Posted on Monday, May 30, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Remember The War Room? In my own circles, I heard from more than a handful of people who walked away from that movie saying they were inspired to pray more. One of my concerns was with what kind of theology on prayer and the God whom they were praying they also walked away with. I was especially concerned about that after reading and reviewing the lead actress’s bestselling book based on the movie. Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent was more about women’s struggles and Satan’s strategies than it was about God and prayer. I concluded my review pointing out that Shirer opens the book saying that praying with precision is key, and I wished that there was more precision in her teaching on prayer itself, her biblical exposition, and her theology on sin, God’s revelation, and spiritual warfare. 
 
So I wonder, how has the prayer life of those who watched The War Room or read Shirer’s Fervent changed a week, or a month, after being inspired? Has their prayer life improved in a sustainable way?
 
I’m going to put my neck out there and guess, no, no it hasn’t. But whenever someone recommends a book that has disturbing theology in it, I like to be able to reply with a recommendation of my own. So I am happy to offer Megan Hill’s new book, Praying Together to anyone who was intrigued by The War Room or Fervent. In fact, it’s a great little book that stays true to its subtitle: The Priority of Prayer in our Homes, Communities, and Churches.
 
Hill’s book does something Shirer’s does not---it focuses on the God we are praying to and a correct theology on prayer.  I also love that she explains what is happening when we pray. While Shirer focuses on Satan’s strategies, Hill teaches us that since we are relating to a Trinitarian God, “in prayer we approach a loving, listening Father, and we are helped by the intercession of the Son and the groaning of the Spirit.” She quotes her own father as explaining, “’When we pray, God talks to God.”(23). You see, Hill teaches us that God’s being, attributes, and work on our behalf has everything to do with our prayer life. And then she goes to God’s Word to teach us about the act of prayer and the fruits of praying together.
 
Together. Sure, it is vital to have a personal prayer life, but God’s people are a covenant community. And this is where you can see Hill’s passion. She teaches how we disciple one another in the gospel when we pray together. In praying together, we train one another in faith, theology, repentance, desire, thankfulness, and the act of prayer itself. 
 
Hill’s focus isn’t on separating ourselves into a special room with sticky notes of prayer requests on the walls, but on a sustainable prayer life together with God’s people. She has a wonderful chapter on the importance of corporate, elder-led prayer, including practical tips on how to pray when someone else leads. She then moves on to public prayer meetings in church life, teaching how to lead while others pray. The book ends with both rich and practical help on praying with others in our communities, and especially in our homes. 
 
This makes for an inspiring book that will help us to cultivate a sustainable prayer life both personally and in our homes, communities, and churches. Not only that, Hill teaches us how to pray effectively because her focus is on who God is, and what he is doing in when we pray. She handles God’s Word responsibly in her teaching. No, you won’t get the sensationalism of The War Room. You won’t get to be the star of your prayer life because of your own fervency in it. You will get something better---an ordinary, sustainable prayer life to an extraordinary, faithful God, with our eyes pointed to that Great Day when we will join him for eternity.
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
If Machen were living today, Jon Payne believes he would write another book. This one would be entitled Christianity & Evangelicalism.
 
Are Christianity and evangelicalism so radically different now that they actually constitute two different religions altogether? 
Is evangelicalism a rival to Christianity?
What are each founded upon?
 
Dr. Payne warns that he is not going to be highly nuanced in this sermon, as he is pleading with his congregation to hold fast to authentic Christianity. It’s a powerful message for the whole church, as we are living in a post-Christian culture. Who are we listening to? 
 
I recommend you do take a listen to our friend Jon, “No Payne, No Gain”:
 
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
My cohorts and I had a rousing conversation on today’s podcast about women teaching Sunday school. As we were sharing our opinions, I realized we were kind of arguing in circles because we did not share the same view of the function of Sunday school. So, I thought I would expand on that a little more, and I’ve asked Todd to do the same in response.
 
On the podcast, Todd said that Sunday school in his church is set up in such a way that it makes an impression of the teacher giving exhortation with authority, like it would be done during a worship service. And yet, the other elements of the worship service, such as the call to worship, the singing, confession of sin and assurance of pardon, congregational prayer, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the benediction, you get what I’m saying, are purposefully absent from Sunday school as to distinguish it from the worship service.
 
Of course, Sunday school does look very different than it did in its beginnings only a couple hundred years ago. It was first established in Britain, and eventually spread to the U.S., to teach overworked children affected by the Industrial Revolution how to read and write, with the Bible as the primary textbook. They were learning about the Christian faith as they were receiving a basic education. It was certainly not confused with the worship service, even as adults began attending and there was more mature exposition of Scripture.
 
This leads me to ask, why is it now? 
 
