Book Review: God's Good Design by Claire Smith

In God's Good Design, Smith has provided a really helpful book addressing each of the main Bible passages that relate to the roles of men and women in the church and men and women in the family.

Starting with a brief scene-setting chapter addressing the impact of feminism, the main substance of the book is in two parts. In the first (Within the Church) Smith addresses 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14. In doing so she develops a thoroughly complementarian position from careful exegesis of the text and engages with the majority of the egalitarian views.

In the second (Within the Home) Smith addresses Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, Genesis 1-3 and Proverbs 31, with a chapter addressing questions of abuse. Again Smith develops a standard complementarian view working from the texts.

I have to say I found Smith's exegesis deeply persuasive at most points and I felt she dealt thoroughly with the common objections of egalitarians. Her argument is strong on the issues such as the meaning of "head" and "submit", as well as the flow of the passages.

It is not a technical book in the sense that it's full of footnotes and explicit engagement with other scholars. That makes it a more fluent read and more useful for pastors and congregation members. However, it's not an entirely easy read, it requires concentration because of the detailed work on the text. The lack of much explicit (as in referenced) engagement will be a disadvantage for some depending on their context.

I found it helpful to read alongside Mary Evans' book Woman in the Bible which follows a similar strategy (although is more technical) to see how the authors were dealing with different questions. It's worth saying I found that much more useful than Goddard and Hendry in the Gender Agenda, which weaves the two positions together, but in a way that I found (useful) but a bit too superficial in the end.

I have one or two queries. The placing of Genesis 1-3 at the end was an interesting strategy which I though possibly obscured its significance - especially as it implies significance in the home particularly. I also wondered about the idea that Adam is presented as the firstborn in Genesis 2 - it could have done with more backing.

However, an extremely useful, book and probably the best I've read so far on the topic.


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