There is no shortage of books being written on women’s roles, women in leadership, and women in marriage. With a witty and provocative title, Aimee Byrd has come out with a great release titled Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, which is in part a response to the popular Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response To Evangelical Feminism (edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem). Here’s what I appreciate about this newest release by Aimee Byrd.
A Commitment to Truth
Byrd wants Christians to recover a commitment to orthodoxy rather than giving it mere lip service. Be it the controversy over Jesus eternally submitting to the Father (which was conveniently swept under the rug; see here for info on the debate) or the way that many churches view robust discipleship as a male endeavor, Byrd wants to go where the text leads even if that does not win her any friends. There is a view within evangelicalism that views masculinity as synonymous with assertiveness, and femininity as synonymous with timidity and quietness. Byrd is simply questioning if this is in fact what God envisions for his people or if culture (albeit a part of culture that is fading) has paved the way for this understanding.
More than a book on women, this is a book about discipleship and recovering Christ’s vision of what it means to follow him in community (both men and women together). Byrd’s passion for Christ and following him jumps off of every page. The author is dissatisfied and concerned with the ways that we can go well beyond the text and have two kinds of discipleship: male discipleship and female discipleship. Why compartmentalize or segregate discipleship?
Recently I came across a video in which Phil Johnson, right-hand-man to celebrity pastor John MacArthur, talked about what he perceived to be biblical masculinity.
Johnson said that men are to look to Christ to see what it means to be a man. Christ was courageous, steadfast, and uncompromising, and those traits are what masculinity is really all about. My question is this: what about women disciples? When they look to Christ, what are they to emulate? His courage, steadfastness, and refusal to compromise? Or would this simply make the women too masculine and usurp male authority? Are Jesus’ virtues to apply to men only, or apply mostly to men?
What if Jesus’ vision was that men and women alike would look to him for their virtues, to find meaning, purpose, and direction? Aren’t women to look at Christ and what he stood for and emulate him? Or are men to look intently at Christ’s character while women stand far off? After all, courageous women might fly in the face of the one-dimensional femininity that they are supposedly called to. I affirm, as does Bird, that there are differences between men and women, but let’s not make a bigger deal about this than Scripture does.
Is discipleship primarily a male thing? No. Women and men should look to Christ, and they should also journey together in becoming more like Christ. In the wake of mass-confusion about men’s and women’s roles, as well as the nature of discipleship in general, Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood is a timely reminder to look to Christ in all things and to count the cost. More than any commitments to an institution, Christ alone is to remain our all in all. The truth is, many churches limit and discourage women from learning deeply, and if that’s not antithetical to Christ’s ministry, then I don’t know what is. I pray that this book will stir better dialogue between those of egalitarian leanings and those of complementarian ones—for the record, Byrd doesn’t identify with either camp.