Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

Denny Burk, the President of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, reviewed my book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology and posted it online. I’m not really sure how to respond. It’s a very negative review, aggressive even. And I really think Burk can do better than this. A basic element in a review, especially one published in a journal, is to accurately describe what the book is about. Burk never does this. This reads like an ad hominem against my honesty and motive in writing, claiming that I am opening a doorway for those who don’t like what they see in certain versions of complementarianism to exit. He says I use well presented, but bad arguments to lead a whole generation of dissatisfied people out who already were looking for the door. And since I have identified this “pre-made audience” I don’t even need to bother with things like good exegesis. He compares me to Rob Bell and Donald Miller, saying that like them, in the end I will be forgettable only after having left behind a vast number of sheep who were led astray by my writing, which is according to Burk, a briefly held way-station on the movement from narrow complementarianism to egalitarianism.

It is difficult to respond to so many misrepresentations in a review that doesn’t even discuss what the book is about or what my actual arguments are in it. But I will give it a go by trying to address Burk’s arguments. First, a brief reminder of what the book is actually about. As I said in another response: I wrote a book highlighting how a contemporary movement has damaged the way that we disciple men and women in the church, focusing on the way we read scripture, the way we view discipleship, and our responsibilities to one another. I wanted to offer an alternative resource that is faithful to Scripture. In it, I show how the creators of this movement have some seriously faulty structures—from unorthodox teaching on the trinity to Aristotelian views of sex—used to subjugate women.

Secret Agenda?

Burk states that a first read may look like I am presenting “a classic narrow complementarian position, but when you press into the details of Byrd’s argument, it looks like she may be going further than that.” First of all—I never identified myself as a narrow complementarian. I don’t even know what that means. So I am not trying to present as one. I am very clear about what my arguments are. But Burk basically tells the reader not to pay any attention to the words I am saying or arguments than I am making, but to look rather at whether I am quoting from any feminists or egalitarians in making them.* Burk does not engage with the actual arguments, as if egalitarians or feminists cannot be conversation partners. As if they never make any good points worth listening to. I think we need to read wider. I also quote extensively from Roman Catholics, but no one seems to be worried that I am secretly swimming the Tiber and taking a whole generation of “pre-made audience” with me. How come? And Burk leaves out that I quote from many complementarians as well, including Kent Hughes, G.K. Beale, Michael Morales, Scott Swain, Michael Allen, Michael Horton, Kelly Kapic, James Montgomery Boice, and more.

No one thought we had a secret agenda when Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and I interviewed a feminist on the Mortification of Spin whom we shared some views about sex with. No one thought Trueman had a secret agenda when writing positively about and later engaging in an interview with lesbian feminist Camille Paglia. Why not?

Misrepresenting My Work

Burk moves on to even stranger logic that no one should pay attention to my argument against CBMW’s Nashville Statement because I supposedly hold to the same position as Revoice. He says that I affirm “exclusive, contractual marriage-like friendships” and “support same-sex romantic behavior.” I don’t even know if he is representing Revoice correctly there, but NOWHERE do I even come close to teaching this. Burk quotes from page 172 of my book to say that I am “commending ‘intimate but non-erotic’ relationships as ‘a great hope for those who suffer with same-sex attraction.’” That’s his argument. Wow. On that page I am talking about how men and women have other ways to relate to one another than merely romantically or erotically, that “the church needs to speak more into how we were created for communion with the triune God,” and that we are to relate to one another as brothers and sisters, “platonic—intimate but nonerotic—relationships,” as a “witness against the sexual revolution and for promoting one another’s holiness.” I am talking about not over-sexualizing, and Burk does just that in his misrepresentation of my work. He makes it sexual. I am talking about covenant community, not exclusive, contractual marriage-like friendships. Give me a break.

Burk takes aim that I mention women as church planters, and I use the word “leaders.” We have Prisca (Rom. 16:3-5), Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (Philem. 1:2), and Lydia (Acts 16:40) all hosting churches in their homes. I ask, “What do we do with these women?” I am not suggesting that they are in authority over the church—why is there so much obsession with making sure I’m clear on who’s in charge? There are many forms of leadership. I do address the question of whether Lydia was leading the Philippian church plant, but do not come to the conclusion that Burk says I do—that she led the church until elders were put in place. Here is my actual writing:

Since Luke is the narrator of Acts, and he switches from the first to the third person narrative in describing Paul, Silas, and Timothy’s departure, it is likely he stayed behind. So it doesn’t look like Lydia, a new convert, was left on her own as a leader to care for the church. While it’s clear that Lydia was a strong ally to Paul in starting this church, her initiative to plant with him was accompanied by his teaching, as well as by the continued care and teaching of Luke. Surely Lydia was active as a disciple and in caring for the church that met in her home, but she was not left alone to lead the church. Additionally, we see Paul traveling back through Macedonia in Acts 20:1. And we see that by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, overseers and deacons were in place.

