The Victorians Baptized Pagan Ideas

This excerpt from my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, comes from Chapter 4: “Women and Men in the Victorian Era.” Many of our beliefs about women and men come to us from the Greeks and Romans by way of the Victorians. The Victorian era, more than any other, was a unique blend of several streams of thought. Victorians combined the Greco-Roman philosophy of the Renaissance, the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution, and the evolutionary science of Darwinism. All of this they added to existing Christian religious and moral beliefs.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

The Victorian era is a significant link between ancient Greece and Roman and our society today. Some of the greatest damage the Victorians did was through attempting to incorporate the older pagan ideas with Christianity. After the Victorian era, ancient Greek and Roman beliefs about women and men were taught as if they were biblical.

How did the Victorians combine Christianity with the older pagan ideas about gender? One way was by misapplying Scripture. The authors of Victorian literature and magazines took Bible verses out of context to reinforce their beliefs about the nature of women and men and their proper spheres.

The Victorians found support for their belief that women belonged in the home in Paul’s encouragement that young women be “ at home” (Titus 2:5, KJV). William Alcott, an influential Victorian author and a cousin of Louisa May Alcott, explained that a woman “cannot discharge the duties of a wife, much less those of a mother, unless she prefers home to all other places, and is only led abroad from a sense of duty, and not from choice.”[1]

Staying at home was the duty of a wife—a duty that was owed to God. “Ask not, ‘Why should I keep at home?’ the answer is, because it is your duty to your servant—your children—your husband—your God!”[2] To be a “true woman,” to desire nothing more than to have a husband and children to care for, was the “holiest design a woman can entertain.”[3]

[1] William A. Alcott, The Young Wife, or Duties of Woman in the Marriage Relation, 4th ed. (Boston, 1838), 83.

[2] Arthur Freeling, The Young Bride’s Book: Being Hints for Regulating the Conduct of Married Women (London, 1839), 86.

[3] Fascinating Womanhood, or the Art of Attracting Men: A Practical Course of Lessons in the Underlying Principles by Which Women Attract Men—Leading to the Proposal and Culminating in Marriage (St. Louis: The Psychology Press, 1922), 1:24.

Conservative Christian Response to the Sexual Revolution and Second Wave Feminism

The next excerpt I want to share from my upcoming book, Beyond Authority and Submission, is from Chapter 6: “Later Feminism and the Conservative Christian Response.” Part of the history that I cover in the book is the various waves of feminism and how society and the church responded to them. And how the response to feminism has shaped our beliefs about women and men.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

It’s not that conservative Christians believe that the feminist movement didn’t do any good. They do—but they also believe that women were content until the feminist movement. As one complementarian book explains, “Male-dominated culture, or patriarchy, isn’t the problem that feminism made it out to be. It’s not the real reason women were unhappy, if they really were unhappy. Why not? Because if it were, women would be happier after the feminist movements successes, but they aren’t.”[1]

Much of what’s being taught about the nature of women and men and gender roles in marriage, church, and society started out as a response to the feminist movement—or at least to aspects of it. For example, the belief that feminism makes men effeminate and turns women into “‘men’ who happen to be biologically capable of having children”[2] has led to particular definitions of masculinity and femininity.

As the anti-suffrage postcards did, some conservatives today depict feminists as being loud and aggressive, demanding of their own way, ambitious, and career-oriented. This goes against what they believe women were created to be, as we will see in the next chapter. Let’s see how this reaction to feminism has influenced conservative Christian teaching on the nature of women and men.

[1] Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design; An
Eight-Week Study on Biblical Womanhood (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 137, nook.

[2] Voddie Baucham Jr., What He Must Be: . . . If He Wants to Marry My Daughter (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 152.

[3] See Kassian and DeMoss, True Woman 101, 118–20.

Beyond Authority and Submission

This next excerpt from my upcoming book explains the title Beyond Authority and Submission. Authority and submission are important aspects to some of our relationships, but they shouldn’t be the whole of our discussions about women and men. A hyper focus on authority and submission can cause us to lose sight of important biblical themes.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

In conservative Christian circles, many conversations about women and men start and end with authority and submission. Who’s in charge? Who’s allowed to do what? These are reasonable questions to ask. At the same time, the Bible doesn’t start and end with authority and submission—it is Jesus’s story from first to last. If we miss that message, then it doesn’t matter what else we believe. No good deeds or proper understanding of women, men, and gender will save us.

