Does Anyone Need to Recover from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood? A Review of Aimee Byrd’s “Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”

"Here’s my attempt to paraphrase [Byrd's] basic argument: So-called 'biblical manhood and womanhood'—especially as John Piper and Wayne Grudem teach it—uses traditional patriarchal structures to oppress women. Byrd argues that “biblical manhood and womanhood” is not all biblical. A lot of it is unbiblical. A lot of it is based on cultural stereotypes that wrongly restrict women and thus prevent them from flourishing." - CBMW

(Amy's reply at Ref21)

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Bert Perry's picture

Naselli is working from what I'd call a much sounder Bibliology than does Byrd in that he's really working from the depth and breadth of the Biblical argument, as do Piper and Grudem.  One can point to certain uses of the word for "apostle", "deacon", and the like to support women in ministry and in authority, and the general response ought to be "yes, but consider that these words were common words with non-church-related meanings, and there is a wealth of evidence that suggests that what's going on is not merely cultural".  

It's a good illustration--the book and its defenders and detractors--of the importance of engaging one's opponents' best arguments (no straw men, please) and noting things in as much context as possible, Biblically speaking.  Along the same lines, I don't agree with everything AIG has done, but they also at least attempt to proceed from a more "systematic/Biblical/OT/NT theology" instead of a prooftexting argument.

One side note is that as we move along, I'm becoming more and more persuaded that if we continue to offer prooftexting arguments in any number of areas, we are simply training ourselves to lose the big theological arguments, because we're simply not engaging the best arguments.  Kudos to Mr. Naselli for illustrating this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul Henebury's picture

I have had my concerns about Aimee Byrd for some time, and her latest book does nothing to alleviate the problem.  She has grown more strident in her opinions and I see red flags.  Her excuses for not interacting with the key passages in e.g. 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Cor. 11 are unconvincing in view of her book title.  It will be intersting to see where her present momentum takes her. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

Yes Josh, that thread is spot on.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

T Howard's picture

Here's the link to Naselli's review on his blog.

I agree that Naselli's review was strong, well reasoned, and well argued. After reading Aimee's response, specifically her last paragraph, I wondered why she even wrote her book to begin with.

Quote:
This is the most important point: I am learning and still learning. My book certainly isn’t without need of improvement and it is a meager contribution to a growing concern in the church...

Paul Henebury's picture

Tom,

Indeed.  My gut feeling is that she has an agenda. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

dmyers's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

Her excuses for not interacting with the key passages in e.g. 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Cor. 11 are unconvincing in view of her book title. 

I had the same thought.  She titles her book as a direct challenge to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but when critiqued for not actually addressing the core arguments of that book, her response is, "Well, that's not what I was trying to do."  Huh?

In her favor as an author advancing an argument, her response to Naselli's review (while still glaringly inadequate) isn't as whiny and emotional as her response to critiques of her previous book on male/female friendships.  Back then, her response was basically, "Those mean men are picking on me."

I am surprised every time it's mentioned that she's in the OPC.  Her agenda is more in line with Beth Moore and others on the egalitarian side of the SBC, which is by definition a bigger, looser tent.  If I were in her OPC church or presbytery, I'd be strongly suggesting she change denominations.  And, I can't help it, I feel sorry for her husband.

Andrew K's picture

Aimee Byrd had some great thoughts in Housewife Theologian.

She really should have stopped with her success there, however; she strikes me as a one-book author. (No offense intended, since I'm a "no-book" author. Wink )

I have no problem reading and learning from different perspectives--and hers isn't even that different from mine--but she doesn't have much interest or depth to contribute to what seems to be her pet issues.

She clearly wants to shake up the conservative, evangelical church. But she ends up becoming just one more voice among many, with little of significance to share, neither from the Bible, nor from profound or careful thought. Not even from a particularly interesting or compelling point of view.