And, in light of my actual writing there, I’m certainly not implying that the women were being insubordinate. But I’m not sure what all the outrage means—that these women serving alongside the men were to continually wait on male directives for agency to serve? Lydia prevailed upon Paul, even as she certainly was respectful of his position as an Apostle.  Luke likely led the church for a while. But did the women have no agency under his authority? Are we to think these wealthy women, leaders of their households who hosted churches, just made the communion bread? Like I recently wrote about, here is an example of Paul using power TO rather than power OVER, which is what his authority is ultimately aiming for—equipping the saints under the work of the ministry to communicate and commune in God’s word together.

Yes, I do say that prostatis, how Paul describes Phoebe, “almost always refers to a position of authority.” I show that with Scripture. But I balance that out, stating that her benefaction as a patron to Paul is mitigated by her role as an emissary (deacon) for Paul and the church of Cenchrae. It’s not an asymmetrical relationship. There’s a lot of beautiful reciprocity going on in those verses which I describe more in the book.

Burk, and many other complementarians, will disagree with what I see as the plain reading of the text about Junia as outstanding among the apostles—not one of the twelve “big A” Apostles, but as the other “small a” apostles in Scripture, Junia and Andronicus must have been eyewitnesses of Jesus who received direct commission from him. I talk about how we might consider how they are outstanding among those commissioned by Jesus, giving testimony to his life, his lordship, and his gospel in planting churches. I briefly address what Burk calls the “thorough debunking by complementarian scholars” of this position in the book. Even so, big whoop if we disagree on this. Good scholars who uphold the authority of Scripture do not agree on this.

Burk claims, with a page number, that I say women should be teaching and admonishing elders, that I show no concern for submission to male headship, and that I am encouraging women to behave like elders. That is simply not in my writing. Nope. I did mention that like Macrina with her brothers, women’s contributions are also valuable for training other theological leaders. Does Burk not read any theological contributions by women? Does he not learn from any women in conversation?

Women Can’t Teach

I don’t even have the space to address this. Brief version, Burk seems to think that 1 Tim. 2:12 means that women cannot ever teach men. This is not a canonical hermeneutic that is faithful to Scripture. Are we to ignore verses like Col. 3:16, Heb. 5:12, Rom. 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:31, 1 Cor. 14:1, & 26 or pretend that those are secretly only addressed to the men? Are we to ignore all of the instances in Scripture when women are teaching or giving direct and personal guidance to a man? Are we to cut out Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s magnificat? Are we to ignore the fact that the risen Christ first commissioned a woman to tell the gospel to his male disciples? Paul is addressing corporate worship in those verses in 1 Tim. 2. I didn’t address it because my book is about discipleship, not church office. There’s a lot we can discuss there, but we can’t deny the rest of the teaching in Scripture in doing it.

Downplaying and Dodging ESS

Burk then gets to that pesky unorthodox doctrine CBMW promoted by its teachers, on its website, in its books, and conferences, saying there is no connection between CBMW complementarianism and Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS)—nothing to see here. Well, I write about the connection in my book, and I’ve written about it online when Burk first became president of CBMW. Rather than retractions and apologies, Burk tried to act like they have no responsibility. In my article, What Denny Burk Could Do, I outline this. I encourage you to read it. I wrote it during the Trinity Debate in the summer of 2016, and nothing has changed (except redirection and creating a new Statement as another boundary marker CBMW can lead the way in). It addresses all of Burk’s excuse-making today just as strongly as then. There you will also find a link, using The Way Back Machine, showing that article that Burk says wasn’t on their website, but merely in their journal (not sure how that’s any better) and somehow doesn’t represent their position on ESS. In my book, I also point out blatant ESS in CBMW’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. CBMW, with Denny Burk as the new president, could have led the way in retracting and correcting all the unorthodox teaching which they promoted under the banner of complementarianism. Perhaps it’s CBMW who is leaving behind a vast number of sheep who were led astray by their writing, a way-station on the movement from wide complementarianism back to its Aristotelian roots.

