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.


A Reading List for 2014

One of the great joys of being a pastor is that taking time to read books is part of the job. You cannot effectively teach, shepherd, rebuke, exhort, and develop yourself in mind and heart without reading good books. The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”

So here’s a reading list for me this year. There are 26 books, not counting fiction. Here’s a few things, off the top of my head, to consider as you examine my list.

  • These are not the best books out there or the “most important” books of all time.  Some of these books I have on my shelf that I have yet to read. A couple are books I need to re-read. Most are books that I feel like I personally need to read (for any number of reasons).
  • There are not a lot of new titles and I don’t have a lot of room for books coming out in 2014. I am not biased against newer books, but there are a lot of older books and timeless classics I should read.
  • At the same time, I will probably read a book that isn’t on this list. A review copy will probably come my way that I’ll read through quickly. I try to be very selective with new books simply because there are hoards of them that are released every month! I simply can’t keep up.
  • This is a big list. But I’m a husband, a dad, and a pastor, and I also enjoy being around people. So, the reality is that I will not read them all. In fact, I hope I don’t. I hope to read a few of them really well rather than plow through just to say I read a lot.
  • I need to read more fiction. I’m working on it, and I hope I come across a few good fiction works this year to enjoy.
  • I need to books in other disciplines. I have a lot of theology here, but I need to read some stuff in business, sociology, philosophy, etc.
  • You shouldn’t read a book just because it’s on my list. Many of these books have to do with my job or things you are just not interested in.
  • You should read a few books that are on my list. Reading a book that is more pastoral or theological in nature will do at least two things: it will 1) stretch your intellectual capacity, and 2) build a bridge for conversation with your pastor.
  • This all might change in a blink of an eye. I may scrap this list or much of it and add other books. Come spring, I may want a lot more spiritual formation or ethics or something else. So, I hold this list with an open hand.

Also, do us all a favor and leave a comment letting us know about a few books that are on your must read list for 2014.

Luther, Introduction to Romans
Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb
Kidner, Psalms 1-72 Psalms 73-150 

McGrath, Historical Theology
Shelley, Church History in Plain Language

Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching
Lloyd-Jones, Preacher and Preachers

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (I will take all of 2014 to work through this. You can too!)
Packer, Knowing God
Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World
Carson, Exegetical Fallacies
Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism
Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
Bray, The Doctrine of God

Lewis, Abolition of Man
Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas
Sire, The Universe Next Door
Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant

Spiritual Formation
Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor
Smith, Desiring the Kingdom

Donald, Lincoln

Collins, The Hunger Games (3)
Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (6)
Various short stories and poems

Adler, How to Read a Book
Meeker, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
Collins, Good to Great


A Gospel-Centered Reader

Those of you visit this blog often know that I write about the gospel a lot. To reinforce what I write, I wanted to start building a gospel-centered reader as a resource for people to find gospel-centered material. A “reader” is a compilation of shorter works on a particular subject. Most of these come from Tim Brister’s blog, but I will add to it as I find other resources. If you know of material that would be a worthy addition, please let me know.

  1. Gospel Coalition Foundation Documents
  2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration
  3. Together for the Gospel Statement (PDF)
  4. The Centrality of the Gospel – Tim Keller (PDF)
  5. The Biblical Gospel – D.A. Carson (PDF)
  6. Gospel-Driven Sanctification – Jerry Bridges (PDF)
  7. The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Steve Childers (PDF)
  8. The Gospel and the Poor – Tim Keller (PDF)
  9. Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship – Jonathan Dodson (PDF)
  10. The Gospel Centered Life – Bob Thune (study)
  11. Gospel-Centered Ministry – Tim Keller (PDF)
  12. How to Preach the Gospel to Yourself – David Fairchild (Sermon MSS)
  13. The Gospel: Key to Change – Tim Keller (PDF)
  14. God Strengthens Us by the Gospel – John Piper
  15. Advancing the Gospel in the 21st Century Part 2 – Tim Keller
  16. Gospel Christianity (1.0) (2.0) (3.0) – Tim Keller (studies)
  17. The Gospel in Its Many Forms – Tim Keller
  18. How Does the Gospel Save Believers? (Part 2Part 3) – John Piper
  19. Gospel-Centered – Joe Thorn
  20. Being the Church in Our Culture – Tim Keller (PDF)
  21. Preach the Gospel to Yourself – Tim Challies
  22. What Do I Mean by a Gospel-Driven Life? (Part 2Part 3) – John Fonville
  23. The Gospel-Driven Life – Harry Reeder III
  24. The Threefold Use of the Law – R.C. Sproul
  25. Greidanus: Six Ways to See Christ in the Old Testament – Dane Ortlund
  26. I’m Tired of Hearing “The Gospel” (Warning: Mild Rant) – Thabiti Anyabwile
  27. Death and Resurrection: The Typlogical Structure of Old Testament Redemptive History – Nicholas Batzig
  28. What is the Gospel? – 9Marks
  29. Seven Assertions Regarding Justification and Sanctification – Rick Phillips

What I Have Learned in My First 11 Weeks of Seminary

I attend seminary at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, through their online program. The online aspect is not ideal, but it is functional for me and my family. So far, I’m learning (I hope). More than anything, I’m being exposed to scholarship and lots of reading the average person wouldn’t read (not even me).

I have learned two very important lessons in the first eleven weeks of this semester. First, I am totally not an academic. (Can’t you tell after I used the word totally?) God has given me a shepherd’s heart, not a professor’s heart. I love to teach doctrine, but I love to herald the good news more. I love to dig into finer points of theology, but I love to motivate and challenge to pursue holiness more. Seminary is pricking and prodding my academic skin, which is thin and frail.

Secondly, in general, it takes a lot of work for me to focus when I read. Don’t let this blog fool you, I am not that smart. It is hard for me to comprehend anything above a college football article on I often find myself reading the same sentence three or four times. Seminary is pushing me to rely on the Holy Spirit to control my literary ADHD when it comes to the teleological argument and the neo-orthodoxy movement.

I love to read and write, it just takes a different shape in my personal time and here on the blog than in an academic setting. Thankfully, because of the cross, God’s grace is abundant, fresh, and powerful. And its fountain doesn’t run dry over seminarians like me.


Old Testament Names Are Part of Scripture Too

During a team time earlier today with our project here in Johannesburg, we were reading Numbers 13. That’s the story about Joshua going into Canaan with the other men of Israel to find out what the Promise Land is all about.

As we read, we came across some difficult Hebrew names. To my surprise, after the reader stumbled over the first name, she skipped the other three and continued on reading the next sentence. She kind of giggled. Everyone else joined in the laugh. After all, the names are hard and it’s embarrassing to butcher the pronunciation.

I’m not trying to criticize the reader because I realize that the Old Testament can be a tongue twister. However, I think it was a reminder to me of a larger problem in our Christian culture. The problem is two-fold. First, we don’t consider the Old Testament “as inspired” as the New Testament. We would never confess that, but we might secretly hold to that belief. Think about how much Christians actually read and discuss the Old Testament.

Secondly, we don’t recognize the significance and importance of how personal the Bible really is. These names represented real people with real lives and families, who really served the Lord and really died to go to be with him. The Bible is intensely personal and crazy-hard (albeit small) lists like the one in Numbers 13, along with lengthy genealogies elsewhere show, before anything else, that people matter to God.

Don’t be in a rush to get through the name lists. Slow down and do your best. It’s a part of Scripture just as much as John 3:16. He created these people. He loves them. He used them to build his kingdom. Let’s glorify God and honor their legacy by reading their names fully, confidently, and with delight.