While I don’t think all Sunday schools in every church need to have the same set-up, the way that we present it does matter. So that raises a lot of questions. Is a Sunday school class equivalent to a worship service? To this, all three of us would agree in the negative. Should we be setting them up that way? Some do give that feel. And Todd made a distinguishing point that his church is much larger than Carl’s or mine, and therefore the Sunday school classes are not as easily set up in a cozy, casual manner. If the class is to be like a worship service, then we are going to want someone who is ordained or on that track delivering the “sermon.” However, Todd isn’t so much looking for an ordained person, or someone who may be called to ordination in the future. He wants someone who is equipped to teach and who is a man, as to not cause confusion.
 
So let’s take a look at what is similar, that may cause confusion. There is a teacher. And that person is teaching from Scripture. Secondly, Sunday school takes place in the same building as the church. Thirdly, Sunday school occurs on the same day as the worship service, usually immediately preceding it. That leads me to two more questions: With these three commonalities, is it then too difficult for us to distinguish between Sunday school and worship? And, if we are unable to discern the difference, should we continue to have Sunday school at all?
 
If we are to continue providing Sunday schools in our churches, there are good reasons to purposefully distinguish between those Sunday school classes and our worship services. The call to worship carries a summons from God. We are not summoned to attend Sunday school in this kind of authoritative manner. The call to worship is a call from God, invoking a response. And the liturgy begins, as our Father in heaven is the host. So one function offers general teaching in the setting of a class, the other offers the sacrament of the preached Word in a worship service. If Sunday school classes do not have all the elements of a worship service, why would we want to mimic one?
 
And this is where it gets more interesting. The biggest concern for not having women teaching Sunday school is so that we do not give the appearance of a woman teaching with authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). However, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with giving the appearance of a worship service without providing all the elements in worship, which is the context in which God promises to bless us in Christ. 
 
What kind of authority are we talking about here? Granted, some churches would have a problem with women teaching men even if it wasn’t confused with the worship service. But those who rightly want to protect the authority of the ministerial offices of the church, but do not go beyond the biblical parameters of headship and household may be undermining the very offices they are trying to protect. I agree with Todd that appearances are important. While I want to respect any equipped person that my elders ask to teach a class in church, I do not want him or her to have the appearance of carrying the same kind of authority as the elders. I want to be assured that every layperson is teaching under the accountability and guidance of the elder’s oversight. Because we do want to protect the household structures in God’s church, and we don’t want to host anything that would cause such confusion, we should aim to provide clarity on what the function of Sunday school even is. 
 
That’s why I don’t like the “err on the safe side” argument that I often hear. Why would we be content with erring on any side? We should be upfront about the differences and work at presenting the appearance of what we are actually doing.
 
Here’s what we miss when we err on the safe side:
 
1) The emphasis of the ministry of Word and Sacrament and real authority given to the officers of the church.
2) An opportunity for the elders to help equip all laypeople, including the women, to be teachers, skilled in the Word of righteousness, and to become mature and discerning (Heb. 5:12-14).
 
How can we help to encourage mutual learning between the men and the women in the church that trickles down from the ministry of Word and sacrament? This is where I see Sunday school functioning. 
 
I’ve already introduced what I think is a very helpful teaching regarding women as ezer, or necessary allies. To be an ally, we have to be equipped to teach. One can learn from Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s song in Scripture and see that they were well equipped in the Word, as well as resolved and discerning women. Necessary allies should be competent allies. Women are major influencers in the household of God. We are teaching all the time, most often in many informal ways, just like laymen in the church. And when the elders notice a woman who exhibits more of a formal gift to teach, wouldn’t they want to take an active role in helping her to mature in that way? Doesn’t it adorn the ministry of Word and sacrament to have the responsible and prepared reflections of the laymen and laywomen, learning and teaching as an extension of what they have received? I experience this kind of help and encouragement from the elders in my own church, and it supports and shapes both my learning and teaching. 
 
I could write a lot more about that, but sticking to the Sunday school topic, take a look at this conclusion from John Frame (offered to me by a reader once in my comments section) on the difference between women teaching from the special office in worship, and the general office in Sunday school. You will see that this presbytery report also agrees that appearances are important.
 
Since I know that Todd, Carl, and I all agree on the necessary contribution of women in the church, the need to equip them well, the special offices of the ministry, and the need to give proper appearances, I found it interesting that our perceptions about the function of Sunday school were really the main issue. And I’m looking forward to reading what Todd has to add or to differ from what I’ve suggested here.
Posted on Monday, May 09, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Today, Books at a Glance posted my review of a book I wish everyone would read. I posted a reading reflection from this book several weeks ago about propaganda masquerading as fluff, in evangelicalism, particularly in the women’s section of the Christian bookstore. Subverted is both a page-turner and an eye-opener. Here’s a portion of the review. Be sure to click on the link at the end to read it in full:
 
This is one of those books that got me making noises while I read it. Like a good meal, where you are just compelled to express “mmm’s,” and comments about the flavors and combinations of food, I read Subverted with both gasps and chuckles. This book is an eye-opener. Sue Ellen Browder kicks off her book apologizing that she has no good justification for the role she played in promoting the sexual revolution, as we know it today. She was duped herself, and yet takes responsibility for believing in propaganda over actual truth. And so she explains, “In the beginning, the women’s movement and the sexual revolution were distinctly separate cultural phenomena” (11).
 
