Saturday, February 4, 2012

God gave Christianity a feminine feel

Ephesians 5
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

In order to follow Christ, believers must become somewhat feminine. We respond to Christ as a wife responds to her husband - in obedient submission. There is no room in the church for alpha male types. Christ fulfils this role. He is our alpha.

And he delights to choose people (male and female) who delight in being beta. Compare Jesus' encounters with Nicodemus (Jn 3) and with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4). Jesus was not pleased with Nicodemus' masculine competitiveness and took him down a peg or ten. He favoured the more feminine response of the Samaritan woman.

God gave Christianity a feminine feel on purpose. Throughout history his choice has consistently been for the underdog - quiet, bookish Jacob over big hairy Esau , harp playing poet David over beefy Goliath, the village of Bethlehem over the city of Jerusalem, a stable over a palace... and now, the oppressed gender over the oppressor gender. It makes sense that Christianity has  a distinctly feminine feel. If one wants to be part of God's kingdom he/she will need to leave macho behind and  learn to submit to Christ as a woman does to her husband.     

Of course to speak of Christianity having a feminine feel is silly. I want to stay in the complementarian camp, but Mr. Piper, you are making it really hard.


  1. Nice post Simone. :)

    It was a silly choice of words from John.

    If we wanted to be really generous to him, though, we could take into account the fact that he was speaking at a conference on masculinity and was therefore speaking about the aspects of Christian faith that could be associated with the label masculine. And to be even more generous, we could suppose that he may have actually said something similar to what you've posted here, Simone, if he were at a conference on femininity.

    Perhaps some may feel that's over-stretching generosity with for a guy who is/should be careful with his words and knew exactly what he was saying and how some people would read it.

  2. Also, and I don't much care either way... it appears the Christian Post has taken some of the juicier quotes and ignored the context... here's the transcript of what he actually said... h/t Findo

  3. Yes. It seems what he is actually saying is that Christian LEADERSHIP has a masculine 'feel'. Kutz is right, silly choice of words, great for a soundbite unfortunately.

  4. Piper knew exactly what he was saying and what reaction that choice of words would bring about. I know the context. Still hate it.

  5. Kutz,

    If the transcript Nathan has linked is right, it wasn't even a silly choice of words. The context fairly clearly indicates how the words should be understood. It was a provocative single sentence in the midst of a fairly clear explanation of what Piper's focus was. This is *far* less provocative than isolated sentences we find in Scripture when they're taken out of context.

    Part of preaching (for many styles of preaching) is to say things in a way that stops the listener and makes them wrestle with what the preacher has said. It's not like the goal is to say every sentence in a way that is not provocative and could not be misunderstood if taken out of context.

    Michael Jensen has also ridiculed Piper simply based on a report of what he’d said. I’d be more interested in someone who claims to be a complementarian sitting down with the transcript that Nathan has linked and fisking it using the same criteria they’d want someone to use on their speech to a men’s conference. If there really is a problem with what Piper’s saying from a complementarian point of view, then it would be good if someone took the time to show that, and did so by careful interaction with the substance of his transcript, not just the most provocative sentence within it.

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    2. Hey Mark,

      I still reckon it was a silly choice of words without being on records somewhere as having said the converse to a women's conference.

      As has been pointed out, it really was his summary/titular sentence. It purports to be the main point. I don't think "Christianity has a masculine feel" is a clause that really points people towards truth.

      If he'd said that "masculinity teaches us heaps about God, Christianity and the role of those in ministry" then he'd have said something that came far closer to encapsulating the substantive content of the talk. (though sounding less snappy)

      And he'd have avoided putting a bunch of people offside who would, perhaps, otherwise have been more inclined to hear his words with a far greater generosity of spirit.


    3. Hi Kutz,

      Sure, I don't disagree with any of that detail. I don't think that makes his words 'silly', though. As Gordon has pointed out, the things that Piper is pointing at to ground his statement, 'has a masculine feel' are the same things the feminists point to. And my observations about the mainstream Christian tradition is that you can find a lot more comments to this effect throughout the last two thousand years - if anything, by the standards of pre-feminist Christianity, Piper has bent over backwards to qualify that topic sentence in a pro-women direction.

      That's my point about his statement being uncontroversial in 'classical complementarianism'. Put that transcript in front of the vast majority of Christian leaders from the last 2k years whose works we read now and there'd be no suggestion from them that this was 'masculinist' or degrading women.