That doesn’t mean that authority and submission aren’t important. We shouldn’t dismiss them—but they aren’t the focus of the Bible. When we concentrate on maintaining a hierarchy—or on overthrowing it—we forget our unity and interdependence and our call to mutual service. Women can become completely dependent on men and devoted to serving their interests; men can forget their need for women and can focus more on enforcing submission than on serving their wives and families.

Contrary to what popular culture states, women and men are not from different planets. We’re complementary—more alike than different. Without denying the differences, we need to stop defining women as the polar opposite of men and vice versa. Such divisive definitions create and encourage unnecessary conflict and set up unrealistic and unbiblical expectations for how women and men should behave.

Paul frequently refers to fellow believers—both men and women—as his co-laborers. The word he uses, sunergos, means “a companion in work.”[2] As we will see in the next sections, co-laborer captures the sense of what we were created to be and what we are called to be in Christ.

[1] Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), NOOK, addresses the biblical themes of unity (see 24–25) and leading through service (see 108–9).

[2] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, s.v. “sunergos,” available online from Bible Hub, accessed June 18, 2018,, Strong’s number 4904.

The Definition of Complementarianism

Yesterday, I reposted an article on what I believe about women and men and why I’m not a feminist or an egalitarian. Part of my article discussed how complementarianism as a movement has been defined. There was some confusion over my comments, so I’d like to make some clarifications.

First, here are my beliefs about women and men. These are what I believe:

  • God made man: male and female in the image of God
  • In Christ, male and female are equal before God
  • Husbands are called to sacrificial, servant leadership of their wives, loving them as Christ loves the church
  • Wives are called to voluntary submission to their husbands, submitting to them as the church submits to Christ
  • Ordination is restricted to qualified men in the church
  • Marriage is between one man and one woman, ideally for life
  • Men and women need each other and depend on each other

The following beliefs about women and men are prevalent in complementarian teaching (I’ll get to that in a moment). I do NOT believe the following:

  • women were created to be submissive, responsive, soft
  • men were created to be leaders, providers, strong
  • men are supposed to be priests for their families
  • women are supposed to be at home and not in the workforce (unless there’s a really good reason, but even then)
  • divorce is wrong even when there is biblical justification for it
  • the eternal subordination of the Son, especially as it is applied to men and women
  • all women are rebellious feminists at heart and men must put down that rebellion (an interpretation of Genesis 3:16)

To clarify, these are commonly taught within complementarianism. That does not mean that everyone who calls him/herself a complementarian believes these things. I know many do not. As I said immediately following this list in my article, the point was that when I critiqued these particular teachings, I was called a feminist, a closet egalitarian, or a “thin” complementarian, i.e not a “true” complementarian. The comments were somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because no one should have to hold to these beliefs to maintain their conservative creds.

But my comments about what makes a “true” complementarian are based in fact. Each of those points on the list are taught by the people who founded and defined the complementarian movement. Brief history lesson (for those who may not know), in response to the feminist movement (2nd wave), some concerned Christians founded the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). They chose the term complementarian to describe their beliefs because it “suggests both equality and beneficial differences between men and women.” They rejected traditionalist because it “implies an unwillingness to let Scripture challenge traditional patterns of behavior” and hierarchicalist because it “overemphasizes structured authority while giving no suggestion of equality or the beauty of mutual interdependence.” [1]

The Danvers Statement, which was published in January 1989, outlines CBMW’s philosophy. In addition to the Danvers Statement, CBMW published a collection of essays on complementarianism in 1991. The collection, which was edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper, was published as Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Together, the Danvers Statement and this publication define complementarianism as a movement. Since then, many of the founders and council members of CBMW have written extensively on biblical manhood and womanhood. These writings are what I referenced in my summary.

Here are some examples of CBMW authors defining complementarianism as I summarized.

Women were created to be submissive, responsive, soft:

At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), 48.

Softness is at the core of what it means to be a woman … A woman is a responder. Having a receptive, responsive spirit is at the core of what it means to be a woman. A godly woman is an “amenable” woman – an agreeable woman. … It finds its expression in married life through a wife’s submission to her husband. But a soft, amenable disposition isn’t just for married women. It’s for women of all ages, regardless of marital status.

Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 63, 69-70, Nook version.

Men were created to be leaders, providers, strong:

At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.

John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), 36.

Strength refers to a man’s manhood—his potency, virility, and procreative power.

Mary Kassian, “Steel Magnolia,” True Woman (blog), Revive Our Hearts, April 13, 2009,

Men are supposed to be priests for their families

A husband is, by God’s design, the priest of his family.