Then Browder tells the story of how a movement that began with the wonderful goals to provide equality for women in the workplace, education, and domestic rites was subverted by another movement that deceptively promotes liberation by means of sexual promiscuity and abortion. Browder basically perpetuated this sabotage as a writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine in the 70’s–80’s. I have to say, even being the cynic that I am, I was shocked to hear about how Browder graduated from journalism school with all the idealistic fervor to be a good investigative reporter, landed her dream job to work for the glitzy Cosmo culture, and was immediately taught to make up sources and stories, complete with fictitious experts, creating the illusion of the life of the “Cosmo girl” persona. They flaunted the life of single, sexually uninhibited, aggressive, career women who supposedly were living the dream that was to be sold to all the so-called enslaved women out there.
 
Most of us are familiar with the name Betty Friedan as a leader of the women’s movement, made popular by her infamous book, The Feminine Mystique. And I would say many conservative Christians place much of the blame on her for feminism gone wrong. But Browder elaborately demonstrates how it isn’t that black and white. Freidan wasn’t originally a supporter of the sexual revolution and was repulsed by the images and messages Cosmo promoted. So how did a woman who valued motherhood, wanting to pave a way for moms to not be discriminated against in the workplace, end up becoming such a pivotal person in the sexual revolution? Why would she add a clause that is opposed to motherhood, the repeal of anti-abortion laws, in the National Organization of Women’s package of “women’s rights”?
 
Browder demonstrates how the behind the scenes manipulation and influence of a name that we are not familiar with plotted the course that Freidan foolishly helped to pave. “What happened between the closed doors between Larry Lader and Betty Friedan would misguide my thinking in such a way that it would change my whole life and the lives of millions of other Americans” (48). 
 
Read the rest here.
Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Okay, this post may or may not be the result of me using my Mother’s Day present before Mother’s Day. But while the fam is away, they have no idea whether I am breaking into my present for an early sampling. This year my major award for Mom of the Year is Christian Dogmatics, edited by Michael Allen and Scott Swain. And for that sampling, I was eager to read Scott Swain’s chapter on the covenant of redemption, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in Psalm 110.
 
It’s a great essay, but it was a footnote that wonderfully articulated something that has been bothering me for a while now. When it comes to popular Christian authors who teach bad doctrine, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern from those who should be troubled by their teachings. Whether it’s the universalism of Rob Bell, or the exalting of social justice coupled with the degradation of the preached Word of Jen Hatmaker, many who should know better will continue to tolerate their public voice---until they come out supporting homosexuality. Then all of the sudden, conservatives are full of outrage, ready to denounce these authors and warn us against them. But the homosexual argument is just a side effect, a natural consequence, of their bad theology that has already been revealed. And it usually centers on what they think about love.
 
What is the greatest end to which God directs all things? Following the statement, “By virtue of God’s free and sovereign decree, all things outside of God flow to the eternal love of the Triune God,” Swain provides a marvelous footnote (and glory be to God that it isn’t an endnote!). I give you footnote number 37:
 
Along with Bavink, I take exception to the tradition of describing the ultimate end of all things as the glorification of God’s mercy in election and the glorification of God’s justice in reprobation (Bavink, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:389). The glorification of God’s saving love toward sinners is a great end indeed, but it is not the greatest end toward which God directs all things: that honor belongs to the glory of the Father’s love for the Son in the Spirit. To put matters this way, I should add, is not to fall prey to the sentimental modern trap of elevating divine love over the other divine perfections for the simple reason that what the Father loves in the Son, and what the Father desires to put on display in and before all creatures, is the full array of divine perfections as they shine forth in the one who is the radiance of his glory and the exact imprint of his being (Heb. 1:3). The question naturally arises, though, how it can be said that all things flow to the love of the Triune God when God decrees that some creatures will inherit eternal condemnation for their sins. Following Tony Lane, we may suggest that even God’s wrath is an aspect of God’s love: while God’s wrath on impenitent sinners may not be an exhibition of love toward those sinners, it is nevertheless an exhibition of the Father’s love for the Son (Ps. 2) and for those who are elect in the Son (Ps. 36:10-12) (Lane, “The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God,”…138-67). (115) 
 
The greatest end to which God directs all things is the love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit. That’s where we see what real love is and what real goodness is. “By virtue of God’s free and sovereign decree, all things outside of God flow to the eternal love of the Triune God” (115). If we don’t get this, we get a whole lot of other things wrong.
 
