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Moody Publishers recently released Hannah Anderson’s first book, Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. Hannah is a familiar presence here at SI, having written articles for us in the past and often sharing her blog writing with us as well. She was happy to take the time to answer a few questions for me about the book, related themes, and writing in general.
Q. When did the idea to write about imago dei come to you and why this eventually become the focus of your project?
A. The vision to write about imago dei came because I saw a lot of young women struggling to make sense of their lives and their Christian experience. They were not rebels, but they were struggling to find fulfillment in roles and family structures alone.
Many women’s discipleship programs are framed entirely around gender. By sheer weight of conversation, these women were being taught that sanctification means becoming a certain type of woman, not being conformed to Christ’s image. The more I explored, the more I realized that (1) We were starting our conversations about calling and identity in Genesis 2 and (2) We were parsing the sum total of human experience through gender.
Once I started exploring the frame of imago dei, the pieces began to fall into place. I wrote Made for More to minister to women who haven’t been taught to think of themselves in any terms other than womanhood and roles. These are good things—don’t misunderstand—but they only make sense if they are founded on the truth of being image bearers. The irony is that even though Made for More is written to women, the content isn’t gender specific—I think it could be beneficial to men too.
Q. In your interactions with traditionalists, complementarians, egalitarians and various varieties of feminists, what would you say are the most important trends and problems in Christian thinking about gender?
A. One of the biggest challenges facing Christians is understanding what gender is and what it isn’t. A lot of traditionalist paradigms (say, of the 1950s) were shaped by a Freudian anthropology that reduced men and women to their evolutionary functions. In this model, gender is the ultimate way we understand ourselves. In the 1960s, feminism reacted to this by downplaying the significance of gender. The conservative Church has since responded to feminist paradigms, but I’m not convinced that we have crafted a distinctly Christian one. In contrast to both Freud and feminism, the Scripture teaches that gender is both a significant means of reflecting God’s image but not the ultimate source of our identity.
Another challenge for us is the tendency to parse gender in isolation. It’s entirely possible to have a biblical understanding of gender but an unbibilical understanding of work, authority, or even ministry. So when we start crafting gender applications in the Church and home, they can become very unbiblical because we have adopted worldly notions of these other things.
Q. The book emphasizes imago dei as a lens for looking at all of human life. How have other “lenses” proved to be inadequate in your view?
A. The premise of Made for More is rooted in the phrase “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things,” a quote Paul used in his Mars’ Hill Sermon in Acts 17. This embodies the essence of imago dei identity. When we try to “see” the world any other way, when anything else other than God’s nature takes centrality, we won’t be able to understand God, ourselves, or other people. The only way any of this makes sense is if God is the supreme source of identity and existence.
Q. Tell us about how you got into authoring this book in the first place. I recall that there is an interesting story behind that.
A. I first began writing as a hobby when my children were babies. Some moms craft; I wrote. Eventually I started blogging as a way to be more consistent. During this time we were attending a fairly large church and when the pastoral staff learned that I was writing, they took an interest and encouraged me. Eventually, one of the pastors passed my writing to a prominent Christian women’s leader who passed it along who passed it along, etc. It ended up in the hands of an assistant publisher at Moody who contacted me, and we started brainstorming.
I take a great deal of security in how the process played out. I worked steadily as God brought opportunities, and committed the results to Him. One of the benefits of writing as a stay-at-home mom was that we were not dependent on any income from my writing. In many ways, this freed me from the pressure of needing to produce or take shortcuts.
A. What advice would you offer to would-be writers who have yet to actually crank out a real book? Do writers usually write it first, then try to get it published, or pitch the idea and then write it?
Q. The best advice I can give is to know your gifting, know what is missing from the conversation, and get busy. I believe that if a writer is faithful to develop his craft and serve others with it (even if it means producing good writing for a church blog), God will open the doors.
For me, one of the best ways to get started was by blogging. I committed to write one essay a week and to not worry about stats. This allowed me to explore different topics in order to discover what I was passionate about as well as what people needed to learn about. Once you gain clarity about what you want to pursue, just get started. A lot of the details will fall into place as you write.
For non-fiction, agents and publishers generally only need a book proposal. This includes an extensive outline of the book, perhaps a sample chapter, and the context and need for the book. For fiction, you should expect to complete an entire draft of the book.
Q. A long-time concern of mine is how those of fundamentalist heritage might achieve a more deep and comprehensive understanding of how to relate to the cultures we live in and to “the world.” Our anthropology, among other things, seems underdeveloped. Do you think the idea of imago dei can help with this?
A. It’s not uncommon to start our anthropology in Genesis 3 with the Fall. But when we do, it can be hard to separate our depravity from our humanity. This easily creates a paradigm of suspicion and fear. If the only way you understand human beings is as fallen creatures, then everything they do or produce is tainted, and your only hope is to hunker down and wait for Christ’s return.
An anthropology rooted in imago dei starts in Genesis 1 and teaches that human beings have a grand and glorious calling to represent God on this earth. We have fallen from this calling, but Christ through His death and resurrection has broken the curse and is actively restoring those who believe in Him. This is Sanctification 101. The Image is restoring the image-bearer.
Practically speaking, this means that believers should be living the fullest, most robust human experience of anyone. This extends to our work, our families, our worship, our education, even our play. This doesn’t mean that we accept everything that culture offers, but it does mean that we should be the first to embrace and celebrate whatever is true and lovely and pure and of good report.
Aaron Blumer, SharperIron’s second publisher, is a Michigan native and graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He and his family live in a small town in western Wisconsin, not far from where he pastored Grace Baptist Church for thirteen years. He is employed in customer service for UnitedHealth Group and teaches high school rhetoric (and sometimes logic and government) at Baldwin Christian School.