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“Masculine” Christianity?

Apparently John Piper has, in a recent address delivered at a pastors conference, added his voice to Mark Driscoll’s in advocating a more “masculine Christianity.” Driscoll, of course, created his latest storm of controversy in an interview with British radio host Justin Brierley a few weeks back, when he said, among other things, that there were no good Bible teachers in the UK, and that the reason that churches were struggling was because they were led by women. The implication was that if churches across the pond would just “man up” and start letting men lead, and stop wallowing in effeminate religion, the “results” (i.e., more churches that look like Driscoll’s ) would come. An interesting theory, to be sure—a little light on context and cultural awareness, and, well, reason, but there you go. Muscular, manly Christianity is, apparently, the cure for what ails the church.

John Piper was singing a similar, if less belligerent, tune in his recent address:

“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother,” Piper said. “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.”

“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.” 

The commentary on Driscoll, Piper, and “masculine Christianity” has been pouring out around the internet, and I was initially disinclined to add my voice to the din. But I was intrigued by Rachel Held Evans’ challenge to male bloggers to respond to this most recent push for a more “masculine” Christianity. So, here goes.

My response is not profound or new. It is probably not even particularly insightful. It does not rely on creative and interesting exegesis of biblical texts nor does it offer unique historical perspective on the role of women in the first century. It does not even lean on Jesus’ treatment of women and the questions this ought to cause us to ask. I freely admit that the books of the Bible were written in a patriarchal time, that patriarchy is not hard to find in Scripture, and even that it isn’t particularly difficult to use the Bible to justify maintaining archaic views of women and the roles they are though to be “able” to play (people have been doing it more or less unproblematically for centuries, after all). Rather, my response here is drawn from my own personal experience.

There are two elements to my response. First, I have, quite simply, rarely fit the Driscoll/Piper stereotype of what a man is or should be. I am not, and have never been, drawn to any of the following: big trucks, fast cars, guns, hunting/fishing trips, boxing/UFC/wrestling, violent video games, or… insert “manly” activity here. I am not a stereotypical “leader”—I do not like power and control and I do not crave being the one to make decisions. I have no burning desire to “take charge” of my family. I could go on. The point is, in advocating “masculine” Christianity, there tends to be only one definition of “masculine” that gets in the door, and this definition simply does not describe many men. I don’t think my lack of interest in the above activities makes me less of a man (or particularly unique, for that matter), just a different kind of man than the one Driscoll and Piper are lionizing. There is more than one way to be “manly,” after all. In promoting a very specific kind of “masculine” Christianity, Driscoll & co. are not merely insulting/marginalizing women, but a lot of men, too.

Second, and more importantly, it is simply a fact that I have benefited profoundly from women in positions of leadership. I have heard brilliant sermons, sat in deeply provocative and insightful lectures, and been in awe of the spiritual, moral, and intellectual breadth and depth of some incredible women. My faith has been nourished and strengthened by competent, sensitive, thoughtful, and kind women occupying positions of leadership. I am married to a woman whose leadership skills far outweigh my own. These are facts (and, again, not particularly unique ones). It seems to me that those saying that Christianity should only have male leaders are rather limited in their options when presented with stories like this. Am I lying? Sinning? Are the benefits I have gained from the strong leadership of women due only to a shortage of more (innately) qualified men around? How could something that is fundamentally wrong, and which goes against the grain of God’s design for the world, do such good?

It’s not an airtight argument, I know. No argument from experience alone is or could be. But it’s also not incidental or irrelevant. Human experience is one of the ways in which God’s voice is heard, I think. This is simply my experience as a man, and as a follower of Jesus.

And what my experience tells me is that we don’t need a more masculine Christianity. We’ve had plenty of that throughout history, and the results are hardly shining. What we need is a more human Christianity—one that honours the extent and variety of ways in which God has seen fit to reflect his image to the world.

58 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ernie #

    It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail – Abe Maslow

    February 3, 2012
  2. Gil #

    Jesus himself doesn’t to fit the “masculine” bill that Piper and Driscoll seem to advocate – he was not a strong husband, not a “leader” in his home, not a shrewd businessman (didn’t sell real estate – to use Driscoll’s favorite occupation) and not someone who felt the need to constantly prop up his own authority by appealing to his gender. Interesting.

    February 3, 2012
    • Yes, very interesting… This is the rather awkward fact that lurks behind so much the “masculine Christianity” rhetoric, isn’t it? It’s a bit of a problem when the one you claim to follow bears little, if any, resemblance to your conception of an “ideal” male leader.

      As Dave notes below, the Beatitudes is a much more accurate (and difficult) leadership model. It does, however, have the advantage of actually reflecting the kind of leader that Jesus was.

