Zondervan, 2015, 224 pp., $14.24
I’ve read numerous Christian books on the subject of gender roles and masculinity, but Carolyn James’ Malestrom was a personally unique experience for two reasons: First, it is a book about maleness from the perspective of a woman; second, it is the first book on a Christian perspective of masculinity that hasn’t left me feeling as if I’m less of a man. If anything, I finished Malestrom feeling empowered and humbled by the nature of the gospel and its implications for men and women.
James is a thoughtful and theological writer, who offers her perspective in accessible and insightful prose as she explores culture’s and the Bible’s views on the male gender. Specifically, she is targeting the pervasive perspective of patriarchy, a male-dominated cultural value that has permeated Christian and world history since the fall in Eden. Rather than perpetuate the impregnator-protector-provider definition of manhood, James unpacks various stories in the Bible—Adam and Eve, Sarah and Abram, Ruth and Boaz—and ultimately concludes with the ultimate example of masculinity: Jesus. James attempts to move beyond the complementarian and egalitarian dichotomy (though she’d most easily be categorized by the egalitarian paradigm) by offering a humble and kingdom-centered view of gender roles.
While the book is lacking a bit in pragmatics (i.e., where are present-day examples of men, women and churches rejecting patriarchy?) and doesn’t explore some of the controversial gender role passages in Paul’s epistles, Malestrom is an encouraging, empowering and refreshing book that gets to the heart of the issues behind gender roles and points its readers to seek the kingdom Jesus came to establish.