Rachel Held Evans describes herself as a “writer, skeptic, and person of faith.” She’s a “thoroughly liberated beneficiary of the feminist movement, complete with a blossoming career, an egalitarian marriage, and a messy house.”
Rachel’s an up-and-coming figure in the emergent church world and has already published a book, “Evolving in Monkey Town,” about her spiritual journey of questions and an article in The Washington Post entitled “When Atheists and Baptists Agree” promoting the evolution theory, which caught the attention of Al Mohler. Now she’s dedicated to living out “biblical womanhood” over the next year.
“In addition to sharing my own experiences, I’ll be interviewing modern-day women incorporating ancient practices into their own lives—a polygamist, a conservative Mennonite, an Orthodox Jew, a Quiverfull mom, a “stay-at-home daughter,” and more.”
This unique project began because Rachel wanted to have “better, more constructive, more authentic and creative conversations about the Bible.” I applaud her for coming up with something so creative, out of her comfort zone, and definitely out of her personal belief zone, but as I’ve read her blog and listened to her speak at Baylor’s Truett Seminary, there are some things that raise concern.
View of Scripture
During her lecture at Truett, Rachel said, “I can kinda see the appeal” in thinking that the Bible is a blueprint for how women are to live their lives. It would do away with tension and controversy but “we would all look the same.” She has “not found in the Bible a blueprint for how to be woman, how to be a wife, or how to be a person of faith.”
A blueprint shows what a building’s structure should look like but it doesn’t always give the details of things like interior design or landscaping. There are some things all Christians should do like, love one another, not lie or cheat, love the Lord and obey him,etc. But things like career choice, music preference, favorite hobby, and sense of humor are different for each person. God’s made us all unique and special, but our structure should be the same and it should come from God’s Word alone. It doesn’t come from man’s questions or experiences. It comes from God’s perfect words to us in Scripture. Rachel sees it a little differently. She says,
“The Bible always has to be interpreted, and my interpretation is only as inerrant as I am.”
“If the Bible was a list of do’s and don’ts then there would be no reason for us to communicate with the architect (God) or communicate with each other.”
“God wants us to struggle with the Bible because He wants us to be drawn in to community with one another and with Him. Faith isn’t about being right; it’s about being a part of a community.”
We must be careful to examine these statements in accordance with the Word (1 Jn. 4:1; 1 Tim. 6:3-5). What does the Bible say about faith? Faith is shown as: Us believing in Christ, the Word, and obeying His commands even we don’t understand them fully (1Cor.2:4-6; 15:1-4;1 Tim.6:20-21).
If the Bible doesn’t show us how we’re to live our lives, if it isn’t God’s way of talking with us, teaching us, training us in righteousness (2 Tim.3:16-17), then what is it for? If we’re only going to interpret it incorrectly because we’re flawed humans, then why love it or follow it? Thankfully, the Lord knew we were errant when He inspired the Scriptures that’s why He gave Christians the Holy Spirit, who is able to help us tackle the tough issues and give us discernment (Jn. 14:26, 16:13; Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 2:12-14).
There’s times of doubt and dislike, but if we truly believe in God, if we’re truly followers of Christ, we need to be careful of our attitude towards God’s Holy Words. He will reveal His truths to us through His Word (Ps. 25:14). It will never help us to trivialize or make a joke of Scripture, to try and prove it doesn’t work, or show that we’ve evolved past its old-fashioned practices. We must instead approach it with the utmost humility. When struggles arise with the Bible, go to God first. He’s got all the answers (2 Sam. 22:31, Ps. 18:30) and He’s there to help you through the problems (Ps. 19).
The Biblical Womahood Project
My other concern is the project for “biblical womanhood.” Some of her endeavors include calling her husband Master for a week because “there’s a passage in 1 Peter that says she called him Master.” 1 Peter 3:5, which is referring to Sarah’s submissive heart and her model as a holy woman to all Christian women. It does NOT say we should call our husbands lord or master. We’re to be submissive but not subordinate to our husbands.
To display “biblical modesty,” Rachel will dress in long skirts, grow her hair out, and wear no makeup or jewelry for what she calls “frump month.” This, however, is not biblical womanhood. We shouldn’t dress in a way that might encourage a guy’s eye to check us out (Matt. 5:28) but God doesn’t say we have to be covered from head to toe, wear no makeup, and be “frumpy.” He does say that we shouldn’t make our main adornment to be things of material worth but of a gentle, quiet spirit and a submissive heart to the Lord (1 Pet. 3).
She took an interesting viewpoint on Prov. 21:9 and 25:24, which says what it’s like for a man to live with a quarrelsome wife. Rachel decided to act this out for a month by having a “jar of contention.” Every snarky comment meant time spent on her roof in penance. However, the verse says nothing about the wife having to pay for her quarrelsome attitude by sitting on the roof, nor does God want Christians to pay penance for their sins. We can repent of our sins but we’ll never be able to pay for them. Our works are as filthy rags which is why Christ had to pay for our sins by dying on the Cross (Isa. 64:6)!
There’s also a to-do list for Rachel’s Proverbs 31 month. While I appreciate the cleverness, the interpretations completely miss the metaphors and can sometimes come off as mocking. Proverbs 31 isn’t meant to be a to-do list. It’s meant to show the heart and righteous attitude of a woman who’s seeking God’s glory and the good of those around her. It’s part of God’s desire for women’s lives. It’s God showing how much women are capable of when He’s at the forefront of our lives.
When we continually question the validity of His Word, we’ll continually doubt His plan for us. God cares for and values women. He’s even talked to women specifically through verses and passages about how to glorify Him. When we see God’s Word as His best for us, then we’ll see that biblical womanhood isn’t stifling, exhausting, or keeps us in bondage to men. True biblical womanhood, which follows all of God’s mandates, is freeing, beautiful, makes us stronger, and helps us become closer in communion with the Lord!
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Prov. 16:25
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Ps. 19:7