On Masculine Christianity and Powerplays

You may recall a while back a big conversation that was kicked off on the Internet by some comments John Piper made about Christianity having a "masculine feel." Regarding this "masculine Christianity" Piper said:

...the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families where Christianity has this God-ordained, masculine feel. For the sake of the glory of women, and for the sake of the security and joy of children, God has made Christianity to have a masculine feel. He has ordained for the church a masculine ministry.
As a part of the Internet reaction I wrote a post in response to a call made by Rachel Held Evans asking for some men to weigh in on the topic. That post of mine focused on this text from the gospels:
Matthew 23.9
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
I'd like to revisit this topic and some of the associated commentary responding to John Piper by expanding on my original post.

Let me start with this. I think a lot of people were missing the point in trying to push back on John Piper. Specifically, the focus was often on gender and not on the deeper issue--power. More, I think by focusing on gender a lot of the resultant commentary unwittingly helped John Piper make his case.

Let me explain that. When John Piper made the comment that Christianity--God in particular--has a "masculine feel" many people rushed to their bibles to point to passages where God is tender, soft, or nurturing or where a maternal metaphor is used to describe God.

I think this was a mistake for two interrelated reasons.

First, in pointing to "feminine" aspects of God you're unwittingly reinforcing gender stereotypes. By pointing to God's tenderness as an example of a Christianity with a "feminine feel" you've labeled tenderness as "feminine." Which is a tacit acceptance of Piper's describing other adjectives as "masculine." My point here is that tenderness isn't masculine or feminine. And by rushing to present a contrast to Piper some people allowed his framing to structure the conversation.

Second, by pointing out these "feminine" aspects of God you are unwittingly contributing to Piper's complementarian position. Piper points to "masculine" attributes of God and those responding to him point to "feminine" aspects. That is, God has these "masculine" aspects--like strength--and these "feminine" aspects--like tenderness. That would make sense to Piper as both man and woman are, as a complementary pair, created to reflect God's image. Of course God has both attributes, which is why a man and a woman can't, by themselves, reflect the Image of God. You need to bring the woman with her "feminine" attributes, attributes presumably that men don't have or contribute, into union with the man who brings the "masculine" attributes.

In short, I think the rush to show that God has "feminine" attributes muddies the waters at best and makes Piper's case at worst.

My recommendation is to not play Piper's game. Don't accept his framing. The issue isn't really about gender at all. The issue is about power.

Which brings be back to Matthew 23.9.

On the surface in this passage it looks like Jesus is saying something that backs Piper up. That God is a Father, a male. But I think that is missing the point.

Jesus's statement--"call no man on earth father"--was a bomb. A huge bomb. Jesus is attacking the foundation of the power structure supporting his society.

We tend to forget just how patriarchal Jesus's society was. A survey of gender relations in the contemporary Middle East gives us some clue. As does a perusal of the Old Testament where the patriarchs rule. The men, the fathers, the patriarchs held the power.

And into that context Jesus says, "Call no man on earth father."

Jesus isn't saying God is a man. Jesus is attacking the patriarchal power structure, cutting it off at the knees. The issue isn't about gender. The issue is about power.

We see Jesus elaborate upon this theme in one of his more puzzling statements:
Matthew 10.34
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
Huh? Isn't Jesus supposed to be the non-violent Prince of Peace? What's all this about swords and "I have not come to earth to bring peace"?

In the next verses it all becomes clear:
"For I have come to turn 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'"
Again, Jesus is attacking the patriarchal power structures embedded in first-century Middle Eastern family organization. Jesus is bringing a sword, but he's not attacking people. Jesus is attacking a power structure, cutting it down. Yes, Jesus is bringing a war. But it's a war against patriarchy.

In both of these passages Jesus is showing a new way, a way that renounces powerplays. Just after his statement about bringing a sword Jesus goes on to say this:
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
This isn't a contradiction of Jesus's earlier statement about not bringing peace. Again, Jesus is attacking power structures. The cross is the sword. The cross is the war. Instead of grasping at power we lay it down and take up the cross.

So the issue isn't really about gender, about if God has a "masculine" or "feminine" feel. The issue is about the use of power within the Kingdom. The discussion about gender is really just a cover for a powerplay, about who is in charge and who gets to call the shots. And as we've seen, Jesus is absolutely hostile to this sort of thing. When this sort of thing is going on in the Kingdom Jesus will be bringing the sword. There should be no peace in this instance, only conflict with the power structure. Another moment in Matthew on this point:
Matthew 20.20-21, 24-28
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus completely undermines the powerplay. Power in the Kingdom is not "lording over" people, with some giving orders and others obeying orders. That's the way the world works. And if you see that sort of stuff going on in a church you're witnessing heresy. Christians don't give orders to Christians. The Christian way is the cross. The greatest amongst us are the servants. The preeminent amongst us are the ones washing feet. We seek to serve rather than be served. That's how power looks in the Kingdom of God.

