Posted on Friday, February 09, 2018 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Yesterday I had a longish drive to Virginia Beach, which means time to indulge in some podcasts. I already listened to the first season of What Really Happened?, where narrator Andrew Jenks digs through all the surrounding details of old news stories to see if we really got it right. It fed the inner conspiracy theorist in me, as he reexamined the stories of Muhammad Ali talking a 21-year-old from committing suicide, Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, the true nature of Britney Spears’ meltdown, or Michael Jordan’s retirement, to see if things are really as they seem. Jenks received so many responses to Season One that he was able to put together more interviews corresponding to each podcast episode, further investigating and resolving some listener responses. 
Jenks interviewed his friend, actress Brittany Snow, in one of the episodes, and I noticed how it turned into a bit of a therapy session as they talked about practices that help them get out of their own heads and mental issues. I noticed a blend of genuine longing to be a good person, for holistic health, and to be a giving member of society. For the most part their talk was sophisticated, which made the swear words they occasionally dropped land like the bombs we refer to them as.
Anyway, I noticed something pretty interesting as Jenks and Snow began talking about what helps them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Both of them practice a newish trend I’ve heard about called writing a daily gratitude list. It’s just what it sounds like: every day you are to set aside some time to write down, preferably hand written, at least five things you are grateful for. This helps steer negative thinking and depression. It turns out gratitude is the secret to happiness. Even Oprah is doing it.
While they are reveling in this epiphany, I am thinking about how this functions as a worldly substitute for prayer. It made me kind of sad. I mean, I’m happy that they have discovered gratefulness, but whom are they thanking for all that they have discovered to be thankful for? They have recognized the gifts, and look how healing that is! But they have not found the Giver. 
It also convicted me for what I take for granted. I know the Giver and I complain too much. But that is where prayer is so much more delightful of a blessing than gratitude lists. I can go to the Giver and thank him personally. But I can also name my sin and ask for forgiveness, ask for sanctifying. And it is real.
Quickly, the conversation turned to TED talks: short bursts of inspiring ideas, where Technology, Entertainment and Design converge in the genre of free YouTube videos. Jenks made the comment that he is obsessed with TED talks. While most people listen to music when they work out, Jenks listens to these “powerful talks” to get out of his head. I couldn’t believe my ears, as I was driving down the highway realizing how Jenks and Snow are turning to gratitude lists and TED talks as a sort of  means of common grace. Where gratitude lists substitute for prayer, TED talks are like auxiliary sermons. 
The show was turning into a different sort of What Really Happened? I was listening to two seekers recognizing that they need to hear something outside of themselves, but not receiving the very message they desperately need to hear. Not only is the gospel message powerful, but the word itself is living and active. Sure, gratitude lists and TED talks can be good evidences as God’s common grace to all mankind. (And there is a large scale of good to bad TED talks.) But it also made me think of how easily Christians too miss something so simple. I love talking about the deeper aspects of theology, but I never want to miss the big picture of how God ministers to his people by giving them Christ through his ordained means of grace. The means are ordinary, but the grace is extraordinary.
What a blessing it is to be a part of his church. 
Posted on Friday, January 26, 2018 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Last week Michael Kruger wrote a good little article on the peculiarity of early Christian worship and how believers managed to offend everybody. Rumors were flying about what kind of people Christians really were. I wanted to elaborate on one of Kruger’s points and compare that to how Christians worry over “appearances” today. Kruger said:
The other offensive aspect of Christian worship was their private meetings. For obvious reasons, Christians weren’t eager to put their worship practices on full public display. So, they tended to meet early in the mornings, or in the evenings, often when it was dark, away from the masses.
Of course, this was seen as highly suspicious. As already noted, Romans regarded religion as public. So, what were these Christians up to in their “secret” meetings? As is well known, this occasioned all sorts of speculation (and accusation) about whether Christians were engaging in licentious or even cannibalistic activities in these gatherings.
Christians were being persecuted for their faith, so they met in secret. Of course this would fuel rumors. Here is a Roman argument against Christianity in the early days of the church. Mark Felix narrates these accusations from Caecilius in his apologetic work, Octavius, published 150-210 A.D.:
And now as the world grows more wicked, your abominable shrines are sprouting up throughout the whole world. This entire impious confederacy should be rooted out and destroyed! You know one another by secret marks and insignia. You love one another almost before you know one another. Yours is a religion of lust. You promiscuously call one another brothers and sisters. You apparently do this so that your debaucheries will take on a flavor of incest. Your vain and senseless superstition revels in wickedness. I would apologize for passing on the reports I hear about you if I weren’t so certain they were true. (We Don’t Speak Great Things, We Live Them, 31) 
The Romans heard of their love feasts with wine, brother/sister language, and holy kisses, and let their imaginations run wild: 
Your banquets are also well known and are spoken about everywhere. On a solemn day, all of you assemble together as the feast, along with your children, sisters, and mothers. People of every sex and age are present. After much feasting, when the group is boisterous and when incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, you throw a piece of meat just outside the reach of a dog that has been tied to the room’s lamp. In trying to reach the meat, the dog overturns the lamp and plunges the room into darkness. The incestuous lusts of those present are now unfettered, and nature takes its course in the dark. (32) 
I guess the early church wasn’t so uptight about appearances. These rumors spread because of the brotherly and sisterly love they had for one another. But they didn’t decide to soften their language. They didn’t respond to these accusations by distancing themselves from one another. They lived according to their proper identity in Christ and their joint mission. And Octavius responded to these outlandish claims from Caecilius, affirming the modest and chaste lives of Christian men and women that weren’t “a matter of outward show” but of joyful obedience to the Lord (53).
Even today, Christians are under the microscope. The church has tried to be a godly voice in the midst of a world seduced by the sexual revolution. But often, the church has swung the pendulum too far to the opposite extreme, also over-sexualizing men and women, by imposing guidelines on not only friendship between the sexes, but even on acquaintanceship. For both the sake of appearances and the threat of lust and sexual impropriety, Christians are often counseled not to text, email, share a lunch, ride in a car, or even share an elevator unchaperoned with the opposite sex. Is this the way we should be seen treating brothers and sisters in the Lord? Is this how we show the love of Christ to the watching world? 
For suggesting that men and women in the church should be the very people to model distinctive but not reductive sexuality to the world, that we are called to communion with the triune God and one another, and that brothers and sisters are to promote one another’s holiness in friendship, others have been suspicious of me. But the strange thing is that it isn’t the secular world accusing me of being a closet egalitarian, being a thin complementarian, ungodly and immodest, a danger to the OPC, feminist, and upholding a teaching that leads to adultery---it is fellow Christians.  
How do we handle rumors both inside and outside the church? Do we promote a behavior that is led by fear, or is our desire for obedience to the Lord one that can persevere despite what others think? Justin Martyr responded to attacks of judgment this way:
So that no one thinks I’m writing recklessly, we not only request the charges against us Christians be investigated, we demand it. If anyone can prove the charges they make against us are true, then punish us as we deserve. But if no one can convict Christians of anything wrong, justice forbids you to punish innocent people simply because of false rumors…
In short, it is our responsibility as Christians to bare ourselves before you---to enable all of you to inspect our lives and teachings. (74)
Martyr gives an account of what is really going on in their weekly meetings, holy kisses and all, and it is beautiful and pure. 
