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A New Way to Understand Men and Women in Christ? A Review of Rachel Green Miller’s Beyond Authority and Submission

October 17, 2019
By Steven Wedgeworth
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Editor’s Note: The following review by Steven Wedgeworth will appear in the Fall 2019 issue of Eikon, which will be available to read online and in print next month.


Rachel Green Miller’s Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society (P&R Publishing, 2019) represents a growing new voice in what might be called post-complementarian literature. In it, Miller affirms the biblical teaching of male-only ordination in the church and the husband’s leadership in the family, but she seeks to correct what she considers an intrusion of unbiblical and even pagan assumptions into the traditional Reformed and Evangelical discourse.

In this review, I will first summarize the major sections of Beyond Authority and Submission and highlight its key points of argument. I will commend the admirable intentions which lie at its heart and even join in on a few important criticisms of some complementarian writers. Regrettably, I must also make several points of substantial criticism of the book. Its full thesis is not presented directly at the beginning, and so readers are forced to piece it together as they move throughout the later chapters. Its biblical exposition, which ought to support the thesis, is actually quite meager. The book’s persuasiveness is mostly found in its telling of the history, a damning history as told. Yet this narration is extremely selective, as Miller leaves large gaps in her timeline and appeals to a questionable history of ideas. It would be inappropriate to treat the book as an academic treatise, of course, yet these flaws make Beyond Authority and Submission misleading and unhelpful for practical purposes. Most troubling of all, however, is its unfair presentation of the complementarian position. Throughout the book, several shocking arguments or quotes are given as evidence of what leading Reformed men and women teach, but when the citations are examined, they repeatedly do not support the initial charge. This lack of fairness is so pervasive that one cannot avoid the impression of animus, a characteristic that makes the book potentially harmful for the average reader.

Summary Review

Rachel Green Miller opens her book by explaining her motivation. She says, “I’ve become increasingly aware of what’s being taught in conservative circles about the nature of women and men and what’s considered appropriate in marriage, the church, and society. It’s troubling, and much of it isn’t biblical” (14). She believes this is due to the tendency to reduce all male and female relations to the question of “authority and submission.” She does not dispute that authority and submission are necessary attributes of the relationship between husbands and wives, but she does not believe they should be used as a controlling interpretative paradigm for male and female relationships more generally. Further, even within marriage, these are not the only two important categories, but should exist in concert with other equally foundational categories like “unity, interdependence, and service” (14). This is what she means by moving “beyond” authority and submission. She is not rejecting those categories but rather balancing their use by placing them in a sort of multi-polar interpretive framework. As this is done, she believes that women will be given a more appropriate status of equality with men, as “co-laborers in all of life” (17). She believes this view is truly distinct from complementarianism (16) and represents a more biblical approach.

Miller also wants to make it clear what she believes about men and women. She lays out four possible positions that one could take: feminism, egalitarianism, complementarianism, and patriarchy (15). Having given these four options, Miller lists her own views, views which initially appear to be a variation of “complementarianism.” Miller admits that she once thought of herself as a complementarian:

So am I complementarian? I used to think so. After all, I believe that husbands are the leaders of their families. I believe that wives should submit to the leadership of their husbands. I believe that ordained church leaders should be qualified men. Isn’t that what complementarians believe? (16)

But she then states that she is no longer “comfortable” calling herself a complementarian because complementarians have embraced additional beliefs, beliefs about the nature of men and women as such. Though she doesn’t say it in the introduction, it will become clear that Miller’s main criticism of “complementarianism” is that it teaches that it is in men’s “nature” to be “leaders, providers, and protectors” and that it is in women’s nature to be “submissive and responsive” (23, 50, 65, 129, 195, 230, 244). Grounding the logic of authority and submission in the original creation order turns out to be the primary problem with complementarian thinking. For Miller, this kind of argument is still a sort of patriarchy which will necessarily work its way out into the open sooner or later. This is why her own proposal begins with equality and why she repeatedly emphasizes the term “co-laborers.” For her, authority and submission apply equally to all humans, and their use varies depending upon specific relationships and vocations. As she works this out, the difference between her view and complementarianism will become more obvious, and her overarching argument will become plain.

Part one of Beyond Authority and Submission lays out Miller’s own biblical theology for human relationships. Miller understands the Bible to teach that equals voluntarily submit to others in limited ways according to their particular relationships and vocations. She states that original authority was given to both men and women equally (22). This authority is limited or relativized according to one’s relationships. It should be a servant-leadership: “A servant leader isn’t so much a leader who learns to serve but a servant who learns to lead through service” (24). Submitting to other authorities is itself a voluntary act (23). It is not a natural feature of a basic hierarchy, but rather the reasonable and appropriate thing to do based on vocation and competency: “Common sense tells us that we should recognize the situational authority of others” (23).

While Miller believes there are important differences between men and women, she contends that the most important feature of both is their “unity, interdependence,” and “call to mutual service” (36). Miller affirms the complementary attributes of men and women, but does not explain what they are or how they complement one another. She believes that “we need to stop defining women as the polar opposite of men and vice versa” (37) and instead see that we are called to a unity of co-labor. While society and harmful traditional assumptions emphasize “what divides us,” the “Bible teaches about what unites us” (37). Miller does believe that sexual distinctions are still real and do matter. For her, our sexual identities are a matter of “biological fact” (40). Yet even here, we are “interdependent” and we “complement each other” (40). We should work together, and, for the Christian, all of our work is service. Husbands and wives “serve each other” (43). So too with parents and children. Even church leaders, employers, and government leaders serve others. Just as authority was equally given to all, so too all are equally called to serve. The necessary distinctions are found in one’s particular relationships and vocations, and the implications of those distinctions are always to be used for the service of the greater whole.

Part two of Beyond Authority and Submission explains why this biblical position of ordered but equal service has proven so difficult for Christians to discover. Miller sketches a history of gender discourse, beginning with the ancient Greeks and Romans, moving next to the Victorians, then the first-wave feminist movement, and finally the twentieth century’s conflict between second-wave feminism and the opposing evangelical reaction, complementarianism. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, “women and men are completely different and have few overlapping qualities” (50). Because of their particular philosophical and scientific views, these pagan thinkers argued that men should hold positions of authority and governance, whereas women should mostly be restricted to childrearing and other domestic duties.

Miller argues that the New Testament had a “revolutionary” effect on this ancient Greco-Roman society (58). It gave them new definitions of authority and submission, and she insinuates that the early Christians advocated the position of equal service she outlined in the preceding chapters. Miller concedes that “Christianity didn’t change everything,” but she argues that it nevertheless did greatly elevate the status of women and improve how they were treated in the ancient world (59). Sadly, this revolutionary moment was not to last: “Hundreds of years later, the Victorians revived these pagan beliefs [the Greek and Roman teaching on patriarchy] and attempted to baptize them as Christian” (59). This is why the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries assumed a “tradition” so different from what Miller argues is the biblical teaching. It is because of this Victorian recovery of pre-Christian assumptions that more modern Christians assume that feminine piety should be marked by “purity, piety, submission, and domesticity” (110).

This then leads to the next major intellectual revolution, that of first-wave feminism. Miller is overwhelmingly sympathetic to first-wave feminism. She attempts to correct unfair caricatures of the early feminist movement, arguing that it should not be judged by later distortions. Indeed, Miller believes that the original feminists had justified complaints and wanted to improve the lives of women in reasonable ways. They did not “want to make women independent,” but rather “believed that their changes would be good for society—for both women and men. If their reforms were enacted, men and women could work together as equals and live together as partners” (78).

In Miller’s estimation, the new era ushered in by first-wave feminism was mostly an improvement upon the previous one. This too, unfortunately, was lost, because of the effects of the two world wars and the semi-nostalgic reaction on the part of the rising white middle class. Many of these newly won women’s rights “were abandoned” as men and women again allowed unbiblical traditions to control their imaginations (88). This would create a new reaction, the second wave of feminism, which would in turn create the conservative Christian reaction we now know as complementarianism. These newer feminists had some legitimate concerns, but they went much further than their predecessors arguing for inappropriate sorts of interchangeability between men and women and sinful sexual practices (100).

At this point in the book, Miller focuses in on contemporary evangelical and Reformed writers associated with complementarianism. She seeks to show how their reaction to later forms of feminism have caused them to both revert to Victorian assumptions about piety and to institute new and peculiar sorts of teaching and practice. Parts three–six of Beyond Submission and Authority seek to make this case in the following way. The first chapter of each part lays out the modern reactionary position, with a broad sampling of evidence from contemporary books, articles, and lectures. The following chapters of each section then respond with Miller’s understanding of the biblical teaching. She illustrates a number of troubling practices which have developed, including some which seem to use the father as a mediator between the church and his family, or perhaps between Christ and his family (196). She is afraid that traditional views of marriage have become a dangerous idol, eclipsing the preaching and teaching of the gospel (165). She believes that women have been unjustly limited from many leadership roles in church and society.

Throughout this section, Miller’s understanding of the biblical teaching on men and women becomes clear. She argues against defining a uniquely “masculine” or “feminine” nature. Instead, both are human, and she emphasizes the Scriptures sometimes teach that women are strong and sometimes call men to be gentle. While she affirms that there are important biological differences between men and women, Miller argues against trying to identify corresponding spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or dispositional differences. For her the matter is quite simple, “If God made you a woman, you are feminine” (148) and “If God made you a man, you are masculine” (149). Miller argues that if one affirms the “natural” argument that men should be “leaders, providers, and protectors,” and that “it’s the nature of women to be submissive and responsive to male leadership,” then this will work its way out into all of society (230). Miller notes that some complementarians attempt to argue for strict laws directly from the Bible, while others have a “slightly softer version” that doesn’t “focus so much on biblical rules” but instead “believe[s] that the nature of men and women determines what behavior is appropriate for them” (244). Here is Miller’s full argument: complementarian principles are patriarchy.

Against this, Miller argues that “the Bible doesn’t restrict women from serving in leadership positions in society” (245). The shared calling to work shows “the unity of women and men” (246), and men and women can work alongside one another (246-247). “The Scriptures indicate that both women and men should be ‘inclined toward the home’” (253), and wisdom will dictate which partner does which job, as they make their decisions freely, in accordance with Christian liberty (254).

Commendation

Beyond Authority and Submission is in many ways an attempt to be faithful to the teachings of Scripture while also not going beyond what is written in such a way to allow for legalism or abuse. It argues that the Bible does indeed teach male-only ordination and that wives submit to their husbands. It is not a “progressive” book in that way. Instead, the message is that conservatives need to examine themselves to see where their own errors and acceptance of extra-biblical and even anti-biblical traditions have led them astray. Miller speaks in earnest when she describes the way contemporary stereotypes caused her to question her femininity (124). “As an introspective person,” she writes, “I began to wonder what was wrong with me” (123). And she notes that many of the trendy evangelical books were of little help.

These are concerns that many people will share. Having served as a pastor in various churches for around a decade now, I have encountered several smart and capable women who were discouraged that the majority of the “women’s” studies focused only on topics of marriage and childrearing. The men get to talk about theology, while the women just talk about being women. This is indeed a problem, and church leaders ought to see that all members, men and women, are taught the entire content of the Bible, including theological topics, biblical symbolism, and Christian ethics for all of life.

Further, I agree that much of complementarianism literature has fallen into a rather shallow engagement with the Christian tradition. It sometimes allows its contemporary opponents to set the terms of the debate and the categories of thought. It can even give the impression that our notions of Christian manhood and womanhood are “roles” that we put on, quite apart from our natural constitution or the ordinary world.[1] This gives an air of artificiality to the supposedly biblical position, and can prevent us from carefully analyzing the important material and social factors affecting marriage and family in modern times.

