Review: Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

I just finished reading Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by Aimee Byrd. I read this book because I first learned about Aimee on the Worthy podcast, hosted by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher. This review is much shorter than it could or should be. I’m won’t be able to cover all of the important content but want to highlight a few important arguments of the book.

Byrd, who subscribes to male-only ordination, set out to confront some of the teaching and application that has come out of the biblical manhood and womanhood movement, the origin of which we can trace back to the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Since then, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) has been developed and publishes a journal, blog articles, books, and hosts their own conferences.

Byrd’s primary goal was pretty simple. Her book seeks to show that men and women are on equal footing in the body of Christ. They follow the same Jesus, read the same Bible, and are both responsible to be active, faithful witnesses to the faith. Whether you are for male-only ordination or not, if you are a Christian, you should believe and practice this, she argues. I agree. 

Byrd’s overall concern could perhaps be summed up like this: we have segregated God’s word, and therefore God’s people, making certain aspects of it relevant to men and other parts to women. This has created separate discipleship tracks in the church: one for men and another for women.

Byrd examines popular gender-specific devotional Bibles to prove this, focusing on the ESV devotional Bibles for men and women. These publications have perpetuated the fuzzy idea of men’s and women’s “roles” in the church and home. They also give priority and authority to men: there are no women contributors to the men’s devotional Bible, but there are men who contribute to the women’s devotional Bible.

Byrd’s heart comes across clearly. She wants us to realize that the Bible does call us to biblical “manhood” and “womanhood,” but conformity to Christ regardless of gender.

Byrd shows how the biblical manhood and womanhood movement, spearheaded by CBMW, has perpetuated this segregation between women and men in the church. According to CBMW, women exist to support, encourage, and hold up men as leaders (chapter 4). For example, in Piper and Grudem’s book, biblical femininity is defined as “a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s different relationships” (p. 105).

Byrd points out that Scripture simply never states that all women must submit to all men, but the biblical manhood and womanhood movement would make us believe as much. She shows convincingly that this movement believes women are second-class disciples who do not and should not receive the same training and equipping opportunities as men. 

Conversely, Byrd takes us from one Scripture to the next (particularly in chapters 3 and 4) to show how the Bible “takes us behind the scenes and gives us a story behind the story through the female voice…implementing women as tradents of the faith” (p. 73). Ruth, the Egyptian midwives, Deborah, Rahab, and Mary are just a few examples that show “patriarchy is not the Bible’s message…[but that] it is the cultural backdrop against which the gospel message of Jesus stands out in sharpest relief” (p. 56).

One of the primary theological problems Byrd finds in the CBMW is the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son, or ESS for short. I won’t take a deep dive into this doctrine here, but in a nutshell ESS is the belief that the Son, the second Person of the trinity, has always been in subordination and submission to the Father. The CBMW uses this as the foundation for their view of gender roles. Of course, this is a doctrine at odds with the church councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (381), summarized in the Nicene Creed. Byrd circles back to this throughout the book. Unfortunately, the CBMW has allowed room in their movement on different views of the Trinity, but not how men and women function in the church (pp. 120-121).

As Byrd closes the book, she write beautifully of two women’s co-laborship with Paul: Junia and Phoebe. We meet these women in Romans 16. Phoebe was the courier of the letter to the Romans and Junia is even identified as “renowned among the apostles” along with Andronicus. While churches today are arguing about whether or not woman can make an announcement or pass out bulletins, Paul commends these women for their ministry (p. 213).

Phoebe, as the courier of the letter, was thus authorized to not only deliver but communicate (i.e. instruct) what was in the letter that the Romans may not have understood. At the very least, this reveals Paul’s heart to include women in global, apostolic work. It reminds us that “having a coed team of apostles in Rome sounds wisely strategic in reaching the diverse men and women” who lived there. It’s a lesson we ought not forget today.

I do have two gentle critiques. More like pet peeves that I hope won’t detract the reader from the content of the book.

