Posted on Friday, February 17, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I’ve been in a lot of conversations about orthodoxy. The word itself is a turn-off to some, and a status for others. The former believe the word to be a mere intellectual pursuit detached from holistic love, while the latter like to use it as a seal of approval. But orthodoxy is neither a cold truth nor a rank in prestige. Orthodoxy is about how we communicate God’s revealed truth. 
 
Many think it’s an old guy term, and I would agree. That is part of its appeal. Orthodoxy is concerned with what the true church has historically affirmed and denied about the first principles of God and salvation revealed in his word. God didn’t just give us his word; he made us a church. The divine authority of his word leads to churchly confession. We aren’t just concerned about what God’s word says; we pursue the understanding of what it says. 
 
Orthodoxy is an act of love. Loving truth leads to communicating truth with the goal of living in unity in the truth. Ultimately, orthodoxy serves our goal of communion with the triune God, or should I say, his pursuit of communion with us. What a great wonder it is that God has revealed himself to his people! And he does give us a status, union with Christ as new creations, so that we have fellowship with the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. 
 
Reading and interpreting Scripture is not an individual act. It is a covenantal act. And it is an act that requires the Spirit’s work in his people. While upholding the necessity of personal faith in Christ to have a saving relationship with God, we also embrace the Scriptures as God’s living self-revelation to his people. So we care about orthodoxy because how we communicate matters. 
 
Herman Bavinck beautifully explains to us the riches of God's revelation:
 
We must avoid the one-sidedness of intellectualism and that of mysticism, for they are both a denial of the riches of revelation. Since both head and heart, the whole person in being and consciousness, must be renewed, revelation in this dispensation is continued jointly in Scripture and in the church. In this context, the two are most intimately connected. Scripture is the light of the church, and the church the life of Scripture. Apart from the church, Scripture is an enigma and an offense. Without rebirth no one can know it. Those who do not participate in its life cannot understand its meaning and its point of view. 
 
Conversely, the life of the church is a complete mystery unless Scripture sheds its life upon it. Scripture explains the church; the church understands Scripture. In the church Scripture confirms and seals its revelation, and in Scripture the Christian---and the church---learn to understand themselves in relation to God and the world, in their past, present, and future.
 
Scripture, accordingly, does not stand by itself. It may not be construed deistically. It is rooted in a centuries-long history and is the fruit of God’s revelation among the people of Israel and in Christ. Still, it is not a book of times long past, which only links us with persons and events of the past. Holy Scripture is not an arid story or ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful Word, which God, now and always, issues to his people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us. It does not just serve to give us historical information; it does not even have the intent to furnish us a historical story by the standard of reliability demanded in other realms of knowledge. Holy Scripture is tendentious; whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope [Rom. 15:4]. 
 
Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit that it might serve him in guiding the church, in the perfecting of the saints, in the building up of the body of Christ. In it God daily comes to his people. In it he speaks to his people, not from afar, but from nearby. In it he reveals himself, from day to day, to believers in the fullness of his truth and grace. Through it he works his miracles of compassion and faithfulness. 
 
Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and his church, between God and his children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God, the letter of the omnipotent God to his creature. God once created the world by the word, and by that word he also upholds it [Heb. 1:2,3]; but he also re-creates it by the word and prepares it to be his dwelling. Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture. It was not only “God-breathed” at the time it was written; it is “God-breathing.” “It was divinely inspired, not merely while it was written, God breathing through the writers; but also, whilst it is being read, God breathing through the Scripture, and the Scripture breathing Him [He being their very breath].” Having come forth from revelation, it is kept alive by divine inspiration and made efficacious. It is the Holy Spirit who maintains both prophecy and miracle, Scripture and church, joining them together, thus preparing the parousia. 
 
Some day when being and consciousness are completely renewed, revelation will end and Scripture will no longer be necessary. Divine inspiration will then be the portion of all God’s children. They will all be taught by the Lord and serve him in his temple. Prophecy and miracle have then become “nature,” for God dwells among his people.
 
(Excerpt from Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, 384-385, boldfaces mine and I also broke the paragraphs up more for the medium of a blog post. His quotation is from J.A. Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, Vol. 4, 319.)
 
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A Treatise Concerning the Necessity of Marriage*
 
The purpose of the discourse laid out – The major points therein established – The sundry benefits of marriage discussed – The vices thereby abstained from much derided
 
Bearing in mind that the covenant of marriage is not to be entered into, as the Scriptures tell us, unadvisedly or lightly, but rather with all reverence, according to the sundry commandments given for the mutual benefit of all persons, yet which can bind no man but that he take upon himself the yoke, I submit the following discourse for your due consideration, with the exceptional proofs thereunto belonging, wherein you might be made aware of my intentions in this regard.
 
First, that it be for the furtherance of that mutual joy of which all married persons must partake.
 
Second, that it might affect the greater help and comfort of the same, wherein they may thereby experience both prosperity and adversity with no decrease of faith.
 
Third, that it might be for the increase of that procreation which was established by God upon his first covenant with man, for the compassing of which end such persons ought to be joined together in holy matrimony.
 
 
Now follow my expansions upon those points heretofore stated.
 
1.      The mutual joy which is spoken of by means of allegory in the Canticles, the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church spoken of by Saint Paul in his discourse to the Ephesians, the many covenantal benefits made efficacious to those who take part – such things we must not deny.
 
(1.)  That he who possesses a happy wife doth, as spake some philosopher, possess also a happy life.
 
(2.)  That troubles paired be not troubles squared, for they shall not cross the threshold of such as make the Lord their God, or if they do, they are but the trials of a moment sent to make us noble, and for the furtherance of that mortification of the flesh that is incumbent upon all believers.
 
 
2.      I am hereby advised to “get on with it”, and shall as such make haste to finish, neglecting this point. God forgive me.
 
3.      That man exists still in a state of carnal lust we must certainly acknowledge, and that the occasions therein for deeds of the flesh are rampant, it would not behoove us to deny. We must therefore set ourselves unto the following aims.
 
(1.)  That, as the apostle writes, “It is better to marry than burn,” and thus the gift of marriage is granted to all believing men, that they might flee from the prospect of fornication and lend due reverence to the wife to whom they be predestined.
 
(2.)  That paradise be not lost upon entering into matrimony, but rather regained, according to that covenant made at the first, having escaped the snares of the devil, by which he seeks to pull us into the bonds of iniquity, we embrace rather the bonds of marriage, for the furtherance of our sanctification.
 
(3.)  And as someone hast said with regard to procreation, it is the ready means by which we grow the Church of Jesus Christ, and knowing as we do how the odds be stacked against the gospel truth in this present age, we must find our strength in numbers and make of thee a second Eve and mother of all the living.
 
 
We await now such sundry answers as you see fit to grant to us, that we may be hereby directed to a course that will be for the mutual satisfaction of both parties.
 
 
(And here was her reply...)
 
 
My dearest John,
 
I scarcely understand this letter you have sent to me. Indeed, I scarcely understand half the things you say, be they ever so exalted. Nevertheless, if it is marriage you seek, I shall submit myself to this yoke, as you so artfully call it, if you will but promise me three things upon pain of your eternal soul. First, that you should never speak Latin in my presence again. Second, that you should on one occasion per week pry yourself from your books long enough to change a nappy. Third, that you should find some means of sustenance beyond your tomes, for such things as you write are more fit for the shelves of Duke Humfrey’s library than the hands of the common man, and if they be our only source of sustenance, shall be the making of our eternal poverty. This is my reply. May heaven help me.
 
-   Mary Rooke
 
*A bit of fun from the brain of Amy Mantravati. You can follow her on Twitter @AmyMantravadi
Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
That time was yesterday. I was invited to the PCA Potomac Presbytery to speak to about 70 men on the topic of equipping women in the church. This is an opportunity that I was pleased to accept. It’s one that I have written a lot about.  But I was also a bit nervous.
 
The Presbytery opened with worship at 10:00. I was to speak at 11:15, after the worship service, and then was invited to stay for lunch. They would be conducting all their business matters after lunch.
 
So I walked into a sanctuary full of men at McLean Presbyterian Church right before the service started. I saw some familiar faces, including my old pastor and some elders from the PCA church that my family belonged to for 11 years in WV; the pastor of our local PCA church in Frederick, MD; Paul Wolfe, whom we’ve interviewed on MoS; the pastor who invited me; and Dr. David Silvernail, who had me speak on preaching to women to his class at RTS DC a year ago. The pastor leading the worship welcomed all the men, and the one Mrs., inviting us to worship. As the music began, I became even more aware of my lone feminine voice. The men sang with vigor. It was quite beautiful to hear. Communion was served after the sermon. Not only was I the only woman in this service, but I believe I was the only layperson as well. I couldn’t help but consider how this interesting circumstance of me being there to worship with them served as a visual illustration setting up the topic of my talk---I represented the women in all their churches. They were very good to me.
 
But I was still a bit nervous. I had to say some hard things. I was going to ask difficult questions that required them to do some self-examination. I was there to plea on behalf of the women and to hopefully offer help in the areas I was critiquing. I didn’t want to come off sounding like a burned woman with an agenda, but as a sister in Christ who is on their side as a necessary ally. And I had 45 minutes to do it. I went over, of course.
 
There were a few minutes left for Q&A, and I didn’t know what to expect. Would anyone care? Would they be defensive? Did I connect? The hands flew up and many good questions were asked with great concern on this matter. A pastor from DC raised his hand to thank me for my work and for having the courage to get up there and say what I did. He lamented that he has never, in his years of seminary or pastoral training in the PCA, been trained on this topic of ministering to and with women in the church. He also invited a couple of women from his church to attend. It was good to see them come in right as I got started. Much of what I talked about came from the sections where I directly address church officers in No Little Women
 
We didn’t have enough time to get to all the questions, so I continued to talk one on one afterward over lunch. It was such an encouragement to me to see these pastors and elders so engaged in this important matter. I was blessed both by their kindness to me and their humility to learn from a laywoman. I learned a lot from our exchanges as well. My conversations with these men also confirmed what I knew---this message has to get out to more church officers.
 
Carl & Todd only suffered minor injuries after listening to me the 1st time.One reason I was a bit nervous was due to a reaction from a few PCA pastors on a Reformed Pubcast Facebook thread. I am one of the speakers at the Harvey Cedars Faithful Shepherd Pastor's Retreat, where I will be talking on this same topic. A pastor saw the advertisement for this retreat and posted it in the Facebook group saying how troubling it was that a woman would be speaking to pastors. Most commenters came to my defense, while this pastor and another accused me of being ungodly and immodest. I discovered this as one of the commenters tagged me, pointing out that I was not acting as a church officer myself in such a setting. I believe these men represent a minority in the church. But they are church officers and it was disturbing to be treated in such a way publicly on social media. More troubling was their views on listening to women. As you can see, Carl and Todd only suffered minor injuries the first time they listened to me.
 
So yesterday’s talk was my first opportunity to address church officers on equipping women in their churches as necessary allies. These men modeled good shepherding. They were hospitable, clearly defined the liturgy of the beginning and end of the worship service, transitioned well into the next part of the meeting with a woman speaker, humbly engaged in the topic and noted it’s significance, and personalized it to their local church situations by asking good questions. No one was condescending or dismissive. No one was defensive. One pastor cleared my plate for me. They bought a bunch of my books to dig deeper into the topic and bring it to their churches. I drove home encouraged for the church. I hope to have more opportunities like this one.
 
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I’ve heard good things about Sam Andreades' book engendered: God’s Gift of Gender Differences in Relationship and was excited to read it for myself. Andreades is modest but thorough in building his case that “ the issues of homosexuality and whether women and men should behave differently are cut of the same cloth: the role of gender in relationships” (9). I do think that he is on to something there, and Andreades makes some significant contributions to the way we talk and think about gender. I was particularly on board when reading part one. And yet, as he got more into the specifics of asymmetry in gender intimacy, I began to have some mixed feelings about his teaching. In some areas I was really bothered. I hope to interact with both here.
 
