I heard about this book from a number of people, it was all the buzz, and I admit it. I was curious.

Years ago, when I had first become the teacher of a large women’s Bible study, one of the women I worked closely with had begun involvement with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a group I had not heard of before, but soon would become very familiar with through this coworker.

As her involvement increased with CBMW, she also began to place ever-increasing pressure on me to step down as teacher and leader of our Bible study. She felt it was a point of principle because the director of our international organization was a woman—not a problem if all the Bible studies registered women only, but some of the Bible studies were men’s groups, and the male teachers of those Bible studies came “under the authority” of our woman director. According to my colleague, that was in direct violation of the Bible’s “clear teaching.”

At the time, I was a member of a fairly conservative, Complementarian church, and therefore felt my credentials, so to speak, were impeccable. From what I felt was the high road, I ended up writing her a note about how Romans 14 allows for differences of opinion among believers, enjoining us to be one in the Spirit, to avoid creating stumbling blocks for each other and to keep from judging each other.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to[d] God.”

So then, each one of us will be held accountable.

Romans 14:10-12 (NRSV)

But she was not in the least persuaded nor dissuaded. Eventually, she resigned from our organization, but continued to pressure me for nearly a year or so after that.

So, reading The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth, by Beth Allison Barr was deeply cathartic for me. I had actually already taken a class in grad school studying women theologians, mystics and scholars down through church history, and was thankful to have that background as I read Barr’s research and cogent arguments. It was, as they say, an eye-opening experience.

Probably the biggest takeaway was learning about the great shift in the church’s ideology concerning sex, and concerning the place of women. I had already been pursuing this topic in great depth, first in my seminary coursework, but now also with Barr’s bibliography (often an excellent resource). Barr put the pieces together for me, so I could see the metanarrative, as they say, of the church’s historical arc. In the earliest centuries of the church, many believers chose celibacy as the highest calling, both women and men, that they might unite all the more deeply with Christ, and be fully available to teaching and shepherding, as well as meditation and prayer.

The enormous shift towards marriage and family did not happen until about five hundred years ago with the Age of Enlightenment and the Reformation. I doubt the Reformers fully grasped the implications of this radical departure from church teaching and practice, but in America of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries it has meant for women (and men, too) restriction in Christ, not freedom in Christ.

A good book is one a person is ready to read more than once. Even though I finished Barr’s book last year, I am ready to read it again. She is a great writer and a consummate scholar, and I hope she writes more in this genre.


4 thoughts on “The Making of Biblical Womanhood

  1. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    I don’t like the word feminist or the idea of it, being quite honest it’s an ugly concept to me but equally “male chauvinist pig” is just as ugly, these blunt terms to denote actual character types or a sort of personhood! Traditional is a good word and denotes “tried and tested” or “sensibility and wisdom” of “living in accordance with long standing virtues, values and customs,” that maximize the “best qualities in human beings” while the sexes in so doing work in cooperation to “enhance the best strengths in each other” and have a win/win situation!

    Modern life is screwed, because all of this has been flipped over and we have “people tugs of war” going on far too much and even ripping each other or all that is best in people apart, all of it so the individual can claim victory or I got my way; in other words thickheaded, stubborn, selfishness rules supreme in today’s world, especially in America and most Western nations, and look how little people can trust one another, is it any wonder! This has torn the family structure apart and now women drop their babies or children off at day care and they go do their career thing, whether she is a single mom or married and to me this is one of the greatest disservices to the human species, which is a huge part of the reason why we see so much disfunctionality and decay of society as a whole, and I think much of the confusion or violence even; is all being caused by this sift of priorities within the family unit!

    It’s simple, a person can be great or perform exceedingly well at one thing at a time if they focus their attention and energy on doing and being the best you can at that something, and say as a vital example being a mother, which every family needs I believe as the core hub of the home and entire families health. Not just that mothers should be nurturers but they have always naturally been “the heart of the home” where she is relied upon for so many crucial or fundamental needs, the “actual mother” of the children and no replacement or daily babysitter constantly taking her place will do, because that can never be a replacement for the child’s actual nurturing mother with whom the real bonds of mother and child need to me made or fully established while expanding, that will carry forward into the development and future adult’s life!

