What About Women? A Spirit-to-Spirit Expose, by Deborah Brunt
[This book was provided free of charge by Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review.]
As the second book that I have reviewed recently by the same author , this book covers a slightly different but often overlapping ground. This book deals specifically with the role of women in the church, and does so in a way that is hard to do justice to. On the one hand, it would be all too easy to be extremely harsh on this book given its strident tone (and the way that the book’s raw wounds belie the claims of the author to be “over” the abuse she suffered as an outspoken woman in the Southern Baptist Convention), the illogical nature of the organization of the book, and the way in which the book appears to deliberately eschew logic and reason in exchange for a supposedly Holy Spirit-inspired emotionalism while simultaneously getting involved in a host of needless wrangling over words (see 1 Timothy 6:3-5). On the other hand, once you cast aside the emotionally heavy language and the questionable claims for direct spiritual revelation, the author’s point-of-view about authority is not far removed from my own at all, once she stops attacking the anti-female bias of much of Hellenistic Christianity and actually gets down to defining her own view of the role of women in God’s Church.
This is a book that I did not view very highly at all for the first half of its material or so, which seemed a bit gratuitously overemotional and anti-male (something I tend to take rather personally). It is only in the later part of the book, which focuses more on the Bible and less on politics, that I recognized that the author’s fierce rhetoric disguised a large measure of sympathy the author and I share about righting historical wrongs at least by putting them in the past and growing beyond them. Furthermore, the author deserves considerable credit for the rare feat of attacking the entire unscriptural facade of authoritarian domination in churches rather than merely desiring for women to receive their fair share of corrupt hierarchies and domineering tyranny. Again, despite the fact that I found her marriage blessing a bit unsettling (in chapter 13, as it makes no point to give the order of the materials in this book, which are not organized in anything resembling a logical flow, but require a reader to piece through a lot of seemingly unrelated material), at least she can be given credit for trying to appeal to singles.
This book is primarily designed for women. I imagine there might be some men who would appreciate this book, but those men who did read this book would be well advised not to judge the book too quickly, before recognizing that the author’s hostility towards abuse and domination are not hostility towards men per se but rather the way in which men have demanded submission from women without providing the example of self-sacrificial love. Likewise, the author’s occasional overreaches (claiming women as apostles, for example, or her vocal and partisan favor of the TNIV paraphrase) in making her argument do not detract from the fact that the Bible does grant gifts of teaching and prophecy to women, and that a decent and honorable man will respect the judgment and opinion of women, whether inside of the family or not. The last chapter in particular is a genuinely and warmly Christian work, commenting on the mutuality of respect and submission, the widespread nature of God’s gifts, the need to respect personhood for all of those created in the image of God. It is a shame, almost, that one has to puzzle through and interpret so many seemingly hostile words and expressions before one finds the essential moderation of position concerning the role of women in the ekklesia that the author and I share.
One blessing of the book is that it is comparatively short, about 125 pages long, including its endnotes, but this is a book that could use some editing, both to arrange the text in a way that better serves the author’s desire to show women as spiritually and intellectually competent (which ought not to be in excuse by any of us who have known and respected and highly regarded the very knowledgeable and competent and intelligent women of all ages in our lives), as well as to work on the tone of the book. This is a book that unfortunately could very well antagonize many readers who may not stick with the book long enough to realize that they essentially agree with the author’s points once they move beyond the heated rhetoric, and that is a cruel fate that no work deserves. Considering the somewhat contested and controversial nature of the author’s claims (which amount to no more than an open recognition of the truths of Galatians 3:26-29, at their core), this is a book that could use some earlier clarification of its points lest it needlessly offend. While it is at times necessary to speak harsh and unpleasant truths to those who stand in opposition to the will of God, it is also wise not to make any unnecessary enemies. I admit I struggle with this myself, and so I do not stand in judgment of the author here, merely as a fellow struggling believer seeking to edify in grace and knowledge, not merely venting my spleen. For those who are willing to take the time and effort to sift between the hurts of past abuse and the essentially biblical nature of her position, the reward is worthwhile, but it should be noted clearly and openly that considerable effort is required to give the position and argument of the author proper justice.