Sunday, November 01, 2020

links for the weekend: an LARB take on Kate Bowler on evangelical women celebrities/histories of women prophets in ANE; reviews of White Too Long; the Mbird series on ATLA gets to Zuko

IThe Preacher’s Wife, Kate Bowler introduces readers to a group of powerful evangelical women leaders. Through this cohort, the book describes the rise of a new type of feminine power, one readily on display in the wives of some of America’s most prominent megachurch pastors—Victoria Osteen, for instance, who is married to prosperity preacher Joel Osteen. The power wielded by these high-profile women is impressive. But, Bowler argues, the authority that “celebrity” women leaders garner is “precarious” because this kind of influence requires that women constantly embody feminine ideals, and leaves them vulnerable to the whims of the market and dependent on the stability of a husband’s pastorate.


Having recently finished reading Prophets Male and Female: Gender and Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Ancient Near East, I wonder how conversant contemporary American authors are with the history of women in prophetic capacities in the Ancient Near East who aren't, you know, specialist in that field.  That women were permitted to be prophets in Greece, Assyria, Israel and early Christianity is well-known.  Esther Hamori has a whole monograph devoted to divination and women in biblical literature that's worth reading, contributed to Prophets Male and Female and co-edited a volume on dream divination in the Bible and the Ancient Near East I'm hoping to start soon.  All of the above is to suggest that the proposal that there is a new type of feminine power ... how new is it?  What makes it new?  I can get to the Bowler book eventually, maybe, after I'm done reading thirty some books on diabology, exorcism, the Watcher traditions and with a few add-ons about prophecy and divination in biblical literature but I grew up a Pentecostal youth in church settings in which women getting words of knowledge or prophetic insights was considered in the normal range of options.  A new type of feminine power in an evangelical denominational context where pneumatology defaults to cessationism now perhaps that really is new--it wouldn't be new in the Adventist tradition (Ellen White) or charismatic settings (Kuhlman, obviously) but in Baptist contexts, sure, that might be new.  

One of the things I suspect has made low church Protestants in the contemporary West on edge about women as preachers could go as far back as Bullinger and the Magisterial Reformers pivoting to redefine prophecy as having cease since the prophet age and being present only in a vestigial form in public preaching.  There are, I think, a couple of significant problems with that approach. One is simply that the task of instructing the people was a priestly instruction and however adamant anti-Catholic polemics got in the Reformation era retroactively transforming preaching into a prophetic act rather than a priestly act doomed complentarianism in low-church Protestant settings to ceding the entire preaching office to an egalitarian position even if there were not also the Lutheran formulation of the priesthood of all believers. Well, then, if the priesthood of believers applies why not ordain women? If prophecy is preaching and the daughters of Philip the evangelist prophesied then why not?