Category: Church History

The Shack and the Gender of God

(Part 1 of 4)

I never read the entirety of The Shack, the popular 2007 Christian novel about a man who converses with God about the murder of his beloved youngest daughter. My reasons were not theological. I had a childhood friend who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered when I was 9 and she was 11, so the subject of the novel was a little too close to home for me.

I did read enough of the novel to know that two members of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, manifested themselves as women (a black woman and an Asian woman, respectively), and this became one of the many theological “problems” that was protested in the novel. For example, Mark Driscoll, then at the zenith of his megachurch pastor career, decried this as “goddess worship.” Mary Kassian, writing for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, lamented that evangelical fans of The Shack were “succumbing to the feminist pressure to image God in feminine ways.” In quite recent history, complementarians and other male headship advocates [1] got it into their heads that all three members of the Trinity are quintessentially masculine and/or male, and as such, God could not have incarnated as a woman nor could he ever manifest as one, even if he wanted to.

 

Pictured: Human beings made in the image of God who can’t image God. Makes perfect sense.

The Shack has now been made into a major motion picture starring Sam Worthington. It was released today. Its reviews have sadly gone the way of most Christian films (15% on RottenTomatoes as I write this), but in light of the film, I thought it might be worth it to revisit what the Bible says about whether God has a gender, along with some extrabiblical details and philosophical considerations.

I am of the opinion that gender is created and God does not possess one as part of any eternal nature, so God could theoretically incarnate and/or manifest himself as a woman as well as a man should it please him to do so. And I want to point out that viewing God as genderless is not some novel feminist incursion on traditional Christian theology. It is historic and quite mainstream. (more…)

Did Luther really say women shouldn’t be wise?

Luther_Found_GodIn searching for the Martin Luther quote that had troubled me in my youth, I came across a quote on a number of sites critical of Christianity, usually on “look at these misogynist things famous Christians said!” shock lists.

“No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.”

The problem: it isn’t clear that Martin Luther ever said this.

I’m no expert on Luther–the focus of my MA was American church history, not Reformation history–but I did do a class on Luther and the Reformation, and this quote seemed “off” to me. Luther was certainly against the ordination of women (and you know what I think about that) but beyond that, most of his problematic statements on women were rooted in his attempts to valorize marriage and childbirth as part of his polemics against Roman Catholic celibacy, and there is a sort of logic to them. That doesn’t make him any less wrong, but there was more going on than unbridled contempt for women. I can’t say the same for any number of Christian theologians who came before him, especially amongst the early church fathers.

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Why Egalitarian

A wall painting (c. 5th century) depicting a scene from the "Acts of Paul and Thecla" wherein Paul and Thecla's mother, Theocleia are both exhorting Thecla, their hands raised in a teaching gesture. Theocleia's eyes and hand have been vandalized.
A wall painting (c. 5th century) depicting a scene from the “Acts of Paul and Thecla” wherein Paul and Thecla’s mother, Theocleia, are exhorting Thecla, their hands raised in a teaching gesture. Theocleia’s eyes and hand have been vandalized. [1]
(Part 1 of 4)

I am a Christian egalitarian. I believe that God calls women as pastors, elders and deacons so that we should be ordained as such, and I believe that leadership of a Christian household should be shared between husband and wife with neither having final authority over the other and Christ being regarded as the head of the household. My position stands in contrast to Christian hierarchist [2] positions which restrict women from certain church leadership and teaching roles (usually pastor, elder, and sometimes deacon) and teach that the husband possesses some kind of final authority or leadership role in the home.

I arrived at this position through years of prayer, study, and personal experience. Here are 12 reasons why I am a Christian egalitarian today:

(1) Because the Creation narrative teaches that, before the Fall, men and women were created equal.

In the first Creation narrative in Genesis 1, both the man and the woman were created in the image of God (1:26-27). Both were commanded to have “dominion” over the earth (1:28). There is no trace of hierarchy in the text here. The man and the woman are equals in paradise, and God calls it “very good”  (1:31).

(more…)

Of Courtesans & Christianity

(Part 1 of 2)

Some number of years ago, I viewed a film called Dangerous Beauty (1998), it having been recommended on a list of films every feminist should view. The film was a loose biography of Veronica Franco, a 16th century courtesan from Venice. It presents Franco as an adventurous, wild-hearted young woman faced with the choice of either becoming a courtesan or entering a convent because her family lacks the money to provide her with a decent dowry. She is initially repulsed by the proposal, but later accepts it as a Faustian bargain when she learns that becoming a courtesan would give her access to libraries, education, and study of the Renaissance arts. She comes to embrace and excel at her new profession, becoming both a hero to the people of Italy and the target of envious men, eventually leading to her being called before the Inquisition on charges of witchcraft.

Dangerous_Beauty
The movie left me with a lot of questions about Franco and other courtesans like her whose profession allowed them, as women, access to education and engagement in the public sphere. I decided to do a paper on them for my Renaissance class at Trinity. Yes, that’s right, I thought writing a paper on people who f*** for a living would make for a fine and dandy topic at a conservative Christian school! Though, in retrospect, the subject matter was considerably cleaner than one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons.

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Review: The Mind of the Master Class

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The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese [October 2005; reviewed 11-18-2010]

It’s been a long time since I posted either a book review or anything that I wrote for a class, so I’m posting in PDF form the review I just did of Mind of the Master Class for one of my history classes here at TEDS.

I’m torn between giving this one an A- or an A. In the end I’ve settled on A because, in spite of the flaws I listed, I still think it’s a pretty amazing and well-done book. Quintessential reading if you’re interested in the history of slavery in the United States or the history of the antebellum South.

Review: The Mind of the Master Class by Fox-Genovese and Genovese

Grade: A

(Originally posted at ClobberBlog)

Review: Evangelical Feminism

Evangelical Feminism: A History by Pamela D. H. Cochran [January 2005]

Evangelical Feminism: A History by Pamela D. H. Cochran
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The history this book attempts to cover is a fascinating one in terms of the internal struggle within the Protestant world concerning the equality of women in the church and home. It describes the rise of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus (now the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus), the split within the movement over tolerance of homosexuality, and the formation of the more conservative Christians For Biblical Equality. It focuses in on several key figures within these organizations and explores their personal stories as well as the hermeneutics they utilized to arrive at the conclusion that Christianity and feminism were not antithetical to one another.

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Unhappy Anniversary

kleboldharris

On May 2, 1998, Rachel Joy Scott recorded in her journal:

This will be my last year Lord. I have gotten what I can. Thank you.

On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, twelve students and one teacher were murdered at Columbine High School by fellow students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who later took their own lives. 17-year-old Rachel Joy Scott was among them. Today marks the ten-year anniversary of that tragedy.

I was a junior in high school sitting in the chemistry class which I hated when the news of the shooting was announced over the televisions in the classrooms. I was stunned, and I confess, my initial reaction to it was one of apathy. It just seemed so distant and far away, and I had already been much more personally affected by violent crime, so I had gotten over the fact that “these things” happen.

A few weeks later the “She said YES” sermons began making tracks through evangelical youth groups. We were told all about how Cassie Bernall had been asked by the gunmen whether she believed in God, and they shot her after she replied in the affirmative. Then a similar story evolved around Rachel Joy Scott.

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