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What a Writer She Was

Updated: Jun 16

By Dr. Douglas Groothuis


The following material was originally planned as an appendix to my book, Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness—A Philosopher’s Lament (InterVarsity, 2017). However, it was never published. Rebecca Merrill Groothuis died on July 6, 2018.


Rebecca Merrill Groothuis: What a Writer She Was

 

A good friend recommended that I adorn this lament with a few of Becky’s lapidary sentences from her writing. This is apt for two reasons. First, a lament mourns the loss of a real good. Thus, lying under an unhappy lament is a happy memory of what has been lost. The second reason is simply to edify the reader on three topics that deeply concerned Becky: the gifts that women bring to Christian ministry, abortion, and worship. She was also a poet, so I add one of her published poems.


When I was looking for this poem, I went through many files belonging to Becky. I had forgotten how much she had published, even outside her three books. I found articles from Christianity Today, Christian Ethics Today, InterVarsity, Re-Generation Quarterly, Christian Scholars' Review, Focal Point, Eternity, Rocky Mountain News, and more. I was proud of her publishing in both Christian and secular setting.


Shortly after my rummaging around in sources, I reminded her of her productivity as we ate dessert. She said, "I wonder why it stopped." I said nothing. She then looked at me dolefully and said, "God, I suppose." I had nothing to add. God himself will speak for himself when all this suffering will seem like a small chapter in a never ending story.


Becky was grounded in the Gospel and wrote of this from a short reflection called, “Noble Resolves and Dusty Shelves.”


Righteousness is not something we do. Righteousness is something God does in us and through us by his grace. The saint is not a self-made person. Moral resolutions are important, but they are only a first step. Having once resolved to follow Christ, we are powerless until we seek God in repentance and humility for the strength to follow through on our resolve. Righteousness is a result of granting God rule in our lives and denying our sin-driven desire for independence.[1]

 

 

Becky is best known for her contribution to the biblical equality movement. I realize how controversial this is, and will not engage the arguments here. One can benefit from Walking Through Twilight even if one strongly opposes Becky and my views on this. However, the following quote indicates how clearly Becky laid out the issue. Despite earning no degrees in philosophy, Becky had a philosopher’s ability to get to the logical heart of any issues, as this quote about the meaning of egalitarianism points out. I think most on the other side would agree with her on her understanding of the position, even if they disagree with her on her view.[2]


Because the concept of equality is employed in so many ways to mean so many different things, confusion and consternation typically attend any discussion of the subject. Biblical equality refers to the fundamental biblical principle that every human being stands on equal ground before God; there is no group of persons that is inherently more or less worthy than another. It follows from this principle that there is no theological justification for permanently granting or denying a person status, privilege, or prerogative solely on the basis of that person’s race, class, or gender.


A biblical view of gender equality does not mean that gender makes no difference in a person’s identity or behavior, but that gender does not, in and of itself, limit a person’s status or ministry opportunities. The appropriate outworking of the biblical ideal of equality is for women and men to have equal opportunity for ministry in the church, and shared authority with mutual submission in marriage.[3]


Becky was likewise passionate about the rights of the unborn. Many equate an emphasis on women’s rights with being pro-abortion, but Becky would have none of it. She argued that the legalization of abortion on demand was anti-woman as well as anti-children. In “Where Do We Go from Here? A Pro-life Call to Arms,” Becky argues that when secular feminists advocate abortion, this does nothing to advance the cause of women.


When feminists declare that women’s only hope for freedom and equality is to have the opportunity to abort all unwanted unborn babies, they are giving in to the cultural agenda that accords men the right to impregnate women but absolves them of the responsibility to care for the children they father. The abortion solution agrees that men are not responsible for the children they conceive, and moreover declares that neither are the women. Abortion not only kills innocent human life; it keeps the players in the male game playing. It is a women’s white flag of surrender, saying, we can’t beat them so we have joined them.[4]


The proper worship of God in the church was a long-time passion for Becky. As a singer and pianist, she desired that we offer our best to our God in our worship. Listen to her exposition of the relationship of worship and knowledge.


Not only is our worship grounded in our knowledge of God, it is also a means by which we grow in our knowledge of the Lord. We love and worship God because he has revealed himself to us in love; and as we worship him, our spirits are opened to receive a further revelation of who God is and how he loves us. This increased knowledge of God increases our desire to worship him. In giving ourselves to worship that is pure and true, we offer ourselves unconditionally to God; he in turn sanctifies us further, freeing us from ourselves so that our worship can become even more pure and true.[5]


Becky also worshipped God through her poetry, nearly all of which directly extoled her Lord and Savior. The following is one of her best poems, called, “Body, Skin, Bones, and God.”


The silence  

      burst         by the Word.

 

The darkness

      devoured       by the Light.

 

In a stable He came

        tiny

            dependent

                  weak.

 

Body, skin, bones,

        and God.

 

He took our flesh.

 

On a cross He died

         bleeding

              beaten

                    bruised

 

Body, Skin, bones,

      and God-forsaken.

 

He took our sins.

He took our death.

 

Out of the tomb He came

         regal

             triumphant

              alive.

 

Body, skin, bones,

       And God almighty.

 

He took our flesh,

                      our sins,   

                            our death.

 

In exchange for His righteous

          resurrection life.

 

The grave that lies ahead

and the graves that lie within

 --the dark, silent places of death--

are shattered  

                           and               scattered

by the Word and the Light

      and the Life that puts death

to death. 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Becky Groothuis, “Noble Resolves and Dusty Shelves,” Inter-Varsity (Spring 1986), 13.

[2]For a review and commendation of her work, see Douglas Groothuis, “Rebecca Merrill Groothuis’s Contribution to Biblical Equality: A Reflection and Lament,” Priscilla Papers, Volume 29, no: 3 (2015).

[3] Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Good News for Women (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 19-20.

[4] Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, “Where Do We Go From Here? A Pro-life Call to Arms,” Douglas Groothuis, Christianity That Counts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 110.

[5] Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, “Putting Worship in the Worship Service,” Christianity that Counts, 77.

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Dear Dr. Groothuis,

Thank you for these gifts from Rebecca. I read your book "Twlight" several years ago and it was a powerful declaration of your and Rebecca's struggle. I was a counselor for my career before retiring in 2020, and I found myself angry with the mental health system - misdiagnosis, lock down rules, medication, control issues. I also cried many times as I read of the heart ache you experienced and Rebecca in a different way. I remember you doing a talk about equality of men and women and referring to a couple books on that subject that Rebecca had written. That was a turning point for me in my thoughts and feelings about women in ministr…

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