38 Comments
Apr 5Liked by Ross Byrd

Ross, thanks so much for this piece! I think we may have talked a bit about it at SH at some point so it sounded familiar and is acting as a reminder for me to pray for trustworthiness and to live as a man who's yea means yes and no means no; to become a man trustworthy in thought word and deed.

I know this topic isn't completely related, but I wonder what this verse means in terms of leadership in church roles. I recently listened to a podcast about it and I still don't know what I think... Obviously another hot topic, one I understand not wanting to write about but......

My real question would remain this: Could we extend this transition from our human nature to a perfected nature (trustworthy-trusting for women (((generally))) and the reverse for men (((generally))) ) to the field of the church to say that we as a church aught to trust men as Pastors/Priests? (does that make sense?) Or is this verse much more centered around a marriage between two people and not so much to be thought about outside of that?

Sorry this was messy, but it's a legit question. The dude in the podcast I was listening to was using this verse to say that women should not be allowed to be pastors and I was just a little confused...

Expand full comment
author

Hi John, great question. And yes, haha, this is another (hot) topic. It would take too much time to give you my full answer here. Personally, I don't align very well with either side of the modern "complementarian vs. egalitarian" scheme. The complementarians ("no women in leadership") don't seem to take seriously all the evidence of female leadership in the New Testament church (e.g. that prophesying *is* basically preaching in the church; see N. T. Wright on this). But at the same time, I don't think the egalitarians have the right view of reality. To say that men and women are of equal value (which I grant as obviously true) does not mean that all roles in the church and the home are entirely interchangeable. Fathers may be equal to mothers in value, but the role of a father and the role of a mother are not the same. Now, if we do not see the leaders of our churches as symbolically representing God (which most Evangelical churches do not), then none of this matters. Insomuch as "pastor" means basically "speaker/teacher/counselor," I do not see a compelling enough reason to exclude women from this office. But traditionally, pastor has also meant priest--one who represents God to the people and the people to God. If this is the case, if the heads of our communities still serve a symbolical role, then maleness and femaleness matters. Not that females would be any less qualified, in terms of competence. The problem rather lies in what we mean by "priest" and whether the symbolism of the priesthood is gendered. As C. S. Lewis puts it, we cannot simply interchange Father God for Mother God and remain the same religion, nor interchange the Church as Bride for the Church as Groom. The symbolism matters. We may not be able fully to explain why God has revealed himself this way, but that does not make it arbitrary. Here is Lewis's argument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZiAvbYRiBs. I tend to agree. Though, of course, I tend to agree with Lewis most of the time.

Expand full comment
May 2Liked by Ross Byrd

Thank you again for sharing this God-given insight. Like Jordan Peterson, your words often distill what my mind sees glimpses of, but cannot put together in sentences so succinctly. I hope you are able to use that scripture in a wedding ceremony one day. It may make for a bit of a long sermon, but I think you could pull it off 😀. Again, beautiful work!

Expand full comment
author

Ha, thanks John. I hope so too. It's a very fitting passage for the ceremony! It just requires a mature audience. And thank you for your kind words. So encouraging to me.

Expand full comment
Apr 29Liked by Ross Byrd

hey ross. not bad... I think you want to lean into the truth but are trying to be a little too tactful. this fear leads to erroneous statements such as "The nature of the feminine, generally, is to be higher in trustworthiness...". that is a wild and loose speculation, to put it gently.

I will here suggest both revjfisk and timothy gordon (yt videos) on wifely submission. hope it helps to embolden you further.

in love, for Christ

jdc

Expand full comment

Your publication is aptly named and I'm glad I exercised the patience to wade through to the end;--though it was an enjoyable read; it felt like I was being carried along by the current on one of those lazy rivers.

I am only scratching the surface of gender studies (being much more enamoured with studying Christian Unity) but I wonder how you treat the passage in which Paul says that we ought not to regard one another according to the flesh. I have commented under other authors who have been dealing with the recent Christianity Today Article having something to do with men and women and it seems to me that Paul's command renders everything else to be contrary in a kind of "because of the hardness of their hearts," reading of the mosaic divorce laws. Does this make sense?

Saying this, I appreciate where you landed with the trust and trustworthiness X. It makes a lot of sense, and I wonder if that's not what Paul means by not regarding one another according to the flesh. Perhaps he means that things like trust and trustworthiness are coming to an X and we can no longer trust in our biological/national/economical leanings. He says later that love always trusts--that's a big ask. I would love your thoughts on this.