The love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit is a marvelous glory to behold. And amazingly, we don’t see it displayed as we would have guessed. As Michael Reeves has put it, commenting on the same opening verses in Hebrews, “God’s innermost being (hypostasis) is an outgoing, loving, life-giving being. The triune God is an ecstatic God: he is not a God who hoards his life, but one who gives it away, as he would show in that supreme moment of his self-revelation on the cross. The Father finds his very identity in giving his life and being to the Son; and the Son images his Father in sharing his life with us through the Spirit” (Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, 45). 
 
On the cross we see “the full array of divine perfections as they shine forth in the one who is the radiance of his glory and the exact imprint of his being.” And in that display, how could we not also see his wrath as necessary to all unrepentant sinners, who clearly do not love the Son? 
 
Let’s be careful not to cling to a love that is too weak to understand the greatest end. Oh to behold that beatific vision, of Christ in all his glory, on that Great Day! Christ is preeminent in all things. Christ is our Messiah primarily because of the Father’s great love for the Son in the Spirit! Psalm 110 gives us a confession of that glory and a peek at that sovereign decree:
 
The Lord says to my Lord:
 “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
 
The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
 “You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
 
The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
 

 

Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Somehow, I’ve ended up with a copy of Ken Golden’s new book, Presbytopia, signed by none other than Carl Trueman. How does such a thing happen? Well, I certainly didn’t pilfer it right of his bookshelf or anything. I mean, he said I could have it. Now I’m wondering what other books I could have walked away with while he was in the giving mood…
 
What does it mean to be a Presbyterian? Many outside the denomination, and even some within it, have wondered this very thing. My Roman Catholic mother-in-law has conceded that her son is a much better Presbyterian than he ever was a Catholic. But she really doesn’t know much about where his confessions and practices of faith differ from her’s. Growing up as a Southern Baptist, I looked at Presbyterians as fuddy duddies who thought they were more special than everyone else.  In some of the retreats where I have spoken, I’ve heard women who’ve grown up in the church say things like they were good Presbyterians before they were Christians, or that they didn’t really even understand what was distinctive about Presbyterianism. And there are many Baptists who tolerate us Presbies, as they are thankful for many of our books, but don’t quite understand our positions on things like baptism and church government. Presbytopia helps cut through the stereotypes and get to the important matters with biblical clarity.
 
Membership classes are important.  First of all, the very idea of why one should join a church needs to be explained well. And we should never join a church without knowing what it believes, some of its history, and how it governs and worships. This is a big task for elders. Ken Golden has done the work in presenting and teaching these basics in an organized fashion with helpful discussion questions following each brief chapter.
 
While this will be an excellent resource for new membership classes, I think Presbytopia is a great little book for anyone who would like to learn more about Presbyterianism. I can’t believe how succinct it is. In just over a hundred easy to read pages, Golden covers the essentials of the Christian faith, Reformed distinctives on the doctrines of grace, church government, and worship, as well as the means of grace by which we receive Christ and all his benefits. I particularly liked his section on means of grace. His chapter on baptism should be extremely helpful for Presbyterian pastors who have credo Baptists in their congregations. It will be a go-to for me to help communicate the Presbyterian stance better to my Baptist friends.
 
Overall, I find Golden’s succinctness to be profitable. However, a couple sentences did have me wishing he’d either elaborated more, or had been even more concise in his wording, when discussing why the serpent approached Eve rather than Adam. Since the book serves as a tool for teaching and discussion in a membership class, I’m glad he proposes a question regarding that at the end of the chapter. I’m sure the discussion questions provided throughout the book will lead to great discussions in that setting.
 
Also, I wanted to mention the glossary of terms and sample liturgy given as appendixes. New lingo, or walking into a worship service in a denomination different from what you are familiar with, can be intimidating. Golden provides a handy way to quell that realm of the unknown.
 
What does it mean to be a Presbyterian? Pick up Golden’s book , or pilfer it from a friend’s bookshelf, and acquaint yourself with this well-presented guide.
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In my response to Kevin DeYoung, I asked a question that made a point, but also one that I hoped would provoke change. I asked how complementarianism can be healthy if women are not heard. I wondered where is this intra-complementarian discussion happening that DeYoung spoke of. And unfortunately, I have not seen any responses from complementarian men. I have received some encouragement in my comments, on social media, and privately through email, but am getting the usual sound of crickets from those men who are more or less the spokesmen of the complementarian movement.
 