First, I enjoyed Andreades’ writing. His illustration of trying to write about gender and relational love being like walking through a dense forest full of thickets, trying to navigate your way to the waterfalls while avoiding the rattlesnakes, was wonderful. He presents himself as a guide, albeit one that gets caught in many thickets along the way. This is a disarming way to approach the topic. It also sounds like a good, pastoral approach. 
 
Along with engaging prose, Andreades writes from experience. He’s a pastor in the PCA, the founder of G.A.M.E. (Gender Affirming Ministry Endeavor), and has counseled and learned from many Same Sex Attracted (SSA) Christians. He even conducted his own study with what he calls mixed orientation couples, which are intergendered marriages where at least one partner experiences SSA. Excerpts from his interviews pepper the book. So this author is someone who is invested in pastoral care for people who have a lot of questions about gender. This led him to see some of the holes in his own theology of gender.
 
I love how he opens up discussing the significance in Genesis stating from the very beginning that man and woman were both made in the image of God. He explains that this was “big news in the ancient world” where there was a clear hierarchy, women being on the bottom just slightly better off from slaves (43). He highlights how this is further revealed even in the earliest books of Scripture. I’ve never thought much about how Job would be a place to look for support, but Andreades notes how we see no difference between inheritance of Job’s daughters and sons, that the daughters are the only siblings named in the book, and the brothers included their sisters in their feasts. The author continues to contrast the outlying culture’s philosophy and treatment of women to the Old Testament’s showing, “The God of the Bible is as concerned with women’s honor and glory as bearers of the divine image as it is with the men’s” (43). 
 
He includes a great quote, “Open your Bible at random and you will notice something striking: Female characters abound. And it’s not simply a lot of women, it’s a lot of strong women.” And then he calls out as those who devalue the gendered contribution of women by erasing all gender distinction, as well as churches and families who treat women as inferior:
 
Here are two tests to measure women’s status in your setting: 1) If a woman feels the need to self-censor any female issues or feminine attitudes in order to be taken seriously, your practice is skewed and unbiblical in how it distinguishes gender. 2) If women are marginalized by the structures of operation, we have a great deal to answer for to God, since we are disobeying the very first chapter of the Bible. (49)
 
In valuing gender distinction, as well as upholding its value in relationship, Andreades makes the helpful observation that whenever the Bible is directive in gender-specific actions it is within the context of relating to one another, not something inherent in the individual. Therefore, “we mustn’t confuse cultural preferences with gender” (38). There are many men and women who don’t fall into the typical attributes that we want to identify with masculinity and femininity, and Andreades makes a case for why this is so and why this overlap is a display of God’s beauty and variety in creation. He even goes as far as saying “a woman who excels in mixed martial arts is not less of a woman” (65) “Let us rather applaud the wisdom of the Bible’s teaching, not defining gender in terms of essential characteristics” (61) (Aimee puts book down and does happy dance).
 
Caught in Some Thickets
 
Andreades then introduces the term asymmetry to get into more detail about how gender distinction factors into our intimate relationships. This is a term that I could really like, one that I wanted to really like. But this is also where I began having some real disagreement. First, the author uses the faulty exposition of Gen. 3:16, popularized and greatly influenced by Susan Foh, teaching that women’s desire is to rule over men. After that, I began struggling with some of the  “specialties” he assigns women and men in relation to one another: 
 
In marriage, a husband is to specialize in taking prerogative for his wife, and the wife is to work at promoting her husband to that position of headship. He is to provide security for her as she gives him rest. He is to help her discern God’s call to them, and she is to divinely enable them for their task. (78)
 
This is where I began writing more in the margins. Andreades is on his way to the waterfalls here, but got caught in some thickets. I don't believe that the primary application of headship is for the husband to specialize in taking prerogative for his wife. Are there times when the responsibility of the head of a household to carry out God’s mission in their family will call for the husband to lovingly step in and contravene his wife’s prerogative? Yes, sometimes. But the goal here is one flesh union, which is an aligning of both of their prerogatives in their mission. This requires intimate knowing and consideration of one another.  (To be fair, I did think Andreades did a much better job later in the book when explaining headship as representation.)
 
Furthermore, yes, I promote my husband, and affirm the importance for a wife to have a favorable disposition to his responsibility as head of the household (I know I have critiqued a lot of John Piper’s teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood, but disposition is a term he has used in teaching that I do find helpful), but the way these specialties are listed here sounds a bit one-sided. I prefer working from the biblical interpretation of ezer as necessary ally, provided by John McKinley. This alludes to the work that a woman does as an ally to the man, not merely promoting the man and giving him rest. Sure, I want to provide rest for my husband, but I’m not so sure that is some sort of feminine specialty. However, I do feel like making a house a home may be what Andreades is getting at with rest, and women do tend to specialize in this. But I’m not convinced the wife is to be primarily focusing on promoting her husband’s headship as she is to serving as an ally, with her own gifts, to their joint mission. There is also a sense in which the husband is to promote his wife, as he is to lay his own life aside for hers. 
 
While carefully affirming that enGendered isn’t about who works the most hours outside the home, who makes the most money, or who has which gifts, Andreades continually frames biblical and anecdotal illustrations under these categories of prerogative/promotion and security/rest. But what I found was that these terms are waxy, easily interchangeable in how the wives and husbands serve one another. Almost all of the examples, of the women or men, could have received either label. For example, he quotes Prov. 14:1, “The wisest of women builds her house…” as an example of giving rest. But isn’t this also an example of providing security? And if Jael were a man, no one would interpret her specialty in action as giving rest to the people of God. Did she do that? Yes. But she also conquered an enemy in doing so. She took initiative, prerogative, and provided security. The author says that in relationship, “a man can lead a woman into sacrifice and a woman can propel a man into transformative engagement” (124). Amen, but this also works the other way around.
 