      February 4, 2012
  3. For people who champion manly leadership, I heard Bruxy Cavey retort with the Beattitudes as the primary leadership model to inform our lives. Should cause any “manly” leader to pause when you start running through the list.

    February 3, 2012
  4. Well said.

    I noted a ‘masculine Christianity’ while reading Calvin’s Institutes a couple of years ago. For Calvin, God is king, father and lawgiver — masculine imagery.

    I have wondered at times, though, if in my preaching and praying I should stress more this side of God. I seldom do. Instead I tend to refer to God in nurturing, loving, supporting, ever-present ways. I wonder if some men (and women) seek more than just the Nurturing God.

    I read Piper’s book on Christian Hedonism 20-odd years ago and benefited from it. But now, whenever I hear about him, he seems very rigid.

    February 3, 2012
    • I’ve not read enough Calvin to say much of anything, but I was intrigued by the quote attributed to Calvin at the top Rachel Held Evans’ post:

      God has chosen to liken Himself to a female and we are the fruit of His womb.

      Not sure where it’s from, but very interesting to set alongside other imagery.

      I, too, read and profited from a book by Piper a decade or so ago (Desiring God, I think?), but now I find him difficult to take.

      February 4, 2012
  5. Al #

    As much as I value the fathering of God, I am so grateful that God is also all of the things we value in our mothers (without being too sexist about it). Giver of life, nurturer of all that is still maturing, tender. Patient, present, understanding. It is mother we run to when we skin our hearts or our knees. It is mother we look to for protection from the big evil world. It is the non-masculine characteristics that tend to draw us in for the big hugs, the beaming smiles, the whispered encouraging words. And that’s just when we were kids.

    If God is only masculine, toss out the sustaining, supporting imagery and character of God. Then we are left with the strong, silent, scary great ogre in the sky.

    Yeah, Bible times were pretty male-dominated. But God still rose above that as God revealed Gods self as every good and perfect thing needful for our existence.

    Fortunately for all of us, God transcends all dichotomies and divisions, and is all that we need a parent to be.

    February 3, 2012
    • Fortunately for all of us, God transcends all dichotomies and divisions, and is all that we need a parent to be.

      Well said, Al.

      February 4, 2012
  6. Jenna #

    Yay Ryan.What you said about ‘a particular kind of masculine’ is very accurate. Gender performance has changed across history, across cultures, and between individuals. We should be lead by people who are secure about who they are and want to get to know individuals not whether they fit a stereotype or not.
    I feel very strongly about this issue and I’m glad you brought up the issues that many feminists have with the bible around the treatment of women. We are valuable and deserve to be heard there is no need to return to silencing women. I’ve never heard women say that only women should preach in church. How long do we have to suffer through these misogynists. It’s 2011 for goodness sake, we live in north America, I’m sick of the same dumb ass arguments.

    February 3, 2012
    • Good to hear from you, Jenna. And good to see that your passion on these matters has not dimmed! I would point out that it’s not only men who advocate women not preaching. I’ve heard this from women, too, if not nearly as frequently. I remember finding it very odd to hear a woman arguing with me that she should not be allowed to speak in church…

      February 4, 2012
  7. Ken #

    When is it appropriate to pray publically to our mother in heaven, as when leading worship?

    February 3, 2012
    • A lot would depend on context, I think.

      February 4, 2012
    • Al #

      There are some congregations/denominations that have re-worked the Lord’s Prayer to ‘Our Father/Mother who art in heaven’. I used to think that was just being overly politically correct, and a token effort at inclusivity. Now I realize the potential value in thinking that way. That being said, I’m sure you would open a very large can of nasty creepy crawlies if you tried that in many settings.

      February 4, 2012
  8. I think you nailed it, Ryan. The logic of that version of Christianity does a great disservice to more than women. My first instinct when I hear of Christians like Piper & Driscoll is to respond with, “Seriously? Do these opinions still hold weight in the western world?” My very human perspective is impatient with the seeming slowness of the overturning of injustice, but I remind myself of the Upside-down Kingdom’s way of coming gently and without fuss. If enough of us, women and men, keep putting forth our opinions and teaching our children these ways of living, God’s Kingdom truly will come.

    February 3, 2012
    • It’s interesting to me that not only do these opinions still hold weight in the Western world, they are, apparently, quite attractive to many. They seem to hold a lot of weight. Churches preaching Driscoll’s views of gender roles are bursting at the seams, in many places.

