Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Aimee Byrd’


Some of you thought this would never end. But all things, good and bad, come to an end this side of the eschaton. Then everything, good and bad, will be eternal.

This will cover the last chapter and some final thoughts concerning Aimee Byrd’s recent and controversial book Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. We are going to peel back the yellow wall paper one last time. The final chapter is called When Paul Passes Phoebe the Baton.

As you can likely tell from that title, Byrd returns to Phoebe and Paul’s commendation of her to the church in Rome. She draws on James Montgomery Boice to say that she likely had traveling companions since it was generally unsafe for women to travel alone in the ancient world. Paul is wanting to identify the courier of the epistle: Phoebe.

Interestingly she also notes that Paul may have taken quite some time to write the letter, perhaps having rough drafts, editing, dictation and so forth. She depends on E. Randolph Richards book Paul and First-Century Letter Writing. I was surprised that someone wrote a book on such a niche subject, but I shouldn’t be I suppose. This seems to overly stress the human authorship and minimize (at best) the divine authorship. I don’t generally conceive of the Holy Spirit needing Paul to edit and utilize rough drafts. But this is a rabbit trail since the Spirit is not super-intending this blog post.

Sacred Siblingship

Byrd gets this phraseology from Mixed Ministry: Working Together as Brothers and Sisters in an Oversexed Society. Her arguments are based on Reidar Aasgaard’s “My Beloved Brothers and Sisters!” Christian Siblingship in Paul (again thinking people write about the oddest things). It was a powerful social institution. Siblings of the opposite sex could talk to one another in public, and show some affection prohibited to lovers. Paul uses this to reveal the type of bond Christians should have, a very counter-cultural bond. She explores some of the reasons for this bond in families. Sibling obligations were distinctive and yet fluid. “Factors such as age, gender, skill, and birth order all contributed to authority and responsibility both in the household and public spheres.” She notes that sisters often mediated between fathers and sons. The longest relationship you’d have in life was the sibling relationship.

Some of those calls were painful

Family was important to Jesus, but not more important than the Father and those spiritually united to him. Jesus did provide for his mother at his death. As we think of Phoebe, Paul is saying “she’s one of us!” not just someone paid to carry a letter for me. Byrd again returns to her theory that Phoebe was astute and full of theological vigor, capable of answering any questions like the old Ligonier phone room.

She makes much of the fact that a woman could carry the letter to Rome, and the theory she was there to answer questions too (meaning instructing them in what Paul means). In like fashion, Byrd introduces us to Basil and Gregory of Nyssa’s older sister Macrina. Belonging to a convent she was apparently theologically astute and Gregory indicates that she was influential in his life and theology.

“We see from Gregory’s writings that ‘women’s theologizing is fundamental to the development of Christian thought and should not be relegated to the fringe or regarded as a concession prize at best.”

Sisters can communicate God’s Word. This sister by blood and spirit taught her younger brothers, not only as children but as adults. They didn’t silence her as a mere woman. They valued her as a person and her input or ideas.

Then Byrd engages in “historical imagination” with Richard Bauckham regarding Junia also mentioned in Romans 16. I call it speculative, and the difference may or may not be more than semantic. There are translation/interpretative differences: she is either well known as an apostle (lower case, not the office) or well known by the Apostles. Chrysostom seems to indicate in his homily on this text that she was “worthy of the appellation of apostle!” She would be part of a church planting team sent out (hence apostles). PC(USA) author Kenneth Bailey seems to view her as an Apostle, at least of sorts, arguing she was witness to Jesus’ ministry (he seems to be reading our technical use back into the text). Bauckman gets more speculative in arguing that Junia is the Greek name for the Jewess Joanna who was married to Herod’s steward. As part of Herod’s court, she and her husband likely had connections in Rome, and perhaps were missionaries to Rome later.

I don’t want to get too detailed in this. The gist is that women were engaged in the church planting project. What role they played is uncertain. What is certain to me is that Byrd is confusing “apostles” with “Apostles”. She thinks that this speculation poses a problem for complementarian churches. I don’t think it does for me as a complementarian-in-search-of-a-new-name. As laypeople, some were sent to plant churches in accordance with the gospel of the Apostles (given to them by Jesus, obviously). The word in Greek is not used exclusively for the office. We must look at how it is used to see its meaning in a particular case. So, this doesn’t mean that women had authority and office. We do see that they provided resources and engaged in evangelism as well as discipleship. At times we clearly see women like Prisca alongside her husband working to disciple men. We do see women commissioned and sent onto the mission field, and this is a good thing.

Peel and Reveal

She’s calling us to evaluate our views and the practices of our congregations. She uses clutter blindness as an illustration. We become blind to the clutter around us (like in my office) after time passes. I discussed this with someone today: broken or misplaced items become normalized after about 30 days. So fix or put those things away in timely fashion.

We really can’t see the yellow wallpaper because we are so used to it. Evaluate the practices to be sure you aren’t just falling into a cultural trap (either egalitarian or patriarchical). This isn’t limited to issues of gender. There are many things that are cultural that can be mistaken for biblical mandate. We can be blind to the racial insensitivity or worse in our churches because it has been there for so long. She quotes Upton Sinclair as saying, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”.

Byrd notes there about 60 “one another” passages in the Scripture which include aspects of discipleship. These passages are second plural, and are not gendered. The people who fulfill them are gendered. And so we minister as a man or woman to a brother or sister, father or mother, or son or daughter.

“Siblingship is the very framework that will help us to uphold distinction without reduction. We have unique responsibilities and contributions to our sexes because women will never be brothers and men will never be sisters.”

She reminds us of the difference between tradition and traditionalism. She’s not wanting to get rid of tradition but traditionalism (I’m taking her at her word).

Summary Thoughts:

  • Haley Carruthers crossing the finish line in London (Business Insider)

    While she affirms male headship in the church (only male elders) she more assumes it than proves it. She refers to Genesis 2 in a footnote. There is no mention of Titus 1 or 1 Timothy 2-3.

  • At times she heavily depends on one source for pages at a time. Many of those oft repeated sources are egalitarian scholars. It can sound like idiosyncratic viewpoints that she has picked up rather commonly held and understood.
  • She brings up lots of material and concerns from other books of hers. The main new contribution is issues concerning the CBMW in terms of how they reduce masculinity and femininity to authority based on ESS. This is based on a Biblicist approach to understanding Scripture.
  • She also attacks their problematic process of trying to discern what women can and cannot do in a local church. I wish she was more clear about some of the practices that she thinks are cultural additions (traditionalism) but she seems to want us to think it through.
  • In terms of Jonathan Haidt’s social intuition theory, she doesn’t seem to address the elephant as much as the rider.
  • At times she is selective. For instance, she reminds us that Miriam led others in song after the parting of the Red Sea in judgment-salvation. Byrd does not mention that she led the women, and in the chorus that Moses had already been singing. As a result it sounds like overstating the case through the selectivity. I said this in less than a paragraph, so it doesn’t take long. She also left out that Miriam was struck with leprosy when she and Aaron complained about Moses marrying the Cushite woman.

This is a good book that brings up a variety of good points. At times it seems like she’s trying to do too much and so the reasoning isn’t as clear as I’d like.

Read Full Post »


Aimee Byrd’s 6th chapter, The Great Divorce That You Didn’t See Coming, addresses the problem of parachurch ministries and the discipleship being farmed out to them. This should not be be taken to mean that she is against parachurch ministries, but that she is advocating for the centrality of the church and its mission.

Parachurch ministries are intended to work alongside (para) and supplement the church, not to replace or supplant the church. When churches fail to do their job, people often turn to parachurch ministries to fill the gaps. As someone who used to work in a parachurch ministry, I understand this and lament that so many churches aren’t engaging and serving their people well. In our consumeristic age, many affiliate with parachurch ministries that are more visible and dynamic than the local church. A study a few years ago explained this in terms of people who were parts of parachurch ministries in high school and college still wanting similar ministry instead of the style employed by local congregations.

Byrd discusses a conversation with a friend who attends a local congregation but doesn’t think she needs it in light of the availability of her favorite celebrity pastor’s sermons. This problem has grown with the advent of the live streaming era thanks to Covid-19. It is great that those sermons are available to edify us and others but many rely on them or put a higher priority on them than their local pastor. In other words there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian life. This indicates a breakdown in discipleship.

Others women she knows talk about discipling people who don’t go to their church. I understand if there is a pre-existing relationship but generally agree with Byrd’s concerns.

She is building on the previous chapter and points to the disconnect among many church members. She notes we should be friends, but not lovers, with the parachurch ministry (an odd metaphor). Many come to faith through parachurch ministries. Some have turned to them to be discipled. There is plenty of bad ecclesiology in our midst. Byrd notes that she knows leaders in parachurch ministries who are not members of a local church.

“But the popular mind-set is that while church is still recognized as important, the real ministry is taking place outside the church.”

Why Discipleship Is Leaving the Church

Byrd shifts to the reasons for this shift. She mentions the couple that splits when everyone thinks the marriage was strong. The couple has put on a happy face, but behind closed doors they have drifted apart or become combative. In congregations, people can feel forgotten and neglected so they begin to look for fellowship and opportunities to grow elsewhere. Others feel unneeded by their congregations, and want a way to serve but can’t find one. Some of these people change churches, but others stay and look to a parachurch ministry to meet this need.