      Now, we can join the egalitarians and say, "Well, actually the last two thousand years was insufferably chauvinist and we don't like pretty well *anything* said before us - our position is as much a break with tradition as egalitarianism is" and that's fine. I really have no problems with that. That's a new position that can argue its case on the basis of the Bible like any other. "Classical complementarianism" can be wrong. Feminism may have raised a new awareness of issues for us. While I think that's unlikely, it's not impossible and stranger things have happened in the history of theology.

      But, as far as I can see, complementarians see their view as in basically in line with the last two thousand years of thinking on this as opposed to egalitarianism which clearly is not. And by those standards, there's nothing to see here with Piper. Post-reformation theologians, Reformation theologians, most medieval scholastics, the early church fathers, they wouldn't see this as "too male" or as denigrating women.

      Hence my stance. People are either misreading Piper, or they are coming from a position that clearly is not egalitarian (and that bit is really important) but would probably be just as jaded if they read Calvin, Luther, post-Reformation guys, the early church fathers or the like. And if that latter is occurring then that is a big deal. We've got something new happening here, and that needs to be expressed in sustained theological discourse so it can either be answered or be developed to stand on its own feet as a new player (possibly the way ahead, possibly not) in this fairly complex debate.

      Once again, not a fan of how Piper says things. And I don't think I'm a 'classic complementarian' either. I don't like all that I see in the tradition, and I think I have a position (that those who have read my paper will have some sense of) that is, in some ways, 'new'. But I'm realistic to be quite open to the possibility that my view won't be 'the answer' - it may well end up being yet another blind tunnel that was tried and abandoned in favor of the final crystalization of the position. And that's fine, us "good willed 'heretics' "(at least by the standards of later orthodoxy) often played an important role in enabling that orthodoxy to come into existence."

      Less going 'uggh', and more expansive interaction is going to shed more light and open up more possibilities for the future, even if some of us find our own positions rejected by others more broadly. In this, we are "servants of the court" before we are advocates of our client (our position). Our primary job is to serve theology growing in the accuracy, precision, and depth of its grasp of the knowledge of God and its implications for life. And its only secondarily to persuade people of our convictions as to what that is.

      I see what I'm saying here is very much in the Knox "think aloud and be prepared to move off a position a few years later" tradition.

    4. Thanks for the response, Mark.

      My current thesis is two points in response to your thoughts here: "Our primary job is to serve theology growing in the accuracy, precision, and depth of its grasp of the knowledge of God and its implications for life. And its only secondarily to persuade people of our convictions as to what that is."

      Firstly, if he's doing serious theology, then I don't think that his title statement is a helpful mirror of the whole counsel of Scripture. I would suggest that the fact that he's bent over backwards to qualify the statement for the rest of the talk supports this somewhat.

      I just don't think that his purpose in speaking here is 'doing theology'. Rather, it seems to be speaking about aspects of theology that will encourage a particular sub-group of people. In that context you don't have to represent all truths of Scripture in all balance.

      Secondly, the above being the case, then it gives you the freedom not only to speak the truth that's helpful to your audience, but also to do so in such a way that you achieve that secondary objective, to persuade others of your convictions.

      Piper's not doing 'neutral' theology with no objective, he's at a conference seeking to express truth in such a way as it moves people. Of course the secondary objective matters there, and with additional implications in the internet age when you're a person of his stature.

      What do you think?

      I agree with much of what Piper says, but if I were him I'd rather have Simone on my side than against me! ;)

    5. Hi Kutz,

      Well, yes, you do need to 'count the cost' if you think you're going to get Simone off-side. Although the really scary guy is Andrew. The third thing a wise man fears is the anger of a patient man... :D

      In terms of your first point, I think it depends a lot on preaching style. I'm not sure that for many styles the thematic sentence does need to capture the whole counsel of God. A style that has an arresting and provocative (even unbalanced) topic sentence and then lots of qualifications is legit I'd say. That was clearly D.B. Knox's socratic style from reports I've had. That's a method Philip Jensen has used to good effect. It's a dangerous method, and gets more dangerous the more you move from down the totem pole from 'scarily capable' down to 'comfortably competent' but it's legit. For some of us, we shouldn't do that, either due to competency issues or just it isn't a good fit for our style.

      But I, as I've said other times, am a big fan of wide Christian freedom where the Bible doesn't indicate an important narrowing of that freedom.

      And I don't see a big difference between applying theological truth and articulating it. It's both 'theology' in the way I was using it, it's an aspect of the ministry of the word. You have to apply theology in a theological way, you can't stop doing theology at the point where you apply.