First, It was much more academic than I expected and wonder if that will work against Byrd in the long run. Why? Because while many of the men who are behind the Biblical Manhood and Womanhood movement are academics, the people who have been influenced by their writings, sermons, and conferences are not professional theologians. They are everyday, ordinary Christians.

Second, Byrd is an Orthodox Presbyterian. And, oh, does that come through clearly! In my estimation, she has too narrow of a view of “the church,” reducing much of her focus to local fellowships and what happens during a Sunday morning liturgy. She also places a very high emphasis on church officers, as a presbyterian would—an emphasis that I think the New Testament doesn’t even give. (But that’s another post entirely).

If you, reader, are the average “layperson,” let me encourage you press in and not get hung up on the academic tone and institutional preferences of the author. Press on and engage with her actual arguments without setting up and destroying straw men (or women).

Overall, I’m happy to recommend Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. No matter your position on gender roles in the home, church, or world, if you are a Christian or church leader, you need to wrestle with the issues and problems Byrd brings to light. And I hope you do.


Review: The End of White Christian America

The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones is a difficult book to summarize briefly. It’s essentially a history book and it has a ton of research data.

I’m not much for formal reviews anymore. I did that during seminary, and I’m glad those days are over. But here are a few thoughts.

This book is from 2016, and it was released before President Trump was elected. It’s a book about, well, white Christians in America. What is “White Christian America”? The author uses the term to describe the domain (think realm or even kingdom) of white Protestants in America, anchored by mainline Protestants in the Northeast, and evangelical Protestants (particularly Southern Baptists as the book unfolds) in the Midwest and South. The author argues that WCA is dying—it doesn’t quite have the cultural or political clout it used to.

It seems that the the author equates white Christians with extreme right-wing Republican politics. (I realize that for statistical and historical analysis, a book about moderate Christians who aren’t quotable and stay out of partisan politics is pretty boring.) I could sum up the book by saying it’s about the death of that group of people who believe their “Christian” faith and (ultra-conservative) politics are so closely bound together that you nearly can’t tell a difference between them.

The book points out that WCA is out of touch with the changing cultural landscape (hence why it is dying). It shows the disheartening reality that Christians, particularly evangelicals, have hurt race relations in our country more than helped. It shows that Christians have often been tone deaf, and even more worried about being right and having power, than being servants. For these and other reasons, WCA is dying. (Keep in mind, of course, that Trump was elected shortly after this book was released, which seems to contradict the entire premise of the book.)

Now, to be honest, there were times when reading, that I said to myself, “I really don’t want to be associated with ‘evangelicals’” (as far as that word is understood in this country). There were moments I cringed reading about what’s been said or done by “evangelical Christians.” And it made me want to be anything but evangelical. (Full disclosure: I don’t use that label for myself because of the political connotations).

On the other hand, the author seems to assume that to move forward positively in this country, Christians (particularly white ones and particularly Southern Baptists) must embrace political views that Christians across time and culture have never embraced. I’m being intentionally vague on the details, but I’m sure you could take a good guess at some of the things the author refers to.

At the end of the day, reading this kind of book makes me long for a new generation of disciples of Jesus—the whole Jesus. It makes me long for Jesus-people who are neither Red nor Blue; do not cave into cultural values, norms, or fads; have a robust understanding of the gospel; are passionate about true justice for the non/underprivileged; have a vision and simple, reproducible methods for disciple-making; and walk by the Spirit of Jesus so that their light so shines before others that people ask them, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

Master Jesus, you can do it. Please, do it.

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).

Life Reviews

Another New Bible Edition from Crossway

Men, what you need most is Christ. And to get Christ, you must let his word saturate your mind and heart. To help in this endeavor, you might quickly turn to pithy devotional books that give you a sentence or two of Scripture and four paragraphs of someone’s thoughts. I get it. You are busy. Wife. Family. Job. Kids. Gym. Fantasy Football. So, five minutes of spiritual time and you’ve hit your quota.