So, these are two groups. There are those who seek from parachurch ministries the investment and growth that should be given from the local church. There are those who develop their own ministries to others disconnected from the local church.

We do need to be careful. Some parachurch ministries exist to help people serve in the local church. They really view themselves as coming alongside, being partners with the local church. Some, sadly, are people who have been hurt by the local church and don’t see themselves as partners so much as substitutes.

She mentions IF-Gatherings ministries which says “Discipleship is what we’re about.” This ministry has reached over a million women. Thousands of women attend their conferences. In some cases they take the place of discipleship in the local church, and for other people they supplement and assist local church ministry. The problem isn’t the ministry but how people utilize them.

“Church leaders, laypeople, and parachurch ministries need to stop and ask what our responsibilities are and how God’s people are discipled.”

Byrd thinks there needs to be an RDT or DTR (depending where you are from): a talk to define the relationship. This is not simply to chastise parachurch ministries, but also to prompt church officers to be more engaged. We need to engage the Word together and make sure people are providing and looking for discipleship in all the right places.

The Problem of Biblicism

She brings up the Biblicist method of teaching Scripture. I’m not sure how true that is, but in the case of CBMW many of the leaders do use such a method. I’m surprised this didn’t come up earlier, particularly when she was addressing ESS. As I noted in an earlier post, Matthew Emerson provides a fairly lengthy critique of Grudem’s Biblicist method of interpretation that leads him to some faulty conclusions (He Decended to the Dead, pp. 5-17, 67-74). ESS would be one of them, as well as denying that Jesus descended to the dead. But Byrd does address this here because Piper and Grudem are not the only ones who use this kind of method to interpret the Bible.

“Biblicists rightly uphold the authority of Scripture but often read the Bible with a narrow, flat lense of interpretation, zooming in on the words in the texts themselves while missing the history, context, and confessing tradition of the faith. Biblicists emphasize proof texting over a comprehensive biblical theology. What often happens unintentionally is that the Biblicist readers become their own authority, since they often don’t notice they are also looking through their own lens of preconceived theological assumptions.”

Sorry for the lengthy quote there, but Byrd briefly discusses what is wrong with such a method (ignoring historical context, theological context as well as the interpretive history) and the end result of becoming one’s own authority. Your interpretation becomes THE interpretation with no one to correct you. We see this, in my opinion, with Piper’s permanent marriage view, as well as ESS. Byrd brings it back to ESS as well. “Biblicists employ a fundamentalist approach to God’s Word that doesn’t take into account how the church and the Scriptures go hand in hand.” She warns that “Biblicist doesn’t mean biblical.”

Many parachurch ministries are vulnerable to this precisely because they don’t have confessions of faith, or if they do it is minimal and lowest common denominator in nature. It becomes an interpretive community of 1 or 20, rather than the whole church through time.

Byrd is concerned that they mimic the church despite not having the same ecclesiastical offices. They have a board, typically following a business model. Yet they have “worship services” in their conferences. They sing songs, but there is generally no call to worship, confession of sin or faith, no sacraments etc. Some don’t allow women to speak even though they aren’t the church. As a result there are exclusively women’s parachurch ministries where gifted women get to contribute.

The Covenantal Context of Discipleship

Byrd advocates for the covenantal context of discipleship. The visible church is a covenant community. We’ve made promises to teach all as Christ commanded.

This is what makes some of the criticism she’s received from Reformed leaders confusing. She affirms qualified male elders in the church. She wants women to be discipled too. And she sees this in a covenantal context. This is all good, man. It seems an area of disagreement is maximized and the many areas of agreement are minimized.

She continues to bring out the Swain and Vanhoozer as she affirms that reading, and interpretation, is a communal exercise. I don’t just read the Bible with Jesus. We see the extremes here. Some think they don’t need to learn how to interpret the Bible, just pray. Others think it is so hard they won’t even try. Often the quiet time becomes a strange mystical experience utterly divorced from confessional boundaries, teachers of the present and past, as well as biblical theology. She advocates for more dogmatics, or systematic theology, to be taught to women. This is a common theme in her books.

Peel and Reveal

Rather than affirm historic confessions (like say, Ligonier did), many ministries form their own statements of faith. The CBMW did this with the Danvers Statement (which includes ESS). These statements, she argues, often further their own agenda and existence. This is true when you look at the introduction to the Danvers Statement.

“Parachurch often reinforces bad gender tropes, outfitting and amplifying many of the divisions between men and women in the church.”

In this context she returns to the use of “roles” by the CBMW. Yes, it should not be applied to “an ontological creational norm that women are subordinate to men.” As I noted, I don’t agree with her isolation of one meaning of the word, but I agree with Byrd that they fill their books, conferences, Bible studies and resources with erroneous stereotypes of men and women.

The problem didn’t stay limited to the CBMW. She notes that Southern Seminary has adopted the Danvers Statement to which employees must subscribe. Sadly, contrary to my vote, the PCA also adopted the Nashville Statement as if our own confessional material was insufficient. Yes, it does include the new terminology of recent days, but I think it clearly lacks the precision of the Westminster Standards. It affirms but does not define gender differences in Article 4. However, this is still written while affirming ESS as the basis for subordination.

“I belong to a church that already subscribes to historically faithful orthodox confessions. I am thankful that I don’t need to worry over signing additional statements with questionable theology.”

From here Byrd shifts to revealing who is exhorted to church. She brings up a number of “one another” texts that encourage Christians (not separated by sex) to exhort and teach one another. She notes “Laywomen in the Scriptures are not addressed as subordinate to laymen.” This is the view that riles up some people who embrace the CBMW view of men and women in terms of authority and submission rooted in ontology. These many verses she lists do not have qualifiers to limit the teaching of women. She then claims “It would be disobedient to Scripture to withhold women from teaching.” She certainly points out a theological oddity, not to be confused with a geographical oddity. As we apply the analogy of Scripture (WCF, I)the clear passages interpret the unclear, not the other way around. She will get to 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 in the next chapter. Even if you want to say a woman should be silent in the church, the context is the corporate worship service. That would not prohibit a woman from acting like any other lay person in a Bible study or Sunday School class.

She then shifts her attention back to parachurch ministries in general.

“We should not confuse the authority given to church officers with the authority of board members. We should not confuse the worship service, where God promises to bless us in Christ, with the classroom or the conference stage.”

She reminds us it is “helpful to distinguish between primary doctrinal issues, secondary issues, and even third-order issues of differences.” Oddly she footnotes an Al Mohler, of the aforementioned Southern Seminary, article from 2005 called “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity”. There is also a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage on this subject. She doesn’t say it, but most of what we discuss as differences between men and women would fall under third-order issues since they are not covered in ecumenical confessions of faith. As a result, we should allow one another latitude on that which is not clearly defined in Scripture (like the office of elder is). Parachurch ministries shouldn’t be organized around such third-order issues. It seems like straining at the gnat.

Parachurch ministries can come alongside the local church to help it fulfill its mission, rather than seek to fulfill that mission for it. What is drawing her ire is the later.

This chapter does advance her overall argument. It does point out some of the serious issues people should have with the CBMW, and some other parachurch ministries. Not everyone will agree with her statements. The question is, are those differences biblical or cultural? Are we sure?

Read Full Post »


Aimee Byrd begins What the Church Is For, the 5th chapter of Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, with a story. This is a story that many parents can relate to. She began to bake a pizza for dinner but had to walk her son to the bus stop. So she called her daughter to ask her to remove the pizza when it was done. She was 14, but like Moses by the burning bush she came up with a series of excuses about why she couldn’t. It was just too intimidating for her. She hadn’t done this before. So her friend, whose parents were divorced, took it out.

“I stood there at the bus stop with a terrifying thought. My oldest child might be out of the house and away at college in three-and-a-half years, and she still couldn’t take a pizza out of the oven.”

This reminded Aimee that her job was to prepare her daughter to leave the home, and not be dependent on take out. She tells this as a metaphor for the church. Many churches are filled with perpetual adolescents spiritually. They don’t really know how to read and interpret the Bible. They don’t know how to serve. “The pizza revelation helped me to step back and recalibrate my parenting according to the big picture.” Many churches have forgotten why the exist.

She builds on the work of Scott Swain, whom she has referred to a fair bit throughout the book. One criticism of Byrd’s book is that she relies on egalitarians. While she does use work by some egalitarians, there are also plenty of references to people like Scott Swain who is not egalitarian. This may be shocking, but we can learn things from people who are egalitarian. Byrd expresses her dependence on a variety of people both complementarian and egalitarian in this book.

Earlier she used work from Swain (and Michael Allen) to talk about retrieval from Reformed Catholicity. Here she uses Swain’s work on communication and communion, a distinction she will use throughout the rest of the book. Communication is to “make common” between 2 or more persons. Communion is about “sharing, holding in common.” The first is the action that enables the second to be true. This communication and communion comes to us through Christ. She quotes John Owen here, “We are never more like God than when we love his Son through his Spirit.”

As a part of our salvation, Bryd brings us to the covenant of redemption made between the Father and the Son in eternity. In this she brings in Bavinck, another of those non-egalitarians, to help us understand this covenant. We are a gift from the Father to the Son as a reward for procuring our salvation. He doesn’t simply save us, but we become His Bride. Bavinck argues that without Christ there is no Church, and without the Church there is no Christ. This refers to the economy of redemption. It is not that the Son doesn’t exist, but there is no Messiah without a people to be His bride and body. This became Augustine’s hermeneutical key for the Psalms: Christ head and body (the totus Christus).

Our enjoyment of communion with Father and Son by the Spirit does not await the afterlife. Jesus has been restoring God’s household on earth to prepare it to dwell with Him in eternity. The church, as the household of God, exists to prepare us for the eternal state. “We are to communicate, make common, the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that all whom the Father gave to the Son will commune, share, hold in common, with him.” THIS is what the church is for.

Peel and Reveal

This is a short chapter and she gets to the application quickly. She returns to her opening metaphor. We don’t passively wait to be fed, like birds in a nest (my addition). She sees discipleship as foundational to church life; tasting and seeing that the Lord is good so that we are nurtured and equipped to serve Him. Church officers  are responsible to disciple men and women.

She makes the point that we don’t need new revelation but we still need the proclamation of the revelation we received, the Word. Both men and women need to be addressed by the Word.

Here she shifts to the work of Dr. Valerie Hobbs, a lecturer in applied linguistics. Hobbs’ point is that pastors address men more than they address women in the course of their sermons. They refer to men more (illustrations and application). I can understand her big point- pastors should make sure they make application to women and their general circumstances, as well as use illustrations that involve women. This is something Byrd has written and spoken about before. That is not a criticism, but this is a passion for her and something that pastors still need to work on.

Let’s take this out of the context of men and women for a minute. There are children in the worship service. As a pastor my sermons can’t just address the adults. I need to include some illustrations and stories they can understand, as well as some application to them. I do, but not enough. This is what Byrd is getting at.

She also returns to the “poor condition of women’s ministries”. This is not true of every church, but don’t assume it isn’t true of yours without talking to the women. One result of the neglect of women’s ministry by pastors and sessions is the prevalence of bad theology. Sometimes it is simply superficial, and other times it is dangerous. She’s calling us to exercise greater oversight, not less. She’s calling us to be more involved, not less. She wants there to be more theology in women’s ministry, not less.

Peel and Reveal 2

She has a second major peel and reveal in this chapter. Not only are women’s ministries generally neglected, but women are intended to be equipped for ministry. Women are part of the body being equipped in Ephesians 4. She sees the fruit of this in Romans 16. She points particularly to Phoebe whom Paul commends as a sister and servant (or deacon). Calvin, in his commentary, says she had the office. Some of us reject that notion, likely based on our understanding of the diaconate in our congregations and denominations. We aren’t necessarily looking at sources from the early church to see how the deacons functioned, particularly the role of deaconnesses who assisted deacons in serving the women of the congregation. Phoebe is central to her point here. Most people agree that Phoebe was the one who brought the letter to Rome. This was why Paul wanted them to welcome her. He’s establishing her creditials beyond carrying the letter.

Referring to Michael Bird’s work, Byrd believes Phoebe would also explain the letter to the Romans should they have questions. She delivered it, but did she have “his authority” or personal representative to address any questions as Bird and Byrd theorize? I’m not sure. Perhaps this is a stretch, as I wrote in the margin.

Phoebe was a patron of the church, and likely Paul himself at times. She refers to Philip Payne who indicates this is a position not only of wealth but also authority. We do see that women acted as patrons for Jesus’ ministry, but in that case Jesus was not under their authority, they were under his. Such women in Greco-Roman culture had more freedom than the average woman. A patroness “had liberty to exercise her ideas and interests with society’s blessings.”

Let’s separate speaking and teaching from authority. A patroness could speak and teach. She had influence due to the money provided. None of those is the same as authority. Paul didn’t have to do what Phoebe said. When I taught Sunday School as a layperson, I didn’t have authority.

For her to seemingly press authority here creates an unnecessary obstacle for some in recognizing she was more than a source of money or someone who delivered the letter. What Byrd is getting to is women being co-laborers. Phoebe certainly was that, and she was not the only woman who was a co-laborer for the gospel that Paul and Luke mention.

What Byrd wants us to see when we peel back the yellow wall paper is that lay women have a role in communicating the gospel, and that role isn’t necessarily limited to other women and children. In other words, Titus 2 is not a limitation on the teaching ministry of women but is indicated how those groups should interact with one another so Titus doesn’t feel like it is all on him.

“Therefore, we are to communicate, make common, the gospel of Jesus Christ together, so that all whom the Father gave to the Son will commune, share, hold in common with him.”

The church exists to disciple Christians, including women. Christians are not simply disciples but also disciple others. Woman have a role in discipling other Christians. Clearly they disciple other women and children. Byrd wants us to see that even within the context of qualified male leadership there is a place for lay women to communicate the gospel just like lay men. Not everyone will or can accept this premise. She will get back to it again.

Read Full Post »


I want to start with a story or two. Two.

Saturday a friend of mine died. Years ago he attended a PCA church in Orlando where a friend of mine was a pastor on staff. This friend raised concerns to me about this PCA pastor based on some lectures he gave on women in the church. At the time I didn’t share his concerns about my other friend. I didn’t think he was moving toward egalitarianism. A few years later this pastor friend moved cross country to serve on the staff of a church that would eventually leave the PCA and fully embrace egalitarianism. My friend did “slide” into egalitarianism, but may have hid it since he credited one of our professors. My late friend was right, and I missed it.

In my first pastorate one of the influential women gave me a book to read. She was on the search committee that called me. She had been auditing courses at RTS Orlando. She led our women’s ministry. The book was Sarah Sumner’s Men and Women in the Church, which is clearly egalitarian. Earlier she’d given me insightful articles from Kenneth Bailey. This book was less than insightful contrary to the positive blurbs by respected men, but it was insightful into this friend’s trajectory. It broke my heart when she and her husband left the church and began to attend a PC(USA) church (now ECO).

Sometimes you can see it coming, and sometimes it is more subtle. Some people claim they see Aimee Byrd well on the road to egalitarian. I’m not so sure. My foresight, obviously, is not perfect including in this area. But the issue may be their adherence to the CBMW formulation of complementarianism.

Cognitive Dissonance

Today we’ll look at the beginning of the Part 2: Recovering Our Mission. The first chapter in this section is Why Our Aim Is Not Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. She begins this with part of her story. She was married a month after graduating from college and began to read books to help her become “the perfect Christian wife.” This was when she read Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood aka the Big Blue Book. She was seeking a “biblical understanding of the sexes.” There were parts that were hard for her to accept, but she trusted the radio shows that spoke well of the book. “That’s what I wanted to be: good and conservative.” She was not comfortable with “some” of the teachings in the book. Not all. Not most. Some. She assumed she’d understand them better as she matured.

“I do want to note that there are plenty of helpful teachings in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, written by authors who have benefited the church in numerous ways.”

Over time, however, “more and more strange teachings on femininity and masculinity have emerged under the rubric of biblical manhood and womanhood.” She is not alone in thinking this. She mentions some of them earlier in this book, and they concerned me when I read them years ago. I thought they were aberrations but now realize my understanding of complementarianism is not on the same side of the spectrum as theirs. I was concerned when Piper thought women shouldn’t be police officers because that involves authority over men (“Should Women Be Police Officers?” August 13, 2015). In that article he mentioned teaching in colleges as well. Byrd also notes a place where Piper discusses a woman being careful in giving a lost man directions lest we undermine his sense of masculinity. Sorry, I don’t get it. I simply want to get to my destination, and apart from verbal abuse I’m not guarding my sense of masculinity.

Eternal Submission of the Son

Where she goes here is more fundamental, however. She came across a CBMW document expressing ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son). This view states that in the ontological Trinity, the Son submits to the Father. This view is not expressed in any of the major creeds and confessions. We do recognize that in the economic Trinity, the Son as Messiah submits to the Father on our behalf. The first speaks to the Son in his essence, the second to the Son in his office as Redeemer.

She pursued conversations with representatives of CBMW including the president at the time. In books, members of the CBMW continued to assert this view. It shows up in the ESV Study Bible as well. This view is used as the basis for their version of complementarianism: men and women are both human (equal in essence) but women submit to men (different in role/function).

I don’t believe in ESS nor agree with its use by CBMW to defend an erroneous view of men and women. In Ephesians 5, wives submit to their own husbands, not men in general. Women are not inferior to men due to their gender, not to submit to men in general. In the 10 commandments, we are to honor our parents meaning that sons (even as adults) are to honor their mothers. Mothers don’t submit to adult sons.

Back to Byrd’s book from that aside. She tried to address this publicly as well. As she tells it no one was listening. Then Liam Goligher did a guest post on her blog on this subject and the can of worms was opened. ESS became a big internet controversy.

Okay. At this point I wondered if she wants credit for exposing this heterodoxy, simply wants to say no one took her seriously or both. Goligher was more than a “housewife theologian” and had more gravitas. That he was a man can also play into it. But there seem to be some sour grapes at work in this too.

She then brings it back to the Big, Blue Book. Once again she notes there is good material in there, but also some disconcerting material as well. There is a big problem when the differences between men and women are reduced to “one of ontological authority and submission.” I’ve always understood this as patriarchy, not complementarianism. While she mentions Denny Burke, Owen Strachan and others, her focus is on Wayne Grudem who has been a big advocate for this deviant view of the Trinity, including in his work on the ESV Study Bible notes. I was disappointed to see Ligon Duncan so earnestly affirming the updated version of the Big, Blue Book such that communicating the doctrines and applications taught in it were essential to Christian discipleship.

