Once bitten, twice shy. That pretty much describes my response to most major marketing campaigns by Christian publishers. So often I’ve found that the best books are the ones that appear with the least fuss, and that the ones carried in on the back of a major marketing wave prove to be disappointing. But not always.
Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word has been the beneficiary of some major marketing efforts. It was the talk of this year’s Gospel Coalition National Conference for Women and has been pushed heavily in the blogosphere. And I’m glad to say that it proved my skepticism wrong—it is an excellent little book.
Wilkin loves God’s Word and she loves to teach others to love it as well. Her book is designed to awaken that same love in others, and especially in other women. It is, after all, meant to call women to the Word so they can be women of the Word.
She opens biographically, telling about her growing passion for the Bible—for reading it, for knowing it, for teaching it to others. She explains that the book’s purpose is “to teach you not merely a doctrine, concept, or story line, but a study method that will allow you to open up the Bible on your own. It intends to challenge you to think and to grow, using tools accessible to all of us, whether we hold a high school diploma or a seminary degree, whether we have minutes or hours to give to it each day.”
Before she gets to a method of studying the Bible, she tells about two turnarounds she had to make in her life, where she replaced backward approaches to Bible study with better ones. The first was to allow the Bible to speak of God. She had been approaching the Bible as a book about her, a book answering the question “Who am I?” more than “Who is God?” The second turnaround was thinking that she should allow her heart, rather than her mind, to guide her study of the Bible. She let her feelings dictate what she read and how she read it instead of first allowing it to transform her mind. She wants her readers to know that they cannot love what their minds do not know.
With those foundations in place, she makes a plea for biblical literacy and follows it with a five-part method meant to bring it about. Her description of this method, along with examples of it in action, consume the bulk of the book. She teachers her readers to study with purpose, perspective, patience, process and prayer. This method is simple enough to be practical, but significant enough to lead to deep understanding, reflection, and application. She closes with some guidance for teachers and a final call to a commitment to the Word.
While I am not the target audience for the book (I don’t ever anticipate being a woman of the Word), I found it very enjoyable nonetheless. I read it at a good time in life—a time in which I am thoroughly enjoying reading God’s Word—and it fired up my love for God, and his Word, all the more.
While Wilkin’s method is sound, I also enjoyed her emphases on approaching the Bible intellectually ahead of emotionally, of training the mind to train the heart. This is a missing emphasis in too many books on reading the Scriptures and, in particular, books targeted at women. The point is not that everyone who reads the Bible ought to be an outright intellectual, but that Bible-reading cannot bypass the mind.
Women of the Word is a helpful little book that I cheerfully commend. (And, I should add, one Aileen read before I did and enjoyed every bit as much.)