In the second century, a Greek writer called Celsus criticised Christianity as a religion of women, children and slaves - that is to say, a religion not to be taken seriously.
There are echoes of this sentiment in contemporary critiques of Christianity, and religion more broadly. For example, the idea of women being more religious than men, on the whole, can be seen as something that discredits religion as irrational.
However, Christianity is much more likely to be condemned today, no for being a religion of women, but a religion against women – this despite evidence of a strong thread of gender equality in the early Church.
“In its inception Christianity set before women a true possibility of complete transformation on equal terms alongside men,” says Professor Sarah Coakley who has written extensively on gender theory and the philosophy of religion.
“But at the same time it very quickly accommodated itself into existing religious and cultural mores - and you could say that that tension has been played out since then.”
In this episode, we’ll hear from Coakley and a host of other scholars – Judith Lieu, Rodney Start and Beverley Gaventa – about the role Christianity has played both in the flourishing, and the oppression, of women.
This is Part III of our four-part series featuring interviews from our forthcoming documentary, For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse Than You Ever Imagined. To catch up on Parts I and II, and to make sure you don’t miss the rest of the series, subscribe to Life & Faith on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithpodcast.