Discover more from The Raven's Writing Desk
Worthy: the Appendices
A Review of Jesus & Gender by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Eric Schumacher and Jude 3, The Furnace and the Forge: Defending the Apostolic Faith
Hi All, we’re continuing our series through the book of Jude today, this week we’re returning to Jude v.3 to look at defending the holy apostolic faith. First though, here’s a review of Jesus & Gender: Living as Sisters & Brothers in Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Eric Schumacher. The article on Jude is included below.
To pick up Jesus & Gender, which comes out on the 6th of April 2022, head over to Logos: Jesus & Gender Link
My wife and I love the Lord of the Rings movies, like watching the extended editions at least once a year together kind of love. We don’t just stop there though, with each movie comes two whole discs (per film!) of appendices that go over everything from the make-up to the stunts, the design process to how they managed to sign the film in the first place, everything you could possibly want to know about how and why the films were made and what went into every moment is in there, so naturally we watch those too.
A little while ago I bought Worthy, the first book by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Eric Schumacher, which takes the reader through the bible, highlighting the stories and passages about women and helping us to see them with greater understanding, with the hope that we would better see the image of God displayed in the women in our lives. This book, Jesus & Gender, is like the Lord of the Rings appendices but for Worthy, so though you don’t necessarily have to have read Worthy, essentially what you find in this book is a host of essays that form the basis upon which we can better understand everything in Worthy, and indeed women in the bible and beyond. That has been done here by looking A: through the lens of Jesus and B: at the relationship between men and women particularly in the context of the people of God.
That, as I’m sure you can imagine, is a pretty big task.
This book, as broad as the subject matter is, and as well as it deals with the subjects at hand, is not exhaustive. That makes my job a tad harder in one way because it’s difficult to pin down exactly how to review this book/appendices/essay collection, but on the other hand, I usually review books not by telling you, the reader, as much about them as I possibly can, but by giving you pointers on how I suggest you go and read the book and how to get the most you possibly can out of it.
With that said, I have three pointers (Setting Expectations, Be Challenged, the 99% Rule) as well as one point of concern.
If we sat down and wrote Jesus & Gender at the top of a piece of paper as an idea generator, I think we could probably come up with at least a hundred different books. With a term as loaded as Gender, with a myriad of different possible meanings, you may well have looked at this article, or indeed this book, and had a very different idea in your head as to what this article would be about, and from which position it would be written from. With that said, it’s key then that we pay close attention to the rest of the title:
Living as Sisters & Brothers in Christ
If you’re planning on picking up this book, which I hope you are, please sit with those words for a good while before it turns up. If you go and order it now you have a few weeks to sit and think about your own views on that subject before it comes, which would be ideal.
Because otherwise, you could start reading it hoping for answers to questions this book isn’t particularly interested in answering. It would be like opening up the DVD case for Frozen II and instead finding Braveheart. Whatever you felt about the latter, it wasn’t what you were expecting to find.
First pointer: Set your expectations to align with the authors’ intentions.
Here are the two words you were probably expecting to hear…let’s do it together…1..2…3…Egalitarian and Complementarian…right that wasn’t so bad.
Wherever you find yourself on that sliding scale, this book is not written to agree with your position. This book has, you may say, something to offend everyone. I’m not saying that pejoratively, though somewhat in jest, I’m simply making the point that you should expect this book to challenge you in the best way possible. With that said, you won’t find yourself agreeing with every point made in Jesus & Gender, such is life, but there’s a reason that Fitzpatrick and Schumacher are on their second book on this subject, they are committed to trying to make sure churches are equipped to teach orthodoxy and live orthopraxy, in other words, preach the gospel and live it out. Those are the kinds of people you should want to be challenged by. Where this book stands up at the door of your convictions and knocks, you should check those convictions.
Does what’s being said here change anything?
Does it help your heart soften?
Does it give you clarity on a point you’d never considered?
What is the biblical basis for their argument?
What is the biblical basis for your argument?
Particularly with regards to those final two questions—which I would suggest asking when reading any books—don’t view this as an “us vs them” situation, but an in-house family discussion about how to love your brothers and sisters in Christ better. To the very point, the final questions to ask are:
How has this chapter helped me to love my siblings in Christ better?
How has this book helped me to love my siblings in Christ better?
To help us with this final pointer, here’s a quote from chapter eight (of twelve):
Gender roles. Headship. Submission. Some of you picked up this book and immediately flipped to this chapter to see what we have to say about these matters. If that’s you, you’re welcome to start here; we don’t mind (though we’d encourage you to read the whole thing). In fact, we (sort of) applaud you. You’ve drawn a conclusion—the end of the matter. You want to see if a work agrees with you in the end before you invest in its beginning.
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, Jesus & Gender: Living as Sisters & Brothers in Christ, (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press: An Imprint of Lexham Press, 2022), 134.
The authors then go on to essentially recap the vast majority of the book, taking time to stall, give context, as well as to help everyone who has read the book up until that chapter. The reason they are doing this is, as I mentioned before, that’s not really the point of this book!
I have a wife, I love my wife, I need books that help me to honour and serve my wife better. This is not that book. I also have other women in my life, 99%+ of whom are not my wife. I need books that help me to honour and serve my sisters better.
It’s as simple as that, and if you’re a woman, you can flip that equation around.
Put simply, If you are married (whether male or female) then the majority of men and women in your life are not either in submission to you or in headship over you. Excellent explanations of gender roles within marriage are out there, but this is about those other relationships in your lives, the ones with the other 99%+. That’s not particularly ground-breaking, but it is, unfortunately, quite unique.
The authors state:
“If men see women in the church as temptations, deceptive usurpers, overly emotional liabilities to ministry and intellectual inferiors, true partnership will never occur. If women see men in the church as lords to obey, threats to avoid, or obstacles for advancing their own agendas, they will never be co-workers. We must strive to be what the apostle celebrates—partners who labor side by side for the gospel.”
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, Jesus & Gender: Living as Sisters & Brothers in Christ, (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press: An Imprint of Lexham Press, 2022), 76–83.
I really hope that you read that and say, “Yep, totally agree with that,” which is not to say you always do it perfectly, but that you’d agree. If you do agree, then try and read this book about how to be better brothers and sisters and if you’re still hankering for books about marriage or eldership, then leave a comment below and I’ll help you find one.
A Point of Concern
Some of you looked at what I said about a point of concern and immediately flipped to this section to see what it is. Please do go back and read the rest of the article. What I have to say below is said within the following context:
I want you to read the book if you are A: a Woman or B: a Man, so everyone.
With that in mind this point of concern is not one that I feel disqualifies this book from being read, but one which I think is important and serious enough to warrant a response.
Without further adieu, earlier this year I put out a thread on Twitter which began:
It took me a long time to accept using titles like those, because what I really want to say when I talk about my views, or more importantly, my faith is:
I’m a Christian.
That is of primary importance, but the longer I have dwelled upon the points of secondary difference I have with my fellow believers around the world and fellow believers from throughout history, the more I have recognised how important it is not to characterise my own views as the Christian ones. I have seen others do it, especially in some of the camps I’m in, Calvinists who believe only we are saved, Credo-baptists who call it the Christian stance, Complementarians who deny communion to Egalitarians on the basis that they haven’t received the faith. Now I hope, as I set out to explain in the Thread above, that I remain committed to conversing charitably with whomever I disagree with, though I’m sure I don’t do that perfectly, but I’m glad that I have the guardrails of my named convictions in place to help me see, and others see, these are the distinctives which I think are most clearly laid out in the Bible and which make the most sense of the historic apostolic tradition.
I may be wrong.
I may be wrong, but the stakes are low.
If, however, I named one of my convictions “Christic”, the stakes would be pretty darn high. For context, that’s the word the book uses to define this its view of manhood and womanhood, which seriously worries me. That’s not because I think that Fitzpatrick and Schumacher are untrustworthy or that their intentions were anything but honourable in choosing it, but that doesn’t change the effect introducing a word like this will inevitably have.
For that reason, if you pick up this book, particularly if you are a church leader, please use it to help shape and guide the policies, actions, and activities going on in your church. Whether you are Egalitarian or Complementarian, or some other third party I’m unaware of, please, please, please think long and hard before introducing anything from it under the name, “Christic.”
You may likewise have the best of intentions in doing so, by calling your view of men and women the Christic view, but please consider two things (I’m going to use the failing of my own camp here, which is not to say there are none in the other, but that isn’t my sphere of understanding):
Take a look at those currently deconstructing as a result of pain caused by a bad view that fell under the broad banner of complementarianism. Many of them have left the church entirely, but some, seeing that broader view as the issue, have held onto faith but entered into churches that hold an egalitarian view. That is, undoubtedly, the better option, whatever view I hold, I would much prefer them to abandon my camp but remain in the body of Christ than leave entirely. If instead they were hurt by a church who did the same things but called their view “Christic” what do you think the result would be?
If this were any other secondary issue, let’s say a denominational divide for instance, and the Presbyterians or the Baptists decided tomorrow to make an announcement to say, “We are rebranding ourselves as the Christic Church and our Theology from this point on will be known as Christic Theology,” what would your response be, please let that help you to inform your answer.
