Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Denny Burk says he would like to see more discussion on how the “headship norm” established in Genesis 2 as a “creation norm” informs one’s view on maleness and femaleness. In his response to the questions and challenges we at MoS have raised to some of the popular teachings within complementarianism , Burk says:
To be fair, I think complementarians have a lot of work to do in this area. The Danvers Statement itself is pretty limited in its application to the church and home. But its minimalism is not consistent with its own first principles when those two domains are deemed the only relevant domains for living out manhood and womanhood.
While pushing back at Carl’s claims that Piper’s teaching on complementarianism “focuses ‘almost exclusively on issues of authority, hierarchy, and submission,’” this is exactly what he is concluding with by saying that the “headship norm” is extended beyond church and home and directly correlated to our manhood and womanhood.
But what is the teaching in Genesis on this issue, and how is it further brought to light in the New Testament? We should first point out that God made man and woman in his own image (Gen. 1:27).* And in this garden/temple/household of Eden, the overarching theme between Adam and Eve is not authority and submission, but unity in one flesh. I am not saying that Adam was not set as the head of the household, but that the point is unity. 
That unity is disrupted in the Fall. And after the Fall, we have the division of the holy from the common. Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden/temple. The temple, the home, and the civil community will now be separate. And yet, we see later in Scripture that the church is referred to as the household of God (1 Tim. 3:15).
Burk is right that there are many questions left about the mystery of manhood and womanhood, and how that all plays out in culture. Neither Carl nor I deny there are many differences between the sexes, some cultural, and some innate. But I do deny that male headship is imperative to living out my womanhood in civil society. I believe headship is a factor when it comes to household order, and I do not believe that headship is a micromanaging role. 
The Household Manager
Gregory Beale has done some great work on Christ as household manager and how that connects to the first married couple in his book Hidden But Now Revealed. This is certainly not a book about gender roles, but his teaching sheds some light to this question. He has a chapter dealing with the use of the word “mystery” in Ephesians where he says, “Paul casts his net wide in Ephesians 1 and then tightens it as he progresses through the letter” (148). So Beale begins in quoting Ephesians 1:3-14, honing in on v. 9-10a (NASB):
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Beale explains:
The mystery has to do with Christ overseeing a “household management” (or “administration,” oikonomia) of the “fullness of times” that refers to the latter days (Eph. 1:10a).
…In other words, Paul tells us what part of the revealed mystery is (!) “a household management---the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” (150)
God’s cosmic household had fallen into disorder and became wrecked and fragmented. Christ came as a household manager to put God’s cosmic household back into order. The main focus of the revelation of the mystery is that Christ is the point of reintegration and restoration of the original cosmic unity and harmony that had been lost at the fall of humanity, a fragmentation that had affected nor only earthly but also the heavenly realm. (151)
Beale shows the “tightening” throughout the chapter that Paul does on the content of the mystery as the epistle continues. His section on Ephesians 5:30-31 turns on the use of Genesis 2:24, quoted in Ephesians 5:31, right before Paul says this is a profound mystery:
The revealed mystery occurs in the midst of what is labeled a “household code” (see Eph. 5:22—6:9; so also Col. 3:18—4:4). The designation “household code” refers to a Greco-Roman social understanding of the ancient family structure that entails proper relationships between the members of the family household order. Scholars often find strong conceptual links between the Greco-Roman household codes and those found in Ephesians 5-6 and Colossians 3-4. What must be kept in mind, however, is the code’s relationship to the end-time people of God as the new creational community. The household code is intimately bound up with the gospel and believer’s relationship to it (Eph. 5:1-21). In this respect, Ephesians 1:10 says that Christ’s “summing up of all things” was for a household management at the “fullness of times.” Accordingly, Christ has come to restore the household of creation as “household manager.” In addition to restoring people groups in the cosmic household, Christ has also come to put back together the fragmented relationships of the individual family households: husbands and wives, parents and children, and slaves and masters. (173-174)
In these “household code” verses in Ephesians 5, we have responsibilities laid out for the wife and husband, with reference to the first husband and wife in Genesis 2:24.
The logic of Genesis 2:23-24 is the following: woman is man’s intimate partner and companion, so much so that they are a unity (Gen. 2:23); therefore..., marriage is the ultimate expression of this creational relationship (Gen. 2:24).
…it is only within the context of marriage that the first man and woman achieve relational balance and union. (175)
This is interesting, because we know that on the new heavens and the new earth, we will not be given in marriage (Matt. 22:30). The church is the bride of Christ, and we wait for the consummation on that great day. Will men be less manly in the resurrection because they will not be the head of a woman? Of course not! And what will the headship roles be that we are given in God’s consummated household where temple, garden, city, and home are once again united in holiness? I do not know. But I think something Hannah Anderson has said in her book, Made for More, is important as we are preparing for that day, "When we craft our learning and discipleship programs around being 'women,' we make womanhood the central focus of our spiritual pursuit instead of Christ" (105). 
