A Review: 'Why Can't We Be Friends?' by Aimee Byrd

A FEW YEARS BACK, I accidentally wrote a book.

‘Stumbled into it’ may be a more accurate phrase. I was in a heated discussion with other church leaders and the topic was ‘Is it appropriate for Christians to engage and meaningful friendship with the other sex within the church?’ I was arguing for the affirmative as some of the most spiritually supportive individuals in my life had been and were women.

But after leaving the discussion, I was hungry for more teaching on the subject.

I went to my source of all knowledge: Amazon. I began looking for books and, to my surprise, I found just about nothing on the subject from a Christian perspective. I found a couple of secular sources, but that’s all I came up with. I figured this was a topic many other Christians had probably wondered about, so I set myself to doing what I typically do when even slightly provoked on any subject: I was going to write a blog post.

I began outlining my thoughts and soon realised that I had enough material to do a blog series. I wanted to address the issue from the standpoint of Biblical exegesis, a survey of church history, and my own experience… and I was just getting started. As I started writing the posts, someone told me I should probably put all the posts together in an e-book format so that I could send the whole thing to people.  

Having never done an e-book before, I came across a program on Amazon that allows one to put out e-books through their Kindle service. After beginning to do this I found out that I could also print that same e-book in a paperback format. As I finished writing and was getting ready to self-publish, I also discovered some material on this subject written by Catholics and Progressives. Some of this material was helpfulespecially pastorally. But I still found nothing from my classically Evangelical standpoint.

That’s how the material that I meant to be a series of blogs turned out to be my first book, ‘Forbidden Friendships’. I was glad that it met with positive feedback from people. It seemed to help some people be encouraged in their coed friendships and avoid the pitfalls. Even an average book can seem like a good book when there’s nothing else available. It filled a void.

But as I’ve gone on to write other booksones actually meant to be booksI’ve become more and more aware of the shortcomings of my hastily done monographic debut. I’ve been wishing that a better book, from an Evangelical / Complementarian perspective, was written on it.

Now, my wish has come true.

Aimee Byrd has written an engaging and well researched book on the subject of male-female friendship in the church entitled ‘Why Can't We be Friends?: Avoidance Isn't Purity’. Aimee has done her homework. Anyone wanting to challenge her arguments will have to be well prepared. She wrote the book that I wish I could go back and write.

But I can’t.

Because I’m not as smart as she is.

And because time travel is impossible.

Her book is roughly 200 pages (I’m unsure as I read a Kindle copy). There is much in her work that is not specific just to coed friendships. She spends a lot of time developing a theology of Christian siblinghoodgood thoughts for friends of the same as well as the opposite gender. Her theological analysis of what it means for us to be ‘sons of God’ was impressive. She also gives some historical perspective, touching on one of Calvin’s close female friendships (like the good Presbyterian she is).

She challenges what is often referred to as ‘the Billy Graham Rule’, but in a gracious way to him and his ministry. If you have been raised (as I was) with a degree of church gender segregation in the name of purity, or if you are a strong proponent of the Billy Graham rule, then let this book challenge your thinking. If you do believe that men and women (married or single) can engage in deep and meaningful friendship, then this book with help develop your theological understanding of how these things work.

I’m so glad this book is out there in the public sphere. I don’t know how many authors get a chance to say this, but I’ll be recommending her book ahead of my own.


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