“While I wholeheartedly affirm distinction between sexes, I am convinced that our choices are not between CBMW complementarianism and vague androgynous discipleship.”

She is raising serious issues here. In my opinion she is right. I’ll let her speak for herself:

“Nowhere does Scripture state that all women submit to all men. … And it is difficult for a laywoman like me, who does see some theological teaching for God outfitting qualified men for an office to see this kind of reductive teaching and call it complementarianism. … My femininity is not defined by how I look for and nurture male leadership in my neighbors, coworkers, or mail carriers. I am not denying the order needed in both my personal household and in the household of God, but I do not reduce the rights and obligations in a household to mere authority and submission roles. … I uphold distinction between the sexes without reduction, as Scripture does.”

She affirms that church office is reserved for qualified men. She refers to Genesis 2 in the footnote, but overlooks 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. That is puzzling, frankly.

In the next section she’s wondering if we’ve baptized “chivalry” and made it biblical manhood. I think she is onto something with this. Like the Pharisees added to the laws regarding the Sabbath and used the corban principle to avoid caring for parents, we can add cultural understandings to our biblical understanding in a way that is inappropriate and confusing. She quotes Sarah Coakley as noting that the point of headship “is not executive dictatorship but responsibility for the “well-being of the whole.”” She uses John McKinley’s “necessary ally”, though I prefer Allender and Longman’s “intimate ally”.

To be fair, in What’s the Difference?, Piper’s contribution to the Big, Blue Book, he mentions men listening to their wives to gain input. The “definition” expresses “benevolent responsibility”. But we do need to emphasize, I think, the partnership of marriage. Headship in Ephesians 5 is sacrificial and for the well-being of the wife. Back to Genesis 2, she is an ally in our God-given mission. Being a man or woman can not be reduced to authority/submission. There is a bit of overlap in their expression of this relationship, but their foundation is quite different.

Restoring the Imago Dei

I think she takes too much time expressing the fact that our goal in discipleship is not masculinity or femininity but conformance to Christ (Romans 8). At a few points that will be different. But the goal is being a mature human being, restoration of the image of God (Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3).

“Christian men and women don’t strive for so-called biblical masculinity or femininity, but Christlikeness. Rather than striving to prove our sexuality, the tone of our sexuality will express itself as we do this. … I do not need to do something in a certain way to be feminine. I simply am feminine because I am female.”

She sees some benefit to exclusive studies for men and women. There are “shared experiences and responsibilities within our sex.” (She probably should use “gender” in these instances.) Her concern is that we take this too far too often, as though we can only be discipled separately. Drawing on Phillip Payne’s material she asserts (rightly) that both men and women received authority over earth and creatures. Unlike in the pagan cultures around them, men were supposed to leave their family of origin to cleave to his spouse. In pagan countries she shifted from her family to his.

In Mark David Walton’s article for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood these gender distinctions (authority & submission) remain for all eternity since they are ontological. Women, in this view, would eternally submit to men even though both are made in the image of God.

Peel and Reveal

She goes off her on “role”. She does this, in my opinion, in a reductionistic way. She focuses on the definition derived from the playhouse. As a result she wants us to stop using this in discussing men and women. She’ll also do this in chapter 6. But according to dictionary.com the 2nd definition is “proper or customary function” and the third is the sociological use (pertinent here!) “the rights, obligations, and expected behavior patterns associated with a particular social status.” That status should not be “woman” but “wife”. Not “man” but “husband” and “church officer”.

She seems to be going after both ESS and expressions of complementarianism at the same time. She does not clearly delineate between the two but goes back and forth between them. They are related, but distinct. This is a weakness of hers or at least this chapter.

And then she returns to norms. “I agree with Mark Cortez that we can still affirm some cultural norms associated with gender without holding that these must be essential to our sexuality.” But in this section she seeks to get metaphysical and philosophical. She depends on Sister Prudence Allen in pp. 124-30, and frankly I’m lost. Philosophy is not my strong point, and I’m not familiar with this philosopher. I got “fractional complementarity” and “integral complementarity”. She brings in Pope John Paul II, as well as Paul Zanacanaro and Julian Marias. In all this I couldn’t tell if she was using them positively (she does say they think more thoroughly and biblically) or negatively (since their conclusion sounds remarkably like Piper and Grudem). Just call me Vinnie because “I’m soooo confused.”

The peel and reveal section seems to waste the good and important material she covered in the body of the chapter. There are serious problems in the theological basis for the CBMW version of complementarianism, and therefore serious problems in how they understand masculinity and femininity in relationship to one another. She could have done a better job delineating her points of agreement with CBMW since there are some.

Read Full Post »


Our consideration of Aimee Byrd’s most recent book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, continues with the 3rd chapter, Girls Interrupted. In many ways this is a continuation of the previous chapter in addressing the feminine voice in Scripture. She sticks with the Old Testament, and the same time period as Ruth. Her focus here is Judges, though she begins with Exodus and the midwives.

Before we get there I want to reiterate what she does as she introduces the chapter (and at the end).

“My hope is that you will begin identifying how this coactivity of the male and female voice functions more and more in your regular reading of Scripture and consider its implications in church life.”

The female voice, while not the dominant voice in Scripture, is a helpmate of the male voice. They, she argues, complement each other so we get a fuller Scripture. God, in His providence, provides for this in the dual authorship of Scripture. It is not an addition from disgruntled feminists. Byrd does not seem to argue like a feminist in this regard. She’s not saying this voice is more important. She’s not denigrating the male voice as less important to women. She’s not trying to get women (or anyone) to focus on the feminine voice at the expense of the rest of the Bible; indeed the majority of the Bible. She does want us to recognize it in regular Scripture reading. In other words, as you are reading, notice the perspective (which actually is part of good hermeneutics). Where some people will struggle even more, though, is the implication for life in the church. We will get to this in the Peal and Reveal section.

While Richard Bauckman is an egalitarian, I think his point should be obvious and non-controversial. Women, as part of the people of God, are mentioned in the Bible. Women, as we are about to see, likely participated in passing down the oral tradition of the Scriptures. A woman affirmed the authenticity and authority of the scrolls found in a dusty temple to the king who wanted to know if he should recognize them as Scripture. Other texts focus on women as main characters. This is true, right?

The Midwives’ Voice

In bringing up Exodus Byrd brings up the midwives, in particular their conversation with the Egyptian leaders. We can either believe God gave this information to Moses via direct revelation or through oral tradition as the midwives reported the exchange to the elders of Israel and anyone willing to listen. How we answer this question may say more about us than it does about Scripture. We affirm oral tradition in the Gospels. Luke, for instance, researched it. He did not witness the events himself nor received a Matrix-like download but talked to men and women about the events in question. John may have too. Some of the discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman was likely related to him by Jesus. But there are also part that Jesus was not first party to and that may have been reported to John by her at a later date. But we clearly have her communicating to others in her village about Jesus. We see the same thing with the women’s testimony about showing up at the tomb and discovering Jesus gone. Affirming does not make someone a feminist or egalitarian.

She also brings us James Montgomery Boice via his book The Life of Moses. He spent time addressing this. In the section she quotes there is this sentence: ” … God does not record the pharaoh’s names, but he remembers these two women, Shiphrah and Puah, because they did the right thing.” She is assuming that they were tradents of the faith, passing “down the heritage and tradition of God’s people by sharing how God worked through them.” This appears to be a valid assumption.

Women in Judges

Then she shifts to Judges where she’ll spend most of this chapter. Judges focuses on how the people of Israel began to live like the Canaanites and not like the people of God they were called to be. One aspect of this that runs through Judges is “by the way the women are viewed and treated.” This is not the only way. It is a symptom of their apostasy. The apostasy was the main deal, but this was a horrifying manifestation of that apostasy. Judges is a downward spiral, and the two last stories focus on the mistreatment of women. These last two are from the perspective of the men involved. But there are some in the feminine voice.

“The main point in Judges is not the treatment of women. … But as we have the big picture, we can observe that one of the glaring evidences of the Israelites’ increasing depravity is displayed in their degradation of women.”

We find Caleb using his daughter’s hand in marriage to motivate soldiers. This is an unusual way to arrange her marriage but “Caleb is setting his daughter up to marry the best of the best.” We also hear some of Achsah’s voice. She’s not simply a trophy wife but asks for an addition to the dowry of land and asks for springs. She is her father’s daughter, bold and full of faith.

The main feminine voice is Deborah’s. She was a prophetess who also functioned as a judge. People came to her for judgements. Unlike most judges, she was not a soldier or a general. She speaks the word of the Lord to Barak to lead the men in battle. We must consider the realities of the conflict before we are too tough on Barak. The Canaanite General Sisera has 900 chariots, essential the equivalent of a tank. Not only did Barak have none, but it was not an organized militia with weapons. It was really a bunch of farmers. He wants the prophetess to join him because she represented the Word of God to the ragtag army he was called to lead.

