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Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry (Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry) Paperback – May 27, 2014
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About the Author
Michael F. Bird (PhD, University of Queensland) is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission; The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective; Evangelical Theology; Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A moderate Case for Gender Equality in Ministry and editor of The Apostle Paul: Four Views. He is also a co-blogger of the New Testament blog "Euangelion."
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After pointing out that there are numerous different viewpoints on gender roles, and numerous different shades of "egalitarian" and "complementarian", the author discusses examples of women from the New Testament who did hold significant leadership positions, and contrasts passages which appear to support the egalitarian position with those which support the complementarian position.
One key passage is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 ("I do not permit a woman to teach...") Paul justifies this by reference to the order of creation ("Adam was formed first then Eve.") However, Paul uses the same reasoning in 1 Corinthians 11 to explain why women should wear head coverings. The author makes an elaborate and unconvincing argument about a particular heresy which might have existed in Ephesus that prompted the tone of his injunction to Timothy. He seems to have overlooked the more obvious point that the enormous cultural differences that exist today in Israel, Syria, Turkey and Italy were almost certainly far greater two thousand years ago.
The author insists three times that there is a real prohibition in the 1 Timothy passage, even when contextualised, that needs to be taken seriously, but he never quite gets round to explaining what it is. It seems to me that either the passage means what it says and has absolute application, or it applied only to the circumstances in which Timothy found himself. As a matter of logic I find it difficult to see how the passage could contain a "real prohibition" which is something other than what it actually says.
Notwithstanding these minor quibbles and my suspicion that the author wants to keep his options open for future employment in the Good Old Boys club, I enjoyed reading the book, which is well-written and thought provoking.
Michael presents the different perspectives on the issue of "women in ministry" well, albeit briefly.
He speaks candidly about his own experiences in trying to discover what Paul said about women in ministry. And he makes many excellent points about New Testament women who were involved in Christian ministry. I learnt a lot.
This book is grounded in Scripture, but it is not too technical. It's perfect for someone just starting to explore this subject.
I am recommending this book to my friends and colleagues (even though my views differ slightly to his on a couple of issues.)
Based on strong argumentation based on assumptions, I give it a three stars. That said, I still think it's a good read to let people think deeper and grapple with texts of Scripture.