Books On And For Women

Books on and for Women are reviewed by Nancy M. Tischler, professor of English and humanities, Pennsylvania State University, Middletown, Pennsylvania.

The time is ripe for books about women. They are rolling off the presses at a rate that forces the reader to grow increasingly discriminating. No longer is there a single market and a common reader; women are interested in theology, administration, psychology, physiology, biography, history, Scripture studies, and poetry.

Some of the new books are aimed at young women whose highest goal is marriage and childbearing. For them, Julia “Mom” Taylor provides “God’s Answers for Women in Today’s Upside Down World” in Last, Least and Lowest (New Leaf Press). She offers practical, traditional, motherly advice to teen-agers to be good girls; modest, chaste, clean—not bad advice. “Mom” sees the new wave of women’s liberation as Satanic, and recommends the wisdom of the Proverbs.

Such wisdom is also the core of other chatty little books aimed at middle-class housewives weary of children and chores. For a large number of American women, obedience remains a part of the marriage vows to which they firmly subscribe. Mildred Cooper and Martha Fanning, in What Every Woman Still Knows (Bantam), are anecdotal and breezy in their presentation of traditional views; Iverna Tompkins, in The Worth of a Woman (Logos), is more pedantic and organized; Virginia Kirley Leih, in Portrait of a Fulfilled Woman (Tyndale), is the most perceptive and biblical. Her book is a personal and thoughtful series of insights into Proverbs 31. For those especially downcast about their homemaking role, Miriam Neff in Discover Your Worth (Victor) offers a “how-to” book for self-discovery. One especially thoughtful book for harried housewives is A Piece of Me Is Missing, by Marilyn Cram Donahue (Tyndale). She suggests ideas for creative, joyful Christian living, including having a coffee-break with God—actually talking to him over coffee each day. Cameos (Harvest House), by Helen Kooiman Hosier, is a series of biographical sketches of women who have lived by their faith while facing the various problems of raising their families.

After reading these books about allotment of time for children, committees, and husband, one is shocked by the cultural and emotional ghetto outlined in such books as Stopping Wife Abuse (Anchor), by Jennifer Baker Fleming. The hidden anguish of women’s lives, the brutal treatment, the isolation are frightening reminders that all is not well or tidy in our world. This book would be useful for pastors who deal with cases of domestic tragedy and need to know the legal ramifications of their advice. Not all abuse is physical, as the studies of women and psychological distress suggest. Helen de Rossis, in Women and Anxiety (Delacorte Press), provides a useful self-help book that curiously ignores the possibilities of a religious solution to problems of stress.

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Other books, like Please, Lord, Don’t Put Me on Hold (Concordia), by Jane Graver, reminds us that a large number of women in modern society do not go home to husband and children at the end of the day. Working women share the same tensions as working men, and have their own peculiar needs for strength and support. These meditations are witty and prayerful, and at the same time, very personal and realistic.

But the real avant-garde in women’s studies is not in these practical, gentle, scriptural books. The new women poets and theologians are following a divergent path that bears comment. Mary Daly, an associate professor of theology at Boston College, is the most radical and articulate of these, though her love of words catches her in a trap of enjoying word games rather than seeking to communicate. Her earlier books, Beyond God the Father and The Church and the Second Sex, have now been followed by the logical sequel, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Beacon), Having transcended the “anti-male” stance, she asserts that she is now “Furiously and Finally Female” in her attack on the Christian “myth,” charging that Mary was raped and used as a sales gimmick by a patriarchal system. Some of Daly’s ideas find more scholarly and dispassionate support in the recent study by Elaine Pagels on The Gnostic Gospels (Random), in which she argues that certain Scriptures were suppressed by the patriarchal church, notably the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene. Susan Griffin echoes Daly’s ideas in a more poetic, stream-of-consciousness meditation in Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (Harper & Row), asserting that man has exploited, spoiled, and mechanized both nature and woman.