And I’m not the only woman who is trying to sort through some of the troubling teachings in this movement. Since my article, Wendy Alsup has written A Unified Field Theory on Gender, and Thomas Jefferson, Headship, and I Corinthians II. She also mentions Hannah Anderson, whom we’ve interviewed on MoS about this issue. And today I have a thought-provoking guest post written by Rachael Starke. I’m not asking the Top Men to agree with everything we say, but these are all women worth listening to and who deserve engagement and not crickets. Now I will turn it over to what Rachael has to say about that: 
 
During many recent Easter sermons, some time was likely spent noting the significance of women being the first to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 24. The applications drawn out perhaps involved Jesus’ resetting of the gospel witness scales, inviting women into the work of proclaiming the good news of Jesus alongside men. But it’s possible that less attention was paid to the power dynamics involved, and how that turns this interaction, and others in the New Testament, into a warning to men in authority on the importance of heeding the words of women among whom they serve.
 
Many commentaries on Luke 24 will comment on the historical context of the women, that would likely have found them poorly educated, and their testimony in civil courts as inferior to men. But less commentary is usually offered on how Luke describes the men. The men to whom the women speak aren’t simply some of Jesus’ unnamed disciples. They are His apostles, commissioned by Him to be His disciple makers, to establishing and building of His church, and to documenting it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They are Jesus’ Top Men. 
 
Because of this, Luke employs specific literary tactics to expose the significant inversion of authoritative revelation at work when the women come to them.  In classic chiastic form, the women (lacking any authority and limited understanding) come bearing words of supreme, life-changing significance (Jesus is risen!). But the apostles (those with spiritual authority and understanding) toss their words aside (idle tales!).   The women bear the words of disciple-makers, while the apostles are the ones whose testimony is unreliable. On its own, this verse serves as a warning to men who perceive their position of authority as a deflector shield against receiving any insight or exhortation from women. But the testimony of the women to the resurrection is the second time in a week the Scriptures records a male leader’s failure to heed the words of a woman, and the prior incident is even more damning than the latter.  
 
Matthew 27 records the trial of Jesus by Pilate, prior to His crucifixion. Into the middle of the of the chief priests’ accusations and governor’s questions comes a word of warning from Pilate’s wife, while Pilate is sitting on his judgment seat, a symbol of his civic authority. It seems like a pretty audacious thing to do - like Jane Roberts sending a note to her husband John while he’s hearing arguments at the Supreme Court. But a hint to the reason for her urgency can be found in how the warning she wants to relay came to her. She’d had a bad dream.  Matthew ‘s gospel has recorded previous incidents where God has given instructions about Jesus through dreams to people.  This is just the first time He’s done so through a woman, and the first time His message isn’t heeded.  Even though Pilate is inclined to agree with his wife, he capitulates to the angry mob under the guise of maintaining civil order. The irony of his declaration of innocence is thick – far from absolving himself, he indicts himself as an active participant in the grossest act of injustice the world has ever seen. 
 
In both of these passages, the men to whom the women speak hold positions of significant authority, while the women hold none. But it’s clear in both cases where the moral authority lies, and more importantly, from Whom that moral authority is derived. The women in both scenarios seem to exemplify acting as a “necessary ally”, a term proposed by John McKinley at ETS as an alternate, more complete translation of “ezer kenegdo” than the common “suitable helper”.  In his paper, McKinley grounds his arguments in God’s naming of Himself as “ezer” to Israel, in the context of militaristic language to do with fighting, and winning, great battles against enemies. God is not merely “helping” Israel – he brings weapons of war to her aid, without which she would go down in defeat.  Pilate’s wife and the women testifying to the resurrection are, in essence, doing just that – bringing the words of God to bear on a moment of serious spiritual significance. When their words are disregarded, the men fall into error.
 
McKinley’s terminology came to mind as I followed last week’s Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference and the surrounding social media storm because of the participation of CJ Mahaney. A founding member of T4G, Mahaney’s ministry, and Mahaney himself, has been embroiled in a years-long and now fully public controversy regarding serious charges over his leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), particularly in the wake of now multiple incidences of mishandled child sexual abuse cases within the church network he lead. I’ve walked alongside more than one woman whose heart has been badly damaged by heavy-handed church leaders who’ve dismissed or minimized their testimonies of sexual or domestic abuse. My own family tree has been scarred in the same way.  When the controversy first broke open 3 years ago, I participated in several online interchanges with men about it, trying and failing to explain the betrayal women feel when men in leadership use their authority as a shield for themselves and one another, instead of for the vulnerable ones in their care. Hearing it happen again last week was even more painful than the first time, so I can imagine how it must have felt for others. 
 
The Calvinist in me couldn’t help but ponder the two other incidents that bookended the conference.  One was the announcement of yet another public leader of the Reformed Evangelical movement being removed from ministry for, among other sins, being domineering over those in his charge, and misusing his power and authority. The other event was a preconference hosted by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The theme of this conference-before-the- conference was “The Beauty of Complementarity”, and the topics covered comprised the themes for which the CBMW is becoming increasingly known – among them, that maleness is inherently expressed through leadership, femaleness expressed through submission, with both as absolutes in the contexts of church and family.  It was suggested that the church is lacking in “sanctified testosterone”, and, even more provocatively, that the gospel itself has “ a complementarian structure”. (Aimee has already offered up good and necessary objections to how our sanctification is worked out through our endocrine system; the latter comment deserves its own post.
 
