Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reading With Gospel Eyes: Kathy Keller's Review of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood"

Let me highly recommend the review by Kathy Keller (yes, Tim’s wife) of a book called “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master.’”  Click Here for Kathy's review.

Kathy’s review is outstanding and insightful.  The book she reviews, less so.  

In that book, the author determines to “follow” everything that the Bible says for women for an entire year and see what her life looked like.  Her aim is to convince people that no one really follows the Bible completely. Instead everyone simply picks out the teachings of their choice and follows those.  That is certainly a shortcoming we are all prone to, but Kathy does a very good job of pointing out how the author ignores the most important single event of the Bible – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – and as a result completely misses what the Bible teaches women, and everyone else.

Here’s a point to remember:  We will never understand or rightly apply of any of the parts of the Bible, if we forget the point of the Bible: the Gospel of Jesus.

Also of great value, Kathy points out three basic guidelines for reading and understanding the Bible – insights that have been taught for centuries across all branches of the Christian movement.  

The Bible – in all its parts - is about Jesus, not about us.
This most fundamental rule of interpretation is based on the fact that the Bible is the story of God’s salvation coming into the world, climaxing in Jesus, and therefore we can’t read the first part of the Bible as if Jesus never came in the last part.

Distinguish between what the Bible records, and what it endorses.
Unlike the sacred texts of other religions, the Bible is not simply a collection of ethical principles by which to live. It is a record of human sin and of God’s intervention in history to save his people.  .  .  .  Horrible acts are recorded in my copy of The New York Times every morning, but I don’t commit the hermeneutical error of supposing the editors of the Times are approving or endorsing such behavior.

Look for the author’s intended meaning within a text’s historical context.
Again, in order to inject the book with humor, you ignore this principle. For instance, Proverbs 31:23 (“Her husband is respected at the city gate”) does not mean you should stand by the side of the highway holding a “Dan is awesome” sign (94). Ancient Israel’s city gate was where the elders sat—with the city council and town courtroom rolled into one. This statement meant that a godly woman’s husband has honor and a good name in society.

I see these same errors being committed often in a variety of other areas.  For example, when a person says that the Bible contains many forms of marriage, they are confusing what the Bible records with what it endorses.  When someone accuses evangelicals of hypocrisy because they affirm the authority of Scripture but do not follow all the Old Testament dietary laws, it is because those critics have ignored the Gospel message that the dietary laws are a shadow of the truth fulfilled in Jesus.  Evangelicals no longer follow kosher laws because the real thing – Jesus – has come, not because we hypocritically ignore them.

It’s a review worth reading carefully and digesting in a quiet setting.  We would all do well to keep these three guidelines clearly in our mind as we read, study and share the Scriptures.

In closing, Kathy and I would come to different conclusions on some of the applications of the Bible's teaching on women.  If you are familiar with that discussion, she would be a "complementarian" and I would be an "egalitarian." In terms of how we read and study the Scripture, I think she is right on target.

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