It’s no insignificant thing that as I was planning out this review, a prominent female writer suffered significant slander from men over her forthcoming book. Reading just a few comments was enough to send my already-touchy justice-meter through the roof, and I had to close my computer. Agree or disagree with the premise of a woman’s book – that is not the issue. This social media war is a demonstration of what many women might fear: that we cannot speak up, we cannot use our voices, we cannot talk about those issues or have that job, because the church does not think we are worthy.
I don’t bring up these events to distract from this book review, but because they reinforce three impactful objectives of Elyse Fitzpatrick & Eric Schumacher’s Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women. First is the need for continued growth among Christians to speak about women the way that God speaks about them. God does not slander His daughters nor strive to blot out their names from the records of history. Second, there is growth in the church. We saw both men and women in the church rise up to defend their sister, Aimee, and ascribe worth and honor to her whether or not they agree with her book. Finally, God promises to make every wrong right again. He loves His children to death.
As a woman who believes with all her heart that God created men and women equal in dignity and worth, though different and distinct in role, I am grateful that Worthy helped fortify my complementarian convictions while giving room for disagreement. Books like this provide an opportunity for a sort of dialogue as the reader turns the pages. I felt the freedom to pick up my pen and write a question mark in portions of the book, while also pumping my fist and saying “Yes!” to the majority of it.
Above I mentioned three impactful objectives of Worthy that were most significant to me while reading. Below, I will expound on each of those objectives and ultimately share why Worthy is worth your time.
Three Impactful Objectives
1. Become Mindful That Change Is Still Needed
The authors fill most pages of this book with declarations of the God-ascribed value of women. They could have spent their word count degrading men or commenting only on the negative ways women are treated. But they didn’t. Elyse and Eric struck a wonderful balance.
While focused primarily on the positive ways God speaks about women in His Word, the authors still address many of the real-time ways women are not treated with the value God gives them.
Worthy addresses overt sin against women like rape, misogyny, and abuse. It also draws out more subtle ways the value of women is diminished like “failing to intentionally invite women into mixed-gender conversations” (p.53) or “playing into caricatures of women who are strong leaders” (p.54) or viewing women as objects of temptation (p.70).
It might be easy for some people to read sections of this book and think, “I have never abused a woman or viewed women as objects. I’m doing great valuing women!” Maybe that’s true – and if so, praise God for His work in their life! But for most readers, myself included, a magnifying glass is held up to our hearts revealing not-so-perfect perspectives on women.
Is it cause for despair? Is this enough to feel shame? Yes, actually, it is.
Do we sit in despair and shame, defeated and without hope for change? Absolutely not.
Instead, we recognize the lies we are believing, we name our sins of devaluing women, and we repent of our sin and run toward the Gospel. Women are abused in the church, degraded in the church, and sidelined in the church. We have much work to do to change that, and Fitzpatrick & Schumacher come alongside us and challenge us with questions, passages of Scripture, and real-life examples that encourage change.
2. Be Grateful For Current Progress
As I read examples of ways the church might grow in valuing women, I found myself so grateful for the changes already in the works.
I couldn’t help but survey my own life and experience when reading exhortations to men in the church. Each exhortation immediately caused me to think of men and women I know who are working hard to value their sisters. Here are just a few examples of the ways I’ve seen significant progress in my own life:
– I read lists of ways pastors can include women in the church (p.88) and thought of how well my own pastors seek to include women in prayer, worship, and leadership, all the while remaining humble and open to correction if needed.
– I read about the need for the church to “not measure a woman’s worth based on her attachment to a [man]” (p.33). As a single female, I was so thankful to see all the ways that men and women in my church and my workplace treat me as equal, not holding my marital status against me as a standard for maturity.
– I read Eric’s exhortation to brothers to avoid suspicion, uncomfortability, resistance, or tentativeness, and instead call out women to use their gifts (p.148). I thought of countless examples of men both married and single who do not avoid me or walk around me with a quizzical eyebrow. They love me and constantly ask that I would use my gifts.
Worthy caused me to be thankful for pastors, brothers, bosses, coworkers, friends, mentors, family members, and those who champion me on social media who I barely know! God is at work within His church.
3. Remain Hopeful For The Future
Eleven of the twelve chapters of Worthy are recounting the story of women in Scripture. From the Garden of Eden to the garden where Mary hears the Risen King (p.185), and all throughout the early church to today, God has intentionally used women as essential parts of His mission to redeem a people for Himself.
This is still His plan. The whole church is called to this end. “Both women and men now have the same primary vocation – the Great Commission” (p.192).
The goal of Worthy is not to say that women are worth more than men. Instead, it is to name that the scales can be unbalanced, and many men and women can struggle to value women well. Women are worthy “not because they’ve accomplished great things, or because they are married and have a well-ordered home, but rather because they are created in the image of God, redeemed by the Son, and gifted to fulfill his commission” (p.213).
We can look at events like the one described at the beginning of this review and allow our hearts to be filled with bitterness and defeat. We may be tempted to believe lies about women, yes. But we may also be tempted to believe that the wrongs can’t be made right and that women will be degraded forever.
Worthy concludes with the exact opposite approach. The authors point to the promised day of Jesus’ return where “the sting of every misogynistic remark, every act of discrimination, every sexist joke, every molestation, every rape, every act of exclusion, every strike of the fist, every abusive word – all of it – will be wiped away” (p.249).
What a hope! What a promise! The future is bright.
At this point, you might ask, “Is Worthy worth my time?” In short, if you are a Christian, yes! This book helps the reader grow in his or her mindfulness that change is still needed, gratefulness for current progress, and hopefulness for the future.
Worthy comes with questions for self-reflection or group discussion at the end of every chapter, showing the authors’ desire that this book would invite conversation. You may not agree with every conclusion the authors reach, you may already be working toward change in your church, you may not even be a complementarian. If you are a Christian and you believe that God put His image in both men and women, then this book is for you. Let it instruct, challenge, and encourage. And let it point you to celebrate the value of women in any way you can.
Editor's Note: You can purchase Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women here or wherever books are sold.