Mrs. Byrd’s Yellow Wallpaper

Narrative and Meta-narrative

Everyone loves story. Story reaches us at a personal level. The characters in a well-wrought story reflect ourselves. In them we see our vices and the virtues we admire. A master stroke of narrative can even bring us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. The power of story lies in the faculty of sympathy. Sympathy is that all too human faculty by which we “suffer-with” those we behold suffering. According to His human nature, sympathy moved Our Lord to suffer on the cross instead of us. And beholding His wounds, we are brought to suffer with the sufferings of Christ and to love Him “who first loved us and gave Himself for us.” Story is powerful indeed. And the power of story is the sympathy that it appeals to.

The Bible is a grand story. It is a story which towers over all other stories. It is the story which deals with the themes of lesser stories: death and life, love and loss, sin and righteousness, God and Man, Man and Woman, heaven and hell, the Dragon and the Mounted Dragon-Slayer, worship and the world and every other Human and Divine thing is taken up in the story of the Bible. But the Bible takes up the thing itself, not merely the symbol. The story of the Bible tells us of the Divine Persons, not the idea of divinity. The Bible shows us Death, the Enemy, and Christ, the Victor in historical detail Gibbon would envy. In the Bible we read the grandest story which evokes the deepest sympathies and hence exerts a narrative power unmatched by Dante and all the rest.

Biblical theology is a systematic attempt to read the story of the Bible with the grain of the literature of the Bible. This discipline is burgeoning in the Reformed world. And this is a happy development. For the sympathies evoked by sound biblical theology reach the soul far better than the syllogisms crafted by systematic theology. For it is a human thing to weep first and reflect later; to laugh and then to parse; to greet and then converse.

The chief task of biblical theology is to reconstruct the meta-narrative of the entire Bible from the various narratives included in the Bible. When once we have the ingredients of the Bible’s own narrative in our bowels, we sympathize with the characters on the page. When we have the meta-narrative correct, Abraham’s laughter becomes our laughter, Moses’ fire becomes our fire, Phineas’ zeal becomes our zeal, David’s tears become our tears, and Christ’s sufferings evoke a sympathy, oh! what sympathy!, that raises us to Heaven itself. And Shakespeare and Austen, Virgil and Dante, Tolkien and Lewis bow the knee and cast the crown and disclaim any power to move men with story. Their glory pales in comparison to the glory that excels. And that glory is Christ and Him crucified.

Seeing that it is, at root, Christ and his pathos on the cross which chiefly moves us, we must recognize that it is the voice of Spirit which speaks to us in the Scriptures. The ultimate narrator of Scripture is the Spirit (2 Peter 1:20, 21). Therefore, to read the story of the Bible rightly and to see the main Character, Christ, it is the Spirit’s voice we need to hear (John 16:14, 1 Corinthians 12:3). This is what the Confession declares in chapter 1.10 that it is the Spirit of God speaking in the Scriptures that the church is to hear. In hearing this Spirit, we are shown Christ in the narratives of Scripture and in beholding Christ by the power of the Spirit, we are transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18). By the work of the Spirit, we see the Lord Christ, the Son of David, the Second Adam, the True Israel, the Tabernacle made by the Hand of God, the Mountain by which we ascend to God’s presence, we see the Prophet, Priest, and King suffering with the pathos of God and Man. We see the Lamb sent by the Father to die on behalf of sinners. We see the agony of guilt swallowed up in the agony of the cross. We see God and Man reconciled through the pathos of Christ in the Scriptures. And in seeing this pathos with the eyes which only the Spirit can give, we are brought to sympathize with Christ for the same reason that He endured such pathos for us. We hunger and thirst for that righteousness which comes through the wounds of Christ. This is true biblical theology. This is the meta-narrative of Scripture.

Mrs. Byrd’s recent book would have us read the Bible with a different meta-narrative. She would have us sympathize, not with the Character of the Scriptures, but with certain characters. Her book presents us with a different spirit, a spirit other than that which we have received. She would have us listen to the feminine voice of Scripture, if such there be. She attempts to do this through crafting a different meta-narrative than the one Scripture presents and the Church has confessed since she first heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of our salvation. In presenting this different meta-narrative we find the chief error of Mrs. Byrd’s book. The questions of gender and sex are secondary to the primary question of what Scripture is and how it bears fruit in our lives.

