Time to Man Up, Christians…or ‘Woman’ Up

February 6, 2012

Okay, here’s the deal.

Last week, John Piper invited controversy by saying that God gave Christianity a distinctively male quality.  And if men and women embrace that essential maleness, we’ll all be happier.

After all, Jesus was a man who had twelve male disciples.  All of the Old Testament prophets were men.  Even God Himself is revealed to be a “father.”

If you’re the type who thinks the church is full of effeminate fairy-boy worship leaders, then this may be music to your ears.  On the other hand, it may seem hurtful and hard to accept to women.

And as usual, I’m here in the middle, ready to sort this one out.

Guys, Be Like Your Wives

John Piper is right.  The Bible is full of men.  Can’t get around that.

And Jesus was a man.  So far, pretty masculine religion.

Then Jesus throws a wrench in the system.  He calls all of us his Bride, which is kind of feminine…unless John Piper wants to say that the Bride of Christ is also masculine, which would open a can of worms on that tiny issue of same-sex marriage.

And as a man, being part of a “bride” is hard to accept.  If a Bible full of men is hard to accept for women, any guy who truly tries to follow God is going to have a hard time with this.  It goes against everything we think about ourselves.

I don’t know what being the bride of Christ means.  But I get some clues…from my wife.

Because we say at every Christian wedding that marriage is an illustration of Christ and the church.  The illustration is usually used to show that women are supposed to submit and support their husbands and help them follow their dreams and soar like magical unicorns.

But the illustration means just the opposite to me.  Guys, our wives probably know more about being a bride than we do.  So when I see how my wife loves me, she is actually showing me how I am supposed to love God.  My wife is a much better bride to me than I am to Christ.  It’s by looking toward my wife’s example that I become a real man in Christ.  Who knew that women could actually teach us something, right guys?

What Makes a Man?

Yeah, Jesus was a dude.  His disciples were dudes.

And God revealed himself as Father.  But we also know that God uses human illustrations and non-literal metaphors that we can understand.  Still, when we talk about the infinite, eternal, incomprehensible Spirit of God, we still assume in the back of our minds that He really does have a penis.

He doesn’t.  And Jesus didn’t either before he was born.

The fact is that both men and women are created in the image of God.  We are all incomplete halves of God’s image.  And for my wife to point me toward God, she has to carry God’s essential feminine DNA.  In Christ there is no distinction between male and female.

In fact, if God really was male, then we would have to assume that there was a second female God…a submissive female God that isn’t allowed by her husband to speak (which is why we never hear from her.)  Either that, or God is a hermaphrodite.  Yeah, that’s beyond weird.  Still want to insist that God is male?

I Feel Like a New Man

We never learn in school that our view of what makes a “man” and a “woman” is very new.  The Romans in Jesus’ time had virtually no idea of “male” and “female” when it came to sex.  The line was drawn between “dominate” and “submissive.”  That’s why homosexuality and pedophilia was rampant among men, and women were married almost solely for procreation.  Kind of brings a new perspective to Paul’s words to husbands and wives.

Our ideal of men and women, how they act, what they do, even how we cut our hair, is almost completely cultural and very new.  It doesn’t come from the Bible, or a “male” faith.  It seems to me that Jesus would’ve just as easily been born a woman, if it would be good for his ministry.

What do you think?  Is Christianity a male faith?  Could Jesus come just as easily as a woman (if it had been convenient?)  What do the ladies have to teach us guys about faith?

36 responses to Time to Man Up, Christians…or ‘Woman’ Up

  1. Hi Matt,

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about here… or why.

    In marriage male, female= one flesh. What’s the big deal?

    You’re sure right about most “Christian” things in our society are nothing but cultural preferences.

    By the way, Matt, did you see the cheerleader in my Super Bowl commercial last night? I’ve been writing about her in my last several blog postings. I’ll bet millions and millions of readers will be buying my books this morning.


  2. Matt, thank you for this. You, with your trademark humor, seriously broke down this controversy with wisdom. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. Matt, you’re a heretic. I jest, I jest. If we stop and think back with a little creativity, before Eve Adam was made in God’s image and he had that Eve-ness still inside of him. I think that’s where that one flesh business comes from.

