Tag Archives: CBMW

Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by Aimee Byrd

aimee byrd

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 theaimee byrd recovering biblical 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:


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Lisa Sharon Harper slays Christian patriarchy in this epic Twitter thread!

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Y’all know I LOVE sharing resources here that might empower you to answer God’s call on your life, especially if your church and culture are limiting you.  I was so excited to meet Lisa Sharon Harper two weeks ago at the Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, VA.  Her sermon had me ugly-crying and she was extremely gracious afterwards when I went up to her and she prayed with me.  I read her book, The Very Good Gospel a couple years ago and can’t stop thinking about it.  I even bought several copies and gave them away for Christmas presents last year!

So yesterday, I saw this thread Lisa wrote on Twitter and I have to share it with you!   Follow LSH on social media, read her book, and invite her to speak at your churches/conferences/events – she is a POWERFUL and DYNAMIC teacher!!  Here, she explains why John Piper/TGC/CBMW/Desiring God are off-base in their gender-role teachings.


Thanks for visiting TBKW!  We love sharing resources that empower women and girls to armor up and join their brothers in the redeeming work of Jesus’ Kingdom!  Follow us on Facebook if you’d like to get posts from around the web each day addressing gender issues in the church and world.

And before you go, take a listen to this sermon from Lisa Sharon Harper on The Very Good Gospel!

A Response to Girl Defined – Is Feminism Devoid of God???

Last month, a dear friend sent me this picture, which linked to this article, “Why Feminism and Christianity Can’t Mix”, by Kristen Clark:

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That’s a pretty polarizing image that begs for a response, don’t you think?!

The blog Girl Defined has the tagline, “getting back to God’s design,” so my first impression was that Kristen Clark and The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors share a passion for the very same thing, and yet our primary messages are drastically different.  This is a testament to the diversity of thought within Christianity and how beliefs are shaped by personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, socialization and more.  We are both sincere Christians, passionate for God’s Kingdom and God’s design to reign supreme.  We are also both defensive against what we perceive to be heresy that impedes God’s will.

Fundamentally, the difference between Kristen Clark’s and my ideology comes down to our respective Biblical interpretation of gender roles.  By “God’s design,” Kristen means that in the Genesis narrative, God created man to be “head” and woman to be man’s “helper.”  There is a hierarchy with God over Christ, Christ over men, and men over women and children.  Men have authority and women submit to men.  Though men and women are of equal value, their roles are different.  This is the teaching of complementarian (i.e. patriarchal) theology, which is explained thoroughly in this video by Pastor John Piper (one of the founders of the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  Kristen links to a CBMW review of “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey in the comments section, with the explanation that she respects the theologians and writers on that site.), in which he says,

The intention with the word “complementarian” is to locate our way of life between two kinds of error: on the one side would be the abuses of women under male domination, and on the other side would be the negation of gender differences where they have beautiful significance. Which means that, on the one hand, complementarians acknowledge and lament the history of abuses of women personally and systemically, and the present evils globally and locally in the exploitation and diminishing of women and girls. And, on the other hand, complementarians lament the feminist and egalitarian impulses that minimize God-given differences between men and women and dismantle the order God has designed for the flourishing of our life together.

Egalitarianism in short.

Egalitarianism in short.

So Piper would lament feminism and egalitarianism (the Christian theology that God created man and woman equal, with shared authority; see this article or this one or this video, all from respected and notable theologians, for summaries of egalitarian theology) as ideologies that “dismantle God’s design.”  Often, egalitarians also identify as feminists due to the shared goal of demolishing patriarchy, which egalitarians see as a heresy in opposition of God’s design and will for humanity.  Egalitarians believe that God created man and woman in His image (literal translation of ezer being “corresponding strength” rather than “helper”), gave both authority over creation, and hierarchy came as a result of the curse in Genesis 3.  Throughout the Bible there are women functioning outside of complementarian gender roles, and in the New Testament we see the Holy Spirit falling on both men and women, and women serving alongside men in leadership in the early church.  Here is a good response to John Piper’s masculine view of Christianity.

While Christians have always held different views on many theological issues from the advent of the Church, it is common for complementarians to treat their view of gender roles as a critical aspect of the Gospel and to besmirch their egalitarian brothers and sisters with accusations of insincerity and rebellion. The Whartburg Watch wrote a post this year called, “Owen Strachan, CBMW, John Piper and David Platt: Gender Whackiness on the Rise” demonstrating this trend of elevating gender issues to be on par with the Gospel.