Expand full comment
author

Love this thought. Thanks for reading, btw. This is difficult stuff, and I don't have straightforward answers. I think what you're saying about not regarding others according to the flesh is important. I teach this passage when I talk about gender. Also Paul's "no male and female [in Christ]" (Galatians 3). Interestingly, he repeats the same pattern in Colossians 3--"no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised...slave or free" and leaves out male/female. But I think we can assume it's implied there too. The unity we have in Christ transcends all such distinctions of "the flesh." But what's weird is that, just a few verses later in that same chapter, Paul goes on to say, "Wives, submit to your husbands...husbands, love your wives," which are obviously still very gendered commands. So here's how I understand it: Christ certainly brings a unity which transcends these distinctions. But...the unity does NOT do away with the distinctions. It is a unity in diversity. Embodied unity, not abstract disembodied, de-gendered unity. Christ's ministry FULFILLS; it does not SUPPLANT. "Do not think that I cam to abolish the law," etc. Similarly with hierarchy. Christ is constantly ticked with the religious leaders of his day. You would think (and many to this day DO think) that he'd come simply to replace all those leaders with himself and say, "No more hierarchy. I'm king now." And, of course, he is king. But he DOESN'T do away with the hierarchy. He tells parables of masters, stewards, and servants (where stewards are not masters, but they are also more accountable than servants). He appoints his disciples to carry his ministry to the world as stewards, to represent him as special ambassadors. When they tell him they want to sit at his right and his left, he doesn't say, "This is bad. Don't want greatness. You should treat everyone as equal. I am doing away with hierarchy." He actually says something much more mysterious: "If you want to be great, you must become the slave of all." And he explains that they must (and shall) be baptized with the baptism he will be baptized with. That is, rather than doing away with greatness and slavery (and everything in between), he fulfills the whole hierarchy from top to bottom in himself AND THEN calls his disciples to join in him doing the same. Become the least IN ORDER to be the greatest. And it turns out he was right: there's actually no more profound way to serve people than to lead them well - to treat your high places not as a right, but as a responsibility which makes you simultaneously lower and higher than all. This is not the abolition of ordered relationships (hierarchy), but it's fulfillment, for the blessing of all. It is not the abstract, disembodied unity of "equality," but the deeper blessing of fulfilled order, unity with diversity, oneness and manyness, male and female (symbolically) finally in harmony. To take it a step further, this is also how we understand the resurrection. Our salvation is not a salvation FROM the body into some new generic state of disembodied consciousness. Rather, our salvation is, finally, ultimately, receiving a new body. New in that it is "not of the flesh [of Adam]," but body in the sense that it retains all the particularity of the original creation, just redeemed. It is a unity which retains and redeems particularity. Which brings me to Paul (sorry this is long)...I think it's important to understand (as I'm sure you know) that Paul's term "flesh" is not the same as his term "body." When we treat each other (and Christ) not according to the flesh, he tends to mean not according to the outward covering (think also, symbolically, of foreskin) but according to the spirit. Renewal must come from the inside out. Our hearts must be circumcised. The law, like the foreskin is an outer covering (a veil; think: the veils of the tabernacle), which serve a very distinct temporary purpose, but in the end must be removed. The veil exists in order to be removed. It must be lifted on the wedding day. (I'm going off course, but see my post on "Why God Hides" for more of this.) Anyway, the point is: our final redemption is a redemption OF our bodies, a cancellation of the old Adam, for sure, but there IS a new Adam, a new creation. And I believe this still carries the particularity of gender. I also follow Lewis in thinking that gender is deeper than sex. As in, perhaps the distinctions of sex WILL be go away in the new body. Perhaps they are part of the "flesh" which must die. But gender seems to be another thing entirely. It is, in fact, that marriage of unlikes (masculine and feminine) which serves as the greatest metaphor we have for the new creation. Finally finally, about the Moses-and-hard-hearts bit, I think you're onto something, but I may see it a bit reversed. Lewis argues in his essay Membership that the order of human marriage (masculine is the head / feminine the body, just as Christ is the head and the church is the body) represents, again, by way of imperfect metaphor, a deep heavenly reality. BUT, he says, since sinful husbands have proven themselves so often to be unworthy of the task (in other words, because of the hardness of their hearts), he recognizes that modern democracies needed to invent a kind of useful fiction of "equality" rather than hierarchy. Because of sin, we cannot actually experience the true metaphor of masculine and feminine completing and redeeming each other in an ordered relationship, so we settle for an equality which strips away that order, rightly, to protect those who would be abused by an improper hierarchy. He says we wear this de-gendered equality like "clothes" as a way of covering us from the diverse and particular nakedness which we each of us actually have before Christ. So, we can and should eliminate such hierarchies on the state level, Lewis argues, but as Christians we should remember that Christ has ordered things differently (and better), where those above give their lives away for those below and therefore glorify (lift up!) those below through the exchange of trust and trustworthiness. It's not "there is no first or last," but rather, truly, "the last shall be first." Anyway, that's a bunch of thoughts. But I was short on time, so I just spit them all out.

