Posted on Wednesday, December 09, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Well, this is the time of year that bloggers are offering their top-ten, or for the more audacious, top 50 books of the year. I’ve never been one to rate my books, but I thought I might try something a little different. I thought I’d take a look at the current bestselling Christian books for women. I have just read the number two bestseller, as the number one was out of stock and is now in the mail. You probably won’t be surprised that Beth Moore takes up several spots on the bestseller list, and she is sitting in at number two with her release, hot of the press in November, titled Audacious. It’s kind of a Radical meets Purpose Driven Life, meets your best girlfriend. Reading this book, and I believe the ones after it, is an education on the Christian market, the niche for women, and our actual goals here.
 
There’s all kinds of research that points to the differences between the male and female brains. But as soon as you begin looking into that, you will find all kinds of research debunking that research. There are some proven neurological differences, but how that then transfers into the way we process information, interact, and learn, can be tricky. One popular teaching is that men systemize and women empathize. While there seems to be some general observable truth in this even, there are also many exceptions. 
 
We don’t all fit so neatly into these categories. Most of us tend to be more nuanced than that. I enjoy a good chapter on the chiastic structure of a biblical text. Does that make me masculine? Of course not. But when I look at the bestsellers list for women in the Christian market, I see that we are targeted for our empathetic tendencies. When I look at the books for men, I do see more of a systematic approach. And if these books are selling so well, then there must be something to this. 
 
This is where Beth Moore comes in. Audacious is ranked #2 on Amazon, under "Christian Books for Women’s Issues." It’s also the #2 bestselling book for women on CBD. That’s quite an accomplishment in sales. A lot of women are reading this book. Moore is a likeable person. And she is extremely empathetic. The book reads like a journal, with Moore sharing personal details from her childhood, even opening up about being molested, and then moving right into hilariously embarrassing moments. She can certainly weave a story and draw in a reader’s emotions.
 
After thirty years of Christian ministry to women, this book serves as a reflection on the work she has done and what she seems to think may have been the missing link in her ministry. And that missing link is that although she has always had the mission to “see women come to know and love Jesus Christ,” she has noticed a lack of desire and verve in the spiritual lives of women. Moore proposed that the missing link is an audacious love for Christ.
 
Moore seems to have a driving passion for women to love Jesus. And her writing reveals a strong pursuit for this in her own life, as well as an overall love for living. That is an attractive quality, for sure. But Moore characterizes this love primary by feelings, and this is where the message is incomplete. The message comes off sounding a lot like the world’s “follow your heart,” or “if you dream it (audaciously), you can achieve it.” While I agree with Moore that we should have stronger desires for the Lord, and that our spiritual growth is not merely based on duty and doctrine, our greatest barrier to love Jesus rightly isn’t our lack of audacity, but our great sinfulness. We are audacious sinners. It would be much more profitable to move the focus from our own feelings, to learn more about the person and the work of Jesus Christ. How do we know our real need when we haven’t meditated on the holiness of God and the depravity of man? This isn’t addressed in the book. 
 
Moore uses the account of the woman at the well in John 4 and the call to ask God according to his will in 1 John 5:14-15 to come up with the formula:
 
If you only knew + you would ask Me = I would give you.
 
She quotes Mark 12:28-30 to teach that God’s will for us is that we love him audaciously, and all we have to do is ask for that desire. But she misses the thrust of the teaching at the well. The most “audacious” thing Jesus says isn’t “if you knew,” but “I am he.” She doesn’t even address how Jesus reveals himself to this woman and our absolute need for him to do this. Jesus also points out the woman’s sin before revealing himself.  Love is not just a gushy feeling. The text from Mark shows that it is a command. We need to love God more than our sin, and oh how we fall short! Maybe we don’t love because we don’t repent. Maybe we don’t love because we really don’t know God. That’s what I was hoping to read.
 
The chapters in the book all build on this audacious theme. So the message that I come away with is that our greatest problem is our lack of boldness. I just don’t agree with that. And yet, there is a lot of biblical truth in Moore’s teaching. However, it is mixed with an emotionalism that is man-centered. And then her appeal is to ask if we have the audacity to take what Jesus has done personally, or whether we have the audacity to believe how Jesus has adventurously, daringly, and boldly pursued us (52). But what we need is faith, and that is a gift from God. I wish there was less talk about our verve and more about the faith.
 
