Rediscovering Scripture's Vision For Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts by Lucy Peppiatt is a book that, as the title indicates, attempts to look at Scriptures teachings of God's plan for women.
As you may have guessed, these "fresh" perspectives ultimately attempt to lead the reader to think that Christian women do not need to keep silent in the church, can pastor churches, don't need to submit to their husbands…etc. I have read some of it outloud to many of my sisters (I have seven sisters) and they were all joining me in criticizing the claims of this book.
Let me deal with some of her claims. First, her view of 1 Corinthians 11. I find part of her introduction to her interpretation ironic: "My own research has led me to study these verses in detail and to discover that the more obvious meaning of the text causes consternation and embarrassment among many, and even causes others to question Paul's understanding here." So, of course the obvious reading can't be right if people are dismayed and embarrassed about it? Anyway, she says that some believe these verses tell us that males are in the image and glory of God more than women, which she says cannot be true since Genesis tells us that both are said to be in the image of God. This can be answered very simply: One of my sisters pointed out that it only says that woman is the "glory of man" it doesn't say that she is his image and thus does not discount her still being the image of God.
Anyway, After dealing with the problems she has with the "hierchialist view" the author asks, "Is it possible to salvage a better meaning out of these verses?" Her "better meaning" is quite shocking to me. She thinks that chunks of verses are just Paul repeating erroneous beliefs that the Corinthians held about man/woman relationships and that he's correcting those. She doesn't give an exegetical reason, just gives you an edited (with italics and other punctuation) quotation of this section of Paul's letter to demonstrate how, in her view, it should be read. And then she goes on to just assume you accepted that explanation. No exegetical basis other than she thinks that Paul couldn't be saying what these texts, obviously, say. She has a book written on 1 Corinthians 11, so perhaps she gets more detailed in that, but it certainly warrants a fuller explanation in this book.
Another one of her arguments is (as I understood her to be saying) that there is no subordination among the Persons of the Trinity. Since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all of the same 'substance', all one God, then there can't be such a thing as 'authority' or subordination in the Trinity and therefore one shouldn't think that Christ set an example of submission that could be followed by wives. I'll give one example: "It is true that Paul claims in 1 Corinthians 15 that at the end of time, God will be 'all in all,' and speaks of Christ being made subject to God (1 Corinthians 15: 28. However, this is also in the context of the idea that all authority in Heaven and earth has been handed over to the son…Christ emerges triumphant at the end of time, having put everything under his feet. This powerful picture of Jesus Christ is not quite the loving, courageous submission that is referred to in a few verses of Philippians 2 in relation to the incarnation….." She seems to think that this means that God the Father is also put under Christ's feet! Excuse me? This does not mean that the Father then submits to the Son.
Texts like 1 Peter 3:1-7, are negated because, though Peter does tell wives to submit to their husbands, all Christians are supposed to submit to each other. So that, of course, cancels out any command to wives to submit to their husbands. Her reasoning is absurd! Read just a few verses here:
"For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…"(1Pe 3:5-6 ESV)
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…."(Eph 5:22ESV)
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
(Eph 5:24 ESV)
These texts are very clear, very specific commands to wives that they are specifically to submit to, not their fathers or mothers, not their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but they are to submit to their husbands in particular and look on him as their authority:
Peppiatt makes the claim that if men and women don't have the same earthly roles then there is "literally nothing to show for the claim that she has been saved into coequality with a man." This is might sound strange, but, there being no males or females in Christ does not mean that there are no male or female Christians.
The Bible does not indicate that salvation erases lineage or ethnicity (Paul emphasized in Romans 9-12 that God has a special plan to save Israel, an ethnic people, sometime in the future),and it does not indicate that our sex is erased at salvation. There being no male, female, Jew, Gentile, etc… in Christ simply means that we are all saved the same way: by the grace of God through the faith that He gives us. We are not saved because of our works, because of our sex, nor are we saved because of our societal position or ethnicity. If you take it the way Peppiatt reads it, then we'd also have to assume that there are no children, parents, bosses, no political governors or any leaders in Christ. "Children obey your parents" would be crazy because parents and children don't exist in Christ and children should not be required to submit to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m talking absurdly here, I know, but this is how I see her reasoning playing out if brought to its logical conclusion.
The Bible NEVER indicates that everything physical about us is erased at our salvation, rather it seems to do just the opposite and shows us how we can utilize our God-ordained physical position for the Lord. Remember, we are told by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians that " we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."(Eph 2:10). Why do we seem to think that these "good works" are all going to be exactly the same for everyone? Why do we think that it wouldn't be "fair" if God gives particular groups of people particular works? Actually, wouldn't that be rather special? To think that God put me in a specific physical circumstance and has given me particular good works to do in that circumstance!
God HAS given particular people groups special works to do. There are particular good works for Men, Women, Husbands, Wives, Fathers, Children, Slaves, Masters, Older Women, Pastors, elders, citizens…etc. and good works for everyone in general. Our particular roles/good works may be hard, and our general good works are hard too, but that's where faith comes in, where dying to self comes in, where we take up our particular cross and follow our Lord.
Remember what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12? I'll quote some of it: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body…."(1Co 12:12-15) As a woman I might say, "Because I am not a man, I do not belong to the body" Or, "Because I must keep quiet and not pastor a congregation I am not a part of the body". Nope, I am still a part of the body even though I have a different role. Paul goes on: "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose."(1Co 12:17-18) We all are still unique in the body of Christ, with God ordained unique roles and positions.
Peppiatt's 'exegesis' seems to consist in implanting doubt in people's minds as to how understandable Scripture actually is. She really seems to desire to implant into our minds that what Scripture seems to be clearly, "obviously" saying might actually be obscure. She focuses in on individual words and demonstrates that they can have a variety of meanings, and therefore the meaning that is normally fixed upon by most Bible translators is not necessarily the right one. She does the same with texts and passages as a whole: The obvious meaning is not necessarily the right one. This really seems like a "Has God said?"(Genesis 3) scenario. Peppiatt's hermeneutic is dangerous. It can easily be utilized (and probably is used) by those who deny a literal six-day creation, those who view Christ as a mere man and not God incarnate, it could be used by children to justify their disobeying their parents, and could mess with salvation itself by lending to the proclaiming of "another Gospel" (Gal 1:8).
The author of this book has a very clear bias against the "obvious" meaning of Scripture texts that talk about women's roles in Christ. She says, "I encourage all Christian married couples to break away from and reject any expectation that the husband should occupy an authoritative role and the wife a submissive one…" Remember, the Apostle Paul indicates that the husband and wife relationship is a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5), the church is supposed to submit to Christ. Christ does not submit to the church. We do not tell Him what to do, He tells us, We do not lead Him, He leads us. Husbands and wives mess up the picture when they do not follow their God given roles. Wives submitting to their husbands, in particular, is emphasized in the Scriptures and treated very seriously.
I'll sum this all up: In this book, Peppiatt is doing exactly the opposite of what the Scriptures say older women are to teach young wives, "train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."(Tit 2:4-5 ASV) Wives are given a particular duty by God: submission to their husbands. This duty is to be taken VERY seriously so as not to cause the Word of God to be blasphemed, or discredited.
I have particular instructions given to me as a single woman. I am not given the role of pastor or teacher of the congregation, I am to keep quiet and listen submissively. Might it be hard to do sometimes? Sure! But again, that's where faith comes in, and faith isn't usually easy. Listening submissively in church is one of the particular good works that Scripture CLEARLY tells me in particular, to do, therefore I know for sure that it's one of the particular works that God has "ordained" for me to "walk in". It's not demeaning, it is special, it gives me a special role in the body of Christ, a special work of submission I can do to glorify Him.
I received a free review copy of this book from InterVarsity Press. My review did not have to be favorable.
My rating: 1 out of 5 Stars
This book may be purchased at Amazon.com