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Finally Feminist

A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender

series: Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology

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"A clear and engaging articulation of a fresh set of evangelical perspectives on gender. Stackhouse's book seeks to stimulate good argument and counterargument, and it surely deserves to be debated long and hard."--John Webster, University of Aberdeen

Discussions about gender continue in many Christian denominations. With good people and solid arguments on each side of the divide, there seems to be little hope for a synthesis or even constructive dialogue.

In Finally Feminist, John Stackhouse proposes a way forward by affirming both the patriarchal and the feminist (or complementarian and egalitarian) reading of Scripture. He argues that these emphases exist side by side in the Bible. He then provides biblical, theological, and practical arguments for his own understanding: Equality is the biblical ideal, but patriarchy is allowed and regulated by a God who has larger kingdom purposes in mind. Stackhouse then tests his understanding by exposing it to the objections of other theories and concludes with two appendixes that tease out some practical implications.

Thought provoking and distinctive in its clarity and honesty, Finally Feminist will be a useful text for college and seminary courses, for pastors and church leaders, and for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the role of women in the church and in society.


"This is a clear and engaging articulation of a fresh set of evangelical perspectives on gender. Full of intriguing theological and exegetical suggestions and written with disarming frankness, Stackhouse's book seeks to stimulate good argument and counterargument, and it surely deserves to be debated long and hard."--John Webster, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews

"Despite its title, readers should not come to Finally Feminist with expectations of any final, watertight answer to the gender debate. A practical theologian, Stackhouse considers both complementarian and egalitarian views of women's roles and comes up with a paradigm that is evenhanded, orthodox, contemporary, and temporary. That is, he uses historical and eschatological lenses to look to both the past and the future to form a realistic model for Christian men and women in the present."--Luci Shaw, writer in residence, Regent College; author of The Crime of Living Cautiously

"Of the many books for a general audience on this subject, this one is the most intellectually honest. Stackhouse shows convincingly that the Bible is both feminist and patriarchalist, both egalitarian and complementarian. He then makes a persuasive case that, while no position does complete justice to the complexity of the biblical witness, there is a way, faithful to Scripture, to steer between the Scylla of rigid gender roles and the Charybdis of accommodation to secular culture."--Gerald R. McDermott, professor of religion, Roanoke College

"Changing one's mind about the gender question often requires a dramatic paradigm shift, a new model for thinking about things. Unveiling key moments within his own change of mind, Stackhouse calls the Christian community to think about and rethink the way we understand biblical texts about gender, especially when people on both sides of the debate, given a certain selectivity of texts, can happily exegete their way to either egalitarian or patriarchal conclusions. The book's proposed paradigm of 'double meaning' and 'holy pragmatism' within Scripture holds implications and challenges for both sides to ponder. This is a powerful and personal book, well worth the reading. Let us listen carefully, and let the community discussion continue."--William J. Webb, author of Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals

"This book is remarkable not only for its wisdom about gender relations but also for the method Stackhouse employs for reading difficult biblical texts. His strategy is to start with the big question: How does God act, as depicted throughout the Bible? He then asks what conclusions we can draw for understanding God's purposes in gender relations. He has an answer that speaks to both sides of this thorny debate."--Nancey Murphy, professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Generous and constructive--and, above all, bracing! You may not agree with every word of this book, but you will not close it unchanged. I, for one, am very grateful to John Stackhouse for undertaking this important labor of love."--Lauren F. Winner, author of Girl Meets God and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity

"This book invites both sides of the gender roles debate to the table afresh. I like that no one is particularly at ease here and no one's view is accepted without challenge. Stackhouse suggests that this discomfort might be worthwhile for everyone. As we all grapple with how to be ourselves in a complex world, this book offers important insights and reflections to both men and women and to both conservatives and liberals."--Allyson Jule, senior lecturer in education, University of Glamorgan

The Author

  1. John G. Stackhouse Jr.

    John G. Stackhouse Jr.

    John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development at Crandall University in New Brunswick. He previously taught at Regent College in Vancouver. He is the author or...

    Continue reading about John G. Stackhouse Jr.


"Develops a practical application of the redemptive work of Christ to the world of women and offers an explanation for Christian participation in historical patriarchy. . . . Stackhouse is careful in his attempt toward balance, showing that both egalitarians . . . and complementarians . . . have legitimate arguments and in the end are both right and wrong. He includes extensive biblical passages, theological arguments, and popular criticisms. . . . As a Christian and sociologist, I am greatly encouraged by Stackhouse's argument--to a Christian audience--for the equality of women. . . . In a sense, the book is a call to attend to the inequality experienced by women around the world, regardless of culture or creed."--Edward J. Clarke, Prism

"A thoughtful examination of evangelical Christian perspectives on gender. With an evenhanded eye for detail, theology professor John Stackhouse, Jr. reveals why 'both sides are right'--the Bible is both feminist and patriarchal. Extensively researched, Finally Feminist seeks to outline both the egalitarian and complementarian elements of biblical text in its search for a balanced and accurate paradigm to better understand what the Bible has to say about women. A scholarly and serious-minded evaluation of scriptural text."--John Taylor, Midwest Book Review

"We should be thankful for Christian thinkers like John Stackhouse. . . . I applaud Stackhouse for seeking to break open the current theological enclosures of the gender debate. Any voice that seeks to overcome what has often become a bitter entrenchment on either side is to be welcomed."--David Guretzki, Faith Today

"[Stackhouse] offers this short but significant book to advance the dialogue. This book is refreshingly candid and personal, lucid, insightful, provocative and realistic. As the sub-subtitle ('Why Both Sides Are Wrong--And Right') indicates, there is something in it to challenge virtually everyone. . . . I am grateful for Stackhouse's contribution to this painful debate among evangelicals. It is a fresh perspective in some ways, and it is written in a way that facilitates dialogue. Let the conversation continue."--Stan Fowler, Christian Week

"The payoff of Stackhouse's paradigm is his argument that the social and political conditions that restricted women's leadership in the church for generations no longer pertain to the modern West, so that it is scandalous for the church of today to restrict women's leadership. . . . He has succeeded in boiling down a lot of technical scholarship to its most basic elements and fashioning from them a robust and fair-minded theology of gender relations in the church. The volume would spark a lively discussion in a church adult Bible study or undergraduate college class."--Robert F. Hull Jr., Stone-Campbell Journal

"Stackhouse's paradigm is well-reasoned and based on careful exegesis of Scripture. . . . It is thoroughly orthodox in its insistence on the inspiration of every part of Scripture."--Susan Wise Bauer, Books & Culture

"John Stackhouse Jr. is an outstanding member of an emerging North American Evangelical intelligentsia, centred in several prestigious colleges, that has--or should have--altered our view of the relation of Evangelical faith to scholarship and intelligence. His sharp analytic mind, which expresses itself in clear, vigorous prose, is backed up by courage--the arguments with which he tangles remain influential in the world he inhabits. . . . Coming from someone who works close to the biblical text and has a strongly providential view of the history of God's doings recounted in the Bible, Finally Feminist should make an impact on those who, wanting to be firmly biblical, would welcome arguments that release them from any idea that particular patriarchal texts can be lifted out of context so as to set feminism and Christianity on a collision course. I cannot imagine the arguments for such a release better marshalled; and there is also much sage and eminently Christian advice here on the manner in which debate should be conducted."--David Martin, Church Times

"I've read a book recently. . . that I think you should know about: John Stackhouse, Finally Feminist. There are a few very big ideas at work in this book that I think make it unique and valuable--beside being short and clearly written."--Scot McKnight,

"Stackhouse has displayed fresh ways of doing theology for our day. . . . This brief work (138 pages in all) takes us on a walk between complementarian and egalitarian views of women's roles. On the way he invites thoughtful wrestling with each side's favourite texts and arguments. No one gets off lightly. Practical. Generous. Grateful. Culturally relevant. Walk softly as you proceed, for John invites each of us to look deeply at our prejudices and our settled ideas. . . . Maturity. Respect. Honouring the learning of others (even those not Christians!). Pragmatic. These are the words that fit this small, excellent volume."--Rae W. Struthers, Signposts