Byrd, Aimee. The Sexual Reformation: Restoring the Dignity and Personhood of Man and Woman.
Zondervan Academic: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2022.
Aimee Byrd’s take on Song of Songs is a lot less risqué than it may seem, or is it? Byrd ventures through this oft ignored - because we don’t know what to do with it - part of Scripture to try to give us a new way to look at the relationships between genders. Her aim is to show the intertwined nature of male and female voices in the story of God and call the church to reconsider the way it has limited the voice of women over the centuries. She does so without being heavy-handed, though sharing some of her own personal struggles in using her voice in the church sphere. Byrd is calling us to go beyond the mechanics of the egalitarian v complementarian debate and get to the heart of the matter, the love of God for all his people and his desire to see them flourish.
She does a fantastic job of relating each of her posits to the whole story of Scripture tying her ideas through Genesis to Revelation, wanting to explore a renewed understanding of the dignity and personhood of each gender. She wants to get away from defining genders based upon roles and move towards a new, or reformed, understanding of what it means to be men and women. For someone who already subscribes to the idea of mutuality between genders, Byrd’s take was refreshing. She’s not trying to tell us what we can or can’t do, but rather, encouraging us to find value in our biological sex, something that the world around us is currently breaking down.
Overall, the book gave me a fresh understanding of the Song of Songs, showing the different ways to read it, and encouraging a broader look at the beauty of the language held within, without getting caught on the erotic nature of some of the text. The book seems to say, it’s time for the church to stop feeling uncomfortable in these conversations, and try to step forward and encourage healthy conversation around gender and sex.
While anyone with a good biblical knowledge can probably get around it, I would recommend a read through the Song before you venture into this book.
Elizabeth Webster is an Assistant Minister in the St Hilary’s Network, Melbourne.