This is why I think the market is doing us a disservice by over-pandering to gender distinctions. It stunts our growth. By over-appealing to empathy in women, we are getting a lot of story (the first five pages of a chapter on cleaning out the attic), a lot of emotion, and a lot of appeal to our insecurities, but not much solid doctrinal teaching. 
 
Speaking of, Moore closes her book with a chapter, “The Best Part,” on experiencing the Holy Spirit. This chapter seems to be a defense on some of the criticism she has received regarding what God tells her personally. She does admit several times that she has never heard God’s voice audibly. But she encourages the reader to follow subjective promptings that may or may not be from the Holy Spirit. She even does this in a self-depreciating way, sharing a hilarious story of how she thought she was experiencing a personal miracle of God enlarging the communion elements in her mouth, only later to find out she went through the gluten-free line. She shares another experience, which she says makes it all worth it, where the Spirit led her to give a stranger in need money to move out of a bad situation. This chapter makes me sad because there is a clear way to be led by the Spirit. The Spirit operates through his Word. So if we are living in light of God’s Word, praying for wisdom and discernment, within the context of regular fellowship in the covenant community of God’s people, and loving our neighbor, then we are living by the Spirit. I think that’s pretty audacious living.
 
Beth Moore is an emotionally intelligent woman. And by all means, she appears to have a heart that wants to serve the Lord, while encouraging others to do so.  And women do tend to be more emotionally intelligent. This can be a great strength, one that men can learn from us, and also a great weakness, if we are not growing in other ways. And this is where I see the danger in pandering to generalizations about our sexes. While I still don’t think we break down into such simple categories, both the so-called systemizers and empathizers reflect the image of God. And we need to learn from one another. Does a man who is nurturing and emotionally intelligent lack masculinity? No! I believe that he is maturing as a man in the image of God. Is a woman who can parallel park like a boss and write a killer business plan unfeminine? Heck no, she is admirable. I wish we could reflect this truth more in the Christian market. Clearly many women are attracted to empathetic writing. But that doesn’t mean we should get away with loose theology.
Posted on Tuesday, December 01, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Here is an exerpt from my article in the Ordained Servant's latest issue, the OPC Journal for church officers:
 
The OPC values robust theological teaching. This is evident in the confession (Westminster) to which our denomination subscribes and the investment we put into our preachers. However, one area where this may not be as noticeable is in women’s initiatives. I am thankful that the OPC esteems the offices of the ministry, which is why I want to encourage the officers of the church to become more invested in the women’s groups that study together.
 
Please do not misunderstand. I know that women are valued in the OPC. The invitation to write this article reveals an interest in equipping women with good resources and helping pastors and elders gain awareness of what is being marketed to women. Whether women in your church are gathering together for a study, or shopping for their own personal reading and growth, they have become a valued target market for the so-called Christian publishing industry. From Bible studies to personal growth books, there is now a copious supply of resources available for women. The Christian bookstore can be a dangerous place to enter without proper discernment. And we do not want the women’s study groups in the church to be dangerous places to enter without proper discernment.
 
Unfortunately, I have seen this become an issue even in OPC and PCA churches. And I don’t think that it is because of the preaching. I have done a fair amount of traveling, speaking at women’s retreats for Presbyterian, Baptist, non-denominational churches, and more. It is such a blessing to meet and talk with so many Christian women who desire to grow in God’s Word. However, it is also disheartening to see women, across the board, caught up in poor theology. And it often causes discord in the church. Many of these women are under good preaching, and they claim to have a high view of Scripture. And yet some of the material they are studying with other women in the church, or reading for their own personal growth, contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. How can this be? Why are numerous women embracing false teaching?
 
While good preaching is imperative, I think this is also a shepherding issue for pastors and elders. A pastor loves to hear that his congregation is taking initiative to learn more about what Scripture teaches. It’s a challenge sometimes to find people who love to read. But what are they reading, and how are they processing the information?
 
I like to compare this situation to the wake up call parents had when the television talk shows and news networks conducted faux abduction investigations, revealing the inadequacies of the whole “stranger danger” message. No matter how confident these parents felt about their talks with their children about never going off with a stranger under any condition, the whole “I lost my puppy, could you help me find him” guise worked every time. The problem is that predators are very friendly; they don’t look like the monsters that their parents make them out to be. What child wouldn’t want to help a smiley guy with a picture find man's best friend?
 
