John Piper says so.
(let that sink in for a second)
Certainly no one would argue with the assessment that current church leadership is predominantly male. But Piper is going much further than this by saying that the church not only ought to be led exclusively by men, but that their leadership ought to be thoroughly masculine because God prefers masculinity. Masculinity, as Piper defines it, is best for everyone.
Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary thoughtfully disagrees. Click here to read his excellent response to Piper. (Thanks to James-Michael Smith for bringing this post to my attention.) I am intentionally not trying to replicate his exegetical arguments here because his are very well expressed, but I will add some reflections from two other sources along with my own.
Christians for Biblical Equality put together a chart that shows the disparity between church attendance and church/academic leadership in terms of gender. I'm sharing it here with their permission because I found it fascinating. They are tracking seminary enrollment and membership in the Evangelical Theological Society, rather than pastoral ministry, but the numbers would be comparable. As a female member of ETS with a seminary degree, I can say that this chart fits my own experience.
A few weeks ago I read a very thought-provoking book by Carolyn Custis James, entitled Half the Church. This is one book about women that every man should read, especially those in church leadership. Carolyn calls into question the idea that Christian women, who make up over half the church, ought to sit back and let men do the hard work of leading, ministering, and reaching the world. In light of the global slave trafficking problem, where women and children are the primary victims, can women afford to sit idle and assume that it is up to somebody else to take care of the problem?
Carolyn James would agree with Ben Witherington that the church needs men and women, working alongside each other as leaders, if we want to see the mission of God carried out in the way He intended. Men need our strengths. They need our perspective. They need our help. Together we can fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Remember God's diagnosis for Adam's problem? "It is not good for man to be alone" (Gen 1:18). God solved this problem by creating a woman to stand alongside him to "help" him. This is not a subordinate role, as Carolyn James insists. God is assigning woman alongside man the task of subduing the earth. Most of the other times this word "help" occurs in the Bible it describes God himself as Israel's "helper" (see, for example, Psalm 70:5).
It doesn't sound like Piper welcomes this kind of "help" from women. And that's really too bad. Because while I would certainly not want to exclude masculinity from the church, I am firmly persuaded that men are not more suitably equipped to further the kingdom of God, nor is masculinity somehow spiritually superior. On their own, men will only ever be half the church.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
is Christianity essentially masculine?
Dr. Carmen Imes is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, and serves the broader church through teaching, speaking, and writing. She earned a PhD in Biblical Theology (Old Testament) from Wheaton College under Dr. Daniel Block, an MA in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a BA in Bible and Theology from Multnomah University. She and her husband, Danny, served as missionaries with SIM 15 years. They have three children: Ana, Emma, and Easton.