Is the Bible Good for Women? A Review

Photo: Amazon.com

The title of Wendy Alsup’s book is all revealing – Is the Bible Good for Women? Seeking Clarity and Confidence Through a Jesus-Centered Understanding of Scripture. In the 199 pages that follow, Alsup identifies the questions many women have been asking about what God expects from them, and then she answers them by allowing the “Bible to be its own best commentary” – in other words, using the Bible to understand the Bible.

What does the author mean by the question, “Is the Bible good for women?” Aslup explains that many people consider some of the passages in the Bible directed at women – such as 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 – to be restrictive of what the author calls “the inherent dignity of women.” How can a Bible that calls for submission and identifies women as “helpers” to men be good for the female sex?

What follows is a masterful exploration of Scripture that clarifies so many misconceptions we as Christian women may have held about how God values us and what He expects of us.

Each chapter focuses on answering a single question. The answering of each of these question prepares the reader for the following chapter’s question, so this book builds upon itself. In the first chapter, Alsup establishes what she calls a “Jesus-Centered Approach” to Scripture – that is, seeing the Bible as a whole document that testifies to the need, appearance, crucifixion, resurrection, and anticipation of the return of Christ. Then, she delves into Genesis 1-3 in Chapters 2, 3, and 4. Here, she unpacks God’s purpose for the female sex (spoiler alert: This totally changed my outlook on womankind being “simply” a “helper”), the Fall of man and how that marred the fulfillment of that purpose, and finally, the need for a Redeemer, the coming of Christ, and the restoration he provides towards fulfilling God’s original purpose for womankind.

After establishing this key understanding of Scripture, Alsup then moves on to address the main question of the book – “Are women blessed or harmed by reading, understanding, and obeying Scripture as it has been handed down for generations?” (76). In Chapter 5, Alsup points out the need for defining “good,” explaining the world defines the word based on a temporal perspective, but God defines it based on eternity.

In Chapters 6-10, Alsup begins to explore specific passages of Scripture that spark controversy about the rights of women in the Bible. These passages include sexual ethics in Deuteronomy 22, the rape of Dinah, commandments for women to be silent in church, and the command for women to wear head-coverings in church. Alsup explains these passages to her readers in a way I really admired. I have noticed, often times, these passages are explained based on the culture of the day. While there is nothing wrong with this, I’ve often wondered if that’s really how the authors intended for them to be understood. If it was, why didn’t they offer a further explanation when they were writing the Scripture? Alsup approaches these “problem passages” differently. Instead of citing secular source documents or historical data on the culture of the Bible, she pulls passages straight from the Bible to contextualize Scripture. The connections she draws among passages, I feel, is theologically sound. No passages appear to be taken out of context or manipulated to woman’s advantage. What results is a clear, Jesus-centered, Biblical understanding of women’s God-given, “inherent dignity” and a deeper revelation of how much God loves us and seeks to protect us.

Pros of the Book:

  1. Each chapter is set up to answer a key question. This question-posing format makes for easy comprehension of a topic that has been muddled over the years.
  2. Alsup’s entire approach on her key question is strictly – and I mean strictly – Jesus-based. Although the law is referenced, it is viewed in light of the fact that Jesus has fulfilled it. This is fleshed out at the beginning of the book (Chapters 1-4) to allow the reader to approach the “harder” passages with a clear and Biblical understanding of truth.
  3. The beginning of each chapter features a summary of the previous chapter. This allows for more thorough comprehension and absorption of the material. It also makes it easier to set the book down and come back to it. This isn’t a book you have to read through all at once in order to really “get it.”
  4. The end of the book features a series of discussion questions to accompany each chapter. This makes this book an ideal resource for a women’s Bible study group or book club!

Cons of the Book:

  1. Some of the sentences are syntactically confusing due to long strings of prepositional phrases. Several times, I had to back-up and re-read a sentence or just slow down and mentally “sound it out” to make sense. However, this didn’t distract me very much from comprehending the argument.

Is the Bible Good for Women? is set to come out on March 21st, 2017 in both print and e-book editions. For more information on the author, you can visit her blogs – theologyforwomen.org and gospelcenteredwoman.com.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book as a review copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion, as represented in this review.

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