My illustration isn’t meant to compare women with children. I am talking more about a shepherd and his sheep. This really applies to the whole congregation because there are plenty of men reading and promoting harmful doctrine as well. But I’m writing to talk specifically about women’s resources. When a top-selling Christian author, who belongs to a big church, who has adopted children from third world countries, and who relates to the everyday Christian woman, offers a “stimulating” study on how to help “overwhelmed women” with an “underwhelmed soul,” she sure doesn’t look like the image we may have of a false teacher.[1] These great qualities easily distract a reader from asking discerning questions about how the gospel is presented and how God’s Word is being handled.
 
If pastors and elders become more aware of the books that are being marketed to their congregations, it will be time well spent. What are the top-sellers in the Christian bookstore, and how faithful are they to God’s Word? What is their appeal? Why would some of your congregants be attracted to their teaching? This does take a lot of shepherding, because it also takes an invested relationship between elders and the congregation.
 
For some practical suggestions and recommendations, read the rest of the article here.
Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I have done some writing on difficulties of navigating the dating world now that I have daughters approaching that age. And we have done a Mortification of Spin podcast on the topic of courtship and dating, in which Carl’s biggest piece of advice was to just have sons. 
 
But is he a man who can follow his own advice? At first glance, it may appear to be so, given the Truemans have two biological sons. But first glances can be tricky.
 
You may have heard of a certain MAD Woman in the Attic, who is part of the production team at MoS. She is a single young woman who has relocated to PA after attending WTS and happens to attend Carl’s church. Interestingly, we were just interviewing Kelly Kapic from Covenant College, and he mentioned that it would be good for church families to take in the college students and singles as a sort of adopted family member, being that they are away from their biological families. Kelly didn’t know that is exactly what the Truemans have done. 
 
Yes, that’s right, Carl now has voluntarily entered the world of being a father figure to a young woman. He has let the MAD Woman out of the attic, but is very concerned over this dating business. Perhaps it would have been better for MAD to return to Georgia as a stay-at-home daughter. Maybe she wouldn’t have to endure the pre-date interview awkwardness. But, as you can see, she seems to be pretty comfortable with the dating guidelines. The question now is, which one is truly MAD? Or maybe MAD doesn't mean what you think it does...
 
Either way, I wouldn't take daughter dating advice from Carl.
 
Posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
The responses to my last blog about the lack of older women who are writing and speaking in our Reformed and reformedish circles have been encouraging. The fact that my combox is filled with refreshing and engaging interaction testifies that there are women over 40 who would like to contribute more in this way and that are indeed serving with their gifts in the local body of their church. 
 
I am most encouraged by the consensus that we crave to read more from women on the deeper matters of theology. While  mommy blogs and devotional material on women’s issues serve a good purpose, we don’t merely want to be sidelined to “women’s ministry,” but also be valued for our perspective and contribution to the areas that concern both men and women.
 
Deb Welch has followed up with a thoughtful and enlightening explanation for what has happened to the women’s voices that used to share a platform with many of the male bloggers today. The blogging atmosphere has certainly changed over the last ten years. When she first began blogging in 2005, The League of Reformed Bloggers and Jollyblogger facilitated a space for articles to be shared simultaneously, between men and women, so-called “top bloggers” and ordinary lay people alike, who contributed thoughtful insight. And bloggers wrote with passion on the issues facing the church, not just because they had a book coming out or needed to build a tribe to buy tickets to their next speaking gig.
 
Welch pinpoints a major shift in 2009, when some of the facilitators became ill and two key factors changed the blogging atmosphere:
 
1) an increase in tribalism, on the one hand, and 
2) a move toward commercialization and consumer-oriented approach on the other.
 
I think Deb hits on something big here. There are also some insightful comments in the thread where she linked her article on Facebook that women who would like to write publically feel insignificant now, like they need to be “somebody” important or married to a big name to matter. And yet, the comments continue that it’s the ordinary voices whom they want to hear more from because they don’t have an allegiance to the commercialized tent of evangelicalism.
 
Persis Lorenti also wrote an article reflecting on the importance of the context of the local church. Women are thriving where there is Word-based study over and against what the market is delegating us to. 
 
Interestingly, the timing of this discussion coincides well with tomorrow’s Mortification of Spin podcast. Over the summer, we interviewed Hannah Anderson to further discuss a topic she brought up in an article about the place of women in the parachurch culture. I’ve been looking forward to airing this important discussion. Why are there so few women speakers at Reformed, evangelical conferences? Do speakers at conferences hold some kind of ecclesial authority that extends beyond the church? At what level can women participate in the topics concerning the church? Has the commercialization and tribe building in the parachurch overshadowed and muddled the authority of the local church? 
 
