Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Okay, this post may or may not be the result of me using my Mother’s Day present before Mother’s Day. But while the fam is away, they have no idea whether I am breaking into my present for an early sampling. This year my major award for Mom of the Year is Christian Dogmatics, edited by Michael Allen and Scott Swain. And for that sampling, I was eager to read Scott Swain’s chapter on the covenant of redemption, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in Psalm 110.
 
It’s a great essay, but it was a footnote that wonderfully articulated something that has been bothering me for a while now. When it comes to popular Christian authors who teach bad doctrine, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern from those who should be troubled by their teachings. Whether it’s the universalism of Rob Bell, or the exalting of social justice coupled with the degradation of the preached Word of Jen Hatmaker, many who should know better will continue to tolerate their public voice---until they come out supporting homosexuality. Then all of the sudden, conservatives are full of outrage, ready to denounce these authors and warn us against them. But the homosexual argument is just a side effect, a natural consequence, of their bad theology that has already been revealed. And it usually centers on what they think about love.
 
What is the greatest end to which God directs all things? Following the statement, “By virtue of God’s free and sovereign decree, all things outside of God flow to the eternal love of the Triune God,” Swain provides a marvelous footnote (and glory be to God that it isn’t an endnote!). I give you footnote number 37:
 
Along with Bavink, I take exception to the tradition of describing the ultimate end of all things as the glorification of God’s mercy in election and the glorification of God’s justice in reprobation (Bavink, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:389). The glorification of God’s saving love toward sinners is a great end indeed, but it is not the greatest end toward which God directs all things: that honor belongs to the glory of the Father’s love for the Son in the Spirit. To put matters this way, I should add, is not to fall prey to the sentimental modern trap of elevating divine love over the other divine perfections for the simple reason that what the Father loves in the Son, and what the Father desires to put on display in and before all creatures, is the full array of divine perfections as they shine forth in the one who is the radiance of his glory and the exact imprint of his being (Heb. 1:3). The question naturally arises, though, how it can be said that all things flow to the love of the Triune God when God decrees that some creatures will inherit eternal condemnation for their sins. Following Tony Lane, we may suggest that even God’s wrath is an aspect of God’s love: while God’s wrath on impenitent sinners may not be an exhibition of love toward those sinners, it is nevertheless an exhibition of the Father’s love for the Son (Ps. 2) and for those who are elect in the Son (Ps. 36:10-12) (Lane, “The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God,”…138-67). (115) 
 
The greatest end to which God directs all things is the love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit. That’s where we see what real love is and what real goodness is. “By virtue of God’s free and sovereign decree, all things outside of God flow to the eternal love of the Triune God” (115). If we don’t get this, we get a whole lot of other things wrong.
 
The love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit is a marvelous glory to behold. And amazingly, we don’t see it displayed as we would have guessed. As Michael Reeves has put it, commenting on the same opening verses in Hebrews, “God’s innermost being (hypostasis) is an outgoing, loving, life-giving being. The triune God is an ecstatic God: he is not a God who hoards his life, but one who gives it away, as he would show in that supreme moment of his self-revelation on the cross. The Father finds his very identity in giving his life and being to the Son; and the Son images his Father in sharing his life with us through the Spirit” (Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, 45). 
 
On the cross we see “the full array of divine perfections as they shine forth in the one who is the radiance of his glory and the exact imprint of his being.” And in that display, how could we not also see his wrath as necessary to all unrepentant sinners, who clearly do not love the Son? 
 
Let’s be careful not to cling to a love that is too weak to understand the greatest end. Oh to behold that beatific vision, of Christ in all his glory, on that Great Day! Christ is preeminent in all things. Christ is our Messiah primarily because of the Father’s great love for the Son in the Spirit! Psalm 110 gives us a confession of that glory and a peek at that sovereign decree:
 
The Lord says to my Lord:
 “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
 
The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
 “You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
 
The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
 

 

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

 

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

I have an article in the latest issue of the PCA's magazine By Faith. They asked me that super easy question that we all agree on so well, about God's design for women and their relationship to men and the church. Here is an excerpt of my favorite part, which quotes from John McKinley, identifying our design and role as necessary allies. You can click on the link here to read the entire article:

Designed for What?
 
We know the godly answer to why woman was created. It’s right there in Scripture: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Together, men and women make up the image of God. This is profound. Adam and Eve are not given two different missions. They are both responsible to carry out the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:26). They are to expand the garden-temple of Eden, thereby expanding God’s presence throughout the earth.
 
