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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.

Categories
Theology

The Church as the Ultimate Barrier Breaker

I often find myself forgetting that I am one individual member of an absolutely enormous body called the Church. Still more, I forget this Church is a Body that is incredibly diverse.  Spending 2009 in South Africa helped me in this, but I’m still learning to think outside of my own little kingdom.  This Body isn’t diverse just because it has hands and feet and ears.  It’s diverse because the hands are African and the ears are Latino and the feet are Asian, along with a thousand other races, people groups, and languages.

Wayne Grudem reminded me of this today in his Systematic Theology:

When Paul preaches the gospel both to Jews and to Gentiles, and they become unified in the one body of Christ (Eph. 3:6), the incredible “mystery” that was “hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph. 3:9) is plain for all to see, namely, that in Christ such totally diverse people become unified…If the Christian church is faithful to God’s wise plan, it will be always in the forefront in breaking down racial and social barriers in societies around the world, and will thus be a visible manifestation of God’s amazingly wise plan to bring great unity out of great diversity and thereby to cause all creation to honor him (emphasis added).

God is more glorified in redeeming a diverse people and bringing them to unity.  Yet God spares us from uniformity, unlike other religions.  That’s the great thing about the Church: oneness in the midst of difference.  And what is our unity centered upon?  None other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church.

I want to be more diligent in praying that the Church would be at the forefront of race reconciliation and social justice.  The world really is watching.

Related Post

Categories
Life

Wayne Grudem on God’s Presence in Hell

At the end of January, I posted some of my thoughts on hell.  There I argued that hell is not the separation from the presence of God.  I wrote that hell is the “separation of people from the majestic, glorious presence of the Lord.”

To help flesh this out, I think Wayne Grudem’s thoughts from his book Sytematic Theology might help.

The idea of God’s omnipresence has sometimes troubled people who wonder how God can be present, for example, in hell. In fact, isn’t hell the opposite of God’s presence, or the absence of God? This difficulty can be resolved by realizing that God is present in different ways in different places or that God acts differently in different places in his creation. Sometimes God is present to punish. A terrifying passage in Amos vividly portrays this presence of God in judgment:

Not one of them shall flee away,
not one of them shall escape.
Though they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
though they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search out and take them;
and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
And though they go into captivity before their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall slay them;
and I will set my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.
(Amos 9:1–4)

Categories
Theology

What is Justification?

Series Index

  1. What is Justification?
  2. What Does Justification Do? (Part 1)
  3. What Does Justification Do? (Part 2)
  4. Jesus Became Sin For Us
  5. Christ’s Imputed Righteousness
  6. Justification by Grace
  7. Justification by Faith
  8. Does James Contradict Paul?

Part 1 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther and others recaptured the beauty and glory of the doctrine of justification.  We contribute absolutely nothing to this wonderful doctrine, but gain everything from it. Over the next several days, we’ll look at what justification is, what it does, how it happens, and how we receive it.

First of all, why do we need to understand the significance and meaning of this doctrine? Wayne Grudem said:

A right understanding of justification is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith. Once Martin Luther realized the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the new-found joy of the gospel…Even today, a true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works.

Jonathan Edwards defined justification this way: “A person is said to be justified when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment; and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life.”

J.I. Packer said that it is “a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. Finally,Grudem says, “Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in His sight.”

In short, justification is the legal act of God the Father in which he 1) forgives our sins and 2) declares that we are righteous before him.  According to this definition and what we will see in Scripture, we know that justification is something that is declared about a person, not something that is done to a person. In regard to this, John Murray wrote,

Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does — he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.

To be continued.

Categories
Theology

Baptism and Fullness

John Stott’s Baptism and Fullness is a short, systematic theology of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer and the church at large.  It was first published in 1964 and since then, as we know, the Holy Spirit’s work has been increasing in interest and controversy with the surging of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

It’s a short work, only 119 pages and four chapters.  Those four chapters cover the promise of the Spirit, the fullness of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit.

On page 24, Stott talks about John the Baptist calling Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the one “who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”  Stott then sums up the ministry of Jesus saying, “If we put [John 1:29 and 33] together, we discover that the characteristic work of Jesus is twofold.  It involves a removal and a bestowal, a taking away of sin and a baptizing with the Holy Spirit.  These are the two great gifts of Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

I thought Stott’s treatment of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was one of the better I have read.  For reference, Wayne Grudmen would be someone who believes along the same lines as Stott does with this doctrine.  I won’t go into great detail, but here’s a few quotes that grabbed my attention:

The New Testament authors take it for granted that God has ‘given’ their readers the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5; 1 Thess. 4:8; 1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13); there is no single occasion on which they exhort them to receive him (p. 38).

Never, not once, do they [the apostles] exhort and instruct us to ‘be baptized with the Spirit’. There can be only one explanation of this, namely that they are writing to Christians, and Christians have already been baptized with the Holy Spirit (p. 45).

In the chapter on spiritual gifts, Stott discusses which gifts are available for today.  He believes that the gifts of apostle and prophet are not available today, but does not even discuss tongues, miracles, and healings.  I was very surprised to say the least that he didn’t touch on these “miraculous gifts” at all!

With seven pages left in the book, however, he says, “Probably at things point something needs to be said about ‘tongues’, a gift much emphasized by some.”  He then said, “There is a strong theological and linguistic presumption that the phenomenon referred to in 1 Corinthians [and Acts 2] is the same” (p. 112).  I agree with Stott on this, but differ in that I think the languages spoken were languages known to the speaker and the hearer (this might shock you, but maybe I’ll address this in a future post).  Whether we see eye to eye on this or not, Stott rightly says that all the gifts were given for the common good and to equip the saints for ministry (p. 115).

This is a solid, thorough work.  I don’t agree with everything; however, I did find most parts very helpful.  The work of the Spirit can be very controversial (for whatever reason), but the most important thing that we, as Christians, must remember and commit to agree on is that everyone who receives the divine call and repents of their sin receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.  As Stott says, “This…phrase [in Acts 2:38-39] is a very clear and striking assertion.  It is that promise of the ‘gift’ or ‘baptism’ of the Spirit is to as many as the Lord our God calls” (p. 28).  Amen.