Early reactions to ‘Women, Sermons and the Bible’

It’s been just over two weeks now since the release of Women, Sermons and the Bible (WSB), and my thanks to many of you for the messages of appreciation and support. I’ve been particularly encouraged by a number of people who have commented on just how clear and accessible the book is, even when dealing with quite complex arguments and claims. Here’s part of one email from a Sydney laywoman:

I found Claire Smith’s response clear and easy to read. But I thought it was just so helpful to start the book with the first article by Peter Tong, as it sets the response within the right framework for a thoughtful and thorough discussion… I now understand that a proposal to change the way a word had been understood by the church for two thousand years should be debated and tested in a more rigorous and academic manner than Facebook comments…

One question that a couple of people have raised with me is how WSB interacts with the two editions of Hearing Her Voice (HHV) that are in circulation. John Dickson himself has expressed disappointment on this issue in some public remarks, claiming that WSB is “deeply flawed” on account of it being “based on the 1st edition instead of the 2nd”. This is an unfortunate comment, not least because it gives the impression that WSB did not deal fairly with the most up-to-date version of John’s position, and so (presumably) has failed to come to terms with what he really thinks and argues.

This is by no means the case, and (for those who are interested) I’ve set out the facts below on exactly how WSB has dealt with the two editions of HHV. As readers of WSB will discover for themselves, the authors took quite some trouble to interact with John’s complete published argument about women and preaching, both in its first and second editions.

In the meantime, please keep praying that everyone involved in reading and discussing the book will be taught by the grace of God to live “self-controlled, upright and godly” lives (Titus 2:14-15).


A brief account of the two editions of HHV, and how WSB interacts with them.

1. The first edition of HHV was published worldwide by Zondervan as an ebook in Dec 2012 (alongside two other ebooks on women and ministry, by Michael Bird and Kathy Keller). HHV generated considerable discussion and controversy in the months immediately following. John Dickson sent a free black and white printout of the ebook to every rector in Sydney, and promoted the book extensively through social media, asking on numerous occasions for people to engage with his thesis and offer counter-arguments if such existed.

2. A few of us decided that this would be worth doing (the topic being of considerable importance) and set about writing. By June 2013 the essays were done. We then learnt of the imminent publication of a revised edition (the ‘second edition’) that John said did not change the argument in any significant way, but clarified and corrected at a few points, and added extra supportive material to the argument (about 30% more).

3. We asked John for a pre-publication copy so that we could deal fairly with any clarifications, corrections or new evidence presented in the second edition. He kindly sent us a printout of the second edition in the first week of August 2013.

4. A few weeks later, the second edition was released only in Australia and only as a print edition (with a full-colour cover). The second edition did not indicate that it was a second or revised edition, or that a first edition existed. This was somewhat confusing, especially since the first edition continued to be sold by Zondervan as an ebook in Australia and worldwide. (The first edition has recently been withdrawn from Amazon.com in advance of the release of the second edition as an ebook sometime in the coming weeks. However, as of today, the first edition is still for sale as an ebook through Koorong books.)

5. So the authors and editors of WSB had to consider the following:

  • the first edition Zondervan ebook was a published work in its own right
  • it had been widely distributed and discussed throughout Australia and the world
  • it was the only edition of HHV that many Australian readers of WSB would ever read
  • it was the only edition that readers outside Australia had access to (and that remains the case, as of today)
  • it remained in circulation and for sale (and has remained so right up until today).

In response to these facts, we made what we still consider to be the only reasonable decision—that we would need to deal fairly with both editions of HHV in our response.

6. Accordingly, starting in August 2013, the WSB authors went back through all the essays and revised them, making sure that we noted and interacted with any significant points at which the second edition corrected or clarified the first, and interacted with additional arguments or evidence adduced in the second edition. (Readers of WSB will see for themselves that we have done this.) This procedure meant that the many readers of the first edition could read a critique of the edition they had in their hands, but also see any points of substance at which the second edition clarified or improved the argument. It also meant that readers of the second edition suffered no disadvantage (because new or clarified material in the second edition was carefully and clearly interacted with).

7. All of this of course took some months (it was painstaking, and we’re all busy people). The revised versions of essays were completed in late November. WSB then went through very thorough editing and checking to make sure everything was as accurate as possible, followed by design and ebook coding, and then further checking. In our process at Matthias Media, this all took slightly longer than the usual time (because of the size of the book, the nature of a multi-authored volume, the number of footnotes to be checked, the intervention of the Christmas holidays, and some staffing-related delays).

8. WSB was published as an ebook on 5 May 2014. For those who wish to read the arguments for themselves, you can purchase the WSB ebook from Matthias Media, Amazon and iTunes.

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