Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
An article was brought to my attention on Saturday that was spreading like wildfire on Facebook. The article, Why Man and Woman Are Not Equal, already had over 11K shares (now it it’s almost up to 13K). The fact that the writer, Glenn Stanton, is the director of family formation studies at the Focus on the Family may explain some of the popularity. But when I read the article, I felt like we are never going to get out of the crazy cycle of evangelical gender tropes.
 
 
Sure, I wanted to agree with Stanton as I first began reading. There are differences between men and women, and we need to value these distinctions against a culture that is dominated by the sexual revolution and wants to paint gender as a fluid concept. And I agree with the title to a point. Men and women are not equal in all things. We are equal in value and worth. Both genders are made in the image of God. But, for starters, men can’t have babies. And they are physically stronger than women. They have greater muscles mass, broader shoulders, and a stronger grip. And although I want to be careful of stereotyping, there are some differences in our hormonal and psychological make-up. 
 
 
The author chose to focus on a particular identifier to reveal that men and women are not equal. And at first glance, women may be happy to read this, as he is certainly elevating them:
 
Women create, shape, and maintain human culture. Manners exist because women exist. Worthy men adjust their behavior when a woman enters the room. They become better creatures. Civilization arises and endures because women have expectations of themselves and of those around them.
 
 
He continues to show how women are the holders of all virtue, contributing to society by “making men behave,” and that “the most fundamental social problem every community must solve is the unattached male,” because wives make men more loving, nurturing, and willing to provide, therefore contributing more to society.
 
 
On Monday Morning I discovered that this article was being shared in my circles on blogs and social media. Poor Andrew Wilson just threw it out there on Twitter with a question for discussion. Hannah Anderson and I took the bait, and bounced off of one another about our concerns. I immediately thought of Sara Moslener’s book Virgin Nation, which traces the sexual purity movement in America, showing how it developed as an ideology linked to national security. This is the sort of branding I was reading in Stanton’s article. And from books like Moslener’s and the further research I have done of the cult of domesticity, I am able to pick up on this language pretty easily now.
 
 
Interestingly, before the first wave of feminism, women were viewed as the morally inferior sex. Because Eve was the first person deceived, women were not to be trusted. But with the turn of the 19th century, gender roles make a reversal. Now all of the sudden women became the morally superior sex. 
 
 
But was society the better for it?:
 
Women exploited their newfound status as moral superiors to extend their power beyond the domestic sphere and control the sexual behavior of men. Moslener connects the reversal of the female status as moral superiors in first wave feminism to the political movements fueled by evangelical tropes of manhood and womanhood…
 
Yet as women gained spiritual, social, and political influence, men began to feel threatened by a feminization of theology.
 
This is when the whole wave of muscular Christianity began to take root. The thing is, when you make either sex the holder of virtue, you are doing a lot of damage. Gender becomes an ideological commodity, a power struggle begins, and then there is an equally disturbing reaction.
 
 
But we already know the truth. Women are also sinners, and men don’t need to marry to be virtuous. Were Jesus and Paul just exceptions? No, “worthy” men are expected to be virtuous on their own. And they are to depend on the One who actually lived a righteous life as they strive for holiness, not on a woman. I will give Stanton a nod in agreement that men may adjust their behavior when a woman comes into the room. Women do that some too. But manners aren’t always virtuous; they can be very manipulative. Men aren’t to pretend to be virtuous when in front of women; they are called to be virtuous at all times. 
 
 
Just think for a moment---if this gender trope were true, why are we letting any men in leadership? But no, this is just Victorian era ideology skipping the record again. When we put the burden of virtue on one gender, these power dynamics go into play. Stanton is trying to replace the equality argument that is used in the fight for societal power today with a virtue argument that has already played out over and over again.
 
 
 
So I ask again, what compromises are we making to advance our own ideologies? Women and men need one another. Singles are also created for relationship in the covenant community, friendships, family roles, at work and school, and in loving their neighbor. And as Hannah pointed out in our Twitter conversation, this kind of reduction hinders real spiritual formation and discipleship. Women don’t need to play the virtue card to get a seat at the significance table. We can’t hijack the language of holiness that way. Men and women both need to sit under the preached Word, as a covenant community. We all need to hear God’s pure and holy law, accompanied by the gospel announcement. We cheapen both God’s common grace to all as well as his salvific work of holiness, calling sinners to repentance, and his work of salvation, sanctification, and glorification when we stereotype in this way. Women are a wonderful sex, but they are a horrible substitute for a savior.
Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
 
“Speechless.” That’s what Todd Pruitt titled as the subject of an email he sent with an attached article, ‘Sex Outside of Marriage Makes Me a Fabulous Mother’: Woman Has Unusual Reason for Cheating. And the article breaks it all down, an interview with a 49-year-old mom who is part of  “an ‘ethical non-monogamy’ community – where members openly indulge in extramarital sex with the full knowledge of their spouse.” Well isn’t that an oxymoron---“‘ethical non-monogamy.’ 
 
 
We could read this article and brush it off, shaking our heads that this is just someone in the fringes. Yet, I actually know people who may not be part of an organized community, but do openly indulge in extramarital sex with the full knowledge of their spouse. And I’ve been reading more and more articles like this, where cheaters openly celebrate their lifestyle, actually making a case for others to join them.
 
 
This woman, Gracie ‘X’, is open and upfront with her 11-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter about her lifestyle, bragging, “Having sex outside my marriage makes me a fabulous mother. Anything that keeps me happy and gives me energy makes me a better mother.” Her next comment may sound typical, but was the one that stood out the most for me:  
 
“Domestic life can get spectacularly boring and I need a separate adult life. The downside of monogamy is monotony.”
 
It’s interesting she put those two words together: spectacularly boring. It reminded me of something I read in Hillbilly Elegy.  After reading two great reviews* of J. D. Vance’s memoir, I knew I had to read it for myself. I took it along with me on vacation, but didn’t even get to crack it open at the beach. I read the whole thing during the car ride there. Now working as a biotech executive in Silicon Valley, Vance tells his story of growing up in the working-poor class of hillbillies. And it is a page turner. He writes about his mamaw who almost shot a man, lit her abusive husband on fire, and who was also Vance’s safe haven from a drug addicted, abusive mom who rotated husbands on a regular basis. He writes about hunger, shame, and the mentality upon a community that enables “learned helplessness.” He writes with compassion and tough love. Here is Vance’s explanation for writing this memoir:
 
 “I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor, and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children.”
 
That impact comes through loud and clear in his writing. But the comment above by Gracie “X” reminded me of a line in the book that stuck out to me. Vance recalled a conversation he had with his uncle who had also escaped his hillbilly lifestyle and poor hometown. The uncle commented that he had “’a typical middle class life.’ Kind of boring, by some standards, but happy in a way you appreciate only when you understand the consequences of not being boring.”
 
 
Make no mistake, Gracie “X’s” children are paying the consequences of not being boring. They are living in spiritual poverty. Once again, it is the vulnerable picking up the tab for those who think they can afford to make their own rules. A monogamous marriage would have been spectacularly boring for Vance. That is the lifestyle that he would like to have with his own wife now. If he has children, I’m sure that is what he wants to offer them as a gift, a mom and dad who are spectacularly boring because they are committed to one another. What a marriage to behold!
 
 
I’m not sure what a happy mom is. Does it take multiple sex partners to be happy? Does it take drug addiction? No, these are enslavement. I am not always happy, but I have the eternal joy of being redeemed from my sin, no longer a slave, and living under the reign of true grace. Gracie “X” is a counterfeit---one that promises fulfillment and excitement but delivers poverty and pain. The counterfeit will never provide true joy and ultimate fulfillment. 
 
 
A woman doesn’t need to get in bed with men to be happy. That is another counterfeit message of Gracie “X.” But a married woman living under the reign of grace is equipped to have a spectacular love life, one that is faithful in the mountaintop moments as well as the valleys of despair. And that is something beautiful to give to her children.
 
 
*Two great Reviews: 
 
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
The quality of Christian books marketed to women is very important to me. So I do a lot of reviews of the good, the mediocre, the challenging, the bad, and the just plain ugly. I review books here on MoS, for Books at a Glance, and will soon be reviewing for Westminster Bookstore
 
Here is a review that has just posted on Books at a Glance on a topical book that is an easy, introductory level read. Maybe you or someone you know is going through a season of waiting. This book could be helpful:
 
Seasons of Waiting: Walking By Faith When Dreams Are Delayed
by Betsy Childs Howard
 
 
This is a great topic for a book.  Most of us go through seasons of waiting for something, but do we wait well? The answer to that question often depends on what we are waiting for, how long it’s going to take, and whether our expectations are fulfilled. Maybe if we had those answers upfront, we wouldn’t be so anxious in the waiting. But the fact that we often don’t get those answers is where the agony of waiting sets in.
 
 
We live in a world with a “What are you waiting for?” mentality, full of selfish ambitions and immediate gratification. And yet some of our best treasures have a waiting room of sorts. Sometimes, that waiting doesn’t see fulfillment on this side of the resurrection.
 
 
A godly spouse is worth the wait, but we don’t get a guarantee that will happen. Are you waiting for a husband? If you desire to marry, why hasn’t God provided that opportunity? Are you waiting for a child? What do you do when faced with infertility? Are you waiting for a place to call home? Isn’t that the American dream? Maybe it is more desperate than this. Maybe you are waiting for God to answer your prayers for physical healing. Is he listening? Maybe you are currently pleading with God to lead your prodigal child or spouse to repentance. Could you have done better? Will you ever know? Will you have to live like this forever?
 
 
These are all chapters in Betsy Childs Howard’s book. She opens with a chapter explaining The School of Waiting, explaining, “Waiting exposes our idols and throws a wrench into our coping mechanisms. It brings us to the end of what we can control and forces us to cry out to God” (16). Our waiting isn’t a waste of time. It is a providential way God works for our sanctification. And how we live while we are waiting is a testimony of our faith.
 