What’s significant about the complementarian model CBMW is promoting, and groups like Together for the Gospel, Acts 29, SGM and others have been operating under, is that it emphasizes male leadership, but not male listening; womanly submission, but not womanly speaking.  It has viewed women as helpers, but not as necessary allies.  And in choosing to lead alone, leader after leader after leader has instead fallen in to sin, and ministries that have served so many so well are now left vulnerable.
 
I am certainly not arguing that simply incorporating more womanly counsel into a ministry will protect it or its leaders from sin or error. Nor am I suggesting that this is the only issue at play. But at this moment in history, when the church of Christ seems poised for some of the biggest battles against culture and secularism it has yet seen, she needs allies. 
 
She has allies. 
 
She needs to lean on them. 

 

Posted on Friday, April 22, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Kevin DeYoung has a post on his TGC blog today offering 9 Marks of Healthy Biblical Complementarianism. He begins his article explaining that there are some disagreements on how we talk about and practice complementarianism, saying:
 
The conversations can be pointed, the rhetoric heated. And yet, the fact that there is an intra-complementarian discussion taking place is a sign of the relative success of the movement. The complementarian camp is large enough to contain a fairly disparate group of people and personalities. The presence of disagreements and the need for definitions should come as no surprise. Sharpening is not a problem, so long as we are not unnecessarily sharp with each other.
 
My question is, where are these intra-complementarian conversations happening? No one from TGC or CBMW has ever responded to any of my questions or critiques of the movement. (Well, there was that one time that Denny Burk called Carl and me thin complementarians. I did appreciate him directly engaging with his thoughts at least.) And I began asking these questions as someone who was on their side, per se. I wanted to have some healthy, pointed conversation, but have been completely ignored.
 
I’m not trying to be unnecessarily sharp here, but there have been some teachings that call for necessary sharpness, I believe. 
 
And as I read the 9 marks of healthy biblical complementarianism, I see that none of them answer some of the important questions I’ve been raising. They all seem more of a buffer to keep a movement going, statements that sound nice but are basically ignoring the real problems. I certainly agree that our theology is important. And if Mr. DeYoung is serious when he says that it’s good for women to be “eager to go deep, get good theology, and challenge their hearts and minds,” then why is it that when women try to respectfully engage in the conversation with some sharpening, we are ignored? What’s complementarian about that? Shouldn't an important mark of healthy biblical complementarianism be that the women are listened to and given the decency of a direct response?
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I saw this troubling phrase in some tweets during last week’s conference for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It provoked that all to familiar, “What does that even mean?” response in me. And today there is an article on their website written by Jason Allen that uses the phrase, and attempts to explain what that means.
 
First, I want to say that I don’t intend to write as much as I do about complementarianism as it is being taught in Reformedish circles. I have other things I’d like to write about. However, I find this teaching dangerous to the church, to men, women, and children, and there doesn’t seem to be many willing to ask questions or challenge the propaganda. I do see something like “sanctified testosterone” as propaganda. If you read this article in full, you will see that the underlying message is that if you don’t support this brand of complementarianism, this call for sanctified testosterone, then you don’t see the very real importance of gender distinction and God’s design for men and women in the church. It also paints a picture of a church that is not going to flourish without the “reappearance of men.” 
 
There are so many statements in this article that I find troublesome, so I think the best way to approach this for the sake of brevity is to provide some quotes in italics with commentary following:
 
Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like. As to the first part of the sentence, that is a sweeping claim. Maybe it’s true? It isn’t my experience in my church. But I’ll take him at his word. As to the second part, I agree. But this article may be a reason for that.
 
Even within the church, much of the teaching on manhood has sent us toward two different, unhelpful poles. I agree. He goes on to illustrate those two poles as overly-feminine traits men should take on versus machismo and strong arming. 
 
Through this, the church needs to recover biblical manhood, Christian masculinity—what we might think of as sanctified testosterone. What you talkin’ bout, Willis?
 
Where there is a lack of men—mature, godly men—the church will invariably suffer. The church in want of biblical, masculine service and leadership is an anemic church. I agree that the church needs good men. But what the heck is masculine service? And is every man in the church called to lead all the women in the church? Please explain.
 
A lack of mature, biblical manhood was one of the central problems of the Corinthian church. Allen camps out here for a while, trying to prove that the real problem in the Corinthian church was the lack of biblical manhood. I would say most of the verses he uses point to a call for maturity in the faith for us all, not sanctified testosterone.
 
