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Extraordinary Women of Christian History: What We Can

Learn from Their Struggles and Triumphs by Ruth A. Tucker

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Paperback:::: 288 pages+++Publisher:::: Baker Books (February 16, 2016)+++Language:::: English+++ISBN-10:::: 080101672X+++ISBN-13::::
978-0801016721+++Product Dimensions::::6 x 0.6 x 9 inches++++++ ISBN10 080101672X
ISBN13 978-0801016721

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Christianity has long been criticized as a patriarchal religion. But during its two-thousand-year history, the faith has been influenced and passed
down by faithful women. Martyrs and nuns, mystics and scholars, writers and reformers, preachers and missionaries, abolitionists and evangelists,
these women are examples to us of faith, perseverance, forgiveness, and fortitude.With gracious irreverence, Ruth Tucker offers engaging and
candid profiles of some of the most fascinating women of Christian history. From the famous to the infamous to the obscure, women like Perpetua,
Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, Anne Hutchinson, Susanna Wesley, Ann Judson, Harriet Tubman, Fanny Crosby, Hannah Whitehall Smith, Corrie
ten Boom, and Mother Teresa, along with dozens of others, come to vivid life. Perfect for small groups, these portraits of women who changed the
world in their own significant way will spark lively discussion and inspire todays Christians to lives of faithful witness.

“One Half of the World does not know how the Other Half lives,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack. That is certainly true of
church history, the standard volumes of which are dominated by accounts of the thoughts and deeds of men. Ruth A. Tucker’s Extraordinary
Women of Christian History tells readers about the “Other Half” of Christendom by means of biographical snippets of famous Christian
women.Tucker has served as a professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Calvin Theological Seminary. She is best-
known for her biographical approach to both the history of Christian missions in From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya and of church history more generally
in Parade of Faith. In 1986, she and Walter L. Liefeld coauthored Daughters of the Church, which is a systematic account of “Women and
ministry from New Testament times to the present,” in the words of the book’s subtitle.Like Daughters of the Church, Extraordinary Women
arranges its material chronologically. Chapter 1 begins with the apocryphal, but nonetheless influential, Thecla, erstwhile missionary compassion of
the apostle Paul. Chapter 14 ends with Helen Roseveare, missionary doctor to the Congo in a time of civil war. Along the way, readers peak into
the lives of women, both Catholic and Protestant, some married but others not, who professed the Christian faith with their thoughts, lives, and
deeds.From the outset, Tucker confesses that her accounts of these women’s lives will be anything but hagiographical. Analogizing her choice of
subjects to “the tastiest candy from this sampler box of chocolates,” she notes that “in many cases [i.e., other writes’ accounts of these women’s
lives] the candy is too sweet for the palate—sugarcoated heroines.” Tucker’s accounts are anything but sugarcoated. Indeed, if anything, they tend
toward bitter chocolate. She writes, “I was struck by how many failed marriages and failed ministries had become added ingredients of this
volume” (x). At times, this non-sugarcoated approach becomes too much, as if the failures outweighed the successes, at least to my
mind.Regardless, I appreciate Tucker’s reminder: “These women are anything but the super-saints of pious heroine tales. They are real people,
and they are like us” (x). There is hope in that statement. God can make a beautiful thing out of the crooked timber of humanity.One final takeaway
as a male reader—or rather, a question. The women Tucker portrays advanced the kingdom of God despite opposition, especially the opposition
that arose because so many of them labored against the grain of traditional gender roles and expectations. Ironically, the Protestant Reformation
made the leadership of women even more difficult. “Protestants disdained monasticism,” Tucker writes, “which incidentally had been the primary
path to ministry for women” (53). One can feel the sting of that opposition to women’s contributions in the complaint of nineteenth-century
preacher and social reformer Phoebe Palmer:We believe that hundreds of conscientious, sensitive Christian women have actually suffered more
under the slowly crucifying process to which they have been subjected by men who bear the Christian name than many a martyr has endured in
passing through the flames (148).Interestingly, Palmer countered this “crucifying process” with a long, rigorous defense of women’s preaching
ministry in a book whose title alludes to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2—Promise of the
Father.The question(s), then, that rises from reading Extraordinary Women of Christian History is this: If the Spirit has been poured out upon “all
people,” both “sons and daughters” (Acts 2:17, cf. Joel 2:28), why do so many churches continue to erect barriers to the full involvement of
women in all of their ministries? Would not the work of the kingdom advance more steadily if its daughters were not unduly hindered? The women
whose lives Tucker sketches did much. One cannot help but wonder whether they could have done much more, had they worked without
hindrance from within the church.

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Extraordinary Women of Christian History: What We Can Learn from Their Struggles and Triumphs

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