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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.

22 Comments

  1. Jamie – You have a way of writing about topics such as this one that is very healing to my soul. (I think also about your post about homosexuality last week and another one several months ago about spiritual abuse in YWAM). Thank you for that ministry.

    When I read Piper’s words I did not become angry or defensive like I so often do when confronted by those ideas. Rather, I became extremely sad. I felt what might even be a grief. I am not sure what the grief was for – whether for myself and my own processing the views about women I was brought up with versus what I’m growing to believe, or if it was for women in the church as a whole, or even if it was for the whole of the Church — I don’t know.

    But I believe what you say about humility is the key. That is what has been growing in my heart over the past few days as I have been following the all the various blog posts, including Rachel’s, on the subject.

  2. Hey April. Thanks for your encouragement! Like yourself, I was more saddened than anything. Thanks again

  3. I guess you state in your blog that you are not talking about how you came to your conclusion about “gender”. It seems to me like you need to though. Piper has given significant biblical texts to support his beliefs, and yet you have mostly shared your “opinion”. I clearly think Piper has gone a bit to far, and I support women in ministry leadership roles. However I think I would land much closer to Piper on this. Is there some scriptural basis for you position? Also I wonder if it comes back to the argument of scriptural inerrancy. Anyways I woiuld love to understand how you came to your beliefs.

  4. Gary, this is no more or less opinion than what Piper shared in the sermon in question. Yes, he has developed it further elsewhere. To that end, if you would like to better understand my perspective, I could offer a few book recommendations. However, the point of this post was not to give the details of my beliefs on the topic, but to present the implications of my position.

    In what ways are “closer to Piper on this”? My main concern (though not the only concern) is the restriction on church leadership, which you say you support. In what way are you further from me?

    Thanks for weighing in.

  5. Kate

    Unfortunately, the masculine Christianity he speaks of is really not his own language or anything new. Books already written on the subject…interestingly entitled “Masculine Christianity.” Turn of the century theology around the time of the social gospel movement literally attempting to get more men in church, the YMCA came out of this school of thought.

  6. Kate, I’d say it has been around for much longer than that, though the shift you mention is significant. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I’m a bit sick of opinions. Not once do I find a scripture reference in the rebuttal of what Mr. Piper says. Isn’t what Mr.Piper alludes to found directly in scripture? Why then a simplistic opinionated response? I’m sorry, but I’ll be following the leader wherever HE leads.

  8. Ramey, first, this is NOT a rebuttal of Piper. If it were a rebuttal, it would deal with those points in detail. I clearly state at the beginning of the post that I was not writing it to detail my position. Instead, it is a call to those of us who are convinced that Piper is wrong to speak up about it. It was also so that people outside of the church will see a different perspective than Pipers.

    I could quote Scripture to you, but I am doubtful that you will be anymore convinced by that as I am of Piper’s use of it. I can recommend book titles, if you are interested.

  9. Jamie, thank you for posting this. I am ever reminded that we must not re-make God in our own image! God is beyond our understanding. If we think we have “figured” God out, then it is not God that we have figured. The danger of making God too male or too female, is the same – God is God. That said, it is very hard to have to always feel a step behind in patriarchal church settings.

    In the end however, I find myself returning to the words of your post that say: “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.”

    Thank you for that reminder.

    Perhaps the worst false God of the internet age is the god of our own opinions and the god of our heightened reactions. That is no god at all. If I can keep that in mind, my reactions might be better for the realization of the Kingdom.

  10. Thanks Fran. As I said, while grace and humility are essential, I do believe that prophetic correction is necessary at times. I believe this is one of those moments. It is not easy, but there is a lot at stake.

  11. As I have come to expect from you, this is precisely the spirit in which it’s most helpful to respond. The testimony of your life and commitments is worth far more than an explication of your opinions.

    All I ever hear from John Piper are his opinion. Of course his opinions are influenced by how he interprets scripture. Why does this somehow equate his opinions with God’s opinions? Show me a person living in humility and grace, letting go of power, and submitting in love. This is what I find transformative in the world as I experience it. Thank you, Jamie.

  12. Thank you, Dave.

  13. Hi Jamie – one of my mentors is a direct cause for foundations that proclaim the biblical equality of women with men. That is never in doubt. Roles never indicate value or calling, in the bilical schema of things. The issue thefore, is one of female leadership in a way that has no male headship whatsoever. Again, please note this does not preclude female pastors, but simply female leadership with no male backstop. Simple. Scriptural.

    What I do find problematic with Mr. Piper’s rhetoric is the deliberate use of the word, “masculine”. Now, that is firstly unnecessary and secondly, not a direct mention from scripture but merely inference – something I am constrained to categorize your opinions as.

  14. Ramey, I am very familiar with the perspective you are suggesting. I spent much of my life fiercely advocating what are you suggesting. However, my study of Scripture has led me to a different conviction. The only backing a woman leader needs is Christ.

  15. I agree with you Jamie! And I am in one of those churches where women’s roles are very limited. When people ask me why, I have to say that this is my home, I don’t know where else I would go. But it is hard, very hard.

  16. FRS, indeed. No decision should be made lightly. I hope you find a way to be at home and not find it too hard. Peace!

  17. Jamie – I’d like to explore some writings that you indicate buttress what you have now come to believe.

  18. Sean

    Jamie, i would love to hear your biblical, or anyone’s biblical defense of your opinion. I believe the bible is clear when it says, “Wives submit to your husbands” etc. While pipers stance (and i belive the biblical one) may seem “unfair” to women, it actually puts an unequal level of responsibility on Men as well.

    I wont ramble on any longer. I appreciate your willingness to discuss.

  19. Ramey & Sean, thanks for your interest. I am out of town & don’t have an exhaustive list in front of me, but two books come immediately to mind:

    “Why Not Women” by David Hamilton & Loren Cunningham

    “The Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight

    The latter is not entirely about this issue, but relates to how we read the Bible, using this topic as a central example. I think that is important to mention because our difference in understanding says as much about HOW we read the Bible than just what it says.

    I’ll try to list more next week when I am back in my library.

  20. Michael Rice

    For those interested and have time, I believe this sums it up.
    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/eastwest/the_roles_in_marriage

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