This conversation is encouraging to me and I want to offer some encouragement to all those who have been contributing to it. I entered the blogging scene after the culture that Welch enjoyed. And when I began writing, it wasn’t because I had an ambition to be an author or was craving speaking gigs. I wrote out of my own loneliness as a woman who wanted to grow theologically. My kids were younger then, but I wanted more substance than the typical Christian mommy topics. I wrote because I wanted to motivate women to recognize their joy and responsibility as theologians, and I wanted to provide a tool to help churches disciple them in that way. 
 
I was not a "somebody." I am not a wife of a big name pastor. My husband is a public school teacher. I didn’t know anyone with a writing career or in the publishing industry. I was just a housewife in West Virginia. But I have found that if you’re not seeking a inner-circle position, you do have the freedom to say what you really want to say. And as we plug away in areas that we see a need and want to contribute, we tend to find like-minded people. 
 
I’ve never been a fan of the tribal language and constituency. But as I study God’s Word, read good books, participate in my church, and try to live the life of faith and obedience, writing has helped me to process what I am learning and communicate that with others. And what I have found is that there are other women like me. But not only that, there are men, pastors, and even professors who care to communicate with ordinary housewife theologians. Preachers and professors don’t go to seminary merely to be educated to talk to one another. The theological study in the seminaries should trickle down to the everyday housewife. 
 
Some of the comments on my last blog lamented how women over 40 missed the boat to build the platform of fifteen thousand followers that publishers are supposedly looking for. I want to say that I do not have an agent. I do not have a platform of that size. And I certainly didn’t have a huge number of followers when I signed my first book contract. I just had something to say, a lot of passion to communicate it, and a hope that others would want to join the conversation. People do still care about content.
 
As my thinking is being sharpened by this ongoing conversation, I propose that we adjust the way we look at platform. The definition of platform is not “how many people click on your blog.” Properly identifying it as “a body of principles on which a person or group takes a stand in appealing to the public,” I would align myself with the confessions of my local congregation. If we do this, then people don’t get reduced to numbers and all this confusion about authority can be put back where it belongs in local church office. Maybe then we can pull up some more seats at the table for women to participate in discussions. Maybe then we won't confuse conferences with our worship services. Because they certainly shouldn’t take the place of them.
 
And maybe then we will stop looking at people as brands.
Posted on Thursday, November 05, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Lisa Spence has written an excellent article, observing the lack of Christian women speakers and bloggers over 40, particularly at the large women’s conference that she was attending. This is a question I have been asking myself. I will be turning 40 in a couple of weeks, and I am disappointed that there are so few older women contributing in this way. 
 
Lisa expresses her gratitude that there are many younger women passionately writing and given a platform to do so, but laments the lack of more experienced, mature voices to speak to the issues that we are confronted with after the toddler rearing years. She suggests one reason why we don’t hear as much from women over 40:
 
I have one friend who recently had her mother to move in with her and her husband and daughter. She purchased a hospital bed as well as renovated a bathroom in order to be able to care for her mom. I have another friend enduring the heartache of a rebellious son, another who hasn’t spoken to her daughter in months. One friend suffers ongoing health problems, nothing life threatening, but the kind of difficulty that is both annoying and debilitating in its own way. Another friend is looking for a job for the first time in many years in order to help with college expenses for her child. Just last week I met a woman whose family has sold everything they own to pay for their son’s drug rehabilitation program.
 
I offer their examples to say this: a lot of us aren’t writing not because we don’t have anything to say but because we can’t say what we have to say. Not on a public forum. It’s one thing for a mommy blogger to write a post about a two year old’s tantrum at the grocery store; it’s another thing entirely when it’s the rebellion of your twenty something year old, not to mention the heartache and confusion therein.
 
Lisa makes a good point here. There is an issue of privacy that prevents us from writing about these personal matters. But I do hope that the women experienced in these areas are involved in helping disciple the younger women in their local churches, where these matters can be discussed more openly. And I do see that happening.
 
There are plenty of important issues that I have also refrained from writing about for this reason, but there’s more to it than this. The younger women have offered some great resources to help Christians who are beginning to learn more about the Christian life of faith and obedience. But I long for more women to write with some weightier teaching. Because older women have lived through experiences such as Lisa shares, they have hopefully dug deeper in the Word and have substantial and rich teaching they could now contribute.
 
