A Response to 4 Responses to Piper’s “Masculine Christianity”
I’ve come to the chaotic party that has formed in response to the comments of John Piper about “masculine Christianity” a bit late. To be honest, when I first heard about it I didn’t think it was anything new. Piper, Driscoll, and others have long taken a stance that upheld male prominence in the Church, so I wasn’t sure there was anything new to explore. However, from personal contacts and a few other comments I’ve seen, there are four things worth responding to. (Note that the four statements below are not what I believe, but what I’m responding to.)
John Piper (and others who would say similar things) is just trying to push more men to be involved in church life.
If Piper wanted more men involved in the life of the church, and that’s all this was, he would just c0me out and say that. Though I and many others often disagree with his exegesis and conclusions, he approaches many topics biblically and theologically because he believes that is important, not because he has an ulterior motive. It is a fair guess that he said the thing he said about masculine Christianity because he believes them, not because he is trying to goad men into action. I’m sure he hopes men will step up to fulfill the role he believes they’re called to play, but I highly doubt that’s why he said what he did. He has enough clout in many circles that if he wanted more men to be active he could have just said that and many would have followed him in that pursuit.
All John Piper said is that Christianity is or should be masculine.
I’ve seen a number of comments like this lobbed in Piper’s general direction as I’ve perused articles and blog posts. Many of them have taken a single statement, “I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel,” and responded as if that’s all he said. This is the same tactic used by politicians all the time to mischaracterize their opponents and make them easier to discredit. Anyone can take a single comment out of context and make someone look silly, or mean, or even evil. If Piper is wrong in what he is saying there is no need to refute a caricature of what he’s saying, we can just refute what he actually said (as Scot McKnight has done). Let me be clear, I don’t agree with John Piper on this point, but I also think it counter-productive to ignore 90% of what he said in talking about it. The same people who are doing this would be irate if someone took one sentence out of an entire speech of theirs and pretended it was all they said.
John Piper’s just saying what the Bible says.
At first glance I suppose some would think that. At many points he refers to Scripture in its particularities and overarching themes to “prove” his point. But as it seems he’s done at other times (his mostly written “debate” with N.T. Wright on justification as an example) he has defined the terms in the way he wants to define them without much, if any, concern for careful exegesis or cultural context. The link above to Scot McKnight briefly addresses the lack of the term “masculine” in Scripture, for instance. On the topic of women in the Church I’ve found the work of William J. Webb especially helpful. He lays out a Redemptive Trend Hermeneutic, which basically means we need to look not only at what Scripture says, but the trajectory it sets. The way women were treated in Corinth in the first century is not necessarily the way they should be treated in the twenty-first century, just as the way Jesus treats women is different than the way they were treated in OT times. There is a redemptive trend that points us in the direction of understanding (and practicing!) the full equality of women in the Church. John Piper is saying what the Bible says in the way he wants to frame it, ignoring other valid ways of resting on the authority of Scripture that lead in a dramatically different direction.
What John Piper says is offensive so I don’t like it.
I haven’t read anyone who said it in exactly this way, but many of the responses I’ve seen have carried this sentiment. I agree that what he says is unhelpful as we try to realize a Galatians 3:28 vision in the church. I agree that the rub of his comments easily have the potential to be offensive (though I think he tried to deliver them in as soft a way as he could). What troubles me a bit however, is the idea that just because something is offensive that makes it wrong based on the offense alone. I am noticing a trend in Christianity, and especially in young Christianity, to jettison the parts of belief and Scripture that make us uncomfortable. It’s as though our sensibilities are a higher authority than the Scriptures themselves. I’d reiterate what I said earlier–if John Piper is wrong in what he says, then it can be taken on through the faithful use of the Scriptures. To interpret Scripture by our personal feelings is a poor hermeneutic (though seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is essential).