Baylor Professor Argues 'Biblical Womanhood' More Cultural Than Biblical

Historians in the News
tags: gender, Christianity, religious history, womens history, evangelicals

It is time to speak out against a Christian doctrine holding that God intends women to support men but never lead them, Baylor historian Beth Allison Barr said.

Centuries of Christian history have something else to say about women, and Barr has marshalled examples of female saints, preachers and leaders from New Testament times on in her upcoming book “The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth.”

Her book, published by Brazos Press with an April 20 release date, also addresses how interpretations of biblical passages used to justify what is called complementarianism, are often shaped more by culture and translation than by the passages’ historical and social contexts.

Complementarianism, drawn largely from passages in the biblical book of Genesis and the Apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament, holds that God created men and women equally, but with different roles and responsibilities, including leadership and authority for men, children and spousal nurturing for women.

Barr argues, however, that complementarianism, or patriarchy, is a cultural construct that runs through human history rather than a theological truth.

“Christians have been duped into believing this is Gospel truth,” she said. “This is about power. Oppression is always about power. We dress it up and make it pretty, but it’s about power.”

“The Making of Biblical Womanhood” arrives as reverberations of evangelical writer and speaker Beth Moore’s public repudiation of complementarianism as an essential Christian doctrine in recent weeks is still ringing in evangelical circles. For years, the conservative Baptist built a national following through her Bible studies, devotionals and books. She began to split from male evangelical leaders in 2016, primarily on issues of women in the church, triggering attacks on her beliefs and theology.

Others have been outspoken in their criticism of male dominance in American evangelical circles. Calvin University scholar Kristin Kobes Du Mez traces the rise of what she considers toxic masculinity in evangelicalism over the last four decades, resulting in white evangelical support of Donald Trump, in her book “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.”

The wave of women sharing their stories of sexual misconduct, silencing and sexual discrimination in the #MeToo social movement of recent years has led to a corresponding #ChurchToo movement with women recounting similar stories with male church leaders, preachers and church administration.

“The #ChurchToo movement has cracked open the problems inherent in the system,” Barr said. “It’s time for Christian patriarchy to end, and we’re at a moment when it could happen.”

Read entire article at Waco Tribune

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