The most forthright and readable of these feminist theological works is by Naomi Goldenberg, Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Feminism (Beacon). We can clearly see the new wave here and in Womanspirit Rising: The Feminist Reader in Religion, edited by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow (Harper & Row), which is a good cross section of feminist thinkers. (Christ also wrote the literary study on women writers published this year by Beacon Press: Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest.) The attack that we see in these books is on the patriarchal nature of God as interpreted by the Judeo-Christian tradition. The warfare leads its participants to a renunciation of both the Scripture and the religion, ending in a return to the worship of the goddess and to the practice of witchcraft. This is absolute radicalism, an attack on the very roots of Judaism and Christianity.

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In contrast with such iconoclasts, the evangelical women in Our Struggle to Serve (Word), edited by Virginia Hearn, appear very traditional and gentle. These 15 women—all bright, talented, and unable to swallow the simplistic answers of Total Woman—describe their anguish in striving to remain in the fellowship of churches that refuse to hear their cries. They feel like pretty (or sometimes ugly) children who are seen but not heard by a church that expects them to be happy slaves, knowing and rejoicing in their “place.” They argue that God has given them talents they cannot use for him so long as they remain “modest, meek and silent.” They are all from traditional faiths, all educated, and all struggling to be true to themselves, and to their God, their church, their families, their callings, and to Scripture. Most are part of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus and publish regularly in Daughters of Sarah. Their struggles, so different from those of women who are content to cut their lives to the traditional patterns or from those who are delighted to shred the faith and the church, deserve our sympathetic attention. They are a part of us, an exceptionally talented part.

Conflict Stories In The Synoptics

Jesus and His Adversaries: The Form and Function of the Conflict Stories in the Synoptic Tradition, by Arland J. Hultgren (Augsburg Publishing House, 1979, 223 pp., $6.50), is reviewed by David E. Aune, professor of religion, Saint Xavier College, Chicago, Illinois

Professor Arland Hultgren of Luther-Northwestern Seminaries in Saint Paul has produced a first-rate analysis of one oral form found 18 times in the synoptic Gospels, the “conflict story.” This is the first such study since Martin Albertz’s 1921 monograph, Die synoptischen Streitgespräche (The Synoptic Controversy Dialogues).

Hultgren finds that the “conflict story” consists of three elements: (1) introductory narrative; (2) the opponent’s question or attack; and (3) the dominical saying with which the form usually concludes. He distinguishes between “unitary” conflict stories (in which the saying is inseparable from the first two elements), and “nonunitary” conflict stories (in which the saying probably circulated independently of its present narrative framework). In comparing these conflict stories with suggested parallels in both rabbinic and Greco-Roman literature, Hultgren finds they are unique. Though all conflict stories were formulated by the post-Easter church, the earlier ones originated in a Palestinian setting in which they functioned to defend early Christians from Jewish criticism (e.g., Mark 2:1–12, 15–17, 18–20, 23–28), while later ones originated in a Hellenistic church setting where they had a largely catechetical funtion (e.g., Mark 7:1–8; 10:2–9; 12:18–27).

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While Hultgren’s book is an important contribution to form criticism of the Gospels—a subject which has suffered benign neglect in recent NT scholarship—no review is complete without some criticism. First, the author ignores H. Schürmann’s recent suggestion that the ministry of Jesus may have served as the original setting for the generation of oral forms. Second, Hultgren’s confident judgments that one feature or another of a synoptic conflict story belongs to a Palestinian or Hellenistic cultural setting are based on caricatures of the two cultures. Recent studies have underlined the degree to which Palestinian Judaism was permeated by Hellenism. Third, his insistence on the “uniqueness” of the conflict story is based on an ignorance of recent work done on rabbinic and Greco-Roman literary forms. Fourth, his assessment of the Sitze im Leben (settings in life), or the conflict stories, is problematic since he does not deal with the oscillation between oral and written forms and the necessarily different settings presupposed by both.