Bob Lepine, “The Husband as Prophet, Priest, and King,” in Building Strong Families ed. Dennis Rainey (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), 102. Promoted on

Women are supposed to be at home and not in the workforce:

When a wife goes to work outside the home, often her husband and children go through culture shock. Suddenly the husband has added to his vocational work increased family assignments. He is frustrated over the increase in his own assignments and guilty over his wife’s increased fatigue and extended hours to keep up at home. God did give the husband the responsibility of providing for the family (Genesis 2:15). To sabotage his meeting that responsibility is often a debilitating blow to the man personally and to the marriage. A woman’s career can easily serve as a surrogate husband, as during employment hours she is ruled by her employer’s preferences. Because the wife loses much of her flexibility with the receipt of a paycheck, a husband must bend and adapt his schedule for emergencies with the children, visits to the home by repairmen, etc. This leaves two employers without totally committed employees and children without a primary caretaker utterly devoted to their personal needs and nurturing.

Dorothy Patterson, “The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective,” in Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 375.

Divorce is wrong even when there is biblical justification for it:

I don’t think the Bible allows divorce and remarriage ever while the spouse is living.

John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 303.

Taken together, Jesus and Paul teach that divorce is not an option for believers. The only exceptions that they allow are in cases of immorality or desertion. Neither Jesus nor Paul says that a person must be divorced if there is infidelity or desertion. They are simply saying that it can be permissible in those two situations … Nevertheless, covenant faithfulness within marriage sends a message to the world about Christ’s covenant faithfulness to his bride. For this reason, upholding this icon of the gospel ought to be a matter of first importance to every Christian spouse – even when that spouse has what would otherwise be legitimate grounds for dissolving the marriage.

Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 134-135, emphasis original.

The eternal subordination of the Son (for more detail, read this article and this one):

After all, God exists as one Godhead in three Persons, equal in glory but unequal in role. Within the Holy Trinity the Father leads, the Son submits to Him, and the Spirit submits to both (the Economic Trinity). But it is also true that the three Persons are fully equal in divinity, power, and glory (the Ontological Trinity). The Son submits, but not because He is God, Jr., an inferior deity. The ranking within the Godhead is a part of the sublime beauty and logic of true deity.

Raymond Ortlund, “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship Genesis 1-3,” in Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 103.

But subordination is also possible among equals: Christ is equal to God the Father and yet subject to Him (Philippians 2:6-8); believers are equal to one another and yet are admonished to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). In fact, one can be called to subordinate himself to someone who is inferior, as Christ submitted to Pontius Pilate, making “no reply, not even to a single charge” (Matthew 27:11-14). The mere fact that wives are told to be subject to their husbands tells us nothing about their status. It is the comparison of the relationship between husband and wife to the relationship of God the Father with God the Son that settles the matter of status forever.

Dorothy Patterson, “The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective,” in Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 374.

At this point we must object and insist that authority and submission to authority are not pagan concepts. They are truly divine concepts, rooted in the eternal nature of the Trinity for all eternity and represented in the eternal submission of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son.

Wayne Grudem, “The Meaning of Kephale (“Head”): A Response to Recent Studies,”  in Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 463.

The discussion about the creation of man in His own image – male and female He created them. The discussion about creation of male and female took place between members of the Godhead. It may have been between all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and the Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of a husband and wife. When God created man and woman, He had the dynamic of His own relationship in mind. God created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within the Godhead. He used His own relationship structure as the pattern. Paul confirms, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, that the relationship between a husband and wife is patterned after the relationship between God the Father and His Son. … God purposefully created marriage to reflect the headship structure that exists within the Godhead. But He also created marriage and sex to reflect some other truths about the Trinity. … the Father and Son experience a divine intimacy. Their relationship is one of closest communion. Communion in marriage bears witness to the spiritual, divine intimacy between the members of the Trinity.

Mary A. Kassian, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010), 139-140.

All women are rebellious feminists at heart and men must put down that rebellion (an interpretation of Genesis 3:16):

Virtually every woman is a feminist to one degree or another.

Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 110, Nook version.

I hope this helps those who didn’t understand my previous article. These quotes are a brief sampling. There are many more examples of these beliefs and how they’ve influenced what’s being taught in the name of complementarianism. In my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, I go into greater detail and address why these are not biblical views. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me in the comments or through my About page.

[1] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (repr., Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), xv.

What Am I: Feminist, Egalitarian, Complementarian?

