Posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Are you interested in a scholarship to the Faithful Shepherd Pastor’s Conference at Harvey Cedars?  P&R Publishing and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals are offering free registrations for the conference this May 15–17. Applicants must mention “P&R Scholarship” when registering in order to take advantage of this offer. They will still be responsible for arranging and paying for housing with Harvey Cedars.

Carl Trueman will be speaking on The Unique Dangers of our Technological Age

Jon Nielson on Word-Centered Youth Ministry

Todd Pruitt on Hope for the Suffering Pastor

And yours truly will be speaking on Equipping All Women in the Household of God
 
Also, the MoS gang will be doing a panel discussion.
 
Come join us at the beach!
Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A while back, I wrote a post about the places in Scripture where the female voice dominates, sort of interrupting the androcentricity of Scripture in a complementary way. Richard Bauckham’s fascinating book, Gospel Women, is one that I keep returning to for discovery. He has a great section where he elaborates on the Gentile foremothers of the gospel. Rahab is one of the Gentile women Matthew names in the genealogy of Jesus. Why did he include her?  Bauckham insists that it is because Rahab represents God’s openness of his covenant community to the Gentiles. Rahab was a Canaanite who openly professed her faith in the God of Israel, and was then welcome to become a member of God’s household. 
 
Interestingly, Matthew gives us a screenshot of another Gentile woman in his gospel. In Matthew 15:22 we have a Canaanite woman who persuades Jesus to change his mind. 
 
And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.”
 
This would be another example of what Bauckham calls a gynocentric interruption in Scripture. He highlights a parallel with this Gentile woman to the Gentile foremothers mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy---“Like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, she acts with initiative and resolution and, in difficult circumstances, attains her end” (43). He explains this encounter between Jesus and the Cannaanite woman as “a new Rahab encountering a Messiah who could be a new Joshua”:
 
“Her address to Jesus, ‘Son of David,’ is equivalent to Rahab’s confession of the true God that is inseparable from her recognition that this God has given the land to his people Israel (Josh. 2:9199). Like Rahab she takes initiative and asks boldly for the kindness she so desperately needs (Josh. 2:12-13). Like Rahab she receives the mercy for which she had asked (Josh 6:22-25). Finally, and very importantly, like Rahab, because of her faith she is a first exception to the rule about Canaanites. (44)
 
Here is the rest of the interaction between Jesus and the Canaanite woman:
 
But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once. (Matt. 15:23-28)
 
It’s almost as if Jesus is throwing her a softball. Matthew is certainly throwing one to us as readers. He just opened his Gospel with some of these supposed “dogs” named in the ancestry of Jesus. In a footnote, Bauckham reminds us “that Jesus cannot ultimately reject this woman for her ethnicity without repudiating two of his ancestors in the genealogy.”
 
“…What the Canaanite woman does, with the clever twist she gives to Jesus’ own saying (Matt. 15:27), is persuade Jesus that he can act compassionately to her without detracting from his mission to Israel. Like Rahab, with her exceptional faith she secures an exception that can set a precedent…By placing Jesus briefly in salvific relationship to many Gentiles, Matthew seems to be indicating that the Canaanite woman’s precedent is not to be an isolated exception but the beginning of the messianic blessing to the nations.” (44-45)
 
Matthew ends his gospel with Jesus the Messiah authoritatively proclaiming this “precedent constituted by the Canaanite woman” at “a universal scale” with his Great Commission:
 
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
 
The discernment, initiative, and resolve of these women are a model of faith for us all. The first led to the birth of our Savior, and both are a foreshadowing of his blessing to all nations.
Posted on Friday, April 07, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Twitter is an easy venue for statements to be taken out of context. It’s like a bulletin board of thoughts, links, questions, and declarations. There is no context. It’s also an easy venue to set up carefully crafted propaganda, hashtag movements, and false dichotomies. So I have been engaging less and less in twitter “conversations.” That’s not always easy to do because there’s a lot of click bait out there. Much is being “discussed” about relationships between men and women this week and I was tagged on Twitter with this question
 
“What types of situations would it be beneficial for a married person to have a friendship with the opposite gender? Genuinely interested.”
 
I couldn’t possibly respond well on Twitter. So I was left with the choice to ignore it or maybe write something longer on my blog. It’s a question that I’ve seen frequently. And it is related to a topic that I plan on writing much more extensively on: a theology of brother and sister relationships in God’s household. 
 
There are many answers to the above question: work situations, neighborly situations, community outreach situations, parenting situations…but there should already be a foundational level established in how to relate as friends that comes from our household situations. One of the first questions we wrestle with in infancy is “Who am I?” Right away, we receive signals in our personal household. For example, my son would immediately learn, “You are a Byrd,” “You are a son,” “You are a brother,” and “You are loved.”
 
But ultimately, this question can only be fully answered by his Creator. And in God’s household, his church, all God’s people reflect these answers as well. What do my son and daughters learn about who they are in this household community? 
 
Unfortunately, as eager as the conservative church is to speak out against the sexual revolution and gender identity, she often appears just as reductive as the culture surrounding her when it comes to how our communion with God is represented in our communion with one another.  We have lost the beauty of brother and sisterhood, distinction without reduction. 
 
No, gender is not a social construct. There is more to being a woman than my physical body. After God made man and woman in his image he pronounced his creation “very good.” Dr. Kelly Kapic’s excellent chapter on theological anthropology in Christian Dogmatics teaches that this declaration on mankind as “good” was not merely a static state, but a “dynamic or relational view of the human person….Just as God planted the garden to grow, he planted Adam in the midst of that garden---to grow. Humankind could and would change, either growing in beautiful communion with God and the rest of creation, being fruitful and multiplying, or turning from Yahweh and thus compromising their intended human telos” (181). And through four thesis statements, Kapic explains what matters in Christian anthropology. 
 
The whole person matters:
Our minds matter. Our bodies matter. Our wills, our emotions, and our souls matter. All of these faculties that make us human beings made in the image of God need to be rightly ordered toward God in communion with him. Creation reveals this design, and a Christian’s expectation is for glorification where this will be perfected. As we are being transformed into the likeness of the Son, we look forward to intimate communion with him, in new resurrected bodies, on the new heavens and the new earth. 
 
Agency and purpose matters: 
We were not designed to be isolated worshipers of God, but “for communion with God, neighbor, and the earth” (177). This changes the way that we think about our whole being. “Love and communion theologically reorient how we understand and evaluate our bodies and their faculties: we see them relationally rather than reductively” (178). Christians look to both our protological history and to our eschatological expectation. While the first Adam’s sin affected the entire world, so Jesus’ life-giving reality, which has overcome death itself, now promises to affect the entire cosmos (Rom. 5:15-21)” (180).
 
Relational growth matters: 
God’s original declaration of goodness on mankind communicates to us that humanity was “rightly ordered and properly placed within the structure of God’s overall creation. Such goodness consisted in their loving communion with the Creator, a relationship that would foster human flourishing and joy” (182). I love what Kapic includes from many different statements of faith in his chapter, but this one from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines really stood out to me:
“We believe that persons are created in the image of God and destined to live in community with God, and with other persons, and with all creations.” (183)
 
How can we grow relationally if we separated ourselves from friendships with our brothers and sisters? I do understand the intentions and concern in the warnings against such coed friendships, which leads to the next point:
 
Sin Matters:
Sin moved humanity from joyful communion with God to being cut off from God and subject to his righteous condemnation. But in Christ, those who were not a people are now God’s people. And so, “just as no part of the human creature escapes the distortions of sin, so no part of human nature (body, will, mind, will, affections, etc.) is unassumed by the Son…the Son’s full and true incarnation as well as the Spirit’s holistic work of sanctification are both necessary” (187).
 
While we are still susceptible to sin in this age, and are called and equipped to fight sin, Christians know that sin will never be normal. It is an evil that works against our image bearing. “To employ classical language, sin and its consequences are accidental rather than essential to being human, a point that Scripture reinforces both in terms of the goodness of the original creation and the promise of glorification” (184). Sin does matter. And brothers and sisters in God’s household are called to promote one another’s holiness (Heb. 12:15).
 
Representation and solidarity matter:
“In Scripture we are presented with a radical portrait of divine generosity, with humanity given special place of privilege to embody and extend divine goodness and grace. This portrayal also has as radical democratizing effect, which cuts against ethnic, social, economic, and other differences that so separate humanity from one another and also pit persons against the earth. Human creatures were made as interconnected beings, linked to the earth and one another, even as they represented Yahweh to the rest of creation
 
“Accordingly, humans were created to live not as isolated, autonomous individuals but in community with one another and in life-giving connection with the material world as the environment for communion with God” (188). 
 
So, why does it matter that these things things matter when talking about women and men being friends?
 
All mankind has dignity as we are created in God’s image. How do we represent God’s love for mankind in Christ? And, given the concerns over sin, what responsibilities do we have? Well, first we need to view our sisters and brothers holistically, not just physically. What does it mean to look at a person as a holistic relational being? It means that we are not going to reduce them to their bodies, specifically to their genitalia and sexual urges. My gender is more than my genitalia. Is our zealousness to avoid sin inadvertently training Christians to view women reductively as sexual temptresses and men reductively by animalistic impulses?
 
We were designed for communion with God and one another. How does our communion with God affect our communion with our neighbors? Does it cause us to exclude the opposite sex from our friendships? Do we express our love for one another by not being friends? Is that how we promote one another’s holiness?
 
The very definition of a friendship is platonic---“intimate and affectionate, but not sexual.” So this question, “would it be beneficial for a friendship with the opposite gender,” is really asking if coed friendship is even possible. Is our representation to one another in God’s household and also to the watching world that “No, on this side of the resurrection it is not possible”?
 
And what does purity look like in coed friendships? Avoidance? Paul calls Timothy to treat “the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). We know how to do this! We know how to promote holiness in brother and sisterly relationships. I have a close relationship with my brother. When we married, things did change a little. Our spouses get the main focus of our attention and time. We uphold that for one another. We don’t seek a bunch of opportunities for just the two of us to meet together. But when we do happen to be alone together, it’s not a threat to our marriages. Our friendship benefits our marriages; it does not subvert them.
 
In His book, Strangers in a Strange Land, Archbishop Charles Chaput uses similar language as Kapic when describing that we must not be reductive when it comes to purity, while also warning to being preemptive against temptation to sin:
 
Purity is about wholeness or integrity, it means that the body, mind, heart and soul are rightly ordered toward God. Every element of who we are is doing its part to bring us to union with God, which is our ultimate happiness. Given the strength of the sexual desires we all feel, rightly acting on those desires is a key part to maintaining purity. For single people and celibates…it means offering those desires up to God, and seeking to channel them in our love and service to others. (180)
 
Christians, remember who we are. We are God’s people. We were created for joyful communion with him and one another. The Father has shared his love for the Son with us, through his Spirit. Wow! 
 
“The faithful love of God was so great that he restored the true relationship with his mankind again in Jesus Christ, the true and genuine man” (189)*
 
We point one another to the Incarnate Christ, as “we are never more like God than when we love his Son through his Spirit” (166). And even now, we enjoy fellowship together in his household as brothers and sisters. Let’s encourage and exhort one another to be rightly ordered toward God, with all our faculties, and not reduce one another in our friendships. These relationships will benefit us as we are sent out into the world to be good neighbors to all creation.
 
 
*From The Confession of the Church of Toraja, Indonesia
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Here’s a good question: If Hebrews opens telling us that while God has spoken “through the prophets at many times and in many ways,” but that now in “the last days” of this age God has spoken “by the Son,” why are there no quotes from Jesus in the whole sermon-letter? After all, it’s not like Hebrews doesn’t employ a lot of quotes from God’s word in the Old Testament.
 
This is a question raised in Karen Jobes’ great book, Letters to the Church. Before getting to that question though, she breaks down this all-time best opening hook for a sermon, ever, by looking at all the contrasts, concluding:
 
The contrast between the ages (“in the past” versus “these last days”), the audience (“our ancestors” versus “us”), and the mode of revelation (“prophets” versus “the Son”) highlights the one concept that has remained the same through all time: God has spoken to humankind. The author of Hebrews opens his sermon with the bedrock of all biblical thought. God has revealed himself to us. The reality of divine revelation---and idea viewed so skeptically in modern times---is the opening proposition upon which the entire message of Hebrews is built. (63-64)
 
This is the big question, right? I mean, some like to imagine God is speaking small messages to them everyday, new revelations, personally communicated. But the first challenge in human history is meant to question whether God has revealed himself truly at all. Jobes points out that this opening statement in Hebrews “responds to the serpent’s challenge that led Adam and Eve to the fall,” reasoning, “Therefore, because God’s verbal revelation was at the heart of the fall, God’s verbal revelation is also at the heart of redemption.” If God has spoken to us, then we must respond in obedience in faith. 
 
The writer of the Hebrews attributes all the Old Testament quotations as words from the Triune God, ascribing words that were originally from Moses, David, Nathan, and Jeremiah, to God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit.
 
The way the author of Hebrews chooses to use the Old Testament therefore underscores three points for his Christian readers: (1) the word of God that was spoken in the past to “our ancestors” is found uniquely in the Old Testament; (2) the Old Testament “word” was spoken by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and (3) all three members of what would later be called the Trinity speak with the same divine authority. Consequently, the Old Testament is to be understood not only as God’s words to a past people of the old covenant but also as God’s word to Christians after the coming of Jesus. (71-72)
 
And this leads back to our opening question. Jobes reminds us that Old Testament Prophets have whole books in the Old Testament, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Jesus is the ultimate prophet, and yet there is no book of Jesus in the New Testament, or anywhere in the Bible. Sure, we have him quoted in the gospels some, but even then he spends much of his words quoting from the Old Testament, elaborating on both its continuity and discontinuity in the new age. She notes this to highlight that Jesus is completely distinguished as the final and ultimate prophet. While the gospels do use words from Jesus, Hebrews doesn’t have one quote from Jesus.
 
This seems rather strange for a book that so confidently states that God has spoken to us by the Son. Wouldn’t this mean that Jesus’ words are God’s words? And if so, shouldn’t the author of Hebrews be quoting Jesus right and left to make his case? The fact that the book of Hebrews doesn’t once quote words from Jesus’ teaching is a big clue about another qualitative difference between the revelation given by many prophets of the past and the revelation given by the Son. Where the words of the prophets were the message from God in the past, the Son himself is God’s final revelation. This is not to say that what Jesus said isn’t important. It is to say that the identity of Jesus as the divine Son of God is what makes him the perfect and final revelation of God. And so no matter how many other people may come along claiming to be prophets with a word from God, if their message doesn’t point to Jesus Christ as God’s clearest revelation, their message is worthless for understanding God. If you want to know God, look at Jesus, who is the “exact representation” of God’s nature (Heb. 1:3). In other words, Jesus doesn’t just speak God’s words (that is what the prophets did), he is God’s word. (75-76)
 
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Brad Mason has been writing some thought-provoking and very helpful articles for his new website, Heart & Mouth. After posting an article on Complementarity Without Subordination yesterday, he tagged a few of us on Twitter, asking about our thoughts on this post and whether we would agree with his conclusions. I’m honored that Brad even cares what I think, much less that he would put himself out there and ask. I've been following his posts with interest.
 
I thought I would leave a comment over at his blog rather than a short tweet. He’s put a lot of good work into the post, which really contributes to the discussion on complementarianism and a tweet response would not do it justice. But then I noticed my comment was getting kind of long, so I’ve decided to just go ahead and respond here. There is so much that I appreciate about Brad’s post, and there is one area where I'd like to add a caveat, and also an added context that I deem important.
 
First of all, the title alone reveals that Brad is going after this question that has been lurking since the Trinity debate. I just want to thank him for saying this: "it is complementarity as grounded in ESS that produces the metaphysic of oppression." He explains this well in the article. Amen to that. Also, I appreciate his explaining the distinctions between Adam and Eve in creation, the purpose for creating woman, and that the emphasis that we see in creation is as one flesh union, not authority and submission. "None of this natural complementarity either presupposes or necessitates hierarchy of authority nor an order of right to command and duty to obey. It is only as a result of the cosmic and relational disorder introduced by sin that right to rule and duty to submit are mandated and a hierarchical order of human relationships is introduced."
 
Also, the discernment that headship is described for us in Eph. 5, not 1 Cor. 11, that all authority is delegated, that the wife’s submission is “to the Lord,” and the distinction between “role” and “function” are all helpful and good clarifications. Thank you!
 
Brad’s article works well in conjunction with Sam Powell's great article, Headship is not Hierarchy. And in reading and being sharpened by both articles, I would ask Brad if he affirms that the order of creation would indicate that there is headship before the fall, and that headship is not hierarchy. Both Sam and Brad firmly state that there is no pre-fall hierarchy where Eve is to submit to all of Adam's desires. Brad rightly affirms that both the woman and the man were given the cultural mandate:
 
Adam and Eve were created as complements and were, it must be made clear, together given authority and dominion to rule over creation: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). 
 
And both Sam And Brad point to the curse in Gen. 3:16, explaining how the relationships between men and women go awry and hierarchy is introduced. They also both demonstrate how Christ’s work restores what we lost, and that complementarianism should never mean that a husband’s job is to rule over his wife. In Christ, we see a complete reversal of kingdom service. Jesus gives us an example of authority in John 13, and tells us to do the same (John 3:15). 
 
One distinction between the two though is that Sam describes Gen. 3:16 as descriptive and Brad describes it as prescriptive:
 
There is nothing in Genesis 3:16 that is prescriptive. It is simply a description of what life will be like now that men and women have sold themselves into the slavery of sin and death. They will now be governed by the rules of the kingdom of the devil, rather than the law of God. And this will be the case until the Seed of the Woman comes and crushes the head of the oppressor, which happened when Christ gave himself to the death of the cross.
 
 
The pre-fall created complementarity is leveraged in the new order and dispensation introduced by sin, and is now legislated as an order of authority and submission.  The hierarchy of authority is not in itself a curse, rather an amelioration of the disordering effects of sin.
 
To this distinction, I have to say that I agree with Sam’s exposition. You can read both posts for details.
 
My contribution to what both Brad and Sam are writing would be Chapter 3 (and maybe 4 too) of No Little Women. There, I unpack the idea that headship exists in connection with household, both personal households and God's household. Headship existed before the fall because Adam and Eve were in a household, the garden-temple-household of Eden. A household has a mission, and everyone belonging to the household is to be operating in furtherance of that mission. So, we have this cultural mandate that Adam and Eve were given as their mission to co-rule. I can’t condense a whole chapter into a couple hundred words, but here are my main points:
 
Adam was the federal representative of mankind, not Eve. Related to this is his priority of order in creation and his call to guard and keep the garden temple (Gen. 2:15). In the book I suggest that this is also Satan’s strategy for going after the woman. To get to Adam, he went for a target of great value, his bride. (As a side note, I would say that even in natural law, we see that man’s strength equips him for his responsibility in laying down his life physically in protection of women and children, and that would extend to a spiritual component as well).
 
The head of a household has the responsibility to tend to the mission and the purpose of the household. This is not a micromanaging role of authority, but one that trusts and points to the greater Household Manager. He is to promote the oikonomos theou, the stewardship of God (1 Tim. 1:3-5).
 
By God’s grace, the mission did not change after the fall. We see it reestablished throughout the Old Testament and by Christ himself in the New Testament. But now that the common and the holy are separated, Jesus gives the household of God, his church, the Great Commission to preach the gospel, make disciples, and administer the sacraments (Matt. 28:18-20), but all households are subject to the Great Commandment to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:27-29). Christian homes will be functioning under both of these missions, with a better understanding of how they are connected.
 
The social order or chaos within a household, both in Bible times and in this very day, is a witness to those on the outside. Sin introduced chaos, which is described in Gen. 3:16. This is why, even in Eph. 5, men and women are instructed how we serve as good stewards in our households. 
 
Our mission is to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him in 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 of the household needs to ensure that the household’s faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live according to that faith, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of both of the family and the household of God---the church.
 
As Brad and Sam both demonstrated, Eph. 5 teaches proper headship of the husband, which is far different than ruling over a wife and demanding submission from her. Christ as the head of God’s household, the church, did what man never could, and now man is restored to lay down his own life in service to his wife and family. Interestingly the language in these verses describes a husband doing woman’s work in service to her. He's called to take the lowest place to show his love and personal care, and in that way will be blessed in bringing order and peace to his household under God's mission. This is how the head serves the body.
 
 
 
Both Sam and Brad have shared important warnings against a complementarianism that teaches unbiblical subordination of women to men. Brad has demonstrated well how the unorthodox teaching of Eternal Subordination of the Son grounds complementarity in ESS and produces a metaphysic of oppression. Sam distinguishes well between hierarchy and headship and has offered an engaging exposition of Gen. 3:16, breaking down the meaning and context of woman’s “desire” and man’s “rule.” I hope my writing has upheld biblical headship, and explained its service in the context of household. I know that both Sam and Brad would agree with me that headship isn’t just an arbitrary delegation. I try to elaborate on how it is one that brings order to God’s mission to both personal households and the household of God. We look forward to Christ’s resurrection, when all will be holy again, and we will reign together with our Head, Jesus Christ, on the new heavens and the new earth, a garden-temple-city that he is preparing for us now!
Posted on Tuesday, March 07, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
So in my latest obsession with New England women living around the times of 1650-1750ish, I keep coming across the mention of a popular fiction book that was all the rage, Pamela or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson. It’s about a 15-year-old young woman who is taken captive by an abusive man, Mr. B. She starts out as a servant in his household who has been taught the ways of being a lady by his mother. After this mother’s death, Pamela is put under the watch of Mr. B’s horrible accomplice housekeeper, Mrs. Jewkes. 
 
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich writes about Pamela in her book Good Wives as an emblem of the transformation of the “altered concept of female sexuality” from “Puritan repression,” with external controls of sexual behavior, to that of “Victorian morality,” where “woman assumed an active role as purifier of society.” In the latter, rather than the family government and the civil courts controlling the woman’s sexuality, morality is enforced more with the weapon of internal guilt.
 
Pamela’s story is told through letters she is writing to her parents. These letters detail attempted rape basically. Mr. B keeps asserting himself on Pamela with sexual advances, and to avoid losing her virtue, Pamela goes into some sort of fainting spell each time. Neither her parents nor Mrs. Jewkes care to come to her rescue.  This housekeeper guardian is hired to work on Pamela so she will succumb to Mr. B.’s advances. The odd twist is that “the lovely Pamela won [her captor’s] admiration as well as his love” by her virtue. Mr. B. suddenly wants to marry Pamela and she obliges, prevailing as a virtuous bride (until later when it is revealed that he has an illegitimate child through an affair---but don’t fret, he was really sorry and all).
 
And so this title Virtue Rewarded reveals a lot about a woman’s sexuality. The critics of the time couldn’t figure out if Pamela was “really as innocent and as artless as she appeared, or was she simply a shrewd bargainer who knew how to play her virtue as the ultimate trump, refusing to become a mistress until she had become a bride” (quotes from Good Wives, p. 104)? No matter the case, the book was both widely read and praised. Richardson’s readers could identify with the gender paradigms of the time: the aggressive and compulsive man, woman’s sexuality wielding great power, and her virtuous responsibility to reform the man with it. 
 
Why was everyone so okay with this, you might ask? Well, one discerning woman of the time did. I’m also reading through The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr. I had just finished reading an entry of Esther’s, complaining about Pamela, before I read about it in Good Wives:
 
Pray my dear how could Pamela forgive Mr. B. all his Devilish conduct so as to consent to marry him?  Sertainly this does not well agree with so much virtue and piety. Nay I think it a very great defect in the performance, and then is’n’t it seting up Riches and honnour as the great essentials of happyness in a married state? Perhaps I am too rash in my judgment for I have not read it half out tho’ I have enough to see the Devil in the Man. (98)
 
(March 12, 1755)
       
Most men are not devilish like this. But it did make me think of the message that is taught in the popular children’s movie Beauty and the Beast. The stories have similarities. Have we come much further along all these years? Sure, the beast doesn’t physically accost Belle with sexual advances, but he rips her from her family, holds her captive, has an abusive anger problem, and orders her to starve if she refuses to eat with him. His character is an actual beast. And then, lo and behold, Belle’s beauty and virtue reform him, she falls in love with her captor as well, and he of course turns back into a prince (this is from the cartoon version anyway). 
 
I was just talking with a friend about how girls in the evangelical culture are not typically raised to discern evil. Rather, we like to keep our little girls in a sanitized bubble where they feel confident in a happy ending. We rightly want to teach them purity and virtue, but we need to beware of overemphasizing the sexuality component and overcasting that above the glorious image of God that we are to holistically reflect. Therefore, we also need to be asking some questions about some of the messages that our children pick up regarding their beauty and sexuality. Is beauty rewarded by the ability to overlook evil, and then to reform it by our own virtue? Are beauty and sexuality merely commodities that we withhold from consumption to manipulate behavior? Can beasts be reformed? 
 
Esther Edwards Burr had enough judgment to see the Devil in the Man of Pamela’s story. Apparently Pamela’s own parents in this fictional tale didn’t. Ulrich explains:
 
If chastity was property in Richardson’s novel, it belonged to the heroine, not to her father or to any other man. Using her own assets, Pamela won the title of wife. But victory over the sensual advances of Mr. B. was achieved only by overcoming the governance of Mrs. Jewkes, who had failed in her role as protector. It is as though Richardson were saying that the lore of the old wife was insufficient to protect a young woman in the changing world of the eighteenth century. Bereft of parents and of guardians, she must acquire a new world of values, breaking out of the ancient community of women into the sequestered paradise of an idealized marriage. (Good Wives, 105)
 
Is it too far of a jump then to suggest that the popularity of 50 Shades may be a reaction to the history of a woman’s sexuality, and an outright playing out of the premise of it’s bondage? Even the names, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, give the all too familiar plot away. Here the heroine woman is no virgin, but we still find her exchanging her sexuality in a contract, played out in a detailed dominant/submissive relationship, as it overcomes the man who professes his love to her and marries her. Anastasia wins the title of a wife. In a most unvirtuous story, where the woman’s sexuality is explored in the most shameful ways (we could even say the beast in him brought out the beast in her), it strangely leads to….virtue? It doesn’t make any sense, but maybe I can see where it came from. The secular woman has aquired a new world of values. And once again, the poor woman did not have the judgment to see the Devil in the Wealthy Man.
Posted on Monday, February 27, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Okay, my friend Dana gets the credit for this one. She was selected as a beer tasting judge for the Quad State Beer Fest Amateur Home Brewing Competition after submitting in her qualifications, “but have you ever had a housewife as a judge?” This was a call for an Aimee date to practice housewife beer tasting lingo. Except we did just that---we ordered a flight of beer and used housewife lingo for our final verdicts. Instead of “it’s a heavy beer, but a bit too earthy and lacking in finesse,” we preferred, “This beer smells like my uncle Bob.” You get the picture.
 
We were able to get together again for dinner over the weekend, and we had a lot to catch up on. I was talking about my recent obsession with learning about life for New England women in the mid-seventeenth to mid-eighteenth century. It all started with an innocent enough reading of a biography on Anne Hutchinson, Divine Rebel. That led me to ask a lot of questions, and the next thing you know, I ordered a handful of interesting-looking books. I tend to pick a topic or two every year that I want to learn more about and consequently put together a reading list. But the titles of these latest books are quite intriguing. I mean, once you see a title like The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, it’s a no-brainer---you have to read it. And the book delivers the goods. 
 
Then Dana dropped the genius. As I was talking about these titles, giving my two-sentence synopses on the books, Dana said that we should make book flights for different topics. Her sister-in-law, Laura, had just shared an article with her where wine tasters were throwing around the idea. There we were, on an unseasonably warm day in February, dining on the outside patio of the Main Cup, eating our bomb salads with fried goat cheese, and I realized that all my life I had been missing something---book flights! This should revolutionize the way books stores market. They should offer flights with discounts. Authors, professors, pastors, and informed laymen should put together flights for recommendation. 
 
The usual way to go about tasting a beer flight is to begin with the bottom stair and work your way up. That is, tasters usually start with the lighter beer and move to the darkest, or the beer with less alcohol content to the most. Beer flights are typically 2 to 6 oz. samplings of what is available at your local brewery. But if there is a wide enough selection, you can customize flights by sampling all their IPA’s, wheat beers, or sours, for example.
 
It makes sense to put together a book flight that may also include lighter, more generalized reading that advances to more detailed and rich learning. I haven’t read all my 1650-1750-ish century New Englander Wimin books yet, and the footnotes are leading me to order more. For example, I’ve all the sudden developed many questions about privacy in New England homes, and sure enough, there’s a book for that. I could see putting together a generalized flight from my little study and then breaking off into specialized flights, like one for the witch trials, one for Anne Hutchinson, one for the few women who did write at that time, etc. 
 
I’m already beginning to think of some housewife (should I say goody?) tasting lines for the books in my flight like, “Pretty sure I’d be tried as a witch and hanged if I lived then, were it not for the one thing I have going for me---my neighbors like me.” I think they do, anyway. In the late 1600’s, you didn’t have to wonder. You find out in the end. And although I have been ordering some of these books used, none of them smell like Uncle Bob. Wait, I don’t’ have an Uncle Bob.
 
Anyway readers, you know what to do. Start sampling, assembling, and recommending some book flights!        
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                             
 
                     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A couple of years ago, while writing about a transgender man trying to compete as a woman in Mixed Martial Arts, I commented that I think we are going to see more clashes between LGBT rights and women’s rights. And it continues. You really see this happening in women’s sports.
 
The most recent news story is that of a female wrestler who is transitioning and identifies as a male. The league rules prohibit her from competing against males, as she wishes to do, so she is competing as a female while using testosterone. Mack Beggs has been using testosterone since 2015. Dallas News reports:
 
Mack Beggs, a transgender 17-year-old at Euless Trinity, won the girls 110-pound championship at Saturday's Class 6A Region II wrestling meet after a Coppell wrestler forfeited the final. Beggs, a junior, is taking testosterone while transitioning from female to male.
 
The strange part is that Mack is not allowed to compete with the males, whom she identifies with, but is allowed to compete against females while on steroids:
 
The Texas Education Code and UIL rules prevent steroid use, but the code has a "safe harbor" provision that allows a student to use steroids if they are "dispensed, prescribed, delivered and administered by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose."
 
Nancy Beggs said the wrestler's medical records were sent to the UIL before the 2015-16 season and again before this season, and Mack was approved to compete.
A spokeswoman for the UIL said the organization cannot comment on specific cases but reiterated the safe-harbor provision in a statement to The News.
 
So now these female fighters with female hormones are left to either forfeit, as two already have in this Regional meet, advancing Mack to the State finals, or wrestle someone with an unfair advantage. But the coaches and athletes didn’t choose to forfeit merely because Mack has an unfair advantage. They know that they would also be risking injury against an opponent who is using strength enhancement hormones that are against the rules for all the other young men in the league to use. The other young male competitors cannot use these steroids to feel more manly or to strengthen their muscles while competing. They would be disqualified. But Mack can use them and wrestle young women.
 
Mack’s grandmother and guardian commented that these forfeitures were about “bias, hatred, and ignorance.” But from all accounts, even the upset parents are not trying to make this conflict be about Mack’s decision to transition to a male, but about the safety of their players on the mats and fair competition. Eleven days before this meet, parent Jim Baudhuin filed a lawsuit against the University Interscholastic League “urging the governing body to suspend Beggs because of the use of the steroid.”
 
Baudhuin also said his suit had nothing to do with Mack Beggs being a transgender male.
 
"I respect that completely, and I think the coaches do," Baudhuin said. "All we're saying is she is taking something that gives her an unfair advantage. It's documented. It's universal that it's an unfair advantage."
 
But that’s not enough. Are we supposed to sacrifice the safety of our own daughters? Whose rights win, the LBGT’s or the women’s? And when do women’s rights stop being women’s rights? What measure of testosterone changes that? 
 
This was brought up in the 2016 Olympics as two males who had the transition surgery to female were given the okay to compete as long as their testosterone levels were below a certain level. This of course still leaves the biological differences that are very real unfair advantages when men and women compete in sports.
 
So we can expect to see more and more of this clash of rights in female sports.
 
When it comes to sports, how we feel on the inside doesn’t cut the mustard. So whose rights are we going to protect? We need to begin asking the question, do decisions have consequences and for who? What might a person transitioning to another sex expect as a trade off in competitive sports? Do they get to have it all at the expense of those competing with their natural biological make-up? Do they get to identify as men but compete as women? Does sex reassignment surgery really level the playing field? And how can we be fair in sports, even protecting our women from unnecessary injury, and loving to LGBT individuals? How can they be loving to natural women?
Posted on Friday, February 17, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I’ve been in a lot of conversations about orthodoxy. The word itself is a turn-off to some, and a status for others. The former believe the word to be a mere intellectual pursuit detached from holistic love, while the latter like to use it as a seal of approval. But orthodoxy is neither a cold truth nor a rank in prestige. Orthodoxy is about how we communicate God’s revealed truth. 
 
Many think it’s an old guy term, and I would agree. That is part of its appeal. Orthodoxy is concerned with what the true church has historically affirmed and denied about the first principles of God and salvation revealed in his word. God didn’t just give us his word; he made us a church. The divine authority of his word leads to churchly confession. We aren’t just concerned about what God’s word says; we pursue the understanding of what it says. 
 
Orthodoxy is an act of love. Loving truth leads to communicating truth with the goal of living in unity in the truth. Ultimately, orthodoxy serves our goal of communion with the triune God, or should I say, his pursuit of communion with us. What a great wonder it is that God has revealed himself to his people! And he does give us a status, union with Christ as new creations, so that we have fellowship with the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. 
 
Reading and interpreting Scripture is not an individual act. It is a covenantal act. And it is an act that requires the Spirit’s work in his people. While upholding the necessity of personal faith in Christ to have a saving relationship with God, we also embrace the Scriptures as God’s living self-revelation to his people. So we care about orthodoxy because how we communicate matters. 
 
Herman Bavinck beautifully explains to us the riches of God's revelation:
 
We must avoid the one-sidedness of intellectualism and that of mysticism, for they are both a denial of the riches of revelation. Since both head and heart, the whole person in being and consciousness, must be renewed, revelation in this dispensation is continued jointly in Scripture and in the church. In this context, the two are most intimately connected. Scripture is the light of the church, and the church the life of Scripture. Apart from the church, Scripture is an enigma and an offense. Without rebirth no one can know it. Those who do not participate in its life cannot understand its meaning and its point of view. 
 
Conversely, the life of the church is a complete mystery unless Scripture sheds its life upon it. Scripture explains the church; the church understands Scripture. In the church Scripture confirms and seals its revelation, and in Scripture the Christian---and the church---learn to understand themselves in relation to God and the world, in their past, present, and future.
 
Scripture, accordingly, does not stand by itself. It may not be construed deistically. It is rooted in a centuries-long history and is the fruit of God’s revelation among the people of Israel and in Christ. Still, it is not a book of times long past, which only links us with persons and events of the past. Holy Scripture is not an arid story or ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful Word, which God, now and always, issues to his people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us. It does not just serve to give us historical information; it does not even have the intent to furnish us a historical story by the standard of reliability demanded in other realms of knowledge. Holy Scripture is tendentious; whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope [Rom. 15:4]. 
 
Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit that it might serve him in guiding the church, in the perfecting of the saints, in the building up of the body of Christ. In it God daily comes to his people. In it he speaks to his people, not from afar, but from nearby. In it he reveals himself, from day to day, to believers in the fullness of his truth and grace. Through it he works his miracles of compassion and faithfulness. 
 
Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and his church, between God and his children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God, the letter of the omnipotent God to his creature. God once created the world by the word, and by that word he also upholds it [Heb. 1:2,3]; but he also re-creates it by the word and prepares it to be his dwelling. Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture. It was not only “God-breathed” at the time it was written; it is “God-breathing.” “It was divinely inspired, not merely while it was written, God breathing through the writers; but also, whilst it is being read, God breathing through the Scripture, and the Scripture breathing Him [He being their very breath].” Having come forth from revelation, it is kept alive by divine inspiration and made efficacious. It is the Holy Spirit who maintains both prophecy and miracle, Scripture and church, joining them together, thus preparing the parousia. 
 
Some day when being and consciousness are completely renewed, revelation will end and Scripture will no longer be necessary. Divine inspiration will then be the portion of all God’s children. They will all be taught by the Lord and serve him in his temple. Prophecy and miracle have then become “nature,” for God dwells among his people.
 
(Excerpt from Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, 384-385, boldfaces mine and I also broke the paragraphs up more for the medium of a blog post. His quotation is from J.A. Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, Vol. 4, 319.)
 
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A Treatise Concerning the Necessity of Marriage*
 
The purpose of the discourse laid out – The major points therein established – The sundry benefits of marriage discussed – The vices thereby abstained from much derided
 
Bearing in mind that the covenant of marriage is not to be entered into, as the Scriptures tell us, unadvisedly or lightly, but rather with all reverence, according to the sundry commandments given for the mutual benefit of all persons, yet which can bind no man but that he take upon himself the yoke, I submit the following discourse for your due consideration, with the exceptional proofs thereunto belonging, wherein you might be made aware of my intentions in this regard.
 
First, that it be for the furtherance of that mutual joy of which all married persons must partake.
 
Second, that it might affect the greater help and comfort of the same, wherein they may thereby experience both prosperity and adversity with no decrease of faith.
 
Third, that it might be for the increase of that procreation which was established by God upon his first covenant with man, for the compassing of which end such persons ought to be joined together in holy matrimony.
 
 
Now follow my expansions upon those points heretofore stated.
 
1.      The mutual joy which is spoken of by means of allegory in the Canticles, the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church spoken of by Saint Paul in his discourse to the Ephesians, the many covenantal benefits made efficacious to those who take part – such things we must not deny.
 
(1.)  That he who possesses a happy wife doth, as spake some philosopher, possess also a happy life.
 
(2.)  That troubles paired be not troubles squared, for they shall not cross the threshold of such as make the Lord their God, or if they do, they are but the trials of a moment sent to make us noble, and for the furtherance of that mortification of the flesh that is incumbent upon all believers.
 
 
2.      I am hereby advised to “get on with it”, and shall as such make haste to finish, neglecting this point. God forgive me.
 
3.      That man exists still in a state of carnal lust we must certainly acknowledge, and that the occasions therein for deeds of the flesh are rampant, it would not behoove us to deny. We must therefore set ourselves unto the following aims.
 
(1.)  That, as the apostle writes, “It is better to marry than burn,” and thus the gift of marriage is granted to all believing men, that they might flee from the prospect of fornication and lend due reverence to the wife to whom they be predestined.
 
(2.)  That paradise be not lost upon entering into matrimony, but rather regained, according to that covenant made at the first, having escaped the snares of the devil, by which he seeks to pull us into the bonds of iniquity, we embrace rather the bonds of marriage, for the furtherance of our sanctification.
 
(3.)  And as someone hast said with regard to procreation, it is the ready means by which we grow the Church of Jesus Christ, and knowing as we do how the odds be stacked against the gospel truth in this present age, we must find our strength in numbers and make of thee a second Eve and mother of all the living.
 
 
We await now such sundry answers as you see fit to grant to us, that we may be hereby directed to a course that will be for the mutual satisfaction of both parties.
 
 
(And here was her reply...)
 
 
My dearest John,
 
I scarcely understand this letter you have sent to me. Indeed, I scarcely understand half the things you say, be they ever so exalted. Nevertheless, if it is marriage you seek, I shall submit myself to this yoke, as you so artfully call it, if you will but promise me three things upon pain of your eternal soul. First, that you should never speak Latin in my presence again. Second, that you should on one occasion per week pry yourself from your books long enough to change a nappy. Third, that you should find some means of sustenance beyond your tomes, for such things as you write are more fit for the shelves of Duke Humfrey’s library than the hands of the common man, and if they be our only source of sustenance, shall be the making of our eternal poverty. This is my reply. May heaven help me.
 
-   Mary Rooke
 
*A bit of fun from the brain of Amy Mantravati. You can follow her on Twitter @AmyMantravadi