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Showing 1-10 of 540 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 677 reviews
on August 12, 2016
I just finished, and I feel refreshed, as if I just had the most rejuvenating fellowship. Not with finger foods and gossip and complaints veiled as concerns, but early church gathering of The Way style. I wasn't even part of the book, yet I feel celebrated, as a woman daily fighting chronic illness, as a woman of valor.
I felt especially drawn closer by the chapter of the veneration of motherhood as the goal and role of the Christian Proverbs 31 woman. My illnesses have taken that ability away from me--unable to conceive, too sick to adopt. Rachel's study, words, and bright, feisty spirit showed me that I am no less for that, but that childless women played pivotal roles in God's plan and Jesus' ministry!
Should Team Dan and Rachel welcome a newcomer to break bread, I shall come bearing my own gifts: knitting needles and stories of growing up in a tiny Southern Episcopal church.

This is how you should feel after reading a book, as if you are a better person for it!
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on May 2, 2016
I struggled with whether to give this a 3 or a 4. It's a solid 3.5.

I avoided this book for a long time because I felt like the purpose of the book was to mock scripture, and this was unfair of me. In her over-the-top way, she simply explores the selective way that complementarian Christians apply scripture.

My favorite part of the book is her commentary on Proverbs 31. I love her explanation here. She explains that the purpose of this poem is to praise women for all the things they do, NOT to explain to women all the things they should be doing.

I feel that the book is lacking in some areas. In some cases, I felt that there was too much story and too little theology. Some might prefer it that way; it's a definite personal preference. My bigger issue was that although she interviewed women living different kinds of "biblical womanhood" including Amish, quiverfull, and polygamy, I was not satisfied with these discussions. They were far too brief and did not truly tell me anything new about what these women believe or why they live the way they do. These parts are fairly shallow and I was wanting far more depth. I was disappointed each time when I realized that was all she had to say on that subject.

I definitely feel the book is worth reading, but it should be understood that the book is more about questioning and telling a story than about diving deep into the scriptures.
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on January 6, 2014
I am in love with this book! I loved it from start to finish. I learned so much, laughed so much and didn’t want it to end! Here are a few of my favorite insights:

From her chapter “October: Gentleness/Girl Gone Mild. Please forgive my lack of page numbers. I read on my Kindle and have no idea how to view a page number on it. If anyone knows, please let me know and I will insert! I found the following towards the end of the chapter, if you get to “Deborah” from Judges, you went too far. It is before the picture of her on the roof as well.

“I don’t know for sure, but I think maybe God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security. A great tree is both moved and unmoved, for it changes with the seasons, but its roots keep it anchored in the ground. Mastering a gentle and quiet spirit didn’t mean changing my personality, just regaining control of it, growing strong enough to hold back and secure enough to soften.

“What they forget to tell us in Sunday school is that the ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ Peter wrote about is not, in fact, an exclusively feminine virtue, but is elevated throughout the New Testament as a trait expected of all Christians. Jesus used the same word – praus, in Greek – to describe himself as ‘gentle and humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29). Gentleness is one of the nine fruits of the spirit (Galations 5:23), and Paul told the members of the Philippian church, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5).

“Far from connoting timidity or docility, gentleness is associated with integrity and self-control, particularly in the face of persecution. The readers of Peter’s epistle would have immediately recognized praus as the same word they used to describe a wild horse that had been tamed or a torrent of wind that had softened into a breeze.

’Blessed are the praus,’ Jesus said, ‘for they will inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5)”

I loved the chapter on gentleness because, like the author, it is not something that comes easily or naturally for me. It’s something I long to be and for others to see in me – but it’s not a quality that I feel like I possess at all times. It’s something I feel I really have to work at – and, most importantly, be in the mindset to make the CHOICE to be gentle. Again, not easy but it does make it easier knowing it’s a choice.