      I agree with you second point. I think I mightn't have communicated as clearly with that quote you've got of me as I'd hoped. I'm not saying we don't try to persuade people to our views. I was trying to say that those of us who disagree with Piper and who are not egalitarian need to say something more substantial and constructive about that than some variation on 'uggh', even if it might mean we get a bit toasty warm from the reaction of other people.

      It seems as though a different non-egalitarian position is appearing, one that sees Piper's position (a position I also dissent a bit from, but which I think is fairly well-grounded in the history interpretation) as more masculinist than 'complementarian'. My point is that people in that group need to start groping for an expression of that in a constructive fashion rather than offering a 'small-target' until they get all their ducks in a row. (Not imputing motive there, just focused on the things actually done.)

      Not sure if that's any clearer.

  6. I like how you've posted a dumb and imbalanced post in response to a dumb and imbalanced article, about a sermon, which, on the balance of things, was itself pretty balanced.

    I have a hard time reading past the first three paragraphs of Piper's sermon and maintaining the rage. Here, for example, is his seventh point (after basically saying guys should harden up and take responsibility, with a bit more grace than the Seattle guy)...

    A masculine ministry publicly and privately advocates for the vital and manifold ministries of women in the life and mission of the church.

    The aim of godly leadership is a community of maximum joy and flourishing for everyone within—the women, the children, the men—and maximum impact on the world for the glory of Christ. It’s not about the privilege of power, but about the burden of responsibility to enhance the lives of others.

    Ryle was outspoken in his zeal for women in the various ministries of the church. He drew attention to Romans 16, where 11 of the 28 names mentioned are women, and said,

    The chapter I have mentioned appears to me to contain a special lesson for women. The important position that women occupy in the Church of Christ—the wide field of real, though unobtrusive, usefulness that lies before them . . . I cannot go away with the common notion that great usefulness is for men only, and not for women. . . . It should never be forgotten that it is not preaching alone that moves and influences men. . . . Humanly speaking, the salvation of a household often depends upon the women . . . [and] men’s character is exceedingly influenced by their homes.73

    There are countless needs in the community, and needs on the mission field, Ryle says, that cry out for the ministry of women.

    There are hundreds of cases continually rising in which a woman is far more suitable visitor than a man. She need not put on a peculiar dress, or call herself by a Roman Catholic name. She has only to go about, in the spirit of her Savior, with kindness on her lips, gentleness in her ways, and the Bible in her hands, and the good that she may do is quite incalculable. Happy indeed is the parish where there are Christian women who “go about doing good.” Happy is that minister who has such helpers.74

    The aim of a masculine ministry is the fullest engagement of every member of the church in joyful, fruitful ministry. The aim of leadership is not to be the ministry, but to free the ministry, according to God’s word, by the power of God’s Spirit, for the glory of God’s name.

    I can't really see much of a problem with that, except perhaps that it pushes some sort of gender role thing - but he is, at this point, engaging with J.C Ryle, so perhaps he's the guy you need to pick a bone with... ultimately.

    And God may have loved Jacob over Esau, but Samson gets a guernsey in Hebrews 11 too... also, as a counterpoint on your mention of David - it's fair to say that his "effeminate" side caused him to do some dumb, not very manly, stuff - which was condemned. Perhaps if he'd been a manly man he would have had the balls to take out Uriah himself, and perhaps more so, he wouldn't have been in to the adultery thing to begin with.

  7. Mark, I've read the transcript, fully and thoroughly. I could write a careful critique of it but:

    "The point is that long, hard, focused, mental labor should not be shirked by men... This issue is not what women are able to do, but what men ought to do." (Piper)

    1. I'm sure you could give him a more charitable reading than you seem to be, at that point. Given his audience, and the point he's making. I don't think that sentence says "women shouldn't do this" - even implicitly. I think it commends it as something men should be doing - especially if they're preachers and leaders (ie his audience).

      Perhaps we should send him that lyric about God departing, to see what he thinks...

    2. I'm with Nathan here (I think - depends on whether the 'dumb and imbalanced post' was your post Simone or my comment :) ).

      I'm not sure what the smoking gun is with that quote you've highlighted.

      In 'our circles' I am one of the most bullish guys I know for women getting a theological education and using it post-college. I have more than once had people imply that I am some kind of feminist or egalitarian for the strength of my stance on that issue. And my commitment to women using their minds in theology is hardly restricted to formal theological education.

      And I'd happily say that sentence you've just quoted from Piper, especially with the qualifier This issue is not what women are able to do.

      Would we apply these exegetical principles to John 6?

      Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

      You can just imagine Christian Post running the headline, "Jesus says Christianity is cannibalism", a blogger then parodying Jesus' words by trying to find a cute mirror image of them and saying that Jesus sure makes it hard to follow him, and then someone saying, "in Jesus' defense he was speaking to Jews, but maybe that's overgenerous when Jesus should have spoken more carefully and known how his words might be taken."

      Are we really going to start applying this kind of criteria to each other's words? Because if we are, I am going to advise preachers to stop preaching, and start giving very precise and carefully nuanced lectures where it is impossible to misinterpret anything said, and where it is almost as impossible to be moved by anything said or have your imagination captured by anything said. And certainly stay completely away from anything that looks remotely like a metaphor.

    3. Mark, if you had said it, I'd have read it more generously.

      But you didn't say it, Piper did and I read into it all of the previous gender stuff he's said. And I think that's fair. Putting such an emphasis on masculinity makes me feel like putting effort into life and ministry is worthless. He doesn't mean for his words to do that to me, but they do. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if people kept banging on about the femininity of the gospel?

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    6. Simone, I'm not sure what to say. From my point of view people do keep banging on about the femininity of the gospel. The push to emphasise the relationality of God and the gospel has tended to front qualities that are more naturally feminine - intimacy, openness, tenderness, and the like. We structure our churches in quite feminine ways - flowers but little masculine aesthetics, conversations for the sake of them after the service and the like. That doesn't frustrate me, or make me question whether I have significance. I like it, see its strengths, and am trying to work out how to build on it to make church more inherently hospitable to men again, without going down the kind of "Christian ladism" fad I see in the States.

      And I just don't see what you're seeing. Piper seems to me to be saying, "Guys it is your job to do public ministry for mixed congregations, and that is a masculine thing to do. And here's the kind of qualities a godly mature male public ministry will have." He's not making comments about other kinds of ministry or about the Christian life in general. He's talking about the ministry of the pulpit and of leading the church in mixed gender settings.

    7. We must move in different circles.

      Or you are more balanced than me.

      As I say below to Nathan : If he is talking about pulpit stuff, why does he keep on saying 'it's not that women can't do it, and in many cases they should.... We admire them when the do, but...'

      I don't think it's clear that he is talking about from the pulpit exclusively. From his other writings, it's clear that he thinks women should absolutely not preach to men ever.

    8. Michael,

      Since when have I ever given anyone a pass, whether they deserve it or not? I'm not saying Piper is using hyperbole, I'm saying that 'Christianity is masculine' or words to that effect seem to have a distinct meaning here:

      1) God represents himself to us using words that are male in human experience.
      2) God picked men to lead in the Bible, and this should continue in the life of the church.

      That's not a 'pass', that's an attempt to read the text.

      I'll happily throw stones at him along with you and Simone if you guys could show me from his words (these words here, or other words that clearly show something more insidious is behind what's here) that he's saying what you seem to be suggesting.

      And to say that a speech by a fellow Christian leader is 'ludicrous' and that is all you say, is to ridicule it. Even if it's being used as a discussion starter. 'Ludicrous' indicates contempt, that the thing being responded to is so far outside of reasonable responsible discourse that it is not entitled to a proper refutation or critique.

      And I don't care how the numbers shake out. The fact that 'many complementarians' agree with you or disagree with you may say something about Piper, may say something about Australians, may say that in our circles there's a lot of people who see themselves as complementarians who wouldn't be considered such elsewhere.

      I think a far better service to the people of God would be for some out of that great cloud of witnesses to publicly critique the text of Piper's talk, focusing on the substance of his points and only picking up the language used when it really really matters. Then the rest of us might have some chance of seeing what he's doing wrong. Until someone takes the time to offer a sustained reading of the transcript, or even just the first couple of paragraphs, to show why it is ludicrous, I think there will be ‘many complementarians’ in the dark as to what the problem is.

      At the moment I'm like Nathan. This seems like either eisegesis or the appearance of a new position that is neither classical egalitarian or classical complementarian. The substance of Piper's talk looks fairly run-of-the-mill complementarianism to me. Not the only take on the issues, but fairly uncontroversial among complementarians. Like the last time this blew up, I'm scratching my head. “I disagree, and I think he’s wrong”, I’d understand. But “ludicrous”, or Simone’s equivalent, seems to suggest either that Piper has fallen outside complementarianism, or those reacting have.

      That could easily be wrong. But it’s almost impossible to tell until someone takes the time to quote him fairly and explain the problems with what he’s saying (not the way he’s saying, the actual content) to the rest of us.

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    10. I'm with Michael. And that's it from me too.

    11. Michael,

      1. If it is amply demonstrated then do it. Don't just gesture at the works of Piper and say passim. I really do think a demonstration would be more edifying in the full sense than one word ridcules.