While giving many co-laboring examples that are enriching, it was continually disappointing to have all this filed under giving rest and prerogative to the man. So, after great encouragement by strong women like Deborah, Abigail, and Jael, Andreades concludes, “As we realize these distinctions in our close relationships---he identifying and pursuing the mission and she empowering it---we flourish” (129). But these women also undoubtedly played a part in identifying and pursuing the mission.
 
So I was torn by the author’s wonderful depictions on one hand, such as that “submission is an active process of discerning God’s will,” and his hierarchical naming of specialties (115). His teaching that “specialties are things we all might do sometimes, but the specialist focuses on especially doing them” was enriching (132). Here Andreades uses the example of how we all have androgen and estrogen hormones, but males and females have them in significantly different proportions. His chapter on Banishing Independence was also helpful, even when I was pushing back some. But all in all, I find John McKinley’s distinction of woman designed to be a necessary ally more helpful to build from. Rather than give a couple specialties to try and file all the women in Scripture under, he sees from Scripture seven practical ways women have served as allies to men in God’s mission, and in which they were opponents to man if they did not.
 
The Rattlesnakes on the Path
 
This leads to what was most troubling about the book. One of the main premises Andreades uses to teach this hierarchy of specialties is by examining the hierarchy in the Trinity. He wants us to learn gendered intimacy by examining Trinitarian intimacy. enGendered was published in 2015. I wonder if the author would have changed his mind on his language usage if he would have written it after the Trinity debate, because it needs much more qualification. And aligning gender paradigms in comparison to the Trinity is just not helpful. Andreades compares male headship to the authority of the Father. As he teaches equality and asymmetry, he points to the authority and submission within the Trinity, never making any distinction ontologically. He speaks of “Christ lean[ing] into the asymmetry between God the First and Himself” while quoting the references of him doing the Father’s will (184). Andreades even goes so far as to say that “Christ, in relationship to God the First, models the wife for us. He submitted to the will of the First, surrendering to a lower and vulnerable place when he had every right not to. There is no way around His feminine act” (187). And, “In what is held out as the most intense relationship of the universe, a functional adoption of headship and submission rests atop a fundamental equality. The Second Member of the Trinity, equal in power and glory, voluntarily submits (e.g. John 5:30; 8:28) in promotion of the First Member, and the First voluntarily assumes authority (e.g., Matt. 24:36; John 12:28) for the honoring of the Second’s concerns” (190).
 
Since this review is already painfully long, and much has already been written on this problem, I will simply quote Liam Goligher. “Even to hint at hierarchy (functional relations of authority & subordination) in the Trinity is to strike at the heart of God as one being.” We need to be very careful in our language. At this point Andreades stumbled on some rattlesnakes.
 
Lastly, and super-briefly, while Andreades did make some wonderful points about how men and women were made to depend on one another, and that intimacy with the opposite sex does bring out our gender, I wished he would have also discussed our same-gendered relationships that bring out a sisterhood and brotherhood aspect and gifting in our genders as well. Manhood seems to depend on taking charge and securing women, while womanhood is expressed in promoting men and granting them authority (see p. 140).  To that I simply do not agree.
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Sometimes people ask what kind of emails we receive here at Mortification of Spin. Well, I have to say that we do have quite a smart bunch of readers. Some especially have a good sympathy and understanding of what Todd and I have to deal with over here. This is a gem from my new internet friend, Amy Mantravadi:
 
Between the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean
Lies a city as damp as has ever been seen
Which raises up prophets, then sends them away
That on some unfortunate souls they might prey
First, there was Whitefield, sent off to the West
Then Packer, who with such fine knowledge was blessed
And lastly, as one so unnaturally born
The roses of Gloucester have sent us a thorn
That thorn in our flesh from Lucifer sent
Of his pride and conceit, he shall never repent
For he must gain his laughs, yes, he must have his way
For he won’t be content until he’s had his say
His head far too big, his frame none too tall,
His heart, we declare, is two sizes too small
Such a spirit as his, which can never be cowed
Would make even that tyrant Napoleon proud
Such a strange theologian! He’s not fit to dine
Where Anselm breaks the bread and Jerome pours the wine
Oh, why must this drivel he sells still be heard?
Or why should he live, to fill this world with words?
In his dreams, he is playing some gig with The Who
But when most hear of him, they can only say, “Who?”
“He’s that chap who slagged off those two guys that one time!”
“Oh him? He’s still living? I thought he had died.”
Congrats to you Oxbridge! Just look what you’ve done!
Yes, we liked Thomas Cranmer, but not so this one!
For if you won’t let Wycliffe rest well in his grave
Then how can you let off a man so depraved?
A man who lives always so far in the past
He cannot even tell when his moment has passed
And he fancies himself a cowboy in the West
An outlaw from justice who can’t be repressed
We bid him now follow the words of Owen
And hasten this hour to mortify sin
No, sir, you’re no Luther  - except for the hair
Of your manifold faults, we are all quite aware
No, we still can’t believe that they pay you to teach
Much less, that some poor souls should pay you to preach!
To preside over such young, impressionable minds
Such a pity when blind men are leading the blind!
“How dare you succumb to the wages of spin?
How dare you abandon your creeds and your hymns?”
Yes, we heard you the first time – it all sounds the same
Let us send this foul immigrant back where he came!
For he takes foreign women and steals foreign jobs
And he loves foreign doctrines – just not foreign dogs
And before we all know it, we’ll soon sound like him
Like a cross between Sherlock and some Australian
Never before have we seen a case
So thoroughly leaning upon the Lord’s grace
Of his certain election, we might have our doubts
For so many commandments he would daily flout!
Yet, here in this instrument glory ignored
The light of God’s grace must shine through all the more
For if there’s hope for him, then there’s still hope for me
So to Gloucester, I suppose we must say, “We thank thee!”
 
Posted on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
The devotions section of the Christian bookstore is usually a place I avoid. While there are some good ones, I’ve always preferred just reading Scripture or working through a commentary. I often think of the devotions section as the checkout lane in a grocery store, full of junk screaming at you for an impulse buy. They are sugary and bright, cheap, superficial, and usually full of bad ingredients. Every now and then there may be a healthy option in the bunch, but who has the time to bother?
 
