Mothers, Children, and the Body Politic: Ancient Christianity and the Recovery of Human Dignity, By Nadya Williams

Mothers, Children, and the Body Politic

Ancient Christianity and the Recovery of Human Dignity

by Nadya Williams

Mothers, Children, and the Body Politic
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: October 15, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0912
  • ISBN: 9781514009123

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How we talk about human life matters.

In western post-Christian society, humans are thought of less like precious image bearers and more like commodities. The canary in the coal mine of this ideological shift is often women and children, which manifests itself in the seemingly built-in disdain towards motherhood and children for their lack of production of economically valuable goods.

However, the risk of this utilitarian approach to human life is not just outside the church, but within those spaces as well. Indeed, the commodification of human life within the contemporary body politic is so deeply embedded within the systems, even the church has lost touch with some of the ways it inherently devalues the lives of women and children.

Classics scholar Nadya Williams draws from voices both ancient and modern to illuminate how Christians can value human life amidst an empire that seeks to dehumanize that which is most precious. Bringing insights from the beliefs and practices of the early church in Greco-Roman context about motherhood, raising children, and human life, Williams suggests there is a way to recapture a vision that affirms the imago Dei in each person over and above our economic contribution to society.

"In this moving, pastoral book, Nadya Williams plumbs the long history of assumptions and practices that culminate in what Pope Francis has termed our 'throwaway' culture. In the same way that the early Christian church dismantled the Roman Empire's commodification of human persons, so the gospel continues to bear witness to the intrinsic value of all humans, even those society deems useless. Williams wears her considerable learning lightly, and readers will find her narrative brings both illumination and conviction."

Jeffrey Bilbro, associate professor of English at Grove City College and editor-in-chief at Front Porch Republic

"Nadya Williams has the great ability to bring together good history and contemporary application without being cheesy or ignoring nuance. In this volume, she ably helps us see how both a Judeo-Christian account of the imago Dei and the gospel's call to radical and sacrificial love were revolutionary in the ancient Greco-Roman world, and how these two realities remain revolutionary in our own dehumanizing world. Read Williams not simply to learn about the past but to be inspired for the present!"

Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies at Covenant College and author of You're Only Human

"Parents tempted to optimize every aspect of children's experiences, beware. Those very efforts may make us complicit in devaluing human life, especially of mothers and children. Nadya Williams warns that few Americans are exempt from cultural imperatives assigning a price to everything—even human beings. The author's deep knowledge of history and poetry of the pre-Christian Roman world makes her a perceptive guide through its brutalities too, some of which bear disturbing likeness to our own. Then Jesus came, and the soul felt its worth: the author reminds us that the gospel recognizes every soul as precious. Williams bids readers to transform pro-life concerns into commitment to full human flourishing."

Agnes Howard, author of Showing: What Pregnancy Tells Us About Being Human


1. Mothers, Children, and the Body Politic
Part 1: Symptoms of Disease
2. Devaluing Pregnancy, Childbearing, and the Maternal Body
3. Your Assembly-Line Life
4. Motherhood and Creative Work; Motherhood vs. Creative Work
Part 2: Views of Personhood in the Ancient Mediterranean Before and After Christianity
5. Worthless: The Devaluing of Women, Children, and Human Beings in Pre-Christian Mediterranean
6. The Useless Ones: Devaluing Civilians in War and Peace
7. The Redemption of Useless People
Part 3: Speaking Life into a Culture of Death
8. Consolation for the Weary Sufferer
9. Seeking the City of God
10. In Pursuit of Human Flourishing
Conclusion: Who Is My Neighbor? Treasuring Children, Mothers, and All Image-Bearers
General Index


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Nadya Williams

Nadya Williams (PhD, Princeton) walked away from academia after fifteen years as a professor of History and Classics. She is now a homeschool mom and Book Review Editor at Current, where she also edits The Arena blog. She is the author of Cultural Christians in the Early Church (Zondervan Academic, 2023), and numerous articles and essays in Current, Plough, Christianity Today, Front Porch Republic, Fairer Disputations, Church Life Journal, and others. She and her husband, Dan, are parents to one adult son and two children still at home. They live and homeschool in Ashland, a small town near Cleveland, Ohio.