 
Read the rest of the review here.
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Denny Burk, the new president of CBMW, has posted an update on his take-aways from the Trinity debate. I am encouraged to see some of the statements he made in that update, particularly how he affirms Nicene Trinitarianism, identifying with it “all the more fervently (and with greater clarity),” saying, “I believe in eternal generation, a single divine will, inseparable operations, and the whole Nicene package." This is great to hear from the president of CBMW. I also affirm with Burk that Scott Swain and Michael Allen’s works have offered much help to clarify teaching. 
 
 
And yet, I am still uncertain about what he means in some of his explaining on Eternal Functional Subordination of the Son. And I am especially perplexed by his conclusion that CBMW has only existed to promote the Danvers Statement, and for that reason CBMW can remain silent when it comes to the Trinity controversy (starting after this post by their president, I presume). So I would like to briefly question those two claims,and then offer an alternative for what Denny Burk could do as president of CBMW.
 
 
ESS/EFS/ERAS:
 
Burk says:
 
Before this debate, I understood the “eternal” submission of the Son as a mere affirmation that the Bible teaches that the Son submits to the Father in some sense in eternity. It is called “eternal” not because of any ontological inequality of essence or being, but merely because the Bible indicates that the Son submits to the Father in some sort of economic/functional sense in eternity (i.e., before the incarnation and after the consummation). I would have understood it as nothing more nor less than that.
 
 
This perplexes me. From the beginning, critics of ESS have affirmed an economic submission of the Son, particularly making a point to explain the context for how that applies in the covenant of redemption, while firmly insisting that there is no eternal subordination in the ontological relationship within the Trinity. From the beginning, we have been providing very specific quotes from ESS proponents that teach otherwise, asking for a retraction of this unorthodox teaching on the Trinity and affirmation of confessional Nicene Trinitarianism. And yet, Burk was among the first to take to Twitter accusing us of being closet feminists and accusers of the brethren (**correction---when pushed on the 'accuser of the bretheren' comment on Twitter, Burk tweeted in response that it's "unnecessarily inflammatory, and I am sorry for writing it. I will delete it." I shouldn't have brought that one up again.) for this important distinction. So it was a bit strange to read this explanation of how he understood ESS “from the beginning” and square that with how he reacted in the beginning of this debate. 
 
 
While it is good to see Burk distance himself from the EFS of Ware and Grudem, he still wants the big umbrella that would affirm the orthodoxy of their teaching on the Trinity. This is very troublesome, and I will comment more on its impact in my conclusion.
 
 
CBMW
 
Burk concludes that there is no need for CBMW to get involved in this Trinity stuff anymore and paints a picture as if CBMW’s teaching has nothing to do with all this controversy:
 
I am a Danvers complementarian. That view of gender is not and never has been reliant upon an analogy to the Trinity. Biblical complementarianism neither stands nor falls on speculative parallels with Trinity… 
 
CBMW exists to promote the Danvers vision, which is silent on this current controversy. For that reason, my view is that CBMW does not need to be adjudicating the Trinity debate.
 
 
This conclusion is just plain irresponsible. Much of the teaching that we have been critiquing has come from CBMW sponsored events, the latest book by the former CBMW president, and writings from men who are either on the CBMW council or board. In fact, here is a CBMW document from 2001 on their position on the Trinity, 
connecting ESS directly to complementarian position. It contains statements such as these:
 
 
These arguments will be weighed and support and will be offered for the church's long-standing commitment to the trinitarian persons' full equality of essence and differentiation of persons, the latter of which includes and entails the eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to both Father and Son.
 
Because the structure of authority and obedience is not only established by God, but it is, even more, possessed in God's own inner trinitarian life, as the Father establishes his will and the Son joyfully obeys, therefore we should not despise, but should embrace proper lines of authority and obedience. In the home, believing community, and society, rightful lines of authority are good, wise, and beautiful reflections of the reality that is God himself. This applies to those in positions of God-ordained submission and obedience who need, then, to accept joyfully these proper roles of submission. 
 
We more readily associate God with authority, but since the Son is the eternal Son of the Father, and since the Son is eternally God, then it follows that the inner trinitarian nature of God honors both authority and submission. Just as it is God-like to lead responsibly and well, so it is God-like to submit in human relationships where this is required. It is God-like for wives to submit to their husbands; it is God-like for children to obey their parents;… We honor God as we model both sides of the authority-submission relationship that characterizes the trinitarian persons themselves.
 
 
You can’t make a claim that ESS and CBMW complementarianism aren’t connected when there’s an official statement on your website connecting the two. And what has happened since then is a building upon this connection. In fact, just as recently as this spring, at CBMW’s last official conference, “The Beauty of Complementarity,” many statements were made connecting ESS/EFS to complementarianism, and not in the way Burk is now trying to frame it within an economic context, but rather an ontological one of authority and submission. Conveniently for the then president Owen Strachan, this conference also coincided with the release of his new book, firmly connecting ESS/ERAS with complementarity---a book that Denny Burk, Albert Mohler, and Bruce Ware all wholeheartedly endorsed.
 
 
Furthermore, Owen Strachan pushed the matter in his conference talk, stating, “The gospel has a complementarian structure.”  The implication is that anyone who does not subscribe to his teaching on complementarity, the one that directly connects ESS to “biblical” manhood and womanhood, is denying the gospel. There were many respected leaders at this conference who could have expressed their concern on some of the teaching going on next to their own. But they didn’t, rather they stood by silently while the entire paying audience absorbed it, sanctified testosterone and all.
 
 
So seeing Burk write that there is no connection, downplaying any relation between CBMW and the errant teaching on the inner life of the Trinity just isn’t true.
 
 
In his post, Burk gives advice to his readers to listen to their critics. This is what I have been begging CBMW to do from the start, not only with the extremely important teaching on the Trinity, but also with the other strange teachings they have published on complementarity.
 
 
What Denny Burk Can Do Now
 
 
I am currently reading Rusty Reno’s The Idea of a Christian Society, and am making huge connections on why Burk’s conclusion here is so damaging. It’s why I have been speaking up all along. Reno makes a case for how the lower class society, or underclass, is picking up the tab for what he calls the “nonjudgmentalism” moral consensus of the upper class. This is exactly what I see happening within the new Calvinist evangelicalism. It doesn’t hurt Denny Burk or Albert Mohler to endorse these books teaching ESS or ERAS, to affirm the orthodoxy of Grudem, Strachan, and Ware’s teaching on the Trinity and complementarianism, and to continue to headline together at conferences. But I see who picks up the tab for this irresponsibility, and it is the regular church-going people who are trying to honor God in their singleness, or as wives and husbands. 
 
 
I have seen it in my own experiences, and I am seeing in all the emails I am getting from women who can’t use a word like career, lest it sound too ambitious; women who have no voice in their church, because the men are the leaders who make all the valuable input; women who are stuck in ministries that teach “True Womanhood,” yet are considered divisive to point out heretical teaching on the Trinity in their book study (even after pointing out a statement that the Trinity consists of “individual and distinct beings"); women who are frustrated because they do not fit into the “biblical womanhood” box of nursery duty and pot lucks and feel marginalized in their own church; and women who have expressed their conflict of desiring to be “good complementarians” while wanting to cry when they read some of the material from CBMW. Worse, I hear from women who are in and who have come out of abusive situations under this kind of irresponsible teaching. I'm not surprised that they end up questioning it all. When our loudest and highest paid complementarian voices advocate such a poor theology and environment for women, Christians want to reject complementarianism. 
 
 
So when Burk and Mohler say that CBMW is all about the Danvers Statement and has no connection with ESS, I am not buying it. Not only that, I am suspicious when I read the Danvers Statement. With all the teaching coming from CBMW linking an ontological role of authority and subordination within the Trinity to womanhood and manhood, I am concerned by what they mean with some of the language. For example, this affirmation:
 
1. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).
 
So what Denny Burk could do is listen to all of this critique and think about the people who are affected by all the teaching that has come out of and influenced by CBMW. Good for him that he is seeking more clarity this summer on his confession on the Trinity, but what about all that has already been promoted and endorsed? 
 
 
You can't continue to endorse unorthodox doctrine on the Trinity as a model for manhood and womanhood and be healthy. You can't ignore the voices of many and be healthy. You can't go on Twitter saying we want scalps, are accusers of the brethren, and are closet feminists because we have legitimate concerns about the content of their teaching and be healthy. I am tired of the throat clearing posts that include wonderful statements against abuse and promoting loving leadership from the same people who refuse to directly address, retract, and correct teaching that fuels abuse from their own men. It isn't right.
 
 
I would love to see CBMW clean house and actually be the leaders they write about sometimes, I really would. But I am not going to accept a veneer of concern without real change. At this point it appears that all the proponents of ESS will still be people of influence there. No one from CBMW has made a statement retracting the teaching on ESS/ERAS/EFS, rather they continue even in Strachan's resignation announcement to promote his book that teaches it. They continue to assure us that it is orthodox. And none of Ware or Grudem's writings on it have been retracted either. They are all leaders there still. Nor has there been any explanation or apology for the Sanctified Testosterone teaching or Soap Bubble Submission (although that particular post has disappeared). Nothing. All of that teaching needs to be retracted, with apologies at this point, for CBMW to have any credit in my book. Denny Burk could lead the way in doing that.
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Denny Burk, the new president of CBMW, has posted an update on his take-aways from the Trinity debate. I am encouraged to see some of the statements he made in that update, particularly how he affirms Nicene Trinitarianism, identifying with it “all the more fervently (and with greater clarity),” saying, “I believe in eternal generation, a single divine will, inseparable operations, and the whole Nicene package." This is great to hear from the president of CBMW. I also affirm with Burk that Scott Swain and Michael Allen’s works have offered much help to clarify teaching. 
 
 
And yet, I am still uncertain about what he means in some of his explaining on Eternal Functional Subordination of the Son. And I am especially perplexed by his conclusion that CBMW has only existed to promote the Danvers Statement, and for that reason CBMW can remain silent when it comes to the Trinity controversy (starting after this post by their president, I presume). So I would like to briefly question those two claims,and then offer an alternative for what Denny Burk could do as president of CBMW.
 
