Book Review: Freedom and Boundaries

A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church
by Kevin DeYoung

While it is not considered a salvation issue, the question of women’s roles is an important one for a local church to answer. Strong opinions exist on both sides of this issue; therefore, it is imperative that pastors and elders be prepared with an answer as to their church’s policy regarding women’s roles. In Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church, Kevin DeYoung, a convinced complementarian, offers pastors, elders, and laypeople an explanation of the issue, why its important to come to a resolution, a biblical analysis for the complementarian position, and the dangerous slippery slope of adopting an egalitarian position. He writes,

I have a very specific audience in mind in writing this book: my congregation and others like it. Our church has a book table around the corner from the fellowship hall. I have often wished for a book there that explained the Bible’s teaching about men and women in the church in a way that the interested layperson could understand and in a size that one could read in a few hours. I have wished for a book that would argue its case without being argumentative; a book I could give to other pastors wrestling with this issue, and a book pastors could give to their elders, deacons, and trustees that they would actually read; a book that displayed exegetical integrity with minimal jargon; a book weightier than a pamphlet, but lighter than a door stop. I’m not sure I’ve written such a book, but this is the book I set out to write.

DeYoung begins with an explanation for why he believes another book on the complementarian/egalitarian issue is necessary. Before the chapters specific to the issue, he offers a chapter on the authority of the Bible and how to interpret it rightly. Then, he covers the relevant scriptures: Genesis 1-3; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 14:26-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15, 3:1-13; and what we can learn from Jesus in the Gospels. In chapter 9, he addresses the eight most common objections the complementarian position. I appreciated this chapter the most as he spoke directly to those objections that I’ve wondered about myself. DeYoung is adamant that “it is unwise and impractical for churches to limp between two opinions on this subject.” While that is true, he admits that “there is no one-size fits all model when it comes to sorting through the strange mix of biblical texts, people’s feelings, and theological fidelity.” To encourage pastors and church leaders, he offers the pastoral process he used to address this issue in his church.

This book includes three appendices and endnotes. Appendix 1 is a sermon from Ephesians 5:22-33. Appendix 2 is entitled, “The Slippery Slope from Egalitarianism to Homosexuality,” and was quite an eye-opener for me. Finally, Appendix 3 is The Danvers Statement from The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. For those who desire a more in-depth understanding of complementarianism and egalitarianism, DeYoung offers a list of the best books on each position.

DeYoung accomplished his stated goal (quoted above). Freedom and Boundaries is easy to read and understand; I read it in just a few hours. He is not argumentative nor arrogant. Rather, he is humble. Most evident in his writing are his desire to see God glorified and his love for God’s people. This is an enjoyable book, humorous in one or two places, hard-hitting where it needs to be, and faithful to the scriptures. I think it is a church library must-have and will be a great help to many pastors and laypersons who may be hesitant to address this issue in their churches.

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