Kruger says, despite hacking off basically everyone, the early church did not waver:
But, here’s the key. Christians did not, for these reasons, decided to abandon, change, or modify their worship.  Despite the opposition, they stayed true to their practices and true to their Lord.
That’s a great lesson for today’s church.  Exclusive, Christ-centered, Scripture-based worship must continue to be the heartbeat of the modern church.
That is key! We are called to exclusive, Christ-centered, Scripture-based worship and living. How does this affect our relationships and service in the church? It costs us something. Dealing with the sin in our own hearts, confessing temptations, offering them to God, and choosing obedience and holy, purifying love is much more difficult than avoiding people. Challenges should not be ignored. But they don’t mean we aren’t called to intimate sibling communion with one another. They just mean that we need to grow.
What do both insiders and outsiders see when they examine us? Do they see growth? Purity? Love? Plenty of naïve Christians have committed sexual sin because they didn’t give proper thought to the implications of their identity in Christ or exercise wisdom and discernment in their relationships. This should be addressed with competent teaching, calls to personal responsibility, and discipline. But keeping an arm’s length away from half of our community doesn’t prepare us for our eschatological hope. Yes, we need to call out predators and sexual sin. Along with that, we also need to know appropriate, pure platonic love in the relationship that will outlast marriage and erotic love---siblingship. Let’s do the work and experience the joy we are called to in maturity.
Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Both the secular society and the church have hardly mentioned one, enormous casualty of the sexual revolution---friendship. This latest story about a sexless marriage reads like a satire of its neglect, revealing a complete confusion of categories between friendship and marriage. Here is the opening paragraph:
When New York socialites Quentin Esme Brown and Peter Cary Peterson got hitched in Las Vegas over the weekend in front of a small group of friends — including Tiffany Trump, who acted as the flower girl — they knew that people would make some assumptions. Either they were madly in love or drunk, right? In reality, the best friends said they were neither. They’re planning to make theirs a sexless, open marriage, they explained, and this actually sounds like a pretty wise idea to relationship experts.
Quentin Esme Brown and Peter Cary Peterson. (Photo: Instagram/quentinesmebrown)
Sexless? Open? Wise? It’s easy to read this and lament about how they have the notion of marriage all wrong. And they do. But this whole story reveals that these NY socialites and the “experts” interviewed have not only lost the meaning of marriage, but of friendship as well. And a proper understanding of friendship is foundational to build from in something like marriage.
The so-called relationship experts interviewed concur that this is a wise idea. I would think that if one were a relationship expert, one would then know the categorical distinction between friendship and marriage---one is platonic, one is sexual. Friendship is not exclusive. Marriage is exclusive. You don't have a non-sexual marriage with a friend and have sexual relationships with everyone else, just like you don't stop making and building non-sexual friendships with others once you enter the sexual union of marriage. But the experts have a different take:
Susan Pease Gadoua, a licensed therapist and co-author of The New “I Do,” has yet to meet anyone else with this kind of marriage, but she says it fits in with the way she sees many people deciding to change the rules to suit their relationship needs…
“Basically, rather than being an emotion-based marriage, it’s a purpose-driven marriage, which is kind of a throwback to how we used to marry before the industrial revolution,” 
First of all, while this indeed exposes the problem with a merely emotion-based marriage, I have to pose the question: what is their friendship based on? The couple uses rather emotionally charged language to describe their friendship. Brown calls Peterson her “soulmate” and elaborates, “we are just each other’s hearts.” 
Peterson explains on his Instagram account, “Esme and I have taken progressive steps towards what we believe marriage should be. I need to be constantly growing, evolving, and progressing…we did this because we want to finalize our commitment to each other as life partners and best friends. Life is short and I just want to be happy.” 
And second of all, I’m pretty sure that part of the purpose-driven nature of marriages before the industrial revolution was that they were both exclusive and sexual. I wonder what the purpose of this non-sexual friend, open marriage is? The language of growing, evolving, and progressing is a bunch of psychological gobbledygook.
And how does one finalize a commitment to a friend? The very thought that one would have to marry a friend to show commitment to them reveals how disposable we view friendship as a whole. And the irony is not lost that a society that views marriage as a disposable agreement looks to it as a virtuous commitment in this case. The secular world has stripped sex from all of its meaning, oneness, relational value, fruit, danger, and commitment. Sex has been reduced to a recreational activity. Whereas, Christians are so reactive and guarded to this romanticized and sexualized age that we set marriage up as the ultimate relationship in which all of our commitment, passion, and intimacy is shared and invested. Friendship is minimized in both cases. 
The result is that we don’t know how to behave as lovers or as friends. If you want to keep a friendship platonic, marrying them is a bad idea! And if you want to make an exclusive commitment in marriage, having a sexual relationship with someone else is also a bad idea!
Friendship indeed calls us to worthy practices and commitment. Peterson and Brown are right not to want to minimize friendship like so many do. But while they are making a categorical mistake by thinking marriage is the highest expression of friendship, they are also on to something that so many have lost. Friendship is something you do. To be a friend, we need to exercise virtue. It requires moral excellence. This is indeed a demanding kind of moral excellence because it is not primarily for the benefit of ourselves, but through our own sacrifices for another. The beautiful paradox is that this others-centered virtue creates what we call friendship, enhancing the souls of all participants. Friends are advocates who promote one another’s holiness. That is a relationship, unlike marriage, that will carry on to the new heavens and the new earth.
Friendship is not merely companionship. It is not merely recognizing affection for another person. C.S. Lewis reminds us, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue” (The Four Loves, 57).  So I hope that marriages do have a foundation of friendship, even as it is a relationship with exclusive additional blessings and responsibilities.
Perterson and Brown are quite vague about their purpose in their friendship and their marriage, revealing their confusion about both relationships. Again, Lewis is instructive in explaining that the focus of a friendship isn’t on the friendship itself, but rather the pursuit of common interests and convictions. This is also what distinguishes friendship love from erotic love. “In some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship” (61). And yet we see the language from Peterson and Brown to be focused on their friendship rather than any actual common pursuit. What is it that they want to evolve to or grow in? 
Another “relationship expert” comments:
“To me it seems like they’re creating a family out of two people; it’s a family member you can always count on,” Maryland-based psychologist Samantha Rodman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “A lot of these sorts of marriages are in response to society getting increasingly isolated, and people want to create a kinship model. You either have to be married or you have to be blood relatives; otherwise, you can walk away from each other.”
Real friends don’t have to marry to be able to count on each other. But it is very perceptive to note how our increasingly isolated society is longing for a kinship model. This is exactly what God gives us in his church, which is a committed body made up of brothers and sisters in Christ, spurring one another on and promoting one another’s holiness as we grow together in his mission of eternal communion with the Triune God and one another. God reveals himself to his people so that he can make friends with us. How well to we represent this to the watching world by our friendships?
