Is the Bible Good for Women? (Book Review)
Can women in the twenty-first century benefit from the instructions of a Bible, written in ancient times and often credited with prejudice and humiliation toward women? Wendy Alsup gives her answers in Is the Bible Good for Women?
In the style of a good systematic theologian, she leads up to her conclusion with prerequisite topics including:
- What Was Good in the Beginning?
- How Did It All Go Wrong?
- Is the Law Good for Women?
- Are Paul's and Peter's Instructions Good for Women?
- Is God Good for Women? titles her final chapter.
The paperback of 224 pages (5X8) is scheduled for publication by Multnomah in March 2017, in the genre of Christian Living/Women's Interest.
Because Alsup's presentation is not a straightforward answer to the question, although the adjacent issues contribute to the final outcome, it helps to summarize each of the ten chapters. Two threads run consistently throughout: (i) her approach is a Jesus-centered understanding of Scripture and (ii) she believes that the Bible is its own best commentary.
Summary of Content
- She discusses whether the Bible is good in general. She teaches how references to Jesus in the Old Testament connects with the gospel in the New. This helps readers understand God's response to issues like the stoning of the woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night (Deuteronomy 22: 28-29).
- She presents what was good for women in the beginning: her equal role with man assigned at creation, and again after the resurrection.
- She compares the "helper" role assigned to the woman at creation with the "helper" role God assigns for Himself in the 16 out of 21 times when the same term is used. She gives examples of dignified, purposeful women helpers (not always in a husband-wife relationship).
- After the Fall, man becomes frustrated with his work assignment, and woman becomes frustrated in her efforts to be his helper. Alsup explains how the woman's "desires" pronounced after the curse (Genesis 3:16) are satisfied.
- "Good" as in her book title is not only an earthly view of good, but also good with an eternal future. She gives examples of Bible women whose good in their lives transcends their lifetime.
- Given the culture of the times in which the laws of Deuteronomy were given, and the lack of health and sanitation essentials, laws concerning menstruation and childbirth become acceptable when viewed as protective laws like contemporary laws of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
- Alsup explains prescriptive texts which give instructions to be followed now, as opposed to descriptive texts which reported what happened: the virgin raped, the concubine killed, the daughter sacrificed. The descriptive texts show depravity of mankind, no approval from God, nor advice to follow suit.
- Alsup selects from the New Testament six passages dealing with difficult topics like submissive wives and limited female authority in church leadership. She shows how these laws in the context of slavery protected the women from other men. The reader may judge which, if any, are relevant today.
- She addresses God's instruction to men about women and how some men have abused them in an ungodly manner. She presents Peter as a model of Biblical manhood.
- The conclusion is neatly tied together, and Alsup gives her answer. Readers have the facts which they can use to decide for themselves whether God and the Bible are good for women--and men.
Alsup cites Scripture references which encourages the reader to study and see for themselves that the women in the Old Testament stories were not forgotten by God; and how the Bile addresses the issues later.
In addition, at the back of the book she includes discussion questions for use after each chapter. The questions encourage personal reflection and application as evidenced by these two based on Chapters 1 and 10 respectively:
- Have you personally experienced gender-based oppression? If so, did biblical instructions seem to make it worse or help?
- How do you envision living out God's image in your community, particularly as a woman?
Do you think that Bible instructions are still relevant?
Alsup's presupposition that Scripture is inspired by God may dissuade non-believers from reading the book. However, if despite their disagreement they become curious to follow her presentation, they may gain new perspectives on some of the passages they consider threatening to women. There are some logical findings in the process of having the Bible explain itself.
Alsup's discussion on whether the Bible is good for women is convincing that God loves women, that Jesus treated them with respect, and that only the abusers of women--not God and not the Bible--are to blame for the heinous acts they commit in the name of religion or culture. Unresolved is the reason that Paul places limits on women leaders in the church, but Alsup presents an appeasing perspective.
About the Author
Wendy Alsup is the author of Practical Theology for Women and The Gospel-Centered Woman.
Previously, she ministered in a Seattle congregation as a Deacon in Charge of Women's Theology and Training, but since moving to a family farm in South Carolina, she teaches at a community college.
I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books (www.bloggingforbooks.com). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
© 2017 Dora Isaac Weithers