And this is where I want to say what Lisa didn’t. Along with a handful of other experienced, faithful, and engaging women, Lisa writes for a blog called Out of the Ordinary, which I regularly go to for a more mature, feminine contribution to the Christian blogosphere. They tackle some of the "middle years" issues of the Christian life in an engaging and appropriate way. And they also offer great biblical insight and teaching. These women have been at it for a while now. But they barely get a platform. I’m thankful to see Tim Challies sharing some of their posts in his A La Cartes and The Aquila Report doing the same. But that’s about it.
 
Many of the big conference platforms and marketed book deals are invested in the younger women. I’m glad to see that young women have more resources to choose from these days, but what if we want to read about more than being a mother or the beginning foundations of the faith? Where are the more academic or doctrinal contributions from women? Where are the women being included in theological conversations with men that are not on mere token women’s issues? There are some, but the ratio is way out of whack. 
 
Has the Reformed church invested so little into their women that there are only a few that can contribute on a deeper theological level? I don’t think that is the case. But have we adequately shown that we need and value their insight and teaching? And is what they share something the men can also benefit from? 
 
The few women over 40 who do have a decent platform in the reformed community could probably use some company. And I know that the church would benefit greatly if we could increase that number.
Posted on Friday, October 30, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
The Mortification of Spin team took advantage of our time together in Philadelphia this week. We were together to participate with Dr. Joel Beeke and Dr. Kent Hughes on the panel for the Westminster Theological Seminary’s Pastor’s Conference, but we also spent the morning recording another batch of podcasts. Our first interview was with one of my favorite authors, Dr. Gregory Beale. Carl gave him a psychiatric quiz that reveals some surprising results. And I finally got to ask him about when he is going to write that book on Eschatology and Enjoying Your Mate. We also discovered that Dr. Beale is formulating a theology on dogs on the new heaven and the new earth…stay tuned!
 
It was also a great pleasure to interview Ellen Dykas from Harvest USA. I kind of hogged the interview with all the questions I had for Ellen. Her work in helping families and individuals affected by sexual sin is extremely helpful. I’ve interacted with Ellen through Google Hangout and social media, but was pleased to finally meet her in person. She shared the details of a webinar that she is participating in on November 14th for Harvest, that I wanted to pass along. It looks like it will be a helpful resource for those who join. Here is the synopsis:
 
Side by Side:
Helping Wives Begin to Heal After Betrayal
 
When sexual unfaithfulness intrudes upon a marriage, hearts and lives are painfully impacted. Side by Side is a new webinar which offers biblical guidance and hope for wives facing the trial of a husband's sexual sin. Whether if you are a woman currently facing this in your marriage, or if you want to come alongside others, this webinar will put words on what this experience is like, offer foundational steps to take with a hurting wife and wisdom for forming a support group with others
 
Learn about the facts and fiction of sexual sin's prevalance among God's people
Learn how to apply biblical wisdom and compassion to hurting wives
Gain understanding in how sexual unfaithfulness impacts a wife's heart
Gain knowledge about how to start a support group for wives in your church or community.
 
Here is the link for those who may be interested: Side By Side
 
 
Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In light of our MoS episode on the Lord's Supper this week, I thought this article would be fun to share. This is a fascinating book which prompted me to write a lot of reflections on it while reading. I wrote this one a couple of years ago:
 
It came in the mail while I was working out. Just sitting in that little box, sheltered from the wind, my new treasure was waiting to be discovered. I hate the wind. So when we were through with our side-plank-weighted-arm-raise-craziness, I sent out my obliging husband to see what the mailman brought us today. “Your book came.” Um, I pushed everyone out of my way, ripped through that package like a Christmas present, and disappeared with my new date.
 
The family was probably happy because the alternative was sure to be an afternoon of cleaning. Now everyone could play with their devices and Legos with mom out of the way. And the Orioles were on, so Matt was content.
 
I had to buy this baby used, and when I cracked her open, I saw a sticker on the inside cover containing the name and address of the original owner. Shame on her! How could this woman from Charlottesville, Virginia, who will remain unnamed, read through this puppy without making one mark on its pages? Is there no love anymore?
 
But I digress. All this build-up is just to demonstrate to my readers that if any of you thought I was over the whole Luke-Hebrews-Emmaus thing, you are sadly mistaken. In fact, it has taken me down some more wonderful trails. So, despite the fact that I’m reading two other great books currently, The Ongoing Feast had to be enjoyed now. The subtitle reveals the theme of the book: Table Fellowship and Eschatology at Emmaus. And before I am finished with this feast, I wanted to share something I read last night that made a connection between the disciples at Emmaus, Adam and Eve, and open and closed eyes. Pretty cool stuff.
 
