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Entries in Women Writers (2)


The Evangelical Christian reading world is not the whole world

I probably shouldn't be taking time to think about the question put forth by Tim Challies yesterday. With only a little over six weeks in the semester remaining and a whole lot of work yet to do, I need to keep focused. However, I did spend a little time thinking about it yesterday, and maybe I'll think about it some more when I have more time. 

The title of the article and the question posed assumes a particular view: "Why Aren't Men Reading Women Writers?" Clearly, in general, that isn't true. All over the world, and throughout history, men have willingly read women writers. What is meant by that question is that in evangelical Christian circles men don't read books by women writers. And likely, considering the original question, coming from a writer named Jen Pollock Michel, the men come from more conservative -- and likely, complementarian-leaning -- circles. 

I was curious about what are the reading habits of those outside these evangelical Christian circles. What are they like among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, or even in more academic circles? Is it true that men are not reading books written by women in those environments? I don't think the situations are similar. I suspect the question "Why aren't men reading women writers" would not be asked some places. I recently picked up a book that I'm positive men have read: Paul and Gender, by Cynthia Westfall, who is a professor at McMaster Divinity School. Of course men read women writers; it's just not the same in some circles as it is in others. 

Furthermore, these concerns are confined to Christians in North America (and possibly the UK; I don't know) who have access to books and time to read them. I have friends who are missionaries in PNG, and I'm sure they know nothing about this situation, and they probably don't care. It is interesting how easy it is to assume that our situation is the situation, when in reality, it's only a very small slice.

The answer to that question does lie in the publishing industry and what people will buy. But the fact that it must be asked at all has something to do with the place from where it originates.


The best female authored book I have read

I'm procrastinating. I should be studying for my Greek quiz. But I saw again the article about the ten books every Christian woman should read, and I was again struck how the list was all female authors. So, really, the article should be about the ten female authored books women should read. I'm going to assume that the writer of the article isn't implying that women should only read female authors.

I thought about the female authors I have read over the years (aside from fiction) and thought about which had left an impact on me. I scanned my shelves and my eye caught the book Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down by Marva Dawn. Dawn is a Lutheran theologian, and not a conservative one. I'm sure that many in Reformed leaning circles or evangelical circles might not like her. But her book made an impact on me. 

I read the book over ten years ago (probably more like twelve) and I don't remember specific elements, but I remember that it changed the way I looked at worship and at the life of the mind. That book in conjunction with David Wells's No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? was a catalyst toward my embrace of Reformed theology. Perhaps if I read it today, I may not agree entirely with Dawn. When I have more time, I do want to re-read it. But its impact was far beyond remembered phrases, and extended to a change in disposition. I began to lose the fear of asking "Why are we doing this?" Prior to that, I assumed that every authority always knows best. I was in that place where I believed that theology was for the "professionals," and that I could not possibly need to know it myself. When I saw how a woman theologian thinks and writes, I felt a sense of relief, because I realized that I could ask those interior questions out loud.

A few years after I read Dawn's book, I was speaking to a pastor who said some pretty discouraging (and, in retrospect, uncharitable) things about her, so I kept silent about my view of her. I wish I'd had the courage to speak out.

I love to see women write about theology proper. Practical books are always in easy access, but those more theoretical ones by a woman author are not as available.