    I see a sickness in the modern way of living that is an actual disease triggering flaw, which is producing very unhealthy and broken young people or adults which translates to a sick society and so much more violence, anger and miserable, mentally unbalanced people running around; who end up repeating the cycle or worse! Having your cake and eating it too is a stupid idea when it comes to producing a family or the next generation, and that is what many women who are mothers are trying to do these days; so they are turning over a large portion of their own motherhood responsibility to schools or day care! And many of these insane public school systems are now infiltrated with additional crazy people who now want to make sure these new “digital era type of latchkey kids” who are Woke, gender bender and are fully indoctrinated in CRT, which is all part of making a communist system of living, where you can have children but they are more the “Property of the State” and not really the parents. If you catch my drift here what I’m also saying is all of this is not what God intended and is “antichrist,” as well “an evil ideological concept and process of raising families” and is producing a culture which does not serve God’s purposes or even those of what basically a family should be about by nature!

    I will boldly say we as a civilization are all on the wrong path these days and things will get much worse not better moving forward, as we have seen it doing with these mass killings by young men who are mentally deranged and quite “Evil” too. While it’s quite simple to see why this is the case! Now the talk of course is about how to secure the schools which by default is necessary, but it’s not going to solve any underlying fundamental issues, and basically we are building a “Police State type culture” where everyone is in “Lock Up” mode with security to the hilt, totalitarianism, but people are being devalued and made to be like machines or objects, which all leads to “loss of humanity and God’s purpose” making this a process leading to “a very Evil world!”

    But I believe it’s a duty to point out my own perception of current society and the perspective I’ve gained about what I see as grossly wrong in our culture by analyzing all that I’ve experienced and observed over the years, so that I can share where I anticipate and think this all is going or headed.

    From this, I leap to the topic of women who have served great Godly purposes and there are those who did so not in any traditional family sense or manner; but that in and of itself is a beautiful thing, how a woman can bear a child, while in the process having that most connected and intimate union with another human being during the nine months of pregnancy, forming a bond that can never be broken! But yet amazingly on top of that, some of them have been wonderful mothers along with having a very good marriage, and even doing something profoundly great like a special calling; above and beyond that! But my point of emphasis about doing something great in serving God’s purposes, can be done by either men or women; but most importantly I can see when it’s the focus or thing that person is totally dedicated to, it’s then a most beautiful fulfilling, heaven sent purpose and not some half-baked effort or concoction that’s creating more problems or trouble than it solves. There are rare examples of these great women who handle all of it beyond any conventional human expectation and it’s truly miraculous to me!

    Favorite saints are important to consider here like, “St Thérèse of Lisieux,” who serve as instruments in this long arduous process of “Salvation” for the multitudes throughout the world who want to be saved, need to be saved and must be saved from eternal damnation or the otherwise complete separation from God Almighty forever; as that is a most assuredly horrid ending for any soul and we always should pray that only souls that absolutely belong in hell will be there!

    Of course we of faith know that with God anything is possible; being the God of endless possibilities, we should have confidence and know in our heart of hearts that this is a “saving mission” that Jesus Christ initiated not about misery and destruction therefore “good will overcome evil, every evil;” while the light will always shine into the darkness bringing hope and the “Lord’s Salvation” to all those who deserve it; not one lamb will be lost from His herd, He being the Good Shepherd; knows all of His own and they know Him! No greater bond of love can I put this into context with than to say what’s been said countless times already of how Great the Love between Holy Mary, Jesus Christ her Son and His with the Father’s endless absolute love for her! So then, this is the love I speak of here, and, it all comes from Almighty God; who loves all of His children with this same absolute love!

    We all can live in accordance with the will of God if have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior which then becomes more about living in the world but not of it; knowing our real life and home are beyond this fallen broken one. We can try our best to be saints then we should consider each and every day the following.

    Are we worthy of praise for some of the things we have done for others or in the name of Jesus, surely some of us can rest assured of that, but we can also be certain that we carry sin and guilt that will not go away and we will not be free of until we are in heaven with God the Father, through and by the forgiveness of our transgressions only by Jesus Christ Himself, and that is why we need to be concerned to a great degree if we don’t call it outright fear, we are all in jeopardy and are in a most tumultuous world these days full of vanity and sin in so many basic things we participate in; which serve the beast or the prince of this world and not our heavenly Father. Can we judge ourselves, of course not, we are mere humans that die, but, the one who can is who we should fear because we don’t know whether we are truly worthy until He the Lord our God tells us so!

    “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10

    “Meet Venerable Conchita: Mystic, Messenger to Priests, & Spiritual Mother”
    by Kathleen Beckman

    Declared Venerable by His Holiness Pope Saint John Paul II on December 20, 1999, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida (Conchita) (1862-1937), born in Mexico, into a pious Catholic family, was a married woman, mother of nine children, foundress of the five Works of the Cross and a great mystic of the Mexican Church.

    Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Venerable Conchita Cabrera, clearing the way for her beatification in Mexico City in May 2019. In 2007, Rome’s Congregation for the Clergy wrote, “In the future, she will be of great importance for the universal Church. The spiritual motherhood for the sanctification of priests consumed her completely until she died at the age of seventy-five.”

    Spending many hours in Eucharistic adoration, she received messages from the Lord regarding the priesthood. These are Church approved, and quoted in the Congregation for the Clergy’s booklet on priestly holiness and spiritual maternity. Venerable Conchita’s messages are also widely published in books.

    Spiritual maternity of clergy has historical tradition in the Church and is well articulated in the Congregation for the Clergy’s publications (2007, 2013). Why spiritual motherhood? Motherhood of souls, especially of clergy souls, distinguishes itself by the essence of the term “mother” which denotes one who labors to gives birth. God invites women to labor spiritually to birth grace in the souls and ministry of Christ’s ordained ministers.

    All authentic spiritual motherhood derives from the life and heart of the Virgin Mary, Mother of all priests. After the Ascension of Christ, I imagine that the Apostles and earthy Church thought of the Mother of Jesus as their cherished and necessary spiritual mother. The term spiritual mother is so much richer than a spiritual friend or sister because of the birthing process of grace won by prayer and sacrifice. As Jesus told Venerable Conchita, “The Virgin Mother did not cease sacrificing her motherly heart to the divine will of the beloved Father.”

    “There are souls, who through ordination receive a priestly anointing. However, there are also priestly souls who do not have the dignity or the ordination of a priest, yet have a priestly mission. They offer themselves united to me…. These souls help the Church in a very powerful spiritual way…. You will be the mother of a great number of spiritual children, yet they will cost your heart the death of a thousand martyrs.

    ‘I want give my Church a powerful impulse in which I will pour out the Holy Spirit over my priests like a new Pentecost. The Church and the world need a new Pentecost, a priestly Pentecost, an interior Pentecost. I will entrust to you a different martyrdom, you will suffer what the priests undertake against me. You will experience and offer up their infidelity and wretchedness.” (Venerable Conchita quoted by Kathleen Beckman, Praying for Priests, Sophia Press, 2018)

    https://catholicexchange.com/meet-venerable-conchita-mystic-messenger-to-priests-spiritual-mother/

    see part II in comment

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You see I think there is nothing greater than a beautiful complete nurturing mother as the “nucleus of the human family” and I wish that were the case in every home, so all children would have the enormous benefit of such a great woman as their blessed earthly mother who bore them, and then nurtured them with motherly love into their young adulthood, providing so much to them as individuals out of pure motherly love! This is so lacking in the world now, and to me it’s a sin, how children are growing up in often a ramshackle mishmash lifestyle, with cyber mind occupiers and so much artificiality; along with being dumped off here and there, so their so called mom “can go earn the bacon” or more often than not as the saying goes; “do her own thing!”

      There are even greater sacrificial levels for some of these most special women, some of whom were mothers and some not of the past like Venerable Conchita! And another I love to mention here who I adore, “Anne Catherine Emmerich, was a Roman Catholic Augustinian Canoness Regular of Windesheim, mystic, Marian visionary, ecstatic and stigmatist.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Catherine_Emmerich

      Outstanding Christian mystic
      “Under the appearance of a simple nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich (Coesfeld, 1774 – Dullmen, 1824) hides one of the great catholic mistycs of the last centuries. Since her earliest childhood, she was a soul of exceptional kindness, devotion and purity. Her life and her legacy will enlighten for centuries Christianity and all mankind. French writer Léon Bloy said: “If the book “Life of Anne Catherine Emmerich”, written by Father Schmoeger, was read by twenty people in each diocese, God would change the face of the world”. The potential of the legacy of this extraordinary Augustinian nun could not be described any better.”