But such observations notwithstanding. Professor Hultgren has provided us with a stimulating and provocative discussion of the synoptic conflict stories.

An Excellent Evangelical Biblical Introduction

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 1; Introductory Articles (Zondervan,1979, 734 pp., $19.95) is reviewed by Robert H. Mounce, dean of arts and humanities, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Volume 1 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Introductory Articles on the Bible) is a large and important work. It could serve by itself as a university-or seminary-level introduction to biblical literature. Everyone who recognizes the major evangelical authors of the day will feel he is with old friends as he scans the table of contents. The list reads like the platform personnel at a banquet of evangelicals in honor of all those committed to the scholarly pursuit of a divinely inspired and completely trustworthy Bible.

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It would be impossible to begin to cover each of the 35 articles that make up this volume (9 general, 11 OT, and 15 NT). Thus I shall list a few titles which are representative of the kinds of topics dealt with and make some general comments about the larger evangelical movement in biblical studies of which this volume is an excellent example.

The reader obviously will want to know something about “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” and Carl Henry supplies the lead article on this crucial issue. Then we find ourselves investigating “The Transmission and Translation of the Bible” (Bruce) and its geographical setting (Houston).

Old Testament studies involve its language (Young), history (Motyer), theology (Kaiser), chronology (Archer), and canon (Fisher).

The New Testament section is equally rewarding. Greenlee writes on “The Language of the New Testament,” Julius Scott on “The Synoptic Gospels,” Cole on “The Life and Ministry of Paul,” and Walls on “The Canon of the New Testament.” You will discover the other writers and subjects when you buy the book—and you should buy it. It is well worth the money.

Most readers will know that The Expositor’s Commentary will be published in 12 volumes, and a careful reading of the introductory volume will convince the neutral observer that evangelical scholarship has come of age. The authors are fully abreast of the latest developments in their fields. While the bibliographies that follow each article are necessarily short they show an awareness of the larger theological world in which the evangelical works.

Most of the articles have a sort of text-bookish style that makes them less exciting to read than one could hope for; but, alas, that seems to be necessary in scholarly writing. However, the student with a genuine desire to learn will plow through almost anything—even the most pedantic prose—if he is rewarded with solid information and an occasional insight of lasting value.

Following the last article there is a 13-page index of persons, a 21-page subject index, and 21 more pages of scriptural references. This added feature helps to bind the work together. The subject index, in particular, makes the volume more usable as a reference work. The quality of this product speaks for itself and the evangelical church will benefit greatly from the forthcoming Expositor’s Commentary. Volume 1 has set a high standard.

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Dreams And The Christian

The Gift of Dreams: A Christian View, by Kathryn Lindskoog (Harper & Row, 1979, 202 pp., $8.95); Working With Dreams, by Montague Ullman and Nan Zimmerman (Delacorte Press, 1979, 335 pp., $10.00), are reviewed by Shirley Nelson, novelist, Albany, New York.

“Dreams don’t mean anything!” scoffed a character in one of Kathryn Lindskoog’s dreams. “Speak for yourself!” she answered, and woke up. “That was the end of him,” she writes, in The Gift of Dreams. “A truly perfect squelch.”

But Lindskoog knows that our dream people frequently represent parts of ourselves. And while reading this disarming book, we are always aware of the presence of a sensible writer. Though Lindskoog takes dreams seriously, she does not take herself too seriously, and so we trust her as she leads us on what seems to be a fantastic journey.

Our dreams, of course, are fantastic—and very real. In fact, they are apt to be more real and more honest about what is going on inside us than our waking consciousness is able to be. Lindskoog tells us that, as does Montague Ullman in his valuable book, Working With Dreams. Ullman is a noted psychiatrist. Lindskoog is not: she is a writer and critic. Yet there are profound similarities in the dream discoveries of both.