Expand full comment
author

I welcome your response! Please don't feel like I'm instructing. More like thinking out loud.

Expand full comment

Thank you for your response, it was thorough. Of the ideas you present I'm drawn first to the idea of the veil; "useful," in that it protects us from being struck dead by wandering into the presence of God unprepared but also inhibiting in that it keeps us from seeing God in all of His glory. By Jesus taking on the veil of flesh we are able both see God and be protected from wandering into the full light of His glory.

If marriage is the ordered relationship that acts as the the embodiment of what it means to be in a heavenly ordered relationship then when the veil is cast off all that remains is the heavenly ordered relationship. Jesus' response to the Pharisees in Mark 12 that "we will be like the angels neither married nor given in marriage" makes more sense.

I'm not so committed to equality being a "useful fiction," it seems too verbally dismissive of passages that urge us to treat one another as more important than ourselves and in the game of humble service (I have found) my wife always wins. To connect it to unity, my experience and study have seen that when we source our safety, legitimacy and provision outside of God in marriage or any symbiotic organisation (church organisation, denominational structures etc etc) we commit the same sins of the people of God in the book of Hosea who attribute our safety, legitimacy and provision to these other lovers. That unity is in the love, faith and hope of the gospel; all things we receive from God along with our safety, legitimacy and provision and are called on to embody among the people of God. Because we all receive these things, there is a certain equality "at the foot of the cross" to reveal my evangelical roots, though perhaps a certain differentiation of willingness to receive and therefore a natural hierarchy of least in the Kingdom meaning that we accept more (identity?) from God and less from our proverbial lovers.

That's enough for now, I don't know if that makes sense, but I welcome your response.

Expand full comment
author

Well said! Sorry, I didn't mean that equality is a useful fiction in the sense that others should not be valued more than ourselves. I meant more like the opposite: that the modern notion of equality (in attempting the good of treating all people well) dismisses the particularly embodied ways that we treat people well, which involves movements up and down, submission and headship. As in, when you treat others better than yourself, you are making yourself a slave to them, in a sense. Jesus talks about being greatest in the kingdom, etc. He just doesn't have a modern, flattened view of human relationships. But he also, obviously, doesn't have the "lord it over you" vision of hierarchy. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. Whereas modern notions of equality might say, "Well wouldn't it be better if we just did away with the notion of 'serving' all together and treated everyone as equal peers? What is this talk of submission and making yourself a slave? Slavery = bad!" And, of course, slavery IS bad the way we do it. But Jesus has a weird way of wanting to redeem/fulfill slavery rather than simply abolish it. And btw, 99% of this has nothing to do with gender or marriage. This is just the way Jesus talks to his disciples about being disciples. I just think Paul is saying that marriage is another location where this kind of trustworthy-servant-leadership and trusting-submission takes place. And, for the people that I know who do this in marriage, the marriage becomes a very equal partnership, where, if anything, wives enjoy more and deeper freedom and worth and even authority. (I am not a modern complementarian.) And yes I completely agree with your last paragraph. The unity is in the love. I guess I'm just saying that that love still has a subtle body in the world, it is still ordered in some way, which is why Paul's household commands and political directives still take the shape of particularity rather than abstraction.

Expand full comment
Apr 12·edited Apr 12Liked by Ross Byrd

Not abstract, but I think it could be more dynamic in its particularity; its own X. There is authority and there is submission and marriage meets at the centre of both for both--you cannot have submission without authority and you cannot have authority without submission; both are called to submit and so therefore both are called to have some measure of authority over the other. For instance, Paul makes it clear that "your bodies are not your own". It's not likely that we are called to authority and submission at the same time and in the same instance so I can see how you would retain some measure of complementarianism even if one is over the other at one time but not always acting in that capacity.

Another thought occurs to me in that man and wife are one flesh--how can one flesh be in authority or submission to itself? They would have to be distinct to the point of being distinguishable from the other--are they two or one? The X fix of authority and submission may well solve the equation in that they are both in authority and both in submission though not at the same time and in the same capacity. There is a general single will to them and not one or the other such that both are in authority and both submitting extemporaneously to the other. This kind of unity (I think) is what Jesus prayed for in John 17. "as one with one another and you as we are one".

Expand full comment
author

Yes to all this. Well said. The traditional Christian response here is that it’s eschatologically defined: already-not-yet. Marriage makes the two truly one flesh. But also, the two are not completely, immediately one. There is being and becoming. They are going for the up and further in, into deeper mutuality for sure, but also (perhaps?) deeper gendered particularity. That last part may be argued either way. But that’s where I lean if I’m trying to embrace a truly embodied, participatory theology.