We see her voice primarily in her song which tells the story of the battle. God sent a storm (this was supposed to be Baal’s territory) to neutralize the chariots. Barak doesn’t kill Sisera, but Jael (a “housewife”) kills him with a tent peg (an allusion to Gen. 3:15). Deborah is the “mother of Israel in her song. She counseled them, preserved their heritage and provides strategy. This is a woman working in the public sphere. She is contrasted with Sisera’s mother who waits at home for her son to return home with a slew of new female slaves to exploit. From her wicked perspective, sexual domination of women prisoners is a great thing.

Byrd notes that Jesus uses similar language as he laments over Israel. He wants to cover them with his wings like a hen her chicks. Then she returns to Deborah (all this in the same paragraph). She is contrasted with the Canaanite goddesses, and the worst abuses of patriarchy that play out in Judges. Her song passes on Israelite tradition.

Byrd shifts to Jephthah and his daughter. I’m not sure whom or what he expected to come out of his home first but he promised he would sacrifice it. Here is a judge of Israel vowing to consecrate him or her to the Lord. There is some question about what that means and how it took place, but his daughter who was his only child, was the first to come out. Not a servant (I guess that was his hope), but daddy’s girl runs out to greet him. Whether she was consecrated and remained virgin or was sacrificed, this is not an easy to read text. She did become part of Israel’s tradition, as the young women of Israel would commemorate her for 4 days a year. This stands in contrast to the laments of Canaanite goddesses. They lamented dead sons, lovers and brothers; not daughters or sisters. His daughter was valued by Israel.

“Do you see the coactivity of male and female voices in God’s Word at work here?”

She then returns to Rehab and Matthew’s genealogies. The women there don’t sound like representative of the CBMW definition of mature femininity (repeated below). This encourages a passivity, a responsiveness instead of initiative on the the part of women. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba all took initiative in dealing with their circumstances; an initiative born of faith. While Bathsheba was exploited by David (due to his position as king, her inability to reject him leads many to call this a form of rape), Solomon would not be king if she hadn’t approached an elderly, ineffective and largely clueless David. As Gentiles they point to the inclusion of the Gentiles into Israel through evangelism and conversion.

“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” from Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

Byrd then brings us to the Canaanite woman and compares her to Rahab, a Canaanite. Jesus obviously recognizes his own heritage and the Gentile women including Rahab in that line. She exhibits faith similar to Rahab. Jesus isn’t dismissing her but testing her. How far would her faith push her? Apparently some of the crumbs of Israel’s children have fallen to her already, she knows some of their history and likely some of the law and prophets since she addresses him as Son of David. Her faith reflects this.

“Their faith was not in their bravery, their discernment, their initiative, or their own resolve. Their faith was in the Lord. They had faith in his calling, his initiative, and his resolve. They responded to the call.”

She also ties together Hannah and Mary in similar fashion. Since I see this is getting long I will leave it at that.

Peel and Reveal

“It’s time for the church to examine whether we too are sending the same message as the radical feminists who are opposed to God’s Word by treating it as an androcentric text that lacks female contribution.”

Radical feminists, in rejecting the Scriptures, claim it is male centered and does not and cannot speak to them. We should not say it is male centered and only speaks to women indirectly. We don’t want to arrive at the same view of the Scripture though for opposite reasons. We do see women treasuring the Scriptures, contributing to the Scriptures and passing on the faith to others. Too often our stereotypes of women, or erroneous teaching about femininity, lead us to minimize their place in the community of faith. Women are necessary allies in God’s mission. This is the key: God’s mission. Both men and women are engaged in that by faith. Spouses share a mission and are to work together.

Think of Elisabeth Elliot for a moment. She was not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination. She wrote a book called Let Me Be a Woman, as opposed to rejecting any gender differences. She wrote an incredibly brief forward (one paragraph) to Piper’s What’s the Difference?. She had an important place in 20th century evangelicalism, not simply as the widow of Jim Elliot but as an author and speaker and seminary professor. She was a strong woman. Elisabeth’s materials were sold through Ligonier ministries for a while. At one point I was the point person for dealing with Lars, her husband at the time. She wasn’t supporting his role in the mission, but he supported her role in God’s mission. That included speaking at conferences filled with men and women, including Ligonier National conferences.

Does our understanding of complementarism allow this to happen, or hinder it? Does it make her an exception or do we affirm, train and encourage woman in our congregations to teach people? Are they coactive with us as servants of God or are laymen AAA and women AA (to borrow a baseball analogy)? Do their voices complement those of godly men for the combined good of the church?

“Women are using their voices and asking men to listen. How is the church going to respond? We certainly don’t want to mimic the culture and adapt the philosophy of the sexual revolution. But in our efforts to combat the reductive worldview of our secular culture, we need to make sure we aren’t over-correcting by slapping yellow wallpaper over it.”

It’s too bad she doesn’t develop this enough. She keeps hinting at it. This really seems to be the main issue of the book for me. Have we over-reacted to feminism with a subtle  (or not so subtle) form of chauvinism by clinging to an old traditional culture instead of evaluating both by Scripture so we are counter-cultural, neither feminist nor chauvinist but actually biblical? To borrow from Keller, the Bible is critical of every culture. She will continue to mention this like a tease to keep reading. Her focus is more on asking that question than providing the answer, however.

I’m not sure how this chapter moves the argument along. It provides more information, yes. It gives us some things to think about from Judges. But I’m thinking about the overall argument of the book. Soon we’ll be addressing the CBMW and its views more directly, and whether or not all the boundaries we say exist are biblical ones. At times you feel like she should be writing a couple of different books, not one. She seems to have too many agendas at times (as I think about the whole book). Perhaps that is why I feel like I’m struggling to review this chapter.

“Now that we are armed with a better idea of how the male and female voices operate synergetically in Scripture, let’s explore Christ’s presence in the Word of God and therefore its relationship to the church.”

Read Full Post »


In the second chapter of Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, on the subject of recovering how we read the Bible, Aimee Byrd asks “Why Not the Book of Boaz?”.

She is talking about the book of Ruth which is squeezed between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is the first book in the Bible that we come across named for a woman. This is a little book with a big message.

Ruth was not simply a woman, but a Moabite woman who had been married to an sojourning Israelite who died. Moabites were bad news. Their tribe originated from Lot’s child from his daughter after she got him drunk (Gen. 19). Born of incest they were known to be immoral. They were also prohibited from entering Israelite worship (Deut. 23:3), in part for hiring Balaam to curse Israel, and then following his advice to send women to seduce the men into false worship (Numbers 22-23, 25).

Yes, a book of the Bible named after a Moabite widow. This Moabite widow converted to the worship of YHWH and went back to Israel with her mother-in-law to take care of her.

Byrd wants to show us how the female voice functions in Scripture. Ruth doesn’t seem to fit the mold of biblical womanhood (though some memes try to make her fit it by ignoring some things). While the “male voice” arrives at the end of the book, the majority of the book focuses on Ruth. It focuses on “the plight of women in ancient culture- it exposes their difficulties and it shows us a faithful, brave woman who took initiative to rescue her family, as well as an honorable response from Boaz.” Ruth is not passive, waiting for Boaz, or anyone else to take care of Naomi. She takes initiative, and this is seen as a good thing (Boaz commends her!) particularly when we discover who her great-grandson is going to be.

She is reliant on Bauckham and Carolyn Custis James as numerous footnotes reveal. Most of this is helpful. One time, at least, it is less than helpful but confusing. “This male voice is quote not … in order to undermine the female voice of the narrative, but on the contrary, in order to be exposed by the female voice of the narrative as pitifully inadequate in its androcentric selectivity.” It doesn’t undermine her voice! That I get and agree with. I’m not sure what he means by that last phrase about being exposed as inadequate. The patrilineal records complement and explain the significance of the this story: David!

Rumors had probably spread about David and his sketchy origins (the politics of personal destruction is not a new concept). But the truth was this woman was a godly woman who did right by her adopted faith and her distressed mother-in-law. This defends her honor and his.

“The Bible isn’t a book of masculine history. There is women’s literature in Scripture! … We don’t need to take these gynocentric stories out and publish them in books for women’s ministries. All of Scripture is meant for coed reading and understanding.”

She also argues that Ruth is not just about Ruth. “Naomi’s situation parallels Israel’s.” This takes place during the decline of Israel during the time of the Judges. Her husband did what was right in his own eyes by moving his family to Moab during a famine, and allowing his two sons to marry Moabite women despite the prohibition of the Law. He betrayed his name which declared “My God is King”. This book is a study of hesed, covenant faithfulness as displayed not only by Ruth but also Boaz and ultimately by YHWH.

Hesed is driven, not by duty or legal obligations, but by bone-deep commitment- a loyal, selfless love that motivates a person to do voluntarily what no one wants has the right to expect or ask of them …” quoting Carolyn Custis James

One of the things we should see in Ruth is that “God put man and woman on this earth, and he intends to use both sexes in his mission.” This woman is “in the world” and working in the fields. She’s “bringing home the bacon”. Ruth’s faith and commitment is contrasted with Naomi’s despair and grief. God used a strong woman to preserve Naomi and keep the line alive that would produce the Seed that crushes the head of the serpent.

Rembrandt

Ruth is not a feminist icon. She’s not fighting the system of patriarchy. She is a woman committed to fulfilling her vows. Ruth does, however, not fit into many of the categories of femininity expressed by some complementarians, especially the CBMW. Piper and Grudem’s definition of femininity doesn’t seem to fit Ruth. She’s not waiting for a man to show initiative. This seems to be the point Byrd wants to make in this chapter. Godly women in the Bible don’t match the Big Blue Book’s definition.