New believers are often given devotionals to help them get in the habit of reading and meditating on a piece of Scripture everyday. Busy Christians who want to be in the Word during the week may seek a devotional for a quick read over their morning coffee. Perhaps those who are asking questions about Christianity would pick up a devotional to see what the big deal is. And then they quit the stuff because they just don’t fit in with the cotton candy, sentimental drivel found in the pages.
 
If you fit into any of these categories, Anne Kennedy has Nailed It.  She wants you to actually read through the Bible. As you are doing this, she offers a very short devotional for each day of the year, hitting on particular verses along the way of your reading. But you notice something very different about Anne Kennedy’s devotions. They are not of the sanguine, “everything’s awesome” variety that you usually find in this genre. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the cover (which goes down in my book as one of the best covers of a book published by a Christian woman ever). Her subtitle is 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn-Out People. And Anne does not disappoint.
 
This is a devotional for those who don’t fit into the happy-little-Christian box. And it’s also for those who think it’s okay to have a little humor in their reading reflections. Kennedy doesn’t pick all the easy verses either. She pulls devotion to God out of what may have seemed random acts in history. Our days are kind of like that, aren’t they? Circumstances often seem arbitrary and we sometimes question if it really matters how we get through them. This is what I especially appreciated about the book---Anne weaves all the tapestry together and helps the reader see the significance of God’s holiness, mercy, and love in Christ working in our own lives now.  
 
Anne is a minister in the Anglican church. I mention this because I don’t want my readers to suspect that I am now trying to stealthily sneak in a position of ordained women in anyone’s theology. However, this is a secondary issue of doctrine. While women in ordination would certainly affect where I worship, it is not a first order doctrinal matter of orthodoxy. I am happy to have sharpening friendships with other women in the faith who are concerned for biblical orthodoxy, even while our convictions differ on secondary issues. This is a devotional book, not one on whether or not women should be ordained. I have a very short list of devotionals when someone asks me for a recommendation, and Anne Kennedy’s is on it. 
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
2016 has revealed a lot of problems with the Christian celebrity culture. There have been big names that have fallen, treasured orthodox doctrines downplayed and distorted, and many people and churches terribly hurt. Those who warn about this culture, about the ignored or overlooked issues, and even the suppression of abuses within it, are often dismissed because of their tone or accused of overreacting. One popular response to the lament of celebrity culture in evangelical and Reformed communities is an acknowledgement of its prevalence, but with a “What can you do?” shrug. We’re always going to have a celebrity culture. 
 
We are. 
 
Others, accepting this reality, say they want to leverage celebrity culture in order to do good.  That sounds like a plausible response but can too easily become an excuse for uncritically selling-out to celebrity and it usually ends up making its advocates practically indistinguishable from those who are more obviously in it for the purpose of self-promotion. 
 
 
People will always be drawn by amplified names, bloated endorsements, and charismatic personalities. Some writers, speakers, and preachers are loaded with talents and gifts that can be used in the kingdom. And then they are put in positions of influence and power that can be intoxicating. It’s difficult to have the self-awareness we are called to when so many yes men surround us. And there is of course a market driving it all.
 
 
So what do we do about it? Well, here at MoS we do try to highlight the emphasis of the local church and confessional covenant communities. This is a must. But there is good that can and will be done in the parachurch. How can we recognize this, work in it, and deal with the celebrity culture?
 
 
There needs to be accountability. And that is the trouble in parachurch organizations. They are not churches and they do not have the accountability that is available with good ecclesiology. While many parachurch organizations resemble ecclesial authority and structure, they are not the church and should not be confused as such. They have boards that can be filled with men who merely build one another’s platforms and protect the brand.
 
 
What often happens as parachurch culture inflates into popular establishments is the formation of a constructed value system that is implemented and spread through social media, big conferences, and book deals. This constructed value system augments legitimacy of Top Men while deliberately excluding those who do not conform. Because this constructed value system becomes the gateway to shared platforms, participants can use this language to slip in, or maybe just tolerate, bad theology and bad behavior. The constructed value systems usually gives the appearance of an engaging community, but participants shut out any attempts to interact with thoughts that may threaten their brand.
 
 
As one example, the value system coined “biblical womanhood” has been cheapened into a pool of resources full of empty sentimentality, fluff, token topics, and bad theology.
 
 
I have recently been reading up on a needed corrective to the establishment, or as referenced in a more secular article, the official public sphere, defined as subaltern counterpublics. That is a loaded term that pinpoints smaller spheres that are affected by and interrelated to these establishments, “where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter discourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs.” Ioannis Kampourakis explains further:
 
Nancy Fraser, coining the term from Gayatri Spivak’s “subaltern” and Rita Felski’s “counterpublic”, argues that counterpublics are formed as a response to the exclusions of the dominant publics and that their existence better promotes the ideal of participatory parity.
 
…Fraser highlights the argument that the official public sphere not only rested upon, but was constituted by significant exclusions.
 
 
I like to think of these subaltern counterpublics as shot glass communities, strong doses of truth that cut through the spin of the establishment. In the parachurch realm, there are many shot glass communities. The establishment often looks at them as nuisances, and the shot glasses often look at the establishment with disdain. But there is an interdependency that should be recognized and used for good. Because the parachurch has grown, many more valuable resources are accessible to us. We should be thankful for this. We need to recognize good talent and work. And yet, we cannot take it all at face value. The Top Men need to listen to the critique. They need to hear from the oppressed---and do something about it. They need to correct bad teaching and not believe their own hype. Instead of posing as social equals on social media and then amplifying the same celebrity voices over and over again, they should pepper unrecognized teachers in the mix---not merely ones they are grooming to begin headlining for the brand, but ones to offer a different perspective of their shared truths. What if Top Men were willing to learn themselves? Instead of talking about decreasing, they should actually try it sometimes.
 
 
And not all shot glass communities are concerned for truth. Some just like to be a strong dose of condemnation. Some are after ruining reputations. Some are so burned by the establishment that they are now bitter. They are tired of trying to engage and are now only concerned for revenge. There are both Top Men and shot glasses that it would be best to turn away from.
 
