Welcome to the online home of Audra Jennings, a book publicist and crafter. Here I share about both. I hope you'll find books you'll want to read and crafts you will want to order. I live a rather boring, single life. At times I would like to think I am humorous. The kids I teach in Bible class tend to think so. I also blog about current seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I don't know why, I just do.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel
An interview with Wendy Alsup,
Author of The Gospel-Centered Woman
(Part 1 of 2)
Many Christian books
written to women claim to present God's good instructions for their lives. Some
expound on the value of marriage and children. Many extol the virtues of the
Proverbs 31 wife. A good number teach the value of love, submission, and
respect in Christian marriages. Though Wendy Alsup’s book deals with these
topics, The Gospel-Centered Woman
addresses women from an entirely different perspective.
How does a math teacher end up writing a book on theology?
The winding road of life is hard to
predict, isn’t it?! I love teaching,
especially the look in someone’s eyes when the light comes on, and they finally
understand a concept I’m attempting to communicate. Those moments were THE thing that made
teaching worthwhile. While I was
teaching math as my job, I started teaching discipleship classes on the side to
women at the church I attended. I always
longed to show my students in school why math mattered—why it was relevant to
their daily lives. I don’t have much use
for a discipline that doesn’t matter in the practical issues where we
live. When it dawned on me how relevant
theology was to our daily lives, my focus changed. I could not NOT teach it,
and my opportunities to teach took off at church. I’ve heard others say that it is not until
you learn the relevance and value of something for yourself that you are best
able to communicate it to others. That
has definitely been my experience with theology.
There are a couple of terms we heard thrown around a lot, but we may not
understand what either really means. What exactly is practical theology? What
is Biblical womanhood?
In college, I was intrigued by math I
could use—applied mathematics. I hated
irrelevant math–math that didn’t seem to have any practical value except for
proving the logical prowess of the math professor teaching it. My personal intolerance for irrelevant things
bled over into theology. The theological
words I heard seminary students using were way out of my range, and the topics
they debated seemed irrelevant to where I was in life. But surely, theology, which means basically
the study of God, has to have some relevance to my daily life, right? So I now use the term practical
theology. It’s theology in its most
basic sense, the study of God, and it is most definitely relevant. If He is before all things and by Him all
things hold together (Colossians 1:17), then knowing Him, His loves, and His
work intensely affects my daily life.
Biblical womanhood means different
things to different people, often depending on what circles of Christianity
they frequent. When I use the term, I
mean what the Bible teaches about women and the instructions it gives to women. I use the Bible itself to let me know which
passages are ones that God wants us to use to build a vision of Biblical
womanhood. Not every passage that mentions women is to be emulated or obeyed.
That seems intuitive to me, but apparently that’s not clear to all people who
use the term Biblical womanhood.
What lead you to write your first book Practical
Theology for Women?
That book came about organically from a
class I led at the church I attended at the time. The first Sunday I attended, they announced a
class called Practical Theology for Women, and I was intrigued by the title of
the class from the first moment I heard it.
Practical theology. So much theology had previously seemed to me
esoteric and completely impractical. I was
intrigued and inspired by the idea that, yes, theology should be
practical. Knowing God, the essence of
the idea behind theology, ought to make a clear practical difference in our
lives. Years later, I started teaching
that class and developed the content that eventually became my first book.
What is your new book The Gospel-Centered
The Gospel-Centered Woman is simply
about understanding Biblical womanhood through the lens of the gospel. The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection
changes everything according to Scripture, and that includes how women view
themselves and understand the Bible’s instructions to them.
What makes theology different for women vs. men?
The theology itself isn’t different, but
the way we approach it sometimes is.
Women tend toward warmer, more relational presentations (that’s a
generalization, I know). I realized at
some point that, at least in my circles, the results of that desire for warm,
relational interactions with other believing women was what I call
pink-fluffy-bunny Bible studies. The
women I knew longed for something deeper and resonated with my pursuit of deep
Biblical truth in a warm, relational way.
I’m still on that journey and have appreciated the encouragement from
many other women on similar journeys.
The deepest things of the character of God minister to me in exactly
those places in my heart.
Why did you choose to write about this topic?
I’m not sure if I chose it, or it chose
me. I think the latter. Biblical Womanhood has been a hot topic in
Christian discussion for some time. I’ve
read many books espousing different views on what God wants women to do,
especially in the home and church. I’ve
always felt there was a big hole in how the topic was presented. In many books, women were encouraged to be
like Ruth or the Proverbs 31 woman. But
what about Christ? Romans 8 says we were
predestined to be conformed to His image.
Doesn’t that mean women too? Does
He not have something to offer women on the topic of womanhood?
Then Rachel Held Evans published A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and the
topic took off in the blogosphere. I
felt her book didn’t address Biblical womanhood at all, at least as I
understand the phrase, because she didn’t use the Bible’s own guidelines for
what parts of Scripture are and are not prescriptive for the average woman
today longing to live as the Bible instructs.
I couldn’t hold back from that point, and after publishing bits and pieces
of my thoughts on my blog, reader after reader encouraged me to publish the
thoughts altogether. I’m not addressing
Rachel’s book or others by either egalitarians or complementarians per se. My book is not against any of them, but I do
hope to offer a third way to understand the Bible’s instructions to women. It’s not new.
Actually, it’s ancient. But at
some point, we got off course in how we discussed these things in the Church,
in my opinion. This is my meager attempt
to reroute the discussion.
Let’s get practical, what are some ways you share that women can be
Wow. That’s a tough question to answer
shortly. The phrase “some ways”
contradicts the term “gospel-centered,” at least in the way I use it. Instead, think of an entirely different
paradigm. The gospel is a BIG word,
encompassing the fullness of all Christ ushered in through His life, death, and
resurrection. And understanding it is
the pursuit of a lifetime. When I am
centered in it, it is the environment in which I spend my life. Like any new environment, I need to learn its
distinguishing features. I focus in the
book on how this environment gives us an entirely different lens through which
to view our creation as women as strong helpers in the image of God. When we
understanding the fullness of the way Scripture speaks of the good news of
Jesus Christ, we can then, in the moment of struggle or pain, wrestle with God
over how that good news makes a difference in that very struggle.