A few years ago, in Raising Women Leaders (co-edited with Jacqui Grey), I wrote a chapter entitled “Sexism and the Demonic in Church Life and Mission.” The chapter challenged the logic of so-called complementarianism, which claims that men and women are equal “in being” but that a man’s role is to lead and a woman’s is to submit to that leadership. In contrast, I argued that the presumption that women must be subordinate to men undermines any claim to equality; i.e., that complementarianism is sexist. I then set out the case for complete equality and mutuality.
I have always stood by my argument in that chapter, but I have sometimes regretted the reference to the demonic in the title. It was deliberately provocative, and, hey, I do have a tendency to hyperbole. But I have a few friends who I respect who take this view, and the last thing I want to do is demonise them (MJ, I respect you and value your friendship, even if on this topic you are just wrong). I’ve also worried that the provocative nature of the title means that those who disagree with me will dismiss my argument without engaging with it.
And then John Piper pipes up – again – and reminds me why I chose the title that I did. In his regular “ask Pastor John” radio series, he was asked by a young woman who felt drawn to police work, “Can a single Christian woman, who is a complementarian, become a police officer?” Even with my gift for hyperbole I am incapable of exaggerating his sexism, so rather than summarise his argument here is an extended quote:
And here is my conviction. To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order. To an extent, a woman’s leadership or influence may be personal and non-directive or directive and non-personal, but I don’t think we should push the limits. I don’t think those would necessarily push the limits of what is appropriate. That is my general paradigm of guidance. And you can see how flexible it is and how imprecise it is. So let me give some examples.
A woman who is a civil engineer may design a traffic pattern in a city so that she is deciding which streets are one-way and, therefore, she is influencing, indeed controlling, in one sense, all the male drivers all day long. But this influence is so non-personal that it seems to me the feminine masculine dynamic is utterly negligible in this kind of relationship. On the other hand, the husband-and-wife relationship is very personal and, hence, the clear teaching of the New Testament that the man should give leadership in the home and that she give a glad partnership in supporting and helping that leadership come into its own.
On the other hand, some influence is very directive and some is non-directive. For example, a drill sergeant might epitomize directive influence over the privates in the platoon. And it would be hard for me to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant — hut two, right face, left face, keep your mouth shut, private — over men without violating their sense of manhood and her sense of womanhood.
(For the full article, “Should women be police officers?” see here).
While he then tries to avoid giving his questioner a direct answer to her question, his conclusion (which repeats the argument, just in case we missed it) gives little room for doubt:
If a woman’s job involves a good deal of directives toward men, they will need to be non-personal in general, or men and women won’t flourish in the long run in that relationship without compromising profound biblical and psychological issues. And conversely, if a woman’s relationship to a man is very personal, then the way she offers guidance and influence will need to be more non-directive. And my own view is that there are some roles in society that will strain godly manhood and womanhood to the breaking point. But I leave women and men in those roles to sort that out. I have never tried to make that list.
What we have, then, is Piper is telling a young woman – someone who is likely to take his view as authoritative – that she should give up her long-held desire to be a police officer because in such a role she would almost certainly exercise personal and directive leadership over man. This would occur in the daily exercise of the authority of a police officer over the general public, and as soon as she is given the smallest promotion up the ranks of the police hierarchy, which would require her to direct and lead male subordinates.
At stake is a vital issue. It’s not merely a matter of a difference of opinion, and it’s not just a question of who preaches in conservative churches. After all, I’m of the view that a person who attends a church sharing the views of Piper gets the masculine preachers they want (and deserve). And good luck to them. Piper’s sexism goes much deeper. In essence, what he is saying is that women shouldn’t enter the workforce, unless they choose to look for employment at the bottom of the hierarchy – and therefore in the most menial and lowest paying jobs.
This is what sexism is all about. Sexism is a label that describes power structures and ideologies that disempower women on the basis of their sex. And there is no stronger ideology than the assertion that “the Bible makes plain … that God’s created order” requires women to be subordinate to men, denying them even the right to equal participation in the workforce.
