Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Building off of our important discussion about traditional doctrine on this week’s Mortification of Spin podcast, I want to address something I see in a lot of popular level Christian books. There is a false notion among evangelicals that we can either trust in the ordinary means of grace and the church’s creedal catechetical tradition, or we can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. The notion is that we can follow an old custom or we can follow the Source himself.
 
 
And so much of this teaching on following the Spirit sounds a lot like the game of telephone. In the game of telephone, one person passes along a message by whispering in another person’s ear. That person then whispers what they think they’ve heard to another ear, and this continues with the goal for the final receiver of the message to try and speak the original message. If you’ve ever played telephone, you know how silly the message can end up. Likewise, to some Christians the idea of following the Spirit goes something like this:  Jesus is calling, his Holy Spirit will deliver the important personal message, and now you need to obey this inner voice and then figure out which Scripture supports it. We may even do some lucky dipping, hoping the Spirit will lead us to our devotion for the day by the “providence” of where our Bible randomly opens and to where our finger falls.  Then maybe we’ll have that light bulb moment of clarity.
 
 
We all know the Spirit’s work is important, but many are unclear how to follow the Spirit. Do we take prayerful walks and wait on his leading? Is that how we receive his teaching? Do we clear our minds and wait for his prompting? Can we quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s whisper? Can others authoritatively deliver a personal message to us through the Spirit?
 
 
Many of you will agree that this is not exactly how the Spirit works.  But how does he then? A more sophisticated approach may be to point to the Spirit’s illumination in our private reading and interpretation of Scripture. But this sort of Biblicism can also be misleading. I will get into that with more detail in a later post, but it's worth mentioning now that there is more to the Spirit’s work in our receiving God’s word than meeting us during our personal devotion and biblical studies. 
 
 
Both the charismatic and the conservative, more subtle teaching on the Holy Spirit and God’s word cuts us off from the Trinitarian work in communicating God’s word to the whole communion of the saints.  And for some reason this exciting teaching often comes off as as a spiritual buzz kill. I am referring to church tradition and ordinary means of grace. 
 
 
Michael Allen and Scot Swain address the relationship between the Holy Spirit and church traditioning in their book Reformed Catholicity, emphasizing the importance of understanding that the Spirit’s identity as teacher to the church flows from his “eternal identity as the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father and the Son” (26). In John 16:13-15 we see that the Spirit of truth’s mission to his church expresses the outgoing nature in the Godhead. He isn’t just a Spirit with truths to share with us; he is the truth. His being, which is the same substance with the Father and the Son, is truth. Allen and Swain remind us, “This divine truth…is not something that the Spirit possesses, as a message that is distinguishable from its messenger. Truth is what the Sprit is: ‘The Spirit is the truth’ (1 John 5:6; cf. John 14:6)”  (30).
 
 
In the inner life of the Trinity there is a distinguishing, outgoing order---one where the Son proceeds from the Father and the Sprit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Derek Rishmawey refers to this eternal procession, not as “some event long past, but…God’s presently perfect overflowing liveliness. (Every now and then you find a tweet that spins gold.) In this order, the Spirit hears and “receives from the Son that which belongs to his own nature” (30). He is outgoing, overflowing. As a reflection of this procession, he then speaks and proclaims his self-knowledge to his church in the economy of salvation. The Spirit is God; therefore he comprehends the thoughts of God. And he communicates truth to his people. 
 
 
But unlike the game of telephone, the Holy Spirit doesn’t merely speak a message to us, hoping we can decipher it. And he doesn’t leave us to our own private judgment in interpretation when we read Scripture. He is life giving, making us new creations as he dwells with us. He creates the very faith we need to hear his voice in his Word. He doesn’t merely dwell detached with individual believers, but with his entire covenant community of saints.
  
 
How does he do this? “The Spirit causes the prophets and apostles first to ‘understand’ and then to ‘impart’ the ‘secret hidden wisdom of God’ in ‘words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 2:7, 12-13) with the result that, in hearing the prophetic and apostolic writings, we hear ‘what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Rev. 3:6)” (32).  By his work of inspiration, we are given the Holy Scriptures, and “by his work of illumination, the Spirit completes the movement of divine self-manifestation by causing the divine wisdom published in the prophetic and apostolic writings to be received and confessed by the church” (32). 
 