 
ESS/EFS/ERAS:
 
Burke says:
 
Before this debate, I understood the “eternal” submission of the Son as a mere affirmation that the Bible teaches that the Son submits to the Father in some sense in eternity. It is called “eternal” not because of any ontological inequality of essence or being, but merely because the Bible indicates that the Son submits to the Father in some sort of economic/functional sense in eternity (i.e., before the incarnation and after the consummation). I would have understood it as nothing more nor less than that.
 
 
This perplexes me. From the beginning, critics of ESS have affirmed an economic submission of the Son, particularly making a point to explain the context for how that applies in the covenant of redemption, while firmly insisting that there is no eternal subordination in the ontological relationship within the Trinity. From the beginning, we have been providing very specific quotes from ESS proponents that teach otherwise, asking for a retraction of this unorthodox teaching on the Trinity and affirmation of confessional Nicene Trinitarianism. And yet, Burk was among the first to take to Twitter accusing us of being closet feminists and accusers of the brethren for this important distinction. So it was a bit strange to read this explanation of how he understood ESS “from the beginning” and square that with how he reacted in the beginning of this debate. 
 
 
While it is good to see Burk distance himself from the EFS of Ware and Grudem, he still wants the big umbrella that would affirm the orthodoxy of their teaching on the Trinity. This is very troublesome, and I will comment more on its impact in my conclusion.
 
 
CBMW
 
Burk concludes that there is no need for CBMW to get involved in this Trinity stuff anymore and paints a picture as if CBMW’s teaching has nothing to do with all this controversy:
 
I am a Danvers complementarian. That view of gender is not and never has been reliant upon an analogy to the Trinity. Biblical complementarianism neither stands nor falls on speculative parallels with Trinity… 
 
CBMW exists to promote the Danvers vision, which is silent on this current controversy. For that reason, my view is that CBMW does not need to be adjudicating the Trinity debate.
 
 
 
This conclusion is just plain irresponsible. Much of the teaching that we have been critiquing has come from CBMW sponsored events, the latest book by the former CBMW president, and writings from men who are either on the CBMW council or board. In fact, here is a CBMW document from 2001 on their position on the Trinity, 
connecting ESS directly to complementarian position. It contains statements such as these:
 
 
These arguments will be weighed and support and will be offered for the church's long-standing commitment to the trinitarian persons' full equality of essence and differentiation of persons, the latter of which includes and entails the eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to both Father and Son.
 
Because the structure of authority and obedience is not only established by God, but it is, even more, possessed in God's own inner trinitarian life, as the Father establishes his will and the Son joyfully obeys, therefore we should not despise, but should embrace proper lines of authority and obedience. In the home, believing community, and society, rightful lines of authority are good, wise, and beautiful reflections of the reality that is God himself. This applies to those in positions of God-ordained submission and obedience who need, then, to accept joyfully these proper roles of submission. 
 
We more readily associate God with authority, but since the Son is the eternal Son of the Father, and since the Son is eternally God, then it follows that the inner trinitarian nature of God honors both authority and submission. Just as it is God-like to lead responsibly and well, so it is God-like to submit in human relationships where this is required. It is God-like for wives to submit to their husbands; it is God-like for children to obey their parents;… We honor God as we model both sides of the authority-submission relationship that characterizes the trinitarian persons themselves.
 
 
You can’t make a claim that ESS and CBMW complementarianism aren’t connected when there’s an official statement on your website connecting the two. And what has happened since then is a building upon this connection. In fact, just as recently as this spring, at CBMW’s last official conference, “The Beauty of Complementarity,” many statements were made connecting ESS/EFS to complementarianism, and not in the way Burk is now trying to frame it within an economic context, but rather an ontological one of authority and submission. Conveniently for the then president Owen Strachan, this conference also coincided with the release of his new book, firmly connecting ESS/ERAS with complementarity, a book that Denny Burk, Albert Mohler, and Bruce Ware all wholeheartedly endorsed.
 
 
Furthermore, Owen Strachen pushed the matter in his conference talk, stating, “The gospel has a complementarian structure.”  The implication is that anyone who does not subscribe to his teaching on complementarity, the one that directly connects ESS to “biblical” manhood and womanhood, is denying the gospel. There were many respected leaders at this conference who could have expressed their concern on some of the teaching going on next to their own. But they didn’t, rather they stood by silently while the entire paying audience absorbed it, sanctified testosterone and all.
 
 
So seeing Burk write that there is no connection, downplaying any relation between CBMW and the errant teaching on the inner life of the Trinity just isn’t true.
 
 
In his post, Burk gives advice to his readers to listen to their critics. This is what I have been begging CBMW to do from the start, not only with the extremely important teaching on the Trinity, but also with the other strange teachings they have published on complementarity.
 
 
What Denny Burk Can Do Now
 
 
I am currently reading Rusty Reno’s The Idea of a Christian Society, and am making huge connections on why Burk’s conclusion here is so damaging. It’s why I have been speaking up all along. Reno makes a case for how the lower class society, or underclass, is picking up the tab for what he calls the “nonjudgmentalism” moral consensus of the upper class. This is exactly what I see happening within the new Calvinist evangelicalism. It doesn’t hurt Denny Burk or Albert Mohler to endorse these books teaching ESS or ERAS, to affirm the orthodoxy of Grudem, Strachan, and Ware’s teaching on the Trinity and complementarianism, endorse their books, and to continue to headline together at conferences. But I see who picks up the tab for this irresponsibility, and it is the regular church-going people who are trying to honor God in their singleness, or as wives and husbands. 
 
 
I have seen it in my own experiences, and I am seeing in all the emails I am getting from women who can’t use a word like career, lest it sound too ambitious; women who have no voice in their church, because the men are the leaders who make all the valuable input; women who are stuck in ministries that teach “True Womanhood,” yet are considered divisive to point out heretical teaching on the Trinity in their book study (even after pointing out a statement that the Trinity consists of “individual and distinct beings"); women who are frustrated because they do not fit into the “biblical womanhood” box of nursery duty and pot lucks and feel marginalized in their own church; and women who have expressed their conflict of desiring to be “good complementarians” while wanting to cry when they read some of the material from CBMW. Worse, I hear from women who are in and who have come out of abusive situations under this kind of irresponsible teaching. I'm not surprised that they end up questioning it all. When our loudest and highest paid complementarian voices advocate such a poor theology and environment for women, Christians want to reject complementarianism. 
 
 
So when Burk and Mohler say that CBMW is all about the Danvers Statement and has no connection with ESS, I am not buying it. Not only that, I am suspicious when I read the Danvers Statement. With all the teaching coming from CBMW linking an ontological role of authority and subordination within the Trinity to womanhood and manhood, I am concerned by what they mean with some of the language. For example, this affirmation:
 
1. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).
 
 
So what Denny Burk could do is listen to all of this critique and think about the people who are affected by all the teaching that has come out of and influenced by CBMW. Good for him that he is seeking more clarity this summer on his confession on the Trinity, but what about all that has already been promoted and endorsed? 
 
 
You can't continue to endorse unorthodox doctrine on the Trinity as a model for manhood and womanhood and be healthy. You can't ignore the voices of many and be healthy. You can't go on Twitter saying we want scalps, are accusers of the brethren, and are closet feminists because we have legitimate concerns about the content of their teaching and be healthy. I am tired of the throat clearing posts that include wonderful statements against abuse and promoting loving leadership from the same people who refuse to directly address, retract, and correct teaching that fuels abuse from their own men. It isn't right.
 
 
I would love to see CBMW clean house and actually be the leaders they write about sometimes, I really would. But I am not going to accept a veneer of concern without real change. At this point it appears that all the proponents of ESS will still be people of influence there. No one from CBMW has made a statement retracting the teaching on ESS/ERAS/EFS, rather they continue even in Strachen's resignation announcement to promote his book that teaches it. They continue to assure us that it is orthodox. And none of Ware or Grudem's writings on it have been retracted either. They are all leaders there still. Nor has there been any explanation or apology for the Sanctified Testosterone teaching or Soap Bubble Submission (although that particular post has disappeared). Nothing. All of that teaching needs to be retracted, with apologies at this point, for CBMW to have any credit in my book. Denny Burk could lead the way in doing that.
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Yesterday I wrote about the state of our culture revealed by the spokesperson for one of our presidential candidates saying Marlania Trump’s published nude photos are nothing to be embarrassed about because she is beautiful. I then made a contrast with another woman who heard the opposite when she wanted to use her body for a weekend fling. She was rejected because her body was too wrinkly, yet was still able to stand naked in from of the mirror unashamed.  Please read that article in conjunction with this one.
 
 
But hey, everyone can get in on the 15 minutes of fame now without having to wait for a Playboy contract or even a guy willing to take you out for the weekend. Sure, celebrities are leading the way, but 46-year-old moms and teenagers alike are now encouraged to take pride in sharing their naked selves with the world. In their article for The Weekly Standard, Judith Miller and Ann Marlowe highlight Kim Kardashian, who kicked off a whole slew of celebrity support sending the message that they can be proud to post their naked bodies on social media for all to admire. The authors conclude, “Sharing nude selfies is just the latest form of ‘empowerment,’ or exhibitionism, at the expense of self-respect.”
 
 
What is it that makes women want to expose themselves in such desperate fashion, demanding strangers to venerate their bodies? And why do they have to keep assuring everyone that there’s no shame in it? Are their beautiful, naked bodies their glory?
 
 
But there is shame. 
 
 
It’s right there in Geneses 3. Before the fall, we read, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). But after they sinned, their eyes were opened to the fact that they were naked and needed a covering. Once they sinned, they couldn’t bear their nakedness. We’re not talking about a casual relationship here either. We’re talking about the very first married couple. Were they merely ashamed of their nakedness before one another? I don’t think so. Clearly, they shared their nakedness in sexual intimacy later. But this shame of being exposed is not only before one another, it is before the whole creation, their God, and even the angels. Man’s glory has been corrupted because man turned from the true glory of his Maker and his Maker’s goodness to seeking his own glory to rule by his own goodness. 
 
