Q and A / Giveaway: “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”

October 24, 2012

I do not have ovaries of my own.

Despite that, I love several people who do.

downloadI’ve been blog friends with Rachel Held Evans for several years.  I often agree with her and sometimes I don’t.  But when I got my advanced copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I read it…in one weekend.

You should read it too.  In fact, I’ll give you a chance to at the end of this post.

I had my doubts.  I wondered if Rachel’s grand experiment to take the Bible “literally” for a year was just a gimmick.

On the one hand, Rachel’s year (which rather heavily involved her husband, ironically) provides a very amusing story.  I LOLed quite a bit.  The story is definitely an entertaining experiment (in the way that “Super Size Me” was an entertaining experiment, even if it wasn’t very scientific.)

But what set the book apart and surprised me was how Rachel did mix her attempt at genuine biblical application throughout her story.  The story acts as a vehicle for a commentary on what the Bible really has to say about women.  The story also provides a unique twist at the end that is very impacting and teachable.  I got the sense that Rachel had done her homework.  Her year was not just spent trying to bake and sew, but in doing a lot of heavy research.

You are likely to read a lot of reviews, many positive, some negative.  Rachel’s Bible interpretations are not always perfect, because no one’s are. But many scathing reviews, such as Trillia Newbell’s at Desiring God come off as frustrated and impotent, and are useful only to illustrate the increasingly insufficient evangelical response to a perspective like Rachel’s.

Read the book like you should any other: with a grain of salt.  Test it.  Enjoy it.  Discuss it with friends or your spouse.

I got the chance to ask Rachel a few questions.  Read what she had to say, and then win your own copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

Rachel-held-evansRachel, I read your book in a single weekend. I never do that! I almost never finish a book, much less plow through it that quickly. Well done.

Thank you! You said something kind about it on twitter the other and I totally retweeted it like a big doofus because I want guys to know that they can read and enjoy this book too. Yes, it has “womanhood” in the title, but it’s not just for women; it’s for anyone who is interested in biblical interpretation and application.  

Your year began with ten commandments and ended with ten resolutions. But your Year of Biblical Womanhood ended a year ago. How have things gone in the year since your year of Biblical Womanhood? Have your resolutions been as lasting as you hoped? Are you planning to have a baby yet?

Yep. I finished last September, the week of Rosh Hashanah. I’ve kept most of my resolutions…though, as resolutions go, not as well as I’d like. I’ve done pretty well at improving my cooking skills, practicing contemplative prayer, buying fair trade, and using my platform to encourage women in church leadership. I’d like to do more to improve my habits as a consumer so that what I buy and what I get rid of is better for the planet and the people who live in it. No babies yet! Still warming up to that idea…probably on account of Chip, the computer baby.

Your conclusion is that there is much less a formula for biblical womanhood (or manhood) than we assume. What do you think about the people who do live under the constraints of dozens of rules for living?  Are they “biblical” women, though their formula is not really as biblical as they believe?

When Jesus the most important law was “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” All the rest of Scripture, he said, hangs on those two commands. I believe that, as a woman, my highest calling is to follow Christ and to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. That is the closest description we have to “biblical womanhood”…or, more accurately, “biblical personhood.”

So any woman who responds to this call can be said to be living biblically. We can add a bunch of rules and regulations but without love, they mean nothing. And we have to remember that any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle, be it “biblical manhood,” “biblical womanhood,” “biblical marriage,” or “biblical families,” is inherently selective. (After all, technically speaking, it is “biblical” for a woman to be sold by her father to pay of debt, “biblical for her to be one of many wives.) So those who claim that their long lists of rules and acceptable roles constitute “biblical womanhood” are treating both womanhood and Scripture like a list of bullet points or a blueprint.

But the Bible doesn’t give us bullet points and blueprints. It gives us stories. And I think that’s because loving God and loving your neighbor looks different depending on the culture and context in which you find yourself, as well as the unique callings God has placed on your life.

What do you think Christian men can do to help their wives be the women they were created to be?

Um, best question ever! My husband, Dan, is really good at this,so I asked him.

He said: “First, do no harm. Know when to get out of the way and let her do her thing.  Second, help her find her gifts. Encourage her especially in the areas where she might have skills you don’t have. You can’t be intimidated by that; different gifts make you a better team.”

I concur. Same goes for wives who want to encourage their husbands.

All you have to do to win a free copy of Rachel’s book is comment or tweet this post!  I’ll be picking several winners throughout the next couple of days.

42 responses to Q and A / Giveaway: “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”

  1. I wondered if the same experiment would be feasible with Biblical Manhood, but that would probably land a guy in jail.

