This is part 2 of What God intended at creation and it is inspired by a recent lecture given by John Piper where he states that God’s intention for Christianity is for it to have a “masculine feel“. After discussing John Piper’s Masculine Christianity, I will give my critique of his masculine arguments. Part 1 is here.
Here is John Piper’s summary of his belief in God’s intention of a masculine Christianity:
God has revealed himself to us in the Bible pervasively as King, not Queen, and as Father, not Mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son. The Father and the Son created man and woman in his image, and gave them together the name of the man, Adam (Genesis 5:2). God appoints all the priests in Israel to be men. The Son of God comes into the world as a man, not a woman. He chooses twelve men to be his apostles. The apostles tell the churches that all the overseers—the pastor/elders who teach and have authority (1 Timothy 2:12)—should be men; and that in the home, the head who bears special responsibility to lead, protect, and provide should be the husband (Ephesians 5:22–33).
God has revealed himself to us in the Bible pervasively as King, not Queen, and as Father, not Mother. (JP)
Is God male? Absolutely not, but God can refer to Himself in male terms if He wants to and He can refer to Himself in female terms too:
Isaiah 46:3 (NASB95)
3“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth And have been carried from the womb;
God has no problem in using female terminology and comparing Himself to a mother. God also had no problem making an analogy to feathers (when He covers us) or a womb (when He carries us) so why should we use the male terms He uses to say that God prefers men?
The Father and the Son created man and woman in his image, and gave them together the name of the man, Adam (Genesis 5:2). (JP)
The first term for man was not male. It was a united term that was given to both male and female. (Genesis 5:2)
The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son. (JP)
The Word of God came as a man, not because men are more important in God’s eyes, but because of the sin of Adam – his rebellion that was brought into this world. The world was in need of last Adam, not last Eve.
The apostles tell the churches that all the overseers—the pastor/elders who teach and have authority (1 Timothy 2:12)—should be men (JP)
Elders and overseers are those who give up of themselves and serve the body, not those who take authority over the body.
The head who bears special responsibility to lead, protect, and provide should be the husband (Ephesians 5:22–33) (JP)
There is quite a bit on this blog even in the recent posts about Ephesians 5, that I won’t try to condense it here. I will say that my post here, provides a link to one of the very best sermons I have ever heard taught on this passage. The sermon is part of a series of sermons, that I intend, God willing, to comment on and link to in the future.
John Piper also states that women’s joy is to be in masculine Christianity, “He did not create women to languish, or be frustrated, or in any way to suffer or fall short of full and lasting joy, in a masculine Christianity.” Why did God create Christianity to have a “masculine feel”? Piper states that it is in part “for the sake of the glory of women”.
Apparently masculine Christianity just feels right to John Piper as he states how God inclines both men and women to fall in line with masculine Christianity. “It’s the feel of a great, majestic God, who by his redeeming work in Jesus Christ, inclines men to take humble, Christ-exalting initiative, and inclines women to come alongside the men with joyful support, intelligent helpfulness, and fruitful partnership in the work.”
In my last post I listed the first two arguments that complementarians use to “prove” that God intended, from creation, that the male would rule over the female. In this post I will deal with the third complementarian argument, and then I will go through John Piper’s 8 traits of a masculine ministry from his lecture on masculine Christianity.
3. The male rules for the benefit of God because the male was the only gender that was picked to be as leaders for Israel and among Jesus’ disciples.
The claim is that God only raised male leaders and so God’s actions in the OT and Jesus’ actions with His disciples in the NT, define God’s will for godly leaders. It is said that the precedent is set by God as an exclusively male leadership except when God did not have any other choice but to appoint a female because no male was available. It is also said that God picked a woman as a leader because He was judging Israel by giving what was seen by them as a judgment against them.
This is a common argument, but it is an inaccurate argument. The claim that God had to chose a female because there were no godly men available is an easy point to disprove.
Elijah thought that he alone was left as a prophet of God because he was the only one left serving God yet God corrected him by saying that he had seven thousand others who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Romans 11:3 “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.”