 
And so even now, we see more attempts to recapture that counterfeit glory. As soon as you try to exploit beauty, you’ve corrupted it into something to consume. Sure, sinful hearts find pleasure in that corrupted beauty. Naked flesh becomes the object of desire rather than covenant union with the person. But we know it isn’t right. We all know. We know that true beauty does not need marketing and advertisement. We know that obnoxious appeals for attention are desperate. We know that a truly beautiful woman doesn’t need to tell everyone she’s beautiful---with words or naked pictures.  
 
 
Beauty is not something we acquire over others. It is something that we share with others in an appropriate way.
 
 
There’s no shame in beauty. But because we are still sinners, we still need a covering. We cannot be naked and unashamed. For those of us in Christ, our clothing, just like the animal skins that God made for Adam and Eve to replace their fig leaves of their own covering, points to our ultimate covering of Jesus Christ’s blood over our sin and his righteousness accredited to us. 
 
 
Unveiled Glory
 
 
The ultimate glory that we seek is to behold the face of Jesus Christ, our bridegroom. The Christian’s expectation is the beatific vision and there will be nothing more beautiful to behold in eternity. We shall see Jesus Christ as he is in his unveiled glory.
 
 
This brings me back to the sharing of our nakedness, our sexual intimacy in marriage. As Scripture tells us that our marriages here are a picture of this much greater marriage, we gain more understanding of why there is no shame in the pleasure of sexual intimacy in marriage. In this intimacy there is a different kind of unveiling between a wife and a bridegroom, one in the context of a marriage where this husband is to also give himself up for his bride. Christ has cleansed us with his own blood, and our husbands are to cleanse us in keeping God’s word. 
 
 
Holiness and purity are beautiful. And so is grace. In the covenant context of Christian marriage, we experience all of this. We strive for holiness. We offer grace. Our nakedness is a perpetual reminder of our need for redemption and our longing for incorruptible, resurrected bodies. And our union of flesh, our “knowing” one another so intimately, and the pleasure that brings is mysteriously fascinating. It should never be cheapened. But as wonderful as that is, we long for the consummation of our much greater union with Christ.
 
 
Our nakedness should humble us, not empower us.
 
 
And so back to these nude selfies. They don’t glorify the woman; they cheapen her. When women publish nude pictures of themselves, they are succumbing to a longing for acknowledgement of a beauty that is exceptional and unique. But the effect is the opposite.
 
 
Again, I turn to C.S. Lewis, who is one of the few who have written so remarkably on the topic, before even knowing about the future of sexual exploitation in selfies: 
 
Are we not our true selves when naked? In a sense, no. The word naked was originally a past participle; the naked man was the man who had undergone a process of naking, that is, of stripping or peeling (you used the verb of nuts and fruit). Time out of mind the naked man has seemed to our ancestors not the natural but the abnormal man; not the man who has abstained from dressing but the man who has been for some reason undressed. And it is a simple fact—anyone can observe it at a men's bathing place—that nudity emphasises common humanity and soft-pedals what is individual. In that way we are "more ourselves" when clothed. By nudity the lovers cease to be solely John and Mary; the universal He and She are emphasised. You could almost say they put on nakedness as a ceremonial robe—or as the costume for a charade. (The Four Loves, 104, Kindle Edition, boldface mine.)
 
 
But in the act of love we are not merely ourselves. We are also representatives. It is here no impoverishment but an enrichment to be aware that forces older and less personal than we work through us. In us all the masculinity and femininity of the world, all that is assailant and responsive, are momentarily focused. (103)
 
 
Which woman do you want to represent---every other desperate woman who sacrifices her body as a quick object to gratify a man’s lust, or a covenant bride to the husband who sacrifices his own life for her good?
 
Sexuality is still mysterious to us. Lewis again articulates the wonder and baseness of it all:
 
For I can hardly help regarding it as one of God's jokes that a passion so soaring, so apparently transcendent, as Eros, should thus be linked in incongruous symbiosis with a bodily appetite which, like any other appetite, tactlessly reveals its connections with such mundane factors as weather, health, diet, circulation, and digestion. (100). 
 
 
Be humbled. Be holy. Be thankful. And honor the weight of your neighbor’s glory. 
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
 
…publicly expose it in nude, crass poses for money and status? This is what Melania Trump did. And in defense of the pictures The New York Post released, Jason Miller, spokesman for the Trump campaign, responded that there’s “nothing to be embarrassed about. She’s a beautiful woman.” Judith Miller and Ann Marlowe wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard lamenting the complete lack of shame in our culture today, that we would even think about having a first lady who posed in a pornographic manner to sell sex. The whole thing made me think of another woman I wrote about before.
 
 
If I said your body is too wrinkly to turn me on would you…
 
 
…be embarrassed now? This is what happened to a 59-year-old woman after her hopes for a weekend fling were crushed by physical rejection. I reflected on the naked truth of this woman’s situation two years ago and my response to that is the same as to Melania Trump culture. I’ve reposted it below, because we first need a good theology of beauty before critiquing its counterfeit. Tomorrow I hope to reflect a little more on shame, beauty, our teenagers, and social media:
 
 
I read an article the other day that captures a lie that many men and women believe about beauty and love. A 59-year-old wrote it, but this is the same problem I see in 18-year-olds.
 
 
The article starts out with a brave, naked, woman really looking at herself in the mirror, trying to just get honest with herself after a cold rejection. You see, she had met someone on the Internet and he seemed like a good match. He made an effort to make the drive to meet her in person. She describes him as gentlemanly and interested in the same active lifestyle as herself. So she was looking forward to getting to know him better by spending the weekend together.
 
 
They get in bed together. Naked. He doesn't really make a move. (Did I mention that this wasn't a "Christian" article?) All her attempts at "intimacy" were dodged over the three nights and four days together.
 
 
Confused after returning home, this woman had to know what the deal was. So she calls him up to ask. He answers matter of factly:
 
 
"Your body is too wrinkly," he said without a pause. "I have spoiled myself over the years with young women. I just can't get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can't deal with your body."
 
 
He then proceeded to offer her suggestions on how she could distract from her age, dress in a way in which he was attracted, and maybe move their physical relationship forward. Thankfully, this woman had enough sense to drop a man that can't appreciate her for who she is. The article ends after she recognizes her aged but fit body, naked in front of three mirrors, and concludes:
 
 
As I looked in the mirror -- clear-eyed and brave -- I claimed every inch of my body with love, honor and deep care. This body is me. She has held my soul and carried my heart for all of my days. Each wrinkle and imperfection is a badge of my living and of my giving of life. With tears in my eyes, I hugged myself close. I said thank you to God for the gift of my body and my life. And I said thank you to a sad man named Dave for reminding me of how precious it all is.
 
 
And yet I was left feeling very sad for this woman, not because of some jerk named Dave whom she did very well to kick to the curb, but because of her expectation for being loved and accepted as beautiful. I'm not all that surprised when I hear of 18-year-olds who expected to hold a man with their bodies, and yet find themselves objectified and rejected. But a 59-year-old should know more about beauty and love.
 
 
I think we all, men and women, fall for this lie: that beauty is something to be consumed. We see something beautiful and we think that we must have it exclusively. And we want to be that something beautiful that others will want. And so we lower our standards. We reduce beauty to smooth skin and measurements, or as we age, to a certain level of maintenance and pride.
 
 
The thing is, we all want to be more than beautiful. We want to be in the beauty. C.S. Lewis puts it this way in his essay, "The Weight of Glory:"
 
 
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words---to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
 
 
There are few opportunities on this side of eternity where we get a taste of this experience with beauty. But I believe Christian marriage is one of them. It comes from a sacrificial, sanctifying love through the years. It comes through moving past the youthful, original attributes that attracted us to one another, to a mature appreciation of the scars that mark the progression of our love. You will NEVER get this in a weekend getaway or a one-night stand. That jerk, Dave, was really only articulating the consequences of both his and this rejected woman's search for beauty. Lewis nails it:
 
 
But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
 
We are blessed to see beauty all around us. Through our lifetime, we are blessed to share in the beauty. But:
 
 
Someday, God willing, we shall get in...
Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.
 
If we have the proper eternal perspective, we long for that beatific vision and our own glorification when our unity in Christ will be consummated and we will be like him. Like Lewis, I challenge you to think of how this reality changes the way we treat our neighbor:
 
 
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. 
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Brothers and sisters, the recent discussions of the Trinity and of complementarianism have revealed among other things the theological and historical shallowness of much that passes for state-of-the-art theology and social thought in Protestant circles. We really must do better. This week I’m sharing two guest posts that model depth of thought and positive engagement that surmount the stereotypical evangelical method with a deeper, more holistic approach to personhood. 
 
We first heard from a Reformed woman on singles and the church. Today I am going to share a Roman Catholic perspective on women and the church, asking the reader to take notice of the depth of thought and positive engagement with her church's teaching that Catholics typically use in engaging issues of personhood, specifically as they relate to issues of gender difference, marriage, singleness etc.  We post it here not because we agree with all that she says -- we do not do so, particularly her theology on Mary --, but rather to set before Protestant readers what can and should be done in engaging the pressing issues of our day in these areas.
 
 
Catholic Integral Complementarity
by Luma Simms
 
 
Note: Dear reader,  In light of the recent discussion on complementarity, the Nicene understanding of the Trinity, and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, I write here a simple description of Catholic integral complementarity. This is not a theological treatise with philosophical and theological proofs. Nor should this essay be taken as an aim at proselytizing the reader. I write it in good will, as your sister in Christ and as a Catholic convert from Protestantism, and from these very circles in particular. My hope is that this basic description of Catholic integral complementarity will help inform the intra-Protestant discourse on the topic. I ask that you read it charitably with an eye to glean understanding of this viewpoint and not only to refute. It is one thing to claim on paper or teach that women have equal dignity with men, it is another to build a culture which makes that gospel truth thrive; and yet another to read me, a woman, through that respectful lens—as you would respectfully read a male author. Lastly, please note that when I write Church in this essay, I am referring to the Roman Catholic Church and her Magisterium. 
 
