Are Women Really Terrible Christian Authors?

In January, I resolved to read more books by Christian authors who are women. On average, I read one hundred books per year. But I only read less than five books by women Christian writers. That’s pathetic.

This is why.

I need to learn what God is teaching other believers despite their sex, wealth or skin color. After all, we’re all equal in the sight of God. We have one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5).

I am an African man who grew up in a patriarchal society. All the churches I attended in the past fourteen years did not permit women to preach. But, like I said the same Spirit in male Christian authors is also in female Christian authors. And it is the same Spirit that was in Jesus Christ.

Yet, it’s rare to find a book by a female Christian with sound theology in your local bookstore.

In this post, I will not arguing on whether it’s biblical to ordain women or not. Instead, I would like us to explore this question:

Are women really terrible Christian authors?

You can rephrase this statement as, why are there very few good Christian books by women? Or why is it that most books by Christian women that are literary masterpieces are theological hogwash?

As a male Christian author, I know by asking these questions I am treading on perilous grounds. Some people will misconstrue these questions as sexist and misogynistic. But that’s not my intention.

In 2016, I learned great lessons from excellent female Christian writers. Please, allow me to take you to a place where you can also mine the nourishing wisdom abundant among female Christian authors.

How Female Christian Authors Received A Bad Name

Christian Bestsellers gave bad name to women Christian authors

Number 1 Bestseller by Sarah Young

They’re many great books written by faithful women throughout the ages. However, these books have since become a classic case of classics – everyone talks about them, most people own them, but no one reads them. In the end their admirable marriage of art and theology is long forgotten.

Enter bestsellers.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. For The Love by Jen Hatmaker. And so on.

These books introduced most Christians to the literary genius of women writers. They won many hearts through their brutal honesty, captivating descriptions and empathetic style. It’s not surprising that these books became bestsellers.

It’s not surprising then that 13 books on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association top 25 Christian non-fiction bestsellers for November 2016 were written by women.

But there’s a big problem.

Although well written and engaging, the majority of these books peddle very dangerous theology. For example, Sarah Young has three books in the ECPA bestsellers list. Yet, Sarah Young writes her books in the voice of God. You may read Tim Challies review on Jesus Calling here.

A second example is Shauna Niequist’s Present over Perfect. In a review at The Gospel Coalition, Tilly Dillehay observed:

One wonders whether her [Shauna Niequist’s] vision of God as rescuer has been soaked in Scripture long enough to be swallowed, digested, and operative in the long term… Anyone who believes Scripture is the most transformative meat for the hungry, tired stomach is going to wonder whether this particular book will offer any long-term relief.

As you can see, most widely read female Christian authors are good writers with questionable theology. It is books by these best selling women that give a bad name to all female Christian authors.

How Female Influencers Changed Women’s Ministry In Your Church

1. Absence of female voices/models from the local pulpit

I have listen to at least 100 sermons per year, but I can’t remember hearing a preacher quoting a woman. Women also need a C.S. Lewis, a Bonhoeffer or a Tim Keller who relates to them. Someone who speaks their language.

Female Christian authors like Lysa Terkeurst, Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker filled this void for many women. Hence, Kate Shellnutt observed, “Christian women increasingly look to nationally known figures for spiritual formation and inspiration—especially when they don’t see leaders who look like them stepping up in their own churches.”

2. Leading change through influencers and advent of the internet

While the church is arguing on whether women should teach, they’re teaching. But not through the traditional pulpit. Jen Hatmaker has one of the most prolific presence on social media. Her number of followers are 20 times those of Russell Moore, 4 times Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and twice that of Timothy Keller.

Karen E. Yates, an editorial patron at Yates and Yates, a leading Christian literary agency noted in an article in Washington Post, “Between word-of-mouth marketing, the chatter of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and a female-dominated online retail space, Christian women are breaking through barriers.” As a result, “Women are able to share their teaching and testimony without being confined by the four walls of a church building, without bumping up against theological debates over the role of women in the church.”

3. Women Influencers have what publishers are looking for – platform

I once tried to have one my books published by traditional Christian publishers. Between the silence and piles of letters of regret, I received an eye-opening email from a prominent acquisition editor. “Your book is great but unfortunately you don’t have a platform to promote your book.”

Christian authors like Kara Tippetts broke through the barriers of Christian publishing through her blog. Blogging and social media has made it possible for women to have their books traditionally published. This was once reserved for academics at seminaries or prominent male preachers.

Are Women Really Terrible Christian Authors? No, This Is Why

No. Most of the books I read in 2016 by female authors were excellent. The bright colors of the covers captured the diversity of perspectives they embodied. Importantly, they harbored admirable and empowering theology.

1. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman

Take for example, Gloria Furman’s Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. I always complained to my wife that she doesn’t read the Bible enough. Gloria Furman helped me to appreciate what my wife goes through in trying to sustain her faith by God’s grace.