Mrs. Byrd professes a desire for greater fruit in the life of the church:

This book presents an alternative to all the resources marketed on biblical womanhood and biblical manhood today, focusing on the reciprocity of the male and female voices in Scripture, the covenantal aspect to Bible reading and interpretation, and bearing the fruit of that in our church life.

Mrs. Byrd, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, pg. 25.

This is Mrs. Byrd’s framework for her book which lays out her aims. I believe she expresses an honest desire here. I believe that Mrs. Byrd is frustrated with the lack of fruit in the church. But, I also believe that she is gravely mistaken in her proposed solution to this problem. And the mistake is in the meta-narrative she wants us to adopt in reading Scripture. Her mistake is in thinking we need another spirit than the Spirit which we have received.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Mrs. Byrd judges books by their cover, “Since I consider myself counter-culturally capable, I will go ahead and admit that no matter how I’m advised against it, I do in fact judge a book by its cover (Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 37).” And so, we may judge hers by its cover.

The cover of Mrs. Byrd’s book is taken from a feminist novella entitled The Yellow Wallpaper. This choice of cover art is not a coincidence. Rather, as we are told in the introduction (which we may not skip (Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 13)), the choice of the cover and the operative metaphor in The Yellow Wallpaper was intentional. The meta-narrative that The Yellow Wallpaper presents is the meta-narrative that Mrs. Byrd wants you and I to adopt:

As an emancipated woman living in the twenty-first century, why am I so fixated on this yellow wallpaper? Why have I titled the introduction to my book “The Church’s Yellow Wallpaper”? Am I saying that we are no better than the 1800’s? Surely we are. Or are we? I see the yellow wallpaper as a result of the fall. And that is something that we will always have to peel back. Like John and Jane, we want to do what is right but often get sucked into cultural stereotypes that confine us without our even noticing it.

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 18

What is the narrative and meta-narrative of The Yellow Wallpaper? The narrative of The Yellow Wallpaper tells the tale of a woman who is treated for her depression by being locked up in a yellow wallpapered room so she can rest. The assumption of her doctor is that the bustle of the modern world is too much for her feminine psyche. After some time in the yellow wallpapered room, Jane (the woman) begins to peel back the wallpaper to reveal what is behind it. Behind the yellow wallpaper, Jane finds a woman trapped. As the narrative progresses, Jane descends into insanity until she loses her mind. Her husband finds her, crazed, muttering that she’s finally free after ripping the yellow wallpaper off the wall:

John, who thought she was getting better, returns to find her creeping around the room in a mad state, saying, “I’ve got out at last . . . in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” John faints at the sight, and she continues to creep in her path, stepping right over him. The end.

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 15

The meta-narrative of The Yellow Wallpaper is the radical feminist “oppression narrative.” An oppression narrative is a rhetorical tool employed by revolutionaries to craft sympathy for some oppressed group. It has roots in Marxist theory and has been adapted to other contexts beyond the original economic class oppression narrative of Marx, initially by the Frankfurt School. The oppression narrative can be adapted to fit any “oppressed” group: racial minorities, women, transgendered, overweight, whomever.

The goal of an oppression narrative is to evoke sympathy for the oppressed class unto action. It is a propaganda tool. “Workers of the world unite!” Mrs. Byrd has learned her lesson well, “This is a book that appeals to the reader to look at the yellow wallpaper in the church and to do something about it (Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 19).” Remember, Mrs. Byrd choose this novella as her operative metaphor. She expounds the metaphor in her introduction along the same lines that the original author intended. This leaves us on the horns of a dilemma.

On the one hand, by intentionally choosing a feminist novella as her controlling metaphor, she has revealed that she favors feminism and wants to bring it into the Reformed Churches.  On the other, by professing to uphold male only ordination, she has revealed a lack of competence in teaching the church on these issues.  For, if she cannot see the problems that her choice of metaphor and the meta-narrative that she adopts presents, she should not be taking up the position of instructing “church leaders, the ones entrusted with shepherding God’s people, the ones who can prescribe a better approach, the ones who can lead the way forward (Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 19).”

Biblical Narratives and the Feminist Meta-narrative

That Mrs. Byrd uses a feminist narrative to introduce her book and employs the feminist meta-narrative as her governing metaphor for her book explains why she badly misinterprets the various biblical narratives. In all exegesis, the meta-narrative we choose informs the particular narratives we read.

