Thursday, July 31, 2014

Made for More: the Conversation Before the Conversation on Complementarianism

*This review first appeared on The Gospel Coalition's website. I am reposting it here with minor changes and with a drawing for a free book to a randomly chosen commenter. If you comment, please be sure to check back to see if you won. I'll announce the winner on Saturday.

I remember opening John Piper's Desiring God for the first time around 18 years ago. In just the first three chapters of the book, Piper rocked my world. He presented thoughts on finding my satisfaction in God Himself that reoriented me to Scripture, and those thoughts have affected me every day since. Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Image by Hannah Anderson is this kind of book and has had this kind of effect on me. That may sound like an over-the-top statement, but I believe Made for More is going to change the conversation on women as image bearers of God for the long term good of the Church—that God is going to use this book the way He used Piper's thoughts in Desiring God to redirect His people to Himself. Remember an important truth from Desiring God – those thoughts were not new to John Piper. He points back again and again to their historical longevity and Biblical origins. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Hannah Anderson does the same in Made for More. 

Hannah doesn't present a new, faddish way of looking at Biblical womanhood. Instead, she weaves a story of timeless truths with historical longevity and Biblical clarity. These are God's truths, not Hannah's. Yet, God has clearly gifted Hannah to reword these truths in a way that 21st century postmodern women can hear and relate. What truth is Hannah presenting? Hannah is presenting the conversation before the conversation about complementarianism and gender roles. Before the foundational phrase of complementarianism in Gen 1:27, “Male and female, He created them,” the Bible first says, “God created mankind in His image.” Our problem in the complementarian discussion (even when we do it in really thoughtful ways) stems from the fact that we assume a robust understanding and acceptance of mankind made in the image of God that few of us actually have.
“We must find a North Star. And not simply because our circumstances change, but because we ourselves are more than the roles we play in this present world. We are large, deep, eternal beings, and only something larger and deeper and more eternal will satisfy the questions in our souls.” Hannah Anderson
Some in complementarian circles might be concerned that this conversation before the male/female conversation might downplay the complementary nature of gender. But to NOT have this conversation before the other causes confusion and a weak foundation for the complementarian discussion. After all, as a woman, I have more in common genetically with a male human than I do a female cat. The value of the differences in our genders become caricatures if they are not first based on the solidarity male and female have as image bearers of God who are called to steward His creation together. Hannah fleshes out this foundational truth and then builds upon it with the specifics of womanhood. 

Hannah has written the book I wish I had written. She's taken a nugget of truth, woman as image bearer of God, for which I had been burdened and fleshed it out in a way that deepened my understanding of the topic and its value in my life. She hasn't just written on a topic I wished I had written, but she has also written in a style I wish I could write. I appreciate Hannah's ability to both think deeply and write accessibly all in one tidy package. I wanted to plow through the book quickly, but instead I had to stop to consider again and again – not because her words were too lofty but because she managed to bring down lofty ideas in a way I could appreciate and apply. But even as I envied her writing, her section on gifting and work freed me from comparisons and helped me rejoice in both my abilities and hers. Over and over, she tethered lofty ideas to concrete summary statements. She is an author with a vision for her audience, and she writes in a way to make sure we, the audience, can understand her objectives. 

Hannah's chapter on the creation mandate, Queens in Narnia: Embracing your Destiny to Reign, is a beautiful exploration from Scripture of the noble calling of work that lifts it above our usual earthly compartments. Hannah inspired me to talk to my children in a radically different way about “work.” More importantly, her words transformed my thoughts on everything from cleaning my kitchen to weeding my yard to teaching math to blue collar workers through my community college job. I imagine that I will be contemplating work as an image bearer of God for a lifetime now. I felt similarly about her chapter on knowledge and education in the image of God.

I read recently that the best reviews of a book include some measure of criticism, which keeps the reviewer from looking like a fan boy (or girl). Hannah has presented a nuanced look at what is basically the doctrine of sanctification or how God conforms us back to His image after belief in Him. Justification is God declaring us righteous in heaven. Through the process of sanctification, God slowly transforms us in reality to what He has already declared us to be in heaven. Hannah has woven echoes of God's justification of us through Christ throughout the book. The book follows an outline based on Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” There is a strong sense in which the entire book is Christ and gospel centered. But other than a brief section in her chapter on the results of the fall of man, there lacks an explicit exploration of how God declares us righteous. I don't really see this as a criticism, because I can't imagine a book with enough room to adequately explore both justification and all that Hannah has presented without being overwhelmingly long for its target audience. Instead, I would recommend reading Hannah's book in conjunction with something similar to Elyse Fitzpatrick's Because He Loves Me that explores our position of righteousness in Christ as the fuel for our conformation to His image.

This is a book for women and men, pastors and lay leaders, complementarians and egalitarians. Basically, this book will bless anyone in the Church. If you care about what God has created you to be as a woman, or, if you are a man who longs to support the women in your life in ways that lead to their flourishing in their God-given identity and giftedness, I recommend that you read this book.
“When God rewards those who seek Him, it is not with wealth or power or privilege but with the very thing that they were searching for in the first place—Himself. 
And the beauty, the unmistakable genius of it all, is that in discovering Him, the source of all existence, you will also discover yourself. In finding Him, you will find the answer to the question “Who am I and why am I here?” Hannah Anderson, Made for More

39 comments:

  1. I read your review when it was on The Gospel Coalition website and immediately put the book on my "to-read" list. Hope I win the giveaway!