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But back to Kristen’s polarizing image and characterizations of feminism.  Is it true that at it’s root, feminism is devoid of God?  If so, why are so many Christians identifying as feminists?

First of all, it is true that “feminism wears many hats” and cannot be flatly defined, in the same way that Christianity comes in many forms, traditions and political leanings.  For example, Baptists.  There are over 1,400 Baptist denominations in the United States.  To some who hear the word “Baptist,” there is a visceral, biological response because of their negative experiences with Baptists, who can be judgmental, unloving and legalistic.  I have personally known Baptists to gossip, to be gluttonous and proud.  It can be controversial to bring up the topic of  Baptists.  It can be polarizing to identify yourself as a Baptist.  So it is probably best not to identify with that word.  Just call yourself a Christian!

See what I did there?  I could change “Baptists” to “Pentecostals,” or “Episcopalians,” “Methodists,” “Congregationalists,” or “Presbyterians” for the same effect.  And if I really did believe that Baptists were misguided and I wanted to deter others from becoming Baptists, I could utilize that tactic.  Playing word games doesn’t really prove anything.  The fact is, there are no perfect denominations, political parties, or social movements.  But there are lots of social activists making positive change in the world towards values that I believe are in line with God’s redemption work.  Christians can partner with environmentalists, humanitarians, economists, social workers, politicians, educators, health professionals, counselors, scientists, and even feminists, in the work of redeeming God’s creation to it’s pre-curse state.  A feminist, atheist, Democrat, you-fill-in-the-blank is a person created in God’s image and loved dearly by God…I personally couldn’t call any imago Dei “devoid of God.”  There is common grace among all of humankind.   And has the Bible already solved all of the world’s problems and restored us to God’s design and will for humanity?  Clearly there is much work to be done, and Christ has given us that work to do.  Do I agree on all issues that all feminists tout?  No.  Do I agree that patriarchy is from the curse and has no place in Christ’s redeemed Kingdom?  Yes.

Among many conservative Christians, the word “feminist” is spit out with disdain and horror.  Feminists are accused by conservative pundits and pastors of  ruining our country with their liberal agendas.  They are compared to militants who see their gender as superior – “feminazis.”  I am not familiar with the categorizations that Kristen uses to describe feminists.  Her primary attention goes to addressing “equality feminists” though, so that is what I would like to respond to.

Like Kristen, I was a complementarian for nearly thirty years.  I respected the same theologians and teachings that she points to in her writings.  I won’t go into detail about my change to egalitarianism, as I already posted that story here.  In short, it was at God’s prompting that I began reading about women in ministry and egalitarian theology, and I became convinced that the complementarian theology of gender roles was wrong.

I didn’t come to feminism through a desire to usurp the authority of men.  I came to egalitarianism (I believe through God’s direction) and some of my conservative Christian friends began cautioning me about the slippery slope that I was on, and began jokingly referring to me as a feminist.  Not because I was arguing for abortion rights or burning my bras, but because I was asking questions about gender roles in the Church.  “Feminist” is a slur in the context of my upbringing.  Looking back, I understand that this negative response can be a powerful deterrent to keep group members from challenging the status quo of patriarchy.  It didn’t take me long to adopt the title feminist, as I couldn’t shake it and I was becoming more and more impassioned to see change in the world for women who are marginalized and abused by systems of patriarchy.

Kristen Clark’s term, equality feminism, sounds to me like a euphemism for egalitarianism.  I believe she is using this term, which is considered deviant in conservative Christian circles, to paint egalitarianism in sinister terms.

povertyI began to see that “fighting theological battles” (i.e. blogging) like egalitarianism vs. complementarianism is critical to liberating women and girls around the world who suffer the most from the systems of patriarchy and poverty and war, etc.  Becky and I share articles every day on our FB page detailing the horrors and injustices of the world’s most vulnerable inhabitants.  If it is feminist to care about these issues, then yes, I’m a feminist.  For important reference points on gender issues around the world, here are two excellent articles:

We need feminism – Rachel Held Evans
Christian Compassion or Complicity: The Abuse and Gendercide of God’s Daughters – Dr. Mimi Haddad

e4c2e61dc0186b4ebe317ab0bcc67f33And in thinking about the roots of feminism, which Kristen Clark says are devoid of God, it is a fact that many of the earliest feminists were Christians who were trying to improve the lives of impoverished, disenfranchised, suffering women and children of their day.  The blog Making a Track, by Rev. Jonathan Inkpin, celebrates the lives of early Christian feminists and is an excellent resource for learning about inspiring Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.