And yet, men and women are not androgynous beings. We get another angle to God’s design in creation in Genesis 2: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (v. 18). Unfortunately, this verse has lost some of its helpfulness with the English translation and our own cultural context. When I hear the word helper, I immediately think of the jobs we give our children to make them feel like they are contributing, while distracting and preventing them from getting hurt doing the real work. We’ll tell the little ones to pick up the sticks in the yard, but we aren’t going to turn them loose on the mower. They can wear an apron, fetch some ingredients, and even give them a stir, but we aren’t going to let them use the sharp knives or retrieve the dish from the hot oven.
 
The Hebrew word ezer is far more meaningful than our interpretation, helper. It is a word used throughout the Old Testament, mostly in a military context, referring to God’s rescue and salvation for Israel. Author John McKinley proposes that “necessary ally” is a better interpretation of ezer, one that takes note of the analogy God shows us in Scripture. This also moves us away from the inferior connotations of “helper” while biblically upholding the value of the woman in her relationship with man. In his work “Necessary Allies: God as Ezer, Woman as Ezer,” McKinley notes:
 
The issue in ezer is neither equality nor subordination, but distinction and relatedness. She is to be for the man as an ally to benefit him in the work they were given to do. Just as ezer tells of God’s relatedness to Israel as the necessary support for survival and military perils, the woman is the ally to the man, without which he cannot succeed or survive. Unlike helper, that could seem optional, and allow the man to think he’s otherwise adequate for his task without the women, the distinction of ally marks the man’s dependence upon her contribution. This dependence is plain when we consider Israel’s need for God’s contribution as her ally. …
 
What sort of ally is the woman to the man? She is a necessary ally, the sort without which he cannot fulfill humanity’s mission. Certainly the woman as a necessary ally fits for the mission of family building. The pairing of the two terms ezer and kenegdo brings a meaning that is larger than gender complementarity and union for building a family; necessary ally brings into view the joint Emission for which the male and female are created to rule God’s earthly kingdom.
 
This interpretation shows the necessity of a woman’s strength, value, and contribution as it corresponds to the usage of the same word, ezer, describing God. It also insinuates how things will go badly if woman is not functioning properly to her design. As Billy Joel’s song warns us, woman can bring out the very best in men, or the very worst. We see this in the beginning of Genesis.
 
And the effects of the fall throw a major wrench into the way women and men relate to one another. But it doesn’t change the purpose of our design or the value God has placed on us as image bearers. You would think this would all be easily cleared up by the time we reach the Gospels. And yet Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well is provocative in more ways than one...
 
Read the entire article here.
 
Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
My spellcheck has never recognized complementarian as a real word. But in the circles I run in, I am considered extremely suspect if I don’t identify myself as one. It’s a fairly new term, coined less than thirty years ago. As I have been digging deeper into the movement behind this word, I am finding that it carries different implications depending on who is using it. I have been called a thin complementarian for questioning some teaching from the leaders of the movement that as a woman I am to be constantly looking for and nurturing men to lead me. (To which I responded here.)
 
Within the culture in the church today, many questions are still being asked about the equality of men and women and where and how women can serve. As I have been participating in this conversation, I feel like I need to continue to begin with my convictions that Scripture places the responsibility of the ordained office on particular, qualified men, so that I am not labeled a feminist and dismissed. While I’ve been working on a book project of my own on related issues, I have found this new book out from Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian. In the conservative, Reformed-ish community, a title like that is like saying that you don’t identify as male or female. So of course I had to read it.
 
Lee-Barnewall aims to offer a kingdom corrective to the evangelical gender debate, as stated in her subtitle. She begins the book saying that we need to take a few steps back from our current conversations and debates to recognize how the terms we are using are the product of cultural forces of the era in which we live. She makes the case that our discussions on gender weren’t always framed with vocabulary such as “authority”, “equality”, and “rights.” 
 
So in Part One of the book, the author gives us a history of gender in evangelicalism, showing how women played different roles according to the cultural values of the time. At the turn of the nineteenth century, women were seen as important influencers and leaders in the wider cultural sphere, and were pioneering leadership roles in benevolence movements and missions. Their work in society was seen as imperative to the welfare of the country. After World War II, the woman’s sphere was narrowed to the private home. As culture became more industrialized, women were looked at as the holders of virtues such as “private benevolence, personal manners, and female sexual propriety”, with which they were to model by providing a haven for the men in their families (22).  Women’s virtue and identity were tied to their roles as wives and mothers. And then came the 60’s and 70’s, where “heightened concerns about justice and civil rights created a fertile environment for egalitarians to challenge this situation and advocate for civil rights” (64).  
 
