Reformed and Feminist

Johanna W. H. van Wijk-BosReformed and Feminist: A Challenge to the Church (W/JKP: 1991).

Johanna W. H. van Wijk-Bos’ Reformed and Feminist: A Challenge to the Church is a semi-autobiographical introduction to feminist thought viewed through the lens of Protestant biblical scholarship.  Wijk-Bos argues that the study of the Judeo-Christian scriptures has something valuable to add to the process of women’s liberation and that the time has come for Christian churches to assist in the radical reform of patriarchal institutions.

In the first chapter, Wijk-Bos shares a considerable amount of detail from her own life-story in order to establish herself within her own context as a Dutch, reformed, and feminist woman working as a pastor and biblical scholar in the U.S.  The second chapter explores the concept of biblical authority as it emerged during the Protestant Reformation.  Wijk-Bos pays special attention to the particular developments of Calvinism in continental Europe during the 16th century.  In the next chapter, the author examines some of the particular hermeneutical issues that arise when one explores the biblical text from a feminist perspective.  Chapter four applies feminist hermeneutics to three particular texts from the Hebrew scriptures: the story of Jael (Judges 4:17-22), the story of the prophet’s widow (II Kings 4:1-7), and the story of Esther.  In the final chapter, Wijk-Bos issues a missional call for the Christian churches to address the heretofore ignored presence of women in the biblical texts, in our worshiping communities, and in society at large.  Wijk-Bos uses the story of Ruth as a biblical example of women working together for their mutual liberation (and that of society at large) from the bonds of patriarchy.

In this short book, Wijk-Bos offers an engaging and concise introduction to Christian feminist thought that is perfect for neophytes such as myself.  Her narrative tone helps the arguments impact the reader in a fresh way.  The autobiographical and biblical texts provide a mutual context for one another that helps the reader see old passages in a new way.  This book had my attention from beginning to end.  Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I felt my heart burning within me as I read.  Wijk-Bos has simultaneously accomplished two very difficult tasks.  First, she has sparked my interest in feminist thought and has re-presented obscure biblical texts in a fresh and relevant way.  I highly recommend this book to feminists who wonder whether the Bible has any good news to offer women.  I also recommend it to Christians who are frustrated with their Bible and want to view it with a fresh pair of eyes.

The book can be purchased on Amazon.com by clicking here.

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