Phylicia Masonheimer: The book actually began as a viral blog post by a similar name. It was called, “Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful.” I wrote the blog post three years ago, right around this time of year, because I personally was looking out at the Christian world and seeing these materials given to women that while they were well intentioned, didn’t have the complete story of what Christianity is and what it looks like.
As a public theologian and Bible teacher, I have access to these materials that go deeper, but the average woman seemed to be kept at this surface level. That’s what I was confronting in the article was saying, “We deserve more, we’re capable of more. God wants more for us.” The article did so well and resonated with so many that it resulted in the book.
JF: What does it mean to find soul-deep strength in a skin-deep world?
Phylicia: Our world is surface. It looks at the external. It looks at the symptoms of problems, but it cannot get down to the root of what those problems are or where they come from, which is sin.
It’s a word nobody wants to talk about, even in the church, but sin is what causes every evil thing. The world tries to address the surface issue, but we need a soul-deep solution to the problem of sin, which is what separates us from God and keeps us from a true deep faith. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re never going to be sinless people, but that there is a redemption for it and there is a way to a victorious Christian life.
JF: What is the overall message you hope readers take from your book?
Phylicia: I hope that what they take away is that they are capable of going deeper with God. The slogan of my website is “Every Woman a Theologian.” That doesn’t mean in an academic way that we’re all going to be C. S. Lewis, but it does mean that every woman can go deeper with God personally. She’s capable of studying the things of God, of studying the Bible for herself, and then allowing that relationship with Him to change how she lives her daily life.
JF: Why is that message so important in today’s world?
Phylicia: I think it’s important because we’ve been told we can settle for a feel-good faith. We can settle for a surface faith that if we just love Jesus and live our lives that’ll be enough. But reality is when you hit suffering, when you hit trials, when you hit the difficulties that are part of being in a fallen world, that kind of quote-unquote faith doesn’t work.
We have people leaving the church, people wondering why Jesus said His yoke was easy when it’s not because they weren’t taught the whole gospel. They weren’t taught what Christianity really is. They were taught a watered-down version.
JF: What issues do you find with some of the messages today? In your book, you talk about messages that are specifically delivered by other female Christian speakers. What issues do you find with those?
Phylicia: There are three main issues that I see – and it happens for men too. It happens with male Christian leaders also, but I think it’s more common with women because it’s pretty much understood that most women aren’t going to be pastors. They’re not going into some kind of leadership position in the church. Be that what it may, that’s the assumption. So, with that comes this idea that women don’t need or aren’t interested in theological approaches to Christianity, but we all have a theology. It’s just a matter of whether it’s correct or not.
There are three reasons or three problems with the way that Christianity is being presented by some popular female teachers. The first is that it’s theologically deficient. As we talked about earlier, it’s watered down. It’s not the whole story. It’s parts of the story that feel good. There’s a lot of talk about God’s love and our identity and our beauty in God’s eyes, but no talk about where that came from or what it cost Christ for that to happen. It also tends to be self-focused. It doesn’t necessarily intend to be, but it ends up that way because it creates a consumer mentality towards the Bible where we come to the Bible looking for what it can give us instead of looking at it as a way to worship God.
The third reason is that it’s superficial. It never really dives deeper into what do I believe about who God is and how does it change how I live when I’m grieving, when I’m suffering, and when I’m struggling.
JF: The book’s target audience is women, but could men also learn something about their faith and their relationship with God by reading this book?
Phylicia: Yeah. I absolutely think that men could benefit from it. I’ve had a lot of feedback from women saying that they’re going to read it with their spouses because while it does address an issue I’ve seen particularly with women – and the cover is pink and black – it still contains principles that apply to men and women. And everything I wrote is based in Scripture, which is universally applicable.
JF: In the book, you talk about the “fear of man” having controlled you at one time and that it controls many people today, which you see in many places. Can you tell me what you mean by this?
Phylicia: So “fear of man” is a term that’s kind of outdated. It’s from the King James, but I think it really is the best way to express people pleasing or depending on the approval of people to affirm you and be your measure of how you’re doing as a believer.
When we are living in fear of man, we can’t also fear God. “Fearing God” is a term we see through Scripture for a deep reverence for God and a drawing near to him and being in awe of who He is. But you can’t be in awe of God and also completely captive to what people think of you at the same time. It’s a dual allegiance. When we get our right understanding of who God is, then His opinion takes greater precedence over what people think, say, and do to us.
JF: Absolutely. You also talk about the incomplete gospel of modern Christianity. Can you please explain that?
Phylicia: Yeah. The incomplete gospel is the half gospel or the partial story that we’re telling. We talk about Jesus loves you so much He died for you. If you just trust His love, walk in His love, He gives you grace for your life. You’re beautiful in his eyes. You’re worthy.
All of these messages are a part of the gospel. We can find verses to back this up. The problem is there’s no backstory that’s being presented. How did we get made worthy? Where does our beauty come from? What do you mean, Jesus had to die? Why?
All of that goes back to the problem of sin and the problem of God needing to have an atonement in order for His holiness to be reconciled with our sinfulness. He wanted so much to be in communion with us that He gave His Son to make that possible. But when we leave that out, we actually keep in the very grace and love that we’re talking about.
JF: So, correct me if I’m wrong. It’s like cherry-picking verses that you think might apply to your situation at a specific moment, but without knowing the context in which that verse was found, like eisegesis.
Phylicia: Yeah. So, exegesis is pulling the true meaning of the text – what the author’s intent was – versus eisegesis, which is reading the intent you want into it. And that’s what happens when we take things out of context.
JF: So, how does legalism fit into all of this?
Phylicia: Legalism is a big stumbling block for a lot of Christians. It can look many different ways.
When we hear it, I think we immediately tend to think hyper-fundamentalist church and strict modesty rules and only courtship and KJV only. Things like that, but legalism can show up in any kind of circle because it’s just adding onto the law of God. It’s adding what isn’t there. Man’s shortcut to holiness.
The problem is people who grow up in legalism or spend a significant amount of time in these kinds of circles, they tend to get true Christianity confused with the Christianity they were taught that was adapted and changed. So, when they’re dismantling this view of God they were taught, it can be very difficult because it feels like they’re letting go of God himself when in reality they’re learning to go back to what the Bible actually says.
So legalism – walking away from that – really requires faith in the goodness of God and rooting yourself in the word of God to know what did God actually say and what was added on to this.
JF: In your experience, is it hard for people to get away from that legalistic perspective?
Phylicia: It is. It can be very hard. In fact, I would say the most persecuted Christians in America are the ones who are trying to leave legalism. We don’t have a lot of persecution as believers in America, but those who leave legalistic circles and churches are the most persecuted because for them it often means leaving behind their family and their friends to follow Christ.
They’ll be accused of becoming liberal, rejecting Jesus just by changing how they dress or by switching to a different Bible version or even choosing certain political changes. In certain churches, if you don’t hold to – and this is on both left and right – a certain political ideology, then you aren’t quote-unquote a real Christian. Well, that’s adding on to scripture. People are having to walk out of this every day and it can be very, very difficult.
Order your copy of Stop Calling Me Beautiful: Finding Soul-Deep Strength in a Skin-Deep World
Excerpt from Stop Calling Me Beautiful: Finding Soul-Deep Strength in a Skin-Deep World by Phylicia Masonheimer
Phylicia Masonheimer teaches Christian women how to apply faith to the realities of life. She is a blogger, podcast host, and speaker. Her writing focuses on overcoming sin and difficulty by the power of a maturing personal relationship with God. Phylicia lives in northern Michigan with her husband and children. Learn more at PhyliciaMasonheimer.com
John Farrell is a Digital Content Writer / Editor of Inspiration.org.
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