Well, I have now finished Wendy Virgo's 'Influential women'. This book grabbed my attention because of the blurb on its front cover, which explains: 'From the New Testament to today - how women can build up (or undermine) their local church.'
On Amazon it is described with this incredibly long title, which is not actually to be found on either the front or back of the book.
'Influential Women: From the New Testament to Today - How Women Can Build Up or Undermine Their Local Church: How Women Can Bless - or Ruin - Their Local Church - Wendy Virgo'
Of its original slogan, aforementioned, I was puzzled as to why the idea of women undermining the church was put in parentheses. I realise why now. I think the aim is that women will be attracted to this book as they seek to learn how they might build up the church. I think in some ways she is seeking a readership looking for affirmation. What they must realise it that this book's aims are subtle at first, hence the parentheses but then liberated from such punctuation inhibitors later on, for the book's aims will squarely smack you between the chops and if you are undecided about what you think God's will might be for women in the Church, you will be taught that if your callings are to eldership, the pastorate and to leadership that is to mixed congregation, then according to Wendy Virgo you are entertaining a 'Jezebelic spirit' as she puts it.
When I started this book, I skimmed a little. it is a bit pedestrian. But it is light-hearted and entertaining. I am on holiday so I began to see it as a holiday read and I enjoyed it. It is imaginative. She adds lots of details to the biblical portrayals of Priscilla, Tabitha, Lois and Eunice, Euodia and Syntyche, and others. The blurb on the back describes how 'Some were saints, full of good works; some were frankly poisonous and did considerable harm. What can we learn?'
So what did I learn? Well, at first I wondered whether learning was the point. And I think that this is part of the book's problem. And yes, I am aware that we tell entertaining stories to teach each other but somehow Virgo doesn't quite pull it off. Three quarters of the read was entertaining and interesting, of a kind. More entertaining is the Good Book itself which tell us these tales of our previous sisters but Virgo adds colour and detail from her imagination, which fleshes out the holes in the original stories, as she surmises about how old these women were, how they entertained themselves, what they thought about...
The last third of the book though, is of a different tone, altogether. Here, we are to swallow her bitter pill, concur with the 'theology' of her complementarian mindset, prayerfully seek forgiveness for our 'jezebelic spirits', if we have entertained 'aspirations' for which we were not built. Virgo morphs from imaginative fancy grounded in truths but padded out for our delight to, well, attempts to correct and admonish the wayward thinking that is a product of our times and demonic influence.
The book ends prematurely. It is as if we are left with nowhere to go, perhaps just to our knees. But if we weep, well, she has already been there as she struggled to tame her own rebellious heart! So even our weeping will not comfort us. We are presented, before this premature end, with descriptions of her ultimately 'influential women': Eve and Mary. Eve failed her husband and failed God. It was her independent spirit which has ruined us! Mary obeyed God, was willing to be his servant in bearing Jesus. The theology here is well-worn and centuries old, we are either the rebel or the virgin and there are no shades in between. it's all that simple! The argument is crass and unconvincing in its application to women. Never is there any discussion of Mary's counter-cultural predicament, what her relationship must have been like with Joseph in this marriage which did little to conform to the norms. Never is there any discussion of any other way of looking at the fall and what God planned for man and woman before it. Headship and hierarchy are the Holy words in this book and we are left in no doubt as to the sort of woman who will ruin her local church, for Eve-like, if she is unable to gain the power she quests, she will result to using her sexuality to unsettle the weakness of the men there. This book does not inspire a healthy vision for either men or women, in either their sin or their righteousness.
Entertaining until the end when Virgo's parentheses aims emerged. 3 out of 10.
Onto the next read....