Two examples will suffice to show how the feminist meta-narrative jaundices Mrs. Byrd’s reading of particular Biblical narratives; the story of Huldah and the rediscovery of the scroll in the temple in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-20, 2 Chronicles 34:14-32) and the story of Ruth.  The reason I have chosen these narratives, and Mrs. Byrd’s handling of them, is because they highlight three major problems with Mrs. Byrd’s book as it relates to the doctrine of Scripture: Mrs. Byrd’s eisegesis of Scripture, the Confessional doctrine of canonization, and the Confessional doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Mrs. Byrd introduces the Huldah narrative with these words:

Early in Scripture we see that the canon of God’s Word was not merely assembled by the most powerful male voices. Women too were involved in the process of canonical selection.

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 44.

We note, firstly, that as she introduces this passage in the argument of her book, she frames it with the doctrine of canonization. She contradicts the Confessional doctrine of canonization when she says, “the canon of God’s Word was not merely assembled by the most powerful male voices.” The Confessional doctrine of canonization is not that a council of powerful ecclesiastical men decided which books to include in the canon. Rather it is that God’s written Word comes to the church with the credentials of canonicity already on display. This is an aspect of the self-authenticating authority of Scripture.

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

Westminster Confession of Faith 1.4

The Confession teaches here that the reception of the Word of God depends not upon any human voice authenticating the Scripture for us. Rather, the authority for which it ought to be received (believed and obeyed) is the authority with which God’s Voice always speaks. But Mrs. Byrd says that it was “not merely assembled by the most powerful male voices.” Her statement implies that she holds to a view of canonization that is contrary to the Confession.

The prior paragraph of the Confession (WCF 1.3) gives the criteria by which canonical books are recognized, “not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture.” This is said in reference to the Apocrypha and explains why they are excluded from the canon.

The second paragraph of the Confession (WCF 1.2) gives a list of the books of the Bible and ends with this statement, “All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.” This paragraph is a confession of the books of the Bible. It is a confession in the true sense of the word in that what the divines are doing is to state what the books of the Bible are, which books are part of the canon. But note, note carefully, that this statement is not an authoritative determination of the canon. Rather it is a humble receptive confession of which books of themselves bear the marks of canon.

The next paragraph states:

…our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts

Westminster Confession of Faith 1.5

Here the Confession brings to the fore that Voice alone which the Church hears and which authenticates the Scriptures to her heart, the voice of the Holy Spirit bearing witness with the word in our hearts. Mrs. Byrd, however, contradicts all of this by teaching that it is male and female voices which contributed to the canonization of Scripture, as will be seen in her treatment of the Huldah narrative.

Here we have a prophetess who is described as “arguably the first person to grant authoritative status to the Torah scroll deposited in the temple treasury,” authenticating the Word of God largely accepted as the heart of the book of Deuteronomy.

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 46

This is flat wrong. In the narrative, Josiah and the priests recognize the authenticity of the book by the simple act of reading it. This is indicated by the rending of garments and humiliation that Josiah engages in. This is also one of the Scriptural examples grounding the doctrine of canonization outlined above in the Confession. Josiah, a godly king with the Holy Spirit in his heart, hears the Word and recognizes it as the Word of God by the witness of the Holy Spirit working with the Word upon his heart. The king sends messengers to Huldah only after the Word has been authenticated.

The way Mrs. Byrd reads this passage shows the influence of the feminist meta-narrative on her exegetical work, displaying gross eisegesis. She is reading into the Huldah narrative what she wants to find:

What a bright and shining account of a woman authoritatively confirming an important text in the canon of Scripture to “the most righteous king in the divided kingdom’s history.”

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 46

The dangerous nature of Mrs. Byrd’s work is on full display here. And the danger is not primarily what she says about men and women. The danger is how she handles the doctrine of Scripture in order to say what the feminist meta-narrative dictates it must say. In this instance, the doctrine of the canonization of Scripture is reworked so as to make room for a feminine voice to contribute to that canonization. But note, beloved, what she sacrifices in order to get there. She sacrifices the doctrine of the Holy Spirit for the sake of a feminist doctrine of women.

The eisegesis is more evident in Mrs. Byrd’s handling of the story of Ruth.  In her treatment of the story of Ruth, Mrs. Byrd is at pains to show the “gynocentric interruption” of the feminine voice in Scripture.  She has taken this idea from Richard Bauckham, “I am building on a fascinating book, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels, by Richard Bauckham, with this point” (Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 43).  The example used by Bauckham to illustrate this narrative feature is a novel by André Brink, The Wall of the Plague:

It is written in the first-person perspective of a mixed-race woman, but at the close of the novel it is revealed that the author is actually a white male South Afrikaner. So, this man is taking on the perspective of a mixed-race female as he writes “vivid accounts even of distinctively female physical experience.”24 As the voice changes at the end of the novel, he reveals himself as the true author.

