Fresh spices as food for thought | with Dr. Michelle Lee Barnewall

Jul 18, 2022

What are your thoughts on the importance of understanding culture to experience the teachings of Jesus at a deeper level? And, what about the gender debate in the church? And, pray tell, what on earth do these two questions have in common? Get ready for a meaty conversation today! Stephanie welcomes Dr Michelle Lee Barnewall, who is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. A Korean-American who grew up in Minnesotta and have lived throughout the US, she has a unique perspective on culture and is the author of several books, two of which we are discussing today. One is about the evangelical gender debate around egalitarianism and complementarism; the other is about entering the parables of Jesus as He intended. What do these two topics have in common? Several things we discuss:

- a humble approach to culture,

- a spirit of teachability,

- the ministry of reconciliation,

- a focus away from individualism, and towards a spirit of community.

This conversation will most likely challenge your perspective, and we hope and pray it is the springboard to growth, and deeper intimacy with the Spirit of the living God! As Michelle says, "let's welcome the tension so that we will grow through it. Let's be comfortable with tension."

This conversation feels a little like a seminary class under Michelle's expert teaching... and that is something to enjoy deeply! 


Michelle Lee-Barnewall (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. Besides the two books we are discussing in this episode, she is also the author of Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ.

Her next book? She brings her reflections on growing up as a minority race in America. It's a combination of personal experience and Biblical New Testament theology and it will come out in the future!

ABOUT “NEITHER COMPLEMENTARIAN NOR EGALITARIAN: A Kingdom corrective to the evangelical gender debate"

Regarding gender relations, the evangelical world is divided between complementarians and egalitarians. While both perspectives have much to contribute, the discussion has reached a stalemate. Michelle Lee-Barnewall critiques both sides of the debate, challenging the standard premises and arguments and offering new insight into a perennially divisive issue in the church. She brings fresh biblical exegesis to bear on our cultural situation, presenting an alternative way to move the discussion forward based on a corporate perspective and on kingdom values.

Buy the book on Amazon now

"Imagine using core biblical themes like corporateness, servant leadership, mutuality, and unity to discuss issues of the relationship of men and women to one another in the church. Imagine focusing not on power or rights but on the example of Christ. If you imagine reframing the gender discussion in helpful ways, then you will be interested in Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian. When one serves while leading and pays special attention to corporate versus individual themes, things are transformed from the way the world (and sometimes the way the church on both sides of the debate) talks about them. Read this book no matter which side of the debate you are on--and think afresh."
--Darrell L. Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary

"The church's debate over gender and leadership has become an intractable problem because we have adopted the model of the world, where leadership is about equality, rights, privilege, power, and position. Michelle Lee-Barnewall calls for a radical paradigm shift that adopts the upside-down values of the kingdom of God, where humility, love, service, unity, and responsibility replace power, privilege, and position as the guiding principles for true servant leadership. If put into practice, this book would transform not only the gender debate but also the prevailing model for all Christian leadership."
--Mark L. Strauss, Bethel Seminary San Diego

"This well-written book offers a gentle word of correction to sincere Christ followers who are honestly trying to search for biblical truth. It's a perspective-giving message that describes in biblical terms the only way to establish church unity, and it issues a quiet, radical call for pastors and church elders to imitate Christ and the apostles and recall the real cost of discipleship. I highly recommend it as a required textbook for seminary leadership courses."
--Sarah Sumner, author of Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership

"In a debate often polarized by shrill rhetoric, Lee-Barnewall rightly urges us instead to take each passage and argument on its own terms and to put kingdom principles first. Regardless of whether one agrees with every detail of Lee-Barnewall's reconstruction, her spirit and larger vision offer a constructive way forward, including a willingness to hear and learn from those with whom we may not agree on every point."
--Craig S. Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary



Jesus' parables can't simply be interpreted--they must be experienced.

In the Gospels, Jesus used parables to teach transformative lessons and convey deep spiritual truths about the kingdom of God. But he often used them to confront and challenge his audience as well, forcing his listeners to open or close their hearts to the kingdom.

Jesus understood the power of stories, but we lose things in translation when we try to interpret those same stories thousands of years removed from their original context. The unexpected twists and surprises in the parables might be missed by a modern audience because we're unfamiliar with the underlying points of reference.

In Surprised by the Parables, Michelle Lee-Barnewall explores the ancient context for Jesus' parables. These stories of grace reveal mysteries central to God's character, and understanding the ancient world behind them will help us see the parables from a new perspective.

Buy the book on Amazon now

“The parables are some of the most important teachings we have from Jesus, but many modern readers of the Gospels find them puzzling. Why did Jesus teach like this? What was his message? Lee-Barnewall packs deep wisdom into this concise book, shedding light on context and unpacking how the parables are stories of divine grace.”  ―Nijay K. Gupta, associate professor of New Testament, Portland Seminary

Written with passion and candor, Michelle Lee-Barnewall investigates the parables’ historical setting and invites readers to ponder their teachings in light of their own circumstances. She explains the puzzles in the parables as she develops their lessons on discipleship. This beautifully written exploration of the parables draws the reader to the feet of Jesus.”  ―Lynn Cohick, provost and dean, professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

Catch up with Stephanie's latest episodes on the Gospel Spice podcast!

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