Women of the Reformation (VanDoodewaard)

The Protestant Reformation wasn’t simply a male movement.  Many Christian women were also heavily involved in the Reformation.  In fact, a new book called Reformation Women gives readers a glimpse into the lives of 12 various women God used to help bring the church back to a clearer understanding of the gospel.  In just over 120 pages this book is a great introduction to the lives of some very solid Christian women who were a blessing to many people in 16th century Europe.

I have to admit that at first I thought this book would be quite repetitive.  I was guessing that each woman’s life would sound similar: they were married to a Reformed husband and they did a few things to help out.  However, this book isn’t repetitive at all.  These women had lives that were quite different.  For example, Anna Adlischweiler spent much of her youth in a convent since her family was very poor.  After Anna heard Ulrich Zwingli preach, she was converted and later married Henry Bullinger.  Marguerite de Navarre’s story is not at all the same.  She was part of a noble family.  Her brother Francois was the king of France.  Marguerite used her position to help the cause of the Reformation in France.  These are just two examples of two very different accounts of Reformation women.  And it is true: these women were quite brave, bold, and full of faith!

I appreciated this book because it was well-written, easy to follow, and very interesting.  The introduction and conclusion are very helpful in that they give reasons why it’s important to learn about women of the Reformation and lists several things we can learn from them.  I’ll be recommending this book when people ask if I have any ideas for a women’s book club at church.  But this book isn’t just for women!  It’s for anyone who wants to learn about Reformation history and be edified and encouraged in the faith at the same time.

Rebecca VanDoodewaard, Reformation Women (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017).

(This book was provided to me for review by “Cross Focused Reviews”; I was not compelled to write a positive review.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI


On Preaching (To Women)

This post is a sort of public critique of myself based on books I’m reading: I need to preach to the women in the congregation too!

This just hit me as I studied the Exodus sections where it says that Yahweh gave both men and women hakam(wisdom) to construct the tabernacle.  It is easy for me to focus on Moses, Aaron, the Priests, Bezalel, and such but to forget the midwives, Miriam, and the Spirit-filled-wise women who helped build the tabernacle.  It is easy for me to preach about Timothy, but I forget about his grandmother and mother.  It is easy for me to preach about Stephen, but I often forget Phoebe.  I preach on Lazarus, but forget Mary Magdalene.  In other words, I can preach about Christ’s work from Moses, Aaron, Bezalel, Timothy, and Lazarus, but due to my insufficiency/ignorance I haven’t done the same with the Miriam’s and Deborah’s and Phoebe’s of the Bible.

This also hit me when skimming through Jeram Barrs’ Through His Eyes (about which I posted earlier) and Lydia Brownback’s Legacy of Faith: From Women of the Bible to Women of Today, which have been great investments for me.  I need a few more of these types of books to use in reference for sermon prep (and teaching prep).  Here are a few that I’m looking into.  I also have enjoyed the stuff CCEF puts out by/for/about women.

Anyway, in summary, this Exodus reading along with Barrs and Brownback’s contributions have reminded me to address the women directly in preaching and teaching (and perhaps more on this blog).  Let me also encourage women to write and assist pastors like me who need tons of help preaching to and teaching women!  Feel free, anyone, to email or comment about blogs or websites along these lines that you’ve found helpful.  (Thanks again to Stephen for pointing out Tara Barthel a few days back.)

EDIT: let me clarify here – I’m mostly talking about application in the sermon, in case you were wondering.

shane lems

sunnyside, wa

For Women: Reading Material

Women: here’s one you’ll want to put on your reading list –  Jerram Barrs’ (professor at Covenant Theological Seminary) Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009).  I’ve not read it all (I use it for sermon prep sometimes, so for now I’ve only read sections), but I’ve appreciated it so far.  His opening was great, in my opinion.  He says that he is deeply troubled when all the talk about women in the church starts with the restrictive passages (1 Cor 11, 14; 1 Tim 2, etc.).  That’s a great point!  He goes on:

“It is not that those passages are insignificant, but I have been eager to ask a more foundational question [than ‘What can and can’t women do in a church?’ – my note]: How does the Lord see women? … What does God think about women, and how does he treat them?” (p. 9).

The book would make a great women’s Bible study, since he simply goes from OT to NT and discusses the significant accounts of women in the Bible (Eve, Sarah, Tamar, etc).  This would also be a good book for men to read, hopefully to “tweak” their view of women from a biblical perspective! Sometimes books like this get a little “cheesy” in application, but I haven’t seen that so far.  Also, Barrs does a good job of making this a Christ-centered book and not agenda for moralistic feminism.  One more thing: there are also application questions at the end of each chapter to encourage discussion.

Be sure to also check out some stuff by Lydia Brownback (click here), and don’t miss the provocatively titled Does Christianity Squash Women? by Rebecca Jones.  Feel free to email us or comment below if you have other good recommendations along these lines.

shane lems

sunnyside wa