Ultimately, Aimee is a smart, talented individual, but without much to add to this conversation beyond a good reading list.

josh p's picture

Read her response and this paragraph reinforces my opinion that way too much is made out of the idea of the church being Christ’s bride. I see a lot of this kind of thing in, primarily, reformed camps and I believe it’s dangerous. This is pure isogesis and I believe nonsense.

“Instead of creating man and woman at the same time, God creates woman from man, not from the dirt, and he creates her second. What is significant about this? She is the crown of creation. She is not from the dirt, but an eschatological marker. When Adam sees woman, he sees his telos, what he is to become---part of the collective bride of Christ in union with her Groom. In creation, we see in woman a typology of the church, flowing from Christ’s side. Our distinctions are not only biological, but typological. As Christopher West put it in the title of his book, our bodies tell God’s story.”

Paul Henebury's picture

josh p wrote:

Read her response and this paragraph reinforces my opinion that way too much is made out of the idea of the church being Christ’s bride. I see a lot of this kind of thing in, primarily, reformed camps and I believe it’s dangerous. This is pure isogesis and I believe nonsense.

“Instead of creating man and woman at the same time, God creates woman from man, not from the dirt, and he creates her second. What is significant about this? She is the crown of creation. She is not from the dirt, but an eschatological marker. When Adam sees woman, he sees his telos, what he is to become---part of the collective bride of Christ in union with her Groom. In creation, we see in woman a typology of the church, flowing from Christ’s side. Our distinctions are not only biological, but typological. As Christopher West put it in the title of his book, our bodies tell God’s story.”

 

What a load of bunk!  It verges on Catholic mysticism. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Andrew K's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

 

josh p wrote:

 

Read her response and this paragraph reinforces my opinion that way too much is made out of the idea of the church being Christ’s bride. I see a lot of this kind of thing in, primarily, reformed camps and I believe it’s dangerous. This is pure isogesis and I believe nonsense.

“Instead of creating man and woman at the same time, God creates woman from man, not from the dirt, and he creates her second. What is significant about this? She is the crown of creation. She is not from the dirt, but an eschatological marker. When Adam sees woman, he sees his telos, what he is to become---part of the collective bride of Christ in union with her Groom. In creation, we see in woman a typology of the church, flowing from Christ’s side. Our distinctions are not only biological, but typological. As Christopher West put it in the title of his book, our bodies tell God’s story.”

 

 

 

What a load of bunk!  It verges on Catholic mysticism. 

From Byrd's Ref21 response:

"I also interact with and have learned from Roman Catholics on this matter. It doesn’t mean I am an egalitarian or a Roman Catholic. I think it’s important to have meaningful discussions across these aisles."

Bert Perry's picture

....doesn't the fact that Jesus happens to be "God" kinda put the kibosh on an egalitarian position?   And if Byrd is proceeding from a Catholic position, um, I'm having trouble thinking of a more "patriarchal" system than the one where the clergy are called "Father".  

Not bothered at all that Byrd may have an "agenda".  Don't we all?  (cue Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in "White Christmas" arguing over whether the sisters have an "angle".  The most biased people I've ever met are those who pretend not to have one.) 

What bothers me is that she apparently isn't seeing (or at least confronting) the strongest arguments of those with whom she disagrees, and for that matter, she doesn't seem to see obvious conclusions of her own logic, and the utter desolation the model she chooses would wreak in all of theology.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul Henebury's picture

But by saying I think Byrd has an agenda I mean that she is not being quite honest with what's driving her.  I think she omits or fails to interact with material deliberately because she is driving at a certain (partially masked) issue.

In that sense I don't think we all have an agenda.  We all have a bias, but that is not the same thing. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Jay's picture

This thread has been interesting to read.  Is anyone actually planning on reading Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or are you all too busy looking for suspicions and "evidence" to confirm what you've already decided about her "agenda"?

Proverbs 18:17 would seem to apply here. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Andrew K's picture

Jay wrote:

This thread has been interesting to read.  Is anyone actually planning on reading Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or are you all too busy looking for suspicions and "evidence" to confirm what you've already decided about her "agenda"?

