Books on gender and ministry from an evangelical perspective

Posted on January 18, 2012


I’ve been asked by several people in recent months to recommend books on this subject. I can’t claim to have read everything on the topic, and I probably have a bias to British authors, but here are a few suggestions – not necessarily all the best books, but a selection that, taken together, will open up most of the standard arguments well. I’d welcome other suggestions in the comments.

Lis Goddard & Clare Hendry, The Gender Agenda (IVP, 2010): Lis and Clare are both Anglican ministers, but take different sides on this debate; the book is a series of emails they exchanged exploring many of the standard issues and arguments. It is accessible to the general reader, without being simplistic, and offers sympathetic presentations of two different positions. This would be the first book I’d give to most people – fair, generous, and informative.

Gundry & Beck (eds), Two Views on Women in Leadership (Counterpoints) (Zondervan, 2001, rev. 2005) (chapters by Linda Belleville, Craig Blomberg, Craig Keener, and Tom Schreiner, with responses by each). A bit more technical; again, a sympathetic and non-controversial presentation of different viewpoints; the format means the arguments are more connected than Goddard & Hendry.)

Pierce & Groothuis (eds), Discovering Biblical Equality: Complimentarity without Hierarchy (IVP/Apollos, 2004, rev. 2o05). A heavy and technical presentation of various aspects of a case for women in preaching and leadership positions, including serious treatments of all the crucial passages by respected evangelical Biblical scholars (Fee, Marshall, …)

Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (IVP/Apollos, 2004). A large and comprehensive presentation of every aspect of the case for ‘complementarianism’. (This isn’t a great book, really, but I know of nothing that does the same work better – does anyone else?)

Millard Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? (Kregel, 2009) Explains and explores a curious contemporary argument that gender subordinationism somehow reflects the Trinity; I confess that the argument seems to me to rely on a simple, albeit rather common, misunderstanding of ecumenical doctrine, but some people seem to find it convincing, and Erickson does a good job of explaining what’s going on.

Scott McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking how you read the Bible (Zondervan, 2008) and William Webb, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (IVP, 2001) both address the question of hermeneutics – how we should find meaning in the Biblical texts – and how that applies to gender relations and roles.

On specific texts, the best places to go are the commentaries. Any good evangelical commentary will summarise various points in the debate, before offering a reason for the author’s preference for one side or another. At a basic level, try the relevant volumes in Tom Wright’s NT for Everyone, or the Bible Speaks Today; for more in-depth discussion, try, for example, Fee on both 1 Cor. and 1 Tim., or Thistleton on 1 Cor.

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