My sympathies are entirely with Miller in her critique of the doctrine of the “eternal subordination of the Son” (116). Indeed, one could have wished her section on this topic were longer and more detailed. She notes that the doctrine stands in tension with traditional Nicene orthodoxy, but she does not attempt to demonstrate this in any detail. Neither does she note how this particular doctrine was something of a curiosity even prior to the advent of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. One can find precursors of it in various theologians in the early twentieth century. Additionally, it is not clear to me that “ESS” was articulated only to reinforce a notion of hierarchy. To the contrary, it has often been used by complementarians to explain how an apparently “hierarchical” relationship can still exist among ontological equals.

Criticism 

The first weakness with Miller’s book is the way it presents its argument. Initially, it looks as if she is attempting to correct imbalances among modern conservative or traditionalist Christians. One might expect that she will call for a return to an older and presumably less reactionary Christian position, a kinder and gentler form of complementarianism. But that is not what she does. Miller is also criticizing the philosophy of the sixteenth century Reformers and the seventeenth century Puritans, as well as many conservative evangelicals. It is certainly possible that Miller is not aware that her argument commits her to this, but that is, in fact, what it does.

This can be seen by Beyond Authority and Submission’s repeated rejection of the argument that male headship is grounded upon the natural constitution of men and women. Miller believes this concept is simply a “Greco-Roman” assumption (154) that was later recovered by the Victorians. She is wrong about this, for one finds precisely this teaching in John Calvin,[2] James Ussher,[3] or William Gouge.[4] Even Matthew Henry, who Miller herself quotes favorably, could say: “The woman was made for the man, to be his help-meet, and not the man for the woman. She was naturally, therefore, made subject to him, because made for him, for his use, and help, and comfort.”[5]

One is free to disagree with such explanations and find them worthy only of the trash heap of history. But it is not fair to the reader to bury this lede. Miller is not only criticizing ancient Greco-Roman and Victorian concepts; she is actually criticizing the larger Christian tradition. With this understood, Miller’s thesis statement becomes much more significant. Her position looks more like a variation of egalitarianism, albeit an egalitarianism which still restricts church ordination to men.

Indeed, Miller’s thesis is that there really is no such thing as “masculinity” or “femininity,” at least not when it comes to Christian piety or vocational purpose. She quotes Gary Welton saying, “there should be no singular conception of what it means to be masculine or feminine” (148). When the original article by Welton is consulted, one finds him being so bold as to say, “These claims assume that the concepts of maleness and femaleness are meaningful, objective, and empirical realities. This is simply not the case.”[6] This is the foundation from which Miller can then say, “If God made you a woman, you are feminine” (148) and “If God made you a man, you are masculine” (149). For her, masculinity is nothing other than a person being biologically male and femininity is nothing other than a person being biologically female. Does this also mean that there are no temperamental, cognitive, behavioral, or vocational characteristics which should be associated with masculinity and femininity? Again, this is closer to the egalitarian position than the complementarian one.

Given the ambitious nature of Miller’s thesis, and her goal to provide a “biblical” paradigm, one would expect Beyond Authority and Submission to engage in substantial exegetical argumentation. Surprisingly, this is not the case. The section on biblical theology of authority and human relationships is actually one of the shortest in the entire book. Miller makes foundational arguments in the briefest of ways. Her framing of the creation ordinance, the original relationship between man and woman, is limited to just a few sentences. When it comes to a passage which earlier Christians appealed to in support of a hierarchical view of humanity, Miller casually states, “Woman was made for man’s sake, but all men since Adam have been born of women (see 1 Cor. 11:9–12)” (40). She gives no indication that this might be an extremely controversial passage or that its interpretation might be worth explaining more. She does not return to it anywhere else in the book. First Corinthians 14:34 is only mentioned once, and it is explained as only having an occasional referent, a specific group of particularly disruptive women. No consideration is given to the meaning of “as the Law also says.” Ephesians 5:22 is cited three times, but in only one place is an explanation given. That explanation is entirely a negative one, telling us what the text does not mean. Miller never tells us what it does mean. Colossians 3:18 is never mentioned. We are never told why Paul thinks it is important that the man was created first, and there is no discussion of the meaning of kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11. Likewise missing is 1 Peter 3:1. First Peter 3:6 is mentioned once, but again its meaning is not explained. Instead, Miller assures us that there was at least one time where “God told Abraham to follow Sarah’s lead” (145). First Peter 3:7 is also mentioned only once, and there, again, we are only told what the text does not mean.

