Over the past ten days, I have been reading two books simulteanously. Big deal, right? Lots of people juggle multiple books.
These two books revealed a contrast that continues to speak to me.
The first book is called Evolving in Monkey Town, by the infamous Rachel Held Evans. No, I won't link to her blog. You can find it on your own should you choose to look for it. I'm reading this book because a young lady asked my opinion about it. I am almost done this book and plan to write about it, but I need to think more about it. I contemplate wanting to take a point-by-point approach to her words, but then I ask, "What's the point?" She has a large following, and I'm one very insignificant blogging homebody. I also contemplate just providing the one passage in the book that tells me that she and I live in different worlds. I haven't made up my mind yet. I will say this: if you have a young person who wants to read this book, please read it with him or her. This woman is persuasive and a good writer. For young people who share her questions (and believe me, her questions are not unique, and she's not the only one who ever asked them) this book could be appealing.
The other book I was reading and just finished was Women Helping Women, edited by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish. Yes, a very differernt book than the other. In this book (which I will review later) the authors establish immediately a foundation of biblical counseling. Woven throughout the book, as the different situations are discussed, there is an overarching message: in formal and informal counseling of women, point them to the Word of God. Furthermore, each chapter, which discusses different counseling scenarios, regularly points the counselor to help the woman recognize any areas of sin that she must deal with. Continually, the chapters discuss the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new (Colossians 4). Each author points to the role that our own sinful dispositions plays in the struggles we encounter. Yes, some of them are biologically influenced, but many are behavioural issues as opposed to physical ones. This, of course, is in contrast to the world's view of such matters, a view which looks for someone to blame.
So, what does the fact that I was reading the other book have to do with this? Evans's book is about a young woman (and a fairly angry one, I think) with spiritual questions and struggles, not unlike a single woman who seeks counsel because she is discontent with her life (a chapter in Women Helping Women). I have yet to see Evans talk much about sin being a factor in any of her struggles. I have read about the frustration she had that the massive amount of apologetics training she received ultimately did her no good when push came to shove. I have read about her shock and dismay over suffering in the world, and the unfairness of life, but I have not read one clear expression that perhaps some of her own understanding could be affected by her own sin. The authors of Women Helping Women continue to point out how crucial this is for any woman who wants to deal with spiritual struggles. Instead of asking how sin may have coloured her view, Evans blames the childhood teaching she received, and simply adopts another view. I'm probably oversimplifying that, but that's what has struck me as I read. As I said, I'm still thinking about this, and that is just an initial reaction.
Human beings, being depraved, have minds that will lie to them. Our perceptions are tainted by the sin which lives in us. We need God's revelation through His Word to understand the world around us, or we will not see the world in a true manner. Just check out Romans 1 for commentary on this. Because we are dependent upon Him for knowledge and understanding, when we have struggles and issues, we need to look to who He is, His character. We have to understand who we are before we can understand who He is. This is also something I have yet to see in Evans's book: I see very little effort expended on knowing God's character in contrast to her own. She looks to the circumstances and her own judgment to understand things.
I have a few pages of Evans's book left to read, so maybe there is a grand conclusion coming, but so far, I have only read one thing about sin, and in that context, she calls it "pond-scum theology." I don't think she likes the idea of total depravity much. But, there, I'm not supposed to be reviewing that book right now.
All of that to say this: I saw again and again over the past week how crucial is it for us to understand how we are made, fearfully and wonderfully, yet with sinful hearts. I saw again and again how understanding who God is can transform us. In Christ, we are able to have our minds transformed (Romans 12:1-2), but we can't be transformed if we don't see the need.
I will continue to think on these contrasts in the days ahead.