 
The first, and most helpful thing to understand about the Roman Catholic Christian faith is that the theory of integral complementarity, is predicated on a foundational idea about man and the world God created. From this foundational idea others spring forth. Without understanding this “Catholic difference” nothing Catholic makes sense. George Weigel has written, “while Catholicism is a body of beliefs and a way of life, Catholicism is also an optic, a way of seeing things, a distinctive perception of reality.” Although it can be described in a variety of ways, I have found Weigel's the most helpful. 
 
 
He writes:
 
You can call it the 'Catholic both/and': nature and grace, faith and works, Jerusalem and Athens, faith and reason, charismatic and institutional, visible and invisible. You can call it the “sacramental imagination”... You can call it a taste for the analogical, as distinguished from some Protestants' taste for the dialectical.” [Emphasis in the original]
 
 
Therefore, in order to grasp how Catholics think about biblical complementarity and the complementarity even within the natural world God created, one must get this Catholic both/and thing. The Catholic both/and, in turn, rests on a fundamental Catholic understanding, one of the pillars of Catholicism: It is that grace does not destroy nature, but perfects and elevates it—transforming it, even in the here and now.
 
 
A HIGH VIEW OF WOMEN
 
One can not talk about Catholic integral complementarity without first talking about the Catholic Church's high view of women; and one can not talk about the Church's high view of women without first talking about Mary. Given the Protestant allergy to Mary (including my own while still a Protestant) I will keep this short and to the point. But first I would like to respectfully repeat that this is not a disputation, it is only an explanation.
 
 
Rejecting the Nestorian claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus be called the mother of Christ because she is only the mother of Jesus' human nature, the third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus in 431 re-affirmed the Nicene Creed, that, 
 
 
We confess the Word to have been made one with the flesh hypostatically, and we adore one Son and Lord, Jesus Christ. We do not divide him into parts and separate man and God in him, as though the two natures were mutually united only through a unity of dignity and authority.
 
 
And, 
 
[B]ecause the holy virgin bore in the flesh God who was united hypostatically with the flesh, for that reason we call her mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh (for 'the Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and the Word was with God', and he made the ages and is coeternal with the Father and craftsman of all things), but because, as we have said, he united to himself hypostatically the human and underwent a birth according to the flesh from her womb.
 
 
Thus Mary was called Theotokos (mother of God). Over and again in the Church's 2000 year history we see that advancement in understanding Mary (or what the Church has called Marian dogmas) came in reality because the Church had to defend against heresies. The focus of these theological battles was always Christ.
 
 
The second idea which has direct bearing on the issue of complementarity for Catholics is that Mary is the New Eve, or The Second Eve. This is not a new-fangled doctrine. From the earliest times, from the Fathers, John Henry Newman has written, this has been “the prima facie view of her person and office.” And as Irenaeus wrote: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith.” Many Church Fathers can be quoted, but this is sufficient for the present. 
 
 
And so the Church's high view of women begins first and foremost because of her high view of Mary, the mother of God and her role as the second Eve. “Thus in the Blessed Virgin the figure of ‘woman' is rehabilitated” said Pope John Paul II. “Blessed is she who believed,” Elizabeth said of the Virgin Mary; the Church has always believed that Mary was the first disciple, the exemplar disciple. But not an Apostle, she never claimed apostolic powers for herself. Nor has the Church ever assigned apostolic powers to Mary. But rather through the directive of Jesus while on the cross she becomes the mother of all disciples: “Woman, behold, your son!” And to the disciple “Behold, your mother!” 
 
 
The reason that Mary is “full of grace,” the Church has said, is because of Ephesians 1:3-6 (Redemptoris Mater, no. 7-11). Here is how John Henry Newman puts it:
 
"Does not the objector consider that Eve was created, or born, without original sin? Why does not this shock him? Would he have been inclined to worship Eve in that first estate of hers? Why, then, Mary?
 
"Does he [the objector] not believe that St. John Baptist had the grace of God—i.e., was regenerated, even before his birth? What do we believe of Mary, but that grace was given her at a still earlier period? All we say is, that grace was given her from the first moment of her existence.
 
“We do not say that she did not owe her salvation to the death of her son.”
 
 
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has written:
 
The angel's greeting makes it clear that the blessing is more powerful than the curse. The sign of the woman has become the sign of hope; she is the signpost of hope. God's decision for man that becomes visible in her "is more powerful than any experience of evil and sin, than all the 'enmity' that marks the history of men." 
 
 
This high view of Mary, which leads to a high view of women, never eclipses her son. But in fact it is seen as deepening and enriching our knowledge of our Redeemer. And here we come to our first set of both/and. A high view of Jesus and Mary, leads to a high view of men and women. 
 
 
In Catholicism one does not have to downplay Mary, her person, her role, her life and contribution to salvation history; she stands “'at the center of [the] salvific event' which is God's self-revelation to the world,” writes Weigel. There is no competition here. Jesus is God incarnate, he is the one and only Mediator; there is no salvation outside of Christ. None of this, however, means we need to relegate Mary to the role of a surrogate womb. Honoring her does not take glory away from him, it does not dishonor him. Dishonoring her, dishonors him. As John Henry Newman put it: “Why not honour Our Lord in our respectful mention of his Mother? Why, because some Christians exceed in their devotion, become irreverent?”
 
 
It is the result of the Cartesian worldview that this either/or competition creeps in. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger says it thus:
 
An exaggerated solus Christus compelled its adherents to reject any cooperation of the creature, any independent significance of its response, as a betrayal of the greatness of grace. Consequently, there could be nothing meaningful in the feminine line of the Bible stretching from Eve to Mary. Patristic and medieval reflections on that line were, with implacable logic, branded as a recrudescence of paganism, as treason against the uniqueness of the Redeemer. Today's radical feminisms have to be understood as the long-repressed explosion of indignation against this sort of one-sided reading of Scripture.
 
 
“She [Mary] is not allowed to hide herself behind her Son in false humility,” Hans Urs von Balthasar has written. And again, “the Church begins with the Yes of the Virgin of Nazareth.” Balthasar makes it clear in Women Priests? A Marian Church in a Fatherless and Motherless Culture, that the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, ushers in a new cosmos, one in which there is a balance of the feminine and masculine. He writes:
 
Because of her unique structure, the Catholic Church is perhaps humanity's last bulwark of genuine appreciation of the difference between the sexes. 
 
 
Pope John Paul II, acknowledged that throughout history across many world cultures and at times by the Church herself, “women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude.” Not only did he apologize to women for whatever part the Church played in treating women as second-class citizens, but he called for a “time to examine the past with courage, to assign responsibility where it is due in a review of the long history of humanity.” Women throughout history, in spite of their heroic and substantial contributions to society have been underestimated and ignored. In his many writings on women he acknowledges all this and more, he worked hard to re-assert the equal dignity of women, calling the Church and the world to “uphold the dignity, role, and rights” of women by working for full integration of women into the social, political, and economic life of a democratic state. 
 
 
We come now to another both/and regarding women; that is the Catholic Church's call to advance the dignity of women in all areas of life, in what Pope John Paul II called “a new feminism,” and keep the significant difference between men and woman. More on this below. This high view has consequences, most significantly in that the Church does not look askance at women. This is the consequences of the “blessing” being “more powerful than the curse.” In other words, women are a blessing and a necessary part of the Church and the world community, not a threat and a curse to be suspect and restrained. 
 
 
CATHOLIC INTEGRAL COMPLEMENTARY THEORY
 
Catholic integral complementary theory rests on two theological foundations: The human person is created in the image and likeness of God, “a being at once corporeal and spiritual,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states it, and that man is of a single nature—matter and spirit are united. “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the 'form' of the body.” Thus the Church holds that man is an embodied soul created in the image and likeness of God. 
 
 
Catholic hylomorphic anthropology and philosophy, then, stands against the Cartesian view that the mind is separate from the gendered body. Moreover, René Descartes' metaphysical claim that the locus of an individual's identity lies in the sexless mind, making the physical body superfluous, has bequeathed us much of the “gender fluidity” we see in our culture today. As significant, this Cartesian dualism gave rise to what Catholics call fractional complementarity (male and female are significantly different each providing a fraction of the whole) in some Protestant circles, or what is sometimes called “hierarchical complementarity,” a complementarity which is curbed by a one-sided submission—that of the woman to the man—which inserts a kind of polarity in the relationship giving prominence of the man over the woman, and opening the door to the sinful inclination of the man to dominate the woman. 
 
 
On the other side of the spectrum there is radical feminism which pushes for a unisex gender theory, and somewhere along this spectrum is egalitarianism which neglects and downplays the specific diversity between men and women—the thinking being: if the mind is sexless, and the male and female mind are equal, then why can't women be just like men?
 
 
The Catholic response, has been to reject all of the distortions of ontological complementarity of man and woman discussed above, for what is termed an integral complementarity. A complementarity which neither neglects the fundamental equality of dignity of man and woman, nor the natural created order, nor the significant differences between man and woman. Again, there is the Catholic both/and: Man and woman are fundamentally equal, there is a natural order of the husband-wife relationship, and there is significant diversity between them.
 
 
One of the issues Pope John Paul II takes up in his magnificent Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body is to delve into all the ramifications of Christ's words when He said: “From the beginning.” This helped and continues to help the Church think deeply about what God intended for the husband and wife relationship “from the beginning.” And to articulate well its integral complementarity. The Church understands the women's movement, there is something deeply wrong in the way women have been treated, and continue to be treated, the Church has said. The Fathers of the fourth century spoke out against this (see footnote 33 in Mulieris Dignitatem), and the Church today continues to speak out against the discrimination of women. This mistreatment is due to the sin of our first parents, the sin which fractured their communion—original sin. “Original justice [was] destroyed, the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination” (CCC 400). “Burdened by hereditary sinfulness, they bear within themselves the constant 'inclination to sin', the tendency to go against the moral order which corresponds to the rational nature and dignity of man and woman as persons” wrote Pope John Paul II. 
 
 
The consequences of man's sin, and the language which describes the future relationship between husband and wife, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen. 3:16), is a serious threat, especially for the woman, “since domination takes the place of 'being a sincere gift.'”  And “at the same time it also diminishes the true dignity of the man.” The Catholic interpretation of Gen. 3:16 (which is done with an eye toward Matthew 5: 27-28) is layered and complex, addressing shame, concupiscence, corruption of the consciousness of the unitive meaning of the body, the corruption of the spousal meaning of the body, and the insatiability of the union. I risk a distillation for our present purposes: man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self to the other. But the “unity of the two” was broken, man and woman are now obstructed by their deep interior shame and concupiscence from the deep spiritual and bodily union they were to have with one another. They are now “threatened by the insatiability of that union and unity, which does not cease to attract man and woman.” They aspire to what they had but are now obstructed by their concupiscence from attaining it. The woman experiences this insatiability for their union acutely, and the man dominates her. But since they are both plunged into the threefold concupiscence of 1 John 2:16—the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, they both exhibit this threefold concupiscence in their relationship with one another. 
 
 
Writing in Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
This "domination" indicates the disturbance and loss of the stability of that fundamental equality which the man and the woman possess in the "unity of the two": and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman, whereas only the equality resulting from their dignity as persons can give to their mutual relationship the character of an authentic "communio personarum.”
 
 
Sin diminished man (as male and female), it darkened his intellect and weakened his will, but it did not destroy the image and likeness of God in the human being. Jesus Christ and his Gospel transforms the husband-wife relationship, setting them free to live according to His calling. 
 
 
However, as Weigel writes, “the liberation of women from these patterns of domination can never be a liberation against. It must be a liberation for, one that safeguards the distinctive vocation of women and men that results from what the Pope calls their 'personal originality.'” We see then that our understanding of freedom plays a crucial role in the response against injustice; it dictates our moral choices. Men and women are set free by Christ from the old curse. Both must ask what freedom is for. The Church embraces Thomas Aquinas's freedom for excellence, over and against William of Ockham's freedom of indifference. (This plays a crucial role in understanding complementarity see bibliography below for more on this.) As Pope John Paul II pushed for continued freedom for women, he nonetheless gives them a warning in Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
 
[E]ven the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words "He shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the "masculinization" of women. In the name of liberation from male "domination", women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine "originality". There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not "reach fulfillment", but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness. 
 
 
 
The four principles of Catholic integral complementarity are: Equal dignity (Gen. 1:26), Significant difference (Gen. 1:27), Synergetic relation (Gen. 1:28, 2:24), and Intergenerational fruition (Gen. 5). I am not going to give an extended rationale for this categorization here; please see the bibliography at the end for further theological and philosophical support.
 
 
COMPLEMENTARITY CARRIES WITH IT RECIPROCITY
 
The Catholic Church understands Ephesians 5:22-33 within the context of the entire 5th chapter. This means “wives be subject to your husbands” is held in that Catholic both/and with other verses in Ephesians 5 and balanced with the rest of Scriptures, especially Jesus' treatment of women in the gospels. So it is never an either/or, and it is never separated from “be imitators of God...walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...walk as children of light...be filled with the Spirit...addressing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs...be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives be subject to your husbands... Husbands love your wives...let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
 
 
Complementarity, therefore, in the Catholic understanding, is never untethered from reciprocity. When Pope John Paul II analyzes this section of Scripture in his monumental Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body he writes:
 
What is at issue here is a relationship with two dimensions or on two levels: reciprocal and communitarian. One specifies and characterizes the other. The reciprocal relations of husband and wife must spring from their common relation with Christ. [This reciprocity is rooted in the “fear of Christ”] The author [he is referring to St. Paul] speaks about the mutual submission of the spouses, husband and wife, and in this way shows also how to understand the word he writes afterward about the submission of the wife to the husband. … This relationship is nevertheless no one-sided submission.... Husband and wife are, in fact, “subject to one another,” mutually subordinated to one another. The source of this reciprocal submission lies in Christian pietas and its expression is love. [Emphasis in the original]
 
 
Love excludes every kind of submission by which the wife would become a servant or slave of the husband, an object of one-sided submission. Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife, and subject in this to the Lord himself, as the wife is to the husband. The community or unity that they should constitute because of marriage is realized through a reciprocal gift, which is also a mutual submission. Christ is the source and at the same time the model of that submission. [Emphasis in the original]
 
Patriarchy in the Scriptures is descriptive not prescriptive. A one-sided submission—as in “he will rule over you”—infects the “communion of persons” which lies at the very nature of marriage. Pope John Paul II writes, “marriage, in its deepest essence, emerges from the mystery of God's eternal love for man and humanity: from the salvific mystery that Christ's spousal love fulfills in time for the Church....marriage in its very essence stands Christ's spousal relationship with the Church.” The Church teaches that love is a self-gift, you love by giving yourself as a gift to the other. It is a false dichotomy—one which Pope John Paul II especially pushed against—to claim that in order to fight against the destruction of marriage, and the damage of the sexual revolution and radical feminism we must re-stress the husband-wife hierarchy with emphasis on the wife's submission. That was one of the problems which partially gave rise to modern radical feminism. See the work of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, Catholic philosopher Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M., and St. Edith Stein. Much could be said on that one point alone. But let us go on.
 
 
I understand there can be some misunderstanding here since St. Paul specifically says that Christ is the Head of the Church. Indeed the Church submits to Christ as her Head, because the Church is the Body, never the Head of Christ. Yet at the same time, one can say reciprocally, he submits to her through his self-sacrificial love. Christ came to serve the Church and give himself up for her. That is the reciprocity the Catholic Church teaches for husband and wife. The wife submits to her husband by respecting him and the husband reciprocally submits by his self-sacrificial service and love. See Pope Leo XIII's Arcanum (On Christian Marriage), Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii (Chaste Marriage, On Christian Marriage) Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women) for more on this topic.
 
 
And this brings us to the natural created order of husband and wife. The Church teaches that Adam was created before Eve. The marriage of our first parents, Adam and Eve, was corrupted after they sinned. Thus giving us the sinful patterns of abuse, domination, and objectivization. But this is precisely where supernatural grace comes in—grace perfects and elevates nature—and “transforms marriage into mutual self-giving and mutual submission,” as friend and Catholic philosopher Dr. Bryan Cross has put it. 
 
 
I would like to add one more point to this section and that is the submitting one to another never does away with the significant difference between the man and the woman in Catholic integral complementarity. Again it is not either/or, it is both/and. Husband and wife mutually give themselves as gift to the other, submit one to another out of love and fear of the Lord, their relationship is perfected by the grace of God sanctifying them, and they maintain their significant difference, they continue to be ontologically and metaphysically different.
 
 
DIVINE LIKENESS
 
During her 2000 year history the Church has been cautious about analogizing too much between the Holy Trinity and man and woman in marriage. After all, this is the same Church who gave the world the Nicene Creed (which it confesses every Sunday in its liturgy), the indefatigable Athanasius and the Athanasian Creed, and the ecumenical councils. Having fought many heresies to defend the Trinity, the Church has been circumspect in this area. The closest the Church has come to making such a comparison is Pope John Paul II's writing about the communion of love within the Holy Trinity.
 
From Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
[Regarding the truth of God's oneness and unity in the Old Testament] Within this fundamental truth about God the New Testament will reveal the inscrutable mystery of God's inner life. God, who allows himself to be known by human beings through Christ, is the unity of the Trinity: unity in communion. In this way new light is also thrown on man's image and likeness to God, spoken of in the Book of Genesis. The fact that man "created as man and woman" is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a "unity of the two" in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God through the unity of the divinity, exist as persons through the inscrutable divine relationship. Only in this way can we understand the truth that God in himself is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16).
 
 
The image and likeness of God in man, created as man and woman (in the analogy that can be presumed between Creator and creature), thus also expresses the "unity of the two" in a common humanity. This "unity of the two", which is a sign of interpersonal communion, shows that the creation of man is also marked by a certain likeness to the divine communion ("communio"). This likeness is a quality of the personal being of both man and woman, and is also a call and a task.” 
 
 
So we see here that the Church doesn't start with human marriage relationship (human communio) and project back into the divine, rather the one analogy, so to speak, which can be safely made is that the divine communio is the prime communio. The Church does not make a direct link between man and God the Father, and between woman and one of the other members of the Holy Trinity. 
 
 
Pope John Paul II cautions regarding analogies to the Holy Trinity. He writes in Mulieris Dignitatem:
 
[T]he language of the Bible is sufficiently precise to indicate the limits of the "likeness", the limits of the "analogy". For biblical Revelation says that, while man's "likeness" to God is true, the "non-likeness" [Cf. Num 23:19; Hos 11:9; Is 40:18; 46:5; cf. also Fourth Lateran Council (DS 806)] which separates the whole of creation from the Creator is still more essentially true. Although man is created in God's likeness, God does not cease to be for him the one "who dwells in unapproachable light" (1 Tim 6:16): he is the "Different One", by essence the "totally Other".
 
CONSEQUENCES OF INTEGRAL COMPLEMENTARITY
 
The description I have given above of Catholic integral complementarity is a simple sketch. Within the Church this doctrine is more complex—touching on and interconnected with the fact that marriage is a sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage, the Church's position on the dignity and sanctity of all human life (unborn, disabled, the aged, the poor, the incarcerated, etc.), celibacy, the vocation to religious life, Mary the mother of God, apostolic succession, the priesthood, and of course, the Church's teaching on the morally appropriate way to regulate birth.
 