Proverbs 18:17 would seem to apply here. 

I can't speak for others on the thread, Jay; and I wouldn't personally vouch for any agenda on her part (other than a vague, squishy, conservative-feminist sort). I'm also not certain you are even addressing me.

But to speak my own defense for my opinion above, if reading her first two books (the second of which was on a similar topic to this one), following her blog posts, and listening to her weekly on the MOS podcast (without missing a download) for the past 5 years isn't enough to give a pretty good sense of the contents of her latest book, I'll give you my favorite n95 respirator mask.

I would be curious to hear your feedback after you read it, though. Please post to SI when you do.

*Edit* Ooh, just saw the latest MOS is more response from her to book criticisms. I'll have a listen shortly.

Bert Perry's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

But by saying I think Byrd has an agenda I mean that she is not being quite honest with what's driving her.  I think she omits or fails to interact with material deliberately because she is driving at a certain (partially masked) issue.

In that sense I don't think we all have an agenda.  We all have a bias, but that is not the same thing. 

No doubt, but what is our hidden agenda when we say that someone (say Ms. Byrd) has one?  Why do we say that?  In my experience, it's generally because we want to dismiss someone's ideas without addressing them.  

In this case, the axe she has to grind is clear--she did after all title her book indicating a "recovery" from "Biblical manhood and womanhood" (ie. complementarianism), and really logically speaking, the only way she can go is to some degree of egalitarianism or even matriarchy, no?  So instead of "she has an agenda", we might instead smile and say "don't be so coy, Aimee--we have an idea about what you're about, out with it."--and then approach her argument.  It's actually easier, as we can simply say "the evidence for a complementarian position is pretty pervasive in Scripture, as is documented by Piper and Grudem and others, and her argument simply does not acknowledge that, and the evidence she presents falls short because of this."  More or less, you want to engage the argument, let's engage it.

(I read Grudem's work about ten years back, per Jay's comment....I am sure that if I re-read it, I would find things I would agree with and things with which I totally disagree, but going back a bit further, I remember going through the breadth/depth of Scripture for myself when confronted with Ephesians, and the very image of courtship and marriage that Byrd mentions is one of the most pervasive arguments against her position,  IMO--the Prophets love it)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

“Confirmation Bias” is thrown around a lot these days but this isn’t an example of it. Just to clarify: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-confirmation-bias-2795024

Everyone here is apparently familiar with Mrs. Byrd’s work from their own reading and seem to be substantially familiar with her positions. My comment for example was more about her misuse of the creation account in her response to Naselli (which I read) and less about her views on women. I too have listened to at least 100 MOS podcasts although not as much recently. This is a forum for the discussion of the Christian life from the perspective of fundamentalism so it’s natural that most here would take a certain position on some things and discuss it from the same position. If an article comes out about the Pope for example and most of the comments here are negative, that’s not confirmation bias.

Jay's picture

But to speak my own defense for my opinion above, if reading her first two books (the second of which was on a similar topic to this one), following her blog posts, and listening to her weekly on the MOS podcast (without missing a download) for the past 5 years isn't enough to give a pretty good sense of the contents of her latest book, I'll give you my favorite n95 respirator mask.

Fair enough - I've listened to MoS for a while but haven't read her other books.

I would be curious to hear your feedback after you read it, though. Please post to SI when you do.

My copy of her book arrives Thursday.  I've skimmed Naselli's review and noted a couple of issues with it already that I commented about on Twitter.  Once I read both, I'll post some thoughts...listening to the MoS podcast now.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

This thread has been interesting to read.  Is anyone actually planning on reading Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or are you all too busy looking for suspicions and "evidence" to confirm what you've already decided about her "agenda"?

Uh... I read that one years and years ago. Have you?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Uh, yeah.  I bought it in the '90s while at a conference I attended.  It's sitting on a bookshelf about 10' from my desk.  Want a photo with the highlighted pages as proof? 

