A reply to Rachel Held Evans (a guest post from my wife!)

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I have to admit, when I first read this article from the Christian Post, I groaned. I could see the reaction from certain circles already. Then I read the full transcript and saw what Piper was saying (and how the CP article was not very helpful).

I was going to keep out of the inevitable outrage, but then Rachel Held Evans called on men to respond in writing to Piper.

I showed Piper’s article, and Rachel’s post to my wife, Peta (without giving comment) and asked for her thoughts. She was actually a little incensed, and so I encouraged her to write a response. With her permission, I’ve posted it here (my first guest post!) and added a few cents of my own at the end:

===

Rachel wrote:

This is a strange way to talk about the Bride of Christ.
And it is a dismissive, hurtful way to speak about women, who Piper seems to have forgotten were also created in the image of God, were appointed by God as leaders at critical times in the history of Israel and the Church, and were the first to whom Jesus appeared when he inaugurated his new Kingdom on Resurrection Day.

I find it very odd to read these words after reading the transcript of John Piper’s talk. As I was reading I felt secure and supported as a woman. I understood that in each point, as Piper was talking to MEN he was reminding them of their God-given responsibility without dismissing my ability as a woman.
For example in the first point about a masculine ministry:

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.
Therefore, 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
The point here is not that a woman couldn’t endure such assaults. No doubt a godly woman could. The point is not that women can’t endure criticism, but that godly men prefer to take it for them, rather than thrust them into it.

Piper rightly states that women are able to endure the assults of public critisicm that goes alongside of being the main minister in a church. HOWEVER he says ‘Men, you should WANT to protect your women from this.’ Just as it never diminished me as a person to allow my brothers to do the heavy work with my dad I am not diminished as a person when I allow my husband, father, brother, or minister to stand up for me.

The very next paragraph Piper states that  ’we feel a sense of fitness and joy when a man steps up to risk his life, or his career, with courage ‘
How many movies are made with exactly this purpose in mind?

In the next point, Piper elaborates with:

The point of saying that the remedy for doctrinal indifference is a manly affirmation of “sharply cut doctrines” is not that women cannot or should not make such affirmations. The point is that long, hard, focused, mental labor should not be shirked by men.

I find this to be an interesting, almost insulting, point to make to a conference of Pastors – it seems to me that Piper is suggesting it is often the case that men DO shirk this!

In his third point AGAIN Piper refers to the fact that women ARE able to do this BUT men should step up to their responsibility

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.

In commenting specifically on the style of preaching involved in his ideal ministry Piper says again:

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.

I see time and again throughout the article that Piper is merely telling men of their responsibility and in a sense saying ‘step up to the plate’.

I do not see Piper has at any point said that women are  ”second-class Kingdom citizens”, and I do feel supported and celebrated by John Piper in his clear call for men to shoulder their responsibilities.

It’s important to note that this was NOT addressed to women, nor was it supposed to indicate what a woman’s role should be.

However in point 7 Piper clearly states his desire for women to be involved in ministry – it may look different for women and men BUT in every family it is evident that we all have different roles.

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 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.

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.

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 have to say the first thing I noticed (naturally) was the bold words in her quote which Rachel has taken offence to. May I suggest that readers of this post note the following words in that same quote (my emphasis this time):

“Now, from all of that I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel,” Piper continued.“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.”

===

Now, my two cents:

The first alarm bell went off for me when I read:

 I think it’s important for those who are advocating an exclusively masculine Christianity to see that not all men agree with them.

Rachel made this comment about ‘exclusively’ masculine Christianity to me on Twitter as well, but didn’t respond when I asked her where Piper said anything about it being exclusive. I cannot see that he made any such claim, and this indicates to me the possibility of bringing certain prepositions to the table. Indeed, read what Piper’s wife Noel tweeted:

Masculine ministry done right creates a space where women flourish, where an appropriate feminine feel develops.


In a well-defined community, men are free to be appropriately feminine & women free to be appropriately masculine.

Assuming they are both on the same page, it seems very difficult to maintain the accusation that Piper is promoting ‘exclusively’ male Christianity. No, I agree with my wife: I think Peta has drawn out the very important point that Piper is showing what Christian “masculine” leadership looks like for men: taking responsibility and stepping up to the plate to serve and free people, men and women, to serve God.

I personally wouldn’t have used the terminology, and as much as he has tried to redefine it,   the baggage seems to have very clearly stuck, and he’s now being lambasted with critiques of an idea which I don’t see him to actually be presenting. He writes, for example:

 He has ordained for the church a masculine ministry.

And, of course, this is liable to serious misunderstanding and serious abuse, because there are views of masculinity that would make such a vision repulsive. So here is more precisely what I mean. And words are always in adequate when describing beauty. Beauty always thrives best when she is perceived by God-given instincts rather than by rational definitions. But we must try. What I mean by “masculine Christianity,” or “masculine ministry,” or “Christianity with a masculine feel,” is this:

Theology and church and mission are marked by overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ, with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, and contrite courage, and risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading, protecting, and providing for the community—all of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. 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.

