TinCaps baseball, Debrand Fine Chocolates, the Embassy Theatre, Komets hockey, the Johnny Appleseed Festival, and (of course) the Allen County Public Library are just a few things to love about living here in Fort Wayne. But did you know Fort Wayne is also home to a number of talented authors? Suzanne Burden is a Fort Wayne resident and author of Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God. She is a part-time chaplain who enjoys speaking, preaching, and leading retreats. Suzanne was gracious enough to answer some questions about her book for me to share with you. Enjoy!
Q: In your book Reclaiming Eve, you encourage women to find their true identity and calling in the Kingdom of God. Why did you want to write a book like this?
A: Because I needed the book myself! Through studying the Bible and dialoguing with my coauthors, we came to believe that from the beginning, with Eve, God had laid out a blueprint for every girl and woman that was empowering, life-changing and freeing. This was contrary to some of the impressions we had received that Eve was defined by her sin or an “inferior” nature. We taught what we were learning to a group of women in a Bible study, and 4½ years later, Reclaiming Eve was finally published. A Small Group DVD followed, and now people are leading book groups and studies in their churches and homes. We are thrilled to finally have the Reclaiming Eve project out in the world and to see women from every age, stage and circumstance being set free.
Q: What has the story of Eve been and why does she need reclaiming?
A: In Greek culture (which has heavily influenced our own), people believed that women were created as a curse on men. In Christian church history, some of our church fathers taught that women were not made in the image of God, even that they were “the Devil’s gateway.” In every era of history, we are always re-evaluating assumptions made and comparing them to the record of Scripture, reasoning them through and doing our best to live out God’s intentions. Even though Greek thought and some church fathers have passed on a negative view of women, when we studied more closely, we became firmly convinced this was unfounded. We believe that through Jesus, Eve and every woman is restored as both a “strong power”—Hebrew word ezer— (Genesis 2:18) and an image-bearer representative of the living God (Genesis 1:26-27).
Q: For centuries the church has taught that women cannot be leaders in the church. Is this because they did not understand God’s reason for creating Eve?
A: It’s true that the Christian church has limited the leadership role of women. However, in pockets of Church history, including the early church of the New Testament, some leadership positions were open to women: Junia the apostle, Phoebe the deacon/minister, Priscilla the teacher, and many other women listed as “coworkers” of the apostle Paul. Things began to become more restricted for women around the third century. At times in history, included the late 19th and early 20th century, some women were teaching and preaching and leading again; it was a wooden literalism applied to passages written to a specific culture and city at a particular point in time in the New Testament that displaced them from their pulpits and mission stations, even stripping many of them of ministry licenses.
Our belief is this: God created Eve to alongside Adam mutually oversee his Creation and to flourish and to be fruitful and multiply. When sin entered the world and humankind chose their own way, hierarchy and domination began. But this wasn’t God’s fault, it was ours; neither was it God’s intention. Through Jesus, then, women are restored alongside their brothers to do God’s good work on this earth and to spread his love. We believe we were created as ideal partners, and that we need all hands on deck to get the job done.
Q: What are some of the things women can do if they feel certain doors are closed to them?
A: Every girl and woman has been created to love just as she is loved by God. The reality is that women often face more barriers to doing what they believe God is calling them to do — but every girl and woman can find ways to love well in whatever circumstance or calling they find themselves. Keep looking for open doors; go where women are cherished and welcomed alongside men; make a difference in your one life wherever you can, however you can, wherever you are planted.
Q: Your book is specifically about the identity and calling of women in the Christian church. Is this an important book for men to read as well as women?
A: Yes! One Sunday a middle-aged man approached me and told me he had read Reclaiming Eve. With interest, I asked what he thought. He replied: “This really is what the gospel (of Jesus) makes possible!” The book is actually about gender reconciliation, about bringing men and women together as full partners. It’s filled with stories of what can happen when this occurs; we need men to champion women and women to lift up men. There is no superiority or inferiority, because we are interdependent. I believe a project or ministry is much stronger when both males and females are represented.
Q: We like to think we live in an enlightened time when men and women are treated as equals. Yet in our world, the mistreatment and oppression of women is rampant. For example, the World Health Organization reports that 30 percent of partnered women will experience physical or sexual violence by their partners in their lifetime. How can a better understanding of God’s intent for the treatment of women by the church coincide with the need for justice for women all around the world?
A: I’m heartbroken by this. This year the National Council on Domestic Violence reported that one in three women in the U.S. are affected, and that one in six women will be a victim of rape. Women and girls around the world are victims of sex-slavery. This reality is absolutely opposed to the blueprint God gives us for the dignity of his daughters, those made in his own image as his representatives. When we realize the great intentions God has for women, our hearts rise up with anger and justice. We speak up when a woman is being abused; we help her find shelter and counseling; we make sure those abusing women are prosecuted by the civil authorities. “Real men protect women,” as the sign said at Fort Wayne’s “One Billion Rising” event. Those with faith in Christ should be the first ones to speak out against injustice both locally and globally. Women are infinitely precious to God and they deserve protection and freedom and flourishing.
Q: Do you have plans for any other books in the future?
A: I am working on a book project with a male coauthor that focuses on male/female partnerships, highlighting the amazing things that happen when men and women serve side by side. I’m thoroughly fascinated by stories that show how this is not only possible, but it’s happening. Men and women have and are accomplishing things together that neither could hope to do on their own. Stay tuned!