There have been plenty of contributions from various Pastors, bloggers, ‘tweeps’ and Synods in recent weeks on the subject of Masculinity. Whether it’s Mark Driscoll calling us ‘cowards’ and promoting Jesus as a model of ‘valour, courage and masculinity’, or John Piper telling us that Christianity should be led by ‘masculine ministry’, or even the Church of England General Synod voting to accept women as Bishops. There’s lots being said on both sides of the question, but what’s right?
We would all agree that a move to appoint women as Bishops, Vicars, Priests, Elders, Pastors, whatever you want to call them is a progressive step. It is a step forward in as far as it brings the church in line with the prevailing view of the society that we live in. However, I would argue that it is a step away from how God calls his church to be led and is therefore regressive.
Following on from John Piper’s recent conference on ‘Manhood‘, there has been plenty of talk suggesting that Piper is advocating a ‘Masculine Christianity’, to say that the Christian faith is slanted towards men, a male-bias in God if you like. Now you could make a Biblical case for this if you really want to, but that’s not actually Piper’s point. His point is that Christian ministry should have a masculine feel because it should be led by men.
You can twist this to essentially say that Piper is being sexist or you can take it for what it is… a call for Godly men to take the lead in the home and in the church. A call echoed throughout the Bible, especially in the epistles.
No Complements here
It’s sad that today ‘Complementarian’ is seen as a bit of a dirty word, even among evangelicals. This view of the roles of men and women in the home and particularly in the church is coming under increasing attack from those of an Egalitarian persuasion who cry ‘equality’! Those who take a complementarian view are increasingly regarded as sexist and patriarchal (ie. out of touch), while some even draw comparisons of this position to being racist.
But the Bible knows nothing of equality between the roles of men and women in the home or church, there is always distinction, not one better than the offer but difference. When it comes to Salvation there is nothing but equality, we are co-heirs (1 Peter 3:7), and there is no distinction (Gal 3:27).
Egalitarians are blurring God
One well-known blogger said that “the Holy Spirit is genderless”… not in my Bible (John 16), and also that “Piper’s arguments lacking in trinitarian theology”. The problem as I see it with much egalitarian thought is precisely that, it lacks trinitarian theology.
What if there is ‘discrimination’ in God. What if there is equality in the nature of the persons of the Triune God, but difference in their roles, and subordination between the persons. If that were that case then it would make perfect sense for that to be reflected in God’s creation.
So if you say there is no distinction, no subordination between men and women, then you end up believing that it’s not true of God either… which isn’t great, because the Bible teaches that there is.
I’ve heard sin related two arguments recently concerning male leadership: 1) Male Headship is a construct of a fallen world which the cross reverses and 2) Why should I submit to a sinful person?
Male Headship is pre-fall. We see this in Genesis 2. There is order, man is created first, then woman (v.18). The woman is created from the man (v.22). The man exercises authority over the woman by ‘naming her’ (v.23). It’s also worth noting that two disputed passages on Male Headship (Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2) both directly refer to Genesis 2 rooting the teaching on Male Headship in the context of pre-fall order.
On point 2, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11 both show that Male Headship is a derived authority, we submit to fallen human leaders because they derive authority from Christ. By submitting to human authorities in home, church, government, workplace we are submitting to Christ the perfect one.
Bible over Pragmatism
We get that most people in the church and in society generally are moving to an egalitarian position. We get that it’s not helpful to have comparisons drawn to the church being like the MCC or Apartheid. We get that feminists don’t like us. We get that there’s plenty of frustrated women in the church because they feel their gifts are overlooked… good reasons perhaps for a pragmatist to change their view on the issue.
But we’ve got to let God rule his church through his word, not simply pragmatism that bends to the shape of the culture. I’m afraid I’m yet to be convinced that the Bible is egalitarian when it comes to the roles of men and women in the church and the home… sure in salvation, definitely in being image bearers, and certainly in gifting and godliness, but not in seems in role or position.