Do you ever get tired of reading emotionally manipulative “fluff” as a “Daily Devotional” or “biblical encouragement” for women? Does it ever bother you that the theology presented in such work is often weak and/or approaching borderline (if not outright) heresy? Do you ever get tired of the level of biblical illiteracy presented/expected of Christian women?
You do? Well, good. So do I. As a matter of fact, I got so tired of it, I decided to write this article. The problem of biblical illiteracy in women’s studies is one of great significance. Unfortunately, too many women—well-meaning women—hoping to encourage and inspire their fellow female Christians, end up writing emotionally driven fluff because they don’t have the knowledge and/or lack the discipline necessary to really dig into the Word and research the subject they are writing on.
It’s quite sad, really, that so many women writers/authors are willing to pass along sub-par information. One could even argue that it’s a great disservice and quite likely sinful that they participate in furthering this type of irresponsible (and often downright wrong) writing/studying.
That being said, the real question is, “What can we do to not fall prey to this type of writing?” Whether you are just the reader, or you’re the writer behind something like this, the answer is simple: be willing to dig deeper into the subject and DON’T resort to “fluff” writing just because it “sells better”.
Maybe I need to clarify something here. Maybe I need to define “fluff” so that everyone understands the idea behind this “pretty”, “light”, and “insubstantial” writing style. I often see books, blogs, and other media directed at women including stuff like, “You are beautiful, unique, loved… [whatever].” The authors don’t often include Scripture references, or when they do, it’s cherry-picked to fit the theme they are presenting, rather than provided in an expositional method to help one’s growth and spiritual maturity. There are often personal anecdotes included—often taking up the majority of whatever writing it is (book, blog, etc.)—to the exclusion of real biblical substance.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when “fluff” can still be considered “biblical”, but merely lacking in any true substance. I’m not saying that all fluff-writing is synonymous with heresy—because it’s not. BUT, that being said, it’s easy to fall into that type of borderline stuff when you aren’t keeping in contact with biblical context.
The problem isn’t that these people aren’t well-meaning, because I’m sure they are (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt). But the issue is that their words don’t inspire Christian women to want to grow in God’s Word. In her book, Believing God, Beth Moore attempts to encourage readers by saying, “Instead, I get to know that a greater yes is in progress, and I can count on the bigger miracle” (pg. 81). This is a short snippet of a much longer paragraph in which (on the previous page) she states, “I’m freed to know that my God is huge and my God is able and that if I don’t get what I asked, if I’ll cooperate, I’LL GET SOMETHING BIGGER” (emphasis added).
This leads readers to assume that if they just keep praying for whatever it is that they’re hoping for, they will either A) get that “miracle”, or B) get a BIGGER miracle. And what, pray tell, is she basing this on? Well, Romans 8:17 and 1st Peter 1:7 of course. 1st Peter 1:7 says, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The problem is shown as we consider the previous verses in context: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,” (1st Peter 1:3-6). As you can clearly see, this passage is NOT about receiving miracles.
What 1st Peter 1:3-7 is saying is that we have not “a miracle” as the foundation for our faith, or our “best life”, but that Jesus caused us to be “born again” through His sufficient work on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Now, because of Christ and His victory, we can rejoice and grow through the trials we experience.
This is what I mean by “fluff” and “cherry-picking” verses to fit the narrative. Her exposition is not only misleading, it lacks the context to accurately represent the Word. She relies on one or two verses and emotional platitudes about “blessings” to give her readers a tiny taste of the Bible.
Another pitfall that many authors (and/or readers) fall prey to is the use of Bible paraphrases. A well-known author, Pricilla Shirer, is renowned for creating her own paraphrases. For example, her revamping of the words of Micah 6:8 or Jeremiah 1:7-9 found on her Twitter page.
Come on Ya’ll. I already told u what is good; And what I require of you…
➡️Love [and diligently practice] kindness (compassion).
➡️ Walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]”
Micah 6:8 AMP
— Priscilla Shirer (@PriscillaShirer) November 9, 2020
“Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send u & say whatever I tell u. Don’t b afraid of the people, I will be w/u & will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Then the Lord touched my mouth & said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth!” Jer. 1:7-9
— Priscilla Shirer (@PriscillaShirer) December 21, 2020
This is something, as authors, we must avoid at all costs. The use of paraphrasing often misconstrues the true meaning of the passage, or at minimum takes away from the exact translation phrasing needed for true expositional theology. We need to provide (or read) precise biblical translations in order to truly understand the meaning of each passage. Often, we should be using biblical commentaries to help us further understand (and write about) the Word and how it applies to our daily lives. If you’re new to this type of study, you can find more information and direction here.
Finally, writers, please do NOT fill your books, blogs, etc., with “cookie-cutter” models/ideals/imagery about how a “wife” and/or “mother” should be. We are all unique. We are all individuals with different goals, lives, jobs, and backgrounds. To say that we should all be [fill in the blank] wives/mothers/women is to try to force many square pegs into round holes. Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean everyone else needs to “do this” to be the “good Christian woman”. It’s not only unrealistic, but you end up hurting those you wish to help. So just…don’t.
Please take time to really dig into the Word of God and see what HE says a Christian woman should be. Leave your ideals at the doorstep and share what is revealed in Scripture alone. His Word is enough for us. We don’t need the “fluff” or “pretty vapor” of someone else to understand Scripture. Pray and seek His face, then dig into the Word. It is HIS Word alone that we should be sharing with others. It is through Scripture that we will grow spiritually; not through cute anecdotes and meaningless platitudes. So, let Jesus be the one you share with others. And, reader, keep your eyes peeled; reading with discernment. Your goal in reading about God is to learn more about Him, to grow in your understanding of who He is, and to deepen your relationship with Him. If what you’re reading isn’t helping you with those goals, it’s time to move on.