I want to end by saying that I really don’t want to write this last part, firstly because I think the book is otherwise brilliant, and Worthy is hands down the book which has shaped my view of women the most, secondly, because I want people to read this and I’m worried that people won’t, and finally, because it genuinely grieves my heart that this word has been used. I totally understand the reasoning behind why this word was used, and this quote really helps to illustrate the importance behind the intended use:
“A more God-honoring, Christ-exalting, scripturally faithful hermeneutic about men and women is desperately needed in our day. This Christic perspective would counter falsehoods about women having been created as weak-minded and easily deceived and would open the door for both women and men to discern and fully follow their calling, whether those callings fit stereotypes or not. Whenever we make broad-brush assertions about eight billion unique persons, none of whom are exactly the same (though we share a common humanity), we’re bound to err.”
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, Jesus & Gender: Living as Sisters & Brothers in Christ, (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press: An Imprint of Lexham Press, 2022), 62.
I just can’t get past how dangerous it could be to use on the ground in a church context, not to mention how—given how ecumenical this book is—it will undoubtedly be used in a variety of different ways.
A Final Note
With that said, this quote beautifully sums up what I hope we can all—men or women, complementarian or egalitarian—agree with:
“In Christ, believing men and women are to glorify God by cooperating for the advance of the gospel and imitating Christ in voluntary humiliation, reciprocal benevolence, and mutual flourishing.”
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, Jesus & Gender: Living as Sisters & Brothers in Christ, (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press: An Imprint of Lexham Press, 2022), 135.
Please go and pre-order this book over at Logos: Jesus & Gender
“Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.”
Christian Standard Bible, (Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Jude 3
“Be watchful for your life; let your lamps not be quenched and your loins not ungirded, but be ye ready; for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh. And ye shall gather yourselves together frequently, seeking what is fitting for your souls; for the whole time of your faith shall not profit you, if ye be not perfected at the last season. For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate.”
Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, The Didache, or the Teaching of the Apostles (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 235
Once For All
A couple of weeks ago we looked at this verse and at what might have been written had Jude followed his own will. This week we look forward to what is being written, particularly with a view of what is being defended.
At first glance it might seem odd that something which has been given Once for All would need defending, or perhaps that contending for the faith is something church leaders should do, but it’s not really for normal christians. In light of what’s to come though, it’s of paramount importance that we dig in and understand what’s at stake.
Firstly though, what is “the faith?”
Well, in calling it the Apostolic Faith in the title of this article I’m essentially evoking language used to talk about the Church from the Nicene Creed, “And we believe in one holy catholic* and apostolic church.” (*More on catholic here)
The reason I’ve done that is because first and foremost, the faith is something given to us by God, but for all intents and purposes delivered or handed down by the Apostles. Not only this, but having been passed down, in order to contend for the faith and in order to preserve it, on a number of occasions creeds anc confessions have been written, the earliest of which was the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God the Father, Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the virgin Mary;
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven;
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy catholic church; the communion of saints;
The forgiveness of sins;
The resurrection of the body;
And the life everlasting. Amen.
The Apostles’ Creed (RSB)
Incredibly precise and yet simple enough that even children can repeat and understand it, the Apostles’ creed leaves no doubt as to what is to be kept from the greedy fingers of heresy, who’s servants are never far from the church. What is crucial to understand though is that though this creed is not scripture, it only exists from an understanding of scripture and was written to honour what scripture has already said. Nothing which is written here cannot be found in the scriptures. It is therefore not principally this creed, this document, that we should be defending, but instead when we read this it should be strengthening us to better defend scripture.
With that said, it’s not easy to keep doing so when the heat rises, and there are also many beliefs we hold which aren’t found on this list. Outside pressure is always an issue, which I’m sure we’ll get to one day, but in particular in this case, and indeed throughout the Bible, issues have often come from within the ranks of the people of God, or those among our ranks who are actually wolves in sheeps clothing.
False Teachers, Imposters, and Intruders take many forms, stay tuned for more on that as much of this letter is dedicated to them, but the good news for us is that we’ve not been left alone with our problems without a help in the world. The Church has been given many gifts to bolster herself and root out the source of the issue.
We have a forge, a host of gifts, and many fruits.
Rather than expound on each text today, can I encourage you to read each of these through one or two times and be encouraged. I love to exposit scripture, but sometimes it’s right to leave it on it’s own and just dwell. I think today is one of those days.
The Armour of God
“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough to speak about it as I should.”
Christian Standard Bible (Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Eph 6:10–20
“Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
Christian Standard Bible (Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), 1 Co 12:1–3
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit”
Christian Standard Bible (Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Ga 5:22–25
Remember that this is the first word, not the last. God hasn’t only given us the faith once for all, but also once and for all, it is done, it is finished.
“In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirits when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.”
Christian Standard Bible, (Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Eph 1:13–14.