    If we take this line of thinking out then God has no real place for single women in His religious model. Sure they can serve but will they ever reach the level of a man? Are men the only ones that are included in the priesthood of all believers? Women are relegated to a proxy walk along side a man.

    I don’t think so.

  4. All good points, Matt.

    But, once again, I’m left wondering “Why do guys like Piper get so much attention in the first place?”

    I mean, plenty of evangelicals rank on Catholics for paying so much heed to the pope, yet they simultaneously hang on every word uttered by some celebrity pastor halfway across the country.

    And every time I hear about one of these celebrity/megachurch guys getting a case of foot-in-mouth disease, I’m just left wondering–why? Why are we even paying attention?

    I don’t know enough to speak about the Episcopal church as a whole, but gender roles are never such an issue at my own church. Sure, we have a female archbishop, which, as I understand, caused some broohaha–but I’ve never heard my own priest preach a sermon about the “maleness” of the church, or even half the other gender-role malarkey that comes from Piper’s or Driscoll’s mouths.

    This strikes me as more of an evangelical/celebrity pastor demagogue/megachurch issue–and the way to avoid it seems pretty obvious, at least to me.

    • Yes! I was asking myself the same question! Why do these guys get all the attention?

    • Maybe you are right, but I tend to think, as a blogger, and just as a person, that these events present an opportunity to ask questions that we weren’t thinking to ask and come to a deeper understanding of one another.

      • You have a point, of course, but I’m just really doubtful of how much understanding is truly fostered through any of these discussions.

        Perhaps I’ve become too cynical, but in all the blog reading I’ve done the last couple of weeks, I don’t know that I’ve seen a whole lot of “understanding” happen. Maybe it’s happening in a way that I don’t notice.

        I mean, it just seems that it’s this neverending cycle–Pastor Du Jour says something stupid, and you get the same 500+ blog comments that boil down to either “He was wrong because of verse XYZ” or “He was taken out of context and you liberal idiots are ashamed of The Truth”–which are pretty much always spoken by the same people every time. And then the activity dies down for a while until Pastor Du Jour says something stupid again.

        But in the end, what gets accomplished? Pastor Du Jour will still sell millions of books and have an army of followers–leaving him with no reason whatever to reflect upon his actions. And the internet commenters will still fall into either the “he’s right” or “he’s wrong” camp, without any of those people changing sides. Where does it end?

        Myself, the only lesson I’ve taken away the past couple of weeks is the knowledge of which church to steer clear of if I’m ever relocated to Seattle for some reason–but, being someone who is turned off by churches that are run like franchises, that was something I knew already.

        • You make such great points! I’m from the UK so the whole megachurch celebrity pastor phenomenon is one I read about but find difficult to understand. These guys seem to be hero-worshipped- and even if people disagree with them then far too much blog space is taken up with bloggers’ opinion on them or something they have said.

          • Oh yeah, we love a pastor one day, and the next we’re burning at the stake. There is no in between. And it makes it hard for us to admit when someone we usually disagree with says something good, and vice verse. We’ve become a society of hardened battle lines.

  5. I tend to side with the thoughts posted at Experimental Theology on this one. I don’t about being more of a man (which I am) or more of a woman. I care about being more like Christ.

  6. As a Southern Baptist, gender roles are an issue in my church, although I don’t understand why that is still the case. In some ways, yes, the church is too feminine, but in others, it’s too masculine. We have yet to find the balance that I believe God intended. Could Jesus have just as easily come as a woman if it had been convenient? Yes, but when would it ever be convenient? The Gospel was intended for the entire world and there will always be parts of the world that will discredit the testimony of a woman. That was the issue that made it essential that not only Jesus, but his his disciples as well, had to be male. There might have been a time when it would be convenient for some of the 12 disciples to be women (although clearly there were women “disciples” who served in support roles in Christ’s ministry), but I think Christ would have to be male in any part of history.

    Ken is right about how Piper’s words make a single woman feel, but Piper’s really not any better when it comes to married women. The man objectifies women in a way that never ceases to amaze me. But we have a God who doesn’t see women as objects, or property, or a means to an end. We have a God who made us whole, a God who calls us, a God who equips us, and a God who loves us.