      2. I'll accept a certain degree of validity that Piper's construction of masculinity requires both natural theology and a fair bit of interpretation of Scripture. But that is a classically reformed method, it's not 'ludicrous' any more here on this issue than when Calvin and Luther did it on other issues.

      I currently find it significantly superior to what seems to be "thin complementarianism's" approach of endorsing the apparent commands but being unable/unwilling to give any explanation as to why they are good and not arbitrary. In seeking to avoid giving a thick explanation it seems to result in almost no explanation at all. I'll accept the things you're highlighting in Piper over more voluntarist accounts of God's commands.

      3. I'm not saying that you're outside classical complementarianism any more than I'm saying Simone or other self-identified complementarians who have reacted this way are. I'm saying that this reaction is so extreme (who else do you speak like this about? I've never seen you mock anything said by either Rowan Williams or N T Wright or Colin Gunton or...or... and they're all far more outside classical evangelicalism and have come out with bigger howlers than these comments by Piper) that it is a signpost that the guy who spoke the words and the guys reacting this way can't be in the same theological 'camp'.

      And you've confirmed that by your response. You agree with me that you and Piper don't share the same theological position - if he is 'complementarian' then you aren't. And if you are then he isn't. This *appears to be*, not an 'in-house' disagreement, but a disagreement between two different camps.

      I accept your memories of what you've heard and not heard. But 'I have a little list' of how many faculty at Moore have indicated over the years in my hearing that they basically agree with Piper in that book even if they wouldn't say it the way he does. At times I felt that I was significantly out of step for saying strongly that I thought we could say things significantly better than he did in that work.

      By all means feel free to keep throwing one liner mocking discussion starters out there about Piper and any other complementarian that you think deserves mockery. That's how I treat guys I consider my friends and allies who share the same theological camp as I even if we have some disagreements within it. But I think a couple of thousand considered words might shed more light on this for all of us.

      *Something* important seems to be going on here. And I think that will be advanced by careful explanation and argument.

  8. Nathan, it's hard to explain why I react so strongly to this kind of article. But I'll try.

    I'm happy to never preach to a mixed crowd. Have no hankering to teach men. Content (mostly) to submit to Andrew's leadership at church and at home, but...

    Piper wants me to give up more than just those things to be a woman. In the article he has many paragraphs like the following:

    "The point is not that women are unable to lift the weight or bear the pain of the reality of hell. The point is not that they are unable to press it into those who don’t want to hear. The point is that one of the marks of mature manhood is the inclination to spare her that load and its costs.

    It's not that I can't tell my friends about the reality of judgement, it's not that I can't do long, hard, focussed mental labor, it's not that I can't do the hard-core fight with sin in my life... It's just best if I'm spared from having to do these things, it's best that someone else does them for me.

    Because I'm such a delicate petal.

    I understand that Piper is trying to be good to the women and get men to step up etc but he is giving me a ticket to cop out on things. I want to be the kind of woman who is fearless (but tactful!) in speaking about my saviour. I want to work hard to know God (my tendency is to be lazy) I want to fight sin. I don't want to be told that my efforts don't really matter. But that's how it feels. Disempowering. Patronising.

    I know that it was meant for a men's conference but he says this kind of thing elsewhere too.

    (And Nathan, you must have noticed the leaps in logic. Anything he likes he calls masculine.)

    1. Well, find some examples of where he does it elsewhere and pick on those, rather responding to what is essentially a piece of hearsay that fails to consider the context in which Piper's statements were delivered.

      Like Mark, I don't think Piper is doing any of the things you accuse him of - and I think your feelings are the result of an uncharitable, and somewhat biased, reading of his statements. It appears to me that you've dismissed what he's saying on the basis of prejudice ("he says this elsewhere" = so he must mean it here), without heed to the context and audience, with no regard for what he is intending to communicate.

      Were anybody to treat your posts, songs, or writings with such contempt - or those close to you - you would rightly respond by defending them against such shoddy and fallacious interpretation.

      This is an horrific example of exegesis. It's eisegesis, and it's not particularly charitable to interpret what Piper is saying when, at least in this instance, he's made it pretty clear that what you're arguing is exactly what he's not saying... in, for example, the heading of the extended quote I posted above:

      "A masculine ministry publicly and privately advocates for the vital and manifold ministries of women in the life and mission of the church."


      "It's not that I can't tell my friends about the reality of judgement, it's not that I can't do long, hard, focussed mental labor, it's not that I can't do the hard-core fight with sin in my life... It's just best if I'm spared from having to do these things, it's best that someone else does them for me."