The chapter on submission was awesome! This is such a misinterpreted topic, for today’s age, so I was excited to hear that what she learned matched with my feelings on submission. It’s something we ALL (men, women, children) should do to each other – the end. Okay, well she elaborated a bit more but that’s the summary. Submission is a good thing, but in our culture it has been morphed into something deemed horrible and outdated – and something only women should do. People who think that need to research it more and people who think it’s only for women have lost their mind. Okay, now – the end.

Just when I thought the book could not get any better, she talks about food! She discusses her realization of how her buying non-fair-trade items have added to child slavery/abuse and poverty. She researches fair-trade and why it’s important and starts to question why she is even eating things called “cheese food” – have I mentioned I love this book!?

“The coffee-and-chocolate experiment forced me to confront an uncomfortable fact to which I suspect most Americans can relate: I had absolutely no idea where the majority of my food came from. I didn’t know how much it should actually cost how it affected the people who harvested and prepared it, or what sort of toll its production too on the planet.” (from July’s Chapter).

The one thing that will always stand out for me that I learned from this book is in the “Silence” chapter where she commits to being silent for a month. Again, as with every element she pursues, she researches the passages from the Bible of where it’s referenced that women should be silent (in church, usually). Through her insight, I am reminded of something that I myself sometimes forget when reading the Bible. Some of the books are epistles, letters to churches and/or people. If you dig deeper into whom these people are and why Paul (in this case) is telling women to “be silent” – it creates a wealth of contextual understanding. Paul wasn’t talking to all women or telling all women to be silent. He was actually talking to a specific group of widows who, apparently, had gotten out of control in many ways (one example is dressing promiscuous, which back in that day I can assume means they showed their ankles?). Read this book to learn more, but for me, it helped add context to an area of the Bible that I may not have researched on my own.

I could go on and on about how great this book is, but instead of reading my review – just read the book!
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on January 9, 2014
After reading many of the negative reviews and hearing what so many have to say, I am shocked. To say that this is a mockery of Christianity or that it is anti-Christian misses the entire point. So many read books (and the Bible) with so many preconceived notions that it often hard to hear what the text actually says. If you can put away any hard feelings for Rachel Held Evans and read what is written here, you can see that she was on a rather intense journey that resulted in the redemption of many things including ideas that had been misinterpreted and misused and the author's own faith! Yes, many of the 'virtues' that she pursues begin with her antiquated and improper thoughts concerning them and an outright mockery, but if you continue reading you will see what God showed her in this time. He revealed a great many truths that would do us all good to see. Further more, if you read the ideas, or 'resolutions' that she will continue on with, the things that she will take away from this journey, you can see that many of the things she may have previously mocked are the very things God has used in her life.

I may not recommend this book to all my Christian friends because it is controversial and thought-provoking. Not everyone is there yet. But to totally annihilate any good that may come from this is completely wrong.
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on April 10, 2014
While it would be easy to read this book and not see it, this book is actually about hermeneutics, which is the study of interpreting a text -- the Bible in this case. Rachel Held Evans explores scripture interpretation through an honest effort to see how different cultures have come to different conclusions about how Biblical texts should be applied to life, specifically in the demands and roles of women.

While no human is perfect in action or writing, I found that this book provides the best and gentlest introduction to the concept of scriptural interpretation an Evangelical Christian could have. As a consequence of the subject matter, those of fixed opinion are going to find this book to be distasteful in one way or another, while those of a more open mind will find some or all of it to be informative and refreshing.

I recommend this book for folks coming from a few different perspectives. First, Evangelical Christians who are curious about perspectives outside of their cultural dogma. Second, Christian men looking to understand a little bit more about the struggles of Christian women, both scripturally and culturally. Third, those from outside the American Evangelical camp who would like a bit of casual sociological study into that group.