 
I have described Catholic integral complementarity as it is promulgated by the Church, this does not mean that the Catholic Church is perfect or that it doesn't have its own progressive wing. Catholic integral complementarity has not become a slippery slope leading to woman priests, etc. Although some within the progressive wing did push for ordination of women, the Church has spoken definitively on this matter. For those interested please see Pope John Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone).
 
 
The Catholic Church keeps a glacial pace, working in 50 and 100 year increments, so she tends to be slow to respond sometimes, which in reality can be a good thing. Nevertheless, the Church is always reforming (semper ecclesia reformanda) but with continuity, never a rupture from the past. Again that both/and. Blessed John Henry Newman, well versed in the history of ecumenical councils, along with his work on the development of doctrine has helped, and will continue to help the Church grow more faithful to God's divine truth. “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her,” Dei Verbum.
 
 
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you how your brethren in Christ in the Roman Catholic Church approach this subject. It is not my place nor my desire to involve myself in the current intra-Protestant discourse on complementarity and the doctrine of the Trinity. I will relay only one personal note here: In my ecclesiastical journey, I never experienced such respect as a woman as I have in the Roman Catholic Church and in the culture which she strives to build. I hope this essay has been helpful to the reader.  Peace to you in Christ Jesus.
 
 
 
Bibliography
 
Arcanum (Secret; On Christian Marriage) Pope Leo XIII; Casti Connubii (Chaste Marriage, On Christian Marriage) Pope Pius XI; Catechism of the Catholic Church © 1994; Dei Verbum (God's Word, Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation, a Vatican II document); Familiaris Consortio (On The Role Of The Christian Family In The Modern World) Pope John Paul II; Gaudium et spes (Joy and Hope, The Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World, a Vatican II document); Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) Paul VI; Letter Of Pope John Paul II To Women Pope John Paul II; Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel; Lumen Gentium (The Light, Dogmatic Constitution On The Church, a Vatican II document); Man and Woman He Created Them: The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II; Man-Woman Complementarity: The Catholic Inspiration by Sr. Prudence Allen, R.R.M; Mary, the Second Eve, by John Henry Newman; Morality: The Catholic View, by Servais Pinckaers, O.P.; Mulieris Dignitatem (On The Dignity And Vocation Of Women) Pope John Paul II; Mulieris Dignitatem Twenty Years Later: An Overview of the Document and Challenges by Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M.; Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone) Pope John Paul II; Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, And The Church edited by Mary Rice Hasson; Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) Pope John Paul II; The Collected Works of Edith Stein, by Edith Stein translated by Freda Mary Oben, Ph.D.; The Sign of the Woman, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; To The Disciple He Said, 'Behold Your Mother' Pope John Paul II General Audience of Wednesday, 23 April 1997;  Witness To Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel; Women Priests? A Marian Church in a fatherless and motherless culture by Hans Urs von Balthasar.
 
Luma Simms writes on culture, family, philosophy, politics, religion, and on the life and thought of immigrants. Her work has appeared at Crisis Magazine, First Things Magazine, Public Discourse, and The Federalist. She is the author of Gospel Amnesia: Forgetting the Goodness of the News. Her educational background includes a B.S. in physics from California State Polytechnic University Pomona. She studied law at Chapman University School of Law before leaving to become an at-home-mom. At Chapman Law, Luma, was research assistant to Dr. John C. Eastman, which included work for The Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. She also clerked for Superior Court Judge James P. Gray of Orange County, California. Luma lives in Arizona with her husband and five children.
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Brothers and sisters, the recent discussions of the Trinity and of complementarianism have revealed among other things the theological and historical shallowness of much that passes for state-of-the-art theology and social thought in Protestant circles. We really must do better. This week I’m sharing two guest posts that model depth of thought and positive engagement that surmount the stereotypical evangelical method with a deeper, more holistic approach to personhood. This first piece deals with the topic of singles and the church by a woman writing from the Reformed perspective:

 
How Do We Solve a Problem Like the Singles?
 
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
 
 
What the Catholics Know About Singleness
Protestants are clueless about singleness. In spite of the many strengths of my reformed Presbyterian upbringing, at 25 I had absorbed the church culture’s implied teaching about singleness – that it is a state of interminable suffering.  Accepting that I would be crippled without my “better half” until marriage, I turned to my church’s much better teaching about suffering.  As in Herbert’s poem, “The Pulley” my loneliness and restlessness tossed me to Christ’s breast, and that rich friendship is not one I would trade for any number of dates with the dashing music director. Yet while it is quite true that there is a suffering in singleness, much of it results from the contradictory attitudes in the church; if Paul was right about the blessings of singleness, why does the church seem to pity us so much? 
 
 
Among the Catholics I met while in graduate school at the University of Dallas, this contradiction was far less apparent. There, I met the numeraries of Opus Dei – a semi-monastic order of (essentially) nuns and monks who have jobs in the “real” world, but live together in large houses where they minister to the community and the church.  The presence of convents and monasteries changed all the assumptions about singleness among these devout Catholics.  Here, singles had more opportunities for enjoyment of God, for service.  They had a voice.  They, in fact, had to tell the other Catholics that they were not holier than married people – a sentiment summed up in the Catholic girls’ complaint that “God gets the best and we get the rest.”  I’ll not deny the problematic theology here, but the Protestant theology that the singles are the poor left-overs is hardly an improvement.  
 
 
The Protestant Message in a Sexual Age
When I returned to Protestant (specifically reformed Presbyterian) circles, my ear was tuned to notice the cultural pressures towards sex, the Protestant pressure toward marriage, and the silence of the pulpit.  In their most recent podcast on the Sexual Revolution, the MOS team summed up our culture’s immense pressure toward sexual identity.  Christine Colon takes it one step further in her book Singled Out – culture tells us that virgins are immature and emotionally stunted neurotics whose only escape is in having sex. Christian singles hear this from culture and from the church that sex outside marriage is wrong.  The result is that the slightest nudge toward marriage from a well-meaning believer comes across to the single like another reminder that we are immature and emotionally stunted and our only hope for happiness is marriage. 
 
 
We are told to both “enjoy our singleness while we can” and to “get serious about getting married.” When I answer the “Are you dating” question in the negative, the look of pity, confusion, surprise, and embarrassment that follows is another reminder that I as a “professional” woman am outside the experience of the housewife with three children. What follows is rarely helpful: “Maybe you’re too assertive,” “Don’t worry!  You’re pretty!” “That’s right – party it up!” and the recent classic – “Have you tried eHarmony?” In the Mrs-Bennet-like moves to cure the problem of our singleness combined with the pulpits’ occasional teaching that singleness is good, both married and single people have grown confused.
In hyper-complementarian and patriarchic circles the damage goes even further.  If all women are to submit to all men, and if a woman’s natural place is in the home, where does that leave single women who work for a living?  Can a woman be the boss of men?  Can she even take pleasure in her work outside the home?  And when she does return to that empty home at night, what happens to her sense of “femininity” if she is then too tired to keep house like a good woman should?  
 
 
The Difficulty of Content Singleness
Contentment is difficult for singles because from our perspective, both the believing and unbelieving world seem to agree that happiness in celibacy is impossible.  In both worlds, sex/marriage has become a defining threshold between childhood and adulthood. We are children, teenagers, college-age, single, then married. When we pass 30 or 40 and are still celibate, everyone (literally) thinks something’s gone wrong.
 
 
Even popular scientific theories like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs classes the need for sex at the same level as food, water and air.  If the church does not answer, is it any wonder that Christian singles sometimes conclude that masturbation is not wrong and that pornography is at least better than the alternative?  Essentially, we come to believe that God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” except a spouse. 
 
 
The God Who Satisfies 
It is just such erroneous thinking that provoked Paul’s comments on marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, the premise for which appears in the end of chapter 6.  There, as he calls the Corinthians out of their sexual immorality, Paul quotes the saying, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (6:13). In other words, as the stomach is meant for food, so the body is meant for sex. Paul disagrees. The body “is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (6:13). This means that for the married person and the single, there is some need more pressing than sex (or food or air) that can only God can satisfy.  
 
 
“Your body is a temple” (6:19), then, is not meant as motivation to work out or eat well, but rather to keep from sexual immorality. Because the believer’s soul is united to God in a way similar to the uniting of a married couple (6:17), the sexually immoral person “sins against his own body” (6:18). We think that as long as we’re not hurting anyone else, then it’s not wrong.  But for the Christ-indwelt believer, masturbation and pornography are deeply wounding to the God who lives in us. “You are not your own,” as a husband’s body is not his own. “So glorify God in your body” (6:19-20).
 
 
This sounds serious, but the implications are radically liberating.  You don’t need to get married or have sex to live a rich life! The single person is a whole person on their own. They wait for no “better half” to live the good life.  That life is for now. That contentment is for now.  
 
 
In fact, living a content, celibate life is one of the ways that the single participates in the marriage metaphor. We know that the relationship between a man and wife symbolizes Christ’s relationship with his church.  The single reminds that church that it is with Christ that that relationship ultimately exists.  To live as a content single now, while longing for that future satisfaction, is our way of bearing Christ’s image in the world. 
 
 
The Call to Happy Christian Singleness
 Though content, celibate, singleness is certainly not easy, and though suffering well is a way of bearing Christ’s image in the world for a time, denying the essential good of singleness is calling God’s gifts bad. The Father does not give bad gifts to his children.  Ultimately, then, if you are a single believer, congratulations!  For now at least, you have the “gift of singleness.” 
 
 
Now, that claim usually gets me raised eyebrows and lots of questions.  The answers are in I Corinthians Chapter 7. 
 
 
This is the (in?)famous “gift of singleness” passage, which never uses the words “gift of singleness” at all. Instead, what we think of as “singleness” is really treated as just the baseline of the Christian calling. Marriage has added responsibilities, but everyone is first called to the ordinary, individual, Christian life.  When I am told that my apparent “gift of singleness,” of not longing for marriage makes my message irrelevant to those who do long for marriage, I am confused.  Should those who inherit the enormous ocean of Christ’s riches be characterized by
sorrow because they lack the thimbleful of marriage?  
 