      I’m not exactly sure why this is… Proponents would undoubtedly say, “well, it’s because we’re right!” Others would probably point to a variety of factors—black and white is easier to accept and maintain than grey, clear roles are preferable to fuzzy ones, those in positions of power tend to prefer to maintain this, in a postmodern context where everything seems up for grabs, there is a hunger for clear, simple truth, strong personalities and persuasive rhetoric are attractive, etc, etc. There are probably many other factors, too…

      February 4, 2012
  9. Paul Johnston #

    I like Driscoll. He reminds me of the discipline of discipleship. He speaks bluntly and directly about our accountabilities; to God and to one another. He reminds me that God does indeed command and that obedience is crucial to spiritual growth.

    He challenges me regarding my sexual lust and tendencies towards objectification of women. I need to be so challenged. He encourages leadership, self sacrifice and reminds me of my responsibilities as a provider. How can I successfully parent without these skills and commitments?

    He acknowledges the potential for sin, even in our attempts towards righteousness, and relentlessly reminds us of our dependence on grace.

    And in all this he does not use a political dogma or rights based line of arguementation. He stands, or falls, on scripture alone.

    There will always be room for voices like Mark Driscoll’s in my life. I need to hear them.

    February 4, 2012
    • I’m glad Driscoll is a useful voice in your life. Really.

      I would submit, however, that each of the very good and appropriate messages above could be delivered without the kind of chest-thumping machismo, over-the-top rhetoric, and the excessive emphasis on Driscoll’s very specific conception of what a “real” man looks like and does. Ironically, I think that Driscoll would have a much more powerful and authoritative voice if he focused less on his own power and authority.

      February 4, 2012
  10. Eric H #

    My 2 cents.

    I think its important that we try not to be blinded by our culture when it comes to matters of sexuality and weighing what is appropriate for worship and the liturgy of life. If Driscoll is promoting a stereotypical macho model for masculinity and how that must dominate in heads of homes and leadership of the Church, then he is doing exactly what he seeks to avoid. I agree that Jesus is the fulfillment of our masculinity and leadership – that should be our focus. To limit masculinity to hobbies and personality type is just as restricting as physical height and muscle stature. But that is not to say that we are not restricted in what we can do with our lives and bodies. God has made us male and female on purpose. This is no minor distinction in the vocation of creation design. If we put our emotional experience on the magisterial side of reason, it makes us much more susceptible to put our faith in the sexual confusion of our culture and less open to what God has revealed of himself and his Church. But if we put this reaction on the ministerial side of reason, under God’s Word, God’s kingdom people would be much more sane in this insane world 🙂

    February 4, 2012
    • Thanks for this, Eric. I agree, there is more than enough confusion around gender and sexuality to go around, whatever end of the spectrum we happen to be drawn toward. I also agree that our maleness and femaleness is no accident, and that there are very real and important differences in how God has made us. I just don’t see these differences as falling down the same lines Driscoll does (or, at the very least, not in the same way).

      How do you see the restrictions in our (male and female) lives and bodies playing out?

      February 4, 2012
      • EDH #

        “How do you see the restrictions in our (male and female) lives and bodies playing out?”

        It’s a provacative question. But that answer is going to be a little different from person to person, and couple to couple (something I learned from someone… I can’t remember his name.. ;P ) I think it basically comes down to responsibility. Not personality, but accountability. The husband is responsible for the family, especially for its spiritual needs. Not that the wife is incapable to take on the task, or that she isn’t accountable or has no role in it, but it is God’s specific calling and order for the husband to bear it. And she is to encourage him in it, and help him in it.

        Secondly, I think its important to recognize that to be created in the image of God is somewhat to be “creators” ourselves. He doesn’t create us just for the sake of ourselves. Families create families. God likes people, and creates us different for the sake of more people. With that in mind, there are some natural tendencies in motherhood that better support children in their early formidable years. So in general its a good thing that some spheres are handled by different sexes. But the fact that these roles get established is what makes sacrifice and gift giving possible.

        In the life of the Church, if she calls for herself woman pastors, she blurs these lines. The men are called to ‘lead’ because of the created order, and that is ultimately why Jesus became a man. It is because of the sin of one man that sin entered the world. Jesus, the second Adam, over came sin and took responsibility for it and embodies all of humanity as its new head.

        I think that’s a good (christian and masculine) pattern to follow.

        February 6, 2012
      • Thanks for elaborating, Eric. I agree with much of what you say here, even if I think the categories are, perhaps, a bit more fluid. As I said in the post, I have benefited from female leadership far too often for me to write it off as improper or against God’s will. And, correspondingly, I think we are all too familiar with men abusing the power that they think is their divine right.

        Having said that, I think the opposite extreme is just to pretend there are no important differences between the sexes. Even if men and women both have leadership abilities, they will lead differently—they will lead as the unique men and women that they are. And I think it is true to say that there are some traits that are represented more frequently in women and some in men.

        I like what you say here:

        God likes people, and creates us different for the sake of more people.