So let’s stop beating around the bush. This is sexism of the worst type. And it’s evil. And it’s not the teaching of the Bible. And it’s not God’s created order. And it’s anti Christ. As I said in my chapter in raising women leaders are (in one of those untempered moments):
the demonic can be understood as being constituted by those spiritual forces that resist and oppose the life giving power of the Spirit of God in all creation, oppressing individuals and insinuating themselves into the social structures, cultural values and religious ideals that frame human life. Spiritual warfare entails the discernment of spirits, and the casting out of the demonic under the authority of the name of Jesus. I am arguing that patriarchal oppression of women, especially in churches, should be understood as demonic, precisely because it entails resistance against the work of the Spirit in and through women. If this language seems impertinent, then while I speak for and to the PC (Pentecostal – charismatic) community I will not be PC (politically correct). Sometimes the theologian has to take a more prophetic stance, especially when demonic ideas have insinuated themselves into … the culture of the churches worldwide. (For a full copy of the paper, see the publications list on the about section of this blog, and/or purchase Raising Women Leaders)
Yes, well. Intemperate I may be. But it’s about time we exorcised the voice of John Piper from the church. Social media has rightly come down hard on the sexism of Mark Driscoll, but where is the outrage against Piper? It’s time to see him for what he is; not a representative of the body of Christ, but a sexist man trapped in a 1950s worldview that he confuses for biblical truth.
Rose WeirAugust 28, 2015 at 5:34 pm
Thank you Shane!
Luke blackAugust 28, 2015 at 6:12 pm
Ron WestbrookAugust 28, 2015 at 6:22 pm
I’m with you on this one Shane!
Peter AllenAugust 28, 2015 at 10:31 pm
I’ve been waiting to see something like this written for a long time. Great to see you taking on the big names with Aussie common sense and seriously good theology. I only hope someone sends him a copy.
Natalie CooperAugust 28, 2015 at 10:52 pm
No godly, complementarian Christian woman should contemplate a career in nursing then. Not only do we give very clear directives to our patients – including men – but you’ll find that many Directors of Nursing are female. Oops, isn’t nursing one of those saintly jobs for Christian women?
LisaAugust 28, 2015 at 11:40 pm
I heard a powerful quote a little while ago as the church was crucifying Mark Driscoll. I can’t remember the source, but I remember the essence of the words: “The Christian church is the only army who shoots it’s wounded”. How sickeningly true.
I disagree with Piper on this issue and a few others, but I cannot deny the incredible contribution he has made to the church and greater body of Christ. He has helped so many come to know God and love him deeper. His lifetime of service ought not to be disregarded by a theological view that – let’s face it – many others share. moreover, changes will not be brought about by silencing those we disagree with; it can only come from safe, respectful, and open dialogue.
The conclusion of this article is disturbing, particularly given that it was written by a Christian. Our call is to love one another, not to “exorcise” those whose theology (flawed though it may be) we disagree with.
Shane CliftonAugust 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm
If theology was merely abstract you might be right. But piper is making assertions about that directly effect the real life of Christian women. His sexist message warrants s forthright response.
Bev MurrillAugust 30, 2015 at 8:17 pm
It’s too easy to say this stuff about shooting the wounded. It’s a response that is required. Without people answering the claptrap that comes from such as Piper in this and many other arenas, he’ll go unfettered. Piper isn’t wounded; he’s wounding people on every side, and therefore the body of Christ. Shane’s response is measured and well expressed, but in not way an unfair shot…
turramurratimAugust 29, 2015 at 2:03 am
Your comparison of Driscoll and Piper is, I think, even more pertinent than you perhaps intended. Where is the outrage against Piper ?
I think Piper comes across (certainly to most of his followers and even to many of his detractors) as an intensely earnest, sincerely god-fearing man in a way that Driscoll does not. Their natural response, and mine too, to something I see as an error in his theology is this: any error he makes is an honest error, and any negative outcomes that might occur for his followers are completely unintended. Basically, even his sexism is delivered in a deeply respectful and loving way, in the (misguided perhaps) hope that the outcome for his listener will be genuinely positive.
This, of course, doesn’t mean he isn’t sexist. But it’s a well-meaning, grandfatherly sexism, for what that’s worth. (Yes, I know, therein lies patriarchalism)
OpineAugust 29, 2015 at 3:04 am
Could you give us any Scriptures to back up your claim on this? All I can see is one person’s opinion on the matter, rather than it being a true Biblical stance.