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 43-44

The criterion which Bauckham and Byrd highlight, as indicating that there is a “gynocentric interruption” is the “first-person perspective.”  This is a key element in perspectival writing.  Taking on the first-person perspective allows the author to tell the story with the voice of the character they have assumed.  But, as this is applied to the story of Ruth, we will see that it is not literary criteria that drives Bauckham and Mrs. Byrd to see a “gynocentric interruption” in the story of Ruth.  Rather, it is driven by the feminist meta-narrative.

Mrs. Byrd introduces her treatment of Ruth thus:

In chapter 1, I introduced the book of Ruth as a model for how the female voice functions in Scripture. The book of Ruth may thus actually aid our reading of Scripture as a whole. It demolishes the lens of biblical manhood and womanhood that has been imposed on our Bible reading and opens the doors to how we see God working in his people. Ruth isn’t the first occurrence of a gynocentric interruption in Scripture, but it is a good model for us before we venture into some of the others.

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 49

 As she begins her interpretation of this passage, she sees what she is about to do here as a model for “reading Scripture as a whole.”  The book of Ruth “demolishes the lens of biblical manhood and womanhood.”  A lens that has been “imposed on our Bible reading.”  The book of Ruth is Mrs. Byrd’s primary example of “gynocentric interruption in Scripture.” 

Recall above that the literary criterion for discerning how the feminine voice functions is the first-person perspective.  Mrs. Byrd admits: 

“The book is written in a third-person perspective, so we do not have Naomi’s first-person account of her inner turmoil…Likewise, we don’t get Ruth’s first-person account of what was going on in her mind. But we can still recognize the gynocentric perspective in which it is written,”

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 50, emphasis mine.

If the literary criterion, that Mrs. Byrd borrowed from Bauckham and presents as a key feature of the feminine/gynocentric perspective, is absent from the book of Ruth, what mechanism do we use to recognize the “gynocentric perspective?”  The only way this can be accounted for is that Mrs. Byrd is imposing a lens upon her Bible reading.  This lens is the feminist meta-narrative and only by imposing it upon the Bible can Mrs. Byrd find a “gynocentric interruption.”

Mrs. Byrd will go on to note that the book of Ruth ends with a genealogy bringing the history up to King David.  She speculates on this “perspectival shift:”

So why do we have this shift in perspective at the end? Do we have in Ruth a male author taking on the female voice to let the reader see more of the picture? And what more do we see with this approach? Are women like Ruth and Naomi, with the initiative they took and boldness of faith they exercised, exceptions or examples of the Israelite culture at that time? What is the Holy Spirit saying to our churches with this approach to the text?

Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 50-51

With this series of rhetorical questions, Mrs. Byrd summarizes her conclusion about Ruth.  The rhetorical question is a key feature of Mrs. Byrd’s book (RFBMW, pgs. 26, 38, 40, 64 68, 156, and many others) and deserves some attention.  The human mind is created to function rationally.  The Confession speaks to this when it says that man was created with a “reasonable soul” (WCF 4.2).  When the rational soul is presented with the elements of a logical argument, the mind naturally draws a conclusion from the premises.  This is called the force of logic and refers to the necessity of a conclusion.  “All men are mortal.  Socrates is mortal.”  You can do the rest. 

In a piece of persuasive prose, which Mrs. Byrd’s book attempts to be, the author or speaker can employ rhetorical questions to appeal to his audience.  The work that a rhetorical question does is to put the process of drawing out (deducere – Lat. “to draw out” from which we get deductive reasoning) the conclusion that arises from the premises into the mind of the hearers.  Instead of explicitly stating the conclusion being argued for, a rhetorical question draws in the audience to participate in the reasoning the author wants them to join in.

To understand what an author is arguing for, it is helpful to recast the rhetorical question in the form of an indicative statement.  You can see examples of this in Genesis 3 from both the Serpent and the Lord.  “And he said, who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat (Gen. 3:11)?”  Recasting the final question of the Lord yields the conclusion He wants Adam to draw and confess, “You did eat of the tree which I commanded you not to eat of.” 