 
But what about those in between? What could happen if instead of pretending like this isn’t already the dynamics at play, we recognize the need for one another? Kampourakis pleas that if we keep proceeding as if social inequalities do not exist when they do,” it merely “works to the advantage of dominant groups in society and to the disadvantage of subordinates.” He affirms the “positive value of counterpublics” in that they “bring to the fore issues that might have been overlooked, purposely ignored, or suppressed by dominant publics.” In the parachurch realm, I see these shot glass communities as a pathway to transformed consciousness.
 
 
That’s what we are after, right? I was recently reading an article reminding the reader that we don’t merely want to aspire to raise awareness.  We are not just trying to provoke a feeling through our interaction; we are after reform. 
 
 
Hence the positive value of counterpublics: Due to their publicist orientation, they widen the field of discursive contestation, meaning they bring to the fore issues that might have been overlooked, purposely ignored, or suppressed by dominant publics.
 
 
Many shot glass communities are formed because they have been ignored. They thought they were a valued part of the larger sphere until they asked a few questions. It’s shocking to see how this is not permitted. But it’s also a reminder that we aren’t to look to parachurch communities for discipleship or genuine community. These establishments are not the means of grace where God promises to give Christ to his people. That can only be found in the covenant community of the local church. 
 
 
Praise the Lord for his church! That’s where true transformation happens.
 
 
We learn over and over again in Scripture that things are not as they seem. A new year is a time of reflection. No, celebrity culture will not go away on this side of the resurrection. But it certainly should not be in the local church. And the church should never be part of the market. This is a good time to put our parachurch organizations in proper perspective, evaluating their role of service to the church and larger communities. We can be thankful for the resources that we have, serving where we can, with an eye on a new creation where we will dwell together serving our King in resurrected bodies. Does our engagement, or lack there of, reflect this?
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
What do you think about when you hear a book title like Paul and Gender? Maybe your first reaction is to wonder who would be writing on this topic, and you immediately pinpoint that this book must be written by an egalitarian---it is, by the way. Another related tendency may be to read this title as a book about Paul and women, and it is. But it’s also about men. It’s about Paul and gender, which includes both women and men, but nothing about women trapped inside men’s bodies, or any of the other 71  gender options recognized by Facebook. I learned a lot from Cynthia Long Westfall’s academic contribution to this topic.
 
 
Yes, I learned from an egalitarian. No, I am not an egalitarian. No, she didn’t convince me that Scripture supports the ordination of women. But her expositional, linguistic, and historical work sharpened my understanding of Paul and gender. And I wish I could read more of this quality in complementarian work as well. This isn’t a review of the book, in which case I would want to interact with some of the egalitarian teaching in it. Today I want to share one snap shot in the book. I do hope to write more of my understanding of what I see as an overall biblical argument for ordination of certain, qualified male elders later. But here I would like to highlight areas where complementarians can be sharpened. And one of those areas is in how we teach on Eph. 5:25-33.
 
 
While many will affirm that Paul is calling men to a sacrificial leadership in this text, maybe even using a term like servant-leader, the emphasis is usually placed on the wife’s call to submit to her husband. And so the teaching urges husbands to be Christ-like and wives to submit to their authority. This is presented as biblical manhood and womanhood. (However, as one stand-out complementarian example, Greg Beale is not so reductionist.) But Westfall teaches that in this passage men are called to model Christ by doing women’s work.
 
 
Westfall elaborates on the context of gender roles in the Greco-Roman world in which women were subjected to the sphere of low status domestic work. Women’s work was comparable to slave’s work. While women did have authority in the domestic sphere, men dominated the work in the public sphere. This is what is so fascinating about what Paul says in Eph. 5:25-33.
 
 
The nature of Christ’s actions toward the church and the husband’s action toward the wife in Ephesians 5:25-33 would have been understood as "women’s work." The representation of the church as the bride would have been effeminate, according to Greco-Roman values. Consequently, Paul is subverting male privilege in the home and church.  He promotes a model of servanthood and low status, consistent with the humility of Christ’s incarnation, precisely for men, who have power and position in the Greco-Roman social system. (23)
 
 
…When the husbands are addressed, the male role is not described in terms of the expected categories of responsibilities in the public domain of warrior, protector, provider, and patron. Instead, the imagery quickly shifts to household scenes of bathing, clothing (spinning and weaving), laundering, feeding, and nurturing, because Jesus is depicted as providing these services for the church, which is both his bride and his body. Bathing, spinning, weaving, and laundering were perpetual household needs, but the cleansing with water in 5:26 may include a figurative reference to a bride’s prenuptial washing, and the clothing and laundering (including spot removal, washing, and ironing) in 5:27 may refer to obtaining and maintaining a bride’s wedding clothes.
 
 
This description of Jesus’s sanctification of the church is often interpreted as being fulfilled in the future culminating marriage of the Lamb, but it is also an allusion to the expended metaphor of Yahweh’s past adoption and marital covenant with Israel (Ezek. 16:1-13). At birth and at puberty, neither a midwife nor a servant had love, pity, or compassion to care for the newborn Israel or to cleanse and cloth Israel when she reached puberty, so Yahweh performed these services for her.
 
 
The force of the metaphor must not be lost or confused: both the Old Testament imagery and Paul are portraying God, Christ, and the husband as performing services for a bride or wife. These services are constrained to the domestic realm through either the nature of the acts or the comparison to the personal care of the husband’s own body. (56-57)
 
 
Not only are female metaphors applied here for how a man is to love his wife, but also, as part of the church men are called Christ’s bride, adorned in feminine wedding garments. Westfall even suggests that in referring back to Gen. 2:24 and using that same metaphor of one flesh between Christ and the church, Paul “reverses the shame that was directly connected with the female’s sexual function in the Greco-Roman culture,” from one who was “shamed and dominated through penetration,” to “recast the female gender positively, in a way that reflects the evaluation of a woman in the creation account (Gen. 1:31)” (58-59).
 