After my a recent memorial service for my mother, we had lunch with my side of the family. Due to my mother’s long-term illness it had been a few years since CavWife saw my side of the family, particularly my sister-in-law. My brother’s wife related that mine was a “bad ass” because she stood up to my mother. My wife is strong. Not headstrong or domineering, but strong. She knows who she is and wants to do what is right. She wasn’t waiting for me to “take the lead” and deal with my mother. She was gentle but firm, not abrasive.

Byrd doesn’t stop with Ruth, so to speak. She reminds us that Boaz’s mother was a Canaanite prostitute named Rahab. Like Ruth, she came to faith in the God of Israel, protected her family by protecting the spies. She became a member of God’s household. Knowing her likely prepared Boaz to welcome a kindred spirit in Ruth.

When Byrd begins to peel back the wallpaper (back to the metaphor), she wants us to see “women played an active role alongside men in passing down the history and teachings of God’s covenant people as tradents of the faith.” She doesn’t want to make more of this than it is; or less.

“Women aren’t left out. They aren’t ignored; they are heard. They are more than heard; they contribute.”

Additionally, the book of Ruth functions to provide a critical eye for today’s church. The issue is how God’s hesed works among His people. She wants us to see that He works through both men and women to reveal His hesed. Too often we are concerned with what women are “permitted” to do (and she’ll get back to this often). Our lists, at the very least, need to be evaluated by Scripture. Another way of putting this is asking if godly women in Scripture fit the list. Scripture is more important than the list.

The question I wrote at the bottom of the page at the end of this chapter is: “God gives women a voice to be used. Will we listen?”

I got some push back on my previous blog post. People seem to think Byrd is saying that women need women to “interpret” the Bible to them. Or that they cannot read Calvin or other theology. Byrd is saying the opposite! She doesn’t want theology dumbed down for women. She quotes a variety of male authors and teachers in this book. She’s not reading fluff.

In some ways Byrd is an example she wants others to follow: forsake the fluff and eat the meat of the Word. But she’s also saying that a woman doesn’t learn the breadth and depth of Scripture and theology to teach 3rd graders. She thinks God raises up both men and women to teach in Christ’s church.

She not wanting us to look for the feminine voice like it is a needle in the haystack. It is pretty clear. It is not meant to compete with the rest of Scripture but to complement it.

She hasn’t done any exegesis of any of the important passages involving this topic yet. In a later chapter she deals with 1 Corinthians 11-14. I hope she deals with 1 Timothy 2 in the final chapter (since she hadn’t thus far).

But so far we’ve seen:

  •  A godly king seek the wisdom of a prophetess to whom he listened for the good of the nation.
  • Women quoted in Scripture whose words and/or actions that inform and shape our faith.
  • Books of the Bible, written from a woman’s perspective, show us strong women who change the fortunes of God’s people, in His providence.
  • The Bible’s portraits of godly women don’t match the definition of mature femininity put forward by the CBMW.

Let me end with a story. As a new Christian I worked in a bookstore. Utterly clueless, I bought a Hal Lindsey book or two. I became a dispensational pre-millennialist. I advocated for the position. I was sure this was right. However, over time as I read and re-read the Bible I was filled with increasing cognitive dissonance. I found that my views didn’t make the most sense of the Scripture.

I was at a crossroads. Would I stick to Lindsey and company’s interpretation or would I change my view to one more consistent with Scripture? I chose the latter option.

As a more mature Christian, I submit to the Westminster Confession of Faith as a summary of what the Bible teaches. I believe it is consistent with Scripture, and it provides healthy boundaries for me. This standard doesn’t address these issues. I want to go where the Scripture leads as I affirm that the church is Reformed and always reforming.

Don’t panic. This is not the slippery slope of feminism or liberalism. It is an expression of sola Scriptura. The Scriptures do teach that only qualified men are to be elders (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), and that the husband is the head of his own wife (Ephesians 5). These are non-negotiables.

What I am discovering is not that my views are changing, but that my views (which I’ve held for many years and taught from the pulpit) are not in synch with the CBMW’s understanding of masculinity and femininity on key points. This will be developed in further posts.

Read Full Post »


Having looked at Aimee Byrd’s introduction to Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, we begin to look at the first part of the book which she calls Recovering the Way We Read Scripture. The first chapter in this section is Why Men and Women Don’t Read Separate Bibles.

Based on the description of this first part, I’d expect her to address hermeneutical issues here. That isn’t quite where she is going to go here. She’ll get there later.

But she begins with a complaint she’s raised in other venues: the proliferation of specialty Bibles, particularly those rooted in gender. She includes a well-deserved lament that many of our Bibles go unread. It is regularly the best-selling book but we see little evidence of this in how our society thinks and acts. With Covid-19 hitting our shores this winter, there was a surge of purchases as people apparently began to hoard them along with the toilet paper. Sometimes her criticisms are a bit idyosyncratic and superficial, and sometimes they have merit.

Part of her issue with these specialty Bibles is that many of them make the Bible more about us than about Jesus and salvation. They appeal to our misplaced identities, hobbies or interests. She mentions the Instagram “rage” of quiet-time selfies (I’d never heard of this, and wish I hadn’t, though I’ve been known to take pictures of the book I’m about to read in the shade with a beer and cigar).

She does commend women for actually reading the Bible, and that more often than men. 60% of women, based on Barna Research, hold to the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, and read it at least four times a week. Only 40% of men do this.

She then shifts gears to talking about the voice of woman teachers. She relates the story of Anne Hutchinson to explain much of what she thinks is wrong in the church’s relationship with women teachers. Anne and her husband came to the colonies with their pastor John Cotton. Anne wanted to discuss the Word she heard preached. Not finding an open door to talk with Rev. Cotton, she opened her home to a women’s discussion group. Byrd notes that the genders were already separated during the corporate worship. As her group grew, she remained ignored by the elders. They did not invest in her (or correct her since she began to teach some heterodox positions including antinomianism). Word of her teaching spread beyond Boston, and men started to attend. Now she mattered to the church officers and politicians. She was quickly tried, excommunicated and exiled. Byrd’s point: pastors tend to let women have their little groups which often spread false teaching because of a lack of oversight & investment. It only becomes an issue when men start showing up (think Beth Moore). Byrd wonders, “What if…?”.

“We therefore need to think more critically about navigating through these resources and how they shape our reading of Scripture and discipleship in the covenant community.”

Many women, not able to utilize their gifts in the local church are using them in parachurch ministries. Resources for women have multiplied, and not all of them are good. Byrd, while wanting women to be able to teach, also wants them to be instructed by church leadership (1 Timothy 2:11) so they further the goals of the leadership instead of being “left alone”. She wants theologically sound women with the gift of teaching to teach within the church, under the authority of the church. This doesn’t sound like feminism to me.

She returns to the question of gender-based Bibles. This is one of her weaknesses, at least for me. She takes a number of rabbit trails instead of following a linear path. It can be easy to lose her point or know where she is going. This chapter suffers from that problem.

The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible has articles on eating disorders, emotional health, forgiveness, healing and shame. The ESV Men’s Devotional Bible covers leadership, calling, pornography and a man’s work. The focus for women is “weakness and victimhood” but for men is “leadership and agency”. Byrd doesn’t criticize the quality of those articles but the presuppositions about men and women behind them.

“The emphasis is on the differences between men and women. I affirm that there are differences between men and women. God made male and female. But we need to be careful not to reduce us by our distinctions.”

Byrd, here, stresses that both men and women are made in the image of God. We have far more in common than we have in differences. What really frustrates her is that women can learn from men and women, but in the church it seems to be that men can only learn from men. She is trying to get to a good question: Can a man learn from a woman? This question is not necessarily about office and authority. She is not pushing women’s ordination. She’s wondering if many of us have misunderstood or misapplied 1 Timothy 2:12 by thinking that no woman should ever teach men (or even high school boys) in church.

At some points she goes a bit off course. For instance: “And yet the resources flooding the Christian women’s genre for Bible reading and devotions send the message that God’s word is so male-centered and authored that women need to create our own resources to help us to relate to it.” I don’t think she proves this point at all. It seems to be a weird point to me.

More positively, I have learned from women. I’ve read good books by women. Her better point is that strong, orthodox women teachers help the church, but we often don’t train them. I’ve also read really bad books by men, and women.

She wants us to peal back some of that yellow wallpaper to see female voices in Scripture. Some people have incorrectly said she is arguing for a woman-centered Bible. She is saying is that some passages bear a woman’s voice from which both men and women benefit. She depends on Anglican scholar Richard Bauckman (with whom I am unfamiliar). These female-centered accounts (gynocentric) are “interruptions of the dominant male-focused (androcentric) writings”. They are like CavWife butting in with some important information or perspective.

“… the fact that these women and their stories are remarkable for their particularity, rather than for their typicality or representativeness.” Richard Bauckman

One rabbit trail is male author Andre Brink writing in a first-person female perspective for The Wall of the Plague. At the end he reveals he’s actually a white Afrikaner instead of a mixed-race woman. I’m reminded of As Good As It Gets when Melvin Udall is asked how he writes female characters so well. Brink used the technique to make a point of trying to understand his lover’s perspective, while Udall is just a misogynist who disparages women (and they didn’t get it).