Applying this to Mrs. Byrd’s questions in the quote from pages 50 and 51, we can see what her desired conclusions are: “There is a shift in perspective.  We have in Ruth a male author taking on the female voice.  But there is more.  Women like Naomi and Ruth took initiative and acted boldly as examples of the Israelite culture of the time.  The Holy Spirit is saying something to our churches with this approach to the text.” 

The last sentence is key.  By means or her adopted approach, she wants us to conclude with her that it is the Holy Spirit teaching a gynocentric interruption in Ruth and that the feminine voice is a key feature of the Bible “as a whole” (RFBMW, pg. 49). 

What is actually going on in Ruth?  The male author, probably Samuel but certainly an ordained officer in the Old Testament church otherwise known as a prophet or priest (Eph 2:20; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Rev. 10:7, 18:20), tells a historical narrative from the third-person point of view.  Ruth and Naomi are not voices in the story but characters.  The move to make characters in the story voices is not dictated by the literary criterion of first-person perspective, but by the feminist meta-narrative that dictates the need to liberate the feminine voice from the yellow wallpaper.

By claiming that what she sees in the book of Ruth through the lens of the feminist meta-narrative is something the Holy Spirit is teaching is a gross error.  Since she is not an ordained minister, we should not hold her to the same condemnation as a wayward minister.  But neither should we downplay this error which borders on heresy.  Mrs. Byrd’s understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit is faulty here for one simple reason.  The Spirit’s work is not to baptize any and everything we may find in Scripture through various approaches to Scripture.  The Holy Spirit’s single and glorious work is to reveal Christ, and Him alone (John 16:14; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Galatians 3:1-2; Ephesians 1:17, 3:14-17).  More could be said about the work of the Spirit but the sum and substance of what He does is to show us Jesus, nothing more and nothing less.

The spirit by which Mrs. Byrd finds a feminine voice in Ruth is not the Spirit of God, but the spirit of the feminist meta-narrative. 

Any doctrine of Scripture entails a doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Since the Spirit is the ultimate author of Scripture, His is the Voice which alone can make visible the invisible and cause the Scripture to bear fruit in the life of the church.  He does this by revealing Christ, Who alone is the substance of Scripture and the Vine from which all fruit comes (Phil. 1:11).   Mrs. Byrd, however, contradicts the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In the first section of her book she is at pains to show the contribution of the feminine voice to the content and canonization of Scripture. This displaces the role of the Spirit in these works and contradicts the Confession’s doctrine in several places.  In the final section of her book, Mrs. Byrd seeks to teach the church how she must bear the fruit of the Word in her communal life. This, as she proposes, is to be done by allowing a feminine voice in the life of the church. She would see female leadership in the church short of ordination (Byrd, RFBMW, pg. 174).

Summary

We have seen how Mrs. Byrd adopts a feminist narrative as her governing metaphor for her book. This narrative is an instance of the feminist meta-narrative, which Mrs. Byrd adopts as her starting point.  “The cultural stereotypes” need to be peeled back because they are constraining women and holding them back from being full “tradents” of the faith.  After all, wouldn’t Anne Hutchinson have turned out all right if it wasn’t for all those patriarchal men who denied her an MDiv (RFBMW, pg. 34)?

By adopting the feminist meta-narrative, Mrs. Byrd is guilty of undermining the Reformed and catholic doctrine of Holy Scripture. For the feminist meta-narrative dictates that we must hear “Her” (RFBMW, pg. 206); the Scriptures teach that we must hear Him (Matt. 17:5); the Confession teaches that the Spirit’s voice is the only voice needed in the church (WCF 1.10). The feminist meta-narrative dictates that a woman’s contribution to the teaching ministry of the church is necessary for the church to bear fruit (RFBMW, pg. 42); the Scriptures teach that it is Christ’s work through the Spirit which brings forth fruit in our lives (John 15); the Confession likewise teaches that the way in which the Word is made effectual in our lives is by the work of the Spirit (WCF 1.6, 10; 3.4; 7.3, 5; 8.3, 5, 8; 10 totum; 11.4; 12.1; 13 totum; 14.1; 16.3, 5; 17 totum; 18.2-4; 19.7; 20.1; 21.3; 25.3; 26.1; 27.3).

