Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

It is time! The Sexual Reformation: Restoring the Dignity and Personhood of Man and Woman is now available! And it doesn’t stop with the book. You can join me, Sheila Gregoire, Mike Bird, Beth Allison Barr, Nijay Gupta, and Tiffany Bluhm for a virtual conversation series and live Q&A on April 19th. You can sign up for that here. This is just the beginning. Here is a little sneak peek into the Introduction, Reformation Moves Forward:

Imagine there is a heaven.

In 1971 John Lennon released what became his bestselling single as a solo artist, “Imagine.” He asked us to imagine a world with no heaven, no borders, and no possessions. This imagining was supposed to help promote peace, as we live only for today and no longer have reasons for war, greed, or hunger. If we could just get rid of the realities of God, land, and our basic needs, we could come together as one. We would love each other.

John Lennon was wrong about that. We aren’t God, and we wouldn’t exist without him. But imagining that we could, we would have no goodness, as all goodness comes from him. The problem is not the gifts he’s given us but the corruption of our own hearts. The solution for peace isn’t imagining no heaven; the solution is setting our eyes on the beautiful truth. The solution is to have an eschatological imagination,[1] to think deeply about our ultimate aim.

Imagine heaven and earth coming together—a new heaven and new earth.

Imagine a triune God who created us to have eternal communion with him and with one another there. Imagine that this God created us as icons, or representative symbols, of himself, showcasing a great love story— the story of the outgoing, overflowing love of the triune God. Maybe it is hard to imagine this kind of love. But give it a try. Imagine that we are created to share covenantally in the Father’s love for the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Imagine that our very bodies tell the story of a gift given in eternity—a gift of a bride to the Son. Imagine man and woman revealing the deep mystery of an eternal trinitarian covenant that is prefigured in creation.

The triune God loves us. Imagine that.

He made man from the soil of the land that he gave him. And he breathed life into him. He made the heavens as a testimony to the glory of his dwelling place, to which we are called. He made woman from man, her very presence beckoning him to the ultimate hope—or telos—of mankind as the collective bride of Christ. Created second, she represents the second order—the final act of creation—arrayed with the glory and radiance of the Son (Rev. 21:11). In this way, she is the glory of the man (1 Cor. 11:7). Man was to pass through probation, with his bride, to ascend to the holy mountain, Zion, which her very body represents.[2] She, as his necessary ally and partner, was to be a corresponding strength in their mission to receive the great reward of eternal communion with God for them and their progeny.

Our imaginations are depraved because our whole selves are depraved from the fall. Adam, as federal representative of mankind, failed to obtain our final sabbath. But Jesus Christ, the second Adam, left his Father and mother-Zion glory-realm to cleave to his bride (Gen. 2:24) and ascend with her to the holy of holies.[3] Our bodies speak this good news.

You see, John Lennon was right in one sense. Things are not as they should be. And what we imagine makes a difference in how we find peace for ourselves and one another. But thankfully our imagination does not have to be baseless, wishful thinking. That would get us nowhere. Our God gives us the metanarrative—the overarching story that gives meaning to all other stories—to root it in. He communicates with us through his living Word, gives us sacraments to ratify his Word, as well as symbols that remind us of it over and over. Imagination comes alive in understanding truth.

Maybe you think my imagination has gone a bit off track. There’s a lot to fill in here. That’s what I do in this book. I am evoking a sexual reformation in my title. My first chapter makes the case that the church needs this reformation. But first I set the melody. While reformation requires polemics, more importantly it is based on the eschatological vision God reveals to us in his living Word. As Bill Dennison notes about J. Gresham Machen’s theological method, any crisis we address “calls not for confrontation and restoration of the visible culture; rather, it calls for a true knowledge and understanding of the person of God and the ‘unseen world,’ the kingdom of heaven.”[4] The church continuously needs to look back to retrieve what the saints have historically confessed, while reforming her teachings according to the Scriptures. All of this is done to move the church forward. Her eyes are not fixed on the past but on the person of Jesus Christ who is ushering her behind the veil into his inner chambers. Reformation moves forward.

There’s a whole book in the Bible that exercises our imaginations with this metanarrative of which I speak, or shall I say, sing. Yes, this book is even a song—the Song of all songs. It brings us into the unseen world that is to come. With the Song of Songs guiding us, we will explore the theological meaning behind our sexes, helping Christians to better understand our sexuality as a gift and to grasp the eschatological story our bodies tell of Christ’s love for his church. As the Holy Spirit is speaking to the churches through his living Word today, we see that he is beckoning her.

