post. The substance of your remarks gave me a deeper understanding of both Kathy Keller’s critique and Rachel Held Evans’ book. And, with your graciousness, you model how each of us should behave as we discuss “hot button” topics. For me, your words were a soothing balm.

    I want to pick up on a comment that Hannah Anderson made. I agree that the problem and the solution are not as simple as YLB presents. Yes, women are wounded by patriarchy and that wounding distorts our image of who God is. But, we’re also wounded by our own sin. It’s important to keep both of these truths in mind, and I don’t think YLB strikes a healthy balance between individual and societal sin.

    Related to this, it is common for egalitarians to point to issues that are a particular struggle to complementarians and then argue that egalitarianism addresses those issues. Perhaps, but what is not acknowledged is that egalitarianism creates its own set of issues. IMO, both sides are too promotional.

    Personally, I’ve learned more that’s of use to living as a Christian wife in our contemporary culture from reading secular social science research and running it through a biblical grid, than I have from reading either egalitarian or complementarian writers.

    Finally, I’m very grateful to RHE for Vagina-gate. Contemporary complementarianism too often denies women a sexual voice. Unless women speak up, that isn’t going to change.

    • I appreciate your balance. One of the things that’s taboo to name in our culture of identity politics is that the ethos of individual rights can undermine our ability to see our own sin. I’m not saying this happened specifically in YBW, but it is important to be cautious about the covert self-justification and other ulterior agendas are at play when we fight for causes. I know that I sometimes use my own feminism as a means of saying that I’m a better man than the jocks who I never could measure up to in middle school. I preached on the parable of the weeds from Matthew 13 this past weekend. The paradox is we make ourselves onto weeds by calling other people weeds, which is not to say we shouldn’t be prophetic; it’s just a treacherous vocation.

  21. I, as well, am waiting for my public library to get this book. But I read her blog, and have followed much of the review brouhaha.

    My takeaway from that conversation? Don’t ask questions.

    I am struggling profoundly with my faith, and the role of Scripture in my life, and the harshness and condescension of the critiques make me wonder whether my own questions matter. Or are scholars and pastors just waiting for me to believe the correct things? Tapping their fingers until I get it right, and see the light?

    Whether you agree or disagree with RHE on any of her lines of inquiry does not obscure the fact that the brave soul who dares to share a controversial opinion will surely face a Twitterstorm of criticism, both personal and theological. This is not good news to me.

    • Always ask questions. The people of God are called to be God-wrestlers; that is the meaning of the name Israel. Jesus said that He came to blind those who think they can see and give sight to those who know they’re blind (John 9:39). He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Those who have all the answers are not worshiping the infinite wisdom of God but the idolatry of their own knowledge.

  22. Morgan, pardon my additional comment down here–there was no mechanism to reply to your comment above.

    Perhaps I’m not representative of the comps you know but I agree with your evaluation that hierarchy is a bad paradigm on which to structure a worldview. Especially since Christ redefined authority in his kingdom as service and submission. But also believe (at least it’s true in my own life) that rejecting authority as a governing paradigm doesn’t solve the dilemma of certain texts that ultimately keep me (and people like the Kellers) from a mainstream egal view.

    Part of what is at stake is that RHE doesn’t seem to allow for a thoughtful, mature expression of comp that is based on love and service. It’s been caricatured as power and authority. I agree that there are legitimate concerns for comps that they should have addressed long ago–but I think if we’re fair, the same could be said for egals as well. For my part, the solution lies in carefully submitting ourselves to the whole of Scriptural teaching–what we need is, dare I say it, a more biblical approach that is robust and nuanced and incorporates all that it means to be humans. I really don’t think the problem or the solution is as simple as RHE presents it.

    • I think I’m starting to understand you. I can see how it would be hurtful from your position to read something where the only alternatives are presented as egalitarianism or the Pearls and the Duggars. I also agree with you about the publicity stunt with “Vagina-gate” and everything. The blogosphere is such a treacherous world. It’s easy to justify doing things to build your platform when you think God has given you a word to share with as wide an audience as possible. I often second-guess things that I write, like weighing in on a topic that has buzz in order to get hits. It’s a perpetual journey of fear and trembling. I know that Rachel has written things that have been hurtful to you, but I do believe that she’s also on a journey of fear and trembling.