      I think you've put some words into Piper's mouth here, but while you're doing that - can I suggest that if you added the words "from the pulpit" to the end of this paragraph, rather than reading these comments as a Driscollesque, across the board, un-nuanced description of what it means to be masculine, you may have less of a problem. But then what would I know... I'm a man, and thus unqualified to talk about this issue...

    2. Nathan, I think you are unqualified to feel it.

      If it did say 'from the pulpit' I would have no trouble at all with it. I'm going to read again now to see if he meant that.

    3. I'd say right there, on top of the page, where it says where this talk was given - is perhaps indicative of his intentions:

      "Desiring God 2012 Conference for Pastors
      God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ"

    4. If he is talking about pulpit stuff, why does he keep on saying 'it's not that women can't do it, and in many cases they should.... We admire them when the do, but...'

      I don't think it's clear that he is talking about from the pulpit exclusively. From his other writings, it's clear that he thinks women should absolutely not preach to men ever.

    5. Also - as a white, anglo, protestant, middle class male, from a stable home, there's a whole heap of pastoral and social issues I will not be able to preach about. Every sermon will be on "rejecting entitlement"...

    6. "Disempowering. Patronising."

      Simone, I totally get this. That's how I feel too. I understand what Jean said below about Piper's characterisation of women as strong. But I still feel kind of side-lined, like my main job is to be passive - sure, in an absolutely determined kind of way, but still passive.

      And he's in a tough place: it's tricky to work out how to do 'benevolent patriarchy' (his term, not mine!) without sounding condescending. But surely the point is that we need to get better at this stuff, especially in our technological world! Communication is not only what's said but also what is received.

      So if you know you're an international speaker whose stuff gets posted online for a wide audience, the idea that you're speaking at a men's convention in the original context is kind of less relevant. Women will hear it, and we'll hear it differently to the blokes. If you're an international speaker of such renown, you don't get the excuse that you were just talking to the guys and you'd say something much nicer to the girls when anyone and everyone can listen in. We've got a long way to go in thinking through the implications of living in an internet church.

  9. Simone,

    I don't think it's clear that he is talking about from the pulpit exclusively. From his other writings, it's clear that he thinks women should absolutely not preach to men ever.

    Well, I agree that it isn't an exclusive focus. But that is his primary focus.

    Like most of us, he sees that what happens publicly should be grounded in broader principles that hold true even outside public ministry.

    So, yes, women should never ever ever ever ever preach to men according to Piper (and I'd be more with Luther on that question - in some unusual circumstances women can and even should preach to men). But if you're going to list off 8 traits of a masculine ministry, 8 things that characterise it that aren't simply "must be done by a guy" then you are probably going to say, "all of these can be done by a woman". And then say, "but they shouldn't be taking the lead in doing them in the church or the home, they should be doing them within the structures created by men who do take the lead in these areas".

    Here's his 8 points:

    1. A masculine ministry believes that it is more fitting that men take the lash of criticism that must come in a public ministry, than to unnecessarily expose women to this assault.

    2. A masculine ministry seizes on full-orbed, biblical doctrine with a view to teaching it to the church and pressing it with courage into the lives of the people.

    and here's his explanation as to why point 2 is 'manly':

    The point of calling this failure of doctrinal nerve an unmanly failure is not that women can't grasp and hold fast to the great doctrines of the faith. They can and should. The point is that when the foundations of the church are crumbling, the men should not stand still and wait for women to seize the tools and brick and mortar. And women should expect their men to be at the forefront of rebuilding the ruins.

    Take, "women" out of there and put in "those who don't have the gift of teaching" and "men" out and put in "those who have the gift of teaching" and it reads just as fine to me as in its current form. Everyone should take their part. But a subgroup has a special responsibility and everyone should expect them to "be at the forefront".

    3. A masculine ministry brings out the more rugged aspects of the Christian life and presses them on the conscience of the church with a demeanor that accords with their proportion in Scripture.

    Here he's picking up the point I was gesturing at in my earlier comment - there are aspects of the Christian life that are more naturally masculine - fighting, being a soldier and the like. His comment about that:

    But the point, again, is not that women cannot, or should not, fight sin with as much urgency as any man. Nor is the point that she is unable to see these things in Scripture, bring them out, and press them on the conscience. She is fully able to do that. The point is that the theme of Christian warfare and other rugged aspects of biblical theology and life should draw the men of the church to take them up in the spirit of a protective warrior in his family and “tribe,” rather than expecting the women to take on the spirit of a combatant for the sake of the church.

