That masculine feeling

John Piper has created a ruckus with a talk he gave at the Desiring God 2012 Conference for Pastors, titled "'The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle' -- The Value of a Masculine Ministry."

In the course of this talk, Piper said,

God has revealed himself to us in the Bible pervasively as King, not Queen, and as Father, not Mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son. The Father and the Son created man and woman in his image, and gave them together the name of the man, Adam (Genesis 5:2). God appoints all the priests in Israel to be men. The Son of God comes into the world as a man, not a woman. He chooses twelve men to be his apostles. The apostles tell the churches that all the overseers—the pastor/elders who teach and have authority (1 Timothy 2:12)—should be men; and that in the home, the head who bears special responsibility to lead, protect, and provide should be the husband (Ephesians 5:22–33).

From all of this, I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel.

I find this interesting for reasons of my own. Back in the day, when this blog was still relatively new, there were those who thought it had too much of a "feminine feel." Being in those days a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young blogger eager to please (quit laughing, I really was), I didn't want to mess up the blog with my femininity, so I came up with an idea:

Me: If the men here could blog more, maybe that would help.
Men of the blog: Sorry, we don't have time.
Me: . . .

I never did grasp how I, as a woman, was supposed to create a "masculine feel" without help from men. So without knowing what else to do, I just had us keep doing what we were doing, and somehow things went all right.

Is there perhaps a lesson in that?

I'm not trying to be a wild-eyed man-hating radical feminist, I promise. (For 26 years, I've attended a church that believes and teaches that only men are to be pastors.) And I'm well aware that I don't have one hundredth of the theological knowledge that the Reverend Piper has. But I would humbly submit that, when we have a Bible that tells us, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28, NKJV), maybe Christianity isn't supposed to have a masculine feel or a feminine feel. Maybe it's supposed to have a balanced feel, with everyone doing his or her part to worship, glorify, follow, and obey the One whom our faith is all about.


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I certainly don't disagree with a call for chivalrous behavior by men. It's just going too far to equate Christianity with masculinity. That kind of exclusive notion could be very--and unnecessarily--alienating. If there are Christian women who don't appreciate it, we can be pretty sure it wouldn't be very winsome to women who aren't in the flock.

He would have been better off expressing a desire to see Christian men exhibiting more masculinity. Most of us could agree with that. After all, even some non-Christian women have expressed respect for the way Promise Keepers teaches men to step up.
Msybe he meant "Christianity has a masculine feel in some ways and a feminine feel in others?"
Masculine feel?
What, exactly, is his point? Christianity is for EVERYONE. In that context, what are the implications for women? After all, if Christianity = masculinity, and (I assume) Piper doesn't want women to be very masculine, isn't he saying he doesn't want them to be very Christian? I don't think he's thought this through.
Well stated, Carol!

Let's not engage in the first battle of fallen humanity: The Battle of the Sexes. (Ugh, that horrible 70's TV theme that I grew up with.) Rather, let us focus on how God created us as complimentary yoke-mates.
Perhaps a rough and slightly silly but illuminating guide is "masculine is whatever would be likely to have a soundtrack with a low pitch in a movie and feminine would be whatever would be likely to have a high pitch."

Though that still leaves a lot of anomalies like Ride of the Valkyries(the souls of warriors going to Odin's Hall are masculine but the Valkyries are feminine).
I probably should give this more thought, but since Sir Lee was kind enough to ask....

It occurs to me that Scripture says that WE are made in HIS image: male and female. I am His image as much as Lee, Rolley, or Jason. Each of us is "complete" in him/herself, and yet...

In 50 years of marriage, I (who had no brothers, no sons) have learned one inescapable lesson: I am only half of my marriage. What I lack, my husband makes up for; what he lacks, I make up for. Together, we are the image of God, every bit as much as each of us is individually.

God made the man, first. Did He make the female because, without her, man was lacking something? Aside from the obvious biological aspects, I don't think so. As much as we groan over the old-old-old addage that woman was made from the SIDE of man to be his helpmeet, it turns out to be something we haven't got around to accepting as yet. Civilization is still a struggle over who has the power: men or women! In light of the Eph. verse, this ought not to be so! We NEED each other to be fully who we were meant to be!
In any case I come here because I have friends here. Not because breakpoint has or has not a masculine feel.
"So without knowing what else to do, I just had us keep doing what we were doing, and somehow things went all right."

Hmmm - as I recall it, Gina, you poured in countless hours of blood, toil, tears and sweat, bathed in prayer, thereby *insuring* that things went all right. It's something for which you'll never get sufficient praise in this lifetime.

But I'll keep trying.

Humility - must be one of those feminine things... ;-)
If what he means is simply to have a ministry specifically for Christian men, it makes as much sense as any other ministry. It may be that he just made a gaffe in describing what he was saying. It happens some times.
aA vote for Biblical manhood
Gina, you are not the first that I've heard make this observation. Unfortunately, it still seems to fall on too many deaf ears. I've known a lot of men over the years who have been content to enumerate the advantages of male headship, while perfectly content to let women shoulder the "grunt" duties in the church. Perhaps it's time for us to re-examine Christ's model for male headship and drop a lot of the blustering bravado that seems to replace the real thing.
Actually, Christianity doesn't have a masculine feel. Sikhism has a masculine feel but not Christianity. Christianity has a kaleidoscopic feel and has as much room for Wesleyan tea-totaling redcoats, old-western preacher-men and knights in shinning armor as it has for pious nuns, faithful goodwives, snarky Regency romance writers, and Italian moderators with a distinct taste for the later. It also has a place for scholars, warriors, merchants, artisans, farmers, and any other type of humanity.
Admittedly some hymns are rather embarrassing to sing.
Ellen, yes, there was! You can still see it here:

"I agree with Lee that Dr. Piper has quoted scripture accurately as concerns Christian leadership. However, I question Dr. Piper's conclusion."

