Thoughts on “Recovering from …”

Some books I skim. They’re pretty good. Other books, the really good ones, cause you to put it down for a while and think.

This is the best recommendation I can give for “Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”, by Aimee Byrd. Of course, many are already so fixated on male and female roles that they won’t actually read the book, and this will be a huge mistake. Before you critique, digest it. Roll the ideas around the mind. Like a good wine, slurp it, slosh it around the tongue and think about it.

That way, if you do wish to critique, at least you will sound intelligent while you do so and not just a ranting puppet of the establishment.

So, that being said, there is one thing unique about the book. I don’t know what I feel about it. There are several repeating metaphors – one is explained in the introduction. If you don’t read the introduction, you won’t understand most of her references to yellow wallpaper, peeling it back, and other references to a rather obscure 19th century novel. It is a great metaphor and illustrates what she is saying quite effectively.

Another metaphor is found on page 133. As a pastor, I learned many years ago about the perils of using your children as examples, especially if you have not given them the previous veto right. So my first thought, when reading it, was “Oh, I really hope Solanna knew she was going to be in her mom’s book!!”

But that thought quickly passed. I am sure (!) that permission was granted and veto privileges allowed. That story is central to the metaphor of that chapter. Her point is a good one and the illustration holds up.

The reason that I am not sure about my feelings on it, is that it makes it rather difficult to pull out quotable material. There is so much that I would like to quote and to discuss, but in the middle there is an odd reference to wall paper or pizza or taking it out of the oven – which is illustrative and apt – but doesn’t translate into a quotable book.

But that is a quibble. There is so much that I would like to discuss about the book!

Back to my thought at the beginning, before I got sidetracked by wallpaper or pizza (you see how difficult it is??). There is a section (among many) that caused me to put the book down and follow the rabbit trail of my own experiences. Here’s a quote:

Disciples of Christ are initiated into a covenant family. We are baptized within the covenant community of our church, and this marks the church’s responsibility to teach us – not some – but all Christ commanded. It also marks our responsibility to learn as disciples (p162)

She is exactly right, and I love her chapter on discipleship and what it is. Reformed and Presbyterian churches have emphasized the teaching ministry of the church since their inception. Calvin preached 5 times on Sunday and throughout the week to hungry parishioners, according to some historians.

Christ teaches it clearly in the Great Commission:

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

Byrd is on point and it really got me thinking in this excellent chapter. First of all, about pizza – and secondly, about the nature of the teaching ministry of the church.

There are pockets of people in my extended community who have bought the teaching of the extreme patriarchal teachers. These teachings almost always come with heavy doses of theonomy, reconstructionism, dominionism, and separationism. One aspect of what they believe is that Sunday school classes for kids and membership classes for kids are unbiblical, since God gave that responsibility to the fathers. It is extremely attractive to controlling and abusive men, to have no accountability – even in the church.

In our congregation, our tradition is to do what is called “confirmation”, where I as the pastor spend several years with pre-teen and teenage baptized children and teach them catechism, bible history, theology proper, and just talk about everything on their minds.

These patriarchal types have argued with me about that frequently. There is a movement called “Family Integrated Worship” that teaches that the father is the covenant head, and therefore responsible to teach, to open and close the Lord’s Table, and lead worship. Effectively, it bypasses the church in favor of the family. One man hesitated when I mentioned catechism class, and finally reluctantly agreed, but only if he could participate. It didn’t last long.

One of the most dangerous things about it is that it sounds almost right – until you peel away the wallpaper. It is true that the father and mother have the responsibility to teach their children (Deut. 6) and to bring them to worship, fulfilling their baptismal vows.

But Byrd’s point is an excellent one. According to the great commission, the responsibility to disciple and teach is given to the church. Parents receive that authority as members of the church and are to carry out their duties to their children as members of Christ, not as tiny little popes. But the Great Commission was given to the church, not the heads of families.

The same is true of the sacraments and the ministry of the word. The apostles were NOT chosen because of their status as heads of families. In fact, their marital status and amount of children they had is not mentioned at all. The last genealogy in scripture ends with Christ, which speaks volumes.

Ideally, the pastor, elders and parents all work together. The church making disciples of Christ and teaching them everything that Christ teaches us; the parents bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The goal of the discipling of the church is that we all grow together, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13)

In the context, God has given the church its officers (pastor – teachers being one) and has given them their commission. Teach. Teach and teach some more. Make disciples of Christ.

To a certain extent, God has given this ministry to the whole Church. As members of Christ, we are all “prophets” and called to rightly confess his name. But the commission to make disciples is given to the church.

This is a forgotten doctrine that needs to be recovered today.

And, of course, the church is not to teach whatever comes into their heads. They are to make disciples of Christ, not disciples of men. We use a catechism that goes back 500 years and has been used by churches all over the world.

We don’t create new doctrine, we teach the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” – but that is another blog.

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