Beale makes the case that “Gen. 2:24 is the fountainhead of Israel’s conception of marriage and serves as the paradigmatic expression of marriage” (175, emphasis his), and that is then metaphorically implied to God and his dealing with Israel in the OT (Isa. 61:10, 62:2-5 4 Ezra 10), including God's end-time marriage relationship with Israel in the latter days. Ephesians 5 then applies the Lord's relationship with Israel to Christ's relationship with the church. "Christ becomes identified with the Lord, and the church is identified with true end-time Israel" (180, emphasis his). So Adam and Eve's union in marriage "typologically corresponds to Christ and the church" (181, emphasis his).
Beale puts Paul's teaching on marriage within the Greco-Roman household code of proper relationships between the members of the family being a sign of social order, and places that under the umbrella of the mystery revealed in Eph. 1:10, of Christ overseeing a household management..."the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth."
So we see that as household manager, Christ is working in both God’s household and family households as he is summing up all things. So what is it that the head of a household does here in these last days? And when we are talking about elders in God’s household and husbands in family households, what is their responsibility in authority and leadership? I will discuss that  in my next article on 1 Timothy 1:3-5.
*Hannah Anderson has written a great book on this called Made for More
Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
There are plenty of trolls on the internet. But one thing I have always loved about blogging is being sharpened by thoughtful readers who leave comments. 
I did not expect my post about John Piper’s answer to the question to the single woman who wishes to be a police officer to get as much attention as it has. And it’s been a bit frustrating to see how some have misinterpreted my response, both in the combox and in some blog posts. I am hoping to have time to work on a post that gets to the heart of what Denny Burke has challenged about creation and headship. But as I skimmed through the combox on David Talcott’s First Things post* he was praising, I found a comment that confirmed yet again why this is such an important issue and also brought some common sense sanity back into the discussion. 
I disagree with the idea that, if gender doesn't somehow define every single aspect of every single thing you do, we are opening the door to gender being something people choose. In fact, I tend to think the opposite is true, and that we see in the transgender movement what happens when gender and sexuality becomes our entire identity, rather than a part of our larger identity as humans made in the image of God.
I'm a woman who teaches college students. Does the fact that I am a woman affect my teaching? I'm sure it does. I don't stop being a woman when I step into the classroom. But, is it somehow my job to make sure that certain male-female hierarchies are maintained while I teach or to be sure to teach self-consciously as a woman to students who I view self-consciously as male and female? I don't think so. Should I quit my job so that I'm not in a position of authority over the young men in my classes? Should I be careful to have a tone of submissiveness when I give feedback to my male students, lest I bruise their egos? Should I relate to my male students in a fundamentally different way, when we're chatting before class or I'm responding to an e-mail, than I do with my female students? Do I need to frame every interaction we have in terms of our genders?
I don't think so. In fact, I think doing so would make a lot of life pretty much impossible. Does being a female matter for a teacher, or a police officer, or a doctor, or a nurse, or any other role a woman might have? Yes. I do think that much of the time we will naturally perform our jobs in a way that is inflected by our genders. But, that doesn't mean that we are somehow fully defined by those genders, or that we somehow have to play out certain proscribed gender roles in every interaction we have. I strive to relate to all of my students in a warm, professional, and respectful way, and that holds true whether they are male or female. Piper's position, if taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that every time I talk to a male student, I need to be very, very careful to keep the male-female hierarchy in mind and to relate to him specifically as a woman to a man (rather than a teacher to a student, or one person to another)--if it's appropriate for me to teach an adult male student at all--and I think that's patently absurd, and it's that patent absurdity that Aimee Byrd and Carl Truman were responding to.
Comboxes remind me that there are regular people like me out there, lay-theologians, who are affected by the teachings that come down from the top men. While there is much good to glean, we need to pay attention and interact with both the good and the troubling positions being taught. So, thanks Lori, for taking the time to leave that comment. Some of us are still reading the combox.
Posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
One of the perks of moving back to my hometown is that my son now gets to take his Mixed Martial Arts training at my brother’s dojo, Clinch Academy. Yesterday they had belt promotions. Any of you who may have trained in the martial arts know that belt promotions are a major right of passage. And if you train at a place that is more serious about the art than the business, the belt symbolizes more than just time put it and physical skill.
That’s what my brother talks about at the beginning of promotions, what these belts symbolize. Yesterday, he asked the kids what it takes to get good at mixed martial arts. He talks about this often, so multiple hands were going up to answer. Luke likes to start it off with discussing the meaning of commitment. But he doesn’t just keep it in the dojo. While the kids give answers about its meaning, he asks them where else this applies in life.
A black belt takes a long time and a lot of commitment. Sometimes you will want to quit. So you have smaller goals along the way. In order to be promoted to the next belt, you have to put in the time and be able to pass the evaluation for what that belt requires. The higher your level, the longer time there is before your next promotion. So the kids were answering Luke, that this takes perseverance and endurance. “What else?” One kid raised his hand and said “courage.”
“When will you need courage in life?”
