Book Review: Liberating Tradition -- By: Mark Mathis
Book Review: Liberating Tradition
(Baker Academic, 2008)
MARK MATHIS served as minister of spiritual care and growth at Pilgrim Church in Beverly, Mass. He and his wife Stephanie recently moved to Portland, Ore., where she serves as the executive director of the Oregon Center for Christian Values.
Kristina LaCelle-Peterson writes a compelling outline of Christian feminism that serves as a valuable tool for the average evangelical seeking more refined and informed thinking about gender from a biblical perspective. The book’s title hints at its ambitious purpose: to liberate evangelicals from cultural trappings that have misdirected our reading of Scripture, our family structures, and our models of church participation. The author invites all Christians to look at Scripture with fresh eyes and to listen to the voices and experiences of Christian women through the ages so that we can gain a more accurate understanding of gender as it relates to Christian identity and vocation. Having cleared the way with exegesis and historical research, she issues a clear call that her readers begin to construct a way forward that recognizes that both men and women are created equally in the image of God and are meant to carry out God’s purposes in the world together.
LaCelle-Peterson’s approach to Scripture is thoroughly evangelical and in line with CBE’s position that “the Bible, in its totality, is the liberating Word that provides the most effective way for women and men to exercise the gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit and thus to serve God.” Rather than viewing Scripture as an oppressive text, the author builds her case for full gender equality based on an approach that asserts that “Scripture, rightly understood, is affirming of women’s full humanity and full participation in the people of God” (21). The Bible then becomes the liberating force behind the book as a whole. Fallen human culture, and its frequent presumption of gendered hierarchy, must then give way to the ancient and liberating message of Scripture.
In this vein, Liberating Tradition begins by putting forward a clear and concise biblical theology of gender equality in the first two chapters. LaCelle-Peterson roots this view of women’s identity in a capable exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2 and continues by giving attention to the variety of roles, offices, and tasks that have characterized the women presented in the biblical text. Although only cursory treatment of most passages is offered, the broad scope of the author’s investigations successfully achieves her intended effect. Her whirlwind tour of female judges, prophets, disciples, and de...
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