    • I think it’s important to remember how many important women there were in the NT church. They definitely had a major role and were no man’s property!

      • Absolutely. Piper dismisses those women, but they played a crucial role, including providing financial support for Christ’s ministry. They were the ones who stayed at the Cross while 10 of the 12 were in hiding and they were the first to proclaim that Christ had risen.

  7. Thank you. Reading this made my day, and it’s still early.

    Regarding Piper, et.al., I’ve learned that, just like the rest of us, some of what well-known pastors say is gold, and some is dross. It’s up to us to discern which is which, and learn from the good stuff.

  8. Why is it that everything that is without gender, needs to have gender? Let’s start with blue and pink…

    I also want to know why we can’t embrace maleness and femaleness? It appears that since the time of Adam and Eve (who was created from Adam), the God enjoyed and embraced both sexes.

    When you can tell me that, then you can tell me why we want to blur the lines of gender so that nobody is anything, and everybody is whatever they want to be.

    What can I learn from my wife? Exactly how the Holy Spirit communicates with us on a day-to-day basis. There is a sense of wisdom, nurturing, communication and tenderness that my wife brings to the table. This male was never like that, and would be deficient without out those qualities. What is cooler than that? I get to yell at the TV during the Bruins game, and she laughs. Then she comes in to watch the replay of the fights.

  9. I don’t think Christianity is a male faith.

    It just looks like it because men are too proud and arrogant and don’t want to humble themselves, and sit there butt down sometimes, and realize that the bible says “there is neither male nor female”. In other words, men aren’t the only ones who are allowed to preach the gospel. And even in the Message version of Galatians 3: 28, it says “You are all equal”.

    It’s sad to think that being a Christian is this good ol’ boys club, where you can’t go any further, as a woman. Like a glass ceiling.

    Yeah, Jesus had 12 male disciples, but there was Mary, who met the angel at the tomb where Jesus was thought to be buried. She told everybody what she saw, wouldn’t that be called evangelism?

  10. Too many of these “God’s a REAL man” sort of preachers — and I apologize if that’s overstating Piper’s message, which I have only read second hand via blogs like yours — deep in their hearts don’t want to admit that most women are stronger or “tougher” than most guys.

    At least that’s my opinion on part of the problems that lead to such silliness over Christianity’s male or female nature. Guys just don’t like to think of women not being the “weaker sex” as our 20th-21st (or 18th-19th??) century stereotypes demand. Always wondered when some big tough guy would explain to me what they’ve done that’s tougher than childbirth??

    Seriously loved this post, Matt. Crucial that we remind ourselves frequently that there’s no male or female in Christ, and that we men and women ALL make up the bride of Christ.

    Thanks for the great post.


  11. I have a hard time with this issue, which is why I conveniently ignore it at every possible opportunity. Still, you bring up a good point. The best point of your post, in my opinion, is the idea that Jesus would have been born a woman if it would have worked best for him to do so. Reminds me of a Star Trek Next Gen in Season 1 when they visited a planet that had a female superiority. In that world, Jesus would have indeed been a woman. The point is that he was probably born a man because men were supreme (in culture) then.

  12. Before commenting, I read an article that included more of what John Piper said in his speech. This is simply talking about the fact that God has given men a leadership position in the family and in the church. What he says later to fully explain his “Masculine feel” is: “When I say masculine Christianity or masculine ministry or Christianity with a masculine feel, here’s what I mean: Theology and church and mission are marked by an overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community. All of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus.” He gives evidence by the fact that God made men priests and leaders, not women (except for Deborah and Lydia) and the fact that the twelve apostles were men, not women and the fact that Christ became a man, not a “pre-female” or hermaphrodite or eunuch.

    This is old news. This idea of men being the leaders is in the Bible in both the Old and New Testament and in both sections there are exceptions to the rule. I also don’t think Pastor Piper is saying that God chose men because they are inherently better than women or that women don’t have a role to play in their churches or families. Maybe God had a “leadership coin toss” and Eve lost and that is why He appointed men to be leaders.