Ullman, founder of the Dream Laboratory at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York, writes out of years of experience in clinical research. Sharing authorship with Nan Zimmerman, a lay individual, he makes psychological theory available to the average reader, though the book is a professional treatise.

Lindskoog, on the other hand, talks informally about understanding dreams, her own, her children’s, her friends’—ours. We come in the back door and sit in her kitchen. The risk of this light-mannered style is that it tends almost to belittle her meticulous research, yet I have never read a more cogent explanation of what happens during sleep, or been so enlightened regarding the function of dreams in emotional health. Says Ullman, “The paradox … is that the dream, the product of our most private … being, can best be brought to fullest realization through being shared.” He states this in recommending group therapy; Lindskoog has demonstrated it on an even more public scale, within a specifically Christian context.

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Neither Freudian nor Jungian, both books stress the necessity of discovering one’s own emotional language in dreams, one’s own metaphors. We live our waking lives in prose, says Lindskoog, but we dream in poetry. Claimed C. S. Lewis: “Such information as poetic language has to give can be received only if you are ready to meet it half-way.”

A Rich Commentary On Leviticus

The Book of Leviticus. “The New International Commentary on the Old Testament,” by Gordon J. Wenham (Eerdmans, 1979, 362 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by Gerhard F. Hasel, professor of Old Testament and biblical theology and assistant dean and director of the Th.D. program, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

This is a highly informed commentary on one of the neglected books of the Old Testament. Professor Wenham of the Queen’s University of Northern Ireland, Belfast, seeks to combine “the plain original meaning of the text” with “its abiding theological value,” namely, “what the sacred text has to teach the church today.” In his attempt to achieve the first goal, Wenham has integrated into exegesis the comparative, socioanthropological, and new literary-critical approaches. The “enduring theological message” is found at the end of each chapter or at some other appropriate place, and discusses the relationship of the exegeted section to the NT and the NT use of ideas, words, or rituals drawn from Leviticus. This two-step procedure, that is, the movement from what the text meant to what it means, reveals once again the difficulty of conceiving a commentary.

The author’s discussion of law suggests that instead of dividing the Hebrew legislation into moral, civil, and ceremonial law it would be better to say that “some injunctions are broad and generally applicable to most societies [moral law], while others [civil law] are more specific and directed at the particular social problems of ancient Israel” (p. 35). This position leads to the assertion that the principles underlying the OT are valid and authoritative for the Christian while the particular applications found in the OT may not be. The situation with the “ceremonial law” is different. It is obsolete for the Christian, because all its enshrined ideals are fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ.

Several highlights may be listed as follows: (1) A postexilic date for Leviticus is difficult to maintain and a much earlier date is required. How much earlier is not indicated. (2) The motto of Leviticus is holiness. In Hebrew thinking everything was either “holy” or “common,” “clean” or “unclean.” Holiness is a state of grace; cleanness is the natural state of most creatures; uncleanness is a condition to which men descend through bodily processes and sin. (3) Israelite sacrifice was concerned with restoring relationships between God and Israel and between members of the covenant community. Sacrifice can undo the effects of sin and human infirmity; sacrificial blood is necessary to cleanse and sanctify the offerer. (4) The Day of Atonement rites were designed to cleanse and sanctify the sanctuary and altars from the uncleanness of the Israelites. (5) The meaning of kippēr, “to make atonement,” means either (a) “to wipe clean” or (b) “to pay a ransom,” but not “to cover” as many scholars once suggested. (6) The laws of clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11 are symbolic in nature, reminding Israel of its special status as God’s holy people (following Mary Douglas). (7) Blood is “at once the most effective ritual cleanser (‘the blood makes atonement,’ 17:11) and the most polluting substance …” (p. 188). This list indicates something of the depth and breadth of this commentary.

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I was surprised to note that the complex problem of laying on of hands, substitution, and substitutionary sacrifice never entered into the discussion. This is a painful lacuna in an otherwise most refreshing, stimulating, and rich commentary that will make excellent reading for both scholars and laymen.