Romans 11:4 But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.”
God has always had a remnant who followed him and thus God has never been without a man to serve him.
Let’s look at another example. Huldah was used by the Lord to bring a message to King Josiah yet God also had men available for His use. The prophet Jeremiah had been prophesying in Judah since the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah (see Jeremiah 1:2) and it was the 18th year of the reign of King Josiah (see 2 Kings 22:3) when Huldah was consulted as a Prophet of God to bring a message to King Josiah. So a woman, Huldah, was used by God even though Jeremiah was available and Jeremiah had already been prophesying in the land for five years. Even though Jeremiah was available, God chose to use Huldah to speak His words to the king.
What about the claim that women were only picked by God as leaders when He wanted to judge apostate Israel? Here is one of those claims:
The root problem in Deborah’s day was spiritual apostasy. When God’s people turn away from Him, He renders the men powerless against their enemies and removes wisdom from their hearts. It is a judgment upon apostate people.
Deborah was a Judge sent by God, but she was not sent to judge against Israel but to deliver them and this task was accomplished.
But what about Barak? Was he weak-willed and cowardly because he needed a woman to go into battle with him? See this complementarian example of the claim that Barak was a coward.
The men in Deborah’s day were very weak and cowardly. This is seen in the fact that Barak, the captain of the armies of Israel, refused to go into battle unless Deborah went with him. What a brave man! What a hero!
The woman had to remind him that God had said it is time to fight; the woman had to encourage and challenge him to go; the woman had to go with him!
Was Barak a cowardly man or was he a man of faith? The bible tells us that Barak was a man of faith and he is listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11:32 right alongside David. How was Barak’s faith in God shown? His faith was shown because he refused to go into battle without God’s provision for the battle. Deborah was God’s provision.
The Judges were all sent to deliver Israel from their enemies. This means that it was impossible for Deborah to be a judgment against Israel when she was sent to deliver Israel.
What about Jesus? Why did Jesus pick only men as His disciples? He didn’t. He had women disciples right along with the men. But it is true that Jesus only had men in the category of the twelve. Is this a precedent that Jesus was setting up by implying that only men could be the top leaders of the church? If so, then He was also setting up a precedent that only Jews could be the top leaders of the church since all of the twelve were Jews. Jesus’ picking of the twelve, cannot be used as a law for leadership unless Jesus Himself stated such a law and based this law on His choice of the twelve. Jesus did not state such a law and for men today to go beyond what is written in this area, it proves to be a serious question of their own understanding of the Scriptures and hints of a prideful attitude. When an argument needs to be bolstered by inaccurate claims, we need to ask why are so many striving so hard after a rulership on this earth and over the Church that was never given to them?
For further reading on this topic, see my previous posts here:
Now onto John Piper’s list of 8 traits of a masculine ministry that he observed from the life of J. C. Ryle. Below are the 8 traits with a shortened sentence or two from John Piper that describes the trait.
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.
…a masculine ministry puts men at the head of the troop with the flag in hand and the trumpets in their mouths, so that they, and not the women, take the first bullets.
This sounds so valiant – let the men take the bullet for women disciples in Christ, but in essence, these men are not taking the “bullet for women”. In fact for so many women who are gifted and called by the Lord Jesus, the bullet has been fired by our brothers in Christ and the gun has been aimed to inflict damage to their own sisters in Christ. The lash of criticism for women in ministry does not come from the world, but from Christian brothers who claim an exclusive right for males to fulfill their call to leadership. When the shooters themselves claim to be the protectors of women, may the Lord help us all.
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.
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.
This point makes biblical doctrine as a male-only possession. It also sounds valiant that men should not stand still and wait for women to seize the tools and brick and mortar, but the fact is that these men have done everything they can to remove the tools and to remove the brick and mortar from the hands of women. John MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary for example does not allow women to enroll. The tools that of biblical languages training and other tools of biblical training are not allowed to be placed in the hands of a woman in TMS.