    Books like this are important, for the very reason I’m reluctant to look at the review you linked to. I wish the Biblical Manhood/Womanhood/childhood/Pethood etc. types would realize the damage their well-intention ed efforts (as I’m sure they are) are doing. RHE said it best in her interview: I love the Bible, but I hate when people use it as an adjective.

  2. Looking forward to reading this

  3. I’m always curious about books like this, which I suppose means that someone, somewhere has done his or her job. :)

  4. Really interesting – I also really hate seeing the Bible reduced down to a bunch of rules about how to live when it’s really more about how to be in relationship with God, why we can, and stories about how people have experienced relationship with God in their own lives.

  5. The Bible gives us stories… and it points us to Jesus. God doesn’t give us a road map to follow, because He gives us a guide to lead us. I can’t wait to read this book!

  6. I read “The Year of Living Biblically” (which was written by a male, atheistic, cultural Jew….who ended up as an agnostic cultural Jew….still male though) and it was intriguing. I’d be interested to see a similar experiment from a Christian’s perspective, and also from a female’s perspective…..even though from what I know of RHE, we disagree in interpretation a lot.

  7. “When Jesus the most important law was “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” All the rest of Scripture, he said, hangs on those two commands. I believe that, as a woman, my highest calling is to follow Christ and to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. That is the closest description we have to “biblical womanhood”…or, more accurately, “biblical personhood.”

    So any woman who responds to this call can be said to be living biblically.”

    Amen to that! It’s too bad the guys from the church where Monday’s poster was working didn’t have this figured out.

  8. Am tired of feminists being viewed as being anti-men and anti-Bible. We are pro-justice, pro-mercy, pro-humility before God, but also pro-equality among men and women. Men and Women are brothers and sisters in God’s eyes and we need to work together, side by side.

  9. Excited to read this book!

  10. I’ve been looking forward to reading Rachel’s book ever since I first heard about it. I knew she’d be opening herself up to a fair if not great amount of controversy at the least. Took courage to live the experiment and write the book as well as to face the inevitable discussion afterwards. At least she has a great support system in Dan Evans. I hope the book produces real thought, real conversation and is not dismissed too much as a “gimmick.” Agree with Matt Miles about being reluctant to read Ms. Newbell’s review – just from what you said, it doesn’t sound like it was too productive. Thoughtful, reasoned comment I’ll listen to….

  11. Oh, excellent. I really want a copy of this book but I don’t have two nickels to rub together right now! Thanks for the Q&A.

  12. Sounds like an interesting read. Year of Living Biblically was done by a male if anyone is interested in the male version of this.

  13. Looking forward to this book! Been following her blog for over a year & have found it to be in my top blogs to read.

  14. Fun interview! I’m so ready for this book to be out (*psst * and would love to win one! hehe) 😉

    I know she’s come up against so much criticism, but man, if people started here with who she is and what her message is, instead of with the “camps” and labels, I think we would all be happier and healthier:

    “I believe that, as a woman, my highest calling is to follow Christ and to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. ”

    That application of Jesus’ words in this context (when many would say a woman’s highest calling is to motherhood, marriage, etc.) nails it to me. If we just approached life and “biblical” and identity from this perspective, everything else falls into place.

  15. Matt…just because someone sees through what Rachel is really trying to do like the folks at Desiring God doesn’t mean their reviews/comments are “increasingly insufficient evangelical response to a perspective like Rachel’s.” Rachel has been trying to undermine Scripture for a long time if you’ve read her blog and it’s not insufficient to point out her disdain for the truth of the Bible.

    I read the review of the book that you referenced and it seems the writer sums up Rachel quite well based on the things I’ve read on Rachel’s website. Rachel has a real issue with the Bible, doesn’t want to follow parts of it that she doesn’t like and does all she can to try and justify her behavior. She’s quite talented at writing but high writing ability doesn’t mean her work has any real credibility or validity.

    • Jason, anyone is within their rights to claim the traditional point of view. What I wish would happen is those advocates would approach the subject with some fresher dialogue. It is the *response* that is lacking in my mind. When I read a fresh approach like Rachel’s, with scrutiny and a grain of salt, going back to the traditional evangelical response seems tired in comparison.

  16. Hey! I haven’t read this yet, but I heard RHE speak at Lipscomb University last spring and she was excellent! I’m really looking forward to reading this (as a dude) and the implications for me to empower the girls (and boys) in my YG (@thecwso) to live as people of God!

