Book Review: Beyond Authority and Submission by Rachel Green Miller

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in
Marriage, Church, and Society by Rachel Green Miller

Who Is Rachel Green Miller?

I’m delighted to report that my friend Rachel Green Miller from my old Wilson-hassling days has written a new book. (While I was researching Doug Wilson’s fun church sex abuse cases, she was looking into his charming plagiarism problems, so we had some mutual interests.)

For several years now, Rachel has also been the proprietress of the very incisive and thoughtful blog A Daughter of the Reformation, which covers Reformed history while keeping an eye on practical theology. She was highly vocal on the “gosh, no!” side during the ESS debate a few years ago. (If you don’t know what that is, it was basically a repackaging of the old Arian heresy but with a shiny new coat of gender-based male authority/female submission tied to Jesus’ earthly submission to the Father thrown in to make it popular again. You can Google the rest.)

That’s all to say she’s smart, well-researched, and has the street cred to write a book called Beyond Authority and Submission, which is exactly what she has done.

What is this book about?

Beyond Authority & Submission is an excellent book for a very specific audience, namely the complementarian who is questioning the way things are and the whys of what they have been taught.  I wish this book had been available a few years ago when I went through that unpleasant questioning process myself.

What makes this a good fit for the questioning complementarian is careful way Rachel walks the line. She is squarely in the camp of ordained church leadership being comprised solely of men, and she repeats this several times throughout the book. She isn’t trying to completely dismantle the entirety of the conservative view.

With that out of the way, she turns her focus to the parts that are founded not on Biblical ideas but rather have been borrowed or inherited from other cultures over time, specifically the Romans and the Victorians. Numerous extraneous restrictions have been piled onto women over the years and mistakenly identified as Biblical. Rachel does a fine job of tracing this history of these ideas and effectively dismantling them.

Who will get the most out of this book?

If you are currently experiencing the brain fog that comes with trying to figure out why what you’ve always heard that the Bible says doesn’t seem to line up with what you are reading in it yourself on this topic, then this book will be a huge help and relief to you. Rachel has done a huge service and a great job.

2 comments found

  1. Sounds like a good book!

    And if you want to take a teensy little step beyond the camp of ordained leadership being comprised solely of men, consider reading Donna Howell’s book:

    The Handmaidens Conspiracy: How Erroneous Bible Translations Hijacked the Women’s Empowerment Movement Started by Jesus Christ and Disavowed the Rightful Place of Female Pastors, Preachers, Prophets.

    Donna Howell is not interested in the feminist movement concerning women rather she is intent on obedience to scripture.

    For example, in writing of Deborah she says,

    “Whereas I would never say that Deborah was chosen just because ‘men weren’t doing their jobs,’ or because, ‘a man wasn’t available,’ the biblical narrative of Deborah shows without a doubt that sometimes God’s people need a woman to get things done. It’s not a matter of God choosing from the weaker sex because the males were demoralized. God’s appointing Deborah was not a last resort. She was precisely the kind of feminine voice that was neede for such a time as this. If God saw fit to bring a woman into leadership of all His people, there is every reason to believe He would do it again…”

    1. Thanks for the book recommendation! I’m in the ordination for both men and women camp as well, and I think my favorite books for thinking through the ordination issues specifically (which is not a main topic of Rachel’s book) were The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight and Two Views on Women in Ministry, which is part of Zondervan’s Counterpoint series (excellent series that has books covering differing views on several controversial topics).

      What I like about Rachel’s book is that she’s so staunchly men-only ordination while being equally forceful about women being able to serve in every other area they feel called to. The male ordination issue is such a big issue for so many conservative churches that they bar women from doing all kinds of things they should be able to because they feel like it’s just a slippery slope once you allow them a little bit of room, and Rachel is a good example of how those two things can coexist without one being a threat to the other. Good stuff!

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