Now you would think that in a place that trains in MMA, the bravado would kick in and this would be the perfect time to talk about all the moves and submission holds they have learned to defend themselves or another against an attacker. In fact, they had just been through another lesson on bully safety strategies. That takes courage, for sure. Or maybe this would be a good time to bring up the recent story in France, where four Americans thwarted a shooting on a train. Now that is courage, right? And some have even responded that this is what it means to be a man, to have that kind of courage.
But Luke’s class isn’t just for boys. In fact, half of his students in that class are girls. And while that is surely a courageous act, most of us will not have to fight off terrorists in our lifetimes. Maybe we are all called to an even more profound courage than what was displayed on that train. Luke is instilling in these kids that they need courage in life to be honest. That is hard even for adults. So once again, he took this opportunity to talk about the bravery it takes to tell the truth even when you may get in trouble or when you know there will be consequences you don’t like.
He then asked, “What responsibility do you take on when you accept your new belt?” The kids already knew the answer. You are a role model, a good example to the lower belts, and to everyone, both inside and outside the dojo. 
I couldn’t help but think of how we need this same encouragement and exhortation to honesty in the church. I’m glad that these children are learning that honesty does come with a cost. It takes real courage. That is what they are being called to. 
Since we know that we have Christ, who was hated for his honesty, and bore our sin for us, Christians can have the courage to speak truth in the most difficult times. When we have done something wrong, repentance takes honesty and we have Christ’s forgiveness. When we know that we must speak unpopular truth to expose false teaching or hypocrisy, we are comforted that in a small way we are identifying with the suffering of our Savior, who is crucified and risen. That is what we are called to, inside and outside of the church. I would say that it takes even more courage than fending off AK-47 shooters. In that case the men said they were thinking, “I’m probably going to die anyway.” In this case, you have to die to yourself on a continual basis.
Posted on Wednesday, September 09, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Every Christian knows that we are called to forgive others. But as soon as we talk about what that means, disagreements abound. Stanley Gale has a new booklet out on the important topic of Christian forgiveness as part of the Cultivating Biblical Godliness series published by Reformation Heritage Books.
In about 30 pages, Gale tackles some of the questions and disagreements that surface when we think deeply about this doctrine, while teaching the forgiveness Christians receive in Christ as the foundation for forgiveness reciprocated to others. This foundation is why we must forgive. Gale asserts that refusing to forgive “undermines, or at least underestimates, the power of the gospel itself” (2). Here are some of the questions he tackles:
“What part, then, does our forgiveness play in our ongoing relationship with God?” (4)
“Why must we ask God forgiveness if we already stand completely and continually forgiven by him?” (5)
Is “forgive and forget” a biblical concept? (17)
What about those times when the person who sinned against us doesn’t ask for forgiveness? (19)
I’m not going to give all of Gale’s answers because it would be more helpful to read his own words. But I thought I’d share how this small book gets you thinking and praying by discussing one of these. Gale affirms that it is important to ask God forgiveness when we sin. He cites 1 John 1:8 and 1:10 to show from God’s word that Christians continue to sin. The verse in between these two says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Gale highlights the importance of confessing our sins because, “when we confess our sins, we align ourselves with God” (5). We are acknowledging our sin for what it really is and affirming the goodness of God’s law. And God isn’t only merciful to forgive our sins. This verse says that he is faithful and just, reminding us of the transaction that is taking place in forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s work on our behalf.
As he explains this further by looking at 1 John 2:1-2, Gale makes the important point that “Forgiveness is not found in mere confession of sin, but in confession of Christ” (7). That changes everything. It got me thinking about how this important truth contrasts the popular concept of needing to forgive our selves. Who are we confessing when we forgive ourselves? And what does that even mean? When we sin, we are offending the holy God. And if he is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess, then that is all we need!
It also made me think of who we are confessing when we forgive others who have sinned against us. We don’t forgive based on our own righteousness or goodness of heart, but as a reciprocation of the grace that we have been given in Christ. Forgiveness requires faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And it is costly.
Gale explains what it actually means to forgive one another and gives helpful teaching on how to put forgiveness in action. Just saying, “I forgive you” doesn’t mean you have actually done it. “Forgiveness is not an end point; rather it is a pivot point. It paves the way for something new” (23). 
The author then moves on to the hard questions about trust and consequences for sin. Forgiveness is not an excuse for naivety or to enable sin. And it does not mean that we hide the pain that someone has caused. But it does mean that we seek relationships that honor Christ as we treat one another “as image bearers of God rather than as objects of our hate” (27-29).
It only took me a few minutes to read this booklet, but I have been thinking about it all week. Where would we be without God’s forgiveness in Christ? And yet, when I meditate on all that forgiveness entails, it is so hard for me to reciprocate. Forgiveness is one of the first doctrines we are taught as Christians, a crucial part of the gospel itself. But I feel I am still in the elementary school of God’s justice and grace. What a Savior we have in Jesus. What an amazing God we serve.  