Though Mrs. Byrd had repeatedly professed that she is confessional, this is a superficial confessionalism. She is confessional in the same way that an unbroken horse stays within the paddock. The horse, wanting to get outside the constraints of the fence is looking outward to the open field and is kept in by the fence he runs into. Were the fence not there, he would run wild, away from his keeper. Likewise, Mrs. Byrd is fenced in by the biblical and Confessional doctrine of male only ordination.  But, given her handling of the feminine voice and the need of the church to hear “Her” in order to bear fruit, she is turning away from the Confession’s doctrine of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Any benefit we hope to gain from the Word comes only from hearing the voice of Christ by the Spirit in the Scriptures; not from hearing the feminine voice, if such there be, in Scripture.

Knowledge unto Action

As I have written elsewhere, knowledge must lead to courageous action. I have tried to inform you as to the dangers of Mrs. Byrd’s Yellow Wallpaper. Those dangers are nothing short of adopting a different doctrine of Scripture and of the Holy Spirit.  And if we lose those two, we lose Christ; for they are both given to reveal Him.  This is the meta-narrative of Scripture inspired by the author of Scripture who alone can gives eyes to read Scripture.  Mrs. Byrd’s proposal in Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is that we adopt another meta-narrative through which to read Scripture.  This meta-narrative entails the reception of another spirit, the spirit of feminism.   

It now falls to you, ministers in the Reformed Churches, to take action. The doctrine of Scripture is not a conversation topic among the orthodox. We may not, may not, negotiate this doctrine. For this doctrine is the foundation of the church. And if the foundations are undone, what can the righteous do?

As Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Truth is the purpose of the church in the world. She was created by the word of truth (Eph. 1:13), her life-blood is the truth (Eph. 4:15), her products are truth (Eph. 5:9), and one of her armaments is truth (Eph. 6:14). In a word, her place in the world is to be that institution which men can turn to and find the truth (Titus 1:1-3). The premium that Paul places on the truth is also be seen in his sharp warnings concerning the evil of being deceived (Romans 16:18, 1 Corinthians 3:18; 6:9; 15:33, Galatians 3:1; 6:3, 7, Ephesians 4:14; 5:6, 2 Thess. 2:3, 2 Timothy 3:13, Titus 1:10; 3:3). Thus, for Paul, the primary enemy of the church, being the pillar and ground of the truth, is deception. And the primary tool of the Enemy, Satan, is deception.

Some will say that I am splitting hairs and straining at gnats and that Mrs. Byrd and I disagree over nuances. But if we pay attention to Paul’s warnings about deception, we see that the deception comes through subtlety. Just as snakes lurk in the shadows, the Serpent hides in the nuance. Ministers, consider well the words of Paul, the Apostle:

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed, bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4, KJV

Note that the danger of the serpent’s deception is the reception of another Jesus, another spirit, and another Gospel.  Feminism turns the voice of Jesus into the voice of a woman, bids us adopt the spirit of Critical Theory, and preaches the gospel of woman’s liberation from patriarchy.  It is another religion.

Many will take exception to this review, saying that I am attacking a woman.  I want you to consider, though, that there is another Woman being attacked.  There is a Bride whose purity is more important that the opinion of any other bride.  There is a Mother, crowned with the stars of heaven, to whom we all owe our lives.  This Mother is she who has suckled us at her breast and fed us with the pure milk of the Word.  This Woman, this Bride, this Mother is in danger, brothers.  Will we sacrifice the honor of our Mother, the Church, for the good opinion of a woman, a mere member of the Church?  What would our fathers say?

I remind you of your vows, OPC brethren.  Vows which I myself am under and which impel me to write this review:

Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel…whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account? 

The Book of Church Order of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, XXII.13.c.(6), pg. 42.

The entrance of the feminist meta-narrative into the Reformed Churches of NAPARC will be the death of the Reformed Churches of NAPARC. For it will bring in the venom of a meta-narrative contrary to the meta-narrative Scripture itself teaches. And if Scripture is undermined, the church will lose its foundation.  And Mrs. Byrd intends to offer an alternative metanarrative.

In a recent interview with The Christian Post (5/18/2020), Mrs. Byrd’s views are summarized thus:

As evangelicals continue to debate who can and cannot serve in leadership positions in the Church, the vast majority must be trained to find their calling in God’s Kingdom and in the Church, she maintains, and in order to do that the entire biblical meta-narrative around conventional ideas regarding manhood and womanhood must be reengaged.