The people who will not appreciate this book are those who already know the right answers. Basically, if you believe that the Bible said it, you believe it, and that settles it, save yourself some anger and look elsewhere. Likewise, if you know that the Bible is an outdated or unreliable source of harmful mystical thinking, such that it is better to toss the whole thing rather than to search for any good in it, then this book will not offer you succor.
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on January 22, 2013
In a book that has generated no small controversy, Rachel Held Evans pulls off something remarkable as she is able to be charming and punchy at the same time. Somehow she strikes a perfect balance between being acerbic, but approachable. Its no surprise that she has a massive following; her ability to evoke feelings of empathy is an admirable one.

But sometimes she displays an annoying habit (which is not unique to her alone) in that she seems to relish recalling her days as a benighted fundamentalist who was unwittingly bamboozled into a confounding belief system by a backwards upbringing. The point: we are meant to get the impression that she has come a long way down the road less traveled of theological sophistication. Allow me to rant on this a bit. While there is a healthy sense of wonder one can have upon reflecting on how much one has changed, there is something oddly self-serving about hastily re-imagining oneself as a paradigm example of closed-minded ignorance so as to set up a contrived contrast with the present, broad-minded self. I call this the `Frankie Schaeffer Syndrome', and it is a particularly obnoxious style of autobiography that seems to ail those who resent something about their Christian upbringing and write spiritual memoirs about it.

Why do I take time to point this out? Reading the autobiographical statements of Ronald L. Numbers in his seminal volume The Creationists, I noticed that while he now strongly disagrees with the teaching of his Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, he maintains a charitable and admirable respect for his past. This is no mere empty sentiment. It informs his posture towards his historical subjects and sets the stage for a fair representation that is recognized by all sides of the public debate over creation and evolution. How this is relevant to Evans is that deep down, I think she is more like Numbers than Schaeffer. So why does she write with the posture of the `Frankie Schaefer Syndrome?' I suppose it is more stylistically entertaining, but it detracts from the substance of her point. To this we now turn.

Evans is concerned that evangelicals are too liberal with their use of the word "biblical" to modify whatever subject they deem perfect and true. This is fair insofar as it goes, but when it comes to things like marriage and sexuality she is particularly exasperated with those who would deploy this word to "create the impression that God has definitive opinions about such things." Well doesn't he? Anyone who reads the Bible and believes what it says might thinks so. So what's the problem?

The problem is that when it comes to determining what the Bible says, everyone "picks and chooses" texts that speak for the whole Bible while ignoring others. Hence, her project is meant to ridicule this state of affairs by taking every text that talks about women into account, no matter what the context, and putting them into practice. If it's between a leather-bound book cover with the words "Holy Bible" on it, it's "biblical."So Evans spent a year trying to abide by every text as literally as possible.

The product of her approach is her "Ten Commandments of Biblical Womanhood:"

1. Thou shalt submit to thy husband's will in all things. (Genesis 3:16, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1, Ephesians 5:22, 1 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 3:18)
2. Thou shalt devote thyself to the duties of the home. (Proverbs 14:1, Proverbs 31:10-31, I Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:4-5).
3. Thou shalt mother. (Genesis 1:28, 1 Timothy 5:14, Psalm 127: 3-5, Psalm 128:3, Proverbs 31:3-5.)
4. Thou shalt have a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 11:22, Proverbs 19:13, Proverbs, Proverbs 21:9, Proverbs 27:15-16, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 2:22, 1 Timothy 3:11)
5. Thou shalt dress modestly. (Genesis 24:65, Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Timothy 2:8-10, 1 Peter 3:3).
6. Thou shalt cover thy head when in prayer. (1 Corinthians 11:3-16)
7. Thou shalt not cut thy hair. (1 Corinthians 11:15)
8. Thou shalt not teach in church. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-12)
9. Thou shalt not gossip. (Numbers 12:1-10, Proverbs 26:20, 1 Timothy 5:13, 1 Timothy 3:14)
10. Thou shalt not have authority over a man. (1 Timothy 2:12)

One particularly puzzling application of hers comes from Proverbs 21:19 which says that it is better to live on the corner of a rooftop than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. To better foster in herself `a gentle and quiet spirit,' Evans makes a `swear jar' of sorts that she contributes pennies to for every negative thought or verbal complaint. Then, as penance, she spends time on the rooftop to `pay off' the debt in the swear jar. Why she interprets this verse as directed to the quarrelsome wife, and not the exasperated husband, as if it were a staple of "biblical womanhood" to spend time on the rooftop for being quarrelsome, makes little sense. Obviously, she was going for laughs here, but the joke is too haphazardly concocted to be funny.*

This is not to say that Evans is without wit as her contrast of Martha Stewart with the likes of Debi Pearl and Stacy MacDonald shows, "Sure, Martha can be a real stickler for doing things her way, but you don't hear her saying that you'll go to hell if you don't." Perhaps the warmest parts of the book are those that record her and Dan's conversations, not to mention his journal entries. The artificial hierarchy imposed upon on their marriage makes for a delightful awkwardness between what seems like a playful and tender couple.

Nor do I mean to say that all of her biblical interpretations are flat-footed. Her ruminations on the story of Mary and Martha are empowering as she freshly discerns the point of the story for those with tender consciences who have heard it time and time again.

The "ceremony" she holds for the Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:37-40) is a touching episode of lament over the the violence and oppression suffered by women in Scripture. She then insightfully links it to the violence and oppression suffered by Christ on the cross. The section on Proverbs 31 deserves a wide reading as she rightly understands that the passage was meant to be memorized by men so that they might find ways to praise their wives as "women of valor" or "wives of noble character." The fact that it has been used as a kind of checklist for women to measure themselves against is a tragic outcome of our pragmatic, `give me a list of things to do' evangelical culture. Evans encourages husbands to follow the practice of orthodox Jewish men who cry "Echet chayil!" (wife of noble character!) when their wives contribute their well-being and the good of the household. I can testify that this has been a enjoyable practice to imitate.

Yet her chapter on justice is the least substantive as she asserts, "Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another." This is a rather odd view of justice to take in light of the fact that her practical applications include purchasing only fair trade coffee and chocolate: "Who knew justice could be so delicious?" she writes. Yet the classic meaning of justice, which is to render that which a person is due, covers her concern for distributive justice (how goods should be distributed in some social order) and commutative justice (how goods are exchanged via legal contracts) just fine.

Why, then does she offer such a contrived view of justice? It is because she is influenced by the very interesting and provocative book Half the Sky by Kristoff and WuDunn, which insightfully argues that a society prospers insofar as its women prosper. The sort social interdependence at work in their thesis is what Evans has in view. But if this is the case, then I wonder why Evans failed to at least footnote the social of disaster of sex-selective abortion. One doesn't need to be a right-wing Southern Baptist to sense the travesty of such a practice; Mara Hvistendahl's Unnatural Selection is proof enough that the the injustice of this issue transcends the dichotomy of left and right. This would have at least related to the value of women which ought to be respected at all stages of life (why not draw attention to that in addition to the plight of cocoa farmers?).

This sets the stage for the most painfully ironic part of the book in which she says,

"I've watched congregations devote years and years to heated arguments about whether a female missionary should be allowed to share about her ministry on a Sunday morning, whether students older than ten should have female Sunday school teachers, whether girls should be encouraged to attend seminary, whether women should be permitted to collect the offering or write the church newsletter or make an announcement . . . all while thirty thousand children die every day from preventable disease. If that's not an adventure in missing the point, I don't know what is."

I can appreciate anyone who lampoons Wayne Grudem's list of approved activities in church for women (60 out of 83!), but why should anyone even read Evans' book if thirty thousand children die every day? This is supposed to be some sort of trump, but the fact that it comes from someone who took a year poke fun at the notion of "biblical womanhood" just cannot be taken seriously.

With that said, there are things to which Evans rightly draws our attention, particularly the scandalous treatment Jackie Roese suffered from her complementarian detractors. The first woman to preach a sermon at Irving Bible Church (near Dallas, TX) was counseled to hire a bodyguard after being told she was exemplifying "cancer in the Church," a "dangerous sign," and a "threat to Christianity." Evans's interview with Roese tells her side of the story with grace and dignity, and it leaves the reader with the impression of a woman who has learned how to love her enemies in the midst of her calling.