      Remember when that guy wrote the spoken word poem “Why I hate religion and love Jesus.” It was pretty hurtful to a lot of Catholics who aren’t the Pelagians that we Protestants make them out to be. Well anyway, after his video went viral, he actually got to sit down with some people who had different perspectives and learned something. It seems like Rachel learned a lot from her interactions with the Amish and the Orthodox Jews.

      In any case, I really appreciate your patience and grace in this conversation. I hope you’ll consider following my blog. I need people like you around. I’m in somewhat of an exile in the mainline church where people mostly scratch their heads at the theological wrestling that I do. Most of the evangelicals I interact with are in the sort of disaffected hipster category. I want to be called out and challenged. I’m trying to evolve past ranting and raving against the fundamentalist bogeyman in my head. It’s been a long process and will continue to be. Be blessed, sister. Thank you for your witness.

      • Again, I’ve appreciated this engagement too. I’m from a fundamentalist background myself and I’ve had to learn to distinguish between fundamentalist posturing and fundamentalist theology. For me, we must work toward a context where individuals can follow their consciences before God (even if that means more conservative applications) and yet give liberty to others to follow theirs. One of the most heart-breaking things for me is when people leave fundamentalist interpretations but carry their fundamentalist breeding with them–an intolerant liberal lacks as much grace as an intolerant conservative and vice versa. Christ is the middle way–not as a compromise between our convictions but as a way to rise above our private allegiances walk the journey together. I’ll certainly pop in now and again and we do just that.

        • That’s very true. I encountered “fundamentalist” left-wing radicals in the anti-globalization movement 10 years ago. I wasn’t allowed to be a straight white guy because I was the devil by definition, so I never could make it in that crowd. I hear what you’re saying.

    • Hi Hannah – like you, I couldn’t reply to a comment above so am using this one instead. You said that you didn’t remember RHE “entering honest public dialogue with a comp” – did you listen to the debate on the UK radio show between RHE, Owen Strachan and Adrian Warnock (RHE posted it a little while ago: http://rachelheldevans.com/complementarian-debate-owen-strachan-adrian-warnock)? It’s long, but worth a listen! I agree, an ‘Ask a…’ with a comp on her blog would be really interesting!

      • I did listen to it and I appreciated the interaction, but as I understood it that encounter was hosted and prompted by the radio show and not RHE. I guess as a comp, it seems like more than an oversight to reach out to so many differing perspectives and yet not reach out to the very ones that you are writing about. Too, when she does write about comp views, it is almost exclusively in a negative light.

        My guess–and this is simply a guess–is that RHE probably has been so immersed in the culture of “biblical womanhood” for so long that she might have forgotten that her readers don’t always have the same context or experience that she does. For example, she personally may not feel like she needs to “Ask a Comp” because she is already very familiar with comp perspectives and has had dialogue with them on a personal level. (I’m certain that she has had multiple “Ask a Comp” conversations in her private life,) But as a public figure and someone how has great influence with her readers, this would be a great opportunity for her to bring unity to the gender debate (where we can) and point out the dangers of extreme views in both directions. I just hate that this is becoming such a divisive issue on both sides.

        • Hannah, I appreciate your measured tone throughout this discussion (something I was, shall we say, less able to do earlier). It seems to me you’ve posted in good faith, actually seeking conversation. Can we keep it going? I am one who holds what I suspect you would consider an extreme egalitarian view. You said you wished RHE would “point out the dangers of extreme views”, but I would be interested in learning what you think those dangers are.

          Again, I’m not being snarky here. I have only learned of the comp view fairly recently and it honestly baffles me. From your perspective, how is my strong egalitarian view dangerous?

      • Dave, that’s an interesting challenge and I’m not sure whether I can fairly represent and then critique your specific position. As well, the divide between comp and egals is heavily influenced by hermeneutics. I probably tend to be more “literal” –by this I mean that I tend to try to understand texts in their original context but don’t believe that we can dismiss the essential teaching simply because of context. (For example, I understand Paul’s teaching as binding not simply for the individual churches he was speaking to but binding for churches today.)

        With that disclaimer, I think the danger for extreme egals is the same as for extreme comps. When specific elements of our theology become THE essential paradigm by which we understand Scripture, we will suffer from a type of spiritual myopia. If feminism for example becomes the defining character of our theology, we will be tempted to contort and undermine texts that challenge that specific position. It’s the same for patriarchy. Their problem in my estimation is not taking the Scripture too literally; it’s not taking the full text of revelation literally enough. There are so many other teachings that should shape and inform their understanding of headship but they ignore them because they have elevated one element of their theology.