The structure of the meat of the book follows the structure of the account of Emmaus, which is presented by Luke in “concentric circles,” or rings. Here is a helpful illustration of this chiasm given by the author, Arthur A. Just, Jr. (p. 31, minus the Greek):
 
5) v. 13 “That very day two of them were going…from Jerusalem”
4)      v.14 “…and talking with each other…”
3)           v.15 “…Jesus himself drew near and went with them.”
2)                v.16 “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
1)                     v.17-30 (the center circle) “the colloquium and the breaking of
                                 the bread”
2)                v.31a “And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
3)           v.31b “…and he vanished out of their sight.”
4)       v.32 “They said to each other…”
5) v.33 “And they arose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.”
 
I want to share the what the author noted about the second ring, where the disciples eyes were first closed, and then opened:
 
The phrase used in Luke 24:31 for “their eyes were opened” is the same phrase used in the LXX in Genesis 3:7 (autôn diênoíchthêsan oi ophthalmoí) where the eyes of Adam and Eve are opened to the knowledge of good and evil and they recognize their nakedness. There is a striking parallel here. The open eyes of Adam and Eve are the first expression of the fallen creation that now sees the image of God clouded by disobedience; the open eyes of the Emmaus disciples are the first expression of the new creation that now sees the image restored in the new Adam, the crucified and risen Christ. This is a clear link between the old and new creations, establishing the Emmaus meal as an eschatological event. The meal of broken bread at Emmaus reverses the first meal of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By partaking of the meal of the risen Christ, the eyes of all creation are now open to see in Jesus the seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15. The table at which they now sit is the messianic table. Just as Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit was the first meal of fallen creation, so this meal at Emmaus is the first meal of the new creation on the first day of the week (66-67).
 
Isn’t our God so amazing and gracious? The fulfilled promise is made known in Jesus’s exposition of Scripture on their walk, and the breaking of bread. What we may think of as common, ordinary means are used to confer Christ and all his blessings. The breaking of bread reveals the breaking in of a new creation. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Authors and pastors Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson are “resurrecting an ancient vision,”  that of The Pastor Theologian. In their book, they lament that with the rise of the academy, theologians and intellectuals tend to find their home in that atmosphere, while pastors “no longer traffic in ideas. They cast vision, manage programs, offer counsel, and give messages…We no longer expect a pastor to be a bona fide, contributing member of the theological community” (11). And this has caused a chasm between academia and the church. As a result, “theology has become ecclesially anemic, and the church theologically anemic” (13).
 
The authors make a heart-felt case by offering a brief sketch in church history on the “great divorce,” a plea for why we need to reunite theology with the church, and some practical ways to bring us forward. They describe three types of pastor theologians, as local theologian, popular theologian, and the one they want to spend the most time encouraging, the ecclesial theologian. While the pastor as local theologian focuses on the theological needs in the context of their own congregation, the pastor as popular theologian extends his leadership beyond his congregation. And the main focus of the book, the pastor as ecclesial theologian, “constructs theology for other Christian theologians and pastors” (80).
 
As an informed layperson, I appreciate this call for the importance of pastor theologians. We live in the time of the gluttonous Christian bookstore. How are lay people to be equipped on how to discern the so-called Christian literature marketed to them? Most will gravitate toward popular level books, but while the title may appear to offer the theological guidance they are hoping for, the content may leave them worse off than they were before cracking open the book. Where can the ordinary person go for guidance to their real-life questions about how God works in the lives of his people? Timothy George opens the Foreword of the book with a quote from William Ames, “Theology is the knowledge of how to live in the presence of God” (7). This is not a mere intellectual quest. It shapes our everyday lives and it is an eternal matter.
 
We are no longer limited to the few churches within a five mile range. There are well over 100 churches to chose from within fifteen miles from my house. How is a Christian to learn about the biblically faithful places to worship? In our early years of marriage, my husband and I knew that there were some things amiss in our church. We could discern that there were some serious issues that were in fact unbiblical. Our own pastor didn’t think so of course, but it was the writings of pastor theologians that helped us to spot the problems and finally articulate them. 
 
The thing is, we are all a theological community in a sense. Of course, there is a need to distinguish the professional theologians for their educated contribution to specialized fields of theology. However, what is the point of academia if they exist just to talk amongst themselves? Their contributions should trickle down to us lay theologians if they are of lasting value. And if the proffesionals stay locked away in their classrooms and university libraries, they will be out of touch to the needs of the church. 
 