Part Two of Lee-Barnewall’s book challenges the reader to step back from all this cultural baggage and read Scripture with an awareness of our own presuppositions. She suggests that we are reading for answers about who gets authority in what and whose rights are being infringed upon, all the while missing the main points of some key passages. The author doesn’t want to diminish the necessity of addressing some of those questions, but strongly suggests that both complementarians and egalitarians are putting the cart before the horse. Foremost in her teaching is that what our discussions are missing is the complete reversal of the kingdom of God contrasted to how society sees power, headship, and rule:
 
The point is not so much whether hierarchies are present as it is what they mean. In the kingdom, values of power and privilege are turned upside down, and they are upended according to the new values of the kingdom as seen in Christ himself. Christ’s statements such as “the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16) and “whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44) are integral to our understanding of any “hierarchies” in the kingdom. As we will see, the reversal of hierarchies is a prominent way in which the power of God is displayed in the kingdom as well as a vital means to promote unity and community.” (92)
 
You may read this and think, “Well sure, Christians talk about servant leadership all the time.” Lee-Barnewall critiques the way we do that though, saying that too often, when we discuss servant leadership, servant is used more as a modifier for leadership. Whereas, Scripture emphasizes sacrificial service, even in comparison with a slave, as what is a “necessary basis” for leadership. As we see in Scripture, God prefers to work through weakness rather than what the watching world thinks is strong. And so “leaders exemplify the way in which the new age is based on the cross and weakness and create a community whose members relate to one another in this way” (118). This type of reversal requires a dependence on God’s strength rather than our own.
 
I plan to post more on details of what Lee-Barnewall teaches about how this reversal plays out in headship and marriage, as this quick summary is becoming lengthy. But as a reflection, I think we would all affirm this paradoxical teaching about authority and leadership in Scripture, and yet, we so often don’t see leadership characterized this way in our own evangelical culture. Lee-Barnwell pleads that our theology of ministry for both men and women “should be able to show how the ministry of leaders points toward God, not the leaders themselves, and highlights the power of the cross, not just personal areas of competence and responsibility”(168). What I see so often is clamoring of the loudest and most highly paid voices to claim who gets to lead and who has to submit, while the pastors and husbands who truly understand headship are quietly taking out the trash and wiping runny noses.
Posted on Thursday, April 07, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A couple of weeks ago I shared some thoughts I had after reading Christine Pohl’s first chapter to her book Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us. Particularly, I questioned whether the wider, Reformed-ish community is sustainable.  After now finishing her first three chapters on gratitude, I have found some rich teaching that has led me to further reflection. I like a book that makes me think further on my own. 
 
One thing that I have noticed is how different Pohl’s writing on gratitude is to another very popular book on the topic. It has perplexed me how even prominent voices in the Reformed community have helped to promote Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, despite the concerning theological problems in her teaching on gratitude. It led me to conclude that maybe gratitude is a topic that hasn’t been written about enough.  
Besides the writing style, one stark difference that I find between Pohl’s approach to teaching about gratitude and VosKamp’s is that Pohl is discussing gratitude as a practice within a community in response to our gratitude for God, whereas VosKamp’s approach is more an individualistic means to experience her own personal fullness of salvation. In just three chapters, I was both encouraged and challenged by Pohl. She first addresses how gratitude is a function of being made in the image of God, along with noting humility in our capacity to be thankful 
in hard times when we don’t have all the answers, and the ungrateful postures of dissatisfaction and entitlement. Her second chapter on gratitude covers complications that come along with gratitude in relationships, such as manipulation in giving, dependence on another in receiving a gift, the connections between gratitude and justice, and practicing gratitude in a community of broken people. She then gets into the practical applications of what weakens and strengthens gratitude.
 
Pohl said something that stuck with me when discussing how our busyness and ambitions hinder our capacity to pause and take notice of God’s gifts. She mentioned “important but overlooked connections between Sabbath and gratitude” (30). Pohl wrote this in her closing of Chapter Two, but I found myself wanting to read a whole chapter, or even book, on those connections. Within the context that she was addressing, Pohl explains, “Schedules have no space to accommodate things going wrong, and we are unable to receive any gift that might come in the form of an interruption” (30). This is a good observation. Sunday does come as an interruption to us. As we are busy serving in our vocations, we tend to fall into our default of building our own kingdoms. But our Sabbath worship is an interruption of the age to come that is breaking into this age that is wasting away. And we are reminded that we are receivers.
 
