Diana Lynn Severance (Ph.D., Rice University) is an historian serving as director of the Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University. Her most recent book, Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History, exposes and celebrates the crucial role of women in the history of the Christian church. Perhaps too often we practice a kind of “chronological snobbery,” as C. S. Lewis termed it, assuming that we today understand everything much more clearly than the unsophisticated people of previous centuries. On some subjects that assumption might work. On most, we might wisely practice more humility.

The subject of women’s roles is a complicated one: certainly we have made much progress, but perhaps we would do well to look back more carefully to see what we can learn from those who have gone before. Severance helps us do that. Her book is full of snippets of stories and quotations that make the reader want to spend time delving into the original sources. I came away from her book and from this interview convinced that our contemporary discussion of women’s roles would be much more profitable if it were better informed by a clearer historical perspective.

Your book focuses on women in church history. Why is history—and this particular history—important for all of us in the church today?

God is a God of history. The Bible itself, God’s inspired revelation, is a book of history, in that much of it is a historical record of God’s working with and bringing redemption to his people. The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are events central to all of history—as seen in the commonly used dating system of B.C. and A.D. Paul in his address on Mars Hill (Acts 17) told the Athenians that the God who made us all so orders the boundaries and times of nations to bring people to himself.

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