(Emphasis mine) I agree with that – if the label he’s given it is misleading, then throw away the label.

Rachel has written:

This isn’t about egalitarianism or complementarianism, by the way. It’s about the basic value and dignity of God’s daughters.

I think my wife has done a great job of showing that Piper is in no way disparaging the value and dignity of women (on the contrary, that he, like Ryle, point to the ministry of women recorded in scripture). It is then, it seems, simply about Rachel’s objection to complementarianism. Piper is promoting the idea that God has called men to take the headship responsibility, and that seems to be what she is objecting to.

And that’s fine – there are a number of secondary issues that people can disagree on. If one is disturbed by the practice of infant baptism, then they should join a church that practices believer baptism. If you don’t subscribe to the complimentarian understanding of scripture, then don’t go to a church that operates with such a view. But surely we can all do each other the courtesy and grace to try and understand what someone is saying before rallying the troops against them, can’t we?

More importantly, Peta should guest post more, right?

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38 Responses to A reply to Rachel Held Evans (a guest post from my wife!)

  1. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    I really appreciate that so much of Piper's text is reproduced here, and some great points are made. I did note however that Piper calls for women to come alonside men, to support and help. In a study of the great missionary movement, it was found that twice as many women as men went as missionaries. This is because for every married couple who went, one single woman also went. Would Piper wish that half of all converts in the world had not heard God's word, rather than that women went out on their own intiative?

    My sense is that Piper is not a student of history, and he protects himself from the knowledge that women have taken intiative. I don't know how else to explain this.

    • AndrewFinden says:

      Like he says about all the 'traits' it's not that women can't, it's that God is calling men to take up responsibility. He is, after all, speaking primarily to men.

      • Suzanne McCarthy says:

        If women are given these traits by God, who is Piper to say that women ought not to do these things, at the same time as men doing them to. Perhaps these are all human traits that God has properly given to all human beings, and Piper is using male intuition to say that men ought to do these thngs, and women ought not to do these things. He is speaking against the creation God made. He is presuming to tell God that he knows more than God does about how human bengs ought to operate.

        • AndrewFinden says:

          The flipside is – if God calls us to different roles and responsibilities, who are we to argue that he's given us the wrong 'traits'? It seems to me that in scripture, it was more often the case that God called people to things despite the giftings (or lack thereof).

          (what you appear to advocate is a naturalistic fallacy btw)

          I disagree that he's using intuition to say "men can do this and women this". While I prefer to think about things in terms of responsibility rather than roles (I think they might look different in different places although the responsibility remains the same), he grounds his view of male headship in his reading of scripture.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            "what you appear to advocate is a naturalistic fallacy btw" Piper uses this one both ways himself! Funny.

            I don't agree with Piper's view of male headship. I do not agree that men have more responsibility than women for the welfare of their children, or of the household. I don't see this in scripture at all. I think women have equal responsibilty in the home and in church. If a mother is not married to a man who makes enough money, or she is widowed, then she will do whatever a man does to earn money. And this is right and proper. Women are NOT called to come alongside men. That is plain and simply wrong and unhealthy for women. If a woman is widowed, and if her society does not allow her to support herself, she remarries for the good of her children. If society allows her to earn money, she puts her children first and does not even think about "coming alongside men." I find Piper's to be an unhealthy emphasis. I believe a woman may remarry, but it should not be her goal in life. Her goal at that point is to give undistracted provision and care to her children. Piper has it all upside down.

            A single woman, or a woman in her 50's should be able to fully give herself to mission work, regardless of whether there is a man in sight. She should not be running around looking to fulfill Piper's emphasis!

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I'm not sure where you're drawing the issue of remarriage and widowhood from, or the suggestion that women, even widows are not allowed work…?! Piper also does not say that women are to submit to men in general (rejects that, actually). His point is about familial and church leadership specifically. I also do not see him saying that "A single woman, or a woman in her 50's [can't / shouldn't ] be able to fully give herself to mission work" because she needs a man – again, context – familial and congregational leadership. At the end of the day – if you don't agree with the complimentarian view, then don't go to a complimentarian church..

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            I was raised and married in a complementarian church. My regrets for that part of my life are enormous – there are serious consequences which are so painful and cannot be undone.

            I am refering to the role of a woman in the home and church. As a single mother, a woman is head of the family and needs to be recognized as such. As a mother, the woman has the same responsibility for her children as the father has She has the same obligation to protect and provide that the father has. This cannot be emphasized enough. As a missionary a woman is a church leader. Saint Nino founded the church in Georgia, Hilda taught 5 bishops. These are our examples. It is wrong to restrict women as Piper does.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            Suzanne, I don't think Piper said anything about single mothers (I grew up in a single-mother home btw, my mother was widowed rather young).

