Booklist: Marriage and Gender Issues

Dear Reader,

Without intending to, I have ended up reading a number of books on marriage and gender over the past year. These are tough and yet quite topical subjects so I thought I would share some of the best of them. A word of warning: the nature of the topic is adult. You should pre-read any books you give to teens and most are not appropriate for younger children.

Books on Marriage and Gender Issues

Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz (Penguin Books, 2005) — A history of marriage across cultures and time from the earliest days of humanity till the present. It’s quite an undertaking but this is a well-written, thorough book and a great place to start for some historical perspective. The author is not Christian but the scholarship seems solid; I have read much the same things in Christian books (see below).

Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax (New York: Harmony Books, 2017) — Like the above book this one is by a non-Christian but gives some solid scholarship and lays a good foundation for later reading. For anyone who works with kids (or perhaps anyone of the opposite gender) there are some useful bits of information here to aid in communication and mutual understanding. FYI look for the updated 2017 version. I’m not sure exactly what has been changed but gender issues in the public eye have changed a lot since the book was originally published in 2005.

Christian Marriage: A Comprehensive Introduction by David Ayers (Lexham Press, 2019) — Comprehensive does not begin to sum up this thick volume. Ayers clearly loves statistics but he is fairly easy to read and has lots of practical suggestions as well, especially for parents and ministers. The book covers almost every topic relating to marriage and sex that you could think of and gives numbers for most of it with a special emphasis on comparing what “evangelicals” believe relative the to wider culture. This is not the best book for reading cover to cover; selecting sections of particular interest would work better. I got the Kindle version and that was not ideal as it makes the many charts hard to read.

Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas (Zondervan, 2015) — The subtitle here tells you where the author is going, and it is a good place. This was not my all time favorite book but I had picked it up looking for a gift for an at-best-weak-Christian friend who was getting married and I think it filled that role nicely in that it gives a different perspective on marriage than our culture does. See my full review of the book here.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage Church and Society by Rachel Green Miller (2019) — As I write this I am in the midst of reading Miller’s book. I have heard her speak on numerous podcasts as well (see below). Overall I would say I share her take on the roles and relationship of men and women. Her book is mainly a response and correction to certain overly rigid Christian views that come from the complementarian side, particularly the view known as Eternal Functional Submission (EFS). Miller is not an egalitarian but the thesis of her book is, as its title suggests, that we need to see beyond the authority/submission paradigm. Where she addresses the history of marriage, her book seems to fall in line with Coontz’s (see above). Her take on the various waves of feminism is also quite helpful.

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (2012) and Openness Unhindered (2015) by Rosaria Butterfield (both published by Crown and Covenant) — Rosaria was an openly lesbian university professor when she came to faith. The first book, Secret Thoughts, is the story of her conversion, with a fair amount of theology woven in. Openness Unhindered continues the discussion (she also has at least one later book on hospitality). A very personal story, Rosaria’s works help breed understanding for those that, frankly, Christians are not always compassionate towards, without compromising the truth.

The Gospel & Sexual Orientation and Gender as Calling: the Gospel and Gender Identity (Crown and Covenant) — These fairly thin volumes are concise, pastoral statements on how we should view those with gender-related issues and how to counsel them. Even if you are not a pastor, they are well worth reading.

And some fiction: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Each of these books shows the real-life effects of adultery and sexual sin. I am sure there are many more that could be added to the list but I happened to have (re-)read these three in the past year.

Finally, for those who don’t always have time to read, a few sermons and podcasts:

On divorce: “Divorce with Pastor Todd Bordow” from Theology Gals (2019). Rachel Miller (above) has actually joined this podcast recently and they have been doing a lot of episodes on marriage-related issues. I found the one on divorce particularly thoughtful and well-balanced. I have not read it but their guest, Todd Burdow, also has an article that is probably worth picking up if you want to delve deeper.

On the role of women in the church: “Women are to Keep Silent in the Churches” by Cliff Blair on Sermon Audio (3/25/2018) — I stumbled across Pastor Blair’s sermons somehow or other and have been very pleased with them. His style is a very careful, well-explained, and close exegesis of the texts. In this one he tackles 1 Corinthians 14. I haven’t heard anything better or clearer on the passage. Spoiler: despite his title, he is not arguing for absolute silence from women.

On headcoverings: “Headcoverings, parts 1, 2 & 3” by Cliff Blair on Sermon Audio (January, 2018) — Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Pastor Blair preached three sermons on headcoverings. Again, his exegesis is clear, thorough and well-balanced. I do not end up where he does, practically speaking (see below), but his explanations of the relevant verses are the best I have heard.

And again, on headcoverings: “Contra Mundum: Interview with Pastor Scott Wilkinson on headcoverings” from Sermon Audio (10/4/2017)– The reason I don’t end up where Blair does on the headcovering issue is because of that one phrase “praying and prophesying.” In this interview Pastor Scott Wilkinson explains how he interprets the passage and I tend to follow him on this.

That’s what I’ve got so far. Any other recommendations?

Nebby

 

 

One response to this post.

  1. […] Beyond Authority and Submission by Rachel Green Miller — Somehow I have ended up reading a lot of books on marriage and gender issues this year. This is one of the best. In general I agree with Miller’s take. You can see a little more detail on her book and my list of other recommended books on the topic here.  […]

    Reply

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