Opening the Door

And now we are back to Burk’s conclusion that I am opening a doorway for those who don’t like what they see in certain versions of complementarianism to exit. I wonder why Burk doesn’t stop and reflect on why there would be a whole generation of dissatisfied people who already were looking for the door? Instead of reducing us to a pre-made audience, maybe Burk should listen to the concerns, hear how we’ve been devalued and reduced by our sexuality, silenced and told to stay in a domesticity that keeps us isolated at home, excluded from theological discourse, and vilified if we dare speak up.

You’re darn right I’m opening the door. We don’t have to fit under any labels as thick or thin complementarians or egalitarians or feminists. We can just be confessing Christians, faithful to Scripture without joining your movements. I’m peeling the yellow wallpaper because the women really are trapped inside of it. And it’s hurting Christ’s church.

*I did want to say something about the Intersex and Faith website he mentions that I reference in a footnote. I have been in conversation with one of its directors, Lianne Simon, a married woman with MGD that resulted in an intersex body, who upholds the Westminster Standards and has been long-standing members of both OPC and PCA churches. She confirmed with me that Intersex & Faith takes no public stand regarding Side A or Side B. She also has been writing against Burk’s assertion that a woman with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome or Swyer’s Syndrome, is male, in spite of their having female-typical external genitalia. She also affirmed to me that the OPC church she and her husband were members of were aware of her condition and history and were supportive—praise God for that.

27 thoughts on “I Guess this Time the Woman has to Open the Door: Responding to Denny Burk’s “Review” of my Book

  1. Laura says:

    Why is it so threatening to these men that women be discipled and taught theology?

    Like

    1. No thanks says:

      You do realize this is a Christian’s blog, right? As far as I know, none of us are willing to convert to Islam.

      Like

      1. sidunique says:

        I am not asking for that , with due respect. It is about injustice with women from centuries. Qoutes from Quran does not mean that it is asking to accept Islam ..Thank ..Sorry if you get it like that

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Grace says:

        To “No thanks”, please meditate in Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
        A Muslim lady, who needs Christ as much as you do or anyone here, is reading this blog. Rejoice in that. Pray for her.
        Like you said, this is a Christian blog, let us then please give more christian answers.
        Her comment simply shows that this is a human problem in every environment.
        Thanks.

        Like

    2. Cynthia W. says:

      I thought it was perfectly fine for you to bring up points about the topic from the perspective your culture and religion. Human beings are human beings, and certain issues come up in every environment.

      Like

  2. Karen says:

    Excellent article. I’m so sorry that you have to keep going through this and defending yourself, but perhaps it’s a good thing because you keep exposing and shining a light on the character and nature of CBMW and it’s leaders.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Graham Veale says:

    It seems to me that scripture does not neatly fit within the bounds of Burk’s “complementarianism” or evangelical “egalitarianism”. This might be because we want scripture to provide a neat system of propositional truths from which we can deduce all the necessary rules for Christian living. The danger, of course, is that scripture is reduced to our systematic theology.
    Of course, scripture does reveal propositional truths, and we can use these to form confessions, creeds and, to a more limited extent, systematic theology. But a sign that we are taking scripture seriously is that we will find texts which do not fit our system – and that scripture PRIMARILY challenges and encourages us, and brings us closer to our
    Lord.

    Graham

    Like

  4. elaineswitzer says:

    I was asked to read the Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Book by a youth pastor that was fast going in that direction. As a committed Christian woman he figured I would agree with it. I slogged through it, but what kept coming to my mind was that it all seemed fear based. I could go into what they are afraid of, but you probably know better than I do all that that entails.

    I am encouraged to read your work now Aimee and I love your t-shirt. I’ve made it awkward a few times, so it’s time I got one of my own 🙂

    Elaine Nesheim

    Liked by 2 people

  5. chris holdridge says:

    I don’t know where you get the energy to keep this stuff up. But keep going sister.

    Like

  6. Susan says:

    I love that you spent the time to refute his claims about your motives, disguised as a book review. It’s very gracious of you, and I am sorry that you are bearing the brunt of his anger. I’m sure this took you many hours to sift through and write a response: it will only clarify the issues for you and everyone who is following. I am praying for you that God would be glorified in all of this as human western thinking is exposed as opposed to the Kingdom of God. You have lots of supporters behind you as you stand firm and hold your insights out to the world. You are doing a service to all women as you fight against a manipulated and distorted view of scripture. Thank you for your work and for stepping into this arena.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cynthia W. says:

    Excellent discussion. It must be a drag to keep having to restate everything each time a “review” is published, but each one is an opportunity for more people to learn about your books!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Greg Hahn says:

    First of all, what a great photo at the top of this article. Wow, how perfect is that? Must be a God thing.

    Second, thank you for fighting the fight. It matters. It matters to God, to His Kingdom, and to your sisters. And even to some of your brothers.

