Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the joy of interviewing one of our newest CAN members, nonfiction author and Bible scholar Julie Zine Coleman. Julie is sharing about her latest book, which was named the Nonfiction Book of the Year in 2022 by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association!
Welcome, Julie! Please tell us about your book, On Purpose: Understanding God’s Freedom for Women through Scripture.
Many Christian women are torn between how the church has taught traditional gender roles and the liberty they have in secular society. But what if the church’s teachings on women aren’t really biblical at all? On Purpose is a serious study on the Bible passages that pertain to women, and offers a careful, fresh, scriptural perspective. It’s time to free women to answer God’s call–and for the church to function as God truly desires.
Fantastic topic! What inspired you to write this book?
I was raised in a conservative denomination; we wore a head covering and kept silent. I believed this was what the Bible taught. But I did wonder about the seeming inconsistency of God on this. If women were never to lead men, why did He choose Deborah to be a judge? Why would He use Priscilla to teach the great preacher Apollos? Why was Mary Magdalene the first witness to the resurrection and sent to inform the disciples? Wasn’t God breaking His own rules? I knew I needed to get to the bottom of this. As I studied, a very different understanding of God’s view on women emerged. I knew I needed to share the freedom I found with readers everywhere.
Why did you write this book?
We all want to do what the Bible says. But what if we have gotten it wrong? For quite a few years, I’ve watched women leave the church after being mistreated or disillusioned because of questionable teaching from God’s Word. Worse—I have seen them walk away from God in that misrepresentation. My hope is that what I have written will encourage women to reengage in fellowship and their relationship with God.
I’ve seen it too, and I’m so glad you’ve addressed this. What is the primary focus of your book?
On Purpose is a sincere effort to get to the bottom of passages like 1 Corinthians 14 (Women are to be silent) or Ephesians 5 (Wives, submit to your husbands) that are often interpreted to limit women in the church and home. Each chapter focuses on a single passage, considering what it meant to the original recipients, understanding each author’s intent, and applying its true meaning in today’s cultural setting. Context is carefully considered, as well as the original Greek and Hebrew languages. At the end of each chapter is a “Good News for Today” section, offering practical applications of that passage for today’s church.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope to demonstrate (by example) good observation and interpretation, tools that can be used to study any passage in the Bible. Settling for a “plain reading” on a 2,000+ year old document can be misleading and end up assigning a meaning that was never intended. Too much of traditional teaching on women involves taking a verse or passage out of context. My goal is to show that careful exegetical work leads to a more accurate understanding; in this case, one that will set women free.
How has being a writer impacted your relationship with Christ?
Teaching the Bible requires much time and study. Since seminary, I have been using the tools I learned to dig deep into every passage I teach. There is so much to learn about God—it will take an eternity to really know Him! The more I learn and understand Him, the more intimate my relationship with Him grows. To know Him is to love Him. I’ve also learned to deeply depend on Him for what I write. I know that in my own strength and wisdom, I can do nothing of eternal value. Only what’s done for His glory will have a lasting impact on the world.
So true! When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
After speaking at a special event for educators, a woman sitting next to me said, “You should speak for a living!” I said, “I would love to do that, but how does anyone get started in that kind of ministry?” She told me, “You need to write a book.” That got me thinking. It soon became a burning desire that could not be ignored. I knew God had gifted me in vocally teaching His Word, and writing would just be an extension of that gift. So I went to seminary and earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies so that I would be able to go deep in my writing. Thomas Nelson published my first book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women in 2013.
That shows some serious dedication, Julie! So, aside from writing, what ministries are you involved in, and why?
God has given me many opportunities to preach His Word. I have spoken at special events, women’s retreats and conferences, and preach about ¼ of the Sunday sermons at New Hope Chapel in Arnold, MD. I am also a member of the Pastoral Team there and work at mentoring and supporting our people.
Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?
I was an elementary Christian school teacher for twenty years before God called me to speak and write for adults. I believe that God didn’t waste a minute as I endeavored to lead children into a deeper relationship with Him. I also learned so much from working with my students’ families. He is always equipping us for the next thing! After winning two teaching awards, one from the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce and the other as Teacher of the Year in Anne Arundel County, I hung up my bookbag and enrolled in seminary. As I look back, I can see that God has been preparing me for where he has me now for most of my life. I’m so honored that He is choosing to use me in this way.
He certainly never wastes a single life experience of ours! So what are you working on now? Tell us about your next project.
My next project is to publish a Bible Study workbook to accompany this book. I want women to search those Scriptures for themselves. Direct interaction with the Word is transformative! It will not return to God without accomplishing His purposes.