 
Since God has communicated this way and Christ promised that his Spirit would abide with his church forever (John 16:14), Swain and Allen confidently identify the church as the “school of Christ” which “holds the promise of theological flourishing” (33). God has connected the work of his Spirit to his ordinary means of grace.
 
 
The Spirit’s work is so much richer than the low view we often give him. “The Spirit, who hears and speaks the truth within God’s Triune life, creates, sustains, and directs a fellowship that hears and speaks truth within history” (34). Notice that it isn’t a privatized truth for a single individual, or even a single church, but to the whole church within history. This is where traditioning comes in.
 
 
We aren’t talking about an old custom of extra teaching that becomes outdated. We are talking about the “Spirit-enabled”, passing down from one generation to another, “reception of Scripture” (36).
 
 
I’ll close with Allen and Swain’s quoting Herman Bavinck’s beautiful description of this:
 
After Jesus completed his work, he sent forth the Holy Spirit who, while adding nothing new to the revelation, still guides the church into the truth (John 16:12-15) until it passes through all diversity and arrives at the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 3:18, 19: 4:13). In this sense, there is a good, true, and glorious tradition. It is the method by which the Holy Spirit causes the truth of Scripture to pass into the consciousness and the life of the church. Scripture, after all, is only a means, not the goal. The goal is that, instructed by Scripture, the church will freely and independently make known “the wonderful deeds of him who called it out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The external word is the instrument, the internal word the aim. Scripture will have reached its destination when all have been taught by the Lord and are filled with the Holy Spirit. (36)
Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
 
Alastair Roberts wrote a thoughtful response to my First Things article, where I disagreed with Glenn Stanton’s Why Men and Women Are Not Equal. I am thankful for this interaction to my article, and there is much in Roberts’ response that I wholeheartedly agree with. His is the kind of writing on gender that produces real fruit, for which I am grateful to see.
 
 
And yet much of his response is a rebuttal to my writing, which I am a little confused about. He makes three points where I failed in my response. He also believes that I misread Stanton and wrongly critiqued him. 
 
Stanton’s article, which I believe Byrd misrepresents as suggesting that women are the holders of virtue, grounds its case in an account of the empirical nature of men, arguing that men have a particular tendency to certain vices, which social relations with women help to curb. 
 
 
This is where I am scratching my head. I was responding to Stanton’s clear affirmation that, “the most powerful and important influence women have had on our nation’s founding, growth, and success is this: They make men behave. All their other important contributions are secondary.” This is profoundly insulting to read. I recognized familiar evangelical tropes in Stanton’s argument. Even his title, Why Women and Men Are Not Equal, foreshadows his point that women are the more virtuous sex.
 
 
Roberts, on the other hand, does not make this argument, but rather wants to uphold the empirical differences between the sexes and the benefits of recognizing them. To that, there is much that we can agree on. Roberts’ article has far different arguments than Stanton’s. Do men and women have different challenges and strengths when it comes to virtue? Do we learn more about maleness as we see them relate to women? This is worth exploring. But I was compelled to counter Stanton’s claim that one sex is more virtuous than the other---specifically, is women’s greatest contribution to society to make men behave? 
 
 
I would like to respond to the three areas where Roberts observes that I’ve failed:
 
 
First, she fails to attend to the pronounced empirical differences between men and women as groups that Stanton highlighted. 
 
 
Roberts says that while I give the impression that yes, there are differences between the sexes; I downplay this as if our statuses are indifferent, choosing to focus on divinely commanded gender roles. He continues, “Christian teaching, however, is better understood as a clarification and intensification of internal beckonings of being that we experience as men and women within the world, or as the expression of a music for which our natures are discovered to be the proper resonance chamber.”
 
