I was delighted to receive a copy of Aimee Byrd’s new book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and devoured it this past week, underlining a full half of it! Byrd writes beautifully, with strong metaphors and challenging questions that keep the reader engaged. And her arguments are very strong and compelling. In her introduction, she emphasizes that this is neither a man-bashing book nor a women’s empowerment book. Her focus is critiquing the teachings of so-called “biblical manhood and womanhood” that are really cultural values rather than helpful guides to discipleship.
Aimee Byrd is coming from the perspective of the Reformed Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which is complementarian. While remaining faithfully within the confines of the creeds and doctrines of her denomination, she offers a complementarian framework that honors the contribution of women in Scripture and in ecclesial life today. Reading her book as an egalitarian, I was inspired by the Biblical examples of “gynocentric interruptions” (the female voice throughout the Bible’s narrative), and I loved her description of sibling relationships as the dynamic we are to have between men and women in the Church.
Byrd is directly challenging the harmful subjugation of women through the work of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW) founded by Wayne Grudem and John Piper and other prominent complementarian pastors, and their definitive tome, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The CBMW view of manhood and womanhood is filtered strictly through a lens of authority and submission. She is especially critical of the heretical doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) they have peddled to enforce the subjugation of women.
As we’ve been taught to focus on aiming for biblical manhood and womanhood, we have missed the bigger picture of Christlikeness to which we are called. And we have lost aim of what the church is for: preparing us for eternal communion with the triune God. (pg. 26)
I underlined half of this book, but I will try to pull out some favorite quotes for you. Here are some from the chapter, “Why Not the Book of Boaz?” in which Byrd fleshes out the importance of “gynocentric interruptions”:
It teaches us different layers of different. We see how the female voice is needed in Scripture. This isn’t a criticism of the male voice. God put man and woman on this earth, and he intends to use both sexes in his mission. In Ruth men and women see that sometimes we need a different set of eyes to see the fuller picture. And what a beautiful picture it is. (pg. 54)
The church is using the same language as the secular world–whether we’re talking about equality and rights or borrowing the same Victorian-age gender tropes and then calling it ‘biblical.’ Their questions often revolve around what the women in the church are permitted to do. While there is certainly a place to talk about these things, there seems to be little talk about how the woman’s contribution is distinctly valued and how they can promote that in their leadership by listening to and investing in their women. The woman’s casserole is valued. The woman’s nursery duty is valued. The woman’s service in VBS is valued. Is her theoogical contribution valued? Is her testimony valued? Is her advice valued? When she shows initiative, discernment, and resolve, do you see someone who wants to give of herself in service in all these ways, or does that maker her less feminine in your eyes?
Gynocentric interruptions shouldn’t just be permitted; they should be promoted. The women’s voices–not only their casseroles and babysitting skills–are needed just as much as the men’s in the life of the church…This means they need to be fed from the depths of the Word and be satisfied. (pg. 70)
In the chapter, “Girls Interrupted,” Byrd shows how women were “tradents” of the faith, as we all should be as we testify to God’s redemption and Kingdom to others.
These women’s bravery, initiative, discernment, and resolve are models of faith for us all. Rahab’s faith led to the birth of our Savior, and both women’s actions foreshadow Jesus’ blessing on all nations. If we are to follow some of the hyper-masculinity and femininity teaching taught in some conservative circles, these women would look more rebellious than full of faith. (pg. 88)
In her chapter, “Why Our Aim Is Not Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” Byrd says,
In Scripture we see women functioning as necessary allies in ways such as warning men to turn away from evil; acting as cobelligerents with men against evil enemis; mediating the Word of the Lord; giving wise instruction and counsel, collaborating in service to others; responding to God as examples of faithfulness; and influencing men from a gift of empathy and relatedness. (pg. 108 with Bible references in the footnotes)
The word complementarian has been hijacked by an outspoken and overpublished group of evangelicals who flatten its meaning and rob it of true beauty and complementarity. Complementarity presupposes difference but also communion through giving of the self in and through these differences. (pg. 124)
In her chapter, “What Church is For,” Byrd asks,
Why isn’t there more proactive training for pastors about how to minister to and better equip the women in their churches? How much interaction are they having with women academics or even popular female writers? Why are so many pastors so terribly unaware of the market of poor theology being sold to women in the form of ‘Bible studies’ and topical studies for women’s ministry?…pastors need to be asking themselves how they are preparing both the men and women for eternity through the proclamation of the word and the fruit of that ministry in their church. (pg. 145)
I won’t give any more away. I want you to get a hold of this book and read it for yourself. This is a powerful call to live as faithful witnesses to God’s Kingdom as we all strive for Christlikeness and sacrificial love. I am especially encouraged to read such a defense of the contributions of women in the Church from a complementarian woman. I highly recommend Byrd’s work to egalitarians and complementarians alike.
I’ll leave you with this video of Aimee describing her book and corresponding study:
Thanks for visiting TBKW blog! Subscribe to our email (in the column to the right) so you never miss a post! And “Like” us on Facebook, where we post articles every day from around the web on the topics of gender in the Church and world. Come again!