Rachel Held Evans is an egalitarian and has set aside the last year to obey every command in scripture pertaining to women. Her aim is to show what “biblical womanhood” really looks like when it is practiced consistently. She has been blogging about her year at her website, and Thomas Nelson has agreed to publish her narrative for a book set to be released in 2012.
When I first heard about this, I was skeptical about the usefulness of such a project. Sarah Flashing is also skeptical, and she has a hard-hitting piece about it over at the First Things blog. She writes:
I have to admit, I was very intrigued by the idea of an evangelical feminist woman living out a year of biblical womanhood even as just a thought experiment. But what Rachel Held Evans has done is not that. This could have been an opportunity to discover and experience some aspects of complementarianism not otherwise understood. Her experiment, however, was little more than a piecemeal approach… Not only did she not live it consistently, she added practices that don’t belong (camping out in her front yard, for example). She was not faithful to biblical womanhood as taught by its adherents.
Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood has actually been a year of an erroneous hermeneutic resulting in misrepresentation to the church and the public at large of what biblical womanhood actually looks like. She expanded on the literal approach of scripture practiced by complementarians by flattening scripture such that systematic theology is of no consequence…
The problem with this is that no evangelical expression of biblical womanhood demands women follow “all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible”–at least in terms of how she is using the term “literally.” This has nothing to do with any arbitrary decision–the “pick and choose” methodology–by complementarianism as she asserts on her website. This is a hermeneutical matter that Evans has failed to devote any serious time to. In her post, Complementarians Are Selective Too, she argues that proponents of the biblical womanhood model are sacrificing scripture’s meaning by picking an choosing in order preserve patriarchy. To be fair, she suggests egalitarians are also guilty of picking and choosing to make their case as well, but egalitarianism isn’t the target of contempt with her Year of Biblical Womanhood project.
Evans has failed to properly represent the teachings of biblical womanhood in what she has so for divulged of her one year experiment. If it is the case, in fact, that her issue is with the way complementarians handle scripture, she ought to have written a series of posts simply dealing with the hermeneutical problem she identifies, showing how proponents of biblical womanhood err in their literal handling of the biblical text. Here, she might have shown systematic theology to work to her benefit while engaging the systematic theology foundational to the biblical womanhood model. But this requires a lot more work and doesn’t yield as many winsome blog posts. Instead, she created a straw woman by packaging together every biblical command having to do with women (whether it has anything to do with the theological structure of biblical womanhood), leaving readers with the impression that biblical womanhood demands the observance of Levitical purity laws among other practices.
Flashing is right. Read the rest here.