            Misuse (or abuse) does not do away with use. That is, while some will wrongly confuse complimentarian views with domination, that does not mean healthy complimentarian set-ups are therefor wrong (though you might disagree exegetically)

            I would argue that fathers have a responsibility for the wellbeing (physical and spiritual) of their family. This is NOT to say that mothers do not have any responsibility , but to say that God will hold men accountable for the protection and spiritual leadership of their families. This says nothing about 'roles' and might look differently in various homes.

            I also would not say that there is no place for women in leadership – but the NT seems clear to me that the congregational teaching and senior overseer roles are responsibilities that men are charged with based on Genesis. I know this is counter-cultural, and it would be certainly 'easier' if it weren't prescribed so, but most of Christianity is counter-cultural, and I have to go with what I understand scripture to teach, like it or not.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            Andrew,

            In law, in their conscience and nature and before God, mothers have the SAME responsibility for the protection and care of their children. There is no difference

            Therefore, mothers need the SAME input into decision-making, whether in the day to day life, or in the hospital or whereever. Otherwise, one is operating against the legal system of our country. This is morally wrong. This can have serious consequences and repercussions. This is, I think, the most serious and concerning difficulty in complementarianism, the allocation of greater decision-making power to the man

            I am not sure what argument you are making from Genesis, so I will leave this for the moment. However, it is absolutely clear that the subordination of women was a deliberate decision to go along with culture, by Paul. There is nothing at all in his writing which implies that he wants to be counter-cultural in gender roles, except that he emphasizes the great worth of remaining single in order not to gear one's life around the opposite sex

            I think the argument about being counter cultural is the weakest of all complementarian arguments. We should operate with the laws and customs of our own culture in according women roles in marriage which are appropriate and in accordance with the equal gifting that God has given women to work, provide, and support a family, and to teach and lead.

            I do believe that one ought to raise children with both parents, but that is not always possible, and half of us live as singles, as full people without the need for an opposite gendered person to make decisions for us.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            Hi Suzanne,

            I get the feeling that what you're picturing is not what I'm suggesting.

            mothers need the SAME input into decision-making, whether in the day to day life, or in the hospital or whereever. Otherwise, one is operating against the legal system of our country. This is morally wrong. This can have serious consequences and repercussions. This is, I think, the most serious and concerning difficulty in complementarianism, the allocation of greater decision-making power to the man

            I think what you're arguing against looks like domination, not complimentarianism. Of course both have input.

            I am not sure what argument you are making from Genesis

            The refences Paul makes in 1 Tim 2:13-14 to Genesis 1 & 2.

            it is absolutely clear that the subordination of women was a deliberate decision to go along with culture, by Paul.

            He backs it up theologically (by refering to Genesis) not culturally. Indeed, it would seem that Ephesus was known for it's learned women.

            There is nothing at all in his writing which implies that he wants to be counter-cultural in gender roles,

            I meant that it's counter-cultural for us.

            We should operate with the laws and customs of our own culture

            Depends on how much the culture matches up to what God calls us to.

            the equal gifting that God has given women to work, provide, and support a family, and to teach and lead.

            Again, I'm not saying that women shouldn't do any of those things. The issue is about the context of congregational teaching and being an overseer. That God charges men with this responsibility is not the same as saying women have no role or responsibilities. If God calls us to channel our gifts a certain way, who are we to argue?

            I do believe that one ought to raise children with both parents, but that is not always possible, and half of us live as singles, as full people without the need for an opposite gendered person to make decisions for us.

            Again, saying that God calls husbands to take responsibility for their families does not mean single mothers can't or shouldn't shoulder that burden. And I'm certainly not advocating any kind of view that says wives need husbands to make their decisions for them – again, that is domination and not complimentarianism (as I understand it).

            If you'll allow me a (flawed and limited) analogy: it's a little like a captain and co-pilot on a plane: they both have responsibility and things to do, but at the end of the day, the captain bears the responsibility for what happens. It should be that they communicate and consult eachother, and will in fact take turns at leading. They are both equally valuable, and both submitting to the flight plan.
            Husbands and wives are called to both submit to one another and primarily, and firstly to Christ. The responsibility that husbands are charged with is a sacrificial one, and any other kind (e.g. bossing around) is wrong, and distortion of headship.They will each have strengths and weaknesses, and a sacrificial and wise husband will let his wife lead in those things for which she is gifted and stronger. And any decisions will be made listening to wisdom of the other, and almost always in agreement.

            I avoid the 'gender roles' idea because I think it's fairly unhelpful – roles, i.e. who does what, might look very different in two different marriages where a husband is taking responsibility for his family.

            I don't see how such a situation is dangerous in the way you suggest.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            If you don't think that men have final decision-making authority, that is more authority than the wife, then that is the egalitarian stance exactly. Egalitarians believe in complementarity without hierarchy. So I fail to see how you differ from egalitarians in this respect.