    And again, I warm to that. If there needs to be a combatant orientation in the church, I think men should be taking the lead on that. Women can be soldiers, but men should take the lead in warfare.

  10. 4. A masculine ministry takes up heavy and painful realities in the Bible, and puts them forward to those who may not want to hear them.

    He explains this:

    The point is not that women are unable to lift the weight or bear the pain of the reality of hell. The point is not that they are unable to press it into those who don’t want to hear. The point is that one of the marks of mature manhood is the inclination to spare her that load and its costs. We admire her for embracing the truth, we share her longings to nurture with tenderness, and, if we can, we carry for her the flaming coals of final condemnation.

    I'd dissent a fair bit on this one, but it's a responsible position. My observation (as someone who disagrees with this point) is that, in general, fathers find it easier to play hardball with their kids than mothers do. In my experience most guys find it easier to tell people directly that they're going to hell than most women. Women should do it too, of course, just as men should be gentle and considerate. But the gender who tends to be stronger in an area should be taking the lead in it.

    5. A masculine ministry heralds the truth of Scripture, with urgency and forcefulness and penetrating conviction, to the world and in the regular worship services of the church.

    Again I disagree as much as I agree, but here's his explanation:

    There is urgency, forcefulness, penetrating power. Preaching does not always rise to this level of urgency and force and authority, but regularly does, and should. Again the point is not that a woman is not able to speak this way. The point is that godly men know intuitively, by the masculine nature implanted by God, that turning the hearts of men and women to God with that kind of authoritative speaking is the responsibility of men. And where men handle it with humility and grace, godly women are glad.

    Not ability to do this at all, but the particular responsibility of men to do this publicly is his point. Again, behind this seems to be a view that doing it comes more naturally to men, but again, I don't find that ludicrous in my experience and observations in life. There is a reason why women more than men are associated with nagging, and it touches on this issue of how naturally the two genders speak 'with authority'. Again, how that cashes out with me is different from Piper here, but I don't think this is slamming women, or making their contribution irrelevant.

  11. 6. A masculine ministry welcomes the challenges and costs of strong, courageous leadership without complaint or self-pity with a view to putting in place principles and structures and plans and people to carry a whole church into joyful fruitfulness.

    7. A masculine ministry publicly and privately advocates for the vital and manifold ministries of women in the life and mission of the church.

    8. A masculine ministry models for the church the protection, nourishing, and cherishing of a wife and children as part of the high calling of leadership.

    All of these points seem to focus overwhelmingly on public ministry, while (often but not always) saying that the issues involved tend to come more easily to more men than more women. His basic focus throughout is to say, "women can do all 8 things, but men have the responsibility to take the lead in these areas in public ministry".

  12. I knew Mark and I would eventually agree on one of these posts...

  13. I like what you say here, Simone, but feel John Piper has been misrepresented.

  14. I think John Piper might have misrepresented himself, but its hard for me to tell since I haven't paid him any attention since he scammed me for $10 on his book 'What's the Difference?' It was wholly inadequate.

  15. Ha ha, you can be sure a post on gender issues will draw a response! I'm not well qualified to say what effect this might have on a woman but to me his talk seemed patronising about women at best. As a man, it would make me feel inadequate if I was not already over this stuff. In this and Piper's other stuff he paints a caricature of masculinity. No doubt some men are like this but do we all have to be? It's the same as the men's church stuff which Mark alludes to - flowers in church are feminine, etc. Why can't men like flowers? Or be gentle and caring, or shy? Why do we all have to be tough and "manly" all the time?

  16. John Piper's comments are awkward but, from a complementarian perspective, it is hard to see them as anything more than that. I hope people will read the original before passing hasty judgement, and I do hope Mark Baddeley's comments above remain intact! They still make sense.

    I don't think ridicule is out of bounds in such a discussion, but I would wish that some of those who ridicule Piper would turn their attention to other more dangerous targets. Wright, Gunton and Williams have been mentioned; it does seem that educated verbosity confers a sort of immunity in these matters!

    Badders, wish you were coming back to Sydney. Such fun could be had. ;-)

    1. Gordon, I don't think awkward is good enough on this kind of issue - for an MTS trainee maybe - but not for someone with such far reaching and worldwide influence.

      Also seems to me that it's often much easier to be frustrated with members of your own theological 'family' than more distant relatives. From your veiled and snide comments above I see that you also find this a problem.

      Certianly in the people I minister to, much more confusion is likely to be caused by the poorly expressed comments of a well known reformed teacher that everyone listens to on the net than some obscure Anglicans whose books gather dust in theological libraries.