        The goal is not some kind of weird androgynous culture, but for women and men to use the gifts they have been given to bring life and light and hope and peace in whatever sphere they have been placed.

        February 6, 2012
  11. Paul Johnston #

    I haven’t listened to a lot of Driscoll, the link at the top of this page was my third or fourth experience. Before I responded here I thought it appropriate to go to the Mars Hill web page and listen to another sermon. I chose “Men and Marriage”, specifically because I often hear Pastor Driscoll accused of misogyny.

    For me, I heard much that moved me to tears. I heard about headship and it’s accountabilities. I heard about covenant before contract. I heard about the servant/husband/ father who is called to emulate the Jesus who serves His bride and family; the church.

    I heard Pastor Driscoll quote the book of Genesis where, God asked Adam, “Where are you?”….and I remembered where I was an wasn’t, during the sometimes violent and mostly acrimonious time that was the breakup of my marriage….

    Pastor Driscoll speaks of truths. My Spirit and experience convict me.

    Funny thing about this sermon though, the kind of over the top machismo that concerns you is also a concern for Pastor Driscoll. His vision of a “real” man, at least as presented here, rejects what you would seem to reject. As well, though he speaks with the confidence of one with authority, I am always impressed with Pastor Driscoll’s deference to the authority of Christ.

    I will listen to his voice again.

    February 4, 2012
    • Again, I’m very glad that Driscoll’s voice is a life-giving one for you. I don’t have the slightest doubt that he has some very good sermons, teachings, writings, etc. But, for me, it’s hard to reconcile it with the general impression he gives and some of the truly outlandish statements he makes.

      In a conversation about this on Facebook, someone linked to a Christianity Today article from a few years back that I think is an excellent analysis of the Driscoll phenomenon. Here’s a few (context-free, alas) quotes from Driscoll that I pulled from that article:

      “In Driscoll’s opinion, the church has produced ‘a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. …

      Sixty percent of Christians are chicks,” he explains, “and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks'” …

      “This is the sort of Christ men are drawn to—what Driscoll calls ‘Ultimate Fighting Jesus.”” …

      “Dudes: heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.”

      This is the kind of rhetoric that makes it very difficult for me to consider Driscoll’s a voice worth listening to.

      February 4, 2012
  12. I have heard that the teaching about male headship in the home is empowering for black men because it gives them a dignity and authority the culture denies them, at least in the US. Used in the right way, with authority seen along the lines of the servant leadership of Jesus, the male headship model can make for healthier black families. This was a surprising insight to me, but it makes sense.

    February 4, 2012
    • Hmm, I’ve never heard anything like this either. The racial dynamics are different here in Canada, I think, but what you say certainly makes sense.

      February 5, 2012
      • Larry S #

        Ryan, Chris’s post is interesting.

        From my perspective as someone supervising males involved in the criminal justice system due to their domestic violence a little warning bell rang in my head. Sometimes males who are disempowered in their employment go home and exert their supposed ‘headship’ (a word not found in the bible) in very, very unhealthy destructive ways.

        In my view, it would be far better for any male to find healing from the outside world within a marital relationship based on the complete equality of both partners – rather than the male being bolstered by receiving dignity/authority from their female partner. Where does she go for her dignity and authority?

        The cartoon of all this is played out thus: the male gets hurt at work – goes home and hurts his spouse – she hurts their child, the child kicks the cat.

        [I get that Chris spoke of ‘servant leadership’ but egals don’t buy the model. and of course, I’m not making a blanket statement that no good comes from the model. I’m just saying that when i hear my warning bell – I pay attention to it.]

        February 5, 2012
      • Thanks for this perspective, Larry. As always, things are not neat and simple are they? There is potential for abuse and misuse at every turn—something I imagine you get a close up view of every day in your line of work.

        February 6, 2012
  13. Paul Johnston #

    Larry S, with regard to your opinion about “supposed headship”, how would you suggest we read Ephesians 5:21-32?

    Also, sir, I’m perplexed by, what I read as, a rejection of the servant/leadership model. When you apply the term “egal” are you referencing a Christian egalitarianism or a feminist one?

    I can understand a feminist rejection of the Christian servant/leader model but I would struggle to understand how a Christian egalitarian would reject it. Who is the man Jesus, if not a servant leader?

    Wouldn’t the rejection of the model be a rejection of Christ?

    February 5, 2012
  14. Larry S #

    Paul,

    first of all thanks for your response and for calling me sir 🙂

    the word – headship does not appear anywhere in the bible. the greek word Kephlae (spelling) which is a metaphor certainly does and is translated in our english bibles as the word head. however, our complementarian brothers/sisters have build a model around the notion of “headship” which as a Christian egalitarian i reject since the comp model calls only for the male to be the servant leader. the whole masculine feel of Xtianity grows out of this model – it also grows out of a resurgent movement infecting us canadians from our US niebhours. by the way, some not all on the comp side of this debate, toy with the Trinity calling for the eternal subordination of Son to Father. And I’ve read a paper on the comp side which speculate that gender hierarchy extends into the eternal state.