The problem with what John Piper said isn't about Christianity having a "masculine feel." Truth be told, I don't know what the hell he's talking about. The problem is with what is going on beneath that statement. "Masculine" is just a warrant to exert power. About calling men on earth "father." About some getting to "lord over" others. It's about a power grab.

And in the face of that powerplay Jesus's response is pretty clear.

"I have come not to bring peace, but a sword."

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42 thoughts on “On Masculine Christianity and Powerplays”

  1. In studying the posts and responses over the past week, this blog has a definite masculine feel to it.  So I must assume it is all about a power grab. Meaning we are all "stuck" with this paradigm, like it or not.  Because if it can happen here, it must happen everywhere.

  2. Great thoughts, Richard. I get sick of seeing power plays at our Christian college, because we supposedly train Christian leaders, but the unspoken idea of what those leaders look like are loud, commanding, and rather obnoxious, along with the ability to delegate the foot-washing, because that's the mark of a 'true' leader. 

    Beyond that, though, your words get to the heart of the gender conversation. Simply put, guys want the power, and girls do too; truth be told, God is the one who has it all along - and ironically, he's the one who is neither male nor female.

  3. Yes. When the adjective "masculine" is played it's generally a warrant to "reclaim" or "take back" something in the church, family or society that has been overrun by women. Reclaiming is a military metaphor, and it shows the powergrab underneath.

  4. Don't tempt me. A month ago I was thinking of making the blue-colored font on the blog pink....

  5. Sam, I think this is a good point.  Psychologically and culturally, we are wired to fall into this trap.  A few days ago, Dr. Beck was discussing self-esteem within the latest 'Slavery' post.  As soon as we compare ourselves to others as a way to judge who's good, better, bestest, we are set up for a fall.  One of the qualities that I have, in the past, enjoyed about this blog is the examination of ideas, oftentimes incorporating opposing views, without commanding the reader what to do with the information.  I tend to respect that approach.  I think we need to bring these dirty secrets of Christendom out into the open and talk about them.  Is peaceful protest even an option, if those who hold the power will fight to the death in order to hold onto it?  Can you stay engaged in the battle without becoming defensive and emotional?

    I don't care for John Piper's form of Christianity.  In a recent conversation with a conservative mom-friend about men and women and gender roles / stereotypes, I asserted that I did not agree with the notion that our daughters should stay quiet and meek and not be leaders, and conversely, that our introverted, quiet sons need to be asserting their manly "leadership."  I want to raise both my son and my daughter to be strong and whole, and to live into who they are.  The response I got was that in marriage, we *know* that our husbands "complete" us, and by the same turn, we "complete" our husbands.  D'oh!  So I'm half a person without my husband?  I would hope that we each bring our whole selves into the marriage.  This complementarian thinking is not healthy, in my very humble opinion.  I can't live like that, that's all I know.  ~Peace (or a sword, I guess?)

  6. Once again, thanks for cutting through the crap and gut responses and getting to the core of the problem. We all want to be in control. Historically, men (as a group) have been able to do that. The gospel sets us free from that. And sets the world free. I don't think God likes bullies very much. 

  7. " 'Masculine' is just a warrant to exert power."  I am grateful for this insight.  Thank you.  I agree, but wonder if we might develop the thought a little further through dialog.  I'm concerned about the word "just," as if the subject is now closed.  When we project gender onto God, don't we also need to talk about anthropomorphizing God --- immature theology based largely on magical thinking? 

  8. Hmm, interesting stuff.  Although I'm having trouble following that Jesus was attacking the patriarchy in the two passages you reference.  I've always thought that calling no man on earth father (and calling no man teacher) was more of an attack on the religious power - the priestly power.  Is that not what its about?   Also, when it comes to the bringing of the sword, how does turning a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— have anything to do with bringing down patriarchal power?  Forgive me as I am not well-educated.