            But perhaps you mean that a wife only has "input" – that is, she can express her concerns if she wishes but the husband still has all decision-making power at the end of the day. I am not sure where you stand on this.

            Regarding 1 Tim 2:13-14, do you think that women are more easily deceived than men? Research has not shown this to be true. In fact, we now that men are more often involved in crime, much more often involved in violent crime, and are greater risk takers. They are not more suited to be in charge of children than women are

            Regarding "counter cultural." If being counter cultural is not a scriptural value, then I wonder why complementarians bring up this point so often. My sense is that the scriptures ask Christians to stay in good repute in order to bring honour to Christ. Treating women as egalitarians companions in marriage would bring good repute to the church today.

            We are asked to abide by the laws of the state. Financial commitments are legally binding on a wife, regardless of whether she was allowed equal say in financial decision-naking or not. She is also equally responsible for all debts, all care of the children and any property issues. She is responsible in law, and cannot with honour escape this Nor should her conscience allow it. But the church sometimes tells women that the husband is ultimately responsible so he has final decision-making authority. This is wrong. Legally, the wife is not a co-pilot but an equal partner. The laws would have to be changed to legally disenfranchise women if we go back to a previous model.

            The notion that the husband has a sacrifical role, seems to imply that women do not have a sacrificial role. To imply that this is a male gendered role, is not a proper thing to say in front of women, who live a life of sacrifice. What you may be saying is that men ought to at least sacrifice as much as women already do sacrifice. I could understand that.

            Your final remarks on headship sound very lovely. Unfortunately men are not particularly wise, and many use their final authority for selfish reasons. I don't see why men should have this instrument, when it is entirely unecessary, since they are married to equally responsible adults who should already in the law have equal responsibility and are, in the absence of men, able to act with equal authority. The notion that men have the right to more authority than a wife, seems to have only one purpose, to give men more say than their wives.

            Since wives absolutely bear equal responsibility and make equal sacrifice, the only gender difference in reality is that men are being given more power. That doesn't sound like "loving your neighbour as yourself."

            We do know the situation can be dangerous because we know that some women do suffer abuse from their husbands.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            Between the egalitarian view of neither having 'final decision-making authority' and the domination view of 'husband has all decision- making power' is a spectrum of views, and I think it's false dichotomy to portray those as the only two options.

            I think that in a healthy complimentarian marriage virtual all decisions impacting others in the family will be mutual (there are, of course, decisions in which a husband does not need to give input, which his wife will rightly make by herself, and vice versa). A complimentarian view is one which seeks to allow each spouse to operate to their strengths – to compliment the other . I would think that the times when an 'executive decision' needs to be made where mutual agreement cannot be reached would be very rare indeed, and I can't imagine such a situation arising, personally, and if it did, we would seek outside counsel (as we would on very major decisions anyway), and such a decision would certainly not be made lightly or in any kind of self-serving spirit. Remember that I've said that whatever 'headship' responsibility or authority (as opposed to 'power') is derivative from the headship of Christ to whom both spouses submit, and involves the mutual submission to one another, and is sacrificial leadership which seeks to lay down one's life for the other. That is not, as you've apparently taken it, to imply that women aren't or cannot be sacrificial. Of course they are, and should be at the appropriate times. The point, rather, is that God calls men to lead sacrificially, and if they do that, I can't see how that it at all resembles the kind of domination view you seem to have in mind.

            I'm not trying to persuade you of my view, rather, I'm trying to show you that it is not what you seem have assumed "complimentarianism" is.

            I also do not wish to deny the fact that some women do suffer abuse from their husbands. I agree that this is wrong, and reprehensible. But I also want to point out that this is the result of a distortion and wrong view of 'headship' means. Wrong understanding and abuse does not negate right understanding and proper use.

            I've tried to be as clear as I can in pointing out where I feel you're importing a whole range of preconceptions, and how they don't apply to what I'm saying.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            "I also do not wish to deny the fact that some women do suffer abuse from their husbands. I agree that this is wrong, and reprehensible. But I also want to point out that this is the result of a distortion and wrong view of 'headship' means. Wrong understanding and abuse does not negate right understanding and proper use."

            And this is where I am saying that I think it does. For example, the scripture teaches rulers and masters to rule for the sake of their dependents. And Christians are to submit to Roman law, to empire, to masters, to all those in seats of power.

            But, because of the risk of abuse, Christians do not support non-democratic forms of governments. Christians have rebelled against absolute monarchy, British colonialism, slavery and so on. Christians support participatory democracy. In participatory democracy, the leader is responsible to the people, and if the leader fails, he or she can be removed. In marriage, there is some form of participatory democracy in some complementarian marriages, and not in others. And the leader can never be deposed. Some women suffer terribly.

            Essentially Christian men want to live in a full democracy and deny this to Christian women in the home. I don't understand that kind of thinking which demands conditions for one's own life but denies it to others. It makes no sense, it is a kind of blindness.