Byrd, Interview, The Christian Post, https://www.christianpost.com/news/why-the-church-needs-more-focus-on-discipleship-than-biblical-manhood-and-womanhood-author.html, accessed May 21, 2020, emphasis mine

As can be seen from this quote, Mrs. Byrd intends to present her proposals on the level of meta-narrative.  As we have seen, she proposes to bring the feminist meta-narrative to bear upon the Scriptures.  But, by importing a meta-narrative that is foreign to Scripture and contrary to Scripture, her attempt will ultimately undermine Scripture.  This has happened to churches before.  The Dutch CRC and the American PCUSA are both victims of the feminist meta-narrative.  I pray the OPC does not join them. 

I leave you with Machen, the father of the OPC:

The purpose of this book is not to decide the religious issue of the present day, but merely to present the issue as sharply and clearly as possible, in order that the reader may be aided in deciding for himself.  Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time; there are many who prefer to fight their intellectual battles in what Dr. Francis L. Patton has aptly called a “condition of low visibility.”  Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regraded as an impious proceeding.  May it not discourage contribution to mission boards?  May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics?  But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree.  Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end.  The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life.  In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to the things that least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.

In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology.”

Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pgs. 1-2.

The diverse type of religious belief in our day is Critical Theory.  It makes use of traditional Christian narratives while importing a totally different meaning into those narratives by reading the Bible through the lens of the oppression meta-narrative of which the Mrs. Byrd’s Yellow Wallpaper is the most recent example.

Godspeed to all those who love Jesus Christ in truth.

– Rev. Bennie Albert Castle, Minister of the Gospel in Lynchburg, Va.

12 thoughts on “Mrs. Byrd’s Yellow Wallpaper

  1. I just stumbled onto some interesting thoughts regarding the destruction of metanarratives from Mrs. Byrd’s podcast co-host, Carl Trueman:
    “The essay reminded me of the many years I spent trying to understand the various approaches to culture that fall under the umbrella term of Critical Theory. Queer Theory is one of the most significant of these approaches. Wading through the pretentiously written and interminably opaque prose always left me wondering: What exactly is the endgame here? What do these people want in terms of positive philosophical and political construction? I eventually concluded that the answer was really quite simple: The purpose of critical theory is not to establish anything at all. Rather, it is to destabilize as potentially oppressive any claim to transcendent truth or value. Its target is the destruction of all metanarratives, and thus the bombastically rebarbative prose is itself part of the “argument.” Leaving readers hopelessly confused about even the simplest things is an important part of the game, pellucid simplicity being one way the oppressors made their oppression seem natural.” [“Queer Times” published at http://www.firstthings.com May 21, 2020]

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So far, my complaint with not just the book, but Ms. Byrd’s writings overall is that she likes to use a lot of language that is nondescript. Figurative, picturesque, prosaic language. Stuff that sounds lofty, but wherein much can be stuffed without being too obvious. Or language that has subtle hidden meanings.

    Take this quote for example (which you did, and I lifted from this article):

    “This book presents an alternative to all the resources marketed on biblical womanhood and biblical manhood today,…”

    But what resources? The market is not exactly flooded with books on “biblical womanhood” or “biblical manhood” at the moment. The market currently is flooded with self-help manuals.

    Instead, what I think she really means, but just won’t come right out and say is “Here’s an alternative to the “Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood”, which I hate, in particular, Wayne Grudem and John Piper, whom I really hate.“

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Remember, Mrs. Byrd choose this novella as her operative metaphor.”

    Which it must be safe to assume, then, that she has both read it, and agreed with it’s message, purpose and goals.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Rev. Castle,
        Is it historically-normal for lay-women to write books on theology? As a layman with no MDiv nor any office in the church I don’t feel like I have the training or authority to write such books. Am I wrong?

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      2. No, it’s not historically the norm. Any exceptions to this prove the rule. This doesn’t mean a woman can’t be an accomplished scholar or eloquent writer. But what we are dealing with when we deal with the Word and theology is a divine gift to the church placed in the hands of church officers. In other words, the keys which are primarily exercised through the doctrine.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The only exceptions to this seem to be not the least Reformed, but usually Roman Catholic gals who said they saw “Our Lady of” wherever-they-were-that-morning, inevitably some “inspiring” appearance of the Virgin Mary saying something treacly or generically religious.
        The young lady goes and swoons to her parish priest, Something Miraculous generally happens and, Jack’s-your-uncle, up pops a pilgrimage shrine and a gift shop of candles and kitsch.

        Liked by 1 person

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