    I suppose I would be ok with using the term ‘servant leadership’ if the term would be applied equally to both husband / wife. Certainly within my model of Christian marriage I fully expect both spouses to be ‘servant leaders.’

    So rejection of the comp hierarchal gender model does not equal rejection of Jesus. Although, some of our comp brothers/sisters are getting very close to saying this.

    Paul my post was blasted off quite quickly and essentially aimed at Ryan whom I know to be well equainted with the gender debate.

    You may find the following resources useful.

    on the comp side: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (cbmw.org)
    on the egal side: Christians for Biblical Equality website (cbe.org)

    i hope this answers your questions. I’m open to answering more.

    as to the Eph 5 text: note that the word submission doesn’t appear in the greek sentence of vr. 5:22 but needs to be supplied in english translations from 5:21. So whatever else the paragraph means – some form of mutual submission flows from 5:21 into the wife/husband relationship with both of them forming some kind of relational dance rather than rigidly codified roles. And then we need to consider the culture into which ephesians was originally written (patriarchally structured.) simply put: the notion that a husband would ‘love’ his wife sacrificially was something new in that culture. I could go on…. but the CBE web site has good papers you can read. (and you can get the contra view over on the CBMW site).

    blessings

    February 5, 2012
  15. Ken #

    Gentlemen,

    What we need is a goddess.

    Feminists generally teach us that patriarchy is the problem we must all resist. Patriarchy is a grime that has polluted virtually every institution and person. It permeates our language and our thoughts.

    One feminist scholar I have known believes we must get rid of 95% of the Bible, if we retain it at all. It is not enough to reparse the verbs and recast the genders of nouns. Not nearly enough. Feminist scholars have suggested that we need to abandon mono-theism. Transcendence must go. And with it, Aristotle and Plato.

    When one listens to such writers, it hard to disagree. What man who has ever loved a woman, or older person who ever loved youth, could disagree? The grime of patriarchy is disgusting.

    So far, pantheism, or ecofeminism, look good for the future. These are not theisms, of course.

    February 6, 2012
  16. Paul Johnston #

    Hi Larry, thanks also to you, for a very generous and thoughtful reponse. Thanks also for the site references. Much to read and consider. Thanks also for the blessings. Always timely, always welcome. :)|

    Blessings to you too, my brother. 🙂

    I like what Ryan said in response to you. Things aren’t always neat and simple and the potential for misuse and abuse does exist at every turn.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your interpretation of the mutuality of servant leadership, particularly as it applies to marriage.

    I guess the conflict between us would be my acceptance, as a Roman Catholic, of the church authority (the Magisterium) restricting the administrative/sacramental priesthood to celibate males. My understanding is that the churches position is invoilable. It believes it’s position to be a Spirit led interpretation of the Word of God and sacred Apostolic Tradition. Neither the Magisterium or the Pope believe they have an authority to change this condition but rather a sacred responsibiity to uphold and maintain it.

    Discrimination to some. Sacred responsibility to others…not neat and simple at all.

    February 6, 2012
  17. This morning I came across a very helpful and (I think) fair response to Piper by Krish Kandiah. Those who are interested in a more detailed engagement with Piper’s recent address can read it here.

    February 6, 2012
    • Ken #

      It is stunning to me that Piper and Driscoll have followers. Their shameless advocacy of patriarchy takes my breath away.

      Scanning the link Krish provided to Piper’s work, Piper’s claim that pastors tend to be jelly-fish caught my eye. That much is true. Pastors are afraid to say what they really believe for fear of rejection and loss of income. It is a terrible way to live.

      In addition, scanning the link that Larry provided to the Christian egalitarian site gives me the impression that they too are relatively conservative on this topic even while they war with the likes of Piper and Driscoll. Either that, or they are jelly-fish who are more liberal or feminist, than they dare admit. I have spent much of life in universities and on the west coast of America. Discourse there is generally much different than within the confines of evangelical Christianity.

      As for me, I favor organicity over masculinity or femininity. I walked in the wilderness all day on Saturday with a man, whom I met by chance that morning in the wilderness, who has lived off the grid (without utilities, plumbing and heat, for example) nearly his whole life. He is 71 now. It began when he ran away from home at 12. He is comfortable in the wild in a way that few people are. He knows wildlife and the land itself in a subjective way that is extremely rare. Nature can teach us things culture cannot. Things even about the garden of eden. What a man. An organic man. Perhaps a spirit. Or an Adam.