Posted on Wednesday, September 02, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I review an interesting book today over at Books at a Glance. And if you are a member of their website, you can listen to the audio version of my review, read by me:
I have two teenage daughters. Two! So purity is definitely a Christian value that my husband and I want to guard, promote, and teach on a continual basis. And yet between technology advancing further than we seem to be able to catch up with and the obsession with sexualizing everything in our culture these days, adolescence is difficult to navigate through. It almost seems like a trial for both parents and their children – who will survive? 
Concerned and proactive parents appreciate all the help we can get. But perhaps we are too quick to give our encouragement and support. The parachurch purity movement has been one of those causes that may need a closer evaluation. Just because they use some of the same words and share many of our common concerns does not mean it is something Christians should wholeheartedly embrace. What if the very thing that appears to be helping our children is actually hindering their understanding of holiness? 
While chastity is a Christian virtue that we should both model and teach, some evangelical parachurch movements have taken it out of its context of Christian holiness and the local church’s disciple-making commission. So a very good thing, Christian purity, has become a commodity instead of a process in sanctification.
Given my apprehensions about what is marketed to my teenagers both by the secular media and the evangelical parachurch movements, Sara Moslener’s new book, Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence, piqued my interest. Moslener traces the sexual purity movement in America, showing how it developed as an ideology linked to national security. She identifies “several cooperating impulses: evangelical political activism, deep anxiety over gender roles and changing sexual mores, fear and moral decay, apocalyptic anticipation, and American nationalism”, making the case that “sex and national survival are the poles around which evangelicals have constructed a national identity” (5).
An evangelical reading this book may be tempted to write Moslener off from the start. How dare she go after something that is so sacred to us as sexual purity? But the research done in this book is something we should take a look at.
Read the rest of my review here.
Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I married fresh out of college. I was a mere 21 years old. My husband and I found a church, and I was eager to be the perfect Christian wife. So I began reading books from trusted authorities in the church on this matter. One was Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I remember my young, impressionable mind learning and underlining, and later even quoting from this book. There is plenty of helpful teaching in it. I embraced this word complementary, and wholeheartedly agreed that we live in a time where we need to respond to the new waves of feminism in our culture and affirm the beauty and distinctiveness of male and female.
But I was also confused at some of what I read. Was it my own sinful proclivity, or were some of these distinctives being taught in the book taking it too far? As a young wife, I gave the benefit to the authors, who were much more educated and experienced than myself.
But here I am, no longer a “young” wife, finding myself tripping over some of the teachings in that same book. I’ve been noticing more and more strange teachings on femininity and biblical womanhood in the last couple of years. Every now and then I decide to publicly respond on the blog. I do this because I know there are many young, impressionable women who want to be good Christian wives like me. And even though the teaching may be behind good intentions, it is damaging.
I realized that the Ask Pastor John answer that I responded to last week basically comes right out of his teaching in Chapter One of RBMW. So I decided to skim over the chapter again. It has been shocking for me to reread this as a more mature woman. Some parts were actually quite unbelievable. For instance, John Piper asserts,  “Mature masculinity expresses its leadership in romantic sexual relations by communicating an aura of strong and tender pursuit” (40).  After affirming that this is very difficult to put into words, he does just that. And it gets weird. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the part where he says a woman wrongly “attempt(s) to assume a more masculine role by appearing physically muscular and aggressive”:
It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation. The more women can arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs. Mature masculinity will not be reduced to raw desire in sexual relations. It remains alert to the deeper personal needs of a woman and mingles strength and tenderness to make her joy complete. (40-41)
First of all, why is John Piper calling men to strength and tenderness, but not the women? We aren’t to have muscular strength? I happen to train for muscular strength, not to arouse men, but because our muscles begin to deteriorate after age 50 and I want a good head start. Women especially need to be intentional in maintaining good bone density as they age because we are more susceptible to osteoporosis. And you increase bone density by strength training. 
So there’s my health argument, which we will file under good stewardship of our bodies. Now let’s talk about femininity and masculinity. I’m confident that my husband does not find me masculine or a threat to his own masculinity. In fact, we do go on regular evening walks together, enjoying significant, caring conversation.  He’s also talked about taking a strike fit class with me, which happens to be co-ed. I don’t see a conflict.
Are my “feminine needs” typical? I don’t know. I just don’t even know.
But I do know that not all women have soft, curvy bodies. We are all built differently. We do not want to question our biblical femininity in comparison to our muscle mass. Our bodies shouldn’t determine whether our husbands will meet our “feminine needs.”
But that’s not all we have to worry about. While John Piper says that women need to watch it with the muscles, Douglas Wilson mentions a wife’s weight (and hustle in washing the dishes) under areas in which a husband is to lead. In fact, if she is still rebelling after tender yet firm leadership, it could warrant a visit from the elders.