 
I will admit that sometimes I do downplay the differences between the sexes, as I am constantly bombarded with a stereotype rather than true engagement. This is where I see a major weakness in the empirical argument. And I disagree that Christian teaching is better understood by clarifying internal beckonings. How is Christian teaching better understood? By the clear teaching of Scripture. The Christian message, the gospel message of salvation, is outside of us. It is an announcement to both men and women, not to use our virtuous gifting to help the other sex, but of the Son of God coming as our Savior because no one is holy without the Lord. Internal beckonings can get us into a lot of trouble. Even for believers, the Spirit always confirms his leading by the Word. That is how Christian teaching is better understood, by the means of grace God has given his church.*
 
 
But I do agree with Roberts that there are observable differences in the sexes, and that our hormonal makeup affects those differences. This isn’t something I addressed in my article. I’ve written a lot, particularly in two of my books, on how women have influence over men. Studies show that we have a relational gift, that people disclose more about themselves and have more intimate communication when women are involved in the dialogue. Our propensity for intimate conversation helps us to be persuasive to others. But this can also be used in a very sinful way. It can be both a strength and a weakness when manipulated to serve ourselves.
 
 
Roberts points out an obvious proof that men are more prone to aggressive violence: “the vast majority of every single nation’s prison population is male.” Men have higher levels of testosterone that can perpetuate aggression and they are physically stronger, more able to execute that aggression. Again, this can be both a strength or a weakness, one used to cultivate and protect family and society, or to serve their own passions. Men and women are to help one another, as our differences are both challenges and strengths. But I can’t go as far as to say this:
 
Tying men to women and children harnesses men’s energies to the construction and protection of society, where otherwise they might run amok. Where men are not tied to women in such a manner, men often try to prove their masculinity in destructive and socially damaging ways. 
 
 
I guess this is where Roberts is agreeing with Stanton that women make men behave and that is our contribution to society. But this is where his jail argument falls apart. Are these men incarcerated because they didn’t have women to harness their energies? Many of these incarcerated men only have women in their lives, single moms who’ve raised them and likely a girlfriend with babies or a wife. Here are a few statistics I have pulled showing that it is a lack of a strong male figure, their father, which has contributed to their violence:
 
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
 
 
So I do agree that marriage, with both a wife and a husband, is beneficial to society. This benefits singles as well, as they too come from a family. And we see this in the cultural mandate. But it isn’t just because of a woman’s influence or virtue, as these statistics show. We need men with virtue to step up as fathers. This is a real crisis in our culture today. There are many women in abusive relationships who are hurt by this assertion that their virtue should influence their spouse’s sexual impulses and aggressive energies. Rather than inward beckonings, we need to uphold and promote law in society. Marriage between one man and one woman is a part of that. So is incarcerating men who are violent.
 
 
 
I do agree with Roberts’ assertion not to be forgetful of nature. This is why I appreciate a real gentleman, men who use their strength in respect for women. Real gentlemen have more than manners when a woman walks in a room, as Stanton endorses in his article. Men with integrity aren’t to pretend to be virtuous when in front of a woman. And a woman needs discernment on whether that behavior is a reflection of virtue that they are exercising, or if they are instead temporarily pretending.  We are not merely sexual temptresses that motivate men to behave. That is not what Roberts or Stanton are saying; however that is a deduction to the reasoning of the power that women supposedly have to change a man’s behavior when they walk into a room. That is a valid empirical observation to the temporary behavior of men around women.
 
 
 
Second, she handles historical understandings of gender roles as if unalloyed ideology, rather than as practical attempts to respond to and address prevailing social realities, realities that arose in part on account of natural differences between the sexes. 
 
 
 
I am going to be most brief with this argument, as I can only cover so much in one article. Sure, historical understandings of gender roles may be practical attempts to respond to and address prevailing social realities, but that doesn’t negate the fact that many have fallen into damaging ideologies to which I was contesting. Rachel Miller has already written a good article on this, and I have reviewed an excellent book on one area where it has affected evangelicalism. I saw a lot of that same language in Stanton’s article, and am verifiably concerned that gender becomes an ideological commodity when we frame our arguments this way.
 