 
It’s interesting how in an attempt to maintain biblical gender distinction many in our evangelical and Reformedish culture tend to stereotype roles for headship and submission, where Paul actually turns stereotypes upside down by using the very language of the culture to “equip male and female believers to follow Christ”:
 
 
Women needed to make adjustments to their identity and function in order to exercise power, conduct spiritual warfare like a warrior and a gladiator, and pursue spiritual goals like an athlete [something she addresses earlier in the chapter with biblical texts using male metaphors applied to all believers].  They needed to grow up to maturity rather than metaphorically remain in immaturity under a guardian. Men (including Paul) needed to make adjustments to their identity and function in order to recognize vulnerability, nurture other believers, quell aggression, and follow Christ in humility, suffering, and submission. We will see that Paul recognized gender differentiation, but that he continually referred to the creation account for his understanding and argument about how male and female operate in the ‘already and not yet’ eschatological Christian community. (59)
Posted on Thursday, December 08, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I would say that “authority” has been one of the top theological buzzwords of 2016. Much has been written about authority and submission in male/female relationships, authority and subordination between the Father and the Son, and on the authority of Scripture. I’ve written a good deal on the topic myself this year. Often I have seen authority claimed that is unauthorized. Other times I have agreed on authorization, but not in the meaning of how the word is being used. For a word that is being used so much, we better know what we mean when we are saying it.
 
 
One place where I have found a good definition and description of authority is in Kevin Vanhoozer’s Biblical Authority After Babel. Before addressing interpretive authority for the Scriptures, Vanhoozer knows he needs to define authority and discuss how it relates to rationality. To do this, he begins with the principal of authority: the Triune God:
 
Authority is rightful say-so, the power to commend belief and command obedience. Authority is linked to authorship, for who has more right to say-so over something than the one who conceived and originated it? [He then references Rom. 13:1, Rom. 4:17, Gen. 6:18, 15:18, Exod. 19:5 and Deut. 7:6] All three persons of the Trinity are involved in everything that God does, creating and covenanting alike: omnia opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt (all the external works of the Trinity are indivisible). This includes exercising authority. (85)
 
The all-knowing God is the creator of all things, therefore having rightful power to communicate authoritatively to his creatures. He knows what we are created for, and he knows how to get us there. Vanhoozer uses the illustration of a chess game, in that without the rules, the game is no fun and there is no real freedom to play chess. “It follows, then, that authority---rightful say-so---is not a coercive force but an enabling condition of free play.... Far from constraining human freedom, authority is a necessary condition for human flourishing” (85-86).  Vanhoozer bids us to think of a conductor for an orchestra, who is "unifying common action through rules binding for all" (87). He moves from teaching on the covenantal relationship of divine authority and human answerability to introduce the concept that “biblical authority orients freedom to the new reality that is Jesus Christ” (86).
 
 
Moving on to human relationships, Vanhoozer emphasizes that “’authorization’ is the key term. ‘To be an authority is to be authorized by something or someone beyond oneself’…(Rom. 13:1).... What authority authorizes is an office: ‘To have authority is to exercise an office and to do so because someone authorized it.’” (86). The author is concerned here to progress to his main point of who are authorized biblical interpreters. But he first wants to show how authority has been a theme early in the drama of Scripture. Adam and Eve were vice-regents, “ruled rulers,” under God’s command to “Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). And so Vanhoozer says, “’The most basic office we hold is that of divine image,’” noting that this “authority over the earth has nothing to do with imposing one’s will to power on creatures or creation. On the contrary, God authorized the first couple ‘to accomplish a particular task, to act in a particular capacity, to seek a particular end’” (87).
 
 
Adam and Eve failed to make that end, disordering authority when “they decided to do something for which they were not authorized.  The primal sin, however, was Adam’s failure to exercise oversight: the fall was both a violation of the law and an abdication of office” (88). Thankfully divine authority is restored in Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18, Eph. 1:20-21), who sums up all three of the offices of prophet, priest, and king that we see in the OT.
 
The authority principle of Christianity, I have said, is the Triune God in communicative action. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Word who was with God and was God, made flesh---one of us. The Son sees, is, and does everything the Father sees, is, and does, with one exception: the Father eternally begets the Son; the Son is eternally begotten. Jesus alone is thus both able and authorized to reveal the Father: he is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). Stated differently: Jesus is God’s personal and eternal Word made human and historical. He is the eternal divine communicative activity---the light and life of God---become incarnate (Heb. 1:2). This explains why all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him: he is the divine Son in and through whom all things have been made (Col. 1:16) and remade---that is, made right and rightly ordered. (90)
 
Praise God we still have a particular task, to act in a particular capacity, to a particular end. How do we look at authority under the new inaugurated kingdom of God as we wait for its consummation? Vanhoozer continues to progress toward his answer regarding divine authority delegated in authorized interpretive communities of Scripture. But I wanted to back up to something he wrote about human relationships:
 
God’s Word authorizes certain ways human beings are to live together before him in order to flourish. This is worth pondering: the primary purpose of authority is to provide persons with what is needed to help others to flourish. (87)
 
I think this is something that Eph. 5 really gets at. We see a command for mutual submission, and under that, another call for wives to submit to their own husbands. That is so often emphasized without noticing how much is written to the husband there. Here we have Paul, with authorized say-so, calling husbands to service, using the language of domestic chores and self-denial, to point to the cross. Here is a responsibility for the husband to care for his wife in a manner that is radical to the Greco-Roman culture of that time (something I’m going to write more about soon), for her flourishing, just as Christ has given all to his church for her flourishing. This cannot be done without the cross. It requires complete humility, a dependence on God’s power rather than personal control. And as we think about what that flourishing looks like, we look forward to that Great Day of Christ’s return. We look toward an eternal service to God, in which men and women are co-heirs reigning with him (2 Tim. 2:12, 1 Cor. 6:2-3). That is our end, to God be the glory.
Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
No Little Women is now for sale! Here is the Introduction:
 
We read books for different reasons. But whether we pick a fictional, historical, biographical, doctrinal, or self-help book, we are after a positive experience. There is something noble about reading—even if it isn’t quality reading—in an age that is captivated by visual media. Picking up a book comes with an intended purpose, one that requires more discipline than reading a blog article, perusing our social media news feeds, or even committing to watch a movie. Reading takes more work. And we want to be rewarded for it in some sense. What expectations do you have for this book? What do you hope to learn? That’s a question we will return to later. 
When we are talking about Christian books, we really expect results—positive results, even eternal results. And yet, as noble as the art of reading is, it is not neutral ground, not even in Christian publishing. This is a book that aims to help the whole church by examining church initiatives for a group that makes up over half of our congregations—the women. 
 
 
It’s good news, really. I’m not writing as someone offended or burned. I am an advocate for the local church. I am writing as one small person who represents this group of more than half the church. I am a woman. I am happy to be a woman who is a member of a faithful, confessional church. I’m not exactly young anymore; I’ve grown as a woman in this environment. And yet I’m not one of the women we look up to who are the most experienced in life and have so much wisdom to offer. I’m somewhere in between, having just celebrated my fortieth birthday, creeping up closer to my twentieth wedding anniversary, and having three children who are still in the home, albeit two of whom are going through the confusing teenage years. 
 
 
This seems to be a good time for reflection in life. I can look back at my own naïveté, bad circumstances, mistakes, sin, and occasional glimpses of providential obedience and good timing in the Christian life, and I am also at a good place to look ahead, hoping to wisely apply what I’ve learned, God willing, to my own family and to any who may care to learn from a semi-crazy, yet informed and venturing, sister in Christ. It’s also an interesting time in history for women and the church. While we believe we are in a more enlightened age than our ancestors, we are still trying to decipher and work our way through basic issues such as gender distinctiveness, sexuality, women’s roles in the church and home, family dynamics, discipleship, and the relationship between church and culture. I want to encourage readers that there is good news about all of these related and important issues in life. But as you already know, because you were obviously concerned enough to read at least this introduction, there is some critique that needs to be evaluated, even in the places where we would like to take refuge, such as Christian publications, parachurch organizations, Christian radio, blogs, and even the ministries we try to build in our own churches. 
 
 
Some of this is uncomfortable to talk about, but we aren’t called to be comfortable. So I’m not writing in some kind of alarmist tone. I am writing because I know that God has ordained that we often grow in a slow process. My own life is certainly representative of this fact. Some people seem to be blessed with a faster track to maturity. I have often learned the hard way. But I value that learning and don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be, especially for those who are younger than me. I want them to learn much quicker! Even so, younger people have a voice that we need to listen to as well. Whatever our age and experience, we are valuable to the church of Christ, and he wants each one of us to be competent in our knowledge of him and in our understanding of the gospel. I still have a long road ahead, Lord willing. 
 
 
Jesus Christ loves his church. That is the great news I want to share with you in this book. We believe that, right? In fact, Christ loves his church so much that he wants all of his church, including the women, to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). And, of course, we believe that too. But how does Jesus do this for all of us? That is where we begin to have some differences. 
 
 
Our theological views about creation, gender, and the household context affect the way we think about women’s status, roles, and contributions to the church, home, and society. There has been a lot written on these topics, ranging from good to horrible. Many books written for women in the church, whether good or bad, are never read by the elders, pastors, or laymen. Women’s ministries have become a sort of separate entity in the church, and this is one of our biggest problems. 
 
 
As someone who speaks at women’s retreats in different churches, I have been blessed to meet many wonderful women who have great intentions to live faithful Christian lives. Talking with many competent women in the faith is always an encouragement, especially when I am able to witness their conversation and life examples. Yet I have also talked with many women in the church who lack important skills in discernment for discipleship. I’ve also talked and corresponded with numerous pastors who would like to serve the women in their congregations better and to encourage them in using their gifts. But often there isn’t clear communication between women’s ministries and church officers. All these conversations have led me to ask some questions that I aim to answer in this book. It is written both for women and for church officers, as well as for laymen who care about these matters:
 
How does God describe woman? 

Should the church have women’s ministries? 

Are women’s ministries the best way to serve the women 
in the church and for the women to serve in the church? 

Is every member of the church a minister? 

How does the church minister to every member? 

Are the women in the church being properly equipped in 
the Word? 

What happens when women teach bad theology? 

What are the responsibilities of the head of a household? 

Can men learn from women? 

Have we lost the skills to read for understanding? 

Is there a difference between preaching to (and pastoring) 
men and preaching to (and pastoring) women? 

What is our responsibility in sitting under the Word? 

 
This book is for the competent women who are seeking a better way, as well as for those of you who would like to become more competent, as God has called you to be. This book is also for pastors and elders who would like every member of their church to be well equipped in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. I hope that all men in general will be interested in this significant matter of women and the church. I write with my eyes on the new heavens and 
 
 

the new earth, where we will worship God together in resurrected bodies, forever praising our King. Our blessed Father has set his love on all his people, sent his Son into a fractured and broken world infested with sin, and bestowed on all those who believe in him new life in his Spirit. We are united in Christ. To God be the glory! 
 
 
The best pastors and elders I know are learners. While they have so much to teach us, God can use even a housewife theologian like me to get a conversation going on this important topic. You will see that the chapters in the first three parts of the book have subsections directly addressing church officers in relation to the material of that chapter. This doesn’t mean that pastors shouldn’t read the sections directly addressing women or that women shouldn’t read the sections addressed to church officers. I take this direct approach because we need to be listening to one another. Pastors, you need to hear what I am saying to the women, and women need to hear what I am saying to pastors. The whole book is meant for both men and women, laypeople and church officers, to read. 
 
 
The fourth part of the book is very practical for all readers, ending in a chapter addressing pastors on the topic of preaching to and pastoring women, with a subsection for women about sitting under the preached Word. My hope is that this book will help both pastors and elders to shepherd the women in their congregations, and to encourage women to thrive under the ministry of Word and sacrament, so that it flows out to the whole church, to their homes, and to their communities. 
 
No Little Women is now available at Amazon and WTS Books.