Feminine Threads, Diana Lynn Severance
Have you noticed, that sometimes as modern 21st century westerners we can be a little arrogant about the past? We think they weren’t as educated or informed as we are, they didn’t really understand how the world worked, they lived such simple lives, and so on.
It’s even more dangerous when we start to think that way as Christians. When we think that Christians of the early centuries or the middle ages or Victorian England – perhaps we think they weren’t educated, or intelligent, or wise, or learned. They didn’t really know their bibles that well. They didn’t really know how to think theologically.
And then you read a history book like Feminine Threads which puts you in your place. It shows you that Christians have lived godly, intelligent, wise, learned lives since Christ walked the earth. What you are pushed to actually realise is that godly women over the ages have studies the scriptures, learnt them, meditated upon them and memorised them. In essence, some were more learned, more studious and more devout than many of us will ever be.
Over two centuries, Christian women have influenced their homes, their husbands, their workplaces, their bishops, their popes, their kings, their governments, their countries and their jailers. They have housed churches in their homes, pushed for reform, changed nations and died as martyrs. Feminine Threads will open your eyes to the place of women in Christian history, introducing you to many women you would otherwise never hear of.
I first got this book when it was recommended so highly by Meredith. A few weeks later I read Tamie’s review which was much less complementary. I had both their words ringing in my ears when I read it. Interestingly I found myself agreeing with both of them. Yes, it is an amazingly encouraging read about godly women throughout time. And yes, Severance clearly has an anti-feminist, anti-women’s ordination agenda which comes out strongly throughout and she attaches that to a number of her interpretations.
She includes women across the band of denominations and parts of the church quite broadly – Catholicism, mysticism, Congregationalist, Salvation Army, Puritan, Quaker, reformed, etc. It is centred in the West, especially England and America, and I would have loved to have had godly women in Africa, Asia and South America included.
When you read it, you could end up feeling a little useless (eg. I am not raising 8 children, I cannot translate Latin and Greek, I have not established a school or a missionary board). But that would be to miss the point. These are the exemplary women of 2000 years of history, on whom information exists. There are millions of other faithful women who minister to their families, teach the bible to those in their care, long to grow in godliness and strive to serve Jesus, yet whose lives are unrecorded. I'll leave Severance with the last word:
Millions of women in following Christ have followed the New Testament pattern of Christian women – lifting up the needs of others in prayer, mentoring other Christians, supporting church leaders, showing hospitality, fellow-labouring as missionaries, supporting their husbands in Christian work, instructing other women, evangelizing and sharing the Word with others, teaching children, and helping those in need and distress. These Christian women were from the poor and rich, from every class of society, and from every continent on the globs. They were not perfect, but that have obtained a good testimony through faith in the One who have His life a ransom to redeem them for God. They are the feminine threads in the rich tapestry of Christian history. (p312)