Finally Unconvinced -- By: Robert E. Sagers
JBMW 14:2 (Fall 2009) p. 61
A Review of John G. Stackhouse Jr., Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.
Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President for Academic Administration
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Not long ago I heard a complementarian Christian scholar gently rebuke one of his students for referring to an evangelical egalitarian as a “feminist.” The scholar said the word “feminist” sounded “too pejorative.”
John Stackhouse may disagree. Stackhouse is Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College. In his recent work, Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender, he attempts “to show how one can be both authentically feminist and authentically Christian.” Admitting that the word “can mean several things,” Stackhouse defines feminist as “someone who champions the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance to those of men and who therefore refuses discrimination against women” (17).
In this work, Stackhouse first lays out his rationale for why a new paradigm for understanding gender roles in the church and home is needed for Christians today (15-32). He then moves on to describe his own paradigm for Christian feminism (33-73). Finally, after responding to what he anticipates to be the most pertinent critiques of his proposal (75-103), Stackhouse includes two appendices, which cover a host of issues related to gender roles (105-129).
In his preface, Stackhouse admits that he hopes that his book “will assist those who genuinely would like to become egalitarians but who cannot see how the Bible supports such a view” (12). The desire to be both feminist and Christian comes up again and again throughout the pages of Finally Feminist. Indeed, in the first chapter, Stackhouse recounts his own “conversion narrative” to feminism (20).
Growing up in “a Focus on the Family-type home” (20), Stackhouse began to question why his spiritually competent mother could not lead in a worship service while each week “Mr. So-and-So rose to bore us once again with his meanderings through Scripture and Mr. Such-and-Such followed with his interminable prayer” (21). Answers given in his church did not satisfy him, evidenced even in a memorable discussion he had with his future wife over such issues while in college (22).
As societal norms began to shift and Stackhouse’s own egalitarian marriage still seemed a bit theologically groundless (22), he “underwent an explosive paradigm sh...
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