Friendship requires rooted identity, mission, holistic value, purity, maturity, and growth. This is costly. Our Savior thought of the cost to be a friend to us, one that we could never afford, and then warned us to count the cost before becoming his disciples. Because of his sacrifice, I want to represent him by being a good friend.  Aelred of Rievaulx offers a mindset that will help us represent this in our own friendships: “You and I are here, and I hope that Christ is between us as a third…Gratefully let us welcome the place, the time, and the leisure.” (Spiritual Friendship, 1.1, 55).
Posted on Sunday, January 07, 2018 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
This book really piqued my interest when I saw its release. The title says it all: Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible. And a first look at the listing drew me in even more, as there is a scholarly, diverse group of contributors for each chapter covering women from the beginning with Eve, through the eras of the patriarchs, judges, kings, exiles, and some women from the New Testament as well.
The Introduction explains that this is a fresh look at some women in Scripture who have been given an unfair bad reputation. It also accounts for the diversity among the contributors: “a team of male and female scholars from different nationalities and ethnicities, as well as educational institutions and religious traditions…’all over the map’ on their view of women preachers and even their approaches to the women explored in this book. But they agree on this: We must visit what the Scriptures say about some Bible women we have sexualized, vilified, and/or marginalized. Because, above all, we must tell the truth about what the text says” (16). For this reason, it was a most refreshing read. “And time and time again, God’s heart for the silenced, the marginalized, the powerless, the Gentile, the outsider, was what had been missing” (16).  
The book isn’t a feminist male-bashing, but a Christ-focused endeavor that upholds the authority of his word. I appreciate how the editor, Sandra Glahn, included the varying views of the contributors. It highlights the unity in the essentials of the gospel, sharpens the reader and drives us to the biblical text, and prevents writing with feigned neutrality. 
The first chapter helps the reader to participate in reading with discernment by outlining the six questions each contributor brought to the text:
What does the text actually say?
What do I observe in and about the text?
What did this text mean to the original audience?
What was the point?
What truths in the text are timelessly relevant?
How does the part fit the whole?
For the most part, I believe this book succeeded in its mission and interacted well with historical interpretations. The vixens they vindicated were Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Deborah (and Jael), Huldah, Vashti, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, and Junia/Joanna. I was happy to see Richard Bauckham’s work, Gospel Women, footnoted by different contributors, as it was such fascinating read for me. 
I thought I would highlight two chapters, even though I enjoyed interacting with all of them.
Tamar: The Righteous Prostitute
When you think of Tamar, what’s the first word that comes to your mind? Usually, the first thing we think is prostitute. But Carolyn Custis James makes a good case that righteous is the defining word in this account. That’s a very different word! And it is unexpectantly Judah who calls her this. Tamar’s account is one that we wrestle with. Yes, she secures the line of Judah, the ancestors of Jesus. But she does this by tricking her father-in-law to sleep with her. She seems a bit shady to us. But Custis James points out that Tamar isn’t a “skeleton in the closet” to her descendants. Of all places to bring up Tamar, she is mentioned in the marital blessing of Boaz and Ruth: “Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12, NIV). “Significantly, both Kind David and his son Absalom named their daughters ‘Tamar’ (2 Sam. 13:1; 14:27).
Custis James explains that Tamar’s descendants name their children after her, Judah calls her righteous, and Matthew includes her in the genealogy of Christ because "God chose a marginalized Canaanite woman to put the power of his gospel on display and to advance his redemptive purposes for Judah and the world” (48). We do need to wrestle with this account. “Tamar’s story makes no sense unless we see how she gets caught in the crossfire of primogeniture, both within Judah’s family of origin and among his sons” (34). Scripture exposes the abusive social system that arises in patriarchy. “It mobilizes a marginalized woman to act with extraordinary boldness to reveal a patriarch’s hypocrisy thus leading to his renewal.” While it’s not by any means a “recommendation of prostitution as a means of furthering the redemptive plan of God or in any situation,” Tamar acted in the one way she had power to ensure the duty of childbearing in her dead husband’s name that she was honor-bound to do (48). Tamar wasn’t actually a prostitute, but she was willing to appear and act as one to get Judah to fulfill the law to preserve his son’s family line. And what a family line that is.
Huldah: Malfunction with the Wardrobe-Keeper’s Wife
I was so glad this was a chapter in the book. Sadly, whenever I begin talking about Huldah I get blank stares. And so this chapter fittingly begins with the subtitle, “Huldah Who?” Christa L. McKirland reasons, “Huldah’s vindication comes through the simple act of making her visible once again” (213). True to the that.
I don’t understand how she is so ignored, as if her inclusion as the prophetess sought out for Josiah after the Book of the Law was found was some sort of accidental vestige. There is so much to pay attention to in this 2 Kings 22 passage and 2 Chronicles 34 parallel. Here we have a prophetess, who Wilda Gafney describes as “arguably the first person to grant authoritative status to the Torah scroll deposited in the temple treasury,” authenticating the Word of God, largely accepted as the heart of the book of Deuteronomy (222). Here is a bright and shining account of a woman authoritatively confirming an important text in the cannon of Scripture to “the most righteous king in the divided kingdom’s history” (231). And it wasn’t because there were no good men available. This was the same time that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were prophets---that’s right, I said Jeremiah and Zephaniah!! Huldah “played a significant role in the last major reformation in the kingdom of Judah before its final downfall” (213).
Josiah sends out his dignitaries to inquire of the word of the Lord once the Book of the Law was discovered. It’s sad to read the explanations some commentators give for why they seek Huldah and not Jeremiah or Zephaniah, but I don’t have space to go there. McKirland explains how the sending out of the dignitaries to her rather than summoning her directly to the king should queue the reader in on the respect both the king and his dignitaries have for her. This is a matter of high importance, as Josiah laments, “for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13b). She answers with the “Thus says the Lord” authoritative formula of a prophet, speaks in the first person voice of God, confirms the judgment Josiah anticipated, the details of the charge, and the delay of God’s wrath because Josiah’s “heart was tender and [he] humbled [him]self before the Lord” (vv 16-20).  In this, Huldah authenticates what Josiah recognized as the word of God, the rediscovery of Deuteronomy. “In the same way that women were the first to testify to the resurrection of Christ, the living Word, how poetic might it be that the first person to authenticate the written Word might also have been a woman?” (222)
No, women were not left out of active traditioning in testifying to and passing down the faith. As a matter of fact, in Scripture we see a testimony to the opposite. 
As Bauckham points out, the women’s voice in Scripture corrects any promotion of androcentrism. The canon itself corrects this kind of promotion (see Gospel Women, 15). And as Carolyn Custis James points out, “stories such as Tamar’s, Rahab’s, and that of the sinful woman who wept and poured perfume on Jesus’s feet give the church opportunities to raise the subject of prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse and to confront an issue to which the church cannot in good conscience turn a blind eye” (41). God sees and cares for all of his people. And these gynocentric texts in his word are rich with doctrine-meets-real life, history-meets-experience and depth of insight. 