 
 
Third, she restricts her biblical analysis to an unclear term in relative isolation, rather than seeking to ascertain the larger biblical picture.
 
Byrd’s case rests in part upon an interpretation of the Hebrew terms ezer kenegdoin Genesis 2:18. Unfortunately, rendering this as ‘necessary ally’ doesn’t tell us all that much about the way that men and women are actually to relate…  It is far more illuminating to observe the manner in which Scripture describes the relation between men and women functioning and failing. As we study this, the manner in which the woman is the man’s ‘necessary ally’ will become more clearly apparent.
 
 
 
Yes, I did not have the space to expand on this important interpretation, where Scripture shows women’s contribution. But I did introduce it to contrast a biblical description with competing ideologies. There is important work that needs to be done here that can’t be covered adequately in a blog article. I write extensively on it in my next book. And yet No Little Women is written in hopes that many others will contribute, as I scratch the surface demonstrating how Scripture further reveals women functioning as both allies and opponents. 
 
 
Women do have moral suasion over men. But it can go either way. Women are indeed necessary. Our sexuality is necessary. We shouldn’t flatten our differences. I agree with Roberts’ exhortation here. But in a gender neutralizing society, Christians need to turn to God’s Word, over and above empirical observation, to how we are called to contribute.
 
 
John McKinley outlines seven ways in which women functioned as necessary allies in Scripture, and conversely when sin caused them to function as opponents instead. I expand upon and interact with these in a chapter of No Little Women
 
 
Roberts concludes reiterating that he is not claiming that women are more virtuous than men. I wish Stanton did the same. That is why I wrote my original response. Scripture doesn’t tell us who is more virtuous, or to look to a particular sex for this virtue. We are all told to look to Christ for what we so desperately need. Stanton’s assertion then distracts us from these other important discussions on gender that Roberts wants us to have.
 
 
 
*Thanks to E.J. Hutchinson's critique on that paragraph that led me to add some clarification.
Posted on Thursday, September 01, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Todd has written a great article about no longer identifying with the complementarian movement due to its troubling teachings, but confidently being able to stand as a confessionalist when asked about his position on men and women and the church. Although most agree that this is a secondary order of doctrine, it does affect the way we worship and so there are some visible divisions in that way. However, because it is a secondary order of doctrine, and because I too stand on the platform of speaking from the confessions of the Reformed church, I do think that I can learn from egalitarians who hold to orthodox positions on first order issues of doctrine.
 
 
Before being accused of changing my confessional stance, I am not saying that I am becoming an egalitarian. I am saying that I can learn and be sharpened from particular writings from egalitarians---even when it comes to writing on gender. 
 
 
And this is a weakness that I have seen among complementarians who demonize all egalitarians as people we should never read. Sadly, many of the topics I would like to learn more about are not written by complementarians. Today I want to introduce one. 
 
 
Whenever men or women bring up Phoebe, complementarians get uncomfortable. And the Phoebe argument is a hot button issue when it comes to deacons. So this deacon issue can overshadow some other implications from this part of Paul’s epistle. Michael Bird writes about some of those in his little book, Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts (is that not the best title ever?). In Romans 16:1-2, we discover that Phoebe serves as the envoy of Paul’s letter: 
 
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
 
 
Paul also describes her as a benefactor to him and many others. Bird expands on what the role of a letter carrier was in antiquity, as well as patron-client relationships. He asks some good questions:
 
If the Romans had any questions about the letter, such as: like “What is the righteousness of God?” or “Who is this wretched man that Paul refers to about halfway through?” then who do you think would be the first person they would ask? (20)
 