There is a defined role of leadership, authority, and protection men in the church must play. Is there? Please show me where this definition is. Again, is every man a head to every woman in the church? Are these the three words that you see as the most frequent commands to men in Scripture? And when we are talking about the ordained office, or male headship in the home, I’ve just written two articles addressing the problem with using this kind of language as primary, here and here
 
And just as a side note, the word ezer, used to describe Eve in Gen. 2:18, is the same word used to describe God as a ezer to Israel throughout the Old Testament.* And when you look at these verses, we see this word used to communicate great strength. I particularly find Psalm 89:17 interesting, “For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Here we have the word ezer, usually translated helper, translated strength. These verses are also saturated in military language as they describe God as Israel’s ezer. The root for this word is used one hundred, twenty-eight times in Scripture, meaning to rescue and save. It is used referring to God’s rescue in thirty cases, which we see mostly in the Psalms.* So, although I completely acknowledge men do have greater physical strength than women, and should use that for anyone’s protection whenever someone may be in need, women also have strengths that are vital to the church. Women are also called to be protectors, leaders even.
 
Men long for a higher calling. They need a higher purpose. Our hearts leap within us when we see exhibitions of courage, when we hear tales of heroism, when we witness valiant sacrifice. Women don’t long for a higher calling? Do men long for higher callings than women do? Is that a gender distinction? But don’t we also need to understand that there is courage in facing the everyday faithfully--for men and women? I don’t think Allen realizes that he is teaching a machismo-lite here. Is that what sanctified testosterone is? That is how he is describing these virtues:  Exhibitions of courage, tales of heroism, and valiant sacrifice, that needs to be witnessed, rather than quiet service that is always sacrificial.
 
As to forms and functions, we must be clear about what men must do. Biblical complementarity is not fundamentally about what opportunities women must forgo, but what responsibilities men must take up. So what I’m reading is that all men are the leaders of all women. They must be valiant and heroic. They must have sanctified testosterone.
 
Fourth, as preachers, let us cultivate gender distinction at all ages. As a child, my home church utilized Royal Ambassadors as discipleship curriculum for young boys and Girls in Action for young girls. RAs and GAs, as they came to be known, have largely given way to other—and often better—modes of children’s activities and discipleship. But I do miss the gender distinction they fostered, through their camaraderie and activities. Distinction does not necessarily mean segregation, but we must be intentional, even at the youngest of ages, to cultivate and channel boys into men and girls into women. I don’t think this is necessary. Can the little girls play with trucks in the nursery? Can boys pour the fake chocolate milk from the play kitchen? Why can’t boys and girls just learn from the Word side by side? There aren’t boy bibles and girl bibles. Frankly, I’m afraid of what some complementarians would teach to cultivate “gender distinction.” I heard of a large, well known, complementarian church that attempted to have the middle school girls begin practicing submission to the middle school boys. That’s completely unbiblical, foolish, and dangerous. People, why can’t we just teach our kids the Word?
 
Fifth, as preachers, we must intentionally enlist, equip, and empower men into leadership roles in our churches. Biblically, theologically, and logically, the indispensable ingredient to complementarianism is biblical manhood. One of the recurring arguments that undermines male leadership in the church is the absence of biblically-qualified male leaders. Let us determine to make the red herring, “What if there is no man to lead or preach?” an extinct species. Okay, I know this article is targeted for men, not women, but Allen seems to be leaving out some major ingredients to his definition of complementary---the women. I don’t think he is referring to just the ordained officers when he says, “male leadership in the church.” That is a problem for me. I certainly want to give proper respect and submission to the ordained office, and I do believe that Scripture teaches that office is to be served by certain, qualified men. But every man in the church is not a leader over every woman. 
 
And I have a suggestion for churches that are lamenting the lack of qualified men for office. Maybe there are less qualified men because we have not been properly investing in the women. Women are necessary allies in the household of God and in their private homes as well. If the church is only investing in men because they know that they need a new generation of officers, they are missing half of the “complementary” ingredients in collaboration. You won’t have strong men if you have weak women. And if the women’s voices are downplayed in favor of the men’s, the church will be missing out on much wisdom, examples of faithfulness, strength, courage, and godly influence. 
 
More urgently, can the church flourish without the reappearance of men?  Absolutely not. Brother pastors, let us recommit ourselves to raising up a generation of godly men, ready to lead and serve the bride of Christ I still don’t know what sanctified testosterone means. But this article does not sway me to change my suspicions. I will say that I know many wonderful men who faithfully serve the church, in their homes, and in their communities. I am thankful for them. They don’t do any deep studying of what biblical manhood is, and they’re not confused about their gender. And I’m pretty sure God is sanctifying their testosterone along with the rest of their being for that great day of resurrection and glorification.
 
Some of the teachings that have been coming from CBMW are very troubling. Pay attention.
 
