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about “masculine” christianity

2012 February 20
by j a n

At the end of January, author John Piper spoke at the Desiring God conference for pastors, making a statement that has drawn quite a lot of discussion among people of faith. “God’s intention for Christianity is for it to have a ‘masculine feel.’” The good news is that the flawed thinking behind this statement has inspired many thoughtful and informed responses from men and women alike.

Wade Burleson states that Piper’s ‘Masculine Christianity’ actually emasculates.

“The image of God is both male and the female. God is no more all male to the exclusion of female than He is all Jewish to the exclusion of Gentile. To say, as Piper says, that Christianity has ‘a masculine feel’ is as silly as saying Christianity has ‘a white, anglo-saxon feel’…

“Four years ago I wrote a post warning against the growing doctrinal heresy among conservative Christians called “the eternal subordination of the Son” in order to justify the eternal subordination of women to men. The time has come for Christians, particularly Christian men, to stop remaining silent in the face of such doctrinal distortion.”

Rachel Held Evans specifically asked men to respond to Piper’s statement “with posts that celebrate femininity and affirm women in the Church,” receiving over 150 contributions. JR Daniel Kirk wrote:

“…In what is the clearest connection of God to human gender, perhaps the only clear and intentional such connection in all of scripture, it is both male and female, together, who mirror God to the world.This means that a ‘masculine’ church or a church with a ‘masculine feel’ is inherently lacking in its ability to reflect the image of God to the world.”

Jesus Creed posts thoughts by Lindsey Hankins on gendered rhetoric. Turns out what’s new is old – really old heretical thinking Christianity has been dealing with for centuries. She concludes:

“Yet the most important issue is not that Piper’s view would be misunderstood. The absolute fundamental problem would be that it would be mistakenly taken as good news. The fact of the matter is that Piper is “on to something” insofar as he is rather seamlessly capitulating to a long-standing tendency in church history. When women are intentionally excised from the biblical narrative, Piper is right, Christianity sure starts to sound masculine. What the church needs now is not by any means a “masculine feel.” The church has had this broken and un-balanced “feel” for millennia and far from producing a “flourishing [for] both men and women” it has too often been complicit in a systematic de-humanization of half its constituency.”

What’s most obvious to me is this. There are two genders on this planet. Jesus had to assume one of them when he came to earth as a human being. In a world and specifically a culture as patriarchal as the Middle East, it makes sense that he took on the male gender, in order to become a teacher, a Rabbai, to even have a voice. But answer me this: in a world that’s been patriarchal for centuries, what makes Christianity any different? Culture has a masculine feel. Business has a masculine feel. The Church has a masculine feel. FYI, the men are already “in charge.”

Maybe… besides healing and forgiving sins and having dinner with sinners and breaking the Sabbath, what made Jesus and his teaching so radical was that he actually did away with the old world’s “masculine” order. Maybe Ephesians 5:28 really did turn men on their heads – “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” – because it was so contrary to the prevailing culture.

In an already masculine world, Galatians 3:28 makes Christianity wildly different: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That was especially Good News for the Gentiles, for the slaves, and for women.

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