Thankfully, in contrast to these teachings, we have ourselves a swarthy woman in the one book in Scripture that shows us playful, intimate interaction between a bride and her groom. Her work in the vineyard affected her appearance to the point that she says, “Do not gaze at me” (Song of Solomon 1:6). She explains that she had to neglect her own “vineyard” because of all her laborious duties.  Doesn’t sound very feminine by our contemporary authors. And yet her groom calls her “most beautiful among women” (1:8). The poetry that follows assures me that her feminine needs were met.
Here are two men who have taken it upon themselves to give us more details about biblical femininity than Scripture. But which is it? Are we to work out or be soft? Muscles burn calories. And I’m pretty sure that offering to do the dishes may be the best way to meet a wife’s “feminine needs.”
You know what they say, “Everyone wants to be a leader, but no one wants to do the dishes.”
Posted on Monday, August 17, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I know that John Piper’s books and sermons have been a tremendous blessing to many in the faith. That is a wonderful truth that I do not want to minimize. But especially because of this, because many Christians look up to him and receive his teaching with much enthusiasm and appreciation, I am concerned about some of his teaching on manhood and womanhood. So many people value Dr. Piper’s wisdom that there is an “Ask Pastor John” program.
Have you heard or read the transcripts of a recent episode, regarding a woman who wrote in asking, “Can a single Christian woman, who is a complementarian, become a police officer?”
When I saw the question, I thought, “Well this should be a short episode. Yes, as long as she can pass all of the education, physical, and background requirements for the job.” But I guess I didn’t realize that there is a biblical manhood and biblical womanhood filter that this question needed to go through. Dr. Piper lays out his definitions:
At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. The postman won’t relate to the lady at the door the way a husband will, but he will be a man. At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.
I find these definitions troublesome. Some of the words used here to describe mature manhood sound an awful lot like the Hebrew word ezer, or as we know it helper, that describes Eve in Gen. 2:18, and in verses like Ps. 20:1-2, 33:20 and 121:2, describes God’s provision and protection for Israel.
As far as the postman goes, I am at a total loss. Are we referring to the obvious, ontological fact that he is a man, or to something in his behavior that makes him a manly postman at the door? And if I am a woman opening the door, am I to be affirming this manliness in some sort of way?
And I suppose this definition of mature womanhood exposes me as terribly childish. I do not think it is my purpose as a woman to be constantly seeking affirming, receiving, and nurturing strength and leadership from worthy men. I am married to one man. I affirm that Scripture teaches that my husband has the responsibility of headship in our home. Even then, I take the ezer with the kenegdo. I should be a suitable strength matched for him, discerning if his leadership is of the Lord. I also affirm that only certain men are called to ordination in the church as pastors and elders. Those are special leadership positions that I affirm as a result of the goodness and authority of God, who is the authority of us all. Isn’t this what a complementarian believes?
I’m sure that Dr. Piper would agree that both men and women are made in the image of God and therefore share in their primary calling to glorify God, although I would say and enjoy him forever, where he would say by enjoying him forever. I don’t think these definitions for manhood and womanhood are helpful when it comes to living out our vocations as men and women. In fact, I think they can cause harm as we serve together in our vocations under the cultural mandate. 
Dr. Piper says that it is unwise to make a list of jobs that would be okay for a woman or a man to work, but offers two principles that he has written a book to fully unpack. He continues answering this question by offering these two principles as a guide for this woman and everyone listening:
There is a continuum from very personal influence, very eye-to-eye, close personal influence, to non-personal influence. And the other continuum is very directive — commands and forcefulness — directive influence to very non-directive influence. And here is my conviction. To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order. To an extent, a woman’s leadership or influence may be personal and non-directive or directive and non-personal, but I don’t think we should push the limits. I don’t think those would necessarily push the limits of what is appropriate. That is my general paradigm of guidance. And you can see how flexible it is and how imprecise it is. So let me give some examples.
I am glad that he articulated that this is his own conviction, rather than saying flat out that this is what Scripture teaches. I find it very confusing. When are we pushing the personal versus directive limits? This kind of teaching has always made me uncomfortable with my own female body. My very presence is imposing. It has the same neo-gnostic ring that we hear in our culture today, separating the physical from the spiritual. Is the job okay for women if the men can’t see us? His illustration seems to say that:
A woman who is a civil engineer may design a traffic pattern in a city so that she is deciding which streets are one-way and, therefore, she is influencing, indeed controlling, in one sense, all the male drivers all day long. But this influence is so non-personal that it seems to me the feminine masculine dynamic is utterly negligible in this kind of relationship. On the other hand, the husband-and-wife relationship is very personal and, hence, the clear teaching of the New Testament that the man should give leadership in the home and that she give a glad partnership in supporting and helping that leadership come into its own.
On the other hand, some influence is very directive and some is non-directive. For example, a drill sergeant might epitomize directive influence over the privates in the platoon. And it would be hard for me to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant — hut two, right face, left face, keep your mouth shut, private — over men without violating their sense of manhood and her sense of womanhood.