  17. I’ve struggled with what it means to be a Christian woman and wife for years now… and I think any woman who says they have it down pat is lying to themselves. I truly don’t think any of us will ever know perfectly what it is to be a Christian woman as we continue to learn and develop our entire lives. This being said, I find it troubling that so many women are backing Rachel’s book 100% or refuting it 100%. There are valid points on all sides, and each woman should pray about her own relationship with God and how He wants her to live as a Christian, regardless of the decisions others make (unless, of course, they are strictly out of line with Scripture, like cheating on your husband!).

  18. I tweeted this post. I’d love to win a copy. I’ll still buy one to put in our church library too.

  19. Interested to read the book. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  20. I was not really all that interested in the book before, even though I follow Rachel’s blog. But after seeing some of the harsh reviews and your more approving remarks on the book, I would love to win a copy.

  21. I was a little hesitant about reading this book, but after reading your post, I’m definitely looking forward to getting a copy and digging in. :)

  22. Can’t wait to read this book one way or another!

  23. Good interview! I really appreciate Rachel’s comment about love and “biblical personhood.” Looking forward to reading the book.

  24. I’m really looking forward to reading this book. I think Rachel Held Evans is pretty rad.

  25. I would love to read this book – maybe even in one weekend. As someone with ovaries who desires to become more Christ-like, I’m always looking to investigate what that means and how it plays out in real life.

  26. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book. It captivated me when I followed various discussions on Twitter and then checked it out on Amazon. Needless to say, I have added it to my ‘Wish List’. I admire the concept and its execution. Rachel is a pioneer in researching this topic afresh and being willing to live it out. You have to give her credit for that alone.
    Her description here of what ‘living biblically’ looks like is spot on. Our relationship with God and His word are the motivating factors in growing into living examples of Jesus as we learn to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.

  27. I’d love a copy of the book. We teach in a Bible School and many training programs and could use the info to encourage our students!

  28. It’s pretty gutsy of Rachel to challenge canonical notions of scripture, and even scripture itself. I haven’t read any of her writing, but its about time someone takes on the political correctness of churchianity, Reading responses to her other writing only intrigues me, as Ive been wary of the Borg like monoculture that defines most of the church in the west. Ive never been able to bring myself to church since the Lord apprehended me, and I may be unbalanced in some doctrine, but the Lord and I have an open heaven between us. Im working on the assumption each person reading this and commenting also does, including Rachel.
    Seems to me she’s doing nothing more than following the example set by Jesus when he took on the establishment of his day.
    I don’t know what conclusion I will eventually come to if I ever read her book, but one thing I wont do is judge her standing with God based on her words alone.
    Humans are allowed by God to be wrong about our understanding of Him and all sorts of things, but if we are obedient to Him in truth and love where we know His will, that is acceptable to Him, and should be to us.
    Jesus, in spite of his actions of sinless-ness and earth shattering good works, was judged, tried and falsely convicted/punished on the basis of his words alone, and that by God’s people who KNEW scripture!
    We must assume Rachel walks with integrity and truth before God, until her actions, including her words demonstrate otherwise. If anyone can cast a stone of genuine accusation of known sin against her and any one else then pleases have the guts to do so publicly. This sniveling way of picking apart a christians character is devilish.
    We are all the same, and would crucify Jesus if he showed up in our generation, and the evidence is that we crucify one another, in words, and if the law allowed it, we would probably do it literally.
    Jesus said what we do to one another, we do to Him.
    The more I write this, the more I convince myself to read the book someday, just to reinforce my resolve to never be assimilated by the industrial church complex.
    Greg

  29. I have been reading Rachel’s blog for some time and am looking forward to reading her book! I don’t think I’m her primary audience — i.e., I already agree with her — but as with many of her posts, I think the book will give me some language for explaining my beliefs.

  30. i can’t wait to read this! i am really big on women’s roles. so important!!

  31. I don’t know a lot about Rachel, so I’d be curious of her explanation of this phrase “After all, technically speaking, it is “biblical” for a woman to be sold by her father to pay of debt, “biblical for her to be one of many wives.”

    It seems she’s making the mistake of saying that “biblical” means “if it’s found in the Bible it must be good.” I’ve been part of that “traditional church” for a long time and was never taught that the so-called “Complimentarian view” meant that women were inferior, or subservient. In fact, I was taught as a kid and subsequently confirmed as an adult that many, if not most, of the events in the Bible are examples of what not to do.

    So, when I read her words about the traditional church they ring hollow. They sound like someone who experienced a particular problem at a particular church and she then applies that problem to all churches and then claims that she is the one who finally figured it out.

    As a theologian, a new media journalist, and someone who wants to see the Gospel spread, I simply wish she would be more clear with her words rather than labeling an entire segment of the Christian population.

    What does it mean to be Biblical? http://cliffymania.com/blog/2012/08/what-does-it-mean-to-be-biblical/