Tania HarrisAugust 29, 2015 at 8:32 am
In many ways Shane, his comments on this question are incredibly helpful in illuminating the flaws (and stupidity?) of the complementarian argument. I agree that we need to articulate clearly how this model is sexist and show people an alternative way, and am thankful that theologians like yourself, Kevin Giles and Jim Reiher have been doing this so well. Thanks for leading the way. (PS. It was great to hear your work being quoted in a different topic at the Harvest Research Conference this week!) PPS. Have you heard about the event at Morling College in September?
DavidAugust 29, 2015 at 1:17 pm
I think a great starting point to this discussion may be to re-examine the fundamental premise of this article: “the presumption that women must be subordinate to men undermines any claim to equality”. Since the relational model within the 3 persons of the God Head is the perfect model for relationship and equality, we must ask ourselves and answer these questions: If A submits to B, does it undermine any claim to equality to between A & B. In the gospel of John 6-8 in particular, we see God the Son in a subordinate role to the Father. Paul puts in plainly in I Cor 11:3, “the head of Christ is God”. we clearly see Christ submitting to the Father, and yet know that this by no means undermines equality withing the God Head. Our challenge would be to understand the relational model between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as portrayed in the NT, and implement that model at home, and church.
Shane CliftonAugust 29, 2015 at 5:01 pm
You are conflating the human submission of Jesus to the father with the inner life of God. The early church is explicit that there is no subordination /submission in the Godhead. And in any event there is a fundamental diff between god and humanity, so the analogy your trying to describe is suspect from the beginning. No reference to the nature of God can sidestep the fact that piper is sexist. In fact defending his position by reference to God only cements the point. Sexism is the use of ideological power (including religious ideologies) that subordinate women to men.
If you want my response to your flawed A B analogy, please read the article referenced in the blog.
DavidAugust 29, 2015 at 6:18 pm
Thanks for the reply Shane. At the outset, let me clarify I am not trying to defend Piper’s position. I am only seeking to understand what the Bible has to say on the subject of submission/unity. I will read thorough your article to get a better understanding of your context. For now, let you respond to the points you have raised: I agree that here is fundamental difference between God and humanity, however, the Bible is very clear that the unity between the 3 persons of the Trinity is the model for unity among fellow Christians. In John 17:22, Jesus prays, “that they (human disciples) may be one even as we (God the Father and God the Son) are one”. In 1 Cor 11:3, Paul uses submission of Christ to God as the model for submission between man and woman; Note that Paul is referring to the resurrected Christ here, and he is saying that God the Father is (not was) the head of Christ. So According to Paul, God the Father is presently the head of God the Son, and this submission within the Trinity is the model for submission in humanity. That’s how I understand it, at least. The paradox is, this kind of biblical submission does not make Christ lesser, or inferior to the Father; and is like manner, the woman is not inferior or lesser than man.
MelissaAugust 31, 2015 at 7:53 am
Please consider these explanations of the Greek word kephale (head):
I Cor. 11 is not about authority and submission.
DavidAugust 29, 2015 at 6:28 pm
And perhaps Shane, a powerful argument to counter’s Pipers position may be: True, the head of Christ is the Father (submission is involved here); BUT, it is also true that that “whatever the Father does, the Son does also” (John 5:19). And in like manner, in the NT Church, though man is the head of woman, the woman can do anything that a man does. If a man can can preach, so can women!!
Shane CliftonAugust 30, 2015 at 5:37 pm
The early church (Augustine and the cappadocians) rejected hierarchy in the godhead because that undermined the divinity of the son. God cannot be submitted to god. And while I can see what you are trying to argue here, i would dispute that man is the head of the women. Men and women are to submit to one another. In a patriarchal society a man is to be be like Christ and give himself. The bible is no more for patriarchy than it is for slavery. The gospel turns out hierarchy’s on their head, Jew gentlile, slave free male female
RyanAugust 30, 2015 at 12:33 pm
Uh where to even begin. I am complimentarian and there are just so many holes in egalitarian. My biggest problem with it is the butchering… Or at least blurring of the Gospel and the roles of God, Jesus Christ, the church, man, and women. It ignores how many centuries of church history where there is an overwhelming general consensus that women In the role of shepherd, pastor, clergy whatever you want to call it is unscriptural.