Unfortunately, squeezing in devotional time will not bring about the spiritual formation you want to see. The Bible’s words must race through your veins and be fresh water to your parched lips. Its incisive correction and wise instruction must shape your every word and deed. Most of all, its subject—Jesus Christ —must captivate your heart more than money, sex, power, or ESPN.

Crossway is seeking to help men in this very pursuit with their new ESV Men’s Devotional Bible. This devotional book is a bit different than others which are heavy on commentary and light on Bible. This book is a full Bible—all 66 books—with insightful, practical devotions woven throughout. It is not designed to get men out of their Bibles and into a five minute routine. Rather, it’s designed to help us men in the habit of systematic Scripture reading, aided by helpful devotional commentaries from other men who walk daily with Jesus.

I heartily commend this Bible edition to you. In my commendation, let me exhort you not mainly to the devotional articles, but to the very words of holy Scripture to which the devotions owe any power, insight, and helpfulness.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible!


Review: ESV Journaling Bible

I love the English Standard Version Bible. In my personal reading and study and in my preaching and other ministry, this is the primary version I use. I’m thankful to God for such a literal yet readable translation. So I was happy to receive a free copy of the ESV Journaling Bible published by Crossway to review.

I’m not reviewing the text of Scripture, here, but let me offer some brief thoughts on why the ESV is a worthy translation. It’s not a perfect translation. You should consult other trusted translations (e.g. NIV, NASB, HCSB). We are spoiled with how many good translations we have in English. But to me, the ESV is head and shoulders above the rest. Here are a few thoughts, which I can thank Kevin DeYoung for. The ESV uses an “essentially literal” philosophy, which makes it more transparent of an translation than other options. Embedded into this philosophy is, what I call, the ambiguity principle (this is a good thing!). In other words, the reader must wrestle with the text because the ESV translators translate not interpret. This means that the ESV does less “over-translation” (trying to communicate more than what was intended) and less “under-translation” (watering down words with deep meanings) than other versions.

The ESV also seeks to keep translation of a word in context the same throughout a passage a book. First John 2:10, 24, for example translates the same Greek word (menō) as “abide,” whereas the NIV translates it as “lives” and “remain(s).”

Finally, the ESV retains more of the literary qualities of the Bible. The Bible is a divine book, but also a human one. Figures of speech are less likely to be removed of their earthiness or tangibility in the ESV. Again, the ambiguity principle! Compare Ps. 35:10, 73:10; 78:33; and Pr. 27:6 in the ESV and NIV for examples.

Now let me offer some bullet-point thoughts on the layout and aesthetics of the Journaling Bible.

  • It comes in a beautifully designed cardboard case for safe keeping.
  • The cover is hardboard with a cloth overlay. There are nine different design options.
  • Other than the ESV text, this edition includes articles on why to read the Bible, what the Bible says about certain topics, God’s plan of salvation, introductions to each of the 66 biblical books, and a one-year Bible reading plan.
  • There are no cross references in the ESV text, but there are footnotes which point out textual variants or alternative meanings of various Hebrew/Greek words.
  • The point size of the Scripture text is a fairly small. This would be my only negative critique. I would suppose this is inevitable because, of course, room needs to be made for the 2-inch ruled margins for journaling. If your eyes are growing ever less dependable, this might not be the Bible edition for you.

Simply put: it’s another wonderful, beautiful, helpful Bible edition from Crossway.

The good news is you can get in on this! I’m giving away a FREE copy of the ESV Journaling Bible (in the blue flora design). Here’s how you can win. You get one “entry” for each thing you do:

  1. “Like” this post below.
  2. Link back to this post on your blog.
  3. Share this post on Facebook.
  4. Share this post on Twitter.
  5. Subscribe to my blog (you can do that here or click “Follow” at the bottom of this page). If you already do, let me know if your comment below.
  6. Follow me on Twitter. If you already do, let me know in your comment below.
  7. Comment on this post and 1) tell me why you could use a free journaling Bible, and 2) which of the above entries you did.