With my book coming out next month, I want to reiterate what I believe about women and men in marriage, church, and society. My beliefs are often misrepresented, but hopefully this summary will allay any concerns about what I believe. I make a similar statement in the introduction of my book, Beyond Authority and Submission.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

“Watch out for her. She’s a feminist!” “She says she’s not, but clearly she’s a closet egalitarian.” “She’s a thin complementarian” “No, an anorexic one.”

Words are powerful, as are labels. They can be helpful. They can be used to encourage and build people up. But they can also be used to dismiss others. They can be used to belittle and discourage.

In conservative, Christianity, there are few words that shut down discussion faster than the charge of “feminist!” Heresy is another big one, although it doesn’t work quite the same way. Feminist has almost exclusively negative associations in conservative Christian circles.

Some of that is understandable. The modern feminist movement has strong connections with abortion and same-sex marriage. Not all feminists are for abortion and same-sex marriage, but the association is there. When a conservative calls someone a feminist, it can be an attempt to question the person’s faith and commitment to Scripture.

I used to think it was amusing when someone called me a feminist. It had to be a joke. Or a clear misunderstanding. Who me? A feminist? I know some of the nuttier guys out there think anyone who disagrees with them is a feminist. And then there are the CBMW authors who say all women are feminists. But clearly, those aren’t serious opinions.

Why would anyone think I’m a feminist? Let’s consider my beliefs (which I’ve stated before.) I hold to the following beliefs regarding men, women, and gender:

  • God made man: male and female in the image of God
  • In Christ, male and female are equal before God
  • Husbands are called to sacrificial, servant leadership of their wives, loving them as Christ loves the church
  • Wives are called to voluntary submission to their husbands, submitting to them as the church submits to Christ
  • Ordination is restricted to qualified men in the church
  • Marriage is between one man and one woman, ideally for life
  • Men and women need each other and depend on each other

Take particular notice of what I believe about leadership and submission in marriage and ordination in the church. Those right there set me apart. I’m not a feminist. I’m also not an egalitarian, closet or otherwise. I have respect for the egalitarians I know. I appreciate the work some egalitarians have done defending the Trinity. But we have significantly different interpretations of what the Bible teaches about marriage and ordination.

And that’s ok. It’s possible to disagree and still respect other people. If you asked a feminist or an egalitarian about my beliefs, they would say that I’m either complementarian or patriarchal. It’s laughable to say I’m patriarchal, but each end of the spectrum tends towards viewing things as extremes. Just like there are those who say everyone who disagrees with them is a feminist, there are those who say anyone who disagrees with them is patriarchal.

So then the question is, am I a complementarian? I used to think so. I used to call myself one.  After all, I believe that husbands are the leaders of their families. I believe that wives should submit to the leadership of their husbands. And I believe that ordained church leaders should be qualified men. Isn’t that a complementarian?

Apparently not. To be a true complementarian, you also need to believe:

  • women were created to be submissive, responsive, soft
  • men were created to be leaders, providers, strong
  • men are supposed to be priests for their families
  • women are supposed to be at home and not in the workforce (unless there’s a really good reason, but even then)
  • divorce is wrong even when there is biblical justification for it
  • the eternal subordination of the Son, especially as it is applied to men and women
  • all women are rebellious feminists at heart and men must put down that rebellion (an interpretation of Genesis 3:16)

How do I know this is necessary for true complementarianism? Well, when I disagreed with these beliefs, I was called a “soft,” “thin,” or “anorexic” complementarian. I was also called a closet egalitarian or a feminist because:

  • I questioned what CBMW taught about men and women and the Trinity
  • I defended orthodox Trinitarianism against the eternal subordination of the Son
  • I raised questions about the ESV translation for changing the wording of Genesis 3:16 and 4:7
  • I wrote about abuse as biblical grounds for divorce
  • I believe women can be leaders in business and politics or even cops and umpires

When I took a logic class in college, I didn’t like the way we were supposed to apply mathematical proofs to language. Math is neat and tidy. Add, subtract, multiply, divide. Numbers have intrinsic meaning. Words aren’t as definite and precise as math. But that doesn’t mean that words can mean whatever we want them to mean.

Our society is losing its collective mind when it comes to words and their meanings. We’re told we can “identify” as whatever we want, regardless of reality. Truth and facts? It’s relative. It just depends on what “your truth” is.

As Christians, we have fought against this kind of relativism for years. You’d think conservative Christians would be more careful about using words accurately. Feminist and egalitarian have actual definitions. There are Christian feminist groups and egalitarian organizations with definite beliefs. Feminist doesn’t mean “a woman I disagree with and wish she’d stop talking.” Egalitarian doesn’t simply mean “someone who thinks women can have opinions about theology.”