Expand full comment

It's interesting that you should use symbiotic language from biology to describe the marriage relationship. Mutualism; where both individuals carry a net benefit for their active association. I have a running theory about the people of God that involves symbiotic language though it is not as flattering.

Expand full comment

This is such a helpful perspective thank you so much for sharing!

Expand full comment
author

Thank you reading!

Expand full comment
May 21Liked by Ross Byrd

I had a bit of technical difficulty, but the first part of my response is now up.

https://vonwriting.substack.com/p/trust-honour-and-obey

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for this, Von. I will give it a read!

Expand full comment
May 21Liked by Ross Byrd

I was out on my phone earlier and had a hard time getting the links to work, or the comments to post. So the links to the appendix aren’t all there, but I definitley strongly recommend ‘reading’ the appendix as well.

I have another post scheduled for Thursday, dealing with the ‘calling him lord’ quote in I Peter.

Expand full comment

Show my post in reaction to this one is finally up.

https://open.substack.com/pub/vonwriting/p/trust-and-obey?r=6csnm&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Expand full comment
author

Von, I would have liked to give a thoughtful response to this, but it is such a mischaracterization of my argument that I have to assume you didn’t read the piece at all and simply wrote whatever you were already thinking about writing, using a random sentence of mine as your straw man. Not sure it would be fruitful to say more at this time. If you want to engage my actual argument in good faith, I would be happy to respond.

Expand full comment

I wasn’t actually trying to argue with you. I used that sentence from your article in order to lead into a general discussion of a problem that I think exists in the larger church.

Expand full comment
author

Ah I see. But the thing is, the sentence you chose out of context is still a mischaracterization of my argument. And you used that as a jumping-off point for your argument, linking to my piece without actually engaging with it. Do you see what I mean?

Expand full comment

I completely agree with you about the jumping off point. However, the issue of miscarries ation seems to imply that I was intending to characterise. If there’s a way that you’d like me to make it more clear that I used that sentence as a jumping off point for discussing an issue that I think that I think exist in the church more broadly, I’m perfectly open to making that change.

I think it would be helpful as well if you would lay out, either here or there your choice, the differences that you have between what I said and what you believe. Or are you saying that you agree with me and I implied that we disagree?

By the way, I’m on my phone using voice recognition so if anything comes out weird that would be why.

Expand full comment

I am perfectly capable of editing an article in a short way from my phone so it’s something I could do in a couple minutes.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for your willingness to do so. No need. I’m not super concerned about it.

As far as your argument goes, I will have to think on it. I agree that Abraham’s trust is most truly embodied in his obedience. I have myself written about that. But I definitely don’t think the English word “obey”—which is used generally in response to commands—is the best functional term to characterize a Christian wife’s role with regard to her husband. I believe marital relations should exist in proper hierarchy (as is true of all relationships, even the Father and the Son). I believe what Paul says here and in 1 Cor 11 is true. You seem to be take a common sense approach. That submission obviously means obedience and that obedience obviously means exactly what it sounds like: same as a dog to its master, a child to his mother, a slave to his master. I do not think obedience to anyone other than God—though it may be called for—is straightforward. In my view, a child of five obeys his parents very differently than a child of 15. A child of 35 may not explicitly “obey” his parents at all and yet may still be jn submission to their authoritative role in his life. In short, I have a hard time trusting an argument about obedience between humans that does not leave room for a large degree of nuance for when and how this obedience should be enacted. If you agree with this, then I would suggest that “trust” is the better word. True trust includes obedience but, with regard to imperfect human relations, leaves room for nuance. Actual Christian living is messy. If you dislike “trust”, “honor” could also work. There are, for instance, many ways that adult children must honor their parents without directly obeying their commands. The same may possibly be said of wives to husbands.

Expand full comment

Tony Sumpter in “No Mere Mortals” cleans up this issue of “submission” greatly. And it don’t mean trustworthiness, it means what it says, Submit.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for the comment! To clarify, my argument is that submission is the embodiment of trust, not trustworthiness. In a sense, it is the opposite of trustworthiness. It is the response of trust TO trustworthiness, with God being the ultimate source of that trustworthiness, even if lower forms of authority to which we must submit (husbands/governments) are poor representations. This seems clear in Scripture. But yes, as you said, submission is not trustworthiness. This is not the argument I make.

Expand full comment

I understand your point. Still a good thorough post. Enjoyed it. I like any posts that help with marriages, child rearing etc…Sorry if I seemed brash. I wasn’t being hypercritical.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks! Thanks for reading.

Expand full comment