So I’m thankful for the vindication done by these contributors.
Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Evil Amy the Greater has submitted an entertaining year in review for MoS:
Another year has passed us by, and as always, the Mortification of Spin co-hosts have not disappointed us. These lapsed Baptists now proclaiming the wonders of Presbyterianism have managed to do it again, stoking the fires of controversy while managing to get a good word in now and then. Let’s take a look at what they accomplished in 2017…
Housewife theologian Aimee Byrd continued to bask in the glory of the release of No Little Women, which has promoted a good discussion about the importance of solid, biblically based literature for ladies in the church, as well as ways in which elders can help the women under their care. Aimee also got to work writing a new book about the importance of brother/sister relationships in the Body of Christ. We have great hopes that people will misunderstand it entirely when it is released sometime next year. Nevertheless, Aimee remains committed to increasing our appreciation of the “household” aspect of God’s Church.
Apart from writing books, Aimee spoke at numerous women’s conferences and even one or two that were attended by some men. (The horror!) She wrote many blog articles about what it means to be feminine from a biblical perspective and dove into the controversy surrounding the Pence Rule. On a personal level, she sent her firstborn child off to college, which marked an important transition for the family. She also invented the concept of the “book flight” and continued to bond with her son over their mutual love of martial arts.
Texan Todd Pruitt (for so we must always introduce him) continued in his primary role as teaching elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley (for so we must always introduce it). His church was proud to host the Blue Ridge Bible Conference, which focused on the importance of scripture and the fact that “God has spoken.” As part of this conference, he managed to get both Aimee and Carl in his home at the same time. He also joined a long line of dignitaries who have appeared on the Presbycast podcast.
Never one to shy away from a debate, Todd continued his efforts to call the PCA back to its biblical roots. He wrote about the need for racial reconciliation that is based on gospel truth rather than political ideology or social theory. This attracted some significant criticism, and Todd made efforts to engage with others in a gracious manner without surrendering on the main points. He came away from his visit to the PCA General Assembly somewhat encouraged and has every hope that the denomination can continue to be a strong defender of scriptural and confessional principles. On a personal level, Todd suffered the loss of his beloved father this year, but he was glad to preside over a funeral that was filled with gospel truth in addition to honoring his father’s life.
That brings us to Carl Trueman, token foreigner of the group. As usual, Carl was busier than any human being has a right to be. He celebrated the release of Grace Alone, his new book that is part of the 5 Solas series from Zondervan. As a church historian in a year celebrating the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, he was in high demand as a speaker. This allowed him to share with audiences the importance of the theological principles that drove the Reformation, as well as the remarkable lives of the men and women who participated in it. Perhaps the highlight in this regard was participating in a PBS documentary on the life of Martin Luther.
It wasn’t all about the Reformation for Carl, though. He continued writing for First Things, where he made the somewhat startling announcement mid-year that he had been declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Christendom”. For the most part, he restricted his writing there to addressing cultural issues of the day. For good measure, Carl also released a book with respected Lutheran scholar Robert Kolb called From Wittenberg to Geneva. It examines points of disagreement between the two traditions during the Reformation period. With the arrival of autumn, Carl took on a new role as a James Madison Fellow at Princeton University. He will use this fellowship to write a book on evolving notions of gender throughout history and how they have brought us to where we are today. He also pastors an OPC congregation, by the way. When he was not doing all of this, Carl celebrated his younger son’s college graduation with the rest of his family and spent a lot of time watching Swedish crime dramas. Oh, and he and his wife visited Rome. (Not to convert. Repeat, not to convert.)
On the Mortification of Spin podcast, the two amigos and one amiga managed to interview a number of awesome guests this year, including but not limited to Kelly Kapic, Darryl Hart, James White, Michael Allen, James Dolezal, Rosaria Butterfield, David Helm, and Timothy Witmer. They discussed lustful thoughts, loneliness, Catholicism, social justice, lament, Machen, the doctrine of God, evangelicalism, and perhaps most ironically for Carl and Todd, beauty. We also learned that Todd disapproves of yoga almost as strongly as Aimee likes it. A live show was recorded at the Westminster Preaching Conference, and another show was livestreamed to viewers on the website of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.
Here is how you can pray for the Spin co-hosts in the coming year:
- For Aimee…Pray for the editing process of her upcoming book and that the result would be both God honoring and helpful on a practical level. Pray for her efforts to encourage women in their pursuit of good theology. Pray that God will honor her desire to serve His Body in this way, and that He will prepare peoples’ hearts to hear the message. Pray for her transition to being the mother of a college kid and only having two birds left in the nest. 
- For Todd…Pray for his continued shepherding of Covenant Presbyterian Church, and that God would continue to protect and bless his ministry and the congregation as a whole. Pray for him to have wisdom as he seeks to address certain difficulties within the PCA. Pray for his family as they also have children in the transition phase from high school to college. Pray that Todd will be an encouragement to his mother at this time when they are mourning the loss of his father.
- For Carl…Pray for his ongoing research as part of the fellowship program at Princeton, and that he will produce a book that brings clarity to the present cultural situation. Pray for Westminster Philadelphia, as it continues to train the next generation of pastors. Pray that he will be able to focus his efforts on those projects where his talents are most needed for God’s kingdom. Pray also for his congregation at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, and that he will be encouraged in his role as a minister of God’s Word.
If there’s spin in 2018, you can be sure that these three will seek to mortify it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Amy Mantravadi blogs at and also regularly for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. She is the author of The Girl Empress: The Chronicle of Maud, Vol. 1.
Posted on Thursday, December 07, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
What does friendship mean to you? Is erotic love in marriage the only real valuable outlet for our affection? Does all affection lead to erotic love? Christians have another relationship to consider as well, one that will last to the new heavens and the new earth. We are siblings to one another in Christ. And just like siblingship is our longest lasting relationship on this earth, sacred siblingship is our longest lasting relationship, enduring on the new earth. That’s got to mean something, right? How do you value your friends? How do you value your siblings?
My upcoming book, Why Can’t We Be Friends?, emphasizes the great honor and responsibility that we have to promote one another’s holiness in friendship. How can that become an ordinary exercise in sibling friendship? Some would say that keeping our friends accountable by fencing our relationships between the sexes with extra biblical rules such as the infamous Mike Pence Rule or Billy Graham Rule are doing just that. But the pursuit of holiness and purity isn’t quite that easy, and we can actually stunt our growth with universal, extra biblical restrictions. We are called to love one another, not to be legalistic busybodies. And a discerning and God-glorifying sibling love wisely relates on a case-by-case basis. 
Promoting holiness in a sibling presupposes discernment of their strengths and weaknesses. Natural siblings are really good at this, aren’t they? Selfish siblings will capitalize on another sibling’s weakness and compete with his strengths. But we are called to love. That means that we will want to sharpen the strengths of our siblings, we will not put stumbling blocks in an area of weakness, and we will participate in their growth in holiness.