I’m not a feminist. I’m not an egalitarian. What I am is tired of the name-calling and the attempts to silence me and others like me. No doubt those who need to hear these words the most are the least likely to listen. But I hope that those who are tempted to believe the lies about me will do me the honor of considering what I’ve written here.

God: The Source of All Authority and Submission

As we get closer to the release date for Beyond Authority and Submission, I want to share a few excerpts. This first excerpt is from Chapter 1: “What Are Authority and Submission?” While it’s clear from the title of my book that I want to move the discussions about women and men beyond an exclusive focus on authority and submission, it’s important that we start with a picture of what God-honoring authority and submission are (and aren’t).

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.

The foundation of a biblical understanding of authority and submission is the fact that we are humans, male and female, made in the image of God. In the beginning, God made us and gave us authority—the right to command and lead—over the rest of creation. He commanded us to rule over “every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). This authority is part of the very nature of humanity, and it is good when used appropriately.[1] God-honoring authority protects, cares for, provides for, and promotes the well-being of others.[2] In our fallen world, godly authority also restrains evil and punishes sin and wickedness (see Rom. 13:4). Life without authority is anarchy and chaos.

However, because we are created beings, our authority must be limited.[3] Only God has unlimited authority. He is God and our Creator. We are created and are not God (see Rom. 1:18–25). This contrast lies at the heart of submission and is essential for us to grasp. Submission—voluntarily yielding to the authority of another—isn’t feminine or masculine; it’s characteristic of our human nature.

Each of us has authority in some relationships and owes submission in others. Common sense tells us that we should recognize the situational authority of others. For example, when a doctor tells us that we have an illness and need treatment, it is wise for us to recognize his or her authority and to submit to the treatment. Similarly, we know we should follow the instructions of teachers, counselors, police officers, coaches, and even traffic signs. Additionally, the Bible gives us both general guidance and specific direction regarding authority and submission in particular relationships, as we will discuss.

[1] Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 37–38.

[2] See Crouch, 111–12.

[3] See Crouch, 36.

Wisdom vs Folly: “Her feet do not remain at home”

As I was writing and editing my book, Beyond Authority and Submission, there were a few sections that didn’t make the final cut. What follows is a section comparing the personifications of wisdom and folly in the Proverbs. As you’ll see, some complementarians have used passages to teach that women working outside the home are examples of folly. But what do the verses actually teach us?

Even though the Bible gives many examples of women working, there are persistent questions about women working in society. One of the biggest concerns is whether or not it’s appropriate for women to work or have a career outside the home. After all, the Bible says that women should be keepers at home, right?

There tends to be two extremes on women working. One extreme says women can and should do anything they want without consideration for the effect this may have on others. While this view is found in our secular society, it’s not as common among believers, especially those who want to be faithful to the Bible.

The other extreme is that women shouldn’t work outside the home or have a career. Those who hold this view argue that women are meant to take care of the home and family. Working outside the home leads to abandoning their responsibilities and going against the created order that God established from the beginning.[1]

Most beliefs about women working fall somewhere between these two extremes, but among conservative Christians staying at home is considered the ideal for women. The reasoning is God created women to be focused on the home whereas men were created to be focused on the outside world. Adam was made outside the garden in the fields where he would work, but Eve was made inside the garden in “the ‘home’ where God had placed her husband.”[2]

Women, therefore, have a natural inclination towards domestic concerns. As Mary Kassian explains: “The Bible teaches that God created woman with a uniquely feminine ‘bent’ for the home. ‘Working at home’ is on its top ten list of important things that older women need to teach to younger ones (Titus 2:5). It encourages young women to ‘manage their households’ (1 Timothy 5:14). It praises her who ‘looks well to the ways of her household’ … (Proverbs 31:27). The Bible casts women whose hearts are inclined away from the home in a negative light (Proverbs 7:11).[3]

The verses Kassian uses here are often referred to in discussions about women working outside the home. The first two verses are from Paul’s advice for women in the church. In Titus 2:5, Paul says that older women should teach younger women “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” In 1 Timothy 5:14, he says, “Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach.”

Proverbs 31 has several verses about a woman’s care for her household. Verse 27 says, “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” The other passage from Proverbs that Kassian refers to is Proverbs 7:11 which says, “She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not remain at home.”

The question we should be asking is if Proverbs 7:11 is really about women working outside the home. Proverbs 7 is about an adulterous woman tempting a man. In context, it’s a warning to men about avoiding sin. Proverbs 7:11 is about her unfaithful ways. The point isn’t that she’s away from home. It’s that she isn’t faithful to her husband.