I don’t think that God gives the headship responsibility to the man in a marriage just because it is a personal relationship. I have plenty of personal relationships. And I would even say that I often have both personal and directive influence over my husband, as his suitable helper. Any man who wouldn’t admit that would have to be lying or deceived. But I’m wondering why Dr. Piper is even using this personal distinction when answering a question about a profession? And again, saying it’s okay for a woman to have a controlling position over a man in her vocation in a non-personal format, one that is not eye-to-eye, falls under the same line of thinking on gender that we hear perpetuated in our culture, disconnecting who we are from what we are. 
I am having a hard time understanding these guidelines. My influence in the civil sphere has to be non-personal and non-directive? Or I will upset the feminine masculine dynamic? Should we then get rid of women doctors and nurses? I don’t see how one could do that job without being both personal and directive. I'm sure they have many male patients whom they have to tell what to do. And we wouldn't want women in any administrative roles then either. There would be so many jobs that “mature” women would not be able to serve in were they to follow these principles.
I respectfully disagree with John Piper's principles for women. This just isn’t biblical. After we clean up our own vocations that involve women in personal, directive positions, we will need to get rid of the Deborahs and Abigails of the Bible. Women are warriors too. And it does not violate a mature man’s sense of manhood when they do their job well.
Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I was eager to read G.K. Beale and Benjamin Gladd’s latest book, Hidden But Now Revealed, this summer. And I was not disappointed. Reading this book helped me to learn more about the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. By a thorough study of the use of the word mystery in the Bible, the authors teach both the continuity and discontinuity of the Old Testament in the New---what was hidden, but is now revealed.
But I would like to talk about a different mystery. There was a statement made in the introduction about the target audience for this book that I found perplexing. Of course, it is good to clearly state who the book is intended for. And the looks of this book can be a bit intimidating. It is close to 400 pages and it’s written by a couple of professors. So is this a book aimed at seminary students? Not exactly. The authors tell us, “This project is intended for students, scholars, pastors and laypeople who seriously engage the Scriptures” (26).
That statement made me pause. Well, it was the last part about laypeople who seriously engage the Scriptures that made me pause. Shouldn’t all laypeople seriously engage the Scriptures? Isn’t that both the delight and duty of the Christian?
And yet, I don’t blame the authors for making this distinction. Given the market of so-called Christian books, this qualification needs stating. And let me be clear that Beale and Gladd do not mean that they have written an academic book that a small percentage of sharp and conditioned laypeople may have the fitness to read. In the same paragraph they explain that they have been carefully purposeful in the organization of this book to make it more accessible to the layperson. I can affirm that they are successful in their mission.
One reason for making a statement like that about the readership is that Beale and Gladd are dealing with texts in Scripture that have perplexed many able scholars. But as a layperson, that makes me even more eager to want to learn from those who have been equipped to teach on these complex themes in Scripture. After all, the Holy Spirit included it in the Word of God for a reason.
When I hear a statement like “This project is intended for…laypeople who seriously engage the Scriptures,” it gets to me like the “You must be at least this tall to ride this ride” sign. Sure, brand new Christians have a lot to learn, and it will take some growing in the basic doctrines of the faith, a routine of reading through the Scriptures, and sustained membership in the covenant community of faith before they grow tall enough to reach the line where they can ride some of the loop-the-loops. I get that. But a growing child anticipates that great day when they can reach the line to ride. The sign gets to them. It is their goal.
This statement made me think about how the genre targeted for a popular reading audience has perpetuated theological weaklings. And I say that as someone who has written two popular level Christian books. They are meant to be targeted to laypeople who are interested in further biblical teaching on different topics. I take that very seriously. Popular level books should help us to grow. They should challenge us. 
And yet there is a large percentage of books targeted at a popular level that are equivalent to the Tea Cup Ride in Disneyworld. You don’t even need to remove your binky to get on, and everyone screams with delight as if they are on a thrilling ride. It’s actually called the Mad Tea Cup Ride, which is fitting to my analogy, because the vast majority of popular level Christian books are filled with disturbing interpretations of Scripture. And yet they are so pretty and whimsical, many consumers are tricked into thinking they are reading something important. Popular level books should help build theological muscles and help us grow strong in the faith, not stick a binky in us while letting us go on believing that the dream we wish will come true.
Laypeople are students of the Word. We should all seriously engage the Scriptures. Maybe we aren’t all tall enough to ride some of the more mature books yet, but that should be our goal. After all, the Bible is not watered down for the toddlers. 
Reading Hidden But Now Revealed made me a better student of Scripture. But it also inadvertently revealed a mystery about popular level books to me. They should be helping us grow. But too many are doing the opposite; they are stunting the growth of Christians. Even worse, many of these books are deceiving people into thinking they are in the faith while they are teaching a different gospel. For that reason, I am thankful for the faithful publishers and authors who have helped me grow enough to ride the rides.
Posted on Monday, August 03, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
If I were to talk to you about the language of personal fulfillment and revolutionary expressions of sexual identity, you probably would think that I am referring to the LGBQ community. Or, maybe I am talking about the latest craze of cheating apps that married couples are using. But what if I told you I am speaking of the contemporary sexual purity movement?
