Book Review: Men and Women in the Church, by Kevin DeYoung
Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction. Crossway, 2021.
Here’s a true story for you.
My friend met a new neighbor today pushing a stroller down Main Street. The idyllic scene presented a welcome throwback, but the sentimentality came to a halt when the father—obviously a man with an Adam’s apple, full beard, deep bass voice, and a 6’5” frame—chortled in a whiskey-cigar cough, “I go by the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘they.’”
So much for Main Street, thought my friend.
While not about transgenderism per se, Keven DeYoung’s excellent book, Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction, explains how our post-Obergefell and post-Bostock world necessarily produces a scene like the one my friend encountered.
In any given historical moment, the world might or might not heed the prophetic voice of the church. Yet we can be fairly certain that, when the church fails to speak with bold clarity about the God-made differences between men and women, their essential and ontological purpose and pattern, the world will that much more easily believe in the interchangeability of men and women. Eventually, no such essentialist categories of men and women may exist. Our worship practices don’t just affect life within the walls of the church.
Therefore, Kevin DeYoung’s book is timely, needed, and crucial. It sends a pastoral wake up call to the church, especially the reformed ones. It helps men and women see our dignity in God’s eyes. It helps our teenagers understand the deceptions of our quickly-changing world. And it offers a gentle but clear warning to progressives with ears to hear of the fatal and fruitless destination of their current path.
Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction, lives up to its subtitle. It is short (152 pages, which I read in one sitting). It is biblical (it takes up the major biblical texts in the Old and New Testaments that speak to complementarianism). It is practical (every page reveals a practical application, and its appendix—“Should Complementarian Churches Allow a Woman to Give the Sunday Sermon”—is pure gold). It is the best primer for complementarianism—the belief that “men and women are not interchangeable” and that they “complement each other … according to a divine fitted-ness” (14). This is a pastoral book throughout, and even women who may disagree with its author will find herself respected and valued, with many of her own concerns (such as the abuses of godless patriarchy) registered and acknowledged.
Part 1 starts as it should with Genesis and the Creation Ordinance, outlining in 15 points the differences between Adam and Eve. These differences become for Pastor DeYoung “patterns that preach” (also the title of Chapter 2). In other words, God’s purpose in creation is fulfilled in patterns that pastors much preach and that we, as image bearers of God, must perform.
And what are these? “Pattern 1: “Only Men Exercising Official Leadership” (36), “Pattern 2: Godly Women Displaying a Wide Range of Heroic Characteristics” (38), “Pattern 3: Godly Women Helping Men” (39), “Pattern 4: Ungodly Women Influencing Men for Evil, Ungodly Men Mistreating Women” (40), “Pattern 5: Women Finding Pain and Purpose Associated with Bearing and Caring for Children (41)”.
The rest of Part 1 addresses 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5:22-33, Timothy 2:8-14, and biblical marriage as a God-ordained image of Christ and the Church and, therefore, something unmalleable by culture. Because “God’s full glory is at stake” in the institution of marriage (74), its corruption through the invention of “gay marriage” is an attack on the glory of God. Sex, like it or not, is political, with cultures rising and falling by it.
In Part 2, Pastor DeYoung explains common objections, such as misinterpretations of Galatians 3:28 (neither male nor female), Ephesians 5:12 (mutual submission), and the issue and definition of slavery in the ancient world. My favorite section of Part 2 is the chapter on raising boys and girls. In this chapter (9), “Growing Up as Boys and Girls,” Pastor DeYoung introduces the ABCs of sexual difference: Appearance, Body, Character, Demeanor, Eager Posture. Pastor DeYoung concludes this chapter:
What do we say to our sons and daughters who ask… “what does it mean to be a man or woman?” Tell them they are made in the image of God and for union with Christ. And then tell your daughters that they should strive to be beautiful in the way God wants them to be beautiful. And tell your sons to strive to be strong in all the ways God wants them to be strong. Yes, the cultural winds are blowing stiff and strong against the church on these issues. But the good news is that behind us lies a massive river of divine design in every human person. Ultimately, God’s created order cannot be reengineered by sinful human ingenuity. Manhood and womanhood will reassert themselves. The question is whether it will be healthy or unhealthy. God made us as men and women to act like men and women. The more we see in nature (partly) and in God’s word (mainly) what it means to be men and women, the better our marriages, our children, our churches, and our society will be (129).
The insight of this chapter is Christian balm to a society awash in preferred pronouns and other deceptions. It could profitably be excerpted and stand on its own as a parenting booklet.
My only quibble with this book is not in what it says, but in what it doesn’t say. Pastor DeYoung and I both come from denominations within the fraternal organization NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches), Kevin from the large and young Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and I from the small and old Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA). Worship in both of our Presbyterian denominations is guided and guarded by the Regulative Principle of Worship. The Regulative Principle of Worship maintains that we do in worship only what the Bible commands. The Regulative Principle of Worship is distinguished from the Normative Principle of Worship used in many Protestant churches, which allows for any practice in worship that God does not explicitly prohibit.
I believe that Pastor DeYoung gets himself into a bit of a pickle in a few places in this book, most clearly at the end of Chapter 4 as he is trying to work out what women can do in the worship of God. He writes, “At the very least, churches that do not allow women to speak in church under any circumstances are contradicting the instructions of Scripture. As a pastor, I’ve happily included women in the worship service to share a testimony, give an announcement, or offer a prayer” (62).
Since Pastor DeYoung is writing a book about biblical principles, a short introduction explaining how the Regulative Principle of Worship allows him these expressions would be very helpful. It is my contention, however, that the Regulative Principle of Worship would certainly prohibit this woman from sharing her testimony in Pastor DeYoung’s church on a Lord’s Day morning. Without principial explanations—something that Pastor DeYoung offers in other places in this excellent book—these concessions present themselves as arbitrary, easily contested, and divisive.
Kevin DeYoung has written the book that will guide the faithful evangelical and reformed church to live as men and women to the glory of God and be a refuge to those refugees from transgender ideology, who need God’s grace to believe in the promise that God will glorify the soul and body and perfect the ontology of man and woman in the New Jerusalem. It’s a book that helps us understand confusion on Main Street and in mainline and mega churches. Kevin DeYoung’s Men and Women in the Church will be the go-to guide for many years to come.