The Present Power Of Jesus

The Positive Power of Jesus Christ, by Norman Vincent Peale (Tyndale House, 1980, 266 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Lewis W. Kisenwether, Jr., pastor, First Baptist Church, Matawan, New Jersey.

Norman Vincent Peale’s twenty-fifth book, The Positive Power of Jesus Christ is, to my mind, his best and perhaps most significant. It answers the question, “What can Jesus Christ do in the lives of people?” and affirms what Christians have known through the years. When Jesus Christ enters human life he saves it, changes it, makes it new, heals broken hearts and relationships.

Peale begins with his own personal testimony of the power of Jesus Christ. He speaks of faith and victory over personal problems and gives the credit to Jesus Christ. He then goes on to relate stories of real people who have encountered Jesus and seen the power of God work wonders. The average pastor will find a great deal of effective pulpit material in this new volume. The people Peale uses to show forth the power of Christ are the very sort who sit in church pews every Sunday or seek consolation in the bars of our cities. Their problems are those of everyday people all over the country.

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While The Positive Power of Jesus Christ is by no means a theological work, it provides insight into Peale’s theological foundation. Constantly we see him not as the pulpit master or radio speaker, but as a Christian coming in contact with needy people, using personal witness as his tool of evangelism. It is the basis upon which he approaches spiritual life. In one incident, which he calls “one of the strangest interviews of my ministry,” he is asked by a church official who has lost zest for life: “How do you go about being converted and finding the peace and joy you refer to?” Peale’s reply: “I said that the requirements were the confession of sin, an expression of belief in the power of Christ to heal the lesions of the mind and soul, acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior, a humble request for forgiveness, and the willingness to turn oneself completely over to God.”

Briefly Noted

Inspiration/Authority of Scripture. Current controversy concerning the nature of the Bible has drawn strong defenses of its God-given truthfulness. Inerrancy and Common Sense (Baker), edited by Roger Nicole and J. Ramsey Michaels, is a collection of well-written essays, as is Inerrancy (Zondervan), edited by Norman Geisler. John F. MacArthur defends the reliability of God’s Word in Why Believe the Bible (Gospel Light), also available under the title Take God’s Word for It. InterVarsity Press offers J. I. Packer’s God Has Spoken, affirming the full authority of Scripture.

Paul J. Achtemeier takes a different tack in The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals (Westminster). He argues that inspiration is to be located in the tradition, situation, and respondent in Scripture, and can become the Word of God for us by pointing us to Christ.

Worship/Preaching: James F. White has written a thoughtful survey in Introduction to Christian Worship (Abingdon). It is particularly good in explaining terminology. Peter Brunner’s Worship in the Name of Jesus (Concordia) is a full-scale, definitive work by a Lutheran theologian. O Come, Let Us Worship: Corporate Worship in the Evangelical Church (Baker), by Robert G. Rayburn, is a popular and practical plea to make worship more meaningful for churches today, with a series of helpful suggestions. Sickened by male-dominated worship, Thomas and Sharon Neuter Emswiler in Wholeness in Worship (Harper & Row) offer a comprehensive manual for nonsexist services.

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A second edition of Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed (Oxford University Press), edited by R. C. D. Jasper and G. J. Cuming, contains the most comprehensive collection of basic material in print. Marty E. Marty offers sensitive, personal reflections in The Lord’s Supper (Fortress). In Spirit and in Truth (Dorrance), by Calvin H. Chambers, is an attempt to integrate charismatic worship into the Reformed tradition.

Baker Book House has reprinted P. T. Forsyth’s classic Lyman Beecher Lectures of 1907, Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind. One can compare them with The Preaching Event (Word), by John R. Claypool, which are the Beecher Lectures of 1979. Minister’s Saturday Night (Pilgrim), by Robert L. Eddy, is a collection of topically arranged sermon helps (illustrations) taken from everywhere—from Jesus to Charlie Chan.

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