The reason that none of these individual passages are thought to be terribly significant is that Miller believes her interpretative paradigm of original equality, voluntary submission, and authority for the sake of service is the main “biblical” teaching. True biblical leadership is a matter of love and service, and any specific text can be read through that lens.

Miller also devotes little time to the more complicated aspects of leadership. She encourages love, service, sacrifice, and mutual submission, but she never discusses how real-life disagreements are to be resolved. Miller presents the notion of a husband’s tie-breaking authority as one of the unhelpful notions argued for by complementarians (120). She does not explain what she would put in its place. On another occasion she says that a husband does possess a sort of leadership over his wife but that “he doesn’t lord it over his wife or attempt to enforce her submission” (177). It’s fine to say that a leader should not be domineering. But if they ought not to think of their authority as tie-breaking authority and should not attempt to enforce their authority, how and in what way is their authority actually authoritative? Can it really be possible that submission will always come so easily, that a husband and wife will not find themselves in a significant disagreement? And how would submission that only occurs after both parties reach an agreement be different from the egalitarian position, which would propose all disagreements be handled as negotiations apart from any singular leading authority? This does not actually follow from the Christological example, either. After all, Jesus will indeed “enforce” His authority. Without further explanation, no actual new position has been advanced.

Along these same lines, one cannot help but notice how often Miller’s biblical argumentation relies on modern commentators, including egalitarian ones. She invokes Cynthia Long Westfall on numerous occasions and always in reference to Paul’s teaching on women. Westfall is a capable scholar, but her book is an admittedly revisionist project.[7] Miller initially stated that she was herself not an egalitarian, but apparently she accepts some egalitarian interpretations of key texts. It may be the case that these new readings of the Scriptures are the correct ones, but that argument would need to be demonstrated. Beyond Authority and Submission makes no attempt to do this, and it often leaves us with more questions than answers as to what any given New Testament text means.

Miller’s use of history is even more concerning. It is certainly true that the ancient Greeks and Romans held to a hierarchical view of the world. Still, it is surely an overstatement to say that they believed “women and men are completely different and have few overlapping qualities” (50). Miller also chooses to place a quote from Plato at the top of this chapter, illustrating the typically patriarchal mindset of the culture (47). This is an unfortunate move, however because Plato immediately goes on to contradict the statement she quotes. The following lines add more information, “the natural capacities are distributed alike among both creatures, and women naturally share in all pursuits and men in all,”[8] and “The women and the men, then, have the same nature in respect to the guardianship of the state.”[9] This is a point where Plato differed from Aristotle, and it is, ironically, a point where he approximates Miller. The fact that these sentences follow directly from the portion quoted by Miller makes one wonder if she attempted to understand Plato on his own terms.

The New Testament brought a “revolutionary” teaching to society (58), we are told. Apparently this revolution lasted until the Victorians: “Greco-Roman beliefs about women and men weren’t forgotten… Hundreds of years later, the Victorians revived these pagan beliefs and attempted to baptize them as Christian” (59). This is an amazing claim, even for an admittedly popular level book. The Victorian era begins in the 1830s, and so that means that Miller has jumped from the New Testament era to modern times with no mention of anything between. The insinuation of Beyond Authority and Submission is that women enjoyed a higher position in society from the time of the early church until the nineteenth century. Are readers really being asked to simply accept this implicit claim?

