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Book Reviews

Book Review: Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle

Our writer today is Clemence Kitawa. Clemence Kitawa is a member at RBC. She is currently a stay-at-home wife to Eric Waweru and mother to Nadia, Oren and Judah.

Having had the chance to read Rebekah Merkle’s Eve in Exile last year, it was refreshing to watch the documentary based on the book with other ladies from Redeemer Bible Church just recently. This book provides much to think about regarding contemporary issues surrounding the place of women; in the home, church, and society. It is a curious analysis of what the feminist movement originally stood for, tracing its steps into our modern era and judging whether feminism has achieved its goal or not. 

In the book’s two parts, Rebekah juxtaposes what the feminist ideology represents long-term against what Bible-based Christian womanhood is. She tackles the verses that get some modern evangelicals fidgety, such as the famous Titus 2:5, 1 Timothy 2: 11 &12, and 1 Corinthians 11:7. 

I have felt inadequate writing this mini-review because of the wideness of the scope of this conversation. Rebekah also admits to a similar inadequacy, but at least she wrote the book. 

Eve in Exile

The garden of Eden was bliss. Then came sin -with death and devastation in its wake. The Bible is the story about humankind having been exiled from the Garden of Eden, being brought back to God’s unveiled presence by God Himself.

The Bible does not euphemize sin in the lives of those it mentions. Murder. Incest. Rape. Prostitution. Truly, women have been victims for years.

Not long ago, women in most Kenyan societies were denied education, were submitted to Female Genital Mutilation and lacked the right to own property, among other egregious sufferings. Female activism, which has now morphed into feminism, brought about the change.

How do we, as Christians, view and fight against social injustices in our fallen world with the hope of our King’s return without falling in with unbiblical philosophies?

The trajectory of feminism

Rebekah gives a history of feminism in its waves, proving that its roots go back to the 1700s in England. However, we mostly know of the first wave of feminists in the early 1900s, who pushed for, among other things, the right for women to vote and work professionally, and the abolition of slavery and alcohol. While most Christians would happily join the bandwagon based on what the first-wave feminists contended for, Rebekah argues that it’s not the ‘What’ that matters as much as the ‘How’ and the ‘Why’. The oppression of the American woman in the Post-World War era (and the injustices done to Kenyan women) are worthy of our activism. 

But is the correct activism to completely delink the woman from the home and ‘unmother’ her? As Christians, we must decisively say ‘No’. Such activism (and the feminist’s fundamental ideology) goes against our Maker’s design. Its anti-God, anti-christian trajectory becomes explicit a few years later, in the push for trans-genderism and abortion at will. Now that we can see the fruit, we know certainly that at the root, feminism is anti-christian.

While the American society is farther down the road on this issue, and as Rebekah puts it, “the demolition job has already been done”, Kenya is almost at the precipice. Although the wrecking ball has not yet begun its work, it has been unleashed. It may be that the Lord will work through the church to bring about a societal understanding of His intended design and preserve us from the perversion that is slowly taking root. Still, God commands us to be shining lights in this dark world. To do so requires us to engage our renewed intellects for the glory of God.

Back to the design

I enjoyed this section of the book the most. The author is hopeful for her society that since the damage has already been done, it is time for Christians to pick it up and build a proper house. Could God have prevented the damage done by feminists and chosen to cause a spiritual revival that would undo the oppression against women? The author argues, “Yes”. The Lord’s ways are not ours, and He gets the glory either way.

In the garden, the Lord commanded man to work. Except for laundry, work was not a result of the fall. The author argues that in the 1950s, after World War II, the technology boom allowed women to work around the home effortlessly and efficiently. Previously, the industry was home-based; the baker would sell at his shop at the front and live in the back. Or the tailor would work downstairs and live upstairs and so on. In this kind of society, the entire family would be involved in the trade, especially the wife.

After the war, the mechanization of things took these trades away from the home to specific centres, where all who shared a skill would come together. The author is grateful for industrialization, which has enabled us to have aeroplanes, smartphones, washing machines, and computers. 

The negative side of the coin was that when women were left at home, with such ease of doing life, they got bored. They became merely decorative, keeping themselves and their homes beautiful for their husbands. They veered from their intended purpose. Resultantly, the wildfire of the second wave of feminism caught momentum on the dry field of bored women’s hearts. 

The author blames the women then and those with the same thought now. She argues that if women were to use the innovations of the era to their benefit, coupled with their imagination and creativity, they would make the home a place to reckon.

But is the woman’s place always and only in the home? Are women not to have an education because they are only good enough for marriage, making babies, and cooking? The author argues no.

The home is the priority for the woman. It might look different in different seasons (singlehood, with little children, empty-nesting), and it looks different for distinct wives based on the kind of husbands they have and their situations. But the principle is of importance, as the author says. 

Our minds are quick to think that the Lord’s plan for the woman is boring, but the author refutes that. “…stop and think for a second. What do we know about God? Is he interested in creatures that are full, underappreciated and underutilized? Oh for pity’s sakes! He is the God who created the tiger, the eagle, the sun, the palm tree. Why on earth, when He got to mankind, would he suddenly decide that He wanted to top it all off with a creature that is not allowed to live up to it’s full potential and has to sputter along at 10% output, never allowed to get out of first gear?

So, Christian women in this era must refuse to be merely decorative. We were not made to be ‘baby gals’ with super long nails, hyperactive social media accounts, lazy busybodies leeching off of men. We were made to fold our sleeves (not like Rosie the Riveter) and work in the worship of our great King.

Subdue, Fruitfulness, Glorify

The immediate previous post on this blog was about our mandate to Subdue the Earth. You can read the thought-provoking post here. We cannot be lackadaisical about subduing in the home. Our God is a God of creativity and beauty, and all His works bring praise to His name. Christian women must keep their homes to reflect that beauty and glory. Rebekah argues that that looks like giving thought to the specific task on hand, whether food, clothing, shelter…, etc. We are to beautify our spaces for the enjoyment of our people. We are to creatively make food to the delight of our people, i.e., the family God has blessed us with and those in our lives by practising hospitality. We are to clothe our families in silk-like the Proverbs 31 woman, but of utmost importance is to clothe ourselves with dignity. What of the single woman living alone? The principle is to glorify God in service to other believers and evangelism to a lost world; how it is fleshed out is dependent on the obedient woman’s circumstances.

In the same way, fruitfulness looks like using the resources in our reach to create God-glorifying beauty. I know of a lady planting mushrooms for her family in buckets in her kitchen. For the married woman, it looks like joyfully bearing children and carefully raising them for the glory and in the admonition of the Lord. 

First Corinthians 11:7; many use this verse to create a demeaning hierarchy where women are at the bottom of the list with no one to boss around. Rebekah states that this is not the case, as we can see the Hebraic superlative expressed in phrases like the song of songs and the holy of holies. In this verse, the man is the glory of God, and the woman is the glory of man. Rebekah argues that the woman is the glory of the glory. Therefore it is the work of the woman to glorify; bringing glory to the home, based on her God-given capabilities, within her God-given constraints, for the enjoyment of her God-given people, to the glory of her great God.

The author walks the tight rope of not giving women a cosmic list of to-dos (as God has not given one), but at the same time sharing a few pointers so as not to be vague.

In closing, the author asserts that women should learn theology, even when learning in silence, because, while the pastor’s job is to preach in the pulpit, the woman’s job is to live it out so loudly in her home (primarily), and in the other spheres of life that the Lord has placed her.

I hope that I have managed to whet your appetite for the book. I highly recommend that you read it.

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