Book Reviews: Women, Patriarchy, and the Church

I’ve read a lot of books in the last couple of years. These helped me to understand more about how women are treated by the church. I believe that each of these would be valuable to you, for varying reasons. I’ve included the Amazon blurb for each, as well as a link to the Amazon listing for the book.


The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth” by Beth Allison Barr

Available on Amazon

This is another hard-history book, mixed with the author’s personal life story. Worth reading, especially if you are wondering about the complementarian/egalitarian divide, or if you’re wrestling with the role of women in Christian church culture.

Amazon’s description: Biblical womanhood–the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers–pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn’t biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It arose from a series of clearly definable historical moments. This book moves the conversation about biblical womanhood beyond Greek grammar and into the realm of church history–ancient, medieval, and modern–to show that this belief is not divinely ordained but a product of human civilization that continues to creep into the church. Barr’s historical insights provide context for contemporary teachings about women’s roles in the church and help move the conversation forward. Interweaving her story as a Baptist pastor’s wife, Barr sheds light on the #ChurchToo movement and abuse scandals in Southern Baptist circles and the broader evangelical world, helping readers understand why biblical womanhood is more about human power structures than the message of Christ.

How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy” by Terran Williams

Available on Amazon

I found this book to be a stunningly solid analysis of the topic of complementarianism – the idea that God designated men as the authority and rulers in the kingdom, and that women are not authorized to lead or teach, specifically in the church, but (some believe) also in any public sphere.

The author was a member of a leadership team in a complementarian church, and his church set about to write a defense of its doctrinal position on men and women’s authority, and assigned the author as a key member of the team, due to his expertise and training. Much to his surprise, as he began to study and exegete the scriptures around authority of men and women in the church, he arrived at the conclusion that complementarianism is wrong and largely indefensible from a scriptural perspective. He wrote the book to carefully document his process and his findings. It’s extremely careful in its treatment of the subject, specifically covering every significant verse used to support the doctrine. He also spends a fair amount of time explaining the cultural perspectives of the writers of the scriptures, and the immediate audiences of the various epistles. He also traces out the flow of thinking through church history on the subject.

Most of all, he clearly shows how the complementarian viewpoint has harmed women – and robbed the church of a huge God-given blessing over the centuries.

(There is no real Amazon description, other than a handful of affirmations for the quality of this book.)

I’ll update this list as my reading continues.

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