August 5, 2020

Recommendation and Review: Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup

Don’t forget to check out my new blog at Jesus Shaped Spirituality.

Practical Theology for Women by Mars Hill church Bible teacher Wendy Alsup is a collection of Bible studies emphasizing the practical application of Biblical truth and basic theology in the lives of….women. (A free chapter is available at the Crossway web site.)

Adrian Warnock interviewed Wendy Alsup at his blog. The interview is a great introduction to Wendy’s Bible teaching ministry. She also has several articles on women’s ministry at the Resurgence site.

Alsup covers some of the same material you would find in a book like Knowing God by J.I. Packer or The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, but in a more abbreviated form, with anecdotal material and illustrations from her own experience growing in appreciation for the practical help available in God’s word.

She’s an excellent Bible teacher who knows how to handle scripture pastorally and practically. Crossway should encourage her to continue writing these helpful Bible studies.

Alsup wants to persuade her readers that theology isn’t a bad word or something that should be avoided… women. She does a good job illustrating how the Biblical message of faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ has tremendous value in dealing with the real world issues that come into the lives of young adults.

The chapters look to be the transcripts of Alsup’s popular basic theology classes for women at Mars Hill. As such, they make an excellent collection for any….women’s Bible study wanting to take a more serious set of topics and a more in-depth application of scripture.

At right around 150 pages, this book introduces many topics that should create an appetite for more Biblical study.

It’s the second book in Mar’s Hill’s Re:Lit series of publications. The book has a great look and is well edited. Alsup is a steady, calm teacher who doesn’t waste the reader’s time on distractions or humor. Not that her pastor has any of those faults 🙂

Now… one issue, and the issue isn’t with the book or anything in it.

Why is this book titled as “…Theology for Women?”

For one thing, such a phrase usually is reserved for liberal feminist theologians who are deconstructing what they see as gender bias in scripture and are creating a “Theology for Women.”

Alsup has created a straightforward summary of good theology. Good for everyone. Good for Christians.

Further, if this were a typical “women’s” book, it would be full of applications for and about women. There are a few of those in the book, but very few. Not enough to make the book “for women.”

In fact, without Alsup’s introduction that states the reason she’s writing “for women,” you would read this book and just say “good theology and application for everyone.”

I appreciate that Alsup’s ministry is to women and Crossway wants women to buy the book, but the subtle message here is that theology is gender segregated. I don’t think so, and to even subtly suggest so is distressing.

No, theology is gender marketed, and gender packaged, but theology is for all believers. Even the passages for men and women respectively should be studied by the opposite gender.

This book reflects Mar’s Hill’s strong stand on complementarianism. I appreciate their seriousness, but the clear impression here is that women shouldn’t teach men…even in a book. The result is taking an excellent book that should be aimed at all kinds of younger Christians and presenting it as “for women.”

I surely hope that trend won’t continue. Let your imagination take that trip and you’ll see what I mean.

I can’t imagine what Driscoll’s “Theology for Men Only” would turn out to be.


  1. Texas Rangers Fan says

    While I don’t disagree with your point that Theology isn’t gender specific, perhaps her point in writing the book was to encourage women to read theology period. I’m thinking the ladies that skip the theology books in general and head straight for Beth Moore might be more inclined to give this theology book “for women” a shot. Maybe that was the point?

  2. Well said, Michael.

  3. Oh I think this is far superior to Beth Moore, but then the idea that Beth Moore is a “Women’s teacher” is laughable. The whole act is just ridiculously disingenuous.

    If you eliminated the title and the intro, there can’t be more than 15 specific references to women in this book, and NONE of the chapters is specific to women.

    It’s just good theology. Period.

  4. I’m intrigued by the title of this book! Just as yourightly question the ‘for women’ bit I’d be intrigued to know what you think about the phrase ‘practical theology’ which has a distinct, academic meaning (at least in the UK). The chapter headings look more like a doctrine book than a practical theology book! That’s not wrong, just wonder if she follows the praxis-theory-praxis practical theology approach or if, actually this is actually applied theology?

    Of course I could just read the book… 🙂

  5. I agree with Texas Rangers Fan that she probably had more the “marketing” idea in mind than any “gender-specific theology”. And after all, I don’t think that addressing the gender-specific side of Christian living is all that bad, even if in practice, there are not so great differences at all how it is addressed.

    I myself belong to the Catholic prelature Opus Dei (yes, the one from “The Da Vinci Code” ;-)) and we’re strongly gender segregated, while at the same time the talks men and women hear are not that different at all. I guess if someone heard a talk given by one of our priests, he wouldn’t know most of the time if it was addressed to women or to men.

    Personally, I must say I rather enjoy the idea – often dismissed today in the majority culture – that men and women are different and should also be addressed separately. (Of course, in the case of Opus Dei, the segregation also has other reasons, such as the fact that most of the men and women who organize the ministries are celibate.)