        Perhaps I can tell you why I embrace a soft comp position. I believe that the differences between men and women are essential to revealing the full image of God. It’s not simply that both genders are made in God’s image (something patriarchy needs to embrace) but that men and women image God in distinct ways and the congruence does as well. For example, I believe that husbandly headship (defined as a unique protection and responsibility toward his wife–not simply authority) illuminates and embodies Christ’s relationship to the Church in a way that an egal approach cannot.

        I’m also concerned about preserving gender AS gifting. I think egals create a false dichotomy when they discuss gifting in opposition to gender. To me, gender is gifting, one way we determine our place in this world. For example, a woman’s capacity to bear and nurture life should not be viewed as simply one of many things a woman can do; it is something that ONLY a woman can do. And while certainly not every woman is called to motherhood, the beauty of gender is that while both men and women could be plumbers, only women can be mothers and only men can be fathers. So then, it’s not that a woman should do whatever a man can do but that a woman should do whatever a woman can do–and trust me, my definition of this is full and robust.

        I suppose the biggest point of divergence would be the role that women can have in church leadership. Again, I may not be representative of other comps, but I believe that Scripture shows women acting in a wide variety of capacities in Church life. I also believe that Scripture draws a boundary on ruling authority both in the Old and the New Testament. From the institution of Levitical priesthood onward, the Scripture clearly places restrictions on leadership–not simply anyone who desires to be can be a ruling leader. Ruling leadership is the unique combination of providence, birth, calling, and giftedness. In the case of women and ruling leadership, I believe that headship as a theological concept is part of reason for the boundary, but I’m not too troubled by this because there are many things about my life that were determined for me prior to birth. So believing providence allows me to accept that as much as I’ll never be an Olympic gymnast, I will also not be in ruling authority in the church.

        (I’m sure that I’ve misunderstood certain elements of egalism and so some of my comments may come across as nonsensical.)

        • Hannah, sorry for the delayed response here. Election fun grabbed all my attention yesterday.

          Once again, I appreciate your calm and self-disclosing approach to this conversation.

          I didn’t mean to ask you to critique my position specifically (that wouldn’t be fair since we don’t know each other and so you could only guess based on the little I’ve posted here). I was trying to get you to say more about the dangers of the extreme position in general, which you wrote you wished RHE had addressed. I meant to just us myself as an example.

          But no matter. I agree with you that hermeneutics seems to be at the center of the comp/egal divide.

          Let me echo you and try to describe why I’m a (hard? extreme?) egal. Love God/love neighbor is the interpretive lens I strive to employ for reading all of scripture. I read how Jesus went against custom and law to treat women as fully human and strive to embody that. I read how women followed him, loved him, honored him, and did not run away even from the cross. I read how resurrected Jesus spoke to women first and instructed a woman as the first Easter preacher. I read how essential women in leadership were to the early church. All of that is more important to me than, say, the history of Levitical priesthood.

          And then I factor in my experience. I’ve worked with female senior pastors for 15 of my 18 years in ministry. I’ve worked with female district superintendents for 17 of those 18 years. Now we have a female bishop. They were all gifted in preaching, teaching, administration, staff relations, etc etc etc. There is nothing in those 18 years that even remotely hints at the possibility that they could not do the work – and do it well – simply because they are women. I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything.

          Of course you are correct that biological differences exist. I can never be a mother. But I just cannot fathom reasoning that declares a woman unfit for a leadership/authority role simply because of gender. And, honestly, I still don’t see the danger of my position.

          Thanks again for engaging!

      • Perhaps I should clarify that I don’t understand women who are pastors to be dangerous in themselves–meaning while I disagree with an interpretation that allows for that and would strongly hold to maintaining a boundary, I don’t get all squirrelly around women who serve in those capacities and think that they are incapable of the work. My concern would be the danger of the kind of hermeneutic necessary to reach this conclusion. Meaning it would be less literal than I can affirm. And truthfully, if the only church in town had a woman pastor, I would not feel the need to separate and start a “purer” church. But given a choice, I do hold toward a more literal reading of certain texts. (Also I mentioned the Levitical priesthood not as a paradigm for the church today but simply as an example that it is not problematic that God could erect boundaries around leadership–he has in the past so it’s worth considering whether or not he might today as well.)