I can also probably find the notes from when Jim Berg used it for CIT training at the Wilds as well, if you're worried about it that much.  I have to admit that I don't really refer to those too much since we used some of the material at NBBC as well, and then used it a third time at BJU when I went back for my Master's Degree.

You know what I meant.  Come on, man.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

T Howard's picture

I haven't read any of Aimee's books and very few of her blog posts. My reaction is based on reading Andy's review and her response.

Regardless of author or topic, when someone provides a thorough and robust review of your book and the best you can say is...

Quote:
This is the most important point: I am learning and still learning. My book certainly isn’t without need of improvement and it is a meager contribution to...

... then you shouldn't have published your book without doing your homework first. From Andy's review and Aimee's response, she concedes Andy's assertion that her book doesn't add anything substantial to the conversation about complementarianism. Instead, her book is just Aimee voicing her opinion that Piper / Grudem's version of complementarianism is bad because some Catholics and egalitarians say so.

 

Paul Henebury's picture

So Bert is bent on correcting my use of terms.  I obviously have an agenda because, well, Bert believes everyone has an agenda.  The magisterium that is Bert's experience concludes that by expressing my "gut feeling" which is based on "my concerns about Aimee Byrd for some time," I am among those who accuse others of having an agenda owing to the fact (ascertained through Bert's rigorous logic) that I "want to dismiss someone's ideas without addressing them." 

Please excuse me for feeling somewhat insulted for offering my opinion, which, as with others, is founded upon years of reading Mrs Byrd's blogs, listening to MoS regularly (until I got tired of Aimee's stridency), and her book promo video and reading reviews and her responses to them (Naselli notices how swiftly she replied to his).  This should allay Jay's concerns a bit.  As for dismissing her ideas without addressing them, well, I might point out that I have a pretty decent track record of addressing ideas and backing up my assertions.  I have had very many articles and reviews published at SI, plus comments where I do just that.  Bert prefers to reserve his opinions to the comments section. I was simply giving my opinion, which was stated tentatively.    

As an example of dismissing someone's ideas without addressing them we need look no further than Bert.  He wants to correct me with his experience, not with objective proof.  He opines condescendingly, "So instead of "she has an agenda", we might instead smile and say "don't be so coy, Aimee--we have an idea about what you're about, out with it."--and then approach her argument."  He will forgive me if I choose to express myself in different words.

Bert obviously doesn't think he ought to practice what he preaches because he states, "logically speaking, the only way she can go is to some degree of egalitarianism or even matriarchy, no?"  Did he read Aimee's response?  Where is his proof of that assertion other than his gut feeling?  And what is it based on?  Years of reading and listening to Aimee Byrd (like yours truly)?  We don't know.  He doesn't "approach her argument."   

I think I ought to be able to state my suspicions in this forum without fear of the thought police swooping in to tell me "you have an agenda and you won't admit it because you want to dismiss Aimee Byrd's ideas without addressing them."  Really?  If Bert wants to convince me that I  have an agenda (apparently along with everyone else), let him actually prove it instead of considering his experience a sufficient authority.      

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

Jay wrote:

Uh, yeah.  I bought it in the '90s while at a conference I attended.  It's sitting on a bookshelf about 10' from my desk.  Want a photo with the highlighted pages as proof? 

I can also probably find the notes from when Jim Berg used it for CIT training at the Wilds as well, if you're worried about it that much.  I have to admit that I don't really refer to those too much since we used some of the material at NBBC as well, and then used it a third time at BJU when I went back for my Master's Degree.

You know what I meant.  Come on, man.  

I knew what you meant.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I used to listen to MoS fairly regularly until Aimee became a regular co-host. I have nothing against her. I just don't feel she has anything insightful to offer, and I don't like listening to her.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Paul Henebury's picture

" I have nothing against her." 

You must have an agenda.  Wink

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

 

You know what I meant.  Come on, man.  

of course. I just thought it was funny in a very ironic way. 
 

your humourless reaction says something, though. 
 

maybe you have an agenda?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3