By the end of the book the reader gets the sense that Evans has run out of material for the project, because her last month of "biblical womanhood" has little to do with women in the Bible; her project is to bake some bread for an offering and celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Lev 23:23-24; Num 15:17-21; 29:1-6). Perhaps the takeaway here is that the Bible doesn't say that much about women, because it is more interested in telling us about what it means to be human.

So what are we to learn from Evans's year of 'biblical' womanhood? That the Bible is a complicated book and if we stick the word "biblical" in front of chosen topic, we are inevitably selective and ignore passages that make trouble for our favored opinion. As much as I can sympathize with this point, it is somewhat banal. Whenever one interprets Scripture, it is inevitable that one set of passages will be taken to interpret another set of passages. That's just part of the process of interpreting Scripture with Scripture, a time-honored hermeneutical practice if there ever was one. Calvinists, Arminians, and Open Theists do this, as do Complementarians and Egalitarians, as does anyone who is trying to hear the central message of the Bible. It is true that we come to the Bible looking for things we want to get out of it; I guess I am just more optimistic that one can hold those things in one hand and work objectively through a method of interpretation that "gets at" what the writer was trying to say.

A seminary professor of mine liked to distinguish between that which is "biblical" and that which is "biiiiblical." The former refers to what's between the bookcovers and the latter refers to what the point of the central message is supposed to be. The reason I think Evans's project doesn't amount to much (even though it was kind of fun) is because I think one can discern the content of the latter, that which is biiiiblical, and work hard to explain the disparate texts that are puzzling to us in a principled manner. Evans gives the impression that this isn't really possible, even though that is what she tries to do throughout her book when she reports the findings of her Bible studies on texts like 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and Proverbs 31.

Another reason I push back on this point is because I am a believer in "biblical equality." I can relate with Evans a lot in that I was raised in a context of creationism, attended complementarian churches, and went to an inerrancy-affirming liberal arts college, but later found myself asking many of the same questions and experiencing many of the same doubts she describes in her earlier work. Maybe it is because I've published articles contending for an egalitarian view of gender roles, and have had to pay the price for that in my social contexts (albeit a small one), but I would hope that my cause transcends a mere statement of personal values, and aims at the normative truth and goodness of there being "no male and female" in God's economy (Galatians 3:28). I think Evans and I share this much, which is why I gently implore her to articulate to a higher view of hermeneutics; in many cases, she already practices what she should preach.


*Another error: Evans claims that if a woman was raped and her screams were heard by passersby, both the woman and her rapist would be put to death. But this is false: "only the man who has done this shall die" (Deut 22:25).
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on August 13, 2015
It was ok. i found it much less satisfying than A.J Jacobs "Year of Living Biblically" However, i also follow Ms. Evans blog on facebook, and I find that refreshing, honest and engaging, so i genuinely like her writing and her perspective, but this book fell flat for me. I didn't even finish it, i'm sorry to say, which is very, very rare.
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on January 5, 2015
Evans is fun to read. I love her sense of humor and her perspective causes the reader to think through preconceived attitudes. She is not caustic as she points out some of the inconsistencies in both fundamentalist and Evangelical practice and thinking.
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on March 8, 2017
This is not a biblically sound book, however if you are researching how feminism has impacted the Christian woman of today, then this is your book!
Luckily for me, I was researching feminism.
The writer talks a lot about what she does not believe, but hardly talks about what she actually does believe. It is also apparent that she is not an evangelical Christian since she claims against the basic beliefs of salvation that evangelicals believe.
I am about to graduate Bible College and used this as an example of what not to believe as a Biblical woman.
Thanks for reading!
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on March 16, 2017
This is a very funny look at some of the Bibles harder verses to apply. Evans writing is honest and real, and she isn't afraid to ask the hard questions.
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