      February 6, 2012
      • James #

        I get Piper calling people he disagrees with “jellyfish” since name calling is his modus operandi, but it surprises me that you would, Ken.
        Also, while the bushman you met seems nice enough, those who live in the hinterlands of BC are a mixed bag. What nature teaches is- eat or be eaten. It is good to remember that when you cross their paths. I think that the whole purpose of culture is to go beyond that. Certainly that is the Gospel as I understand it.

        February 6, 2012
      • Ken #

        James, sorry for that offensive metaphor.

        Re: eating and being eaten.

        Nature writers and nature lovers generally seem to embrace being part of the food chain as being part of life. Exposing themselves to conditions in which they may become prey themselves becomes associated with a sense of belonging. This is found in many writings: Thoreau, Abbey, Snyder, Muir, for example, and many others. Some surfers deliberately remain in shark infested waters after a sighting. It seems to draw on Gaian and animist spiritualities and on the wonder and grandeur of it all of which Darwin wrote.

        As for civilization and its merits, I read others when I ponder that. I enjoy reading about cities, as well as nature. I ride my bike in the inner city and hike in the wilderness. I think the two are somehow connected.

        February 7, 2012
      • James #

        I didn’t take personal offence, Ken but as a member of the “pastor” tribe, thought a bit of push back was in order. There surely are the passive aggressive among us- but we have a good compliment of the active aggressive as well 🙂
        On “eat and being eaten”- I have met lots of adrenaline junkies who love this idea but when they are actually being “eaten” things are seldom that simple.

        February 7, 2012
  18. Larry S #

    Ken – I can see how the gender debate within evangelicalism, neo-evangelicalism, fundamentalism, post-modern Jesus follower (or whatever label seems to fit) must seem quite odd from your vantage point. Similarly, from my perspective, your comment that we need a ‘goddess’ or ‘organicity’ (wonderful word) suggests that we need to move outside the boundaries of Christianity.

    I guess those of us who choose to stick with the texts should just admit they have a decidedly patriarchal flavour to them. But at the end of the day we are stuck with the texts as they’ve come to us (although I do think that 1 Cor 14:34-35 could be a later scribal gloss [my influence here is Dr. G. Fee]. In terms of the patriarchal flavouring of the texts, Egalitarians have come up with something called the redemptive movement hermeneutic to help us navigate this quagmire. I recognize that this hermeneutic move may seem rather cute or lame from the outside looking in, but it is us trying to stay within the tribe.

    I agree with much of what you’ve written about pastors – although I think the jellyfish metaphor is unfortunate. Maybe we should come up with a better word. Within evangelicalism I think you’ve made a good point: rejection/loss of income. It can be difficult leading the people that pay your salary.

    Paul, thanks for your post. I understand where you are coming from.

    February 6, 2012
    • Ken #

      Thank you, Larry. I learn something from every comment you write. I had not heard of the complementation or Christian egalitarian groups until you referenced them. Nor had I heard of the redemptive movement hermeneutic.

      I am sorry that my picking up on the jellyfish metaphor caused offense to you and James. I guess my own experience with passive aggression and indirectness (and sometimes cruelty) among pastors desensitized me. I am sure that it is as you suggest, that an important element of what is happening is an attempt to stay within the tribe. I tried to work within the Presbyterian (non-evangelical) tribe myself for a number of years and was sometimes circumspect in what I said in ways that could have mislead others.

      A friend of mine, who tries to work within the evangelical tribe for the sake of his wife, I surmise, struggles to find evangelical ways to be gay-positive because he is decisively gay-positive himself and cannot imagine that God would not be. The effort seems futile to me. Patriarchy works against being gay-positive or gay as it works against being feminist or a woman. I suggest he try liberalism. But he can’t. He wants to stay in the evangelical tribe. So he struggles with evermore creative hermeneutics.

      Re: “Similarly, from my perspective, your comment that we need a ‘goddess’ or ‘organicity’ (wonderful word) suggests that we need to move outside the boundaries of Christianity.”

      It may be necessary. Somedays I feel like it is best to cross the boundary. Other days, I reread Teilhard de Chardin and feel like the boundaries are quite permeable. I find myself loving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, just as he is in the Bible, for his desire for Israel. I am able to connect that, on some days, to the desire I see inherent in nature. It is a source of grace in both cases.

      February 6, 2012
  19. Paul Johnston #

    Still pondering the issues raised here…the only thing I am certain of is that I am not comfortable with either the complimentarian or egalitarian label.

    There is room for Piper and Driscoll at my table, so to speak. They revere Jesus as Lord and Savior. Further their sense that the masculine spirit struggles for identity within culture and church resonates with me.