    2. Sorry, this reply is by me. Had trouble signing into blogger for some reason.

    3. Hm, why 'veiled and snide'? Perhaps kinder to say restrained? It is easy to impute motives falsely.

      My take on this is that Piper has not been well treated. I'm no great promoter of Piper and read his material only rarely, but when I do read him, he's got a lot to say that is worthwhile.

      From my perspective, his suggestion that biblical Christianity has a masculine feel is self-evidently true, and the feminist theologians I've had contact with or read suggest exactly the same thing on almost identical grounds. Mind you, they are not happy about it!

      I think that Piper qualifies his statements carefully enough within the context to avoid the charges that have been levelled at him, but I won't repeat things that have already been said.

    4. Hey Gordo,

      Yeah, not being able to hang with you guys is a serious downside to Briz. Hopefully there'll still be opportunities, if not as many.

  17. Just one example of how feminist theologians notice what Piper has noticed.

    Note Phyllis Trible's outline of 3 feminist approaches to Scripture, in which the first approach is a hostile version of what Piper has recognized to be the case.

    I'm not giving a blanket endorsement to Piper any more than I would to Phyllis Trible's feminists. All I'm saying is that Piper is by no means the first to notice what he's noticed.

    1. That's a very interesting observation Gordon. I wonder if the explanation is that they are both coming to the Bible with a similar understanding of gender - as a duality, a pair of opposing/complementary essences. I guess we all need some framework to help us understand such a complex revelation, and we need help untangling our gender dilemmas. However, we also need to recognise the limitations of this framework. What if the differences between men, and between women, are greater than their gender-based similarities? And what if the similarities between some men and women are greater than their gender differences or than their similarites with people of their own gender. What if the characteristics we identify as "masculine" are also found in many women, and those identified as "feminine" are also found in many men? What would this mean for our reading of the various texts that Piper, Trible and Simone have highlighted?

  18. Hi Simone, Mark and others,

    Haven't read the full transcript. Skim-read the discussion. I have no time to get involved in the arguments! I just want to say
    one thing from a completely different angle:

    One of the things I have loved over the years about Piper's teaching on womanhood is that he talks about the strength needed to be a woman of God. A woman of God is able to submit only because she is strong. She trusts God. She does not give in to fear. She knows her God and Saviour. She is strong in him. That's why she's able to take the risk of submission.

    I think you could argue that Piper has a very strong, tough view of Christian womanhood, even if the toughness has a different flavour from that of Christian manhood. And the different flavour is, I think, is a good and biblical thing - although I think it's something that is easier to recognise than to define.

    See Piper's talk The beautiful faith of fearless submission.

    Love Jean.

    1. I think that rings true of my limited knowledge of Piper, and my greater experience of other teachers with similar kinds of views.

      While my experience of many rank and file complementarian men and my experience of the overwhelming majority of egalitarian men that I've known (not all though in either group) is that they often struggle with strong women, my experience of complementarian male leaders is that they are big promoters of womanly strength.

      And yes, as someone who has submitted and led, both takes strength to be done well in a godly way. The strength is different and I can't really explain that difference at this point in time, but both the strength and the difference has been there.

  19. Carson and Keller recently wrote:

    Controversy customarily generates its share of purple prose. It is very easy to read everything an opponent says as negatively as possible—in malam partem, as the Latins say, “in a bad sense,” while taking what our friends say in bonam partem, “in a good sense.”

    That cuts both ways, and as much as some of Piper's critics appear to have taken it in the worst way, it's easy for us who appreciate his stuff to take it in a good way.

    I'm not keen on the label that Piper used, but I think the substance of what he was saying was good.

    For what it's worth, my wife wrote this in response to Rachel Held Evans' call for a virtual picket-line (ironically, post-evangelical feminists seem to be rather dismissive of women who disagree with them..)

    1. It's a great guest post by your wife, Andrew. Although, in this instance that's really just a way of me saying, "I agree with you both in what you wrote, and you said things clearly and winsomely". But still...

  20. oh, and it's very much worth watching the first 10mins of the Q&A session as he clarifies a few things, not least, says that there should be room for men to be appropriately feminine and women to appropriately masculine.

  21. There's a huge difference between a church led by strong men (like Piper) who consider it their holy duty to make it a good church for women, and a church led by strong men whose leadership is motivated by a proud, macho attitude. There's also a huge difference between a capable woman who leads men because she's more capable and willing than the men around her, and a capable woman who leads men because she can't stand being second to anyone. Complementarianism need not and should not be oppressive. It can also be gallant enough to thank God for women who are used by God in ways that make a complementarian uncomfortable.