I am going to leave off with a comment that I found under Kristen Clark’s article from a wonderful Beautiful Kingdom Warrior who took the time to advise her Christian sisters in the better way, skipping right over the references to feminism (i.e. egalitarianism?) and getting to the heart of the matter–gender roles:

I too used to believe in the headship/submission form of marriage. But now, in my 50’s, I have changed my view. Please understand- I am in love with Jesus more than ever before, am pro-life, am a pastor’s wife, home school mom, been married to the same man for 27 years, teach Sunday school, and lead worship at our church. But I now believe that God created husbands and wives as equals, friends and co-heirs in the promises. After counseling many women who were verbally and sometimes physically abused by their Christian husbands, I studied the verses that cause so much pain. What I learned is this:

1) Eve was Adam’s helper, but this didn’t mean servant or maid. We don’t see Eve helping Adam by washing his clothes or cleaning his house; she was created to help Adam rule the world. As woman, she was given equal status as part of “mankind.” She had equal responsibilities and equal blessings. It appears that as salt is to pepper, peanut butter is to jelly, Eve was Adam’s Helper in that she helped to complete the set: man + woman = mankind. This was God’s beautiful, original design for husbands and wives.

2) At the fall, Eve was cursed, with all women, to be ruled by her husband. Ever since the curse, in nearly every society, women have been ruled by men. In some cultures, women are the legal property of their husbands and can be abused, sold, or even killed.

3) In the Old Testament, slavery is always mentioned as a curse, never part of the blessings for God’s people.

3) Jesus broke that curse, along with every other curse, at the cross. Christian women are now free- co heirs with men once again to enjoy all the blessings and promises of God.

4) In 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Paul has many rules for women.  They are told to keep silent in church, wear head coverings or wear long
hair, and never teach a man. Paul says women “are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.” But why would Paul, who in Galatians says
that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law,” and now “there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus,” and “if you are led
by the Spirit, you are not under the law,” now put women (half the church) under the law? I think Paul was trying to jolt these churches back into grace. This
makes sense considering how in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul tells the people that he can’t talk to them as Spirit filled believers; because of their carnal
behavior, he must speak to them as people still under the law.

5) In Philippians 4 and Romans 16, Paul mentions many women who were ministers, deacons, teachers, laborers, co-prisoners and co-workers for the Lord! These women were anything but silent. It seems these women broke the rules of 1 Corinthians and Paul was very happy for it! Why? Because they lived in grace, not legalism. Remember, the law kills but the Spirit gives life! It is for freedom that Christ set you free, do not be burdened again with the yoke of slavery!!

6) When Paul tells wives to submit, he tells husbands to love (agape) their wives. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that agape love is patient, kind, and doesn’t demand its own way. This is, of course, the very heart of submission. So, in reality, Paul is telling husbands and wives not to demand their own way… submit to the desires of the other, just like Christians are supposed to act with all people at all times.

7) The husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church… How is Christ our head? Is He demanding or patient? Is He angry or loving? As Christ gave us the example of how to agape love, husbands are to usher this kind of love into the marriage. They are the heads in that they are to be the model of agape love for their families. Nabal was “head” by being an angry, demanding
tyrant that no one could reason with (1 Samuel 25). Clearly God was not pleased with Nabal’s behavior!

Solomon, however, was “head” by not being demanding…. When his wife was tired and turned him away one night, Solomon didn’t throw a tantrum and demand his own way, he quietly turned and left. King Lemuel, husband to the Proverbs 31 woman, also ushered this Godly love into his marriage. His wife was an intelligent woman who pursued many interests during her lifetime. Lemuel gave her the freedom, one fellow human to another, to follow her creative desires. He was “head” by being respectful to her, considerate of her needs, and proud of her talents. She, in return, loved him dearly and did him no harm all the days of his life.

My advice to Christian women is to marry a man who will be a friend, not a ruler.

 Amen.

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