    And this is where Abby is totally right–you either are in the “male-leadership only” camp or you are in the “women-can-be-leaders-too” camp. The question is, is this a disputable matter or is our salvation dependent on which camp we chose to set up our tent? Should we continue to beat this dead horse and each other with it when we have more important work to do, like argue about free-will vs. predestination or whether dinosaurs were on the ark or died in the flood? Oh my. I think I just started ranting. My bad. I look forward to your next blog, Matt :-).

  13. God is no respector of our lineage…our gender…our seriousness about Himself.

    The power of God (Romans 1:16) to create faith is in the hearing and receiving of His Word. That Word can be delivered by someone who is wearing pants, or a skirt. A woman, or a man.

    Piper is caught in biblicism. He’s not alone, sorry to say. A great many in the church, are.

  14. “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.” Galatians 3:28

    Pride is our biggest problem and typically we males are the biggest offenders of Christ in our lack of humility.

    God came down because He so loved.

    We are to keep His commands because we love Him, because He first loved us.

    You can tell when a man of God gets this message, because God’s love through Christ is all he wants to talk about….
    and that’s what we all really want to know.

    Thanks for being bold for Christ.

  15. How does 1 corinthians 15:45 fit into the proposed idea that Jesus could have been female???

    • I’m not sure what you’re driving at with that Corinthians verse. I’m my mind, Jesus was resurrected, and was still male, after all, he could was somewhat recognizable. I’m inclined to believe that he still inhabits that same resurrection body. It’s my opinion that before the incarnation, Jesus was the Word, just as eternal and equal with the Father, but without any human likeness, including being male. It seems to me that God specifically chose the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, including his gender for His purposes, and in some other non-existent circumstances, could’ve chosen to be incarnate as a female. I don’t make a big deal out of that with people, that’s just me quietly trying to sort that out, but I’m open to any evidence to the contrary as I dont have a lot of evidence to support this idea.

  16. I wish i had more time to think thru this on here, but basically it seems to me that scripture makes it pretty clear that Adam was made responsible for the fall. He was the Head so to speak. Romans 5 is another place that makes the Adam/Christ comparison. Some dudes refer to this as Federal Headship.

    Seems that Jesus had to be male. Paul doesn’t compare Jesus and Eve in Romans 5.

    Though I think catholics have Mary as the new Eve?? Your catholic friends here can correct or expand on that.

    • I see what you mean, and I have often found it ironic that many Christians of the past thought that women and Eve were responsible for deceiving and tempting men when Paul places the blame squarely on Adam. I have not considered that Jesus would have to be male because of this, but it is possible. I have seen Mary elevated to practically co-redeemer, and have heard Catholics complain of this.

  17. Thanks, Matt, for posting this post because without it I would have not heard about that interesting sermon from Piper.

    But you confused some things:

    1. “He calls all of us his Bride, which is kind of feminine […] And as a man, being part of a “bride” is hard to accept.”
    -> Jesus named the church as whole his bride and says that he will make her clean. Yes he washed every single believer with his blood – but does cleaness mean that you are feminine?

    You pointed out that principle later yourself: “And God revealed himself as Father. But we also know that God uses human illustrations and non-literal metaphors that we can understand.”

    2. “The fact is that both men and women are created in the image of God. We are all incomplete halves of God’s image.”
    -> Adam was created in the image of GOD. Eve was created out of Adam. But that doesn’t mean that they together are GOD.

    3. “Could Jesus come just as easily as a woman (if it had been convenient?)”
    -> Yes, Jesus could have done that. But he didn’t! He changed a lot of things. There is nothing in the Bible that gives a hint that Jesus not came as woman because he doesn’t had the power to break cultural barriers.

  18. When it becomes Jessica the Daughter of God, then I’ll stop being a son. Until then it is Jesus the Son of God, calling us to walk as sons through the adoption of the Holy Spirit in Salvation. Men want to be like The Son, and women should as well. So this means becoming as a son. Simple.

    Not gender specific, but spiritual sonship.
    Donald Borsch Jr recently posted..Post #7: Yeah, see, um, that whole “Holiness of God” thing just doesn’t work for me…