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Classical home school leader espouses egalitarian views on weblog

May 18, 2006

Many evangelicals know Susan Wise Bauer as an advocate of a classical approach to home school education and, thus, may have been blindsided by the egalitarian view of gender roles that she informally—but unambiguously—set forth on her weblog this week.

Many evangelical Christians know Susan Wise Bauer as an advocate of a classical approach to home school education.

Home schoolers also know her well by her four-volume history series for children, The Story of the World.

Thus, many evangelicals may have been blindsided by the egalitarian view of gender roles which she informally—but unambiguously—set forth on her weblog this week. On her blog “The History of the (Whole) World,” on which Bauer muses about her upcoming four-volume series on world history and other topics, Bauer reflects upon a recent lecture series she presented at her alma mater, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadephia.

Bauer expresses great affection for Westminster Seminary, but bemoans the fact that the school from which she earned a master of divinity remains committed to a complementarian view of gender roles despite the fact that the culture has “moved on” to a full embrace of egalitarianism.

Writes Bauer, “My guest lecture was in an ecclesiology class, in which I tried to get the students to consider the ways in which their Americanized evangelical indoctrination in what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” affects their understanding of the New Testament.

“Evangelicals generally are very resistant to the idea that their ideas about masculinity and feminity are in any way shaped by their culture; a certain division of gender roles has become, for many American evangelicals, the center of their orthodoxy… Far too many evangelical groups identify themselves, not by their understanding of the resurrection, but by the restrictions they place on women.

Randy Stinson, Executive Director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is disappointed. “Many of us have long appreciated Bauer’s contributions to the home schooling movement but unfortunately she is undermining biblical authority by holding her current position on the gender issue. While all of us are impacted in some way by our culture, the Bible gives clear guidelines and examples of how men and women should relate to one another. We do not consider this to be the core issue of orthodoxy but we do see this as a central issue with regard to Christian discipleship. We are not generic Christians, we are either male Christians or female Christians and the Bible is clear that there are distinct differences in many of the ways we will live out the Christian life.”

Bauer also noted, “There are tremendous fears that lie behind this attitude, which I have written and lectured on before and won’t take the time to lay out here. Sometimes discussions about “women in the church” are actually discussions about the reliability of the Bible, and sometimes discussions about the reliability of the Bible are actually discussions about men’s fears of women, and it’s exceedingly difficult to figure out WHICH conversation you’re having at any given time…”

Stinson responded by saying, “Bauer is certainly correct in believing that complementarians see this as a matter of biblical authority and fidelity. Fear of women is not part of the equation for us. Our concern for obedience to Scripture and maintaining the picture of Christ and the church as depicted in Eph. 5 is the driving force behind our work and efforts. Nothing less than the health of the home and church is at stake.”

Bauer then applauds heartily a recent book by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender; She particularly hails Stackhouse’s conclusion in which he asserts “Now…that modern society is at least officially egalitarian, the scandal is that the church is not going along with society, not rejoicing in the unprecedented freedom to let women and men serve according to gift and call.”

Bauer concludes her brief analysis by pointing readers to “check out” Stackouse’s book at, while warning them to disregard “reactionary ignorant customer review, an ongoing hazard for all thoughtful writers,” apparently alluding to the one reviewer who disagrees with Stackhouse’s thesis.

Bauer is an English instructor of writing and American literature at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and founder of Peace Hill Press.

She is the author of The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, a guide to reading the great books. She co-authored, with her mother, Jessie Wise, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. She is also a contributing editor to “Books & Culture.”

To read Bauer’s complete weblog post quoted in this article, please see:

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