Last Tuesday, at the annual Desiring God pastors conference, well-known pastor & author John Piper advocated for what he calls a “masculine Christianity,” claiming that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.”
“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother,” Piper said. “The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male…God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”
“Now, from all of that I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel,” said Piper. “And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female… He does not intend for women to languish or be frustrated or in any way suffer or fall short of full and lasting joy in this masculine Christianity. From which I infer that the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families that have this masculine feel.”
More of his comments can be found here.
Generally, my online response to such controversies are to remain silent- not because I do not believe that such dangerous theology should not be confronted, but rather because, in the age of viral-videos and social media, I resist giving more air time to what I believe is ignorant, dangerous, damaging, etc.
However, when Rachel Held Evans called upon Christian men to respond, I felt compelled to break that rule. Rachel’s challenge was as follows:
“There’s a double-standard out there in which a woman’s critique of patriarchy tends to get discounted as nothing more than the rants of an “angry feminist,” and, truth be told, I’ve grown a bit weary of hearing that charge each time I speak out about this disturbing trend in the evangelical church.
So instead, I’d like to challenge the guys to respond.”
Rachel is a writer whose passion and poignancy continues to challenge me to grow in faith and truth. Without a question, she is a leader in the Body of Christ who I need to follow. Her ability bring life to God’s truth- yes, that means she teaches from Scripture- and communicate it effectively and engagingly in our current culture and context is a gift to Christian everywhere. And so, I felt her invitation deserved a response.
Since volumes have been written about what God (and His written Word) has to say about gender, I will not attempt to explain the details of what I believe and how I arrived there. Rather, let me sum it up by saying that I am deeply convinced that God calls both women and men into all vocations in the Church, gifting and empowering them to walk with one another in obedience to those callings. Therefore, I believe women are called to pastor churches, to teach Christians of all ages and gender. I have seen such women walk in that obedience and have been blessed to submit to their authority, including and especially my wife, Kim.
Further, I believe that in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman, they are to work together in mutual submission, respecting the differences in their giftings and experience- difference that are apparent in the unique individual, not based on their gender. There have been many times in which I have rightfully submitted to the authority of my wife. At times it was because she was clearly more knowledgeable, gifted and/or experienced in the situation at hand or because we believe that the Spirit was leading her. In faith, we work through our differences and, when necessary, submit to the other as we see appropriate. It is not always easy nor efficient, but it seems to me that following Christ rarely is.
As I read the story of God through Scripture and study the move of God through the rest of history, I am deeply convinced that the patriarchy that is so prevalent is a reflection of the brokenness of sin which has been and is being reversed by the redemptive work of Christ. That reversal is the work of the Spirit, breaking into the world and making God’s impossible kingdom a reality. This is the work of God, the work of Christ and thus, the work of His Body.
We are called to be the living alternative to the broken reality of what we see in the world around us. Failure to do so is to walk in rebellion against the only Saviour worthy of our devotion and the only King worthy of our obedience. There is no more or even possibility for neutrality on this issue. As Desmond Tutu once said:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Worse than silence or supposed neutrality is identify the brokenness of sin in our lives and call it sacred. It is seems almost tantamount to apostasy to celebrate as God’s intention the devastating consequences of our sin.
While unpopular to say so, I believe that Piper (and those like him) affirm these flawed beliefs out of the best intentions. They are seeking to be faithful to what they believe is God’s design for His people- for all people. This truth does not excuse them of the resulting sin- and yes, I believe it must be called sin- however, it should give us pause in how we respond to such failings.
Public and prophetic rebuke is often necessary in such cases. However, there are few who seem to be able to make such corrections with the grace necessary to still reflect the God waiting to forgive their (and our) sins (and I believe Rachel is one of those few). Instead, the primary response by Christians should be one of humility, grace and unparalleled devotion to live the better alternative, at any cost.
Every generation looks back upon the Church before us and finds their failings and blind spots obvious and hard to comprehend. Yet, like them, we are equally blind to our own failings. The realization that our grandchildren will shake their heads at some of our failings should nurture in us a patient grace. While it might be gratifying to “crucify” (and I do not use that word by accident) those we rightly rebuke, most are being as faithful in their flawed beliefs as we are in our own. Yes, we need to be strong, clear and uncompromising in our correction, but love and grace must win.
As a Christian man, I am committed to submitting to Christ by submitting to the women He has called, gifted and commanded to lead His Church. While I am grateful and humbled to do so, it should not be credited to me as meritorious in any way. While such a commitment might be exceptional with respect to past and current realities, our measure is Christ and His kingdom. To do any less is unacceptable.