In contrast, wisdom, personified as a woman, is described in Proverbs 1, 8, and 9. Both wisdom and the adulterous woman are attempting to influence men. In Proverbs 7, the adulterous or foolish woman is disruptive, rebellious, out in the streets, grabbing and kissing men, enticing them to sin. We see her again in Proverbs 9. Here she’s described as foolish, sitting at the doorway or in the high places, calling out to those passing by, inviting them in, encouraging them to eat secret bread and drink stolen water, leading them to sin and death.

In the parallel passages about wisdom, we also see her out in the streets, at the city gates, at the heights of the city, shouting and calling out to men, inviting them into the home she’s built, encouraging them to eat and drink at her feast. The difference is what wisdom is leading men to. Wisdom leads men to knowledge and righteousness. Her goal is to help and encourage, to build up and strengthen, to reprove and counsel.

The wickedness of the foolish woman isn’t that she’s away from her home or that she’s loud or even that she’s influencing men. Her wickedness is that she’s leading men to sin. Her goal is to destroy and tear down. The methods of the two women are similar, but their goals and the end results are very different.

No woman should want to be like the foolish woman, but the danger isn’t in working outside the home. It’s in being faithless and adulterous. We see the same emphasis on the dangers of adultery and faithlessness in a verse about men, “Like a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man who wanders from his home” (Prov. 27:8).

Just like wisdom and the Proverbs 31 woman, a godly woman can be faithful to the Lord and to her husband while working inside or outside the home. It’s her heart and attitude, not her location, that are essential.

[1] Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, So Much More (San Antonio: The Vision Forum, Inc, 2005), 111.

[2]Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), nook version, 74.

[3]Mary Kassian, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010), 76.

Book Update and an Explanation of Southern Naming Customs

Great news!! My book is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for pre-order. The book will be released September 3rd!

I wanted to give a little background about the book and about how my name appears on the cover. As the blurb on Amazon says, the basic thesis of the book is:

Theologically conservative Christians want to embrace a biblical understanding of women and men, but the beliefs of Greeks, Romans, and Victorians have had undue influence on contemporary teaching. Although modern discussions have focused on authority and submission, Rachel Green Miller believes that there is more to the biblical picture of women and men. As she examines and corrects conservative teaching on gender, she draws out equally important themes in Scripture that will strengthen our relationship as co-laborers in the kingdom of God.

Aimee Byrd has written the foreward for me, and the following people have done me the honor of endorsing my book: Valerie Hobbs,  Carl Trueman, Liam Goligher, Todd Bordow, Hannah Anderson, Wendy Alsup, Christina Fox, Jacob Denhollander, Sam Powell, John Fonville, Eowyn Stoddard, and Abby Hutto.

As for my name on the book, let me explain a bit about Southern naming customs. In the South, it’s common for  women to make their maiden name their middle name when they get married. Family names are important to us, and we often use them as middle names with our sons too. It’s a way of honoring and preserving our genealogy.

When I married Matt, I took his last name and made my maiden name, Green, my middle name. I’ve only ever used “Rachel Miller” informally and professionally. When I joined social media, I used my full name, Rachel Green Miller, for two reasons. First, my name is extremely common, and I wanted a way to differentiate from the other “Rachel Millers” out there. Second, I was trying to connect with childhood and college friends who knew me as Rachel Green. Using my whole name meant my friends would recognize my name.

Back when I started blogging and then writing for various theological organizations, I wrote using my first and last name (except when I used a pseudonym, but that’s another story). My bio at the Aquila Report and here and most everywhere else had me as Rachel Miller. But, once upon a time, an editor friend who knew me on social media ran one of my articles with my full name as it appears on social media. It didn’t bother me in the least, but I was amused by what happened next.

After that article ran, guys who disagreed about me started referring to me by my full name or the initials, RGM. Apparently, my full name was “proof” that I’m a feminist or something or other. (Hint: I’m not.)

When it came time for me to decide how my name should appear on the cover of my book, I had several options. I could use “Rachel Miller” like I’ve always done. But that has similar issues with it being such a common name. I’d planned to use “Rachel G. Miller” for the differentiation, but I finally settled on using my full name, Rachel Green Miller, for a handful of reasons.

In addition to the reasons that I use my full name on social media, I wanted to use my full name to honor my parents. They raised me to love the Lord and to study the Word. I couldn’t have written the book without them. But I also decided to use my full name because I’m not ashamed of who I am. My name is what it is and I’m proud of each part of it.

