Yesterday, we heard John Piper believes that Christianity should have a “masculine feel”. According to the good doctor (yes, he has a PhD.), “God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother”. He goes to point out many other examples of masculine language in the Bible as proof of this idea. And, he’s right, language in the Bible is overwhelmingly masculine. But, my question is does it mean that, because of the way the Bible is written, Christianity is supposed to have a masculine character? Or, could it be that Biblical messages are heavily patriarchal because that was the view of society at the time? I tend to go with the latter explanation; otherwise, Jesus’ message isn’t nearly as inculsive as we thought.
The Gospel relates many encounters between Jesus and women, and in none of them is He dismissive or condescending. He transcended the barriers of established religion and society where women were concerned with His teachings and the esteem and respect He held for women. In first century Palestine, women were barely a step above slaves, with little to no property rights and they could be divorced for the flimsiest reason. If that happened, they could find themselves homeless and destitute. Jesus challenged all that, bringing a message that was radically egalitarian. Rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, slave or master, male or female, everyone was of equal value in Jesus’ eyes. But, because the main characters in Biblical stories are men, Piper would have us believe that it is the natural order for men to be in charge and for women to serve only in a support role. I can’t buy that. Piper’s view of masculinity in the Bible and Christianity requires some mental gymnastics; not the least of which is assuming that if it isn’t written there, it didn’t happen. If that’s true, then Jesus’ father, Joseph, never died because his death isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Yes, I realize that’s an absurd example; but it’s no more absurd than to say female apostles didn’t exist because they’re not mentioned in the text.
Jesus, Paul and the early church were all heavily dependent on woman for their survival. It’s telling that, at the end of Romans, the deacon whom Paul introduces to the believers in Rome is Phoebe, a woman. And, that the list of people he goes to thank is weighted heavily with women. People were attracted to the Gospel because it was a message of hope to those who were being oppressed, downtrodden and pushed aside by the ruling, patriarchal class. And, women were certainly in that group. If that message had been overtly patriarchal, as Jewish society of the time was, it’s doubtful they would’ve been attracted to it in the same manner.
The Christianity that Piper and compatriots espouse is one of radical exclusion. . This attitude is diametrically opposed to the message of Jesus, whose ministry was one of radical inclusion. Piper’s message is “You’re a woman? Then, you’re obviously unfit to lead men; so sit on the sidelines, honey, and cheer us on”. Somehow, I just can’t see those words coming out of Jesus’ mouth.