Perhaps the biggest nail in your coffin is that you can’t point to one woman in the Bible who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write a book of the Bible with commands and what not reinforcing complimentarianism NT or OT. If egalitarianism were true oh 33ish should have been written by women. It’s a matter of roles. Doesn’t make men superior and to say different is denial of scripture. Likewise Jesus had 12 disciple and thankfully 6 were women. Wait… Nope. Egalitarianism has a whole lot of explaining to do because honestly there has never been overwhelming evidence to support it at any time in church history. The contrary is true throughout church history…. Many women are ordained as pastors nowadays but that’s not a productive argument as atheists, homosexuals etc. have been.
krwordgazerAugust 31, 2015 at 4:15 am
That argument, with all respect, makes no sense. In a world where men considered women to be property, where even the testimony of a woman in court was given no weight, how could a book known to be written by a woman have been accepted by the MEN who (yes, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless men) ruled in Council on the biblical canon?
Also, there are several anonymous books in the Bible that could actually have been written by women, but could not have gotten into the canon in that case unless the author was anonymous. The book of Ruth is an obvious one; so also the Book of Esther. And the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament also has no named author, though it is not specifically about a holy woman as the other two are.
The Bible is not a magic book dropped into our laps out of the sky. It was written during real periods of history by real people, to real human audiences, and the various books bear witness to this fact. “The word of the Lord that came to such-and-such a prophet during the reign of so-and-so.” The message is accommodated by the Spirit to the understanding and mind-sets of the original authors and audiences. In Paul’s day, for instance, it was considered shameful for a woman to speak to a man in a public place (she was not even supposed to speak aloud to her husband!), let alone to an audience. Jesus and Paul both took initial steps towards changing this– Jesus by sending women to tell the male disciples of His resurrection, and Paul by commissioning Phoebe to explain the letter to the Romans to the church at Rome. But as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was the emancipation of slaves or women to be accomplished in a day. Instead, the Holy Spirit pointed the church in the right direction (notice how husbands in Eph. 5 are commanded to imitate Christ in how He laid down all His power and authority and became lowly to the point of death, in order to raise the church up to be glorious beside Him!)
The Spirit was leading the church in the direction of full equality. Now the church wants to jettison all that and return to the first century. I cry foul.
Shane CliftonAugust 31, 2015 at 9:46 am
Yes, well said.
Bev MurrillAugust 31, 2015 at 10:14 am
I agree KR…. because patriarchy existed/s and was taken for granted in the Bible doesn’t make it right, in the same way that slavery and brutalisation was documented in the Bible, but it doesn’t make it right. The Bible in many ways is a documentation of the history, rather than an approval of that history by God.
Bev MurrillAugust 30, 2015 at 8:20 pm
A strong and helpful post, Shane, and one which is worthy to be embraced. I also feel that Piper is becoming an embarrassment to the Church, with his legalistic, patriarchal view of people and life. Unfortunately, he has become so enamoured with his own opinions that he is now sure that he speaks for God… and that’s always a problem.
sandraheaven7August 30, 2015 at 10:40 pm
John Piper is a godly man, a gift to the church, and a child of God. He has written prolifically some excellent food for the soul and has inspired millions to love God more. The fact that he may have his theology wrong on this issue does not necessitate we “exorcise” him from the body of Christ. Rather a robust, intellectual, and theological challenge is called for. Please don’t make it into a personal attack. It is wrong thought patterns, bad ideas, twisted theology, inspired by evil powers that we must fight and resist. I think it is awesome that you hate the oppression of women (it is especially pernicious when it is based on religious grounds) but keep to the target, don’t shoot the children. Pray for the man.
KSMAugust 30, 2015 at 11:36 pm
Piper is a Godly, wise and wonderful servant of Christ whom God has used to draw many (including myself) closer to Himself. Even with his faults, the world would be a better place and the Church would be a better witness if more Christians were like him.
Don JohnsonAugust 31, 2015 at 1:41 am
I think the evangelical church is dividing on the gender debate. I think Piper is very wrong in this debate and I wish he would repent; until then may his tribe decrease because of the bondage he teaches.
Craig AAugust 31, 2015 at 5:00 pm
Let’s take a step back for a moment…
By John Piper’s quoted words here, it would seem he is articulating something closer to the old-school “hierarchical” view which true Complementarians have jettisoned; that being that men are essentially over women in every sphere of life.