 
Yet because marriage is a good thing to desire, we assume it isn’t wrong to be sad that we don’t have it. In fact, it’s almost considered a virtue in this age of equating marriage to maturity. But if we were to replace the term “marriage” with any other (an orderly house, a trip to Bora-Bora, tiny houses…) it is immediately clear that this is idolatry in disguise. Kevin DeYoung notes in his book on same-sex attraction that “A minivan full of kids on the way to Disneyland is a wonderful good, but a terrible god.”  Neither marriage nor singleness is better.  They are simply different states in which we live out our Christian calling.
 
 
Paul’s assertion in I Corinthians that singleness is better may, in fact, be his way of expressing his contentment with his own state. One who is content is often inclined to think his life happier than another’s.  Perhaps it is good for the average married person to think her life is happier than a single’s, and it is right for the single to think his life is happier than the marrieds’. 
 
 
What is the Good of Singleness?
Once I convince my friends that singleness is not inherently bad, I often find that they will admit that their singleness is good for others.  Now they have all this free time to do what married people cannot they may assume the best use of their singleness is nursery duty. While some should certainly be working in the nursery, that duty is not necessarily inherent to singleness. 
 
 
Instead, the first and greatest benefit of singleness is “undistracted devotion to the Lord.” As with every believer, a single’s work should spill naturally out of that devotion to God, but the work is not the first goal. And we must also remember that the fruit of the Spirit is varied; there are as many ways to live a godly single life as there are to live a godly married life – perhaps even more. People are remarkably unique, after all.  
 
 
So one single who is free from worldly anxieties, and who devotes that freedom to “heavenly anxieties,” may end up spending their life in a very different way from another single.  I am often told “I know singleness can be good.  There was this single lady in our church – such a happy person!  And she ran the whole children’s ministry.”  That’s wonderful. But it’s not for everyone.  I know one single woman who spent her free time becoming a professional fly-fisherwoman.  Now she travels all over the world as a fly-fishing guide to the rich and famous and has a unique ministry to them as a result. Another worked hard at a good job, bought a big house, and then in her fifties two teenage girls who needed a stable home moved in with her. There are a million other possibilities too.  So encourage singles to dig into prayer first, and then to be creative with their freedom, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). As with all aspects of the Christian life, we are not “The Christ,” or the Savior of others – we simply live the life he gives us in quietness and contentment.
 
 
How Can I Help the Singles? How Can We Help Each Other?
And to such a life of quiet contentment should we be encouraging one another.  I’m beginning to hear married people ask what they can do to help the singles.  I find the question disarming but also problematic.  The thirty-something single has indeed lived an extremely different life from the thirty-something who married at twenty, and we should acknowledge the differences before we can understand each other. 
 
 
But after a great deal of discussion, study and prayer, it has become clear that singles are not actually that different from the married!  Responsibilities and life experience differ and should be acknowledged, but our identity before the throne of God, where believers find their worth in Christ, is the same.  In that place, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,” neither married or unmarried, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
 
 
This unity in Christ means that more fundamental to the call to marriage or singleness is the call to follow Christ. The real question is how we might encourage each unique individual “to love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24). Because of the pressures from all sides to get married and have sex, it is probable that the single person needs to be affirmed as a whole person.  Dropping the “this is my better half” would be a great start. Married people are not “halves” either! 
 
 
Most importantly, do not assume that all singles (or married people, for that matter) are alike. Approach each with that loving curiosity that asks just the right question and gives encouragement unique to them. Some singles will flourish best when drawn into another family.  Let them in, if you are so called. Others may simply want to be your friend.  If so, don’t withhold from them the struggles of married life.  I have learned much about friendship through the struggles of my married friends, and married people may be surprised to discover in their single friends a more unbiased perspective than another married person can give. Mutually look for what the other married/single person can teach, remembering that we all are independent, single, set-apart people in the end.
 
 
And, Single Christian, I know, because I have felt it myself, that singleness can be intensely and uniquely lonely.  Don’t deny it when it happens, but do not think that marriage will solve it. Loneliness knows no distinction between marriage and singleness.  But let the suffering have that good effect that all suffering has for the believer.  Because we do remind the church that her ultimate satisfaction in Christ, there is a longing for heaven built into our kind of image bearing. So run to Christ with the longing, and you will find the burden lighter. 
 
 
Consider too, that all the virtues which make singleness easier are not ones that a western church tends to emphasize:  quietness in solitude, commitment in friendship, patience while working, and contented celibacy. You must be an independent thinker if you’re to live this radical kind of life.  And it is a radical, adventurous life. In our culture, this is uncharted territory. 
 
 

 

 Also, interpret kindly the well-meant efforts of your married friends. As you get to know them better, you may be surprised to hear how common the sufferings of the faithful Christian life are.  From my married friends, I have learned how to live in relationship with others; from my single friends, how to pursue God’s call with a peaceful kind of energy. Marrieds and singles have the same sin struggles, the same call, the same Lord. So drag each other heavenward, “encouraging one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25).  And know that really, “glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.”
 
 
Rachel Kilgore is starting her 3rd year in the English PhD. program at Baylor and is a member at Redeemer PCA in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Houston and went to the University of Dallas for a Master's degree in English. After that, Rachel taught as an English adjunct for 3 years in Dallas and Houston before realizing how necessary the PhD. was for teaching English long-term. She usually studies Jane Austen, the ethics of reading, and the development of the novel. 
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This is a common teaching on headship as Christians try to work out the practical implications of Eph. 5:15-33. One wise husband who emailed me commented that he and his wife have humbly been trying to work out what this passage means for 36 years now, and he still has a lot to learn:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

He points out an interesting comment a husband made in a marriage counseling session with Dr. James Boice (I believe he is quoting from his booklet, How to Be Happy as a Family).  More people may think this way about what headship means than possibly admit it:

“I was counseling a couple who were soon to be married, and I asked if they understood what God meant when He said that the wife was to be in subjection to her husband and that the husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The wife was wise enough to remain silent. But the man blurted out, ‘That means that we are to love each other; but whenever we disagree I am to give her a hug and a kiss, and after that we're to do things my way.’" 

Ruth Tucker addresses this way of thinking in her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, quoting well-meaning men who actually apply this right down to differences in opinion of where the married couple will grab their dinner for the night. She then asks, “How do egalitarians work out differences in their marriages? Who is the tiebreaker? When I asked my complementarian colleague about how his headship might look in relationship to the daily routine, I had actually expected something more significant than whether or not to eat at Taco Bell” (49). She then explains the mutuality in an egalitarian marriage when it comes to decision-making:

How do egalitarians deal with a tiebreaker situation? Let’s say the husband is offered a transfer with a substantial salary increase; the wife is settled in the neighborhood---near family, schools, and church. But the husband wants the opportunity to climb the career ladder. Or let’s say the situation is reversed, and the wife has an opportunity to climb the ladder to success. Such a life-changing decision should simply be based on mutuality, and no major move should be made until both husband and wife are fully on board. Can this lead to serious conflict? Of course it can, no matter whether the marriage is based on equality or male headship. (49)

I disagree with both her complementarian examples and the egalitarian one she offers. If no major move is made until both husband and wife are fully on board, one is already submitting---the one who doesn’t get to move. She is right, that will lead to serious conflict. I would say that the biblical model of marriage, as described in Eph. 5, would call for the husband to give himself first to sacrifice for his wife. As the head in the Christian context of the kingdom of God, he should be the first to sacrifice. But I do have a caveat. Every situation is different. If we are talking about where to eat dinner, husbands submit to your wife and sacrifice for her in that way---unless your wife seems to have no concern about pleasing you ever. If she is never willing to sacrifice and submit her own desires to please you, then you have a problem. That doesn't mean it's time to "rule over her," but it probably means it is time for a conversation about how you are to love one another. You don't demand submission, it is a voluntary gift. Wives, care about where your husband wants to eat too. Don’t take advantage of his being the first to sacrifice. But most of us already know this, right?

In a marriage, decisions are made together.

When it comes to something more substantial, like uprooting the family for a career, both husband and wife should empathize with one another. I do believe the husband is called to sacrifice first for the wife. But the first priority of that sacrifice for his wife is to consider the effects of their decision under the mission of God he is entrusted to for his family. The point of headship is unity. There is a theological mission attached to being the head of the household, and the husband is to tend to this.  It is eschatological. We are moving toward something---our mission to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth. This eschatological goal shapes the mission of the household. This mission needs to reach the next generation and the ones after that. And so the head needs to ensure that our faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live accordingly, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of the family, and of the household of God, his church. 

So there are other factors to consider, such as the condition of their finances, is the spouse’s job unbearable, how much time does each spouse have to spend away from the household to earn a living, how it will affect the wellbeing of the rest of the family, or how this career and move supports or sabotages the mission. As the head, the husband bears a responsibility to which the wife should lovingly submit to and not try and sabotage. In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her. She knows he's called to be the first to sacrifice, the first to love. So she shouldn’t manipulate that by her own selfishness. 

The thing is, everyone is called to submit in the tiebreakers. A marriage is a unity and decisions are made together. But the special responsibility of the husband as head isn’t about a moment in a tiebreaker decision. As Robert Wall describes, the head is to continuously “think about the mission, describe it, communicate it, keep it constantly before the group, and develop goals on the basis of it” (Robert Wall with Richard Steele, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, 259). This kind of care for the family will nurture mutual submission on all kinds of daily decision-making. And when the big ones come up such as moving for a job, the foundation will be properly laid.  

I do agree with Tucker that there will still be serious conflict in both egalitarian and complementarian marriages, because we are dealing with sinners after all. But I do hope that in both types of marriages, that will be alleviated by our unity in Christ and our mission to consummate that union.

But the gentleman who emailed me is right---we all still have a lot to learn.

 

 

*I've written more about this:

On Headship and Household

Niether Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Review