A Response to John Piper’s “Masculine Christianity”

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” – Talmud

There has been a call to return — did we ever really leave? — to a masculine Christianity. This movement, spearheaded by the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll, has come to a head in some ways due to some recent comments by Piper. Recently, he wrote:

“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male…God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”

It needs to be pointed out that this is an extremely selective reading of the Biblical narrative. It only listens to half of the narrative. Take, for instance, the creation narrative. Genesis 1:27 says

“So God created humankind in his image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them. 

In the initial act of creating a relationship between God and humanity, God creates both men and women in God’s image. God’s command to “have dominion” over everything goes to both men and women. It’s plural throughout the rest of the chapter.

While Piper repeatedly highlights the rest of the male-centered stories of the Bible, he leaves out the fact that God has been represented as:

  • A mother (Numbers 11:12, Job 38:8, 29, Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 49:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 66:12, Hosea 11:4, Acts 17:28)
  • A seamstress (Nehemiah 9:21)
  • A midwife (Psalm 22:9, Psalm 71:6, Isaiah 66:9)
  • A woman working leaven into bread (Luke 13:18-21)
  • A woman seeking a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) — This is in a line of parables where God is depicted as both male and female. There’s that egalitarian thing again.

There are countless images for God in the Bible — both male and female. It’s a case of you get what you look for. We could revise the Talmud quote from the beginning of this post to say “We see the Bible not as it is, but as we are.” In John Piper’s case, he wants God to be a man and he wants a masculine Christianity so he finds those instances in the Bible and reads that Bible through a masculine lens.

If we’re proper students of history, we know that Christianity has been masculine and dominant for far too long. I suggest that it’s actually a time to re-imagine feminine images of God. I think when we do that, we gain a richer theological imagination that helps us move outward into a new realm of possibility.

And that’s something that excites me.

Cheers,
Eric

If you’re interested in a more feminine view of God, I would encourage you to check out the writings of Rosemary Radford RuetherSallie McFagueOctavia ButlerElizabeth Johnson, and Naomi Goldenberg. I think you would be better served reading any of these ladies than Piper or Driscoll.

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Comments

  1. Short, sweet, simple, perfecto!

  2. Great piece! I especially like the author recommendations at the end. I’ve been digging through Amazon, adding books to my wish list. Which books by each of the authors would you recommend starting with? I’ve never read anything by any of them and they seem to have written a lot, so I wasn’t sure which ones to start with. Any suggestions?

    • Thanks. I really appreciate it. Octavia Butler is probably the most accessible. She’s a novelist so she writes about women’s issues from a fictional perspective, but does so incredibly well. She has two parable books called “Parable of the Sower” and “Parable of the Talents” that are dystopian novels with a strong female main character and deal a lot with God and femininity. The rest are a little more heady and theological, but still really good. Some of the more accessible ones would be Sallie McFague’s “Models of God” and Elizabeth Johnson’s “She Who Is.” Rosemary Radford Ruether’s “Sexism and God-Talk” is one of the first books I read on this topic and it’s excellent, but it’s pretty dense stuff. I read it in a class so I had some conversation partners to work through it with. It’s great stuff, just can be a little hard to work through. I’d say the same thing about Naomi Goldenberg’s “Changing of the Gods.” Those are the “classics” in some of the feminist theology. Also Mary Daly’s “Beyond God the Father.” That, too, is quite dense.

      I’m not sure if you’ve read this one yet either, but Rachel Held Evans’ “Year of Biblical Womanhood” gets at some of these points too, and in a really accessible way. Hope that helps give you some ideas.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “God Is Not Ashamed” – Our Brothers Speak Out. Eric Clapp: A Response to John Piper’s Masculine Christianity […]

  2. […] So my post from Monday was a part of a much bigger movement expressing affirmation for women in the church. Over 150 men responded and I wanted to share of the posts. There are some incredibly profound things written in these posts. I’m going to highlight a paragraph or two from some of my favorites, but check out Rachel Held Evans’ site for a full list of all of the responses. They’re wonderful. […]

  3. […] I did the passive-aggressive refer-to-God-as-a-she thing. I’m still a little offended by Piper’s comments from 2 weeks ago. Lord, have mercy.) Share this:EmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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