The essence of complementarianism is simply this: same value plus differing roles (in some limited cases).
It is a false charge that role must always be the same for equality of value to be sustained. (For example: Is a Point Guard not as valuable as a Center because they have differing roles? Or is a Defensive End less valuable than an Offensive lineman because they play differing sides of the ball? God has created female and male different for beautiful reasons – and they wonderfully “complement” each other when expressed in marriage and in the church.
The only clear areas of distinction of role for true complementarians are in 2 places in society: in the church and in the home. And only in terms of relationship: In the home, the husband is called to lovingly and sacrificially lead. The wife is not called to this. She is called to partner with and respect her husband’s leadership. The husband is not called to this. (Of course, leadership/headship may be abused, and respect and willing partnering can be withheld or refused. And is always tragic when the roles are abused, and frustrating when they are confused. But that abuse is what is “demonic”, not it’s essence when guided/empowered by the Holy Spirit.)
In the church there is only 1 compound arena (or 2 related areas) in which God’s word limits women and requires men to lead: As Overseers and in protecting the doctrine of the Church. To combine them: Doctrinal leadership — thus the primary teaching leadership of a local church. One can argue with God about why this is so (i.e. what God’s intended purpose was), but we cannot easily deny it, if we are committed to what Scripture actually teaches and demonstrates.
So, in society — Yes, by all means, this woman (or any other) can be a police officer, police chief, Mayor to whom the police department is accountable, or Governor who oversees mayors, or President… But in her home, she is still called to partner with and respect her husband’s loving leadership. And in the church, she is free to do every possible ministry – save one.
This is not demonic. This is not 1950s. This is New Testament. And true complementarianism captures the delicate balance quite well.
Shane CliftonAugust 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm
obviously, I am no complimentarian – although I would choose a different label. The position that you take might be better than Piper’s, but not a whole lot. It is 1950s. It isn’t new Testament (it is your reading of the new Testament, but certainly not mine). And it captures no balance at all. You talk as though this were merely a matter of difference – but it’s not. It’s a matter of power – where one leads and the other follows. it’s a matter of power in the home and power in the church – and it insists that power rests with men. As I have already stated, that is precisely the definition of sexism.
Craig AAugust 31, 2015 at 6:18 pm
This is your blog and I don’t want to take it over, so I likely won’t post further.
But I do protest here: “Power” is not part of the NT equation. I think we agree on that. It’s just that you think “power” is the nature of or is required by “different” or “complementary” or by “leadership”. And I don’t see “power” being the essence. Surely Paul didn’t think of power being the defining problem when he wrote what I summarized and you have labeled sexist and 1950s. It is about loving leadership on the male side and respectful partnering on the female side. How else do you account for the gender prescriptions in Eph. 5? It seems you have made a charge without responding to its basis. If I am reading Eph. 5 wrongly and misrepresenting Paul’s intention, how do you account for the differing commands given according to gender? Are you suggesting that flattening or denying gender distinctions to the point of sameness is a basis for either equality or rich relationships?
One of your commenters here has done a nice job of arguing for an arch, essentially the “need” to extrapolate from what the Scriptures taught in their 1st century context toward a post-biblical ethic (a la Webb). Likely, that is the best and only viable path for egalitarians. (i.e. to essentially conclude: “Don’t trust the words of the NT; rather presume where the words intended to point in the future.” This tact may have merit, but it is not exegesis.) The NT does NOT teach nor model the egalitarianism you profess; nor does it disparage the essence of Eph. 5 regarding role relations as you have. Jesus and NT writers were highly valuing of women in their contexts, as am I. But there were also the role relations described and confirmed, as I’ve posted above. Without conflict. Without demeaning.
You have called Piper’s view sexist, and mine similar, but you have not established (here) why the NT does not share your concern over “power” or why the NT cannot be interpreted to mean what it says and describes (which is the essence of the complementarianism I presented in brief). Maybe you’ve established your basis elsewhere…
Shane CliftonSeptember 1, 2015 at 10:50 am
As you note, Craig, the challenge of a blog is that it doesn’t (and can’t) capture the totality of an argument. In the blog post I reference an article I wrote that explains my view. In terms of the interpretation of the scriptures, that’s an argument that has been thoroughly explored – and anyone interested in both readings of the text can get that information pretty easily, so there’s no need to restate it now. I think, however, that there is solid exegetical reasons for why Ephesians 5 and other texts do teach egalitarianism. I would reference, for example, the writings of Gordon fee on the topic – a scholar much more conservative than myself.
In summary, though, in respect to Ephesians 5, I would argue that the text is no more advocating male headship then it is advocating slavery – both of which are seemingly endorsed in the household code, wives submit to your husbands, slaves obey your masters (Ephesians 5:21 – 6:10). Rather, this passage advocates mutual submission (verse 21), and then takes the givens of the social order (male headship and slavery) and essentially overturns them by reference to the self giving of Christ. This is a thoroughly egalitarian text badly read as supporting permanent male headship.
krwordgazerSeptember 1, 2015 at 12:47 pm
I’m really not sure how you can say one person is unilaterally the leader and the other the follower, in every way in which the two of them relate– and still say there is no power differential. The leader decides what to do. The follower does what the leader tells her. That is simply the meaning of the words, and you can’t take away that meaning just by claiming it doesn’t exist.
The analogy of point guard and center simply doesn’t work here. They are temporary positions, for a specific activity– not all-encompassing roles which they are to follow in every way in which they will ever relate to one another. Also, these positions are intrinsically tied to the player’s skill sets and training– not to an aspect of their being, such as male or female. The analogy would fit better if it went like this: “Only people with blue eyes and blonde hair can ever be team leaders, while all those with dark hair and brown eyes must take all the other positions, for that of team leader is closed to them forever. Furthermore, the team leader is still their leader off the field and outside the locker room. The team leader (who can only be blond and blue-eyed) can at any time assert his leadership over the other players (who CAN NEVER lead because they don’t have the correct color eyes and hair), and God Himself requires that the brown-eyed follow the blue-eyed any time they are in his presence– whether in the cafeteria, the classroom, or a retail store or other business. He leads, they follow. Until one or both of them dies.”
jorymicahSeptember 1, 2015 at 10:33 am
John Piper’s views on women are ABSOLUTELY demonic and anyone who says otherwise is also deceived by Satan. Does this mean Piper is not a godly man? No. Does this mean everything he says is a lie? No. Does this mean we are going to see his head spin? No.
Even Peter in the Bible spoke words that were demonic and Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.”
Piper is using his intellect and influence to oppress female leaders who would be SHARING THE GOSPEL and TEACHING THE BIBLE more! Only Satan would limit these things from happening. Satat is the master at twisting scripture to stop people from coming to know Jesus!
You all who are defending Piper need to WAKE UP or you are being deceived too.
Is Piper our brother in Christ? Yes! Do we love him? Yes. That is why we need to kick his ass on this so he repents and gets in line with what Jesus is doing (haha, I rarely swear online, but dang it, this needs to be said)!
I write about this stuff over at http://www.jorymicah.com. 🙂
potoole77September 1, 2015 at 11:49 am
What struck me about Piper’s words is how much they sound like the Pharisees trying to interpret
the old testament law. “To please God, you can do this, but not that, or when this is true, except here. etc. etc.” There is no way to ever be sure you’re doing the right thing except by following the most repressive, law-limiting guidelines. This is exactly what Jesus came to free us from.
Thankfully, people like yourself and others are taking a stand against this kind of teaching. I firmly believe, deep in my heart, that ending the abuse, oppression and repression of woman world wide is the single best thing we can do to as human being.
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Ann-EliseNovember 25, 2015 at 4:21 pm
It’s amazing to read back over Shane’s blog that I visit all too infrequently and see where people get most engaged in debate. A post about colonoscopys and disability might get a few comments here and there, but something involving the surrender of power and prestige seems to get the heckles up on both sides.
Personally, as I read this article I did not recognise a personal attack on Piper, I read a critique of the way he choices to use his voice on this issue.