So, that’s the story of how my book cover got to be the way it is. Hope you enjoy my book!


Eternal Subordination of the Son and Focus on the Family

For over four years now, I’ve been writing about a popular doctrine of the Trinity called the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS).  I’ve written several posts highlighting the various ways ESS is taught in the conservative Christian world. Today I ran across another example of ESS from a well-known conservative Christian resource.

Focus on the Family published an article, “Submission of Wives to Husbands,” answering a woman’s question about wives submitting to their husbands. Early in their answer, Focus on the Family compares the relationship between husbands and wives with the relationship between God the Father and God the Son:

As in marriage, so in the Godhead we find diversity within unity. But while all three Members of the Trinity are fully equal and mutually identified in the sense that all three are God, we can also detect a certain hierarchy or subordination of function in their relationships with one another. For example, though Jesus made several statements clearly making Himself equal with God (see John 5:18), He also said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). As the Creeds express it, “The Son is begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The seeds of Paul’s doctrine of marital submission can be discerned in this statement. (emphasis added)

What’s interesting is the appeal to the “Creeds” to explain this hierarchy or subordination within the Trinity. First off, I’m not certain where the quotation they use comes from. The sentence,”the Son is begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son,” does not appear in any of the creeds as quoted. But beyond that,  the creeds which do discuss the Son being begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son do so for the express purpose of rejecting any hierarchy or subordination within the Trinity.

The Nicene creed was formulated, in part, as a response to the Arian heresy which taught that the Son was created and subordinate to the Father. The full statement was carefully written to emphasize the equality of God the Father and God the Son. The wording “begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father” doesn’t suggest any hierarchy or subordination.

The section on the Holy Spirit, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,” was also written to emphasize the unity and equality within the Trinity.

The Athanasian creed goes further in explaining the relationship within the Trinity:

The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. (emphasis added)

Again, the creed emphasizes the unity and equality within the Trinity, and it specifically denies any hierarchy or subordination within the Trinity. The article by Focus on the Family also uses Jesus’s statement that “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) as an example of the supposed subordination. However, the Athanasian creed addresses such statements and explains that Jesus, the God-man, is “equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.” All subordination and hierarchy within the Trinity is rejected by the orthodox creed and confessions.

We need to stop doing damage to the doctrine of the Trinity in our attempts to explain how submission works in marriage. ESS, while tempting, is not a viable answer to the question of marital submission. There is nothing to be gained by appealing to an eternal relationship of authority and submission within the Trinity, and plenty to lose. Hopefully, more conservative Christians will recognize the danger and stop promoting ESS.

Parenting in the Pews

I love seeing little kids at church. As a mother of not-quite-so-little ones, the smiles, the giggles, the sights and sounds of children fills my heart with joy. But parenting in the pews can be anything but joyful at times. Nothing tests the limits of parents’ patience quite like Sundays. From getting everyone dressed and fed and out the door on time to handling disruptions during worship and off-schedule naps and meals, Sunday is a uniquely challenging day for most of us. With all the busyness and struggle, it can be easy to forget why we bring our children to church with us.

For those of us who are Presbyterians, we believe our children are part of the covenant community. We promise to raise them in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). But how do we do that practically? How do we parent in the pews?

There tends to be two extremes when it comes to discussing what to do about children in church. On one hand, there are churches that believe children don’t belong in the worship service. On the other, there are churches that believe children should never be separated from their parents for any reason (no nursery, Sunday School classes, or youth groups).

Most of us, however, fall in the middle. Our churches have nurseries for the littlest ones and age appropriate Sunday School classes, and our children are welcome in the worship service. So we have the challenge of helping them learn to worship.

There is lots of advice out there on how to get your kids to stay still/quiet/attentive in church. Some of it is helpful, some less so. It’s important to start by considering what our goals are. What are we trying to achieve?

As a parent, my number one goal for my children is that they grow up to love the Lord and be adults I’d enjoy being around. As far as church goes, I want my children to love the church and love worship. With that in mind, let’s consider some of the common concerns for parenting in the pews.

“Church is boring”

Without question, this is considered by many to be the biggest challenge for parents. How do we address the nature of church worship and our children’s response to it? There are a variety of possible answers.

Some try to make church entertaining and engaging even if it waters down the message. As we mentioned, some churches keep the children entertained in separate programs so that adults can worship without distractions. Going back to our goals and our commitments to raise our children within the covenant community, neither of these options really satisfy.

