Saturday, March 30, 2013

God's Good Design: A Book Review

The subtitle summarizes the book: What the Bible Really Says about Men and Women. The author, Claire Smith, has a Ph.D. in New Testament. Her goal in this book is to examine the key passages, primarily in the New Testament, that deal with the role relationships between men and women. The preface summarizes the effect that feminism has had on the church, particularly in the West. That effect has been primarily to erase the differences between men and women, particularly in the home and in the church. Hence, her question for the reader is, "Are your views on these things determined by the Bible, or by the current cultural consensus?"

The first part of the book is devoted to issues within the church. She spends a chapter each on 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and 1 Corinthians 14. This book is not written for the New Testament specialist, but for the general reader. Thus, whenever "what the Greek says" comes up, she is very careful to clarify the definitions and the issues. She deals carefully with all problems in the passages, and when there are divergent views, she presents them fairly. In brief, she demonstrates that the meaning of each passage is sufficiently clear in itself. The real problems are introduced by our cultural views. So the question comes down to which guides our practice: the clear teaching of the Bible, or the current cultural consensus?

The second part of the book deals with issues in the home. Here, she deals with Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, Genesis 1-3, and Proverbs 31. She carefully unpacks the meaning of each passage, again fairly presenting differing views. All of the discussion is quite valuable, but two sections in particular stuck out to me. First, her discussion of "mutual submission" (pp 124-27). Second, the separate chapter on abuse. Both are sensitive and careful treatments of sensitive, sometimes painful, subjects.

This is a book I highly recommend. It demonstrates first of all that many of our current "gender-role" issues in the church are a result of our attempting to subjugate the biblical teaching to current cultural norms. Second, it provides excellent examples of close, careful interpretation of biblical passages. Third, it presents this all in clear, concise prose that is easily accessible to the attentive reader. I will say that I am not convinced of her view on New Testament prophesying, but that is a small quibble in a book that many should read.

1 comment:

Shaun Tabatt said...


Thanks for contributing to the blog tour.

Shaun Tabatt
Cross Focused Reviews