      Light on the figure of Jesus and his message

      “Many of us who have come to know about the existence of
      Anne Catherine Emmerich have done so through Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”. This film, excellent and inspired, includes in its script part of the visions of Anne Catherine, not included in the Gospels, which help us to better understand what happened, how and why. Well, these flashes of truth that are reflected in the film, pale when we read the complete story not only of the Passion of the Lord, but of the whole life of Jesus, of the Holy Family and of many other spiritual personalities described in the New and in the Old Testament. For 2000 years the light of Jesus example has shone through the 4 canonical Gospels, stories of the life of Jesus, brief and concise forced by the limitations of historical time (writing on parchment rolls, …). That same light shines with indescribable intensity, so close, real, intelligible in the stories of the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich. The narration of the facts is so detailed, the historical knowledge that it reflects is so profound, the psychological portraits that it traces are so intimate, that it is impossible to understand how an Augustinian nun of simple education can relate these facts, unless we consider them a revealed truth. The events described by Anne Catherine have been corroborated by historical findings and are consistent with the New Testament and other texts, such as the apocryphal gospels. Her detailed descriptions have led to locating holy places lost for centuries. An example is the discovery in Ephesus (Turkey), thanks to its indications, in 1891 of the house in which the Virgin Mary spent her last years.”
      These excerpts taken from : The complete visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich
      As recorded in the journals of Clemens Brentano and William Wesener
      http://annecatherineemmerich.com/

      What we want to hear from our Lord when we stand before him is simply this: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:23.

      Not fearing the things of this world is fine but fear of God is wise as it humbles us to make certain we know we aren’t worthy in the slightest and we are not home free until we are past the pearly gates, so there is no slacking or excuse me, doing as we damn well please, then just when it’s time to face death we suddenly can say, hey I’m good I like Jesus and always did!
      As it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Romans 3:10

      If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

      Being totally frank though we can as Christians readily understand from Holy Scriptures that things don’t end well for this earthly realm and the Final Judgment is coming! That said we must meanwhile strive to serve our heavenly Father to the best of our individual abilities and that means whatever we do whether it be raising a family, being a career person or any other assorted stations in this life, we should all be humble, honest and dedicated to making our lives a “living sacrifice” for God; seeking to do His will and “produce good fruit” with our daily lives! Amen.
      God bless you and yours.

      Brother in Christ Jesus,
      Lawrence Morra III

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Brother in Christ Lawrence, I so appreciate your thoughtful responses, and the vast amount of knowledge you bring to your posts, and your comments.

        The course I personally chose, with the full support of my husband, was to stay home with my children and raise them the best I knew how, “in the Lord.” The saints you wrote about are godly women, worthy of honor and emulation. I do thank God for their great faith and their courage to answer God’s call on their lives.

        I wish this single-minded path were as honored today, for men as well as women.