  9. I like.  Very much.  Thank you, Dr. Beck.  This is the hopeful, encouraging word that I seek when I come here:

    "You may call God love.  You may call God goodness.  But the best name for God is compassion."  ~Meister Eckhart

  10. Susan, I understand what you are saying about "completing" each other, and if the implication of those comments is that we are not whole without a spouse, then I agree with you.  However, there is also plenty of empirical and Scriptural evidence regarding the benefits of marriage (e.g., "two are better than one...") that I think we need to be careful not to dismiss this notion entirely. 

    Looking at my own marriage, I see a lot of areas in my life that are not well developed or in which God has not gifted me, while my wife has strengths in those areas.  Thus, I think one could say we "complete" each area in the sense of filling in the gaps and weaknesses in each other.

    Complementarians, on the other hand, take this a step further and say that men and women have unique strengths and weaknesses such that men and women will always "complete" each other in the same way.  This, I would agree with you, is unrealistic and possibly unhealthy.

  11.  I do appreciate your thoughts, Susan.  It's just that I've never thought this way -- in terms of "half a person".  Being reared by a single mother and surrounded by sisters, I early on picked up a sensitivity to feminine tones.  Although plagued by theological doubt all my life -- much as articulated by *Dan G* so eloquently yesterday -- I have never had any doubt whatsoever about who I am as a person.  That's a direct result of seemingly insurmountable odds and obstacles.

    And so for the "sin" of attempting to date a girl during my senior year of high school, I was accused of being a homosexual (not that there's anything wrong with that, but it just wasn't me) in front of the entire congregation by my pastor.  He equated being from a broken home with uncertain gender identity, especially in boys.  He saw me as defiant, and was bereft of any other way to assert his power.

    I have never understood the whole male/female animus or complimentarian paradigms which Christianity seems to breed, but I do relate precisely to the power play angle. And, as you point out, it seems to infect all areas of life.  Any place or forum can degenerate into an intellectual pissing contest.  And by definition, that would be a masculine pursuit.  I've never seen women (literally) compete that way, at least.  Not saying they don't or can't.

    I believe we are on the same page.  Peace to you as well.

  12. Women are often conditioned to remain voiceless in Christian circles. My husband and I saw it play out in Sunday schools, and in the bigger picture of theological bullying at Baptist policy levels.  And then I found E.T., where having a voice is far more mutual among men and women, led by a pretty cool, smart guy with a lot of letters by his name.  And that has a very "thy Kingdom come on earth" feel to it. The kind of respect that some try to demand by force is far more natural, and without coercion, here.

  13. Thanks, dear friend, for sharing your story.  What an awful experience; I'm so sorry.  It's no wonder that so many of us are bitter, distrustful, and disillusioned when it comes to Christianity (the religious institution).  I can never believe that this is what Jesus had in mind for His followers.  This just makes me so sad.  ~Peace~

  14. Thanks, candeux.  That we need connection, relationship, and that within healthy relationships we discover that we each bring unique strengths and weaknesses, yes, so true -- I track with you 100%.

    It's the limiting, stereotypical roles understood so often in complementarian hierarchy that I just can't agree with or subject myself or my children to.

  15. Thank you.  But even within myself, I find myself being more affirmed by this blog because you are a man than I would be if you were a woman.  If you were a woman, this would be just more feminist harping and could be totally ignored.  Ugh.  How to exorcise this hell spawned idea from my head?

  16. My apologies. To bring my last comment back to a relevant conversation concerning this post, I think "powerplays" might simply be an abuse of power. In light of that, I would like to call for a better use of power and authority rather than the abolishing of power and authority. 

    Also, I think there are illustrations of both equality and hierarchy in helping man understand and conceptualize the Trinity. And as Lewis  often points out, creation reflects both of these realities. I know that hierarchy has been ill-used and abused in the past, I do not deny it nor wish it to continue to be ill-used and abused. I want to merely suggest that it even still may have a place within the Kingdom.

  17. I really like your comments here. I have begun to notice that an obsession with (generally undefined) "equality" is a peculiarity of modern, western society. Not being a huge fan of either modernism or ethnocentrism I would be really interested to hear what there is to be said in favor of heirarchy.

  18. Equality is the end result of everyone treating everyone else with mutual esteem and dignity.   It is the essence of Phil 2 and Gal 3:28 thru 4:6.  Hierarchy is not envisioned, as far as I can see, in the New Creation kingdom, where Christ is the Firstborn and all His followers are siblings, all with equal status as "adopted sons."

    Hierarchy is the natural desire of fallen humanity.  It was Aristotle who envisioned the world as  a "Great Chain of Being," a pagan concept which then got incorporated into Christianity by the Greek-thinking church fathers.  I have  a series on my blog called "The Bible and Human Authority" which examines this issue in more detail.  

