So I guess John Piper said some things that made some people mad the other day. Honestly, I’m not surprised. This isn’t the first time that he has said something divisive and controversial. Folks like Piper operate from a dangerously faulty logic that assumes a direct relationship between the amount of people offended and the inherent truth of the statement. They will often quote Matthew 10:22 which says, “All nations will hate you because of me”, and assume that if they make thousands of people angry, they must be onto something. That logic is impossible to beat because the more you fight it, the more righteous they assume themselves to be. It’s brilliant.
For those of you who did not click on the link I posted in the first paragraph, here is the gist of what Mr. Piper said. At an annual pastors conference, he said that Christianity has a “masculine feel”. He cited the fact that God is called “Father” and Jesus was a man. He also said that the priests, kings, disciples, and early church overseers were also men. He was quick to state that the does not believe women are of a lesser kind then men. He believes that through a decisively masculine church and family, women are able to meet their full potential. While men are off saving the world and doing the heavy lifting, women must play a strong supporting role or else the entire structure falls apart.
As a man, this sounds wonderful. Half of the world’s population exists to support me and my adventures? Where do I sign up? That being said, it is pretty obvious that men came up with this system, and I am convinced that it is not of God.
First and foremost, we need to talk about God and language. Can we all agree that even if we call God, “father”, God is not a man? The sovereign, all-powerful, creator of the universe does not have a penis. To assume otherwise is ridiculous. That being said, Jesus is definitely a man, and he is definitely still human albeit a glorified and transformed human. In a sense, that makes God 1/3 male, but we have no idea what that means in a resurrected, glorified, perfected way. Genesis 1:27 clearly states that God created both man and woman in God’s own image. From the outset, we are both equal image-bearers which means that there is just as much male as there is female in God.
“But Zack”, the nay-sayers begin saying, “the Bible calls God ‘He’, and there is nothing wrong with doing the same thing”.
I’m glad you brought that up. I don’t know why God is called “He” in the Bible. Sure, it was a patriarchal society, but they had no problem worshiping the Canaanite goddess, Asherah too. That was a big problem in the early days. Regardless of why, the truth is that it is harmful to refer to God in just one way. I am guilty of this. So far in this blog, I have only referred to God as “He”, and I would like to change that. We do not often understand the true importance of language. For example, there was a fascinating study done at Stanford in which German-Americans and Spanish-Americans were asked to list adjectives that describe bridges. The Spanish-Americans used words like “big”, “strong”, and “dangerous” while German-Americans used words like “beautiful”, “slender”, and “fragile”. How can we account for such divergent adjectives? Both Spanish and German have gendered nouns, and can you guess what the gender of “bridge” is in either language? Crazy, huh? For those who use masculine pronouns to describe bridges, they ascribed masculine traits while feminine pronouns gave the objects a much more feminine vibe.
Therein lies the danger of referring to God in entirely masculine terms. When God is Father but not Mother, we are limiting God, and we are hindering half of the world from experiencing the intensely personal truth that we are created in God’s image too. Do we seriously believe that God must be male in order to be God? Do we seriously believe that leaders must be male in order to be truly called and empowered by God?
Moses’ sister Miriam is considered one of the first Jewish prophets. The only judge in the Bible who is portrayed positively is Deborah. Jesus first reveals his divinity to the woman at the well. Jesus’ most faithful and devoted followers were women, and they were the first to see him after the resurrection. The book of Romans was delivered and originally preached/taught to the church in Rome by Phoebe. Also, let’s not forget that while Jesus may be a man, he came into this world through a woman.
The ancient world was an oppressive place to live as a woman. Women were the only ones who could give birth and nurse children, so they were naturally more suited for household work while men and their testosterone are more suited for hard labor. Men were educated while women were usually not. Men wrote the laws and the religious texts while women raised the children and tended to the household. With the advent of modern technology, many of those natural roles have been supplanted by machines, grocery stores, and desk-jobs. In 2012, women are free to earn a living while men can stay home and raise a family. My father did the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and drove us all over the place while my mom worked all day, and look how well I turned out! My dad also worked most nights as well, so he wasn’t exactly a “stay at home dad”, but the principle is the same.
Meanwhile, my wife is about to finish her seminary degree and her example alone is enough to convince me that woman can be gifted and called to ministry. Her gifts and passions are absolutely undeniable, and any of us would be lucky to have her as a pastor. She is an amazing leader and pastoral caregiver, and she does so in a distinctly feminine way. She does not need to lead in a masculine way in order to be a leader in the Church. The Church is dying for need of feminine leadership to compliment all of the masculine leadership that we already have. To deny her of the leadership role that she has so obviously been called to and gifted in is to spit in the face of God. Women are finally being unshackled after thousands of years of repression. Their voice and unique leadership styles can finally be heard and experienced. For the sake of us all, welcome them and support them in the roles that God has called them to.
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.