Women’s History Month Lecture with Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt

On March 30, 2023, The History Department at Trinity Christian College welcomed Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt to present the inaugural Women’s History Month Lecture entitled, “Women and the Reformation Through the Lens of the Marys.” Dr. Powell McNutt serves as Franklin S. Dyrness Chair in Biblical and Theological Studies and Associate Professor of Theology and History of Christianity at Wheaton College

The lecture explored the important roles of women and female spiritual devotion played during the Protestant Reformation, nuanced narratives of Christian history that focus almost exclusively on men and, more broadly, invited considerations for the importance of women’s experience and viewpoints in Christianity.

Dr. Powell McNutt began by taking the audience to the south of France, sharing details of the journey where she traveled with her family to research the French Bible.  The trip took them to the region of Provence, where she began writing a book about the reception history of Mary Magdalene in the church and for the church today.

“Although the church’s reception of the Marys [Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdelene] is a huge topic, more than we have time to discuss fully, nonetheless to explore women in the Reformation through the lens of the Marys can give us insight into how reformers both male and female recognized, defined, and limited female devotion in the Christian life and how that hermeneutical perception shaped expectations and complexities for women in the reformation’s churches,” Powell McNutt explained.

She reviewed Martin Luther’s teachings during the Reformation, citing 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In a letter to German nobility in 1520, Luther stressed that Peter’s words here were written for all Christians, not just men, but also “holy, pious women and even children.”

Powell McNutt concluded, “For women during the Reformation, the women of the Bible became especially important for providing permission, insight, and precedent for the faithfulness of their Christian lives.”

Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt

Dr. Powell McNutt’s forthcoming books include Know the Theologians and The Oxford Handbook of the Bible and the Reformation. She is currently writing a book for Brazos Press on Mary Magdalene.