Questions for Aimee
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has always been an alliance. In other words, we have always united, but we have had our differences – often on serious matters. We have also always insisted on being confessional. Every regular ACE contributor has been required to adhere to one of the historic reformed confessions. This is a significant part of our mission, but it also, from time to time, has led to disagreement. After all, adhering to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith puts one at odds with adherents of the Westminster Confession of Faith on several major issues.
I mention this because in the past week or so one of our longtime contributors, Aimee Byrd, has had a book published. Aimee’s book is polemical. While she is a member of an OPC church and affirms the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith, her book has raised good questions among others who share her confessional convictions. In the book, she uses the early feminist image of the “yellow wallpaper” to illustrate ideas she believes are misguided and, more than that, are misguidedly governing many reformed congregations. In Aimee’s estimation, these ideas, like the “yellow wallpaper,” need to be “broken through”.
So along the lines of Aimee’s recent blog posts, I have listed some questions and concerns regarding her book. I did not formulate these entirely on my own. Some are from readers who did not feel comfortable raising these concerns publicly. Some of them are from men in ordained ministry. It is also worth noting that not all of these questions address the main points of the book, so this is not intended to substitute for fuller review.
Here are some of the questions:
- Is there such a thing as biblical masculinity and biblical femininity? In what sense are these different?
- What does natural law or natural theology teach us (if anything) about the inherent ontological differences between men and women as those differences relate to authority and submission? If so, how might that affect our understanding of male and female roles in the church and society (apart from the limited question of ordination)?
- Does the Bible use categories of creation and ontology in its guidelines about the roles of males and females (1 Cor 11; 1 Tim 2; 1 Pet 3; etc)? If so, how might this affect our understanding of what males and females should aspire to in their actions and roles?
- Since this book was intended to provoke fair discussion within the reformed community, does the “yellow wallpaper” motif serve this purpose well? It was initially used as a symbol of patriarchal abuse. In the story from which it is derived, the one who put up the paper was portrayed as needing to be killed. Isn’t this a bit inflammatory, given that the dialogue partners with whom you disagree are in good standing in reformed churches?
- Are you asserting (191-192) that women led and planted churches and had roles in those church plants which were not subordinate to men?
- Could you elaborate further on the “co-ed team of apostles” of which you write (p 227)?
- There are significant scholarly arguments against the idea that Junia was an apostle and that Phoebe was formally installed in church leadership. Did you engage with these, and, if so, what about them was unpersuasive?
- If Adam is called to submit to Eve (p 117), and if authority and submission are not the best categories for understanding the marriage relationship of Genesis 2, does this render the New Testament commands for wives to submit meaningless? To put it another way, if everyone in a family submits to everyone else (p 220), in what sense does the wife particularly submit to her husband (Col 3; Eph 5)?
- Given your consistent rebuttal of Biblicism in the book, what evidence or example in the mainstream historic tradition of the reformed church supports your conclusions about women teaching men in church settings?
Jonathan Master (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of theology and dean of the School of Divinity at Cairn University. He will will assume the presidency of Greenville Seminary in July of 2020. Dr. Master also serves as the Alliance's editorial director, as well as co-host of the Theology on the Go podcast.
Mortification of Spin: Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
"Response to Andy Naselli" by Aimee Byrd