Is this language okay to use when it is in the confines of sexual behavior that Christians support? And when we use terms such as “sexual identity,” are we even talking about behavior anymore?
I’m excited to air our upcoming Bully Pulpits for Mortification of Spin, where we discuss Rosaria Butterfield’s latest book, Openness Unhindered.  In it, she meaningfully addresses so much more than sexual identity and homosexuality because her focus is on life in Christ. But speaking as an ex-lesbian who helped build the LGBQ community that exists today, Butterfield hashes out an easily overlooked point in the discussion: “Before you can resolve the issues of our day, you must be able to clarify them.”  Interestingly, I made some connections between the brilliant way Rosaria Butterfield clarifies the issues of our day and the critique Sara Moslener gave in her book Virgin Nation*, regarding the sexual purity movement.
I interrupt this article with an important announcement. I don’t usually write in caps, but I am going to go ahead and act against my own style for dramatic emphasis. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY ADVOCATE SEXUAL PURITY. I WOULD NEVER WANT TO INLUENCE ANYONE IN PROMISCUITY OR SEXUAL SIN OF ANY KIND. SEXUAL SIN IS A VERY BIG DEAL. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled post...
Butterfield writes, “Sexuality moved from verb (practice) to noun (people), and with this grammatical move, a new concept of humanity was born---the idea that we are oriented or framed by our sexual desires and different objects of desire made up separate species of people, and that self-representation and identity rooted now in sexual orientation, and not in the purposes of God for his image bearers…Prior to the nineteenth century category-invention of sexual orientation, no one’s sexual practice or sexual desire prescribed personhood or defined their personal identity” (97). She goes on to explain that both Christians and unbelievers embrace this form of self-identification. We are heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals. Heck, we’ve even extended subcategories of metrosexuals and lumbersexuals to add style to our sexuality. Butterfield continues, “If I self-define as heterosexual or homosexual, I express that this deep and originating mark of selfhood presents itself in everything I do, from how I walk the dog in the morning, stir the pot of soup at lunch, and take the garbage out at night” (98). 
This language presents sexuality as key to our identity. And it isn’t merely about how we behave, what we do, or even whom we are attracted to. It is about who we are at the core of our being. Sexual desires and decisions are now linked to other strange terms like human flourishing. And this is troubling. What happened to our identity as being made in the image of God? With that starting point, we then learn how we are affected by the fall, what God has done in Christ for our redemption, and what we are becoming. After reflecting on Psalm 139, Butterfield concludes, “Our identity is in finding refuge in God. Nothing More” (130). As a believer, I identify myself as in Christ, and this is glorious.
Okay, okay, but what does this have to do with the sexual purity movement? After tracking it’s history, beginning with first wave feminism, Sara Moslener examines the contemporary evangelical purity movement by taking a closer look at two organizations: True Love Waits and The Silver Ring Thing. I found some striking similarities in the language these organizations use with the language we hear in our overly-sexualized culture. The rhetoric is one-dimensional. And it sounds just like your typical psychological speak of “self-care, self-development, and self-improvement,” with the spiritual element as an add on, “authentic personal transformation is only possible with the assistance of Jesus Christ” (120). In promoting sexual purity, these evangelical movements are “position[ing] sexuality (and sexual transgression) within the trajectory of adolescent spiritual development” (121). 
Moslener explains how the sexual purity movement markets itself as “the new sexual revolution…Claiming to be a sexual minority, sexually pure adolescents positioned themselves as new sexual revolutionaries owed personal respect and political voice.
“’So many of us are coming out of the closet,’ seventeen-year-old Lara McCalman told the New York Times on June 21, 1993. ‘I’ve had so much fun saying no. I’m a virgin and proud of it.’” (118). Doesn’t this language sound eerily familiar? Moslener continues, “Downplaying their commitment as a form of religious obedience, numerous young people portrayed themselves as defiant, independently minded individuals seeking personal fulfillment and the right to self-expression” (118).
As I was reading Virgin Nation, I realized how many evangelicals have moved from discussing sexual behavior as a fruit and outworking of being made in the image of God and Christian holiness, to focusing on sexual purity commitments as the core of our identity, our own sexual orientation that dictates how we walk the dog in the morning, stir our pots of soup for lunch, and take out the garbage at night. We have moved sexuality from verb to noun as well, from practice to people. And this decision-based, revolutionary orientation for the contemporary evangelical adolescent is couched in a soup of spiritual and psychological language that has become a church of its own. The ministry of Word and sacrament seems to be replaced with powerful personal testimonies, elaborate media productions, and silver rings. They even have their own Bibles. Meslener rightly concludes, “For evangelicals who focus more on personal spirituality than theological tradition for the formation of Christian spiritual life, private, sexual acts, rather than doctrinal statements, are sites for reinforcing orthodoxy, especially during the formal years of adolescence” (124).
