Monday, October 24, 2016

8 Women of Faith

by Michael Haykin

I fell in love with the life stories of people from history when I was a young girl and I still love them. As an adult, I've concentrated mostly on biographical sketches of people from Christian history—short stories of the lives of my spiritual ancestors. But there aren't all that many accounts of the lives of historical Christian women, probably because it's hard to tell a woman's life story when there aren't many written records of her life.

I was eager, then, to read Michael Haykin's new book, Eight Women of Faith. I've listened to most of his biographical lectures and sermons and enjoyed them, so I was ready for more of his stories from Christian history, especially if they focused on women.

It turns out this book isn't what I expected. The chapters aren't really biographical sketches, but essays on the faith of each of the eight woman featured. In each chapter Haykin examines the way one historical Christian woman served Christ and his church in the historical circumstances in which she lived. His purpose is to "remind contemporary Christians, especially evangelicals of the vital role that women have played in the history of our faith.
The eight women featured are
  • Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), the young queen who was martyred for her Protestent faith. Jane is notable for her courage as she faced death and her defense of her own faith and the tenants of the Reformation when the Roman Catholic Benedictine monk John Feckenham tried to convince her to embrace the Catholic faith before she died.
  • Margaret Baxter (1636-1681), the wife of the Puritan Richard Baxter. This essay is based primarily in Richard Baxter's accounts of their marriage and they ways his wife supported him in his ministry.
  • Anne Dutton (1692-1765), a Baptist poet and theological writer. She wrote on many theological subjects, including the nature of the Lord's Supper, Calvinism (She defended it.), and John Wesley's perfectionism (She was critical of it.).
  • Sarah Edwards (1710-1758), the wife of Jonathan Edwards. Haykin looks at Sarah Edward's spiritual experience as presented in her husband's writings.
  • Anne Steele (1717-1778), one of the great hymn writers of the eighteenth century, on par with Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, John Newton, and William Cowper.
  • Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758), the daughter of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. This essay focuses on her friendship with Sarah Prince. The two woman made an agreement to keep a daily journal they would share with each other, journals which included conversations about spiritual things.
  • Ann Judson (1789-1826), pioneer missionary to Burma and the wife of Adoniram Judson.
  • Jane Austen (1775-1817), well-known author of several novels. Jane Austen's "serious Christian" faith is viewed through one of her written prayers.
My favorite chapter was the one on Anne Dutton, who I knew very little about before I picked up this book. She wrote about theology, something I like to do, and she did it in a time when many thought a woman shouldn't be an author. She found it necessary, then, to also write a defense of herself and her work. To do this she argued that the prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12, in which Paul writes, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet," referred to public worship only. Her works, she wrote, were meant to be read "by believers in 'their own private houses.'"

I suspect each reader will be drawn to the women whose circumstances and calling most closely mirror her own, so your favorite chapter will probably be different from mine.
In the end, I wasn't disappointed that Eight Women of Faith wasn't exactly the book I expected it to be. The focus on how these women lived out their faith in their historical time was encouraging to me. Each of them lived in a time when women had less power than we do now, and still, they all influenced others as they lived out their faith. Through their stories, they serve as examples to us.

Michael Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He has authored, coauthored, or edited more than twenty-five books.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing about this book! I am going to have to look it up! :)