        I also affirm your love God/love others hermeneutic but I see gender differences as a means of accomplishing that end. It’s the whole “the Sabbath was created for man not the man for the Sabbath” paradigm, and yet, Christ did not overturn the concept of Sabbath per se. He simply taught that the reason for the structure was to serve humanity–humanity was not to serve the structure. This is how I understand the issue of headship–whether it is governmental, ecclesiological, or parental–headship is the responsibility to nurture those in your care in order to reach their ultimate good. Structure does not by definition have to be inconsistent with loving God and loving each other. God gave govt for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of those that do well– we submit to the established hierarchy to but we do so in order that they might accomplish their God-given function. (Govts certainly oppress their people but that is the problem of evil men not the structure per se.) For me, it’s the same with comp views. And truthfully, if we are submitting ourselves to the full-scope of Scripture comp and egal marriages will end up looking very similar as well as comp and egal churches. There may be minor points of divergence but within spirit-filled, spirit-led context, we would be surrendering our “rights” to do anything–whether it is to hold ruling authority as a woman or as a male leader to tightly restrict a woman’s contributions–to each other.

        Thanks for the healthy interaction.

  23. Every time I hear a Calvinist say we can’t define or dictate what God’s definition of love should be, the phrase that comes to my mind is “define what IS is.” My second thought is how C.S. Lewis uses the idea of the Tao as absolute truth, specifically assuming that the concept of fairness is an absolute we all verify to be valid, to prove that God exists and is good or we would not have an ideal of “fairness” to refer to as we interpret good and evil.

    If we can have no dependable concept of the definitions of values like love or fairness, then words mean nothing, the Bible is wasted paper and theology is pointless.

    If LOVE can sentence women to misery or predestine innocents to hell without giving them a choice, then LOVE is not a good thing and God is evil. Anyone who adopts such doctrines becomes cold as a result, even if it forces them to ignore God’s voice and their own inner squirming at how callous and illogical it is. If I had to choose between that god and unbelief, atheism would be a comfort. This is the doctrine behind tea party politics and is driving our youth into unbelief.

    Jesus came to defend God against such blasphemous accusations and was even willing to die so we could know and approach a loving Father. Still, he is zealously crucified again and again by those who reserve the right to say God has a secret dictionary where words like LOVE can mean the complete opposite of desiring what is best for another. I’m sure this grieves our compassionate Savior.

    • But Derek, don’t you see the way that the echo chamber topography of our political landscape is getting played out here? Joe hasn’t taken any responsibility for writing in a way that people who disagree with him might be persuaded by. Every time I see that from these neo-reformed guys, the fruit testifies.

  24. Thank you for this, Morgan. I was stunned by Keller’s review – by how she completely missed the point of what Rachel has said she was attempting to do (My copy has not arrived yet). She was trying to make us see that we all read the Bible through a particular hermeneutical lens and that admitting that is a first step toward learning to read it more openly and maybe even more objectively. She gently pokes fun at some things, I am sure. But from what I’ve read from other reviews, she is wrestling well with some difficult ideas. For Keller to dismiss her so strongly seemed narrow-minded at best and downright mean-spirited at worst. I look forward to reading and reviewing this book myself in the next couple of weeks.

    • Yeah, after I read Rachel’s book and looked at Keller’s review, I thought it must have required a whole lot of willpower to be that mean and unsympathetic.

  25. I appreciate the need to evaluate YBW on its own merits (and I agree that comps by and large have reacted defensively) but I think we all need to be honest enough to recognize that this whole kerfuffle was never simply about the text of this book. There was so much back and forth (shots in both directions) prior to the book’s release that it’s hard to accept Evans’ approach as merely a simple Southern girl honestly investigating how to engage Scripture and womanhood. The real story lies in how we engage those we disagree with and what presuppositions we bring to discussion in the first place.

    • I realize that there’s been a pretty thick dust cloud that a bunch of different people have contributed to kicking up (including myself). I just expected Kathy Keller to be more of a seasoned Christian than all of us hot-headed young bloggers. If you want to bear effective witness to others who disagree with you, then you have to engage them charitably and give them credit for the places that they’re right rather than interpreting everything they’ve written unsympathetically in order to land the most possible blows. When you do the latter, you’re writing not for the sake of mutual edification and reconciliation but for the cheers of your amen chorus. I really think Kathy compromised her office with how she handled this. Her husband’s influence extends far beyond the complementarian amen chorus (he’s a major influence on me for example) and it may be damaged as a result.

      • On the outset, let me identify my biases: I’m a soft comp who regularly follows RHE both for interest and edification. I disagree with much that she says, but I also know that sometimes I need to hear what she is saying to check my own blind spots.

        Over the last 18 months, RHE has extensively advocated for an egal interpretation of Scripture and in order to do so, has often conflated and misrepresented comp views as patriarchy. (Yes, there are extremists and patriarchal teaching is dangerous–I’ve been a critic of it myself even at TGC). But in doing so, she failed to seriously and carefully distinguish between the two. A Keller-esque complementarianism is a far cry from the Pearls or even Doug Wilson.

        Given her strong advocacy for a specific hermeneutical approach, it’s really not fair to ask people to assume that she wrote YBW in order to simply “ask: questions. It was clearly a way to undermine comp teaching and their specific hermeneutic. Certainly she has a right to do this and it may be helpful for comps to stop and analyze what they are doing; but it is also entirely legitimate for comps to respond to her argumentation especially if they believe it misrepresents them or their hermeneutic.

        Additionally, I think Kathy Keller’s response was partly influenced by her own history. Coming to a comp view of Scripture was very difficult for her and marked by extensive wrestling with Scripture–she was heading to ordained ministry before she became convinced that she could not–and so for RHE to dismiss her position simply as “cherry picking” really trivializes her whole process. For Kahty Keller, if YBW is right, then the whole course of her life should have played out differently. I think that’s one reason why it felt so intense.

        • Thanks for that context. Of course I’ve got a bias too. The only time I boss my wife around is when she doubts her call to ordained ministry which I consider it my duty to shepherd and protect. Sometimes, we have a functionally complementarian relationship because I tend to be more opinionated and emphatic but I can’t think of myself as an authority figure in that sense because my duty is always to listen to God through His word and everyone I’m interacting with and simply obey Him and encourage others to do the same. Calling myself a slave to Christ and a servant to all seems farcical to me if I’ve pulled in a Gentile prince understanding of power hierarchy through the back door of my theology. Why in the world would I put myself as an intermediary between others and God? (I’m referring here to Mark Driscoll’s chart.) How is that different than going to a priest to say confession?

          Sorry. I guess my beef with complementarianism as an ideology is I think it sets guys up. We’re already naturally socialized to have enormous egos; I need as much help as I can get with humility and learning how to listen. My pride has always been the most hideous monster in my soul. I don’t need an ideology that feeds that monster.

          Anyway, regardless of biases, I think that Kathy did herself a disservice by being uncharitable because it made her position more easily dismissible. Because we live in a world of echo chambers, we’ve stopped taking responsibility for trying to make sense to the “other side” when we engage in debate. I’m not sure who Kathy thought she was going to win over by telling Rachel off, which is why it seems like she was gesturing to her amen chorus.

          This line in particular was presumptuous and completely out of bounds: “If you say, ‘Parts of the Bible express love, and other parts express power interests,’ you’ve clearly gotten your standard and definition of love from outside the Bible—specifically, from contemporary sensibilities—and these are your ultimate authority and norm.” What? That’s a huge accusation to make. The only thing I can see there is that she’s recycling a very common fundamentalist dig inappropriately. There’s just not a logical flow to that sentence.

    • Hannah, if you have an example of Evans “taking shots” at her critics, can you provide a link, please? In everything that I’ve read, Evans is nothing but gracious toward her critics. Others of us, myself included, have perhaps been less so, especially as regards Lifeway’s awfulness and hypocrisy. But it seems to me Evans has been a model of “how we engage those we disagree with.”

      Morgan, I very much appreciate your further review here. One concern though: as I understand it, Evans is in the vicinity of 30 years old. Could we please not infantilize her by calling her ‘girl’? (Unless, I suppose, she refers to herself that way. Unfortunately I have yet to crack open my copy of the book.)

      • See my reply above.

        Additionally I found “vagina-gate” and her frustration with Christian publishing to be unprofessional. This was not something to blog about particularly if this is the very market that you have chosen to write for. Handle it, deal with it, engage the parties involved, but don’t draw in your blog readers. A book is not simply the product of the author–it is a collaborative effort between writer, editors, publishers, and distributors. Of course, the industry is highly sanitized, but who didn’t know that? If you need more freedom, write for a secular market.