 
*See Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:17; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1 – 2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9*See John McKinley, “Necessary Allies, God as Ezer, Woman as Ezer,” MP3 download, Wordmp3.com, accessed December 7, 2015, https://www.wordmp3.com/myaccount/my-downloads.aspx
Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
When it comes to relationships, the contemporary usage of the word head usually has a silent honcho at the end of it. And that really isn’t anything new. Even in antiquity, the head of state or household had greater status and priority over the body. In her book Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian, Michelle Lee Barnewall explains, “The head played perhaps the most critical role in the survival of the body. As a result, a vital concern was to protect the head at all costs” (155). The people would valiantly sacrifice themselves, by the thousands if need be, to protect their beloved king. Barnewall quotes Seneca:
 
In his defense they are ready on the instant to throw themselves before the swords of assassins, and to lay their bodies beneath his feet if his path to safety must be paved with slaughtered men; his sleep they guard by nightly vigils, his person they defend with and encircling barrier, against assailing danger they make themselves a rampart. (Clem. 1.3.3)
 
…Nor is it self-depreciation or madness when many thousands meet the steel for the sake of one man, and with many deaths ransom a single life…(Clem. 1.3.4). (155)
 
As it was the duty of the people to protect the head at all costs, self-preservation was a priority of the head, knowing that the “common good” of the people was dependent on his welfare. Lee-Barnewall introduces a second aspect to the tradition of the head explaining that, “as ruler, [he] was not called to be the one who loves but rather was more deserving of being loved” (156). So the self-sacrifice of the people for his security was an act of their love for their ruler. He was the head honcho. “The superior physical placement of the head was symbolic of its leading role in the body and resulted in specific behavioral expectations for both parties” (156).
 
This history, and I think our own natural defaults in thinking, is why Ephesians 5:21-33 is meant to be a shocking portion of Scripture. Barnewall comments that “we would expect Paul to instruct the wife, the body, to be willing to sacrifice for the husband, the head” (157). This would be the common way of thinking and make rational sense to the audience. However, Paul then teaches a complete kingdom reversal. “The husband as the head is called to give himself up for that wife as his body, just as Christ gave himself up for the church, which is his body. Furthermore, where normal expectations would have the body being the one to love the head, Paul states that the husband as head is to love his wife as body as Christ loved the church” (157).
 
Paul does show care for household order among Christians in a culture that was very concerned with honor and hierarchy, and where the order in a household was considered a microcosm of society. So when he refers to the husbands as the head and charges wives to submit to their husbands, there’s no surprises to the reader. But then he drops the doozy. The role of headship in Christ’s kingdom is a complete reversal to what they know. “While this behavior would be shameful in the larger culture, it was considered honorable in God’s economy. This is why it is imperative to note that Paul connects the husband’s actions with Christ” (158). And this is how he is to maintain unity in marriage, which has always been the primary duty of the husband. 
 
What are the main themes in the creation account? Authority? Leadership? Equality? Are these the words that most correspond to our sexual design and our relationships in marriage and the church? Lee-Barnewall challenges the way we read into the Genesis account with our own arguments by asking the reader to look at it in a literary perspective. She notes what is central to the text. There is to be unity between Adam and Eve. Barnewall concludes:
 
What “authority,” “leadership,” “equality,” and “rights” have in common is that they often highlight the individual over the community and God himself. What their reversals share is the potential to guide us to greater acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and a recognition of God’s ways in which the willing sacrifice for the other through the denial of self-interest results in unity and love. (177)
 
So taking a literary look at the Genesis account, she makes some points. The dominant themes are holiness, unity, and obedience to God. And God has chosen to reveal to us in Scripture his specific instruction to Adam about his responsibility in the marriage relationship. We are told that “Adam provides the source for Eve’s creation, and he is the only one told to bring unity to the relationship. He is the one who discovers that he needs Eve, not the other way around” (143). And yet, Adam does the opposite. Furthermore, after they sin, Adam objectifies his wife by blaming, “The woman whom you gave to be with me” (Gen. 3:12). He doesn’t say “It was Eve’s idea.” No, he refers to her as the “woman”, which is the far from displaying intimate union.
 
But we see from Eph. 5:21-33 that unity is still the husband’s primary duty. “Now the responsibility of the man manifests itself in giving himself for his wife rather than abandoning or blaming her, and thus imitating that last Adam rather than the first” (144).
 
Many will be disappointed that Lee-Barnewall doesn’t answer the big questions in her book about women in the ministry. She begins her book explaining that isn’t her aim. But I think what she does do is invaluable to the discussion no matter what your stance on complementarian and egalitarian issues are. There’s so much written about authority and submission, putting everything relational under these categories. Where are the books written about the honorable, sacrificial love of the head? "Christ's humility is a defining aspect, and not simply a qualifier. The uniqueness of eschatological headship lies not in modification but in reversal and paradox" (164). I think one reason why we may be lacking in this kind of writing is that the men who are living it (and there are many) don’t draw attention to themselves about how sacrificial and loving they are. Whatever the case, Ephesians 5 is just as shocking to our preconceived notions today as it was to its original audience. There’s no place for the honcho in Christian relationships.