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Questions I Ask Myself
It's Good to Have a Set
In the Christian tradition there is a historic prayer practice known as the examen. It is famously associated with Saint Ignatius of Loyloa, who lived from 1491-1556, and who developed this model as part of his “spiritual exercises.” Most often, the prayer of examen is taken up at the end of a day (you’ll quickly see why), though it can be used any time. The form of this prayer is outlined in various ways by different sources, but here are the five movements, and the five questions, I consider when incoporating this way of prayer into my time of with God:
Become aware of God. How is God present?
Review the day with gratitude. Where was/is God active?
Pay attention to feelings and emotions. How is God calling you to respond to these feelings?
Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. In considering this aspect of the day, what do you need to say to God, and, in the silence, what do you hear?
Look toward tomorrow. What do you need from God, and what are you hoping for from God?
These questions might not be for you. But they might be. If they are, put them to use.
I finished Ronald Reagan’s autobiography, An American Life.
I finished Beth Allison Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth. A reader asked for my thoughts on this book. I have a few.
I agree with the central premise: women are often marginalized and too often mistreated in conservative evangelical churches. Why? Doctrinal byproduct. Dr. Barr asserts “Christian patriarchy” is the problem, and she points to leaders in Southern Baptist life who have created the conditions that have led to unwarranted restrictions on women’s roles in home, church, and society. She chronicles the biblical and theological justifications that are given for the complementarian position and the ways this position has had destructive and harmful implications for women.
She also tells her story as someone who suffered in churches and other Christian circles holding doctrinal positions that were restrictive for women. Her stories are often painful to read, though, having heard others like them, are common. She gives voice to what many have experienced.
There are many different ways to persuade people. Most of us believe persuasion and argument is most effective when it deals with the facts. You would think a book that claims to be a history would be primarily occupied with facts, with things that happened, and a clear revelation of exactly those moments in time where things went wrong. Some of that kind of work is done in that book. But this book is not just a work of objective history.
This is also a book of personal, subjective history.
Persuasion in our moment is often effective and powerful when an appeal is made to the emotions, anecdotes are plentiful, and personal illustration carries the hearer forward. That’s exactly what Dr. Barr does. The driving historical narrative in The Making of Biblical Womanhood is one part development of Christian doctrine and another part personal experience; both parts are woven seamlessly together. But the part that drives the reader and keeps them turning the pages is the personal aspect of the narrative.
Dr. Barr claims her presentation is historical, and by moving through moments in history where Christian patriarchy became entrenched within conservative evangelicalism, she believes she has proven this teaching was always built on sand. In regard to her biblical arguments, I am in agreement. The biblical treatments are the strength of the book. The power of her argument is in the personal dimension. Her theological arguments, however, are shakier. And while Dr. Barr is hestitant to claim the mantle of theologian, when speaking of God, well, we are all theologians. God is a subject about which we all have something to say.
In one of the final chapters in her book, Dr. Barr accuses complementarians of advocating the Arian heresy. Why? Because complementarians, she states, argue that the Son is eternally submissive to the Father. From this claim, she asserts this must mean they believe the Son is not equally God in substance with the Father (the subject of the Arian controversy), but the Son is, rather, a second-class deity. The Son is “God,” but not quite “as-God” as the Father. I don’t think this is what complementarians believe, or teach. I could be wrong, and if so, I’m open to correction. But one way to dispose of your opponents is to catch them in heresy, and this is what Dr. Barr claims to have done.
For twenty years, I’ve been working out my position on women in ministry and women in the church. I am fully supportive of women in ministry. I am an egalitarian. In home life, I believe husband and wife are called to mutually submit to one another our of reverence for Christ as a first principle. Men and women are different, and they are addressed in their difference. But they are united in Christ, first in his body, the church, and secondly within the context of marriage, for those who have that calling. The church is a diverse body, filled with difference. But it is one body, where all are equal partakers in the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, I agree with Dr. Barr’s conclusion. But I do not always agree with her arguments, or her way of argumentation.
I’m still reading Dante and enjoying it immensely. And I’m almost through Louis Markos’ From Plato to Christ: How Platonic Thought Shaped the Christian Faith.
Sights and Sounds
I finished He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 on Netflix, and loved it. I also watched the 1976 film starring Clint Eastwood, The Outlaw Josey Wales. One of my favorite lines: “Dying ain’t much of a living, boy.”
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P.S. - A place to sit and listen.