        But… I do agree with you about calling Evans a “girl.” I’ve also seen the tendency online to refer to women by their first names while men are referred to by their last….

    • Hannah, just a quick note, as I noticed it myself while reading her book. She did this project the year of 2010-11, not 2011-12, so she became more pro-egal after she wrote her book. I think that is significant, because her study and prayer (and blogging community) have allowed her to grow. She didn’t have the strong egalitarian/mutuality posts around before late 2011- 2012. I too have been following her blog for about 3 years – back when she still had blog rolls on the side-bar.

      She had issues with mega-pastors, especially Driscoll’s, comments on women from before, and that comes out in her chapter on Beauty, but the starkly egalitarian/mutuality posts show up after she completes her year.

      It would be helpful to read the book, as I have seen her maturing and becoming a stronger voice with more determination over the course of her reading/research.

      I too, would have classified myself as a soft-comp in the past, but now, married, with kids, in suburbia has shown me how far we are from understanding God in middle-class churchianity. Family (and by this they mean the middle class suburban ideal) is an idol so large, no one can see it. All outreach is done via family events, women are supposed to serve and provide so the church can grow in numbers. No one is to question anything, rock the boat or speak out against the leadership. When they do (even nicely), it is all concern, worry and slowly squeezing one out of any positions that look important. Long story, but how tied churches are to the 1950s middle-class Christian sub-culture is beyond belief. Out here, all churches, no matter their denomination, look the same for a family. If they have a good family program, there is no opportunity to grow, Bible studies are about fluff – usually about marriage or feel-good inspirational stories. Young men may get the “good” Gospel Coalition stuff (ha!), but women get seeker-sensitive outreach stuff. Because our faith, knowledge and brains are superfluous in this Pleasantville-like world. Hard questions crush baby-chrisitans, men, on the other hand, could talk about that with baby-chrisitans, but women can’t we are just too delicate.

      • I’ll definitely take a closer look at the timeline. I’m sure if her life is anything like mine, there is a lot of overlap between personal experience, the evolution of an idea, and the eventual publication of that idea. It’s really hard to point to an exact moment in time when a view crystallizes–but I did assume that she already had a disposition against comp views or she would never have thought of the book concept in the first place. I think one thing that would have made me less defensive is if she had been as generous and willing to engage a comp woman as she has been in her “Ask A…” Series. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember her ever entering honest public dialogue with a comp either through that series or through YBW. (No doubt she’s had plenty of private conversations but her readers aren’t privy to those.) It would have been helpful.

        And I agree with you about the middle class suburban expression of womanhood; but to me, the problem isn’t in a complementarian interpretation of difficult texts, the problem is a case of historical and socio-economic myopia. I’ve tried to tackle that in my own blogging–I’m still holding out for a third way forward. A way in which we can embrace all that it means to be human and all that it means to be women. I guess I just don’t see this as a step in that direction–definitely a step in highlighting a problem but not necessarily in propelling the discussion forward.

  26. Morgan, I don’t own Evans’ book, although I intend to buy it for my daughter and may read it when she is done. But I did go read Keller’s review that you linked to. I’m confused by some of your reading of her review. She states right up front that her response to Evans’ book is shaped by the promotional materials that came with the book. Keller’s primary interest is not in the laughs, but in the conversation about biblical interpretation. Her thesis in her review is that Evans becomes the very thing she criticizes.

    You seem to fault her for not appreciating the laughs part enough, but if Keller quotes the promotional materials accurately, then Evans acknowledges that the book is a self-conscious reaction to and exploration of biblical interpretation. It certainly seems in bounds, given Evans’ intentions, to critique the biblical interpretations explicitly or implicitly embedded in the stories of the book. To my eyes, the majority of the review is doing just that.

    It certainly does not read to me as if Keller is engaging in some sort of defensive and reflexive attack on Evans based on a predetermined conviction that she would interpret everything in the book as an attack on her beliefs.

  27. I’m too poor to buy books and not nearly cool enough to have them sent to me, so I haven’t read Rachel’s book myself. But what I have been struck by is the shrill, uncharitable and petty criticisms being leveled against it from the complimentarian side. More than one person has stooped to name calling, including at least one man who referred to her as a “c-nt”. That, more than anything said in the book discredits that side of the argument, imo. By their fruits you will know them.

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