I agree.
Was there really a mauve banner?

I know! I know! Pick me!! Pick me!!!
The church is the "Bride" of Christ! (smiles at Rolley)

I agree with Lee that Dr. Piper has quoted scripture accurately as concerns Christian leadership. However, I question Dr. Piper's conclusion. The body of believers is often referred to as a family. As Dr. Piper accurately states, (quoting from above) "in the home, the head who bears special responsibility to lead, protect, and provide should be the husband (Ephesians 5:22–33)." If the correct conclusion to the undeniable fact of God-mandated male Christian leadership is that Christianity should have a masculine feel, then all families should have a masculine feel as well. Dr. Piper, I beg to differ! Above he is quoted as stating, "The Father and the Son created man and woman in his image, and gave them together the name of the man, Adam (Genesis 5:2)." So, Eve's femininity (and every wife's femininity since) is completely subsumed by Adam's masculinity?

Dr. Piper has only looks at the male mandated leadership positions. What of the Biblical instruction from the lives of Deborah, Ruth and Esther? Wisdom is presented as a woman in the Book of Proverbs. Elizabeth mentors Mary when both are pregnant. Anna the prophetess was on hand "to give thanks to God and to speak of [Jesus] to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38) when Jesus was presented at to the Lord in Jerusalem as an infant. (Oh yeah, some guy names Simon was there, too.) In Titus, chapter 2, older women are instructed to teach young women. Women are the keepers of the home and the nurturers of children. Women were the first to know of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

From all of this I conclude that if men are the captains of the fleet, then women are the first mates. Darn, those warships actually have to nurture some children while they're underway.
I think we have a very good blend of masculine and feminine voices, too. The commenters are as much a part of this blog as the bloggers.
Oh, and the Church
…is the “what” of Christ?
There, that's three male commentators.

All of whom are satisfied as it is.
I could of course give some ideas about how to make a more masculine breakpoint. But I have to get some sleep tonight so I can work hard processing holds at the nice quiet library peopled by female librarians, which is a different sort of occupation then cattle herding, high-beam construction, or truck driving.
Very forgivable, Rolley. :-) I always think Lewis has a great deal of wisdom on these issues, particularly in "The Four Loves."
Overthinking Things
I tend to agree with you, Gina. There are, no doubt, excellent reasons for the supposed “maleness” Piper belabors. But in the absence of clear Biblical elucidation of the reasons, I wonder how wise it is to build such a grand edifice with the rickety twigs of speculation.

I mean, there could be entirely other reasons for it, perhaps as simple as “well it had to be one or the other”.

Personally, I suspect it has to do chiefly with federal headship; i.e., “one being responsible for many”, a profoundly theological principle at the heart of the doctrine of salvation; but one that has absolutely nothing to do with the “feel” of Christianity.

But as for the alleged “feel” of Christianity, I think your verse from Galatians nailed it. I also think that, once again, C.S. Lewis was closer to the truth than our contemporaries:

“Both the bodies were naked, and both were free from any sexual characteristics, either primary or secondary. That, one would have expected. But whence came this curious difference between them? He found that he could point to no single feature wherein the difference resided, yet it was impossible to ignore. One could try - Ransom has tried a hundred times to put it into words. He has said that Malacandra was like rhythm and Perelandra like melody. He has said that Malacandra affected him like a quantitative, Perelandra like an accentual, metre. He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with the palms towards him. But I don't know that any of these attempts has helped me much.

At all events what Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender. Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and others feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender an imaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity.

All this Ransom saw, as it were, with his own eyes. The two white creatures were sexless. But he of Malacandra was masculine (not male); she of Perelandra was feminine (not female). Malacandra seemed to him to have the look of one standing armed, at the ramparts of his own remote archaic world, in ceaseless vigilance, his eyes ever roaming the earthward horizon whence his danger came long ago. "A sailor's look," Ransom once said to me; "you know ... eyes that are impregnated with distance." But the eyes of Perelandra opened, as it were, inward, as if they were the curtained gateway to a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, of life that rocked in winds and splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in thin-spun delicacy of mist. On Mars the very forests are of stone; in Venus the lands swim.”

(Perelandra, Chapter Sixteen; apologies for the length of the excerpt, but it being St. Lewis I just naturally assumed it was a forgivable infraction)
Ah, yes, dearest G - the glorious days when you put up a mauve banner, which had a woman looking pensively at her computer. The days when you and your colleagues shouldered the posting load.

Then, as now, the bulk of the commenters were men.

Which, irony of ironies, leads to complaints about men dominating the conversation for what should be primarily a woman's issue.

Some of us have reached the stage where we care more about a person's character than their chromosomes.

That said, Dr. Piper has a point about Christian *leadership*. If you, in a rush of testosterone, had responded to the men of the blog "You'll make the time, or there will be... *consequences*," then things would indeed be different here - but not necessarily better. Dr. Piper errs in equating the part to the whole. I would not be happy if, as in Islam, you and your equally talented-and-gifted peers felt that wiithout masculine support your blog would cease, or would become a "woman's thing".

;-) Ellen, Carol, Vanessa, et al, what do *you* think? ;-)
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