            I have lived all my life within complementarianism and been taught by very famous and well-recognized complementarian leaders. Complementarianism can sound good, and some men live within this paradigm in a respectful way. But other men claim the right to make the final decisions in innappropriate ways and there is no check on this – none.

            Women who leave patriarchy drop off the radar for their church but end up in expensive therapy and ongoing distress. it is not an easy recovery. And these women just don't exist for the church. They don't show up, but they are real. The complementarian church badly needs to provide shelters, counselling and rehabilitation funds for women who have been deprived of normal lives through a husband who used his supposed right (taught from the pulpit) to be the leader in a wrong way.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            It still seems to me that the only way in which your style of complementarianism differs from egalitarianism, in which each spouse is properly called to sacrifice and responsibility, is that for complementarians, the husband has an executive power that the wife does not have. I cannot perceive other differences, except this one. That is the part that I believe is wrong, because it is unnecessary, afterall egalitarians have successful marriages and raise children without it, and because it can lead to abuse. Giving more power to the husband has no useful function for the health of the marriage and it is dangerous.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I actually think the terms 'egalitarian' and 'complimentarian' are fairly unhelpful, as comps agree that husband and wife are of equal value and worth, and egals agree that husbands and wives compliment eachother. So it is no surprise that they are often very similar in practical outworking.

            ["executive power"] is the part that I believe is wrong, because it is unnecessary

            I also don't think talking about "power" is helpful, as it's not about that – it's about sacrificial responsibility. That is, it's not about one person 'getting to do want they want' but about the buck stopping with someone – the husband being answerable to God for upholding the responsibility charged to him. Whether you think that is 'necessary' is beside the point. The issue is whether that's what the NT teaches, and whether I like it or not, that's what I understand it to teach. It is sobering and absolutely not about getting my way – rather, the opposite: it's a call to lead by giving up for the sake of the other.
            I don't think this paradigm leads to abuse. It is a wrong view that leads to abuse.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            "the husband being answerable to God for upholding the responsibility charged to him."

            This belief leads to the husband having some kind of decision-making authority that the wife does not have. I don't see a scripture charging the husband with greater responsibility than the wife.

            In reality, a mother is actually called by God to equal sacrificial responsibility and therefore ought to have equal decision-making authority. In reality, and according to the way God made women, the buck actually stops equally with her. There is no sense in which the wife does not have equal responsibility for her children. The wife is equally called to manage her children, that is what the scriptures say.

            It is therefore very difficult for women to live out their lives in a paradigm where the husband has greater authority, and believes himself to have greater responsibility, beause this is contrary to our natures and the way that God has created us, with equal responsibility. It is better for us to lve in accordance with the way that God has created us.

            If you would prefer I use the term "executive authority" that is okay. It was Aristotle who said that a woman has the decision-making ability but it was without authority. I think it is time for Christians to give up Aristotle, and seek to follow the law of Christ, to love your neighbour as yourself, and esteem others more than oneself.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            In a nutshell the difference between our two views is that I believe women bear equal responsibility, and you believe the buck stops with men.

            I feel that my understanding is in accordance with our basic equal human nature and accords with the way that God interacts with human beings, that each one of us answers equally to God.

            I am not quite sure what your "the buck stopping with the husband" belief is based on, our how that works in the life of a Christian.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I feel that my understanding is in accordance with our basic equal human nature and accords with the way that God interacts with human beings, that each one of us answers equally to God.

            As do I.

            I am not quite sure what your "the buck stopping with the husband" belief is based on, our how that works in the life of a Christian.

            Ephesians 5:22-33 & 1 Corinthians 11:3

            Of course, simply quoting proof-texts is not going to solve anything – as I said, it's an exegetical dispute.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I don't see a scripture charging the husband with greater responsibility than the wife.

            Fine.. we have an exegetical disagreement… that's ok.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            And this is where I am saying that I think it does. For example, the scripture teaches rulers and masters to rule for the sake of their dependents. And Christians are to submit to Roman law, to empire, to masters, to all those in seats of power.

            We're called to submit to our leaders except when what they ask us to do is contrary to what Christ calls us to do – whatever authority they have is derivative. We submit primarily to Christ.

            because of the risk of abuse, Christians do not support non-democratic forms of governments.

            I'm not sure that's necessarily true.. seems a bit of an western ethno-centric point of view. I'd certainly be interested to know what Christians in the middle-east and asia have to say about that.. I think Jesus calls us beyond politics to Kingdom view.

            Again, it seems to me what you're calling 'complimentarianism' is really domination, and I reject that too. There's no 'check' to a lot of bad theology, but that doesn't mean right theology needs to go out the window, or that there aren't people pointing out the error.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            You have a basic logical conflict You believe that women bear equal responsibilty according to their God given nature, but you believe that they don't bear equal responsiblity according to exegesis. How do your resolve this conflict and treat women as you would be treated yourself?

            Throughout western history, Christians have been very active in introducing participatory democracy, in revolting against British imperialism and in abolishing slavery. In Asia and the Middle East, I dn't think that the masses are less desiring of democracy than anywhere else in the world.

            I don't know of any Christian men who wish to return to Roman dictatorships, British colonial power and slavery. When men adhere to these standards as they are laid out in the Bible, then they can turn to women. But until a man is a slave living in a Roman style dictatorship, he does not have the moral right to ask women to adhere to these standards.

            Men should rightly be grateful for the laws which exist today, and support equality of responsibility and authority for women.. That is the just and proper role of men towards women. That is what the Bible means when it says "man is the head of woman." Man has the role of according equal, fully equal dignity, responsibility and authority in decision-making to women, in treating women as real and actual equals. Men need to exercise this responsiblity to women, to treat them as they, men, would also be treated.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I think you've quite misunderstood me (it's clear you have very strong preconceptions on this issue)

            You have a basic logical conflict You believe that women bear equal responsibilty according to their God given nature, but you believe that they don't bear equal responsiblity according to exegesis. How do your resolve this conflict and treat women as you would be treated yourself?

            I was talking about husbands and wives, not women & men (i.e. I am NOT saying that men always have more responsibility than women). I understand the NT to teach that before God, husbands bear the ultimate responsibility for their familes. This does not mean that other family members do not have responsibilities – of course they do. It does not mean that husbands and wives are not of equal value or worth – of course they are (Galatians 3:28). If the responsibility God charges husbands with is to lead with a love that causes them to lay down their lives as Christ did for the church, how does that fall foul of treating others as we would want to be treated, as you allege?

            I dn't think that the masses are less desiring of democracy than anywhere else in the world.

            We're not talking about 'the masses', we're talking about whether Christians are to equate democracy with Christianity (we're not) or if we're called to seek political influence and change (we're not). Rather, we're called to seek first the Kingdom of God. Jesus resisted the call from certain Jews to overthrow the Roman empire. He told people to pay their taxes, and seek the Kingdom of God – obey your leaders so long as it doesn't go against Christ's teaching. This is the same whether we're under an Emporer, a Queen, or President. I happen to like that I get to vote.. great. Jesus didn't seem concerned that his followers didn't. He calls us to love justice and mercy, and to spread the good news about His Kingdom, not to spread democracy, as nice as we happen to find it.
            Comparing the view I've put forth to being a Roman Bond-servant is really quite disingenuous.
            I think we actually agree more than not, and this is only serving to show that the label which seems to be throwing you off is as unhelpful as I suggest.

          • Suzanne McCarthy says:

            "I understand the NT to teach that before God, husbands bear the ultimate responsibility for their familes."

            This implies the corollary, that women do not have ultimate responsibility for their families. I believe that God made men and women with equal ultimate and moral responsibility for their children and that women must bear this responsibility, that, in fact, they do bear this responsibility.

            Throughout western history, Christians have acted to bring about democracy, the vote for men, and abolition of slavery. Christians should continue to bring about equality in the home for women.

            You like to have a vote. You like to live in a country where a leader can be voted out of office. I believe women should be in marriages where they have equal say, since by the way God has created them, they do have equal reponsibility.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            Suzanne, you've made it very clear what you believe about equal ultimate responsibility. That's fine.. as I said, I'm not trying to persuade to accept my view, rather, to show you what it's not (and not what you seem to think "complimentarian" means. I think you're comparision of marriage to politics is deeply flawed, but I don't think it's going to help anyone to go into that. I do have one quetsion though: what happens in a democracy when the vote is 50-50? How does a leader get 'voted out of office' when there's only one other voter?

          • Suzanne says:

            Andrew,

            I believe that you brought up the comparison to politics. I'm not sure, but I do think that's how it happened. I think that a marriage is a partnership of two equally responsible people.

            You ask about democracies of two people – that would be an egalitarian marriage. Egalitarian marriages are as stable as complementarian marriages and raise responsible children. In additiion to this, many complementarians may have privately egalitarian marriages. They are successful.

            Regarding how to vote someone out of office, I believe that when a marriage is intolerable, it is better to part ways without having to prove adultery or violence. I believe those are the main reasons for parting ways, but one should quietly go – no point in trying to reason and reconcile with someone who maltreats their spouse. Just have a dignified parting and move on.

          • Suzanne says:

            I still have difficulty in seeing how I have a wrong view of complementarian marriage. I lived in complementarianism for 50 years. I don't think I have a mistaken understanding.

            You say that the husband has ultimate responsibility, and I accept that this is your definition of a complementarian marriage.

            I simply feel that an egalitarian relationship is in accord with the nature that God has given equally to men and women. I feel that an egalitarian relationship is in accord with the scriptural precepts for men and women to be responsible for their families, as found in Proverbs 31 and in 1 Tim. 5:8.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I still have difficulty in seeing how I have a wrong view of complementarian marriage. I lived in complementarianism for 50 years. I don't think I have a mistaken understanding.

            What you appear to be arguing against is domination. Perhaps in your context, that was called complimentarianism. I call it domination, and I reject that too. Furthermore, you said that my view, which I think is complimentarian, is rather more egalitarian. I think this shows that we're not talking about the same thing.

            I don't see that Proverbs 31 or 1 Tim 5:8 goes against my view – rather, I would say it compliments it well.

            I really don't think it's going to helpful to keep going around these circles, as you appear to still be reacting against something I'm not presenting. I think our positions are very close indeed, certainly in practice. There's no need for us to agree.

          • AndrewFinden says:

            I believe that you brought up the comparison to politics.

            No, you brought it up, and quick page search for 'democracy' bears that out. Why would I bring it up if I think it's a flawed comparison?

            I think that a marriage is a partnership of two equally responsible people.

            That's fine. I think a marriage is a covenant relationship between two equally valuable people who become one flesh, and are both given responsibilities. That we disagree slightly makes no difference to either one of us.

            You ask about democracies of two people – that would be an egalitarian marriage

            Putting aside the inherent flaw of comparing a covenant joining to a political system comprised of autonomous, separate individuals, you can't have a democracy of two if those two disagree. That's called a hung parliament, and you need a casting vote to break it which was what I was alluding to.

            Egalitarian marriages are as stable as complementarian marriages and raise responsible children. In additiion to this, many complementarians may have privately egalitarian marriages. They are successful.

            No doubt. I didn't say otherwise. Lots of things are successful or stable but as Christians we're interested in what God calls us to, and it's dangerous to equate those two things (akin to prosperity preachers arguing that numbers is a sign of blessing)

            I believe that when a marriage is intolerable, it is better to part ways without having to prove adultery or violence. I believe those are the main reasons for parting ways, but one should quietly go – no point in trying to reason and reconcile with someone who maltreats their spouse. Just have a dignified parting and move on.

            There's some quite loaded terms in there, and frankly, I don't know anyone who would suggest that a spouse being mistreated, abused, or cheated on should stay. Again, you seem to have a domination model in view, which I too reject. I simply don't see how the complimentarian view of sacrificial love can be put in the same category as maltreatment. Clearly, they are at opposite ends.

  2. danmbob says:

    That is an excellent point Suzanne, I've seen that in my own experience interacting with missionaries as well as reading about the history of missions. Women seem much more eager and willing to go where God has called them whereas we men, myself included, are reluctant to go without a spouse.

  3. [...] to post extensive excerpts from Piper’s recent series on masculinity and church leadership in her reply to Rachel Held Evans. Thank you, Peta. I recommend that anyone who wants to rebut Piper start [...]

  4. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    "… inclines women to come alongside the men with joyful support, intelligent helpfulness, and fruitful partnership in the work."

    How does one explain this statement – support, helpfulness and partnership? What about the leadership, initiative and risk taken by millions of women? Why doesn't Piper give these women equal time? Saint Nino, founder of the church of Georgia, Hilda, teacher of 5 bishops, Deborah, Judith, killer of Holofernes, Lydia, first convert in Europe. Where is the equal treatment of women who go forward in front of men?

    I am really just trying to grapple with this. I can't seem to put together the evidence with Piper's theory on masculine Christianity.

  5. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Noel Piper wrote about these women – Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim and Helen Roseveare. Most were not "supporters of men" but went alone into mission work. Why does Piper not explain how a masculine feel to Christianity promotes single women missionaries and church planters? How does a single woman promote a masculine Christianity on her own? Should she make her mission masculine in nature? How?

    • AndrewFinden says:

      Why does Piper not explain how a masculine feel to Christianity promotes single women missionaries and church planters?

      No doubt there was more he wished to say. It's worth watching (at least the first 10mins of) the Q&A session after this talk, where he elaborates on things such as the freedom for appropriate femininity within the community and, within men; & the rejection of cultural assumptions and 'macho' ideas.

      • Sue says:

        he is clear on two issues. 1) He bases his views on masculinity and femininity on his own intuition, and 2) He sees no place for women to found and lead churches, to baptize and teach, although these are historic roles some women have carried out successfully to God's glory. He does mention that women can undertake home visits. He was very clear that women can support men, that is the role of women. But that does not line up with the historic undertaking of women in the growth of the church throughout history.

        That is where I see a discrepancy.

  6. Alisha says:

    Thank you for this more well-rounded view of Piper's post. I was looking to find his entire sermon when I came across this post because I think it's unfair that someone can cause such an outrage from posting just a few lines of someone's sermon.

  7. [...] think that was rather the case in the issue dealt with in this recent post. People bring their assumptions with them, and hearing a certain word can trigger a response to [...]

  8. renewingtheborderlinemind says:

    Just out of curiosity, but did your wife happen to catch the part where Douglas Wilson made the claim that women (more specifically, old women) don't think that someone of courage should occupy the pulpit – that they only care about sweetness?

    The entire conference was intended to speak to the "feminization" of the church and how that – the church acting like women – is the cause for the cultural and church decline. I feel as though your wife is misrepresenting the position of the conference speakers by implying they were speaking to the emasculation of men through their shirking of responsibility.

    So let me clarify: It was not about the emasculation of the church (which would not necessarily demonize femininity); it was speaking very pointedly to the feminization of the church (or the church acting too much like women).

    The logic here is simple. When you disparage the church for acting too feminine, you disparage femininity by default.
    All throughout the conference there were implicit messages about how femininity is weak, sweet, and theologically wimpy and soft because these things were addressed in the context of men acting like what these men think are characteristic of women. Pure and simple.

    There is a difference between saying that women are capable of all these virtues but men are shirking their half of the responsibility and so this is a call for men to take responsibility too, and saying that "man is built with a mission in mind, and his mission is the garden, the tilling of the field, the discovering of the new thing, and her role is to enable and help and equip him" (Douglas Wilson).

    Perhaps your wife didn't listen carefully to the whole conference. There is no mistaking that women are being relegated to a second-tier role in the church and missions. She must respond to the man's initiation, not initiate. She must accept his responsibility, not take responsibility, etc. Masculinity, at least in the Q and A is defined in contrast to femininity. I suggest you go back and read the definitions.

    They defined masculinity as "the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility" and the corresponding definition of femininity was "the glad acceptance of that sacrifice."

    I will admit that there is some nuances of balance sprinkled throughout the conference, but the overarching "feel" of the conference is male-superiority.

    "If it's done right, this masculine feel creates a space" for femininity does appear to devalue women as compared to the weight of significance ascribed to men. "feminine feels all over the place" in this overarching masculine feel makes women inferior to men in the church, pure and simple. Both masculinity and femininity derive their source from God, both made in the image of God. You cannot put primacy on the one without doing so at the expense of the other. And to the degree that you weigh the value of one more heavily than the other, is the degree to which you devalue the other.

    I don't understand how we can not see as an insult.

    • AndrewFinden says:

      My wife hasn't been following the comments, but I'll be sure to pass yours along.

      The entire conference was intended to speak to the "feminization" of the church and how that – the church acting like women – is the cause for the cultural and church decline.

      I didn't get that impression. I understood it to be about encouraging pastors to take up their responsibilities.

      I feel as though your wife is misrepresenting the position of the conference speakers by implying they were speaking to the emasculation of men through their shirking of responsibility.

      I don't think they were speaking about emasculation, and I didn't understand my wife to make that implication either.

      it was speaking very pointedly to the feminization of the church (or the church acting too much like women).

      I disagree. What I heard was very positive about the need for femininity in the church (and moreover, in men).

      There is a difference between saying that women are capable of all these virtues but men are shirking their half of the responsibility and so this is a call for men to take responsibility too, and saying that "man is built with a mission in mind, and his mission is the garden, the tilling of the field, the discovering of the new thing, and her role is to enable and help and equip him" (Douglas Wilson).

      Given that Wilson is clearly referencing Genesis, I don't see the difference that you're picking up..?

      Perhaps your wife didn't listen carefully to the whole conference.

      We didn't listen to the whole conference. We read Piper's transcript and watched the Q&A. Our comments here, I think was clear, are in regards to those.

      There is no mistaking that women are being relegated to a second-tier role in the church and missions.

      I disagree. I think that sneaks in certain assumptions that I don't think scripture makes, in regards to the worthiness of differing roles. I think 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 speaks very strongly against the idea that differing roles within the church are on different 'tiers':

      The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
      (1 Corinthians 12:21-22 ESV)

      Masculinity, at least in the Q and A is defined in contrast to femininity. I suggest you go back and read the definitions.

      As I understood it, they took characteristics and were saying that they might be considered masculine or feminine virtues, and made the point that both men and women need to have both.

      They defined masculinity as "the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility" and the corresponding definition of femininity was "the glad acceptance of that sacrifice."

      Yes, I recall that. What's your problem with that? It certainly seems to be in accord with Ephesians 5:25.

      the overarching "feel" of the conference is male-superiority.

      From what I heard, I disagree. It was certainly of the view that men are called to lead the church, but that is not male-superiority.

      "If it's done right, this masculine feel creates a space" for femininity does appear to devalue women as compared to the weight of significance ascribed to men.

      How does it devalue?

      "feminine feels all over the place" in this overarching masculine feel makes women inferior to men in the church, pure and simple.

      Again, how is that 'pure and simple'? I disagree that it makes anyone inferior. See again my point about 1 Corinthians 12.

      Both masculinity and femininity derive their source from God, both made in the image of God. You cannot put primacy on the one without doing so at the expense of the other. And to the degree that you weigh the value of one more heavily than the other, is the degree to which you devalue the other.

      I don't see such a dichotomy as you seem to. I do not see them weighing one over the other, or saying that one is more valuable than the other.

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