Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

13 August 2012

God's Good Design by Claire Smith

I have been having an email conversation with a friend about the roles of men and women in church over the last few months.  It's been a fairly protracted discussion.  Long gaps between the emails while we ponder the questions and frame our answers. 

We all know stuff about these issues - bits of what the Bible has to say - and we know it all to be very emotive.  Especially as we approach those muddied, murky waters that are the two words "headship" and "submission."  But are we able to sufficiently push aside what our emotions are telling us for long enough to really see what the Bible is actually saying about these things?

So my friend and I were glad to discover a new book that has been published this year about this very subject - God's Good Design: What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women by Claire Smith.  I have just finished reading it and loved it.

After an opening chapter providing a brief survey of feminism, the book is divided into two sections covering the role of men and women in the church and within the home.  Claire Smith takes seven of the key Bible passages about the roles of men and women - looking at 1Timothy 2, 1Corinthians 11 and 1Corinthians 14 within the church and then Ephesians 5, 1Peter 3, Genesis 1-3 and Proverbs 31 within the home - and does a thorough study of what each of them has to say about the role of men and women. 

What did I like about this book?

Each of the passages is tackled in detail, one chapter at a time.  Claire Smith presents what she calls a plain reading of the passage - asking, "What does the Bible have to say about this?" rather than "What does my head/heart/need to have my rights met say (with bits but maybe not all of the Bible/passage informing my thoughts) about this issue ?"  (See how messy it gets - and quickly.)  There are a number of specific verses along the way in some of these passages (if not the whole passage in toto) that often stop people women in their tracks.  In tackling fairly large chunks of Scripture she is able to put those traffic stopping verses in their wider context and in light of the whole counsel of God, unpack them with a clear head rather than in an emotive lather.  Claire Smith has done her work.  Her studies are thorough and well founded.  As I was reading along I kept thinking, "Wow, this is a really straight shooting book."

God's Good Design may be straight shooting but it isn't harsh.  Claire Smith writes gently, lovingly, humbly, and generously.  All through the studies she seeks to explain in clear terms what the Bible is saying about things that are pretty challenging - but she also leads us pastorally through all those "What if..." and "What about..." questions.  She knows all the niggling doubts and concerns we have.  She's been there too.  And to demonstrate that,  she tells her own story in the final chapter and shows how she personally applies these passages in her own life.

This is a very encouraging book and a good read for women AND men as we aim to understand one another's roles at home and at church and seek encourage each other to be and do our very best for the sake of unity, harmony, service and living in a way that honours one another and brings all glory to God - the Master of this good design and plan for our lives.

You can get yourself a copy of God's Good Design from Matthias Media. Available in paperback or as an eBook.


6 comments:

Karen said...

I've been slowly working my way through this one....along with about six other books at the same time, so I've just been dipping in and out really. But the bits I've read have been really helpful :)

Meredith said...

Wow Karen...seven books on the go at once, one of them being "Knowing God", uni marking, a blog and a life. You are impressive. How is "Knowing God" going, by the way? Are you enjoying it?

Pamela said...

What a good review! I'm putting this one on my "to-read" list.

Meredith said...

Hi Pamela. Thanks for dropping by to visit. I have just had a peek at your blog and it is gorgeous. And thanks for your lovely comment. I think you will love the book. Matthias Media have a US online store which, if I have got this right, you can access via
http://www.matthiasmedia.com/index.php

Enjoy that book!

Sarah said...

I read it while on holidays (not exactly light holiday reading, I know)and found it to be really helpful. I'll have to review it soon.

Meredith said...

Welcome back from holidays Sarah. Certainly not light holiday reading, but so worthwhile. It's a great book. The more I think about it and talk about it with other people, the more I like it. I am definitely going to have to read it again.