Category Archives: Book Notes

Beyond Authority and Submission–answer to critics

I endorsed this book by Rachel Green Miller and would do so again. I am not so sure that anyone cares about that. But it is a great book and it should be engaged slowly and thoughtfully.

Unfortunately. she has received an avalanche of ugly, hasty and unthoughful pushback from those who claim the name of Christ. The hatred shown on social media reminds me of the Heidelberg Catechism QA 5  “…I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.”

The dogma of Total Depravity is alive and well in Reformed circles when it comes to engaging with intelligent women.

But that really isn’t the point of this post, though I did want to mention it and caution those who claim the name of Christ.

The purpose of this post is as a bookmark and a reference to point you to three brilliant responses to one reviewer, Mark Jones.

I know that many will dismiss these voices because of their sex, but I would caution you not to do that. Remember that the disciples first thought that the women were just joking and were rebuked by Christ for not believing them.

I will not add a “man’s voice” here because these women are perfectly capable and able to slay this dragon.

First, here is Aimee Byrd:

As Mark is perplexed as to why Rachel didn’t get into theological anthropology or doesn’t address certain passages, so too I am perplexed that he doesn’t really even engage with the main thrust of her book, as if it may all be dismissed by her inferiority. In fact, he uses the title of her book as an insult, as if the whole idea of looking at the relationship of men and women beyond the categories of authority and submission is an ontological error that is in opposition to all of church history.

Second, here is Kerry Baldwin:

There is a continual problem in these discussions and unfortunately Jones is not immune from making them either. It’s all too common for Complementarian/Patriarchalist advocates to misapply feminism as a counter argument when feminism isn’t being argued for. Jones’ review illustrates this problem precisely. He opens with two terms: “radical feminism” and “toxic masculinity.” Why?

And finally (in the order that I read them, not in order of priority) here is Dr Valerie Hobbs:

The issue I take with Mark Jones, beyond his (quite frankly) arrogant writing style is that he does not grasp just how thoroughly Biblical Rachel is encouraging us to think. In this sense, his attempt at scholarly engagement is poor.

That’s it. These writers are thoughtful, biblical, confessional, and should be heard. Not because they are women, not in spite of the fact they are women, but because they are right.

Before you dismiss them, prayerfully and humbly consider what they have to say.

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Beyond Authority and Submission

Rachel Green Miller has written a remarkable book. But learning new things is scary.

The Heidelberg Catechism asks concerning God’s law, “Can you keep all this perfectly?” And the answer is, “No. For I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.” (Q&A 5)

We inherited a certain way of looking at the world. It is a way based on hatred, rather than love. It is a way of control and power rather than mutual respect and deference. It sees the world through a lens that taints everything. It always asks, “What’s in it for me?”

It is a mindset that sees in others only potential enemies, or potential tools to be used

It cannot see beauty, for it is trained to see fault.

It cannot see love, for it is trained only in the language of authority and submission. The world is made up of slaves and masters.

We think this way automatically. Husbands, like the Pharisees of old, fear “losing their place and their nation” (John 11:48) if the women aren’t kept under tight control.

Like Ahasueras, Vashti must be taught a lesson or all wives will rebel. Society will collapse.

And the fear of losing “our place and our nation” has taken Christianity and wrapped it in layer after layer of hedges and traditions; an entire movement of added rules and regulations concerning men and women and family and society. And it is all based upon our natural distrust and suspicion of one another.

Is “hatred” too hard of a word to use? I will leave that to the reader to decide, but a quick glance at the twitter-sphere towards anyone who might agree with Miller’s book reveals an ugliness that should never been seen in the church. We’ve been taken over by bullies, boors, and cretins, who will stop at nothing to protect “their place and their nation.” These are the teachers of the law, who know nothing and enforce that nothing through trolling and bullying.

But our natural way of viewing things must be conformed to scripture. We naturally twist the scripture to fit our own views and this must be turned the other way around. We must conform our thoughts to God’s thoughts. Ahasueras must repent and start agreeing with God, “Husbands, love your wives.”

And this change is hard. We change our thinking by the power of the Holy Spirit – from the inside out. And sometimes we do it kicking and screaming, through much fear and trembling. But if we do not learn from Christ, we are none of his. We can either guard our self-delusions and protect our societal biases, or we can follow Christ and conform our thoughts to his. There is no middle ground. There is no treaty we can sign. We surrender our thoughts to his, or we perish.

Miller has undertaken a monstrous task. She writes, “We have ended up with layers of unbiblical and extrabiblical beliefs that obscure and cover up the beauty of what the Bible actually teaches about men and women.” (Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, pg. 257).

With the meticulous art of a careful scholar, she respectfully and honestly documents layer after layer after layer of these beliefs and teachings, and then she compares each layer to scripture, calling us all to repent of our false beliefs and conform our thoughts to God’s thoughts.

And we will either repent of our false beliefs and know the beautiful, glorious, freedom of the gospel; or we will continue to live in hatred, distrust and anger, continually fearing that we will lose our place and our nation.

I would urge you all to get this book. If you were raised in conservative circles, it will make you very, very uncomfortable. If you were raised in more liberal circles, it will make you very uncomfortable.

Because the truth is this. We are prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor. Even when we become Christians, we have a whole ugly suit of armor that we were born with. We resist the truth, we fight for those things we are comfortable with, and we hate, I mean we REALLY REALLY HATE to examine whether or not what we were taught from youth is actually true.

But if we don’t change, the only alternative is to stay the same, and that we cannot do.

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Reading notes and a remarkable book…

I am doing something quite rare for me. I am reading slowly! I am reading through Why Can’t We Be Friends (Aimee Byrd) and I am actually taking my time through it. It is really quite remarkable. Normally, it takes me a few hours to read through a book, but I find myself reading one or two sections at a time and thinking deeply about it.

Here are some things I would like to say. If you do not understand the relationship between faith and works, read this book.

If you do not understand what purity is, read this book.

If you are unclear about the gospel, read this book.

Aimee has done something very rare here. She has written a book about the relationships between men and women and has applied the Reformed Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and our sanctification to the relationship of the sexes. I have never seen anyone do that before.

Every other book I’ve read is EITHER about sanctification, OR it is about the rules on how to keep yourself pure through the law – but to connect purity with the GOSPEL?? and the work of the HOLY SPIRIT??

It is almost like she knows something about theology and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit!

You can tell she is on the right track because modern Pharisees are apparently ready to string her up for it. When the gospel is taught, the Judaizers always light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks.

But she is absolutely right. Our purity is in our relationship with God, not in outward, extra biblical rules. In fact, the extra biblical rules, like the Billy Graham rule, simply give the appearance of purity without dealing with the more difficult problem of the heart. The gospel goes to the heart.

At any rate, I haven’t finished yet. I am still thinking through her brilliant chapter on purity, and thinking about what Jesus said,

“Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Matt. 23:26 NAB)

Go buy this book. Read it slowly, and then read it again.

By the way, this isn’t a book review. I haven’t written one of those since college and don’t even remember how. I said that I would never write one again, and I have kept my promise to myself. This is simply a note of my thoughts so far and my recommendation to you.

Fabulous book, so far. (If she gets goofy towards the end, I’ll let you know – but I’m not expecting her to).

Thank you, Aimee, for writing it.

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