When Cain wittingly replies to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, he unwittingly reveals so much about siblingship. His retort reveals that while playing dumb and denying this basic truth, he actually does know what it means to be a sibling. It’s like saying, “Abel is just my brother; that doesn’t mean anything.” His reply suggests that Abel is on his own. There is no gratitude for this gift of a sibling, no commitment to him, no common mission, no connection whatsoever. No love. What he is really doing in his reply is rebelliously rejecting who he is as a sibling. But Cain isn’t God. And he can’t just declare the way things will be. He is a brother. And therefore, he is his brother’s keeper. Even murder does not change this truth. Abel’s blood still cried out to God. Likewise, the sacred siblingship relationship Christian brothers and sisters share is a gift that comes with responsibilities. 
Cain also reveals in this reply the minimum a brother should do---to be a keeper. As important and honorable as that is, sacred siblings are called to more than keeping; we are called to promoting. That is what our Elder Brother is doing for us, and what we are called to do for one another. We already know how we are supposed to do this, and yet it is often minimized in our actions. There are simple yet profound practices that affirm our gratitude and commitment to one another, further our common mission, and enhance our sibling connection. “Christian community begins in gratitude, is sustained by our promises and truthfulness, and is expressed in hospitality” (Christine Pohl, Living Into Community, 13). Centered on Christ’s person and work, these practices of gratitude, truth telling, promise making, and hospitality are foundational to promoting holiness in one another. 
We say that we are thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ but often our responses reveal our ingratitude. Dan Brennan points out a common response that unwittingly reveals our hearts toward one another. Because we live in such a romanticized and sexualized age where every meaningful relationship with the opposite sex is expected to result in the bedroom, we often try to react by minimizing friendship. We set marriage up as the ultimate relationship in which all of our commitment, passion, and intimacy is shared and invested. So when asked about our affections for anyone who is not a spouse or who is not a romantic interest we respond, “He’s just a friend.”  What a brutal thing to say! What are we unwittingly revealing with this response? With the word just, we are denying the gift of friendship and instead “convey[ing] a distance from vows, commitments, passion---a peripheral existence to the heart of the family” (Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, 107). What a rebellious expression of ingratitude. 
You are your brothers’ and sisters’ keeper and promoter. And these practices of gratitude, promise making, truth telling, and hospitality are responses to the household we have been brought into and the God that we have. He is full of grace, giving his people what they do not deserve and could never dream of. We aren’t entitled to his affection and all that comes with it---he chose us in Christ. He doesn’t just invite us in; he makes us part of the family. He does this by revealing the truth of who we are and who he is. And our Lord doesn’t shirk from commitment; he makes covenantal promises and faithfully carries them through all the way. I’m not “just a daughter.”
Let’s not be ungrateful for the friendships that we have been given and the esteem of carrying out those responsibilities. Friendship is not a downgrade from erotic love. Unlike our marriages, friendship will last to the new heavens and the new earth. I would never call Matt, “just my husband.” I would never say Luke, Brooke, Eli, and Brody are “just my brothers and sister.” Likewise, it’s a great honor to be called a friend.
Posted on Thursday, November 16, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Yesterday I shared an excellent article Katelyn Beaty wrote for the New York Times entitled A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule. And whenever the Pence Rule, which is associated with the Billy Graham Rule of not eating or meeting alone with a woman, is discussed on social media you can see its polarizing effect. It has regained traction as numerous Hollywood sex scandals are exposed. For example, Beaty quotes conservative radio host and blogger Erick Erikson, saying, “The very same left-wing activists and Hollywood stars now running away from Harvey Weinstein were assailing Mike Pence for having a rule of not dining alone or taking meetings alone with women,” insinuating that if everyone would just follow the Pence Rule none of this will happen. 
While Beaty gives a nod to the motives of many who promote and adhere to the Pence Rule in one form or another, she denies it’s effectiveness:  “The Pence rule is inadequate to stop Weinstein-ian behavior. In fact, it might be its sanctified cousin. It’s time for men in power to believe their female peers when they say that the rule hurts more than helps.” Abusers are always going to find ways to abuse, but Christians are called to something higher than these extra-biblical rules. We are called to uphold godly behavior and promotion of holiness with everyone we interact with. We are called to a holy communion with God that also overflows into a holy communion with one another. We do this as sexual beings, but our sexuality doesn’t merely express itself in the physical love making that a wedded couple exclusively shares. Our sexuality also expresses itself in brother and sisterhood as we relate to everyone.
So, imagine how reductive it is for a woman to see a Tweet from a popular pastor such as this one, with other popular pastors retweeting in approval:

What does this say about a woman such as myself? It insinuates that I’m such a threat to a man’s faithfulness and a pastor’s reputation that I’m barely worth the risk of a ride to the hospital. I am in need of some good Samaritans! This parable particularly comes to mind because the religious people in it didn’t want to get polluted by the dying man. Comments like this tweet insinuate this same kind of pollution in association with women. As pastor Sam Powell put it, such harsh boundaries pretend like “fornication is like the flu, and you accidently catch it if you happen to be close to a woman.”  Or maybe it is a Christian’s reputation that is polluted. (Sam also has a great article debunking the “appearance of evil” here.) Either way, Jesus calls us to be like the Samaritan, whom had nothing to lose because he was already considered polluted, or ceremonially defiled, so he was free to properly care for another human being in need. This is how Christ loved us. This is how we should love one another. Powell bids us, “Take up your cross with him; despise the shame. Make yourself of no reputation. ‘Let this mind be in you, that was also in Christ Jesus.’
“Perhaps it is time that we start thinking about love, rather than reputation.”   
Stealing Unearned Virtue
Some of the comments defending the Pence Rule under the link I shared are emotionally charged and hurtful, resorting to the conversation-closer of name-calling. This is what Alan Jacobs calls commitment to non-thinking. In them, Beaty is called brain dead and her article is referred to as a moronic idea, full of lies, which like the New York Times, should be ignored. Those who defend the Pence Rule imagine that those who critique it are either extremely naïve or don’t value faithfulness in marriage. I would like to suggest that those who viscerally defend the Pence Rule are falling under what Dietrich von Hildebrand, in his book In Defense of Purity, calls the spell of negative sexuality and are falling short of apprehending purity. After all, one can avoid having an affair and not truly embrace purity. While faithfulness in marriage is expected, it is not necessarily virtuous if it’s a response to a perceived self-importance, the result of an unsensuous temperament, or due to lack of opportunity. As von Hildebrand teaches, purity is a virtue as it treasures “free coopera[tion] in its production,” and as it “involves a habitual response to some value.” 