So why does the issue of gender and power hit so close to home for so many…
For me, as a woman who was once afraid to speak in church because of a text in the Corinthians (strange how I was allowed to sing but not preach…not to mention the fact that no one ever asked me to cover my head, which was also mandated) this issue affects how I see myself, my role in society, my ability to exercise influence and yes my personal worth. I imagine for men this too becomes an issue of identity, I am man because I… ‘lead’, ‘rule’, ‘am the head’…
The issue influences behaviour on our streets (who can or cannot serve in the police force), in our boardrooms (who is allowed to be CEO, who clears the cups away after the meeting), in churches, in mosques and runs all the way to the bedroom. The question of who gets to ‘be on top’, as it were (pun intended) involves at its most fundamental level power, and like Frodo struggling in the mountain, it seems we all feel the ring is worth fighting for.
When I think of Christ, I think of self-sacrifice, I think of women being raised from the dirt, trembling with fear at the stones which were to come her way, I see the household code of Rome turned on its head with the writing of Ephesians which mandates submission one to the other, not just wives, likewise wives, not just children, likewise children. I see a text written in a time and place that demands change, and has, in its own way led us here. The influence of Christianity on society has seen the slave become the free, and I would argue it has seen the property ‘woman’ become the person ‘woman’.
So, if you must argue for a woman to be silent, supportive, tender, and submissive, I wonder why? As a woman are you afraid of accepting responsibility for your actions, to own your God-given voice and influence to build the Kingdom of God? As a man, do you seek to find your identity in power over others, in being the head, or do you find yourself in Christ?
When I hear people needing to cling to power, rather than lifting up and empowering others as equal, wholly and utterly, I feel the kingdom being served has more to do with Mordor than Christ.
Shane CliftonNovember 25, 2015 at 5:44 pm
lovely to have you poking around my blog. Use the phrase “hit close to home” – which is intriguing. There is a show on ABC TV at the moment – two-part documentary – entitled hitting home, which explores the horrible experiences of women subject to domestic violence. This violence occurs when the need for control becomes violent. Very important topic.
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[…] Now, I actually do like reading Keller, and much of Piper. But she refers to a very real progression of sexist ideas that have infiltrated theologies of Christian marriage. You can catch up on some of this outlined by Dr Shane Clifton here. […]
HeezyJanuary 23, 2017 at 12:33 pm
I agree with you, but I’m just curious… when you say “that’s not what the Bible teaches”, in reference to Piper’s sexist remarks (which he gets from the Bible), are you asserting that the Bible is indeed, not sexist despite its many sexist verses and passages?
Shane CliftonJanuary 28, 2017 at 9:06 am
Actually the Bible is a remarkably liberating book in its time and place. You judge it sexist from the perspective of 21st century, but that judgement is anachronistic.
Shawn StarrFebruary 24, 2017 at 7:35 am
I can’t help but notice you didn’t reference Scripture once.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12 ESV
kllundberg28February 24, 2017 at 6:23 pm
“This is sexism of the worst type. And it’s evil… It’s time to see [Piper] for what he is; not a representative of the body of Christ, but a sexist man trapped in a 1950s worldview that he confuses for biblical truth.”
Dr. Clifton, you are a prominent and respectable theologian. It surprises me to see the claims you make here, which seem frighteningly brash. It’s one thing to disagree with Piper’s theology or to attack his views. But it’s another thing to attack his character. Unless you know him well and know these things to be true, it seems wildly presumptuous and even malicious to make such claims about who he is as a person. Have you corresponded or interacted with him extensively? Do you know that his complementarian views are the product of 1950s culture rather than careful study of God’s Word? Is there something about his teaching that would clearly lead you to that conclusion? Even if there is, to label him a sexist is taking it to another level. By doing so, you’re insinuating that John Piper actually believes (contrary to what he says) that men are intrinsically superior to women on the sole basis of their sex, that women have a rightfully marginalized place in society*, and that he has an agenda to make sure women stay there. Do you really believe that about him? And unless you can make those claims beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s character assassination and it’s crossing the line. Though I don’t agree with Piper’s insinuation that women shouldn’t be police officers, I greatly appreciate his dedication to and faithful teaching of God’s Word. It’s frustrating to see someone — especially another Christian, and one who clearly has significant influence — attack his character with such unwarranted vitriol. I implore you to consider the implications of this post.
*I do believe women are often marginalized in society today, and this is wrong. But I don’t believe the teaching of genuinely biblical complementarianism is the reason for it. Perverted versions of that teaching surely exist, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.