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  2. Thankyou for this review. It sounds like this book has some very important topics covered in it. I teally appreciate that you take the time to introduce us to good authors snd books. A few years sho I found just the bible study I was lookingvfor after you introduced us to Nancy Guthrie. Please keep it up.

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  3. Yes please, I have had lengthy discussions about all these things, I was not aware of this book until see this post on twitter.

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  4. Thank you for taking the time to write this fantastic review. This book has been on my wish list for some time now and I'm going to make sure I read it sooner rather than later.

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  5. Wendy, I've been reading your blog for a year now and appreciate how every post is thoughtful and gracious. This definitely looks like I book I ought to read. Thank you for the recommendation and for blogging!

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  6. I already tried to post a comment, but I don't see it. Just trying again, but don't want to cheat, haha! Feel free to delete this one if the other appears :) I'm very interested in reading this book now! Will buy if I don't win - thanks!

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  7. Thanks for doing this giveaway!! After reading your review this book shot to the top of my read list!

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  8. This book is going at the top of my list! I've been having so many conversations with friends around what God has truly created and called us to as women.

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  9. Stumbled across your blog by accident this week. I love your book "PTfW" and use it in mentoring ladies frequently. Would be keen to read this book and put it on my recommendation list for women too!

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  10. This book sounds really interesting. I often feel Christians make it seem like women only have roles in relation to men when the start discussing this issue. Which complicates matters when you're a single women.

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  11. Thank you, thank you for this review! I can't wait to dig into the Scriptures and this book.

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  12. thank you and let us pray His women see the glory of His plan to display uniqueness,assignments, etc, without FEAR of thinking there is less favor/ respect or diminished value/worth, for there is NO partiality with God, to the praise of His Glory!

    Partiality: (prosopolepsia or prosopolempsia -- from prósopon = face + lambáno = receive) literally means "face taking", “receive face”, the accepting of one's person. The idea is or looking to see who someone is before deciding how to treat him. The idea is judging by appearance and on that basis giving special favor and respect. It pertains to judging purely on a superficial level, without consideration of a person’s true merits, abilities, or character.

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  13. "I appreciate Hannah's ability to both think deeply and write accessibly all in one tidy package." YES. This is just the type of book I love to read. Thank you for the review and the giveaway.

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  14. This book sounds wonderful! Thank you for the review.

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  15. I'm always looking for theological books written from a female perspective. I'd love to read this one.

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  16. Aha! I first read this review when it came out on TGC's daily blog, which does not list authors. Reading it I thought, "This sounds like Wendy," not thinking at all that it would be your piece. When I got to the line about this being the book the blog's author wished they'd have written, I laughed, "Someone else that writes as honest as Wendy," still not thinking this could be your piece. Aha!

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    1. That's funny, Pia. I'll never make it as an anonymous blogger (which I've tried on occasion). :-)

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  17. I've heard so many great reviews of this book, and would love to win a copy! If not... well, it's on my Christmas wish list!

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  18. I've been looking for a book to discuss with two other women as we try to discuss deep biblical issues. Thank you for exposing me to this book. Sounds exactly like something the "Deep Steepers" need to read with our tea and bibles.

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    1. "Deep Steepers" -- what a great name. :-)

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  19. I'm looking forward to reading this book, thank you for the offering!

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  20. I would love to read this and pass it on to my 20yo daughter.

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  21. This looks like a really worthwhile book. I would love to read this.

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  22. Looks like such an interesting, thoughtful read.

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  23. Wow!~Thanks for the opportunity~I've been wanting to read this, now even more so.~Laurie~Josiah's mom :)

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  24. I was already so keen to read Hannah's book, and this took it up yet another notch for me. Thanks!

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  25. I have a sneaking suspicion that I need this book in my life. I've heard a lot about what I'm not, but I've never heard much about what I am. I have got to check this out.

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  26. If you don't win the book, please don't wait for Christmas. You will do yourself and others a favor if you splurge and buy it. Amazon is under $9 right now. Barnes and Noble has a two month free membership which will ship free to your home - book a little over $9. I know those who know me are laughing at the shameless promotion. I keep giving the book away to people that I think it will help. Husband hasn't put the breaks on yet and God keeps providing the funds.

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    1. No need to enter me for the free book. :)

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  27. I would like to share this book with my 24 yo daughter as this has been our discussion lately! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy:)

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  28. Love this. I have the book...and am 1/3 of the way through...and "second" everything you've written above. :)

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  29. Hope I can win this drawing!

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  30. I'd love to win but I'll be reading this book either way.

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  31. I'm very intrigued to read this book.

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  32. The winners are pw2005 and Christine Carter. Please email me your addresses to theologyforwomen@gmail.com. If I don't hear back from you in the next 24 hours, I'll redraw.

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  33. It sounds like an interesting book. I agree that as women we are more than our roles. Whatever our roles are which will differ among women as we have diverse god-giving talents, skills and gifts, I agree we are all image bearers of God foremost. Nice review.

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