And what of those first-wave feminists? It’s true that they were not, on the whole, as radical as later developments. Still, they were a decidedly mixed bag. The call for equality in ministry is plainly made in the Seneca Falls Declaration, “He allows her in church, as well as state, but a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry…”[10] Female pastors of various kinds appear in the Wesleyan tradition in the early nineteenth century, and the Azusa Street Revival was infamous for allowing women to preach in 1906. Mary Wollstonecraft was regarded as a radical for her day, and the first-wave feminists were known for certain peculiarities of their time period. H. L. Mencken, no blind traditionalist, warned that “many of them also belong to other windy lodges—of anti-vivisectionism, of anti-vaccinationists, of medical freedomists, of initiators and referendors, of deep breathers, of eugenists.”[11]

Among conservative American Presbyterians, the early feminist movement was not embraced with open arms. Old-school Presbyterian hero J. Gresham Machen stated that he was “not yet convinced” of women’s suffrage in 1918, and so he wrote his congressman to ask him to oppose the passage of the 19th Amendment.[12] In quoting these men, I do not mean to imply that the history is “simple” in the other direction, that they were right and the feminists were wrong. Rather, the point is that the history is not simple. Feminism was always a controversial topic, and its growing acceptance is not due to a “biblical paradigm” finally coming into its own again after a short but disastrous Victorian detour, but is due rather to changing material and technological conditions, combined with new political theories of individual representation and civil rights.

This brings me to the final and most serious point of criticism. The various sources and citations offered throughout Beyond Authority and Submission are presented in a distorted way. Even though Miller identified four different positions in her introductory chapter (15), noting that a distinction could be drawn between a hard “patriarchy” and modern “complementarianism,” her later chapters essentially lump the two groups together. John Piper is cited alongside characters as diverse as Debbi Pearl and Helen Andelin. Andelin, as it turns out, is a Mormon. Yet when Miller cites Andelin, she refers to her as either a “complementarian” (108) or a “conservative Christian” (155). Is this really fair or honest? As one reads Beyond Authority and Submission, one comes to the conclusion that anyone who teaches any variety of sexual hierarchy is, in Miller’s mind, ultimately on the same side, even if they are not an orthodox Christian!

Miller also frequently gives her citations readings which run contrary to their original intent. On page 27, she cites Emily Jenson as an example of someone who believes that a wife should “cater to their husband’s preferences.” Miller suggests this is a matter of viewing authority in “military terms” (27). Yet when Jenson’s original article is read on its own terms, Jenson states that the goal was “nearness,” to “start the day as companions and make traditions for us to remember.”[13] Jenson believed that she was pursuing companionship and intimacy. A similar situation appears in Miller’s citation of Mark Jones. She cites him as an example of someone with a low view of “companionship” in marriage (168). But again, when one reads the original source, he does not see Jones criticizing a companionship theory of marriage but rather the contemporary use of the title “best friend.” Jones states that his wife “belongs in a category that goes beyond friendship,” and then goes on to explain that he has a different sort of relationship with his male friends than with his wife. A reader might disagree with both Jenson’s and Jones’s articles, but they ought to actually make an argument, rather than just describing their views in overly negative ways.

On a few other occasions, Miller’s footnotes are entirely prejudicial. On page 143, she writes, “Others go so far as to say that men are emasculated by taking an active role in caring for their children.” She then cites Voddie Baucham Jr. This is an incredibly strong claim, and Miller does not quote Baucham directly. When readers check the footnote she gives (pg. 76 of the Kindle edition of What He Must Be… If He Wants to Marry My Daughter) they do not find any discussion about men and childcare. Instead, Baucham is explaining that Christians must not marry non-Christians. Perhaps Miller simply got the page number wrong, but one suspects that no matter which quotation is finally supplied, it will not so baldly state what she has claimed. Douglas Wilson suffers a similarly harsh fate. In one place, Miller says Wilson teaches that “men should control the finances, because women will spend too much if men let them” (164). But when the citation is checked, Wilson says that a husband can be a poor leader in the area of finances by failing to set appropriate limits. Wilson says that this can happen in two ways, husbands can either “allow their wives to spend beyond the family’s resources” or the man can “make irresponsible purchases for himself.”[14] This is an entirely different kind of argument, an illustration about passivity in leadership and not a claim about essential gender characteristics. On another occasion, she says that Wilson defines women by how they are useful to men, thus reducing women to objects. She illustrates this by stating that Wilson calls the wife “‘a man’s vessel’ for ‘sexual possession’” (236). Yet again, when one follows Miller’s footnote, they find nothing of the sort. Wilson is arguing against various forms of sexual immorality, and the only use of “sexual possession of a man’s vessel” is in his quotation of 1 Thessalonians 4:4. Wilson is not here saying that a man must control his wife. Wilson is saying that a man must control himself by being faithful to his wife. He says this directly, “Christian men must discipline themselves in their faithfulness to their own wives.”[15] Miller has given an egregious misrepresentation of Wilson on this point. Wilson is certainly a controversial writer, known for his love of startling statements, but on this occasion it seems that the entire shock factor comes simply from the fact that he used the King James Version.