I agree with Kristin Tabb, “Theological truth permeates Furman’s work, creating a soul-satisfying meal for mothers who wonder whether what they are doing makes any kind of difference in God’s kingdom.” It’s this soul-satisfying meal that lacks in most bestsellers. But thank God for Christian authors like Gloria who ‘orient readers to God’s glory in the task of parenting.’

2. And It Was Beautiful by Kara Tippetts

Confession. Kara Tippetts is one of my favorite female Christian writers. Her authenticity mesmerized me. I have read all her books except her debut. They are all reach in honesty and pointpoint to the sufficiency of Christ.

I admit, And It Was Beautiful isn’t her best book. It’s a collection of her memoirs that sometimes feel disconnected. But the running motif of a God that remains faithful even in our worst suffering holds the book together. Sadly, Kara Tippetts went to be the Lord on my Son’s second birthday.

3. Extraordinary Women of Church History by Ruth A. Tucker

Ruth A. Tucker’s new book Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife caused a stir among complementarian Evangelicals. Tim Challies dismissed it saying Ruth A. Tucker constructed her egalitarian theology based solely on her experiences. By the way, Black and White Bible chronicles the suffering she endured at the hands of a complementarian husband.

My favorite book by Ruth A. Tucker is Extraordinary Women of Church History. You probably heard of the Church fathers. But have you ever heard anyone talking about the Church mothers? Dr. Tucker goes down memory lane to uncover the hidden bedrock of the Church – women who sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel.

4. Faithful: A Theology of Sex by Beth Felker Jones

Honestly, I was amazed by Beth Felker Jones’ wisdom. It’s rare to find a Bible scholar whose writings aren’t plain boring. Beth Felker Jones is a professor of theology at Wheaton College. And she teaches classes such as eschatology, Christology, systematic theology and doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever heard people talk about singleness as if it’s a disease that needs to be eradicated like smallpox? In Faithful, Beth Felker Jones offers a compelling, theologically sound argument for embracing singleness. Above all, she offered a Bible-based explanation for the value and purpose of sex. You should read this book whether you’re single or married.

5. Jesus and the Feminist by Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger

I grew up with a single mother and my earliest feeling of hurt and hatred was when I heard about rape. As a result, I became more inclined towards feminism. Most people who know me will describe me as a feminist. But Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger’s Jesus and the Feminist gave me a wake up call.

“It is an undisputable fact that over the course of church history women have been misunderstood and undervalued,” wrote Dr. Köstenberger. Jesus and the Feminist treks the history of feminism and how it infiltrated the church by affecting Biblical hermeneutics. She note, in feminism, ‘scripture is not awarded an authoritative status that is external to the interpreter but, rather, is subjected to critique on the basis of the interpreter’s feminist outlook.’

6. Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

I’m not a fan of memoirs but I know a testimony can be another person’s miracle. Watching a life story unfold can be an awakening experience. Hence, more women read memoirs everyday.

Carolyn Weber’s memoir is like no other. It’s a story of a Canadian literary genius who got caught by Christ’s relentless love at the most unlikely place – Oxford University. Oxford University is a steeple of liberalism and atheism. Surprised by Oxford details Carolyn Weber’s doubts and how she found her answers in Christ alone.

7. Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Over the years, I have come across several good books by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Counseling from the Cross, Give Them Grace and Found in Him. No doubt, Elyse Fitzpatrick is a one of the best modern Christian writers.

In Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick defined idols as ‘the loves, thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God.’ How do we crash these idols? Through confession, repentance and delighting in God. After all, ‘repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit by which we, as sinners, are inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.’

Read Female Christian Authors, Please

I have listed only 7 authors but I could go on and on. And I left out the obvious bestsellers by Sarah Young and co. because of their questionable teachings. Don’t just read bestsellers. Start reading these 7 books and I promise you, you will agree with me, “Women are not terrible Christian authors!”

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4 Comments

  1. Well thought out look at an issue most Christians (and writers alike) tend to ignore. It is also my main reason for not reading many women authors. I also have a tendency to avoid most women authors in the fictional realm for the trite and shallowness (what my husband and I call “dragging a French fry through ketchup” tendencies), although there are a few excellent ones (not mainstream) that I keep up with. Again, thank you for your thoughtful viewpoint and the excellent reminder to those of us who are authors to take our faith seriously in our writing.

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    1. Sadly I find I prefer nonchristian novelists like Joyce Carol Oates to most of their Christian counterparts. There is a depth of thought in her writing that Christian romance novels. And nothing but romance novels is ever written by Christian women when it comes to fiction. Some unwritten rule. They’re all devoted wives, mothers (and sometimes grandmothers) with a minimum of four kids apiece and immaculate houses. They love cooking and supporting their hubbies’ ministries. Being an old maid loser I’m not even going to try to crack that market! Some of the nonfiction is okay, but I avoid most of the stuff Christian women write about “waiting for Mr. Right.” God wants us to serve Him in the here and now, not sit on our hands waiting for something that will never happen and probably would not be best for some women anyhow.

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