I just finished reading Claire Smith's God's Good Design. The subtitle for this book is: "What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women."
Smith looks at portions of Scripture that seem to provide the most disagreement about gender roles in the church. After reminding us that we all live in the shadow of feminism, she goes on to discuss the Scripture passages that discuss our role within the church and home. She looks at I Timothy 2, I Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, I Peter 3 and Genesis 3:1-3. Following the chapter about Genesis, she discusses the ultimate distortion of Scripture with regard to women, and that is abuse of women. She ends the book with a discussion of the Proverbs 31 woman and then with a more personal chapter to conclude. I think reading the chapter about her personal experience first wouldn't be a bad idea. Knowing where she has come from will definitely explain how she has arrived at some of her conclusions. She is a former feminist and she has not come about her positions strictly in theory.
What I liked the most about Smith's book is her return to Scripture, verse by verse, word by word. In each case, she presents a plain reading of Scripture and reminds us that Scripture's clarity means that this word is indeed able to be understood. If there are any problems, they lie with us, not the word of God.
After presenting the plain reading, she returns to the passages each time, presenting possible criticisms of her conclusions and how she reconciles those questions. That, to me, is what is most important with any debate we have. We all bring presuppsotions and biases to our reading of Scripture. But do we see that? Is our interpretation based on those knee-jerk reactions we have or does it lie within the Scripture themselves? While we may never convince our opponents, we can at least be true to the Word and seek it rather than dismissing it altogether.
At the end of the book, when Smith talks about her own experiences, she says this, and I found this to be very good:
If we resist God's right to rule in our lives, if we doubt the goodness of his word, if we use one part of Scripture to silence another part that we find objectionable, then it is a salvation issue - because our attitude to God's word cannot be separated from our attitude toward God himself.
Gender issues get a lot of press these days. Sometimes, I wish we could stop talking about it. But as someone with a daughter and sons who will hopefully have spouses and families, I want to understand this from a Scriptural point of view. I want to react less and hunker down more and see what this word has to say. The waters that young women navigate now are treacherous and some of them will latch onto a teaching without having tackled it first. I want to encourage young women to seek the answers in God's word, and rely less on the voices outside that tell them how to respond to this word.