Some advice accepts the premise that church is “boring” and tells us it’s good for children to be bored on occasion. This approach has always bothered me. Yes, church isn’t “entertaining” in the same way a movie or basketball game would be. But worship isn’t boring once we understand what’s going on. Sunday worship isn’t “all fun and games, ” but it also isn’t “vegetables” or “liver and onions” that our children will eat “if they know what’s good for them!”

Along these lines are instructions on how to teach your children to sit still starting at a young age so that they can sit without fidgeting whenever you tell them to. While I agree that we do have to teach our children how to sit in church (or restaurants, doctor’s offices, school, whatever), the emphasis on outward obedience misses the point in the long run.

God calls us to worship and to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30) because He loves us. We go to church and worship because we love the Lord. Our obedience should never be done with a cold heart or from a sense of obligation alone. That’s not what God wants from us, and that’s not what we should want from our children.

Learning to Love Worship

Like all good things in life, we have to learn to love worship. It’s an acquired taste. And teaching our children to worship from the heart starts by example. Our attitudes about church and worship will tell our children more than anything we say to them. When we make going to church a priority for our family, they’ll notice. When we sing joyfully, they’ll hear. When we pray fervently, they’ll see. When we’re attentive, they will be too.

As we do these things, we can bring our children alongside us so that they will learn (Deuteronomy 6:7). Some of the practical ways we can do this is by encouraging them to participate in worship. We have to have age appropriate expectations though. As the saying goes, “The mind can only absorb what the seat can endure.”

When children are old enough, they can sit and stand when the congregation sits and stands. We can explain to them the various parts of the service so they understand what’s going on around them. Children can look on with the hymnal and learn to sing along. As they learn to read, they can follow along with the Scripture readings and participate with the responsive readings. And they can learn to listen to the sermon.

When my children were smaller, they carried little bags with colored pencils and small notebooks to church. During the sermon, they were allowed to color. It’s hard to sit completely still, and having something quiet to do with their hands helped them listen to what was being said. As my boys have gotten older, we’ve encouraged them to take notes during the sermon.

After church, we ask them what they remember from the service. Do they have any questions? What did they learn? What did the pastor preach about? These questions help us understand what they’re learning and reinforce that they are part of the worship service.

Discipline in the Pews

Disciplining our children during worship includes everything from gentle reminders to be still or quiet, giving “the look” or the “death whisper” (as we called it growing up), and carrying them out of the service when they have meltdown. No matter how sweet and precious our little ones are they will at one time or another throw a royal hissy fit in church. When that happens, we need to show them grace and protect their dignity as we discipline them.

What we should be careful not to do is discipline them for the benefit of those around us. It’s tempting to do. We’re embarrassed by their behavior. We don’t want other parents thinking we’re bad parents, etc., but maintaining our reputation shouldn’t be our focus. The goal is training and correcting our children, although we do want to be kind to those around us by limiting the distractions.

Going back to age appropriate expectations, there’s a difference between normal noises/wiggles and misbehavior. Babies coo and giggle. They wiggle and squirm. Older toddlers smile and wave and fidget. Children will want to ask questions or move to see what’s going on. As they get older, we can gently redirect their attention and encourage them to listen while not having unrealistic expectations.

Each child is different and will need encouragement and discipline suited to them. My oldest son was active and loud. I would have gladly kept him in church with us from the time he was newborn, but he needed space to move and be loud. Nursery was a blessing for him. My middle son hated nursery and was content and quiet as long as he sat with us. My youngest hated nursery and was active and loud. I listened to many sermons from the church’s cry room.

Encourage Each Other

Whether you’re a parent of little ones, your children are grown, or you don’t have children, you can still play an important role in parenting in the pews. No, the role isn’t giving disruptive children (or their parents) dirty looks. The role we can all fulfill is encouraging one another.

Parenting in the pews is hard work, and it’s easy to be discouraged. A smile and a kind word can go a long way. Serving in nursery or offering to walk a colicky baby are a couple of other ways you can help. We can also show  our love for each other by being patient and gracious with those around us, especially if we feel distracted. We’ve all been there, either as parents or as children ourselves.

As a parent, it helps me to remember that those interruptions aren’t keeping me from what I should be doing. They are what I should be doing right now. I’m not saying we should let our children do whatever they want and run wild during church. But helping them learn to love the Lord and love worship is what we’re supposed to do.

So, this Sunday as we get ready for worship, let’s think about how we can encourage and nurture the little ones in our churches (and their parents too). And let’s rejoice that God has filled our pews with so many blessings.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:2-4, NASB

Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14, NASB