So the question to ask is what is your perception of value? Is it your career or ministry, therefore you must guard any appearance that may give people ammunition against your image? Is your value the perfect marriage, even at the expense of valuing others? (And what kind of marriage is it when you have to reduce all others of the opposite sex to value your spouse?) Or is your value to “live, so to speak, in the sight (in conspectu) of God’s purity, the fountainhead of all purity, and [to] respond to it with the permanent and habitual assent of his will” (43)? Because purity is supernatural. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
Von Hildebrand insists on purity as a positive virtue that “always lives in an attitude of reverence for God and his creation, and therefore reveres sex, its profundity, and its sublime and divinely ordained meaning” (40). The sexual gift in marriage is therefore positively embraced and treasured so as not to be reduced to a base instinct. “The moment I treat physical sex as something complete in itself and take no account of its profoundest function, namely in wedded love, I falsify its ultimate significance and become blind to the mystery it contains” (7). This reverence for God and high view of sex also promotes a corresponding response to value others in their dignity as people made in the image of God. 
So the pure person does not behave prudishly in producing an “oppressive atmosphere” toward others, but “is distinguished by a limpid radiance of the soul” (41). Rejecting the negative value of impurity or sexual transgression should never lead to rejecting the value of another person. The virtue of purity rightly orients sensuality before God and others. Those who are oppressive to this beauty “miss the peculiar freedom of the pure; the unconfined spirituality, the transparence, the radiance which is theirs alone. On the contrary, they are in bondage, their spirit is opaque and transmits no clear light, and the hang about every hole and corner in which sexuality lurks unbeknown…Since they have never uprooted and overcome this attraction, nor even struggled against it in open combat, every other department of their life is infected and poisoned by this disposition” (24).
So while it may seem safe to impose rules that separate ordinary encounters with the opposite sex, it isn’t the virtue of purity. It is actually over-sexualization, or as Beaty calls it, the sanctified cousin of Weinstein-ian behavior. No, the virtue of purity perceives and responds to the holistic value in human beings.
We are called to Christian love and fellowship as brothers and sisters. That means we promote one another’s holiness. It also means that we take sin seriously as well as our own ability to fall into it. This doesn’t call us to “the false modesty of the prude” but to a “sincere humility” (42). Therefore, rather than extra-biblical rules, we are to do the hard work of rightly orienting our affections and exercising wisdom and discernment with others.  We don’t think of a bunch of reasons to be alone with the opposite sex, we don’t’ naively assume everyone is safe, and we don’t overestimate our own virtue. We live before God in every situation. And in this manner, we won’t scandalize ordinary acts of kindness and business such as serving someone by giving them a ride or coworkers sharing a meal in a public place.
Wikipedia defines pickpocketing as “a form of larceny that involves the stealing of money or other valuables from the person of a victim without them noticing the theft at the time. It may involve considerable dexterity and a knack for misdirection.” I see the Pence Rule as pickpocketing purity, stealing unearned virtue at the expense of another’s dignity. Although I think that many who uphold the Rule are the ones misdirected, wanting to exercise a virtue without noticing that positive work they need to put in.


Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
One thing that I really enjoyed about Alan Jacobs’ new book, How to Think, is the way he puts regular words together to make up a new term. Some he borrows from other writers, but it really was pure joy for me to ponder some familiar and new usages of word pairings.  There were some fascinating ones like “assignable curiosity,” “intimacy gradients,” and “intellectual sunk costs.” But I am led to think a little more on paper about his use of “Inner Ring,” “Repugnant Cultural Other (RCO),” and “mental purity.”
Jacobs spends a lot of time building on C.S. Lewis’ teaching about the Inner Ring, or “’moral matrix’ that becomes for a given person the narrative according to which everything and everyone else is judged,” reasoning that if we are so caught up in our own Inner Rings, we begin to look at outsiders to our Ring as Repugnant Cultural Others (55). Jacobs calls these Inner Ring zealots “true believers.” This kind of tribalism really doesn’t sharpen our thinking or properly love our neighbors. When this happens, we are not truly being loyal to our group or our belief systems that we hold dear because we bind one another to strict orthodoxy of the Inner Ring rather than to the truth and rather than freedom to learn more, love well, and be sharpened. Inner Ring tribalism also produces pretenders who never really grasp the truths we hold dear. Finding common ground with those who hold different convictions than us, even politically or religiously, does not necessarily weaken our own convictions. If they are in truth, they will be strengthened as we are stretched in our thinking.
How can we be healthier in our affiliations with one another? How can we have loving hearts and healthy minds? There are so many Inner Rings even in the Christian evangelical subculture. I know I have participated in Inner Ringmanship to my own regret. We also see polarizing Inner Rings with political affiliations, race, diets, social issues, and education. There are Inner Rings in church, at school, at work, and in our neighborhoods. Social media has become quite the Inner Ring facilitator. One of the toughest exercises in self-examination is to “distinguish between ‘genuine solidarity’ and participation in an Inner Ring.” (63) It’s the difference between true community and false belonging.
This was all going through my mind when I stumbled upon Jacobs’ use of the term “mental purity”:
You can know whether your social environment is healthy for thinking by its attitude toward ideas from the outgroup. If you quote some unapproved figure, or have the “wrong” website open on your browser, and someone turns up his nose and says, “I can’t believe you’re reading that crap”---generally, not a good sign. Even if what you’re reading is Mein Kampf, because there are actually good reasons to read Mein Kampf. The true believer is always concerned, both on her behalf and on that of the other members of her ingroup, for mental purity. (138)
Mental purity sounds like a really good thing, doesn’t it? And it definitely sounds like something that I want for my children. But we have another term for this, which exposes the negative effects: living in a bubble. It’s funny that Jesus didn’t separate the church from the rest of the world after his resurrection so that we wouldn’t be so exposed to corrupting ideas and teaching. It’s funny how he has made many unbelievers smarter and more gifted than his people, so that we will benefit from, learn from, and serve with them. It’s funny how the church has never had mental purity. But we do have Christ, who is both good and omniscient. And we have his word, which is living and active. God calls his people to discernment which requires critical thinking, not to mental purity.
Even so, it’s worth noting that sometimes you just have to say, “I can’t believe you’re reading that crap!” Sometimes crap is just crap. There are many books out there that will not engage us to be good thinkers and may actually make us dumber after having read them. You can’t engage much with fluff. And when it comes to something like 50 Shades of Grey, for example, we really don’t have any business reading it. It’s not only junk, and really bad writing, but it easily leads to sinful thoughts and actions. Discernment knows that there is such a thing as a junk pile. But this isn’t what Jacobs is talking about. He’s addressing this sense of tribalism that puts all outsider views in the junk pile and refuses to read those we even strongly disagree with for critical thinking. (I should also note, because I come across this quite often, absorbing everything you read is not critical thinking.)
While reading about mental purity, I couldn’t help but think about Inner Ring convictions on education. Within the church, homeschoolers, private schoolers, and public schoolers can encounter Inner Rings---especially among the parents. And our own convictions in these areas are often criticized as moral choices. I have friends whom I deeply care about in all three of these categories and I know that all three of these choices are susceptible to judgment as outsiders. As a parent who sends her kids to public school, I have felt the sting of RCO comments aimed at our education choices. And yet one reason my husband and I have made this choice is because of the mental purity fallacy. I struggle with balancing this all the time though. There is an important case to be made for stages of mental innocence in our children. They need to reach certain levels of maturity before they can even exercise discernment in separating truth from error and lies. And yet, as they grow, it is important for them to learn how to do this. 