        Grace and peace to you, and may God continue to anoint your writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello Sister in Christ Joanne! You’re very welcome and I’m honored to have this opportunity to offer my deepest genuine heartfelt sentiments as i did feel moved by the Holy Spirit! I will admit like any human being I can have my moments of doubt and uncertainty but in this response though I couldn’t be sure if I was moving too quickly to get this deeply and intently involved in this subject I let what modicum of uncertainty I had go and turned all my trust and hope in Jesus to bring a beneficial result here! This now beautiful response from you is an absolute joyful confirmation of that trust and hope I surrendered myself to; which was yet another test I do believe of my own faith in Him alone to bring these good efforts to fruition and as I’ve written before in many of my writings allowing the dots to be connected in our daily lives when we are listening to the Holy Spirit!
        Many years ago I had to make a decision as you know to leave the Hollywood scene when I was becoming immersed in it with many big connections taking place in lightning speed for me having only just come out of left field! I dreamed as a kid that I could so what the great directors and actors do so I though eventually I would find my way into that business and I did. But then acquiring blessings of wisdom early in life and being sensible overall anyway, I began to see by praying and trusting God to help me understand what would be absolutely best. I asked through prayer if I should allow this pursuit to take its natural course that it seemed to be taking or pull the plug and step away from perhaps an abyss and I of course chose the latter to go on and serve God’s purposes as I can plainly see now that was what He wanted for me and others in my life! This life is so short and our eternal destiny is waiting for each of us so our paths should be followed very carefully and only by allowing God’s Holy Spirit in the precious name of Jesus to speak to our hearts so we do what is best in our Father’s eyes and thus do His will.
        I say all of this because apparently you had a very much similar big decision back in your earlier years and you did choose wisely by the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus thereby revealing our Father’s will for you; and the big caveat to this in my opinion is the central theme of your beautifully composed article here about women who align their hearts with our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ, will ultimately achieve miraculous and such beautifully beneficial milestones for Him our Father in heaven, but the fruits of which will be the amazing things that women are naturally capable of and so especially equipped to do for humanity! I cry even now thinking how I love such good women, and care about all of them and truly wish so many weren’t lost like so many men are today, but so few of them especially these days follow this divine calling that God desires of them so much, because He so deeply beyond comprehension loves women and mothers starting with “the one Blessed among all women Holy Mary” that He chose to be the pathway that He God would come into this world, through humanity, “via that one blessed virgin” and become “the Son of God our Creator” and this being done for mankind out of His infinite love, in order to then save what He loves beyond our imaginations, and was and is willing, to take away all sin and punishment by paying that ransom that can nullify a sinners sins, wiping them away like tears forever; in order to free us from it all, if we will accept His love and give our sincerest thanks and deepest genuine love to Him, by entrusting our hearts to the immaculate heart of Jesus Christ our Savior!
        I love the way your husband is and my hat goes off to him with all due respect as I admire him immensely for being who he is and finding the way to accomplish all he has by first his being married to such a blessed and wonderful woman which led to your producing a beautiful family together while subsequently bringing so many blessings to it and others on your paths! I’m really so awe struck witnessing this kind of thing with people, as I didn’t do that and I think I had so much of the right pieces in me to help produce a similar result, being so caring and fatherly as well as even somewhat nurturing all the way back to my childhood with siblings, trying to help and teach, but I allowed some weakness or doubt to forestall any such determined effort, and then God knowing me best knew He would be able to find the right things for me to do that would better serve His will and purposes!
        Humanity is in big trouble right now and most people are either aware of it or awakening to that truth fast, and can readily see that things are spinning out of control to a cataclysmic juncture not far ahead! 1948 a year when I know a countdown began, as that was a clear demarcation point in world history fulfilling “Biblical Prophecy” of how the Jewish people would be scattered but then able to reclaim their heritage and land that was ordained to them by God, they being His chosen people; and of course the most persecuted because of it, with the culmination being Jesus a Jew as our Savior; who was crucified as we know for humanity!
        “The Israel return to the homeland of the Jews to Israel in 1948 was an astounding event unprecedented in world history. … sympathy that drew Jewish wealth from around the world and enabled the relocation of more than a million displaced Jews to Palestine. The Israel Return to the Homeland. That brings us all the way back to May 14, 1948.”
        https://www.ifcj.org/news/fellowship-blog/the-miracle-of-the-jewish-peoples-return-to-israel
        https://jcproductionstorage.blob.core.windows.net/jc-image-storage/1.459109-GettyImages-878485860.jpg?w=1440&h=810&q=50&fit=fill&f=faces
        https://www.thejc.com/news/news-features/israel-1948-what-happened-when-and-why-1.459106
        The Miracle of Israel – 1945-1948
        https://youtu.be/1cBJiFA6FX4
        But the beautiful thing, is that we also know how the story that God foretold though the Prophets will culminate, and then come to a great and wonderful conclusion; “everything is coming to a head,” as the expression goes, but, who is going to prevail in all of this when the appointed hour arrives! We of faith know in our hearts that “Jesus our King of heaven and all creation” is seated at the right hand of our Father with the Holy Spirit, all three joined there in heaven eternally, in absolute beautiful beyond human description “glory and power;” “the light, love and good that exceeds all darkness and imperfections;” “absolute perfection” as I like to picture this, there is a conceptualization that was expressed by a scientist who is my favorite one, and I really don’t see him as just one of those guys, but more “a gift from God to help us connect some dots here,” which he did for me by some of the things he said and referenced aside from his tremendous and brilliant scientific contributions! Here is an excerpt of what he said so well!
        “To know that “what is impenetrable to us really exists,” manifesting itself as “the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty” which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness.”
        -Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science
        I love the fact that you have brought this subject up about women and our faith, which is all about “God’s plan and purposes” of which “we are as humanity the hub of that plan” to which God Himself is so devoted that He came up with this perfect way to “create us in His image” giving us “free will and agency” so we can love back in the same manner as He does; with “genuine love that is eternal like our souls” that He infused in each human person born!
        Of course just like a woman so beautifully can bear another human being a miraculous and complex process that along with producing another living soul doesn’t come without some pain and suffering! So too God’s plan for humanity from the beginning had to have a difficulty built-in and be a complicated process with many trials and tribulations necessary to bring about the desired result of a perfect family in heaven with our Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Queen Mother Blessed Mary who is always praying for us!
        I love them all and hope more and more of our fellow human beings will love them as much and even more than I can hope for! For this I pray! Amen.
        Thank you again for the opportunity Sister in Christ!
        God bless you and your family.
        Brother in Christ Jesus,
        Lawrence Morra III

        Liked by 1 person

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