Writers do occasionally “misfire” in their polemical exchanges with others. Had Miller not done this so frequently, it might be somewhat understandable. But her book is characterized by this misrepresentation throughout. When we add to this the additional fact that she rarely attempts to explain her opponent’s arguments and that she is willing to lump diverse writers together into a single group, we cannot escape an overall impression of blinding bias.

Conclusion

Despite its earnest intentions, Beyond Authority and Submission is not able to adequately demonstrate a coherent “third way” alternative to egalitarianism and complementarianism. Its central argument is not clearly stated, and it is never adequately demonstrated. The methodology is even less adequate, as the historical narrative offered by Miller is simplified to the point of caricature and her use of sources is frequently egregiously inaccurate.

Beyond Authority and Submission raises many good and important points of conversation. Some of the questions it raises are exactly the sorts of questions that faithful Christians and especially church leaders ought to be asking when they think about the relationships between men and women. It is precisely because these questions are so important, however, that I cannot commend the book.

Steven Wedgeworth is the Associate Pastor at Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the founder of calvinistinternational.com and has written essays on church history, Christian legal theory, and human sexuality.


[1] Thankfully there are contemporary complementarian writers who are aware of this danger. Abigail Dodds notes it as a possible error in the first chapter of her book, (A)typical Woman: Free, Whole and Called in Christ (Crossway, 2019) Kindle Locations 236-237. Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger also point it out in their article, “5 Myths About Complementarianism” Crossway Articles. Accessed September 21, 2019. https://www.crossway.org/articles/5-myths-about-complementarianism/.

[2] See Calvin’s comments on Gen. 2:18, 1 Cor. 11:7-8, or his sermons on 1 Cor. 11, available in Men, Women, and Order in the Church: Three Sermons by John Calvin (Reformation Heritage Publications, 1992)

[3] Note Ussher’s treatment of men and women in his exposition of the Fifth Commandment in A Body of Divinity, (Solid Ground Christian Books, 2007) 232.

[4] Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties 3.3, (Chapel Library, 2006) 191.

[5] Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1 Cor. 11:8.

[6] Gary Welton, “My Human Identity Transcends Gender,” The Aquila Report, July 30, 2017, https://www.theaquilareport.com/human-identity-transcends-gender/.

[7] Thomas Schreiner gives a thorough review of Westfall’s Paul and Gender in Themelios 43.2 (Aug. 2018) 178-192. That review is available online here: http://tgc-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/themelios/Themelios-43-2.pdf#page=12

[8] Plato, Republic, Book 5.455e

[9] Republic 5.456b

[10] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A History of Woman Suffrage , vol. 1 (Fowler and Wells, 1889), pages 70-71; available online here: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/senecafalls.asp

[11] This quote comes from a 1913 article in The Baltimore Evening Sun, available online here: http://mencken.org/mencken-society/text/Free_Lance/Articles/FL0497.1913-02-12.html

[12] Machen, “Against Women’s Suffrage” (Letter to Representative John R. Ramsey) available online here: https://www.readmachen.com/misc/1918/against-woman-suffrage/

[13] “Wives, Honor Your Husband’s Preferences.” CBMW. Accessed September 21, 2019. https://cbmw.org/topics/marriage-public-square/wives-honor-your-husbands-preferences/.

[14] Wilson, Reforming Marriage (Canon Press, 1995), 92.

[15] Wilson, 121

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