You have until Friday, November 13 at 5pm to enter. A winner will be announced on Monday, November 16. Good luck!

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.


Review: The Message 100

Just a few years ago, I was not a fan of The Message, Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible. I could never put my finger on it. Perhaps I found its vocabulary a bit too colorful. Perhaps I thought one man surely couldn’t “write the Bible.” I’m not sure. I just knew I didn’t like it.

But then I met Eugene Peterson.

I didn’t meet him in person. I met him watching an old pastor share stories in YouTube interviews. I met him at the gym on my iPod in seminary guest lectures. I met him on vacations and on cold, dark mornings in books on pastoral ministry and prayer. I easily noticed that he always exalted Jesus, never failed to remind me of the earthiness of Scripture (it’s a raw, honest, messy place), and imaginatively articulated that God is always up to something in the world.

I started reading The Message. And I came to see that it was produced by the hands of a blue-collar pastor. No, not a guy who also swung a hammer for a living, but a faithful minister who worked hard to get the message of the Bible into the hands and hearts of his congregation. As a pastor myself, I identified with this. Is there anything more important? Peterson’s solution was to produce a translation that fit the language of the world in which his congregation lived. He became a bridge-builder between two worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of today.

The Message 100 is Peterson’s latest effort to get the Bible into the hands and hearts of God’s people. In the preface, he writes about his translation process as a pastor:

Out of necessity I became a ‘translator’ (although I wouldn’t have called it that then), on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children (A8).

Peterson calls his translation a “reading Bible.” It’s not mainly a Bible to study (though Peterson admits that is important and his work does not replace other versions). Instead The Message is designed to get you lost in the text so that you are awakened to God and his story.

And that’s where The Message 100 is especially helpful.  It is the entire text of Peterson’s The Message divided into 100 readings—100 chronological sequences—of God’s story. Each reading covers anywhere from a few to several chapters of the Bible. The readings are chronological according to when they were written (so, for example, Readings 1-4 consist of Genesis; Readings 5-8 covers Job; the Apostle John readings round things out in Readings 97-100 ).

The Message 100 will help you experience the Bible the way it was intended to be experienced—it’s more like reading a novel than a series of propositional truths or Aesop’s Fables. The Bible is the “unfolding story of God revealing himself to the people he dearly loves” (A15).  The Message 100 will help you see this with minimal distractions (chapter and verse numbers are in small print in the margin). The readings are divided up and sectioned-off based on author’s intent and literary contextual clues. You could easily work through the entire Bible in 100 days by reading through this work.

Let me add one more thing you might like to know.. While Peterson himself wrote The Message, he isn’t accountability-free. In the forward, U2 frontman Bono writes, “Peterson is upfront with us in saying that his own translation…is a paraphrase. That we should receive it as through the filter of his own life as a pastor” (A5). That’s important and encouraging. But more than that, page A13 lists twenty translation consultants from respected seminaries, colleges, and universities who have reviewed Peterson’s work to ensure that it is accurate and faithful to the original languages. There are times when Peterson appears to do more interpreting than translating (e.g. Genesis 3:16). But there is never a major doctrine in question and it happens too infrequently for me to throw the whole Message baby out with the linguistic bath water. Besides, Peterson began as a biblical language scholar. With academic accountability, a reverent approach to Scripture, and a pastor’s heart, Peterson is someone I can trust.

I heartily commend The Message 100 to you. If you are skeptical, then read it with a standard Bible version close by. But read The Message and get lost on that bridge Peterson has kindly built for us, the bridge between the language of then and now. Find yourself in between the two worlds of the Bible and Today. While you are there, hear the God of the universe (and the bridge) speak, and discover his world, his plan, his beauty, his salvation. And enjoy him there.