    If it is fair to recognize and defer to the identities of others based on gender, race and sexual orientation, surely a masculine voice is welcome at the table also. Nor do I think that it is just to take the default position that traditional male gender models are harmful and abusive.

    I really like the idea of mutual submission, to God; to one another. While obviously the devil is in the details, an ethic that affirms responsibilities before rights, makes sense to me as the Christian standard.

    I do respect and wish to learn from brothers and sisters of the faith who push against my values. I need the shove. :). And surely the Spirit moves through us all with the intention of rallying, edifying and building up the body. We are family. 🙂

    February 8, 2012
    • Yes, I like what you say about mutual submission and an ethic that affirms responsibilities before rights. Amen and amen.

      There is room for Driscoll and Piper at my table, too. Their voice is certainly welcome at the table, so long as it is not the only (or the loudest) one.

      Your last paragraph sums it up wonderfully. I could not agree more.

      February 8, 2012
  20. Ken #

    Paul, don’t eat with them. Don’t let them think for a minute that what they say is okay.

    Patriarchy is cruel and dehumanizing.

    A few years ago I was seated at a wedding banquet with the Protestant pastor who officiated and his wife. Also seated with us was a Jewish woman and a Roman Catholic man. Before the entree had been served, the pastor insulted the Jew and the Roman Catholic and every woman. His remarks reeked of patriarchy, anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism. In his mind, and apparently that of his congregation, he was an upstanding man of faith whose every word was innocent and inspired by sound interpretation of the Bible. He ruined the meal. The Jew and the Catholic and my wife were offended. I felt disgusted by his words. He seemed to be oblivious to what he said that was ugly. I educated him.

    February 8, 2012
    • Re: don’t eat with them… While I agree that patriarchy is cruel and dehumanizing and while I don’t doubt that the person you speak of required “educating,” this strikes me as a rather harsh condemnation. You are often very critical of “moralists” and moralism on this blog. How is this different?

      As a follower of Jesus, I have to think that Paul’s statement above is true. While I might disagree with the views of other Christians (often, quite strongly), I am required to do my best to love them and treat them like family. I have to make room for the voices of those whose errors and sins are different than my own.

      February 9, 2012
  21. Ken #

    As I explained above, it is better to avoid “you” statements.

    My words do represent, without question, an unequivocal rejection of patriarchy.

    February 9, 2012
    • Yes, and as I explained above, these kinds of statements are part of how we, a) make clear whose interpretation/understanding of a particular position is under discussion (for there are many possibilities); and b) recognize that we are personally invested in and responsible for the views we hold and the things that we say.

      I affirm your unequivocal rejection of patriarchy.

      February 9, 2012
  22. Ken #

    I am glad we agree on the affirmation.

    One other thought:

    I have been reading about Christian egalitarianism. It strikes me that it remains patriarchal. It can be seen as an attempt of a patriarchal structure, evangelicalism, for example, to defend itself against feminist critics. It does not work.

    Ultimately, patriarchy is not the opposite of equality, even while it does not represent equality. Christian egalitarianism does not overcome it. Patriarchy is a structure of cruelty. What happens within Christian egalitarianism is that the cruelty continues even after women are ordained, even after the pronouns are changed in the Bible, even after equality is preached. Equality before God, is parsed and deferred and reduced, set away in the distance with the second coming. And patriarchy survives, sustained by Christian egalitarians.

    Radical feminist critiques have exposed the patriarchy inherent in evangelicalism and substantially all of Christianity in its historic forms. That critique is not based on equality before God, but, rather, on the experience of women in their oppression through patriarchy. It is from that perspective, standing with my wife, my mother, my sister, and all the women that I know, that I reject patriarchy and want its advocates silenced and starved.

    February 9, 2012
    • James #

      Seems to me, Ken, that given that patriarchy is a product of evolution, it should be embraced. It seems to me that it is fuelled by the eat or be eaten paradigm. The stronger rules the weaker. It is the Gospel that challenges this paradigm and that in the Kingdom of God the poor and the weak are now the blessed. No wonder the atheists hate it so much and glorify the “Selfish Gene.”

      February 9, 2012
    • I have been reading about Christian egalitarianism. It strikes me that it remains patriarchal. It can be seen as an attempt of a patriarchal structure, evangelicalism, for example, to defend itself against feminist critics. It does not work.

      How is defending one’s views against criticism inherently patriarchal?

      What happens within Christian egalitarianism is that the cruelty continues even after women are ordained, even after the pronouns are changed in the Bible, even after equality is preached.

      How? I am a part of a church that has ordained women. Most people in my church would call themselves “Christian” and “egalitarian.” They neither exhibit nor condone cruelty toward women.

      Equality before God, is parsed and deferred and reduced, set away in the distance with the second coming. And patriarchy survives, sustained by Christian egalitarians.