Butterfield makes a great point in her book, “We can use words and word can use us” (114). Truth. As they say, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. Maybe it would be better if we use the categories that God has already given us.
*I have a forthcoming review of Virgin Nation.
Posted on Monday, July 20, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In my last article, I discussed how Christ has given the church the gift of ordained ministerial office and that this is how the church ministers to every member through Word and sacrament. With that in mind, let’s get back to women. What goes under the umbrella of women’s ministry? 
Many churches include hospitality service such as organizing and making meals for new moms or someone who is ill, inviting visitors over for coffee, baby showers, and some even go so far as to organize the Sunday morning greeters. These are wonderful services for a church to provide, but I question why hospitality is under the umbrella of women’s ministry. The biblical command to be hospitable was not directed to women only. 
What I am getting at here is that maybe under all the best intentions of having a thriving women’s ministry that serves the church well, the men may be missing out on the blessings of serving in some of these areas designated for women. We may be divvying up services in male and female categories that aren’t necessary and missing opportunities to serve together.
A major cultural challenge that the church is up against in our day is gender distinctiveness. It’s real and good, and yet, how do we express it? We want to be careful to teach and model male pastoral and elder leadership in church, as well as headship in the home, but we do not want to foster a male culture. Sometimes I think women’s ministry can add to this problem rather than help it. How can we show forth gender distinctiveness and exemplify healthy male/female relationships in the church: brothers and sisters in the Lord? How do we model the hope that we have for living on the new heavens and the new earth as new creations living in the already and the not yet?
We can easily add to this problem when all of the ways that women serve in the church are separated to a women’s ministry. And, as I’ve already shared, we lose focus of the ministry that we all truly need. Here’s the thing: complementary churches may be giving lip service to the importance of male leadership in the office of pastor and elder, while simultaneously neutering them of their ministerial role. We recognize that women are gifted in many ways to serve and teach, and so we think we create a safe place for them to do that by offering women’s ministry. These often informal and organically formed groups become viewed as the place where the real ministry is happening because of its practical value. And then we say we are being complementary because we have designated a separate wing for women to do their thing in the church. It has the appearance of valuing women and giving them a place to serve under male headship, but far too often these women are not properly invested in or led in the most meaningful way. 
My first article of this series pointed out the bothersome verse in 2 Tim.3:6 regarding weak women in the church who become caught up in false teaching. This infects a whole church. Although I’ve been steering away from having a formal women’s ministry as we see it in the evangelical church today, women teaching women is biblical. Not only that, women teach women all the time, whether they are equipped to do it or not. I broke down this term “weak women” as a term of contempt toward a particular group of women. As nonworking-class, they had time on their hands. And they were easily seduced by the teaching that had an appearance of godliness over the real thing. I see this happening on a major scale in the church today. 
Churches can have great teaching from the pulpit, and yet there is a lack of connection from the ministry on Sunday morning to the teaching they let in through the week. Where is the discernment? What are we missing?
It has become easier to target “weak” women to infect the church with false teaching because we have separated them to their own ministry. There are so many books full of bad theology with these groups in mind. Pastors can hardly keep up with what the women are up against in the danger zone ostensibly labeled as Christian publishing. But it is imperative that they do. With the technology we have today, not only do false teachers have more access to spread their doctrine, but the weak people they target move on to publish their own books, speak to their own crowds, and lure in more of the same.
 We are all familiar with Titus 2. But I think that we forget who it is addressed to. Paul is instructing Titus as he is bringing his ministry in Crete to a close, and equipping elders there to carry out the work they have begun. Some main concerns are the organization of the church and dealing with false teachers. We see in this letter how the ministry produces fruit in all the different people in the church. Titus is exhorted to teach sound doctrine (2:1), and then under his ministerial care, mature women are to “teach what is good” (2:3) to younger women in the faith. We see in these verses how doctrine and life go hand in hand, and mature women should not only model this, but train the younger women. This isn’t a mere appearance of godliness, but an embracing of sound doctrine and the fruit of it.
There is a responsibility that lies on the elders here to invest in the women so that they are equipped to teach what is good. Women teaching women flows from the ministry. What we do in our own households outflows from and pictures our participation in the household of God.
I’m all for having a the women of the church plan fellowship activities together. In fact, I love being a part of that. I especially love attending women’s retreats and conferences that are full of good teaching. It’s been an honor to do some speaking to different women’s groups. I have learned from many of the women in these retreats and they have been a great blessing to me.
And of course we should be encouraged to use our gifts to serve the body of Christ and in our vocations in loving our neighbor. I’m not convinced we need a formal women’s ministry to organize this. What we do need is to prioritize the ministerial office given to the church and their role in equipping lay members in teaching what is good. Our service and conversations are shaped by the theology that we believe. Let’s be passionate about investing in good teaching and the discernment to spot a counterfeit. Let’s improve communication between the leaders in the church and the women who teach, so they can participate in solid women’s Bible studies and book studies, outworking from the ministry of Word and sacrament. This will be blessing to the elders and the church as a whole.