I connected this to what Pohl later wrote about the strings that are attached to gifts. She says, “Centuries ago, Seneca wisely warned that ‘one should never accept a gift if one would be ashamed to acknowledge the debt publicly (Ben 2.23.1); a gift should be accepted only if the recipient is willing to ‘invite the whole city to witness it’’” (40). Isn’t this in a sense what we are summoned to do on Sunday? We are called out from our workweek to accept God’s gifts to us of the preached Word and the sacraments, as a covenant community. The whole city witnesses our leaving behind the common activities of life for sacred worship. Sabbath reminds us that we are to rest in Christ. It “is both a response of gratitude and a context for gratitude” (57). God forbid we would not respond by assembling together and receiving his gifts to us.  
 
I remember listening to Tim Keller once talking about a woman who had been visiting his church for a short time. She approached him after a service, explaining that she had gone to church her whole life and never heard the message of grace that he was preaching before. She wanted to know why. Keller said that he turned the question back to her, asking why she thought this gospel message had not been preached. The woman’s response was both simple and profound. She said that if this message of salvation by grace alone was true, then there was nothing that God could not ask her for that she would not have to obey. 
 
We would like God to owe us for our own goodness and accomplishments. This woman understood that receiving the gift of salvation established a new relationship. As Pohl put it, “To be grateful is to put ourselves in the position of a recipient---gratitude reminds us that we are dependent on others” (32). And this woman perceived what it means to be delivered from the reign of sin and to be placed under the reign of grace. She was a new creation, and she owed her life to God. That is our joy as we see that he has given us himself. 
 
I would recommend Pohl’s three chapters on gratitude to all those who recommend or ask about Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts with the hope that the reader would be confronted with a more accurate and enriching teaching---one that doesn’t see gratitude as a means to experience fulfilled communion with God in this age, but that “celebrates life and community” because we look forward to that “experience of total communion” that is to come (55,56). Gratitude is a way of life for those who recognize the “true Gift.”
Posted on Friday, April 01, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Things are not as they seem. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, and it reminded me of something I wrote several years back on G. K Chesterton’s, The Man Who Was Thursday. That book was a crazy ride. I concluded that it was a perfectly sane satire of our own insanity. What else would you expect from the subtitle: A Nightmare? But one of my biggest take-aways that still sticks with me is that nothing is as it seems. Here were my first reflections upon reading it:
 
The story is set up with a debate between an anarchist, Lucian Gregory (“that young man was not really a poet; but surely he was a poem”), and the poet Gabriel Syme. These two very different men end up making a pact to keep one another’s secret after Gregory makes Syme an offer that “is far too idiotic to be declined.” There’s some double agent spy work going on, but I don’t want to reveal all the details. Eventually, we are led to the Council of Days. There are seven men on the Central Anarchist Council, and each man is named after a day of the week. Currently they are planning to assassinate the Russian Czar and the President of the French Republic in Paris.
 
I won’t give away anymore of the plot because the book is full of action-filled suspense. But I will say that the book is filled with allegory, and it’s one of those where the reader can pull out all sorts of their own interpretations---kind of like a nightmare. I think that each “day” of the Council may represent different parts of humanity that need to be redeemed—philosophy, science, the arts, reason, social power, and emotion. While dying to turn each page of this thriller, I had to pause and reflect on themes such as chaos verses law, optimism and pessimism, nihilism, materialism, monogamy, fellowship, and hospitality.
 
The poetic reflections of Gabriel Syme add clues to the mystery while also causing the reader to have their own musings. Here was my favorite:
 
“Listen to me,” cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—“ (178).
 
What leads up to this revelation is both hilarious and deep. Although you can read this book as an unbeliever and be thoroughly entertained, this is such a Christian message. If we don’t see the world with Sunday as the first day of the week, all we see is the back of everything. We are mere reactors to history. We work and labor for a rest that eludes us. But when we know Christ, the vision of the future is opened up.  We see the front. We have a face. And we first rest in the Ultimate Reconciliation before we can really serve with vigor. All of the sudden, even the absurdities that often occur in life find their home. The destructiveness of false ideas is left naked and exposed. The masks have no adhesive. 
 
C.S. Lewis must have been inspired by this book for his, Till We Have Faces, but that would lead me to a whole other article. Chesterton jokingly referred to this nightmarish genre of his as a very melodramatic sort of moonshine. I say, pour me another!