Parents are responsible for what we teach our children. We need to make sure that the good stuff is being put in. And there are evils that they should not be exposed to. It’s tempting for me just to teach my kids what to think. It seems a lot safer anyway. But in order to learn how to think, they have to interact with worldviews, belief systems, and other convictions that are different from our own. The fear is corruption. And this is a real concern---very real. I don’t want to downplay it. Although, on the other hand, I also don’t want to shield my kids so much from the outside word that they begin to think sin is what’s “out there” only later in life to fall into despair when they realize sin is saturated in their very own hearts.
In public school my kids have to wrestle with Inner Rings all the time. And they can be the RCO to many of their unbelieving friends and sometimes teachers. Sometimes they take solid stand and others they fall into being a pretender to an Inner Ring in which they do not belong. But in this, they learn about themselves and others. They’re also learning how to learn from others even while holding strong differences in other areas. They are learning about finding common ground. They still have a long way to go---so do I---but they are exercising these very principles that Jacobs teaches on the art of thinking. 
I’m not against homeschooling or private schooling. And there are all sorts of other reasons one may choose that route, such as the methods used in educating, the curriculum, or the teaching itself. You can certainly teach the art of thinking at home and in private school as well. Each parent is responsible to make these decisions in humility. We should support one another in the church as we make these critical decisions, not divide over them. I love that my kids get to have good friends who are educated differently. Some of their homeschooled friends and private schooled friends share the most common ground with them, as they go to the same church. On Sunday, God calls all his people to his household to learn about him, to worship him, and to be blessed in him. This is sacred time and sacred space, as Michael Horton calls it. No one in God’s household is repugnant, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). And Christ isn’t an Inner Ringer; he creates a genuine community---one that honestly and humbly engages with the world around it. He hasn’t given us mental purity, but he has given us the art of thinking.


Posted on Thursday, October 05, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
We all have some memories that burn into us like a branding. It may seem random, but some moments leave an impression that will always imprint our minds. One of those for me happened at a slumber party one of the girls on my cheerleading squad hosted for us in high school. She was a better kid than me, what we would think of as the Goody Two-Shoes of the squad. She pleased everyone, never got into trouble, and was always smiling---which was a total yawn for me at the time. But, you go to these team-bonding things, and there I was in the Two-Shoes household with the squad. 
We ventured off into the basement as all teenagers do. I recall nothing about what we did there. All I remember is this branding moment. For some reason, we went into the storage room in the basement and against the wall was one of those metal muscle racks filled with Playboy magazines from floor to ceiling. I can’t remember the reactions of the other girls but I asked the question that only Captain Obvious could answer, Whose are these? This was all so outside of my reality of what a father would do that I totally would have believed the We’re holding them for a friend excuse. But Goody very matter-of-factly said they were her dad’s. I never wanted to look at her dad again. I suddenly felt reduced as a young woman.
The title Playboy says it all. It’s not for men. This dad is no real man, I thought.
And this mom, Mrs. Two Shoes---how was she going along with all this? Where was her dignity, I wondered. This open display was a public humiliation of his wife and children. And me.
What a boy does when his wife sins:
And yet that collection of magazines has nothing on what many so easily access in secret on the internet these days. I remember all the talk with the rise of Internet porn about Playboy being outdated and whether or not Hugh Hefner’s empire will survive. So it all seems kind of cliché now as everyone is talking about his recent death and the legacy he left behind.
Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo nails it in her excellent Public Discourse article, The Playboy Lifestyle and the Death of Complementarity. She opens sharing Hefner’s history before Playboy. A picture of virtue, at 22* he married his longtime sweetheart as a virgin who had saved himself for matrimony. Only this virtue all came crashing down when he discovers that his wife cheated on him before marriage. He describes, “I had literally saved myself for my wife, but after we had sex she told me that she'd had an affair …  My wife was more sexually experienced than I was. After that, I always felt in a sense that the other guy was in bed with us, too."
This is the moment of integrity. Hefner did not get the reward he felt he deserved for his chastity. His reaction to this devastation of betrayal and unfaithfulness will reveal the man he really is. How does Hefner react when he doesn’t get what he wants? Well, we all know the answer: he becomes a coward who reduces women into soft bunnies, playthings that will be harmed by thousands of Lennies, only they already believe they are "living off the fatta' the lan'." All the Lennies buy into the dream; they can pet all the soft things they want with the right manners. And so a gentleman spin is put on vulgarity. In fact, Ben Domenech, writing for The Federalist, calls it "positively quaint" vulgarity, promoting a complementarity that the progressives of the sexual revolution deny.
This gentleman Playboy image that our culture likes to spin is all a mirage anyway, “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men.” Menchaca-Bagnulo gives us a snap shot of what many of us have already heard went on in the Playboy mansion:
According to Bunnies Carla and Melissa Howe, the mansion’s male visitors “were really pervy; all the girls were fighting to run away.” Hefner was no better than his visitors. Holly Madison claims life in the Playboy mansion was “a living hell,” where Hef forcefully offered her Quaaludes. Izabella St. James said that, while very few women actually wanted to have sex with Hefner, “in his eyes it was the only way we had of showing gratitude for all that he did for us.”
Perhaps most tellingly, Jennifer Saginor, whose father was Hugh Hefner’s doctor, recalls her experience of life at the Playboy Mansion through the eyes of a female child. At a Playboy Party at the age of six, she saw John Belushi and a Playboy Bunny having sex in a Jacuzzi, a kind of decadence that was commonplace at the mansion. “It was so bizarre. If I was not seeing other people having sex, I was seeing my father walking around naked. I would see naked girls around the pool and people openly having sex in the games room. There were just no boundaries.” Unsurprisingly, she drew seriously distorted lessons about masculinity and femininity from these experiences. “I started to identify more with the guys,” she says. “The men were always presented to me as the intelligent and powerful ones, so I wanted to be more like them.”
While some are championing a nostalgic so-called complementarity that Hefner promoted between the sexes, Menchaca-Bagnulo mortifies the spin:
In his Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II writes of the “mystery of complementarity” known most profoundly in the conjugal act, in which man and woman “become one flesh . . . to rediscover, so to speak, every time and in a special way the mystery of creation.” For John Paul II, sexual complementarity is a kind of union that draws the man out of himself, compelling him to leave behind his former life and to “cleave” to his wife as the principle of his new life. The man and the woman’s desire for each other leads to the conception of new life in the form of their children. According to John Paul II, man’s sexual discovery of woman is not one of use, but one of self-giving. This is precisely the kind of self-gift that devastated Hefner when his first wife was unfaithful to him—causing him the kind of pain that only a person, and not an object, can inflict on you.
The only alternative account of human sexuality, John Paul II claims, is one in which “one of the two persons exists only as the subject of the satisfaction of the sexual need, and the other becomes exclusively the object of this satisfaction.” This is the path that Hefner inevitably leads us down.
