I remember opening John Piper’s Desiring God for the first time around 18 years ago. In just the first three chapters of the book, Piper rocked my world. His thoughts on finding satisfaction in God himself reoriented me to Scripture, and those thoughts have affected me every day since. Hannah Anderson’s Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image is this kind of book and had this kind of effect on me. That may sound like an over-the-top statement, but I believe Made for More is going to change the conversation on women as image bearers of God for the long-term good of the church—that God is going to use this book the way he used Desiring God to redirect his people to himself. Remember an important truth from Desiring God: its thoughts were not new. Piper points back again and again to their historical longevity and biblical origins. In Made for More, Anderson does the same.
Anderson doesn’t present a new, faddish way of looking at biblical womanhood. Instead, she weaves a story of timeless truths with historical longevity and biblical clarity. These are God’s truths, not hers. Yet God has clearly gifted her to present them in a way 21st-century postmodern women can understand and relate to. What is Anderson presenting? She is introducing the conversation before the conversation about complementarianism and gender roles. Before the foundational phrase of complementarianism in Genesis 1:27, “Male and female, he created them,” Scripture first says, “God created mankind in his image.” Our problem in the complementarian discussion (even when we do it in really thoughtful ways) stems from the fact that we assume a robust understanding and acceptance of humanity-made-in-God’s-image that few of us actually have.
“We must find a North Star,” writes Anderson, who serves alongside her husband in rural ministry and is a mom to three. “And not simply because our circumstances change, but because we ourselves are more than the roles we play in this present world. We are large, deep, eternal beings, and only something larger and deeper and more eternal will satisfy the questions in our souls.”
Some in complementarian circles may be concerned this initial conversation before the male/female conversation might downplay the complementary nature of gender. But to not have this conversation before the other causes confusion and a weak foundation for the complementarian discussion itself. As a woman, after all, I have more in common genetically with a male human than with a female cat. The value of the differences in our genders become caricatures if they aren’t first based on the solidarity male and female share as God’s image bearers called to steward his creation together. Anderson carefully fleshes out this foundational truth before building on it with the specifics of womanhood.
Anderson has written the book I wish I had written. She’s taken a nugget of truth—woman as image bearer of God—for which I’ve been burdened and explains it in a way that’s deepened my understanding of the topic and its value in my life. She hasn’t just written on a subject I wished I’d addressed; she’s also written in a style I wish I could emulate. I appreciate Anderson’s ability to think deeply and write accessibly all in one tidy package. I wanted to plow through the book quickly, but instead I repeatedly had to stop to ponder her words—not because they were too lofty but because she managed to bring down lofty realities in a way I could appreciate and apply. But even as I envied her writing, her section on gifting and work freed me from comparisons and helped me rejoice in both my abilities and hers. Over and over, Anderson tethers giant ideas to concrete summary statements. She is an author with a vision for her audience, and she writes in a way that ensures we will understand her objectives.
The chapter on the creation mandate—”Queens in Narnia: Embracing Your Destiny to Reign”—is a beautiful exploration from Scripture of the noble calling of work that rises above our usual earthly compartments. Anderson inspired me to talk to my children in a radically different way about “work.” More importantly, her words transformed my thoughts on everything from cleaning my kitchen to weeding my yard to teaching math to blue-collar workers through my community college job. I imagine that I will now be contemplating work as an image bearer of God for a lifetime. I felt similarly about her chapter on knowledge and education in the image of God.
I read recently that the best book reviews include some measure of criticism, which keeps the reviewer from looking like a fan boy (or girl). In this book Anderson has presented a nuanced look at the doctrine of sanctification, the process by which God persistently transforms us in reality to what’s he’s already declared us to be (righteous through justification) in heaven. Anderson has woven echoes of God’s justification of us through Christ throughout the book. The book follows an outline based on Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” There is a strong sense in which the entire book is Christ- and gospel-centered. But other than a brief section in her chapter on the results of the fall, she doesn’t explicitly explore how God declares us righteous. I don’t really see this as a criticism, because I can’t imagine a book with enough room to adequately explore both justification and everything else that she has presented without being overwhelmingly long for its target audience. Nevertheless, I would recommend reading Made for More book in conjunction with a book like Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Found in Him or Because He Loves Me that explores our position of righteousness in Christ as the fuel for conforming to his image.
Made for More is a book for women and men, pastors and lay leaders. It will bless anyone in the church. If you care about what God has created you to be as a woman, or if you’re a man who longs to support your sisters in ways that promote their flourishing in their God-given identity and giftedness, I recommend you read this book.
A downloadable study guide for Made for More is available at www.sometimesalight.com.
This review by Wendy Alsup first appeared at The Gospel Coalition.