The authors make a good case that without pastor theologians, theology has become ecclesially anemic, and the church theologically anemic. While it’s a blessing to have academic theologians working on specialized topics, such as whether James Dunn’s interpretation of Paul viewing the Jewish law as an ethnic boundary marker is correct or not, we also need students of the church who will help us see why that matters. We need pastoral theology that will “deepen the health and faith of God’s people” (91). “The theological integrity of the church will never rise above its pastors, no matter how astute the local university’s religion department” (17).
 
I will say that while agree there needs to be a return to the idea of the pastor theologian, there are many great ones out there now. For that I am thankful. And yet, pastors who are faithfully serving their congregations with the ministry of Word and sacrament already have a lot on their plates. Many want to contribute more theologically, but the pressures from their vocation make it difficult to carve out the time and energy. Another benefit to this book is that the authors give practical advice to help pastor theologians. I encourage every pastor to read it! But it is also advantageous for elders and lay people to read because pastors need our support and we should be concerned about the theological depth of our churches.
Posted on Thursday, October 15, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
“’There are no private affairs,’” one of the “bright people” says to the “big ghost” in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Believers know the reality of that statement. And it is probably something that everyone really knows, but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. In fact, our culture leads us to believe we can create our own reality. We can fashion all of our affairs just the way we would like our closest 542 friends to see them on our social media account, painting the pictures of our life stories.
 
But still, there’s something missing. We need approval, accolades, admirers even. As our likes pile up, maybe we are tempted to post according to what we know will pull in the most favorites (In which case, I need to ditch the theological links on Twitter and stick to posting about peanut butter). Still unsatisfied, some people actually stoop to buying likes, or trading off for likes. 
 
Well, it turns out, people still want more. The likes just aren’t fulfilling the currency that we are looking for. This is where the upcoming Peeple App would like to step in. On this app, described as the Yelp for people, you can rate your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and dates with a correlating review. That couldn’t go wrong, could it? 
 
Apparently, the announcement of this app has angered the internet crowds to the point where the CEO, Julia Cordray, is doing some back-pedaling. She has now announced that this is a “positivity app,” that you opt into. No one can create an account profile for you, and you will approve all the reviews before they are posted. However, the company does recommend that you allow some of the negative reviews in to show a more “balanced” profile. You know, because it has to be believable and all. Hmm. 
 
So now basically, this is a way for you to see what people think about you, and to display a customized resume about what people are saying in front of your back. At best, this is a pretend-land where you can make believe you have been sifted through judgment and come out for the better---publically. All the while, you have the confidence that your private affairs are still private.
 
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I can’t imagine there won’t be fake accounts that will hurt many people. But the fact that this may become a thing, that people may participate, maybe a lot of people, points to the truth that we all know---there is a judgment for who we are and the way we treat our neighbors. 
 
Ah, but if only it could be left to that. There is a judgment coming before a holy God, One whom we have all offended. Without Christ, we could not bear to even hear this judgment, much less take the time to decide which parts we will keep and publicize and which we will keep to ourselves. There are no private affairs. And no social network makeover will help us when we are exposed for who we truly are.
 
Don’t be fooled into thinking your own self-righteousness will make the cut. Don’t be fooled into believing what others say about you either. God’s judgment is the only one that counts. And in his mercy and love, he has sent his Son to do what we could not and would not. The perfect Son, who fulfilled all righteousness, bore the sin of his beloved in judgment. It was a public affair, as will be his return. By faith, he leads us to true repentance and a new life in Christ. And all who turn to Him look forward to hearing that approval they so desperately need from the only One who can give it, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Posted on Tuesday, October 06, 2015 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In his first lecture on Biblical Theology (available for free download on iTunes U), Dr. Gregory Beale begins to build his case that eschatology is the key to our sanctification. He even half-jokingly suggests teaching one day on the topic, “Eschatology and How to Enjoy Your Mate.” Beale claims that we could all have better marriages if we understand this connection better.
 
That’s worth pondering, isn’t it? And as I have seen all the insistence on carrying the “headship norm” established in Genesis 2 as a “creation norm” to inform one’s view on maleness and femaleness, I’m even more interested in this proposal by Beale.
 
In my last article, I made the case that headship is a household role. This is an important distinction as Christians discuss what is appropriate in the workforce and civil culture. While there are certainly innate and cultural differences between men and women that we consider in our vocations and in our relationships, headship does not extend beyond the household: all women are not under the authority of all men. 
 
I also pointed to Ephesians 1:10, showing that as the household manager, Christ is working in both God’s household and family households as he is summing up all things in him. And I ended with some questions regarding what 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?
 
Before I get to the practical implications, I want to look at this household analogy closer as it is used by Paul in the pastoral epistles. He opens up his letter to Timothy:
 
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1:3-5)
 
The English translation here doesn’t really capture the household theme that is set up in these verses. Robert Wall translates this “stewardship from God” (oikonomos theou) in his commentary on the pastoral epistles as “God’s way of ordering the world,” and describes it as what we may even think of as mundane tasks in managing a household. He draws on a similar phrase in Titus 1:7, theou oikonomos, where Paul is speaking of “the congregation’s… (episkopos) or ‘administrator’ (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7) and in Gal. 4:1-2 of the heir’s relationship to his ‘trustees’…as analogical of Christian conversion” (65). He continues:
 
The catchphrase oikonomia theou is probably rooted in the same typological soil and envisages a kind of divine trusteeship by which the triune God manages the outworking of salvation’s history within the ongoing community of faith. 
 
…Moreover the letter’s wide-ranging instructions are formative of the church’s existence in the world as God’s household, and as such make it a public microcosm of the oikonomia theou. (65)
 
Moving on, in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, we have the qualifications for overseers, or “household administrators.” Wall returns to this illustration of God’s household: 
 
In any case, it bears repeating that “household” is the central metaphor for the church of the Pastoral Epistles and that Christian teachers catechize believers according to the social patterns of the oikonomia theou (1:4). The ‘living God’ is paterfamilias of the sacred household (cf. 3:15). The political shape of this theological conception draws naturally on the experience of middle-class households in urban centers of the Mediterranean world (see 1:4-5; 5:1-6:2; 2 Tim. 2:20-21; Tit. 1:5 ;2:1-10). Those in charge of caring for the family household, from its administrator to its servant staff, had particular responsibilities and observed particular social conventions. The stability of the city-state, if not the empire, was routinely considered by its politicians and philosophers to be dependent on maintaining its various households. While the vocation of God’s sacred household is religious, its daily operations require effective administrators and a competent servant staff, like any other Roman household. (99-100)
 
A few verses later, in 1 Timothy 3:14, Paul continues on this theme:
 
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
 
Wall comments that, “Even more central to this letter’s theological vision is the belief that faithful familial relationships instantiate a Pauline understanding of the oikonomia theou” (118). Our relationships within our families and in the household of God bear witness to God’s mission to the world. 
 
With that in mind, let’s get back to enjoying your mate, tying this household language in with my last article on Ephesians 1:10 and Genesis 2:24. As God is putting his household in order, we have a beautiful eschatological picture in marriage. Beale points out in his last lecture of his Biblical theology series that every time a man leaves his father’s household to cling to his wife (Gen. 2:24), we have “a parable, a repeated parable, of what Christ would do as the husband of the church: leave his father, cleave to the church. He would initiate as the… preserver and leader, and be the instigator and source of unity and nourishment, and the church should respond in trust.” He continues that when a husband lavishly and sacrificially gives to his wife, providing her with what she desires, as long as it is not sinful, he is showing the fallen world something about what Christ has come to do. And when a wife is able and offers trust to her husband, the watching world is shocked by our “walking lifestyle of the gospel.”
 
You see, there is a theological mission connected to being the head of a household. Going back to the practical questions, what exactly is the responsibility as head? Wall again sheds light here emphasizing the responsibility to tend to the mission and purpose of the household. We are moving toward something, our mission to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth. This eschatological goal shapes the mission of the household. This mission needs to reach the next generation, and the ones after that. And so the head needs to ensure that our faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live accordingly, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of the family, and of the household of God, his church.
 
And so Wall does get practical on how this leadership plays out. “They [leaders] think about the mission, describe it, communicate it, keep it constantly before the group, and develop goals on the basis of it” (259). If only Adam would have done that! Because there is a great opposition to the mission. And that is why these household-themed exhortations are always beside warnings about false teachers. Wall interestingly points out, “While love is the moral aim of the oikonomia theou and is spiritually adduced (1:5), it is threatened not by misbehavior but by bad theology…(1:19)” (171).
 
We don’t bear witness to God’s mission to the world by micromanaging male/female relationships, regulating the details of femininity and masculinity when it comes to serving in our vocations, or insisting on some kind of blanket male authority over all women in society. We bear God’s mission to the world by functioning in our households under the mission God has called us to. And what a great privilege that is!