      Again, how? In my experience, I see equality before God applied by those who are “Christian” and “egalitarian” here and now, not set away in the distance. How are they sustaining patriarchy? Is there any way out for a Christian, in your view? Based on what you’ve said here, it seems like to be a Christian or, worse, an “evangelical,” is inherently cruel and inherently oppressive, whatever its adherents might claim.

      For whatever it’s worth, I, too, hold my views about patriarchy based, in part, on experience—wanting to stand with my wife, my daughter, my mother, sister, and friends. I also hold them due to my Christian convictions about the nature of God and the nature of humanity.

      February 9, 2012
  23. Paul Johnston #

    Ken, I appreciate pastor Driscoll when he challenges me, as a man, to commit my utmost being to faith in God and support of marriage and family. In the now five sermons I’ve listenened to I have not heard him speak in a way that affirms male superiority and female inferiority. If and when I do, I will part company with him on that issue.

    As for the rest, I find him refreshingly blunt and direct, not unlike a good hockey coach, who demands focus, commitment and maxim effort towards the task at hand.

    Typical male stereotyping to be sure, but not without some truth.

    As for the radical feminist affirmation, I respectfully decline to agree. I will take my chances with the sometimes belligerant, confrontational and contradictory world of Christian expression before I will submit to an ethos that does not accept the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I’m sorry if that offends or makes me appear hostile towards enightenment and learning. I intend neither outcome. I am simply a man with a limited capacity for understanding, who desires the truth and who has cast his lot with Jesus. As a consequence my continuing education, such as it is, will come only from brothers and sisters of faith.

    As for the rest of mankind I hope to open my heart to a more regular and sincere expression of prayer and service on their behalf. As for the dialogues, I am weary of the vitriolic exchanges that produce nothing more than ill will and condemnation.

    Let the lives we live be our testimony.

    February 9, 2012
  24. Ken #

    Paul, James and Ryan, I don’t know where to begin again with this. Reading radical feminists, and personal relationships with others over many years, has left me in agreement with their critique. I hear what they hear. The patriarchy that pervades Christianity, and the denial of it within, makes me wary of Christianity.

    February 9, 2012
    • James #

      I don’t wonder that you don’t know where to begin. We are each different and probably predictable already. Have a great day!

      February 9, 2012
      • Ken #

        Thanks, James.

        February 9, 2012
    • Paul Johnston #

      Ken, in rereading my last comment let me be quick to clarify that my concerns regarding vitriolic conversation and condemnation, in no way reflect the character and quality of the dialogue here. I regret the unintended inference.

      My wariness is born from my active participation in the pro life movement. On more than one ocaassion I have been confronted by those who identify as radical feminists in a manner that was shocking to me. A hostility, that bordered on what I can only define as hatred. You, I’m sure quite unitentionally, reminded me of certain experiences when you used the phrase, “starved and silenced”. I have encountered responses to prayer vigils that advocated at least as much. To this day I do not know how to effectively respond to such outbursts, so I have learned not to. I would like to say that my prayer only intensifies in nature and expands in scope to include those who have behaved so abusively towards the group of people I march and pray in silence with, but most often it doesn’t. I am often rattled and lose focus but at least I have never outwardly responded in kind, by screaming abusive ephitats of contempt towards those with whom I disagree.

      Aside from personal experience, to the extant that I understand the truth of the human dilemna, I do not prioritize gender politics as the first cause of our inhumanity, one towards another. I believe that to be making a symptom the cause.

      Rather I agree with the Biblical account of people’s fallen nature and that it is only through submission to God and one another, mediated through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that we will find remedy. I have no languauge with which to discuss a mediated solution between myself and the radical feminism I have encountered. To be fair, as I have alluded earlier, I no longer look for one.

      I do commit though, to living out my disagreement peacefully without hateful judgement. And while I still think it the responsibility of the all Christian communities to always reach out and help all reconcile with God’s love… to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth as it were…I feel more convicted to pray than I feel convicted to exhort.

      February 9, 2012
      • Ken #

        In spite of our differences on some things, more often than not I find myself in sympathy with your feelings and admiration of your faith. Yours sustains mine, regardless of the variations in content.

        February 9, 2012
  25. Yes this is the better news isn’t it, we help sustain one another.

    I am very grateful for this space. 🙂

    February 10, 2012
  26. i’m late to the party on this, and came across the post having been asked to read something on Christian masculinity. I agree with your response Ryan. I can’t see any justification for the gender agenda. Jesus, counterculturally, embraced women and children. I can’t see the justification for the present counterculturalism which singles out men and by implication discounts women and children.

    June 7, 2012
    • Yes, the example of Christ is good place to start isn’t it, David? Thanks for your comment.

      June 7, 2012

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