  19. Hi Cole,  I understand.  The married/romantic love metaphors given in the Bible to describe our relationship with God/Jesus weird me out too.  And I'm a woman, who is also married.  Go figure!

    It has helped me to think of Jesus as a trusted friend or a wise teacher.  It is difficult for me to even think of Jesus as a king or master, because, mentally, I have negative associations with those authority figures.  I believe that throughout the Bible, God has revealed Himself in these terms because that's what our human minds can grasp and relate to (though, admittedly, these relationships are flawed, to say the least).  The beauty to be taken from God's method of communication, imho, is that He will come down to our level in order to reach us.  If you can't wrap your mind around the whole Bride of Christ metaphor, no worries Cole.  I can't either.  Though, I think there are some valuable insights into God's character that these metaphors provide; namely, that God is faithful.  His love is NOT a mere infatuation.  His love is strong and sticks with us, for better or for worse.  God makes sacrifices for our sake, knowing our weaknesses.

    If imagining God-as-Jesus--as trusted friend or wise teacher--doesn't connect with you or seem real, then think of Dr. Beck's title quote.  "...The best name for God is compassion."  Anytime a real flesh-and-blood person has shown you compassion -- shared in your suffering, cared about you, acted in concrete ways to help -- Jesus has loved you in person.

    The Apostle Paul describes what real love is:

    ...Love never gives up.
       Love cares more for others than for self.
       Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
       Love doesn't strut,
       Doesn't have a swelled head,
       Doesn't force itself on others,
       Isn't always "me first,"
       Doesn't fly off the handle,
       Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
       Doesn't revel when others grovel,
       Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
       Puts up with anything,
       Trusts God always,
       Always looks for the best,
       Never looks back,
       But keeps going to the end.  (1 Cor. 13:3-7, The Message)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cole.  I appreciate hearing your perspective, and the thinking that it provokes in me.  ~Peace~

  20.  Just a few random thoughts in reply to the "Western obsession with equality" idea.
    1. Equality doesn't mean "the same" in everything. It means possessing the same authority, the same freedom for self determination, within human limitation, and thus the freedom to express one's uniqueness.

    2.The Western notion of equality is tied to individualism. It is rooted in the self, egocentric, rather than in an identity that comes from beyond the self. Freedom of self determination could instead be in the context of the charismatic nature of selfhood. Our selves are gifts, and we are given gifts to use for the edification of the whole. It is as much self discovery as self determination, occurring within community. This gifting is not determined by the first birth, the human family structure or civil structure, race or gender, but an adopted identity of rebirth. We are equal in adoption/inheritance status so that practicing our gifts should not be hindered by our outward appearance. How  is the church reflecting the reality of this universal adoption status in it's politics? That is a question I would like to see discussed, rather than tacking on the lip service, "equal, but different." Which is code for a power difference.

    3.The world's systems of authority are static categories.  In contrast, the relationship within the trinity is perichoresis, a dance of mutual sharing. Jesus is in the father and the father is in him, and his prayer was for us to participate in that indwelling. Difference is an opportunity to invite the other to share in it, to be transformed by participation in it. Not made a carbon copy. Our differences do not exist as measures to compare our selves with other selves, but as a way to learn from one another and bear one another's burdens.

  21. Sam, on the one hand your story makes we want to just go out and start breaking things. That kind of crap that you (and I and so many other people) have had to endure from the "church" is so completely outrageous that it is almost beyond comprehension. On the other hand I find it comforting. Because it reminds me that although in my suffering I sometimes feel so alone, abandoned and "picked on", I am not alone at all.

  22. Sam, it just makes no sense what that pastor did to you. None. It was nothing but abuse, with religion used as cover. Like Dan G, it just infuriates me that this was done to you. I wish there was something I could say, but words fail me again. This is why theologies that make light of a Christian's or the church's abuses are completely unacceptable to me.

  23. Also Susan,

    The Christian couselor Gary Chapman lists five primary ways we express love. Gifts, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation. God doesn't do any of those things. He doesn't help around the house, compliment me of give me hugs, neither does He talk back when I talk to Him.

  24. Intellectual swamp. You just went on a tangent and think that a few quotes from bible which you twist any way you like make it relevant? Such selective quoting and interpretation can be used to "support" any position one wants. 