The woman’s voice in Scripture is not there to overthrow the male voice or compete with it. Rather, like Eve, it is meant to be a complement to the male voice. She notes that most of the Song of Songs is written from the woman’s perspective. Throughout Genesis we have the words of Sarah, Rebekah and Jacob’s wives entering the story to provide a different perspective on the matters at hand.

Byrd then gets into “historicially exceptional”  and “textually exceptional” cases which make visible what is usually unseen. For instance, instead of seeking out prophets like Jeremiah and Zephaniah, King Josiah sends men to the prophetess Huldah. In light of the fact that Josiah is seen as one of the good kings this stands out. He was not being weak or wicked. Huldah uses the typical prophetic formula to affirm the authority of the texts discovered in the temple. Josiah was willing to learn from her, and she was presumably the first person to grant such status to the Torah. She was key in affirming part of the OT canon.

“Our churches need both men and women who recognize the authority of God’s Word and speak it to one another.”

Her point that I gleaned from this chapter is that God addresses the Scriptures to both men and women. Both men and women can understand it. Those who do are able to speak that word to others. The church is weaker than it needs to be when we don’t invest in women who are apt to teach.

This has to be kept within the teaching of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus that the office of elder, and teaching with authority as an officer of the church, is limited to qualified men. While she doesn’t mention it yet, she does later on in the book. We should keep this in mind so we don’t accuse Byrd of arguing for something she isn’t. She doesn’t want women pastors. But she does argue that lay women ought to be able to teach lay men as well as women and children, if they are instructed and orthodox.

There is a challenge here to the church to disciple women well. Part of that discipleship, as she gets to later, is to teach men and women how to interpret the Bible as well as solid theology (both biblical and systematic). This is similar to her book No Little Women.

Byrd is suffering from cognitive dissonance. She hears one thing from the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, but reads something else in Scripture. She’s trying to bring herself (I believe) and the church back into conformity to Scripture.

She’s not the only one who experiences such cognitive dissonance. A few years ago the PCA was debating on whether to accept a study committee’s report on Women Serving in the Church. Some guys had brought their wives, and they were listening to the debate. When I talked with them they expressed frustration that we were deciding these matters without talking to the women in our denomination. A good husband listens to his wife, even if he decides on a different course of action. Our church leaders need to do a better job listening to the women we lead so they feel cared for, loved, valued. We need to hear their voice AND bring it to the Lord as Abraham finally did with Sarah’s request (Genesis 21:8-14).

 

 

Read Full Post »


I’ve read one of Aimee Byrd’s other books in the past. I’ve enjoyed her input on the Mortification of Spin podcast when I have listened. Some of our women heard her speak in a sister church a few years ago and came away encouraged.

51itsic-mul._sx326_bo1204203200_Her newest book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose, has been the center of controversy. Many of the claims didn’t seem about right. I had some people in the congregation, and others outside of the congregation ask me what I thought.

So, here I am reading the book. As I considered blogging about the book I realized I can’t do it justice in just one post. I’ll need to break this down to handle it wisely instead of with broad strokes.

What is interesting to me is the acknowledgments in which she thanks Bob Brady and Jonathan Master at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals for time they gave her as she began the project. She thanks the Alliance in general for allowing her to use materials from a conference they hosted. I don’t know all the reasons why they ended the official relationship but it seems strange to me. She compromises no first or second order beliefs. Her issues with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) are not new news. I think this book (I have 2 chapters left to read)affirms what I believe about the differences between men and women. It does that clearly, not obscurely.

  • She affirms there are gender differences.
  • She affirms that only qualified males should be ordained elders and pastors.

This means she qualifies for what I have long thought were the main tenets of “complementarianism”. Apparently she, nor I, are on the same end of the complementarian spectrum as many in the CBMW. She’s not fighting with the Bible (she affirms the authority of the Scriptures) but with the CBMW’s views, doctrinal statements and methodology to arrive at their conclusions.

I have never read all of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response of Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, aka the Big Blue Book. I read What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible by Piper, which is his material from the Big Blue Book in more accessible form (my copy is a little purple book). It has been quite some time since I read it. Since then I’ve read a number of statements by Piper on this subject that seemed to espouse a view closer to patriarchy than my understanding of complementarianism. I thought his views shifted, but now realize they really didn’t.

This is to provide some background to my interaction with Byrd’s book, and therefore the views of CBMW. Just to be crystal clear my views are:

  • Men & women were created equally in the image of God.
  • Men & women enjoy gender differences beyond biology, yet those differences are not to be understood as absolute (like Men Are from Mars & Women Are from Venus) but on different sides of the spectrum.
  • God has made men as the head of the home.
  • God calls qualified men to serve as elders in His household.
  • Put negatively: men are not superior to women, and men are not in authority over women generally.

Byrd begins her book with an introduction that discusses Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. She will return to this story in each chapter since she views this as an apt metaphor for the problem she is pointing out.

Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper after suffering postpartum depression. Specialist Dr. S. Weir Mitchell’s diagnosis was fashionable: she suffered from the pace of modern life. He prescribed rest therapy. Resting, she found herself getting worse instead of better. His diagnosis was rooted in traditional gender roles. He was forcing her into that gender role. Her main character, Jane, reflects her own condition and course of treatment. She does write secretly in her retreat cabin watched by her very traditional sister-in-law Jenny. She becomes fixed on the yellow wallpaper, and comes to believe that a woman is trapped in there. Eventually the narrator’s voice shifts to that woman, and her husband believes she’s gone mad.

“I’ve got out at last … in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper so you can’t put me back!” The Yellow Wallpaper

Byrd interprets the story, based on Gilman’s explanation, as a woman “trapped in traditional patriarchal structures of family, medicine and society that the yellow wallpaper in her confined room represented for her.” Byrd believes many Christian women are struggling with those traditional patriarchal structures of family and church today, and wonders if they are truly biblical. She is convinced that much of what passes for “biblical” is actually cultural.

“One of our biggest challenges is to actually see this yellow wallpaper’s scrawling patterns that are stifling the force of the biblical message and strangling the church’s witness and growth.”

It is in this context that she refers back to the definitions of manhood and womanhood asserted by CBMW to be “biblical”. She quotes from the Big Blue Book:

“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”

“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

You’ll notice that each is defined by their relationship to the other. Masculinity, for instance, seems to have nothing to do with how you treat other men. While your particular relationship to a person of the opposite sex may differ, you still provide the same basic response. This seems a bit reductionistic to say the least. This places both masculinity and femininity through “a filter of authority and submission, strength and neediness” that would appear to go beyond Scripture.

Remember, the Big Blue Book was a response to Evangelical Feminism. In debate, we tend to over-correct. I would say that the formulations are just that rather than a careful understanding of the Scriptures. She notes that as Christians we want to be moral people. More than that, but not less. However, “morality can sometimes be culturally constructed.” Just ask the Pharisees. Human beings have a tendency, flowing from the Fall and our corruption, to go beyond Scripture and add culture to biblical notions with equal authority. We substitute the man-made for the divinely-revealed. Women are more than affirmers of their men.

She rightly notes that many of us don’t undertake renovation projects because we are afraid of what we’ll find. I’ve removed wallpaper and it isn’t pretty and does some damage. But sometimes that wallpaper needs to GO! She believes that we need to remove the wallpaper so men and women can better understand what God says, and better relate to one another in healthy ways that honor God.

“And we have lost aim of what the church is for: preparing us for eternal communion with the triune God. We have taken discipleship out of the church, further separating God’s people by culturally constructed gender paradigms.”

She will repeatedly return to this theme of discipleship too. It is common in her books. One of the issues is the rise of parachurch ministries taking the place of the church instead of coming alongside the church, as well as “popular Biblicist interpretive methods.” Many of the CBMW founders use such methods (Matthew Emerson brings us similar concerns regarding Wayne Grudem in He Descended to the Dead). She wants to us utilize an interpretive method that is covenantal in nature including the historical and present communities of faith bounded by confessions. The irony is that many of those critical of Byrd would affirm a covenantal method over the Biblicist method used by Piper and Grudem.

In terms of her introduction she touches on some important subjects we do need to think about. Her concerns as expressed are:

  • The cultural traditions obscuring the biblical teaching about masculinity and femininity.
  • The breakdown of discipleship in many churches that lead many to depend on parachurch ministries, particularly gender-focused ones.
  • The faulty methods of biblical interpretation that produce faulty understandings of the Trinity used to support faulty understandings of the relationship between men and women.

To many, raising these questions makes her a feminist. After all, the Big Blue Book was written to combat feminism so the only person who’d have a problem with it must necessarily be a feminist. That is a faulty argument there. It is a logical fallacy meant to minimize the views of another.

While I’ve seen plenty of people accuse Byrd of being a feminist, I see no evidence for this charge through over 170 pages of this book. She’s trying to discern the truth under the authority of Scripture. This is a noble pursuit. She knows she is not coming at the Scripture without her own biases and interpretive grid. As we move forward, we’ll see if she succeeds. At times I think she does. At times she stumbles (in minor ways). At times she confuses. At times she misses a point. She does make some good points, and she doesn’t punt on the faith in the process. Nor does she give too much ground to egalitarians, aka the Christian Feminists.

By the way, let’s not confuse Christian Feminists with any of the various shades of Feminists. While I disagree with them, they are not “them” aka “the enemy.” My beloved professor Dr. Roger Nicole called himself a Christian Feminist. J.I. Packer, among many others, called him the greatest theologian of the 20th century.