I am humbled to enter into this Song. In one sense, I feel like a small child dressing up in her mother’s wedding gown. But my Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, has adorned me with it. Each time I enter in, or put on the gown, I see that I have grown just a little more into it. I’m only beginning to discover the different jewels embroidered into its fabric—the discovery of one uncovers many dazzling others inviting inspection. I can hardly believe it’s for me. Nevertheless, it provokes me to beckon many others to its beauty. Some may think I look foolish, that I am in over my head to try it on. I am happy to have the help of the many in the church who have gone before me. I am thankful for them, for we need one another to point out all the glorious jewels.

But how can I talk about the Song in one metaphor when it is full of mixed metaphors? Does that not show us that sometimes one metaphor does not suffice to point us to what awaits Christ’s bride? One just cannot contain the rich meaning that is bursting forth! The Song of Songs is also like the first miracle Jesus performed, which fittingly was at a wedding. We’ve been dreaming about this wedding, celebrating and making our hearts glad with wine. When we drink up all the wine, what does Jesus do? He turns the water of our understanding into new wine. The good news explodes in the Song. It is the best wine that we didn’t know we were missing—intimacy with our Bridegroom. It is the wine that we are invited to intoxicate ourselves with.

My soul has been deeply ministered to in studying the Song of Songs. Whether you agree with me or not on all my interpretive points, I am confident that God’s words to his church in the Song of Songs will bless you. I speak from the perspective of one trying to grow into the dress. But I trust my Savior is getting me ready for that great day. One of the gems I found is the recovery of the dignity and personhood of both man and woman that is enfleshed in its lyrics, and as we will see, unfolds throughout the metanarrative of Scripture. What I mean by enfleshed is that it is so real that we wear it; it is given bodily form and expression. I am honored to have the opportunity to write about this. And yet there is so much more. I do hope that the biggest takeaway for the reader is the awe of beholding our God.

But before we can sip the wine, I need to present the need for sexual reformation in the church. Like I said, reformation requires polemics. When we look forward eschatologically —to our future glorification and the consummation of all things—we see more clearly the need for reform. And we have to name the maladies for which God’s Word shows the remedies. My first chapter surveys the messages we are receiving in the church about what it means to be a man or a woman. Then I will introduce the Song that is given to the church to sing. I interact with numerous commentators and preachers on the Song, old and new. The reader will notice that I engage with some Roman Catholic writings on the Song and on the meaningfulness of our sexes. This is not because I am moving away from my confessional Protestant convictions, but rather because I am cognizant of the heritage that we share as the church universal and am happy to retrieve rich teaching from our shared confessional roots.

I also should alert the reader to the sensuous nature of the Song. I do not shy away from the language of sexual imagery used to teach us about the spousal love of God. I hope the reader will concur that it is tastefully done and is not reductive.

With these matters taken care of, we will begin to swish the wine in our mouths and look at some of the nuptial jewels[5] and how they propel us forward to our telos. We will find peace.

Imagine that.


[1] Trevor Hart, “Eschatological Imagination,” Transpositions: Theology, Imag- ination and the Arts (blog), April 29, 2011, http://www.transpositions.co.uk/escha tological-imagination/. Eschatological refers to humanity’s final destination.

[2] 2. See Aimee Byrd, “Women, Wells, and Weddings,” The Mod (blog), Modern Reformation, October 7, 2019, https://modernreformation.org/resource-library/web-exclusive-articles/the-mod-women-wells-and-weddings/

[3] See Anna Anderson, “Van Til’s Representational Principal Applied to the Woman,” Academia, December 16, 2020, 19, https://www.academia.edu/44870840 /VAN_TIL_S_REPRESENTATIONAL_PRINCIPLE_APPLIED_TO_THE_WOMAN.

[4] Bill Dennison, “J. Gresham Machen’s Theological Method,” appendix to J. Gresham Machen, Things Unseen: A Systematic Introduction to the Christian Faith and Reformed Theology (Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2020), 428, digital download, https://wm.wts.edu/content/dennison-article-2.

[5] I just mixed those metaphors nice and well.

One thought on “Who’s Ready for a Sexual Reformation?

  1. Linda Stoll says:

    Aimee, I’m all about that ‘old school blogging.’ It’s not going anywhere. And it’s the perfect way to cultivate good conversation.

    Like

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