Practical Theology and Biblical Womanhood: An Interview with Wendy AlsupBy Trillia Newbell | January 15th, 2013 | Category: Uncategorized | 12 comments
By Trillia Newbell
When Wendy Alsup began journaling for her own benefit she didn’t imagine those journals would become full-length manuscripts for the benefit of women everywhere. Alsup, of Seattle and mother of two, began developing material for classes requested by various churches after publishing on a church blog.
In 2008, she published her first book and has been serving women since. Learn more about Wendy, practical theology and her desire for women to know and understand biblical womanhood in this Q&A.
(Have a chance to win a copy of Wendy’s newest book by commenting on this post until Friday, January 18 at midnight)
Q: Are you in ministry? Tell us a little bit about your ministry?
Alsup: I feel I’ve almost always been in ministry, from the earliest years of my life helping my dad with his bus ministry at a small Baptist church in South Carolina. But I won’t get on my soapbox about unhelpful ways we distinguish full-time ministry in the church. As an adult I’ve occasionally been in paid ministry, working for Christian camps and Christian schools in the states and in Korea. But most of my adult ministry has been unpaid, including informal counseling and discipleship of women as well as leading women’s ministry at a large church in Seattle.
Q: What lead you to write your book Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives (Crossway, 2008)?
Alsup: That book came about organically from a class I led at church. Before I attended, they had a class called Practical Theology for Women, and I was intrigued by the title of the class from the first time I heard it. Practical theology. So much theology had previously seemed to me esoteric and decidedly impractical. I was intrigued and inspired by the idea that, yes, it should be practical. Knowing God, the essence of the idea behind theology, ought to make a clear practical difference to us daily. Over time, I started teaching that class and developed the content that eventually became the book.
Q: What makes theology different for women vs. men?
Alsup: The theology itself isn’t different, but the way we approach it sometimes is. Women tend toward warmer, more relational presentations (that’s a generalization, I know). I realized at some point that, at least in my circles, the results of that desire for warm, relational interactions with other believing women was what I call pink-fluffy-bunny Bible studies. The women I knew longed for something deeper and resonated with my pursuit of deep biblical truth in a warm, relational way. I’m still on that journey and have appreciated the encouragement from many other women on similar journeys. The deepest things of the character of God minister to me in exactly those places in my heart.
Q: You have a new book, The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel (2012). Tell us about that book.
Alsup: The Gospel-Centered Woman is simply about understanding biblical womanhood through the lens of the gospel. The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changes everything according to Scripture, and that includes how women view themselves and understand the Bible’s instructions to them.
Q: Why did you choose this topic for your next project?
Alsup: I’m not sure if I chose it, or it chose me. I think the latter. Biblical womanhood has been a hot topic in conservative and liberal Christian discussion for some time. I’ve read many books espousing different views on what God wants women to do, especially in the home and church. I’ve always felt there was a big hole in how the topic was presented. Women were encouraged to be like Ruth or the Proverbs 31 woman. But what about Christ? Romans 8 says we were predestined to be conformed to His image. Doesn’t that mean women too? Does He not have something to offer women on the topic of womanhood?
Then Rachel Held Evans published A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and the topic took off in the blogosphere. I felt her book didn’t address biblical womanhood at all, because she didn’t use the Bible’s own guidelines for what parts of Scripture are and are not prescriptive for the average woman today longing to live as the Bible instructs. I couldn’t hold back from that point, and after publishing bits and pieces of my thoughts on my blog, reader after reader encouraged me to publish the thoughts altogether. I’m not addressing Rachel’s book or other books from complementarians per se. My book is not against any of them, but I do hope to offer a third way to understand the Bible’s instructions to women. It’s not new. Actually, it’s ancient. But at some point, we got off course in how we discussed these things in the Church, in my opinion. This is my meager attempt to reroute the discussion.
Q: Let’s get practical; what are some ways you share that women can be gospel-centered?
Alsup: Wow. That’s a tough question to answer shortly. The phrase “some ways” contradicts the term “gospel-centered,” at least in the way I use it. Instead, think of an entirely different paradigm. The gospel is a BIG word, encompassing the fullness of all Christ ushered in through His life, death, and resurrection. And it is the pursuit of a lifetime. When I am centered in it, it is the environment in which I spend my life. Like any new environment, I need to learn its distinguishing features. I focus in the book on how this environment gives us an entirely different lens through which to view our creation as women as strong helpers in the image of God. When we understanding the fullness of the way Scripture speaks of the good news of Jesus Christ, we can then, in the moment of struggle or pain, wrestle with God over how that good news makes a difference in that very struggle.
Keep up with Wendy on her blog Practical Theology for Women. Comment on this blog post for a chance to win a copy of Wendy’s newest book, The Gospel-Centered Woman!
More about Wendy
Wendy Alsup is a wife, mom, and college math teacher who loves ministering to women. She has published three books, Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in our Daily Lives, By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity, and The Gospel-Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel.