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.
But Christianity is much more likely to be condemned today, not 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 Cambridge 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 hear from Professor Coakley and a host of other scholars – Judith Lieu, Rodney Stark and Beverley Gaventa – about the contribution Christianity has made both to women's flourishing, and to their oppression.
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.