I just want to add that although Hefner did experience the pain of betrayal by the woman he loved, his chastity before marriage was never virtuous. His own description reveals this. He couldn’t take it that his wife was more sexually experienced than he was. He was supposed to be the one to dominate in the bedroom. But she was no bunny. And his reaction was to hyper-dominate with a sex empire of women at his beck and call. Playthings for boys. Because manhood wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. What does a man do when he discovers his wife’s sin?
How this Playboy image has affected the church:
So in the Two-Shoes home, full of smiles and Goody children, the father had a mass collection of Playboys in the basement that wasn’t difficult to discover. It wasn’t even a stash under the bed. I realized in that basement that all these Goody smiles were like Bunny ears. This is what they thought they were supposed to be: happy and docile with perfect report cards. 
Most churches would never endorse Hefner’s lifestyle. We are disgusted by the sexual revolution and the damage it has done. And yet, some echo this nostalgic brand of complementarity. Menchaca-Bagnulo turns to churches promoting the same view of complementarity as Hefner, which she calls an “intellectualization of domination and dehumanization.” I’ve seen this polished, Christianized version of complementarity with all its hyper-masculine teaching for men and “complementary” femininity taught as subordination. It’s all so one-dimensional and dangerous. 
Only the church is even more mannered than Hefner, so they produce more Georges than Lennies. Many Lennies in the church have been shot to protect its image, and yet they seem to resurrect again. The Georges share sermon after sermon, article after article, retelling the story of masculine bravado, encouraging men to step up into their authoritative position of so-called godly leadership. They are encouraged to play into this stereotypical role of what they call biblical manhood. Abuse is covered up because they believe these are exceptions that tarnish their image. Women are told to consider whether they are being submissive enough and whether they are fulfilling their husbands’ needs. These women have no voice. “They cannot speak, and so can make no demands or critiques, nor can they express their own desire.” And they call this hyper-masculinity “servant-leadership.” This is not biblical headship. This is not the filter that distinguishes manhood from womanhood. This is not complementarity. This is not leadership.
Menchaca-Bagnulo says that “many women run from churches screaming,” and I would add that they run from Christianity screaming too. They found the basement and they want nothing to do with it. 
Boys in their immaturity often exercise hyper-masculinity. Grown boys who never become men put manners on it. In the church we need to call it what it is. Hyper-authoritarianism and subordination is anti-complementarity, just as much as “the act of onanism carried out to mass-distributed pictures of reified women who are deprived of voice, action, and thought.” No one is authorized to look at women or treat them this way. No one is to submit to unbiblical teachings of sexuality.
And so Menchaca-Bagnulo concludes:
Though some on the right may view Hefner as a martini-drinking gentleman surrounded by beautiful women, it is better to think of him as a coward. Instead of viewing women as persons (who are capable of deeply hurting men), Hefner’s account of human sexuality made us symbols. Rather than dealing with the challenges of the vulnerability demanded by authentic eros, Hefner hides, and he teaches American men to hide. Without question, what he left in his magazine's pages is a history of cowardice that is irreconcilable with any healthy philosophical or theological position on sexual complementarity or masculine strength.
Let his death be an eye-opener to us all: it's time to clean out the basement.
*Correction from 27, which was the age of his first marriage stated in the Public Discourse article.
Posted on Monday, October 02, 2017 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Last Friday morning I shuddered to see Scott Swain wasting of his brilliance in a tweet thread. I’m sure it was beneficial for the many who saw it, but I wanted more. And I was hoping for a format that wouldn’t disappear in a newsfeed in less than 24 hours. So I asked him if he would turn it into an article for a guest post here at MoS, so we can at least get a week of cyberspace out of it and a better context for search engines and quoting. He kindly obliged and I’m happy to share it with you today:


"God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and σωφρονισμοῦ” (2 Tim 1:7). What is “a spirit of … σωφρονισμοῦ”? Oliver O’Donovan argues that we should not follow the standard English translations of “self-control” or “sound judgment” and instead that we should translate σωφρονισμός according to its common usage in first-century Greek, i.e., “the teaching of prudence” (BDAG). According to this translation, the person endowed with the spiritual gift of σωφρονισμός is endowed with the gift of “a certain type of speech: instruction, warning, and correction, intended to make its hearers sôphrones, i.e., intelligent and discerning agents” (O’Donovan, Entering into Rest, p. 194).


This translation seems to fit the context well. In 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul encourages Timothy to fulfill his pastoral vocation—in which speech is central (see 2 Tim 4:1-5)—by stirring up the gift that was given to him through the laying on of hands. This translation also opens up interesting horizons for thinking about the task of Christian teaching and communication. If σωφρονισμός refers to “the teaching of prudence,” then the ends of Christian teaching must include the cultivation of prudence in the minds of learners.


Prudence plays a primary role in Christian moral reasoning. Prudence refers to the capacity for testing and discerning the will of the Lord in a given setting (Rom 12:1-2), for approving what is the most excellent course of action in a given situation (Phil 1:8-10). Though prudence depends upon contemplative wisdom regarding God and his ways in order to orient itself before God in the world (Rom 11:33-36), prudence is a species of practical wisdom, aimed at human action. By discerning the will of the Lord, prudence illumines a path for Christian obedience, directing us to the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).


Paul further unpacks his understanding of σωφρονισμός in 2 Timothy 2:23-26, with specific reference to speech toward those who are outside of the Christian community: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Christian teaching and communication, according to Paul, is “not … quarrelsome but kind.” Though it corrects its opponents, it does not pick fights. Christian teaching is gentle and patient. It waits on the Spirit to do his indispensable work of leading its opponents on the path of repentance into “a knowledge of the truth.” Christian communication is “able to teach.” It is skilled at imparting prudence to its hearers. In sum, Christian teaching aims at prudential ends (the cultivation of Christian moral reasoning) by pursuing prudential means (kindness, gentleness, patience).


If the spirit of Christian teaching is a spirit of σωφρονισμός, then responsible Christian communication will involve more than “rallying the troops” to a cause. Responsible Christian communication will have little if anything to learn from the political punditry of the right or the left that floods our screens and fills our earbuds. Responsible Christian communication will commit itself to the slow but fruitful work of evangelizing outsiders and of equipping the saints to act as responsible moral agents under the kingship of the triune God. In doing so, Christian communication will manifest its union with Christ, its participation in the anointing and eloquence of “the servant of the Lord” who does not “cry aloud” or “lift up his voice … in the street” (Isa 42:2-3) but who possesses an “ear to hear as those who are taught” and therefore knows “how to sustain with a word him who is weary” (Isa 50:4).


All of this is important to remember in a Christian culture where being loving in our speech is sometimes reduced to being courageous in our speech. Christian speech is courageous speech, to be sure, but its courage is moderated by love of God and neighbor and therefore guided by the desire to impart the mind of Christ, which is the mind of wisdom, to those who will listen. God has not given us a spirit of fear “but of power and love and the teaching of prudence” (2 Tim 1:7).


Dr. Scott Swain is President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology at RTS Orlando.