    And third, when your opponent has to resort to ad hominem attacks and mischaracterization of your work in order to rebut you, that means you are winning. Sometimes winning doesn’t feel like winning. But it’s important that you do. Thank you for your voice.

    Like

  9. annaandbrent says:

    (I sure would like to hear a linguistic analysis of this sentence: “The provocative title riffs off the name of the seminal complementarian work Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem [Crossway, 1991].”)

    Straw man, slipper slope, ad hominem, confusing specific with general information. Burke’s response is discouraging for these and many other reasons. His approach seems to be summed up thus — those women that correct CBMW are feminists, egalitarians, and LGBT advocates or are headed there.

    Burke will not allow you to draw from Sarah Coakley and others to make the point that headship is not executive dictatorship, though surely he understands that good research involves reading broadly and integrating and synthesizing the useful work of others into your own work. Coakley’s point is also made in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s exegetical article by David Croteau. There Ephesians 5:25-27, long associated with the husband’s headship responsibility in his wife’s sanctification, is summed up otherwise: “Analysis of the structure and context of Ephesians 5:25-27 demonstrated that a husband is given only one command in the passage: love his wife. The rest of the passage used Christ’s love for the church as a comparison for the sake of explaining the depths of the sacrifice of this love. The sacrificial love of Christ is similar to the kind of sacrificial love a husband should have for his wife.”

    Aimee, Burke appears unable to pause long enough to actually hear and consider what you have written — namely, your call for the exercising of all our gifts on our common path toward Ephesian 4 unity. It seems to me that his view of male headship is an authority which eliminates female voices of contradiction. He appears to me to be rejecting God-given allies with God-given gifts granted to play a real part in bringing His church home.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Suzanne says:

    Reblogged this on The View From the Sidelines and commented:
    Aimee knows how to stand up for her self.

    Like

  11. Brittany says:

    Aristotle is awesome. For a Christian philosopher’s fascinating and challenging examination of his view on women as defective men, get your hands on Stephen R.L. Clark’s “Aristotle’s Man.”

    Like

  12. spacebirdmom says:

    I can only pray for you, sister! I’ve read you; I’ve heard your heart as you’ve spoken. I just cannot understand this hatefulness. I could not stand in this without out gobs of grace. I’ll be praying for God’s grace and peace to pour down over you!!

    Like

  13. Cori says:

    Great response Aimee! I read Denny’s lame review too. What ceases to amaze me is how the heretical ESS seems to be of lesser importance.
    You can mess with the foundational views of the Trinity according to these guys that doesn’t matter as much as messing with their view of a woman’s place in the world and church.
    ESS takes power away from God the Son, that to them is not as important as taking or even acting like you might be taking power away from men. WOW! their whole world starts to crumble.
    That’s quite telling in my opinion.

    Like

    1. tulipgirl3k says:

      Mine too. Well stated.

      Like

  14. Stacey says:

    I applaud you for taking the time to respond to his poor review of your work. It seems sometimes they try to bury their opposition under the weight of attack words and phrases. That method of attack can’t silence this movement. Thank you for raising your voice and standing firm.

    Like

  15. Amanda says:

    Yes—this:

    “ We don’t have to fit under any labels as thick or thin complementarians or egalitarians or feminists. We can just be confessing Christians, faithful to Scripture without joining your movements. I’m peeling the yellow wallpaper because the women really are trapped inside of it. And it’s hurting Christ’s church.”

    🙏🙏🙏

    Like

  16. Reblogged this on Lead the Church and commented:
    Aimee Byrd: “You’re darn right I’m opening the door.”
    Throughout the book, Byrd “opens the door” to egalitarian and feminist views. While she claims that she doesn’t come to the same conclusions (yet), she also doesn’t offer the opposing views to the egalitarian position as plausible choices. Also, note, the opposing views are the views held by the church for 2000 years, rather than ideas “uncovered” (or peeled back?) in the last 30 years.

    Byrd claims that her promotion of the Intersex website is a non-issue because they don’t take any position on Side A or Side B. Meanwhile, Byrd claims to simply be “confessional” – nothing to see here.
    And yet, the confessions DO take a clear stance on Side A and Side B.
    There are so many contradictions and doublespeak coming out of this “tiff”, it’s going to get really interesting….

    Like

    1. skrizo says:

      Hey fact checker,

      Quote Aimee’s book, pick a page and write a paragraph so we can see you have read the actual book.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. captkep says:

    I also think the pic is perfect (as well as a great photo) for Aimee’s response to Denny Burk’s alleged review.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: