Christianity,  News

An Egalitarian Gets Biblical

Rachel Held Evans is an egalitarian, and she wants to live according to the Bible for one year… just to see what it’s like. Her aim is to follow all the commands that are directed to women. Among other things, this project will include “submitting” to her husband as Colossians 3:18 teaches. She invites everyone to follow along on her blog to track her progress. Thomas Nelson has agreed to publish a book in 2012 describing her year of living obediently.

There is an irony here. She says that she is going to obey the Bible’s commands as “literally” as possible. She seems to be admitting that the “literal” interpretation of Colossians 3:18 involves following the leadership of her husband. That would seem to be a counterintuitive admission for such a committed egalitarian.

It looks like the real aim here is to discredit complementarianism. The only problem is that she isn’t really trying out complementarianism. She’s conflated Old Testament law with New Testament norms and has labelled it “living biblically.” But no complementarian that I ever heard of would consider that “living biblically.” For that reason, this looks to be an eccentric project that would contribute very little to the evangelical conversation about the Bible’s teaching on gender roles. I’m sure it will make for an interesting book, but I don’t see how this is going to move the debate forward.

(HT: Russell Moore)


  • Ryan

    Your right Denny in that it is odd for an egalitarian to say that a complementarian reading of the Bible is the most literal.

    Nevertheless, this will be a year wasted since God is not so much interested in our actions but first the submission of our heart. If the aim here is just to go through the motions of obedience than this is just dead religion.

  • Peter Eddy

    I agree, Ryan.

    If I understand her properly, she’s trying to show how foolish the complementarian position is, by living it out for a year. But she’s not doing that. For one thing, she said taht during her time of the month she’s going to camp out in the back yard. Complementarians believe that the ceremonial aspects of the Law have been fufilled in Christ. And then she said that she’s going to get up really early in the morning to make breakfast (I’m assuming to obey, per se, Proverbs 31: 15), but Proverbs 31: 10-31 only has one command in it, and it’s to the husband of such a woman, in verse 31. Verses 10 to 29 provide an example, not a checklist for all women to mark off during the day as they go.

    Anyway, I think people will see through it pretty quickly.

  • Tom1st

    First, the year of living biblically has already been done.

    Second, I guess she’s just ill informed of some of the great egalitarian approaches/interpretations of those so-called complimentarian texts. It’s a shame she’s not more informed. Then she’d really be biblical.

  • Donald Johnson

    This looks like a publicity stunt, but so did the original one.

    Similar to the original, she is choosing to interpret each verse “literally” with apparently no insights from cultural context from the time each text was written, as well as applying this interpretaton to today in a literal way. Also, there is no attempt at filtering by which covenants one might be in, just a general smash up of anything that mentions females in any form in any covenant.

    This is simply a horrible way to try to derive truth from the Bible; it might appear to work in some cases but that in itself is not a good reason to use such a nonsensical way.

    So she uses a non-sensible method to achieve what? Nonsense!

  • Mason

    I believe her point isn’t that she imagines the way she will be living is exactly what Piper, Grudem etc. would suggest, but rather to get across the message that we all pick and choose what we are going to apply, even the most committed complementarian.

    Is she doing this in a way that might not resonate in academia? Clearly. But people who grapple with this issue outside the University might actually read it. Which, for the most part, you can’t say about “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”.

  • Mike Gastin

    She’s gotten a book deal and that was the point. And now, it’s promotion time. We can follow along on her blog and of course, we’ll be able to pre-order the book, too!

    It’s just a stunt to sell a book.

    And, through it all she’s proven the complementarianism point. If she were in a complementary relationship with her husband, she would not confuse camping out in the back yard with living biblically.

    Of course, the above statement assumes her husband would be willing to serve in his role as leader of the family and be capable of imparting biblical teaching to his wife and kids.

  • Denny Burk

    There was a previous thread of comments that I deleted earlier today because I thought it was straying from the original topic. Thanks anyhow to everyone who took time to comment.

  • Elizabeth

    This is sad. Initially, I saw her only as being opportunistic, but by the end of the video, it was clear to me that she was mocking and making light of what she clearly does not understand.

  • Donald Johnson

    That is a good point. I do not think that an egal should try to simulate a comp, just like I do not think a comp should try to simulate an egal; since they do not believe what they are doing, they WILL get it wrong. Just as people should investigate each position in the words of those that believe that position.

  • MatthewS

    Reminds me of that Office episode where the boss reworks the sensitivity training. He plays to offensive stereotypes and makes things worse.

    Assuming Evans has the best motives, I think she is misguided. I think she is playing to a stereotype and it will be received as mockery rather than as an attempt to understand or converse. I think she’s blending two things: 1) trying the other view on for size, while 2) defining the other side by a ludicrous interpretation rather than engaging its own definition.

    I really love the idea of trying to get inside the other perspective to understand it. Perhaps Evans could find a way to do that next time.

  • Mitch

    I actually think this sounds interesting. Whoops, now I’ve done it. The right-wing evangelicals are probably already lighting the torches to come after the blasphemer. But my comment isn’t really that this sounds interesting.

    My comment is what I notice here is all the complementarians racing out to say (essentially) “oh, this stupid broad doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Seems like a little prophylaxis so that, just in case the book finds an audience or offers true insight, it’s already been dismissed from the get go.

    Of course, turnabout is fair play and I’m sure that if Evans were announcing this project and saying that she feels remiss about her egalitarian leanings and wants to give serious consideration to the merits of complemantarianism, you’d have all the egals running out to dump all over the project.

    The other thing that struck me about this video were Evans’ comments about picking and choosing parts of the bible to follow. I’ve always noticed that chistians (and especially evangelicals) do this and justify it with truckloads of elaborate doctrine to tell you exactly why they’re exactly right about which parts are to be kept and flushed. I’ll be interested to what Evans’ develops with respect to this issue.

  • Steve

    Visited her website from your link. Interesting observation: many of the comments expressed anxiety, distance, aversion, horror over the idea of “biblical womanhood”–even more interesting is looking at this webpage from a Unitarian Church in Montreal, where the people of the church are reacting with similar anxiety and opposition to using the term “worship” in their gatherings.

    No evidence of a slippery slope, but remarkable similarities in both sets of reactions: each set clearly reacts with some defensiveness/animosity to scriptural instruction.

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