  25. I think you're right about the issue of who has power, but I still do not think it wise to dismiss gender as an issue altogether. It's not just a random group who historically have power while another random group of folks is largely without or with limited power. Power has systematically been meted out to men across societies, across time while women have received minimal power and are perceived as weaker and generally less than men to reinforce the power differential. Power, yes. Gender, yes. But I like your critique of those who unwittingly reinforced Piper's framing by evoking so-called "feminine" characteristics of God.

  26. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think that many of us are "stuck" between complementarian and non-complementarian models. We are not interested in limiting anyone with stereotypical roles. Some of the assumptions of complementarian hierarchy don't match the world we live in, a world in which women (and men) do not always match the stereotype.

    It is also true, however, that non-complementarianism does not really explain the reality we live in. It seems to lead to assumptions that one gender does not need the other, or that one gender processes the world the same way the other does, or that cross-gender intimacy is like same-gender intimacy. These assumptions are also limiting--they, too, throw out too much that we  see in the world we live in.In fact, I am not sure the world we live in matches very well with some of the anti-"masculine" assumptions-- is "reclaiming" always bad, and (for that matter) is power always bad?

  27. Thanks, Cole.  I read the version of 5 love languages for kids many moons ago...  This is a good reminder of the fact that we need to concretely show (and be receptive to) love to others.  We don't wait around for it to happen, or to descend on us from a higher power...  So true.

    I liked the point in this book that each person has a particular way that he/she experiences love.  In other words, if I'm a "words of affirmation" kind of lover, and my son is a "quality time" kind of lover, then I need to love him in the way that he needs.  Not in the way that I prefer.  That takes intentional action, not just what comes easily.  This is a good reminder.  I'm glad you made me think of this again!  Take care Cole.  Nice talking with you.  ~Peace~

  28.   It looks as thought you are treating Love as a part or image of sex. But I think it's the other way 'round. Sex is one (very powerful) image or representation of Love. In other words, sexual attraction is a bit like love but Love doesn't have to contain anything sexual at all. Doesn't that whole passage which people read at weddings and which egalitarians hate which tells wives to respect their husbands and men to love their wives end by saying that all of this marriage stuff is really there to help give us a picture of the relationship Jesus has with his Church?
       But I think your comment does bring up an interesting flaw in the purely egalitarian approach to gender and marriage. What can the image of the church (us) as the Bride of Christ mean if there is no difference between a bride and a groom? I suppose it could simply mean love but if so then why bother with gendered relationships at all? Why not stick to Mother-Daughter/Father-son imagery? I know I have heard a rather strict complimentarian (Dr. Peter Kreeft) argue that our physical sexes are only platonic images of the cosmic platonic forms of masculine and feminine which exist in Jesus and the Church, and that this means that men in the church often need to learn how to be feminine in relationship to God while being masculine in relationship to their wives. It hardly seems misogynistic or power obsessed to suggest that we all find our greatest glory by taking our places in the cosmic dance for which we were created and in which we are most fulfilled.
      I have this idea that the gendered imagery in the Bible does mean something but that it doesn't mean any of the awful things y'all have been suggesting it does (I haven't read Piper on the subject so I will refrain from speculating on what he meant by it). I am, at least, fairly certain that I don't want to have an egalitarian relationship with Jesus, I want to have something more like a wife/husband relationship with Him. I want to take my own place and not His in the cosmic heirarchy.

  29. This is based on the misconception that "egalitarian" means "promoting sameness."  Not so.  Christian egalitarians celebrate the differences, not only between men and women, but between individuals-- so that no one is boxed in to "you're a man so this is what you must be/do/want" or "you're a woman so you must stay within these boundaries for what you can be and do."

    I have an egalitarian marriage, but my husband opens doors for me, and I do almost all the cooking and the laundry.  The difference is that he doesn't consider himself to be in authority over me, and he doesn't get a trump card to play on me when we disagree.  Instead, we mutually put the other's needs above our own.

    The church is the Bride of Christ because Christ laid down His power and position in order to come down to her lowly state and raise her up to be glorious beside him.  This is what Paul was asking men in the first century church to do for their wives.  I think that's what it's all about.

  30. Second, by pointing out these "feminine" aspects of God you are unwittingly contributing to Piper's complementarian position. Piper points to "masculine" attributes of God and those responding to him point to "feminine" aspects. That is, God has these "masculine" aspects--like strength--and these "feminine" aspects--like tenderness. That would make sense to Piper as both man and woman are, as a complementary pair, created to reflect God's image. Of course God has both attributes, which is why a man and a woman can't, by themselves, reflect the Image of God. You need to bring the woman with her "feminine" attributes, attributes presumably that men don't have or contribute, into union with the man who brings the "masculine" attributes.

