Book Review – No Little Women by Aimee Byrd
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul warns Timothy that there will be some people who are toxic in their handling of scripture and relationships. He gives Timothy a long list of character traits and says that these people have an appearance of godliness but deny its power. He goes on to say that among these types of people are those who creep into households (implies bad intentions) with the intent of capturing weak women (2 Timothy 3:6). Paul urges Timothy to avoid this type of person. In her new book, No Little Women, Aimee Byrd takes Paul’s warning and focuses her attention not upon the intruders, but on these “weak women” who are always learning but never arriving at truth. Here Byrd uses a literal meaning of gynaikaria and translates the phrase as little women. As Byrd points out, this phrase is meant as a negative term and Paul uses it to emphasize the contemptuous nature of their being taken by false teaching. Paul is speaking bluntly here not because he has a low view of women, but because he understands that women are capable of so much more than these little women demonstrate by being taken captive so easily by those who oppose the truth.
This tendency to fall prey to false teaching is not found exclusively in women; that much is obvious. However, as an author, Byrd has a profound burden for Christian women who have replaced the need for a biblical knowledge of God with any of the myriad of options offered at popular women’s conferences. Many times these are not bad things in themselves, but are being packaged in very poor theology. The sad reality is that the conferences and teachings are hitting on a real need that women have, but rather than pointing the women to Christ and his all-sufficient grace, women are being encouraged to look within themselves to find meaning and fulfillment.
Byrd starts off by establishing the value of women in God’s economy using John McKinley’s rendering of ezer and its substantive, kenegdo as “necessary ally”. This, I believe, is the better translation since (as Byrd points out) the phrase “suitable helper” has a different connotation today than the text suggests. Not only is it a better translation but gets tot he heart of the male/female distinction — and this is important to understand throughout the rest of the book. Women are not merely helpers as we commonly think of the word today, they are our counterpart and together the totality of the image of God is made manifest within the human race.
Right about now I am confident that some might be getting nervous and are beginning to think that Aimee Byrd and the good folks over at P&R have gone the way of Anne Eggebroten but this is not the case. Keep in mind that this is P&R; one of the more trusted names in Christian publishing. Rather than falling into the complementarianism of Piper or the egalitarianism of Bilezikian,, Byrd takes more of a middle ground insisting that there are roles to be respected in marriage and in church while at the same time insisting that women can and ought to take theological training seriously and that women are not bound to submit to every man. Additionally, Byrd insists (contrary to Piper) that women shouldn’t find their identity in submitting to men.
I am not constantly looking for male leadership in my life. I am a married woman and a member of a church, and I understand the order needed in a household , but male leadership does not define my femininity. I’m not looking to my male neighbors, coworkers or mail carriers to nurture their leadership. This kind of teaching perpetuates a constant authority/submission dynamic between men and women that can be very harmful. And because of it, there have been even stranger applications, such as why it would be okay for a man to ask directions from a housewife in her backyard if he were lost.
This type of clear thinking on the issue is important for us to understand. Nowhere in scripture are we told that a woman must submit to every man and nowhere are we told that men cannot learn from women. Quite frankly, I applaud Byrd’s work here. A wrong view of gender is harmful to women, marriages, the church, and the whole of society and we have seen the results in the myriad of books, conferences, and bible studies targeted at women that have the result of keeping women ignorant of meaningful theology. Byrd does not treat this topic lightly and it is to her glory. Speaking of Christian Best Sellers lists, Byrd says
The best sellers list is often dominated by women authors, which in itself isn’t a bad thing– but just about all the books on the list are filled with theological error. And the ones marketed especially to women appeal to the emotions and sentimentality of the reader while subverting the faithful teaching of scripture.
Byrd places the blame with the women who read them, their churches, the bookstores, and the publishing companies. She doesn’t shy away from naming names either and calls out the women as those who teach error. The answer to all of this Byrd asserts is for churches to minister to every member by word and sacrament. This is how both men and women grow in all faithfulness.
No Little Women is a call for women to grow in discernment by reading books that are faithful to historic Christianity. It’s also a call to churches to embrace a robust women’s ministry which allows women the freedom to pursue academic and biblical excellence rather than brushing them off into the corner with a theologically weak women’s bible study while hoping that they are kept quiet long enough for the men to do the vigorous study. This is a refreshing perspective and one that I have come to appreciate. I wish that all men would know the joy of having late night theological discussions with their wives as I have been able to enjoy with Jami all these years. Men ought not be afraid of an intelligent and capable woman and I can attest to the fact that having a theologically astute wife has caused me to grow and to be stretched in ways that I never would have imagined before encountering her.
So who should read this book? Women for certain.. but also men and especially men who are pastors and elders of their church. I would also commend No Little Women to my sons and certainly to my daughters. I can’t think of a single person who wold not benefit from reading No Little Women and I hope that all the marvelous women in my life have a chance t pick it up and read it.
Where to purchase
Click here to purchase No Little Women: Nurturing Competent Women in the Household of God from ChristianBook.com (CBD)
Click here to purchase directly from P&R Books
About the Author
Aimee Byrd is just an ordinary mom of three who has also been a martial arts student, coffee shop owner, and Bible study teacher. Author of Housewife Theologian, she now blogs about theology and the Christian life and cohosts The Mortification of Spin podcast.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from P&R Publishing in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”