Remember that old Sunday School classic, “The B-I-B-L-E”? You probably sang it as a kid: “The B-I-B-L-E, Yes--That’s the Book for me! I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.” It’s a short song, but behind the snappy tune and quick spelling lesson rest deep theological truths about the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Word of God. In essence, these doctrines indicate that the teachings of the Bible are “God-given,” “correct,” and “sufficient” for our lives.
Elisabeth Cady Stanton, a leading founder of the first woman’s movement, would have profoundly disagreed. She argued that certain portions of Scripture were so male biased and evil, that woman ought to deny the divine inspiration of such a “demoralizing book.”* She believed that in order for women to achieve true equality with men, they would need to approach the Bible on their own terms:
“We have made a fetish of the Bible long enough. The time has come to read it as we do all other books, accepting the good and rejecting the evil it teaches.” --Elisabeth Cady Stanton
Stanton felt so strongly that the original text of the Bible was bad for women that she put together a “revising committee” to deal with those passages she found offensive. The result was an angry, scorching book called “The Woman’s Bible,” which was first published in 1895. In it, Stanton and the Revising Committee made recommendations to women about which parts of the Bible they ought to condemn and ignore.
It bothers me that these feminist pioneers so disrespected and disregarded God’s Holy Word. But if I’m honest with myself, I can see that my own heart isn’t entirely free from this attitude. I constantly wrestle with my sinful tendency to neglect or shrug off the Bible’s teachings--particularly if they’re uncomfortable, unpopular, or difficult to follow.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed. A few verses later, he predicts that “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (4:3). It seems to me that this is exactly what Elisabeth Cady Stanton and the Revising Committee of The Woman’s Bible did.
It’s important that each one of us examines her heart. Am I--as Stanton advocated--merely listening to teachers who say what I want to hear? Or is my attitude like the one reflected in that simple child’s song:
“The B-I-B-L-E, Yes--That’s the Book for me! I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”
I’d love to hear from you. Can you think of some common rationalizations/excuses for not obeying God’s Word? Do you have a personal story about how you learned to obey passages that initially rubbed you the wrong way?
*The Woman’s Bible, Parts I & II, Elisabeth Cady Stanton and the Revising Committee, published in 1895. Re-published by the Seattle Coalition Task Force on Women and Religion, 1974 (4759-15th Avenue NE., Seattle, Washington, 98105), p. 8 – Preface to Part II.