    I think you missed the mark here. You are probably aware of this already, but there are plenty of Christian egalitarians and feminists who DO see men and women as "a complementary pair, created to reflect God's image." This is referred to as gender essentialism or essentialist feminism - the idea that there is some identifiable gendered "essence" or qualities specific to each sex, and that those qualities are complementary. What they reject is not inherent gender difference but power structures predicated on that difference, whether in marriage relationships or church hierarchies. So it's not that those in opposition are buying into Piper's logic; both Piper and his opposition are buying into the same essentialist logic of gender. This view is VERY common among Christian egalitarians (less so with non-religious feminists, I think). My experience is that you will hardly ever find Christians who espouse the pure social construction of gender.

  31. Oh, and I should have added: It's not necessary, in the eyes of most Christian egalitarians, to reject an essentialist concept of gender in order to promote gender equality. Most Christians don't. The part of Piper's logic that most egalitarians reject is not essentialism but notions of "authority" and power.

  32. Bill, the image is one of love. It's a spiritual love union. Heave you ever heard of the Biblical teaching of union where believers are considered to be one with Christ? They become His body. It's a spiritual bond. I'm not attracted to the masculine spirit to the point where I want to become one with it. I'm not gay. That's fine if you are. But I'm not. I don't mind bonding with the feminine spirit and becoming one with it though. Now that's something I can worship, adore, bathe in, and drink.

  33. I think if you let my second point unpack my first one, especially the caveat, "human limitation", it will solve a lot of the problems of an individualistic equality, and the problems with mandating the sort of freedom that entails.

    No, I do not mean to abolish all definition of positions and roles. And yes, I do think they should be fluid, not rigid. Piper is promoting rigid roles based upon the outward appearance. And playing the God card to give that structure a divine mandate. It looks and functions a whole awful lot like the Greek command chain Kristen referred to. Let's imagine a pie of self determination. The male gets 100% in determining what "God says" is the proper role for everyone. So in effect, Piper or his male congregants get 100% of the self determination pie, in church and home, because of his claim to this God ordained structure. He may choose to self limit, it boils down to his interpretations of scripture, but his wife or female congregants do not have equal say to determine what capacity they may serve in. ( I am not saying this is how Piper functions in real life, just using him as an illustration for a cause and effect scenario based on that one statement Richard responded to.) It's not that by having equal say in a matter, it will automatically default to the individual disregarding what others say. But I find the claim that males have a greater say than females, because that's how God arranged things, to be completely out of whack with the underlying trajectory of the Gospel and Pentecostal narrative. For instance,Paul's boast was in his weakness, even though he could claim his male circumcised Jewish pedigree. His claim to apostleship was solely on the basis of the grace of God, while everything relating to his outward appearance or social class, or education, or zeal or any of the static qualities that humans can set up to determine which slot to put everyone in, was considered rubbish. To be a male or to be a female makes no difference because both are equally frail according to the flesh, under the slavery of sin and death. What I believe the biblical narrative points to is a definition of roles and positions that are more fluid, not determined by outward appearance, and not giving one person so much power over others to mandate or define them by claiming to be some ordained mouthpiece for God on the basis of a factor that is determined by outward appearance.

    And yes, the father, son and spirit are eternal roles, but then I do not think God is limited to them. They are vocations for a particular purpose, determined unanimously within the Godhead, but I believe it is generally considered orthodox that all three are equal in power and glory and free to self determine. God is "I am". Yet because of a plural Godhead, this self determination takes place in community.

  34. My apologies. I was not condoning the claim that males have a greater say than females. I assumed that to be absurd from the beginning. I was discussing hierarchy more in principle and form rather than how it has been sorely abused by way of eugenics, patriarchy, etc. It seems you were standing against something I was not standing for. I'm sorry for the confusion.

    I'm trying to suggest that their might be a way to incorporate the concepts of hierarchy with concepts of equality and have those things work together in tension to bring us a perhaps fuller and better way of living. I'm perhaps not completely sold on the idea, but I would like people to at least consider the notion with me.

    Again, just so we are clear, I'm not suggesting that boys are better than girls or that the Aryan race is supreme.

  35. Don't you think that sometimes it's about taking on responsibility that God has given to all people that have become passive and apathetic couched in masculine gender language? In other words, come on, be a man. I don't agree with Piper as a complimentarian, but I do agree with his call to men to exercise personal power. Not power that lords over others, but power that each of us have, both men and women to get off our asses and quite giving lip service to Christianity and actually do something, use your power!

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