 
Bird raises another provocative question, suggesting the likelihood of Pheobe reading this letter to the Roman church. I don’t know, Scripture doesn’t tell us. I would imagine an elder of the church would do that. But given her relationship with Paul, and his trust in her to deliver this important epistle, I would agree that she had to at the very least be answering some questions. This is not a church officer role, but certainly involves teaching. Then he drops the doozy:
Think about it, people. This is Romans---Paul’s attempt to prevent a potentially fractured cluster of house churches in Rome from dividing over debates about the Jewish law. This is Paul’s effort to return to Jerusalem with all of the Gentile churches behind him. This is Paul’s one chance to garner support from the Roman churches for a mission to Spain. This is Romans, his greatest letter-essay, the most influential letter in the history of Western thought, and the singularly greatest piece of Christian theology. Now, if Paul was opposed to women teaching men anytime and anywhere, why on earth would he send a woman like Pheobe to deliver this vitally important letter and to be his personal representative in Rome? Why not Timothy, Titus, or any other dude? (21)
 
 
Recently, Bird posted this excerpt from Richard Longenecker’s NIGTC Romans commentary on his blog:
 
Phoebe had been Paul’s patron during his ministry at Corinth, had most likely heard from his own lips the contents of the letter as it was being formulated, and must have had some part in discussing with Paul and other Christians of that area at least a few portions of the letter – and therefore would have been in a position to explain to the Christians at Rome (1) what Paul was saying in the various sections of the letter, (2) what he meant by what he proclaimed in each of those sections, and (3) how he expected certain important sections of his letter to be worked out in practice in the particular situations at Rome. Probably Phoebe should be viewed as the first commentator to others on Paul’s letter to Rome, And without a doubt, every commentator, teacher, or preacher on Romans would profit immensely from a transcript of Phoebe’s explanations of what Paul wrote in this letter before actually having to write or speak on it themselves” (1064-65).
 
 
Yes, too bad we do not have that commentary, Phoebe on Romans. But there is a reason we don’t. Phoebe was not to overshadow the inspired Words of Scripture by any means. But her role in its delivery is not something to downplay. I wrote about it as well in my upcoming book, No Little Women:
 
 
Donald Grey Barnhouse writes, “Never was there a greater burden carried by such tender hands. The theological history of the church through the centuries was in the manuscript which she brought with her. The Reformation was in that baggage. The blessing of multitudes in our day was carried in those parchments.” (quoted in James Montgomery Boice’s Romans, 1913). Again, we see a woman sharing profound theology with God’s people. James Montgomery Boice points out that it was likely Phoebe had others traveling with her given the unsafe conditions for women to travel alone in the ancient world, which makes it all the more significant that she is the prominent one delivering the epistle. Phoebe was probably simultaneously traveling for business of some sort, which is why Paul would also tell the church in Rome to help her in any way she may need during her stay…
 
 
Paul does refer to Phoebe as his prostatis, translated patron. She was likely a prominent woman who assisted Paul with both social and financial means as a necessary ally in his ministry. Being that she is from a church in Corinth by a seaport, she may have assisted many who have travelled through the area with lodging and other means.
 
 
But in addition to Phoebe, Paul mentions eight other women in this section of greeting. “Moreover, five of these women---Prisca (v. 3), Junia (v. 7), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (v. 12), and Persis (v. 12)---are commended for their labor ‘in the Lord.’” (Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 927). This list of greetings reveals something about Paul’s ministry and his relationships. He isn’t one of those theologians who would prefer to give someone a handful of money rather than spending so much of his precious time outside of his study.*  Paul’s ministry isn’t only about the sermons and the writing that he would so valuably contribute. He valued his relationships and depended on the work of many in his ministry. Among the many are women, “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (16:3). We see these women functioning as ezers, or necessary allies, in provisional, hospitable, life-threatening, hardworking, nurturing, and loving ways, not through a peripheral wing of the household, but alongside of the men. This closing section of Paul’s epistle reveals a beautiful picture of the fruit of the ministry of Word and sacrament, doesn’t it? And this is just a small screen shot taken from the farewell closing of one epistle! (From Chapter 4, How the Church Ministers to Every Member). 
 
 
 
These are not women that we should feel uncomfortable talking about. There’s a lot to learn here. I would love for more complementarians to be writing about this.
 
 
* A reference to a quote from John Cotton in Selma R. Williams, Divine Rebel (NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981), 95.
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 muscle 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.