While point 2 of John Piper’s 8 traits of masculine ministry sounds like it is men shouldering the heavy work to help women, in essence, it is used to remove women’s ability to learn, their ability to fulfill their calling in Christ, and their ability to be placed in the body of Christ as the Spirit wills. When Paul said that women were allowed to learn, it is apparent that many men are not listening.
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.
He that would understand the nature of true holiness must know that the Christian is “a man of war.”
It is true that Christians are soldiers in a spiritual battle but this is a battle that we are all called to fight. There are no “rugged aspects of the Christian life” that are kept away from God’s female soldiers. We are all called to fight the good fight. We are all called to finish the course. We are all called to keep the faith.
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.
It is a godly and loving and manly responsibility of the leaders of the church not to distort or minimize the weight and horror of hell.
What does this mean? That a woman is allowed to distort or minimize the weight and horror of hell just because she is a woman? There is no precedent from the Scriptures that allow anyone to distort or minimize the gospel. To say that hell is a painful reality would be true, but to say that only males are to “take up” and “put forward” these biblical truths, would be going beyond what is written.
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.
…no matter what a preacher’s personality or preferred tone, this preaching necessarily involves urgency and forcefulness and a penetrating conviction which aims to come with divine thrust into the minds and hearts of the listeners. And therefore, this is a manly task.
When I read the Scriptures, I see that it is the Holy Spirit that provides conviction, not men. The divine thrust that brings a message into the hearts of the listeners, is not the human vessel, but the very work of the Spirit. It is not a manly task. It is the Spirit’s task! I am surprised that John Piper doesn’t get that. What did Paul say?
1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (NASB95)
1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,
4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
I think John Piper just totally misread the Apostle Paul! Apparently Paul was not manly enough for the task if we measure him by John Piper’s standards.
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.
…what is required again and again is a decisive strength that does not weaken in the face of resistance.
What John Piper seems to be saying here is that women are weak in the face of resistance, while men are not. It is apparently only a real masculine man who is able to carry a church and be a servant to the church that belongs to Christ. A church is not meant to be carried by one person. We are a body, not a business. We are an organism with many members, not an autocrat-lead organization. Those who lock other people out because they believe they are called to carry a whole church on their shoulders are often the ones who are abusers who really believe their strong leadership style does not need help. Paul said that the eye cannot say to the hand “I do not need you”. The one who needs the most help is often the one who thinks he needs no help at all.
7. 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 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.
Is this John Piper saying that only a masculine ministry is able to provide public and private help to women’s ministries? In many complementarian churches, the male leadership is stymied about what women can or cannot do in the church. Can they be a usher? Can they pass the communion elements front to back? The aim of this kind of leadership is not to free women in ministry, but to make sure that women don’t overstep their bounds against an invisible list of thou shalt nots. While we love our brothers in Christ, to think that a man is the best person to head a woman’s ministry, is just plain short sighted.
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.
The year after he came to Liverpool as bishop, Ryle published a book of eight messages for children. It’s called Boys and Girls Playing based on Zechariah 8:5. It reveals the rare mixture of concern for children along with a very masculine feel.
John Piper’s point 8 of his 8 traits of a masculine ministry seems to suggest that only a married man is called to the high calling of leadership. It also suggests that a concern for children along with a feminine feel, is inferior for children’s development. While we agree with the balanced use of all of our gifting, both male and female serving in their calling and both needed, it seems graceless to say that only a male can best model protection, nourishing and cherishing for women and children.
Has God given the Church a masculine feel? It seems obvious to me that those who push women out the door by denying them the freedom to use their gifts for the common good, may have a better chance to give the church a more masculine feel, but I do not see this as God’s work. But in order to help John Piper out and give him more ideas on how to make the church have a more masculine feel, I present a post that I did on the problem of the feminization of the church and a modern-day fix. I am sure that John Piper can get a few helpful ideas from it as long as no one tells him it was written by a woman.