Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mother's Day Reading & Other Thoughts on Literature for Christian Women

In yesterday's mail I received a sample of a gift book designed for distribution on Mother's Day. It's called God's Tender Promises for Mothers. According to the promotional flier that accompanied it: "This is the perfect gift to honor mothers for their godly work and remind them of one of God's important promises to them." If you're thinking, "I didn't know there were that many promises in the Bible addressed specifically to mothers," that's what I thought too. As it turns out, each page of the small paperback contains an inspirational thought of one or two sentences followed by a biblical verse that may or may not relate to it. Here's an example:

Mother always said that the
largest room in the world
is the room for improvement.
And that you, always having all sufficiency
in all things, may have an abundance
for every good work
2 Corinthians 9:8

Little promise books like this along with verse-a-day devotionals dissect the Bible into isolated bits and lend to the dangerous practice of divorcing small units of Scripture from their literary, historical, and canonical contexts. The result is that believers do not grow in their understanding of how the parts relate to the whole. Such a fragmentary approach impedes the formation of a coherent, comprehensive biblical outlook contributing to what Francis Schaeffer identified as the basic problem of American Christianity, the tendency to see things in "bits and pieces instead of totals."
Why is the market proliferated with such biblically and theologically light fare for women? Author and counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick offered a number of reasons in an article she contributed to the Spring '03 issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling (""What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?": Publications for Christian Women"). She writes:

I’ve heard numerous women say, “I’m so sick of fluff books.” So why does it seem that so many women read fluff? Because that’s the majority of what’s being written by women! Why are women writing fluff? In part, because that’s all that they can get published! The publishers who know that there is a market for deeply theological books generally don’t publish scholarly or theologically practical women. Other publishers who appreciate the women’s market generally don’t think that we have a taste for much of anything besides cotton candy, a cup of tea, and a cupcake with Bible-verse sprinkles.
Carolyn Custis James is another Christian woman eager to see women delve into the riches of the Word. If you're going to get Mom anything to read for Mother's Day I recommend her book, When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference. She describes it as "a long overdue call for Christian women to reclaim their theological heritage." In the concluding paragraph of a chapter called "The Dreaded T-Word [theology] and Why Women Avoid It" she writes
The value of theology for women is growing clearer all the time. Women are tired of "stumbling and blundering" and riding an emotional roller coaster. We want to know the one who made us, who defines who we are and how we should live, and who hold our lives in the palms of his hands. We are ready to lift our arms, put on our theology, and wear it into the trenches where we need it most - where tight schedules, traffic congestion, runny noses and dirty knees, difficult relationships, bad news, discouragement, fatigue, and sagging red chairs throw us off balance and expose our need for God. Our goal is to bring knowing God out of the ivory tower and into the ordinary moments of our lives.
The cover of James's book is nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the floral design on God's Tender Promises for Mothers and therefore it may not be the best choice for a coffee table book. However, if you're looking to get Mom something that will aid her in better knowing and loving God, it's the better choice.


Student of History said...

Interesting post! In my way of thinking, I would much rather read a sound reformed theology book period. Does it follow that a woman must write it because I am a woman? Give me good strong sound teaching over male/female identity any day.

Why is it that all of a sudden people are realizing that women need theology? Haven't they always? I mean I am a great fan of well-written fiction (Austen, Tolkien, Bronte, etc.), but I also love theology. The hand that rocks the cradle, and in our house homeschools the children, needs to know what truth is so that it can be imparted to our children. Fluff does not cut it.

I look forward to checking into Carolyn Custis James, but woman or not, it is sound theology that counts, not the author's sex.


Jschutt said...

I appreciate this post and ordered the book you recommended from the public library. I surfed around on her name, and also found a recommendation for Nancy Pearcy's _Total Truth_, and ordered it, too. Thanks for the nudge.

KP said...

Dear jschutt,

I'm very pleased that you appreciated the post and that it spurred you on to pick up Carolyn Custis James' book. I'd love to hear back from you once you've gotten into it.

I'm also glad that you're going to be reading Total Truth. It's an excellent book! You can listen to a conversation I had with Nancy at www.penseesfsu.org. Take care.