The late R.C. Sproul expressed wanted to be as “liberal” as the Bible permitted him to be regarding women. As a result he rejected the ordination of women elders, even being forced out of the UPC for his views. He believed women could be deacons if it wasn’t a position of authority, as it is in the PCA. But R.C. had Joni and Elisabeth Elliot speak at his conferences.

Some may have a different default than Sproul, possibly being as conservative as the Bible permits them. This means there is a spectrum of complementarian views. The people to the left of you aren’t necessarily feminists, and the people to the right of you aren’t necessarily patriarchists. They might be, but that requires more questions to understand their actual positions.

Read Full Post »


No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of GodWhen No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd came out, I bought copies for many of the key women in the church. I thought it would help them as they think about ministry to women in our congregation. They have been meeting periodically to discuss what they are reading.

My wife, after she read it, thought I should read it. It is also intended for the officers of the church to help them think through their congregation’s ministry to women. As a result, it was one of the books for my vacation/study leave.

“This is a book that aims to help the whole church by examining church initiatives for a group that makes up over half of our congregations- the women. … My hope is that this book will help both pastors and elders to shepherd the women in their congregations, and to encourage women to thrive under the ministry of Word and sacrament, so that it flows out to the whole church, to their homes, and to their communities.” From the Introduction

Aimee Byrd has been blogging as the Housewife Theologian for years. This has turned into being an author and a cohost of The Mortification of Spin podcast with Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt. She, along with her husband and three children, are members of an OPC church.

She approaches this subject from a complementarian viewpoint. She affirms male headship of home and church. But she also pushes back against some forms of complementarianism as well as patriarchy. For instance, she takes issue with Piper on his views on which jobs are suitable for women outside the church. I think she is right to do so. In my opinion, in this view Piper sounds like he holds to patriarchy (he doesn’t, but is so far right on some points that it’s “leaky”, even though he affirmed women deacons on the left side of the spectrum). Byrd uses Pearl as an example of some bad theology, particular excerpts that espouse a form of patriarchy (the view that women are subject to men irrespective of their relationship).

She doesn’t see women as inferior or second class citizens of the kingdom of God. She has a vibrant view of ezer, or helper/ally. Women are called alongside their husbands to fulfill the creation mandate, not just to make babies and clean house. They are to study and learn, teach, encourage and serve the broader church. She wants to empower women to serve to the fullest of their abilities within the bounds God has established (though she doesn’t really interact with the different views on this, even among complementarians). Now that you know where she is coming from ….

Byrd breaks the book up into 4 parts. She begins with Pinpointing a Real Problem, then Examining Our Context, to Working toward a Solution and lastly Honing our Skills. There is a logical movement within the book. In the process there is plenty of theology, examples for illustration, and helpful ideas. There are also a few minor idiosyncrasies (I’m sure I’ve got a few myself). It is well-written and accomplishes its purpose. There was only one chapter in which I was left scratching my head because I was thinking “And…” since it really didn’t (in my opinion) answer the question.

What is the problem? It is two-fold in a sense. First, ministry to women is often isolated from the rest of the church. The officers of the church don’t want to be bothered and grant the women a fiefdom free from interference. Second, the books written for women are often filled with bad theology that often undermines the theology of the congregation. Byrd goes back to the temptation of Eve to understand this. Satan started with attacking Eve to undermine Adam. As Satan continues to war against the saints, he still employs this strategy. Why is this so important know? Often it is the women who are teaching the children. Multiple generations can be infected with bad theology or methods of interpretation.

“In his malevolent shrewdness, Satan when for the woman. He went after Adam’s gift from God, his bride. That was indeed a clever way to get to Adam. So it isn’t surprising today that Satan goes after Christ’s bride, his church, with the same distortion of God’s word.” (pp. 20)

She is right to point out these errors in books marketed especially for women. Many authors & speakers undermine the authority of the Scriptures by claiming to “hear” from God apart from the Scriptures (which is how the Spirit speaks, thru the Scriptures read or preached). Many are prone to eisegesis (reading into the text) rather than exegesis (reading out of the text). And there are all manner of doctrinal issues with regard to the Trinity, Christ, sin, redemption. Many promote false gospels as well. There is a profound lack of discernment, largely because church leaders haven’t been developing the skills for discernment to the women of the church (and often because pastors can exhibit some of these same problems in their sermons).

Aimee references how Paul addresses this problem in 2 Timothy 3:6-7.

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

She spends quite a few pages interacting with this text. Women then were being targeted. In particular, weak women. Not all women are weak, or better translated gullible. False teachers don’t seek to corrupt competent and equipped women. Like wolves they look for those who are gullible, guilty and immature. In Timothy’s context and ours, those wolves were in the church. Godly leaders must seek these women out too and help them to become competent and equipped.

She develops the idea of woman as a necessary ally (ezer). She is in covenant with the man she helps, they are married. Women  are not helpers to men generally, but a specific man. God is also a necessary ally to those to whom He is covenantally bound. The OT use of this term for God means such an ally is not servile or inferior. The ally has resources and a commitment to use them for the well-being of the other. Byrd notes a quote by Spurgeon long before Toula’s mother said the same thing to her.

Theology is essential for women, not just men. Paul supported the idea of women learning, just as Jesus did. In this way the neck can turn the head in good directions.

Having identified the problem(s), she addresses the context in which we live. She goes back to Genesis 1-3. Eve, as Adam’s ally, entertained Adam’s enemy. Even in really good places like the Garden love is vulnerable. Satan didn’t want them to expand the garden-temple throughout the earth. What was important was God’s mission. Marriage, among believers, is about God’s mission. They work together to accomplish it, not their own personal dreams and kingdoms. She does some theology connected Adam the First with Adam the Second (aka, Jesus) to understand creation, fall & redemption. Christ is restoring our relationships, our households and our churches (the household of God) as He applies redemption in both justification and sanctification. Here she mentions another problem, women’s ministry often focuses on “being a woman”, not simply on being a mature Christian who happens to be a woman. But her primary focus is developing a robust view of competent, godly women. In their household and God’s. She mentions the many women in both the OT and NT who were highly involved in God’s mission as prophets, patrons, servants, etc.

In her zeal for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, she has one of her idiosyncrasies. She doesn’t like the term women’s ministry, thinking it devalues the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We don’t need to talk about women’s initiatives (or men’s, children’s etc.). I think we can all understand that though separate, they are not ultimately distinct. We are serving these portions of the church by and thru the Word even if it isn’t the Word preached.

When she moves toward a solution, she begins with the question of men learning from women. This was the headscratcher of a chapter. On the positive side she mentions how all of us learn from women who are in Scripture, like the songs of Hannah and Mary. There are also those instances when women taught men directly (Hulda, Pricilla). Those passages aren’t “for women only”. This is also a chapter in which she pushes back against some of Piper’s stranger comments.  There was also an odd rabbit trail on Anne Hutchinson and Aimee Semple McPherson. It reiterated the idea that in the quest to be heard, some women talk about hearing direct messages from God. This would be more suitable in the first section of the book. The head scratching came in discussing parachurch ministries and the use of women speakers at conferences. Conferences are confusing. They have times of worship utilizing many of the elements of worship, and I’m not sure how you differentiate between a conference speech/lecture and a sermon. She seemed to not be quite clear. I will not be excommunicated for disagreeing with any teaching given at a conference (though some churches should consider excommunicating people who go to particular conferences, I am sort of kidding). Conferences are voluntary and there is no “membership” or discipline. Personally I have no problem with a woman speaking at such a conference intended for mixed audience. Perhaps it is my experiences at Ligonier where women like Elizabeth Elliot and Joni would speak. They didn’t clear out the men, and I don’t think they should. I can learn from women, and should learn from women. Like reading this book. I just felt like she didn’t answer the question, and experienced some cognitive dissonance.

In later chapters she focuses on what it looks like to be a competent ally. While there were some good thoughts there, I wish she could have developed a few more and been a bit less reliant on John McKinley, adding some of her own ideas to the mix. She identifies the three traits of a competent ally as equipped, having resolve and discerning. This last one takes up much of the rest of the book as Byrd discusses how to read, how to interpret and how to assess false teaching (not all false teaching is equal since not all doctrines have equal priority). This is the most practical section, obviously. And she doesn’t short-change it. She then provides examples for the reader to apply what they have learned with excerpts of books with bad theology, methods of interpretation or statements that undermine the Scriptures. You are encouraged to note the problems to develop greater discernment. She provides a caveat, she doesn’t want to put authors on a “do not read” list. This is not a discernment blog approach, and we shouldn’t have such an approach. Discernment isn’t just about spotting the bad, but also affirming the good.

She wraps up with a chapter on preaching and teaching to women. The focus is on men, the officers of the church. She wants to help us help the women under our care. This is in keeping with her stated purpose for the book.

I think she did a good job fulfilling the purpose of the book. At times she put material that may have been better suited for another section. But as one whose book is in the process of being published, I recognize how hard it can be to do. There is no air lock between sections, sealing content or ideas. There was enough theology to keep me engaged (not simply personal stories strung together to make a point) and she applied it well. I think this is a good book for church officers and key women to read so congregations can better minister to (serve) the women in their midst so they become fully mature in Christ.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »