Archives For John Piper

First, a helpful guide to persecution this holiday shopping season, from Rachel Held Evans:
Are you being persecuted?

I thought this was a really good perspective on the whole “fighting for a place at the table” issue, by Trischa Goodwin:

I’m not going to spend my days trying to get the attention of someone who ignores me when I extend my hand.  I will let people exclude me, because I know I cannot make someone see me if they refuse to look or hear me if they refuse to listen.

I also hate to be in a place where I am welcome, but others are not.  Even at a table where everyone is allowed a seat, if some of those seats are offered grudgingly, with averted eyes or conditions or shying away, I don’t want to sit at that table.

Most deserving of a “been there” solidarity fist bump, from Samantha:

It’s a frustrating feeling, knowing that you’re not actually being listened to, but that the person you’re talking to is sitting on the edge of their seat just waiting for you to stop talking so they can stab your argument with a brilliant sound bite about what the Bible clearly says.

Favorite N.T. Wright quote of the week (he spoke in Grand Rapids on Wednesday):

The biblical narrative calls us to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

(Wright was commenting on Jesus’ statement to the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” in John 21. It’s the practical flip side to Wright’s big-picture view of the Bible as the story of Israel, brought to fulfillment in the story of Jesus.)

Second favorite N.T. Wright quote of the week:

Your theory of the atonement is always a function of your view of evil.

(During the Q&A, someone asked Wright what his view of atonement was. Wright’s point was that if you start by assuming the world is totally depraved and that evil is primarily a legal/transactional issue, then of course you’re going to gravitate toward penal substitution as your primary way of looking at atonement. If, on the other hand, you see the world as captive to sin and evil and in need of rescue, as Wright does, then you might take another approach to the atonement, without necessarily denying other facets.)

Currently reading (review coming soon):

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My most read post:
John Piper’s mythical research debunking orientation

Favorite tweet (in response to my post on Piper):

fakepipertweet

Finally… some long overdue (but no less welcome) news:
The Church of England votes overwhelmingly for women bishops (The Telegraph)

Piper tweet

The other day John Piper took to Twitter to claim that sexual orientation is little more than a social construct. The fact that Piper thinks so is isn’t surprising in itself, but he also said there is “vast research” proving that sexual orientation (or perceived orientation, as he called it) changes all the time.

Usually, when someone invokes “vast research” or “overwhelming evidence” to make their case, it comes across as a discussion-ender. In this case, it also had the effect of implying that a conspiracy was at work. Such evidence debunking sexual orientation, if it exists, would be paradigm shifting. Why is no one talking about it, unless there’s an effort to cover it up?

Well, maybe it’s because the research doesn’t say what Piper thinks it does.

The link Piper tweeted was a blog post which claimed that a 2007 Centers for Disease Control survey had found that the “vast majority” of fully gay 16 year-olds had become fully heterosexual — that is, reporting “only opposite-sex attraction” — one year later.

There it is: an official government study proving that most gay teenagers change their orientation — not just a little, but by a lot. In which case, if you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that any of us know someone who’s gay.

The problem is, the CDC never did any such study. However, the University of North Carolina did, and its findings were cited in the self-published book My Genes Made Me Do It: A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation, which claims that 98% of gay students eventually move toward heterosexuality.

But as it turns out, that’s not quite what the UNC study found.

Researchers asked teenagers to rate their sexual identity on a 5-point scale: fully gay, mostly gay, bisexual, mostly straight, and fully straight. Only around 1 in 10 teenagers reported a change in their sexual orientation one year later — and most of these had moved toward same-sex attraction, not away from it.

In addition, most students who reported a change did so by only one point on the identity scale — for example, moving from “fully straight” to “mostly straight.” Just 0.4% of students moved two or more points away from same-sex attraction — for example, from “mostly gay” to “mostly straight.”

In other words, that claim made in the blog Piper shared — that “the vast majority” of 16 year-olds who identified as fully gay were fully straight one year later? It’s misleading.

No one disputes that there’s some degree of fluidity when it comes to sexual orientation, especially for those somewhere in the middle of the continuum, somewhere between fully straight and fully gay. There are peer-reviewed studies that suggest women and bisexuals are somewhat more likely to report some kind of change in their sexual identity over time. On the other hand, 90% of gay men in one peer-reviewed study reported no change in their sexual identity over a 10-year period.

Perhaps what it boils down to is that sexuality, like almost everything else about us humans, is intricate and complicated — especially when it comes to teenagers, whose hormones are just starting to kick in. How much of what’s perceived as fluidity of sexual orientation is really just confusion about their identity? How much is driven by the fear of acknowledging their orientation because of the stigma they could face from their peers and family? How much of it is just kids trying to figure themselves out as they careen toward adulthood?

Whatever you believe about homosexuality and the Bible or the moral legitimacy of same-sex relationships, there’s no use pretending sexual orientation isn’t real. Not when people have been ostracized and stigmatized for their identity — yet it remains part of who they are. Not when people have survived parents who literally tried to “beat the gay out of their children.”

Sexual orientation isn’t always simple. And whatever yours may be — gay, straight, or somewhere in between — it is not the sum total of who you are as a human being made in God’s image. There is more to you than who you’re wired to be attracted to. But sexual orientation is a reality of human existence. And we should accept that.

This is not just an academic discussion. Because research has also shown that those who experience stability in their sexual orientation — gay or straight — are more likely to enjoy good mental health. The more comfortable a teenager is in her identity, the better off she’ll be. On the other hand, the more a teenager’s sexual orientation is stigmatized by peers and family, the more likely he is to question himself, experiencing confusion and poorer mental health.

Whatever your beliefs may be, we can’t afford to trivialize or dismiss sexual orientation. Not if we care about our kids’ well being.

Which is why I hope John Piper will take another look at the research.

This is an updated version of a post I wrote last year, as the Waldo Canyon fire burned in Colorado Springs. This week another fire raged, this time in Black Forest, on the northeast corner of the city.

Around 380 homes have been destroyed so far. At least one friend had to evacuate. Another lives in the middle of the burn zone. No word yet on his house, but several homes near his were destroyed. 

Events like this are a sobering reminder of what to say — and what not to say — when those around us suffer loss. 

damaged homes

—//—

Yesterday, photos of smoke, ash, and devastation began to fill my Facebook feed.

I have a lot of friends in Colorado Springs.

I heard from one who spent the evening watching ash descend on his house and praying it wouldn’t light. Another spent the morning watering her roof.

Then came the updates from those forced to evacuate — who don’t yet know whether their homes are still there.

As Christians, all we can say is Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.

But sadly, not everyone stops there when disaster strikes.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, John Hagee declared it to be God’s judgment on gays and lesbians.

When an earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Pat Robertson blamed more than 300,000 deaths on a pact supposedly made between their ancestors and the devil centuries ago.

When a tornado threatened Minneapolis as the left-leaning ELCA gathered for its convention in 2009, John Piper speculated that the near-miss was God’s “gentle but firm warning” to repent.

But this time, it’s Colorado Springs. The home of Focus on the Family, Compassion International, The Navigators, and a hundred other evangelical, mostly conservative ministries. This is the veritable Jerusalem of the Rockies, with not one but three Christian radio stations.

So who’s going to stand up and explain this disaster for us? Who’s going to claim the prophet’s mantle, the inside track into the mind of God? Who’s going to tell us why he allowed and/or inflicted this disaster on Colorado Springs — and who he’s angry at this time?

Since Colorado Springs is a bastion of conservative evangelicalism, should we interpret the fire as God’s judgment on the religious right?

Of course not.

You see, whether or not God is meticulously sovereign — whether he just allows bad things to happen or determines each and every one of them — it takes takes a colossal amount of hubris for anyone to point a finger at someone else and say, “God brought this disaster on YOU.”

God may have used calamity to judge people in the past, but you and I are utterly without authority to say which disasters (if any) are divine judgments today.

—//—

“But unless you repent, you will all perish.”

In 2009, a tornado hit Minneapolis, just as ELCA leaders gathered to debate (among other things) their position on homosexuality. Within hours, John Piper took to his blog and quoted Luke 13:1-5 as proof the cyclone was God’s judgment against the Lutheran denomination.

The text in question reads:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

PIper assumed the tornado was divine retribution, in keeping with his belief that every disaster, natural or manmade, represents the judgment of a perpetually angry God.

But take a closer look at Luke 13.

Jesus learned that a number of Galileans — his people — had been slaughtered in the temple, on the orders of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Galilee at the time was a tinderbox of resentment against Roman occupation. (See this post for more about the political climate of first-century Galilee.) It’s likely these Galileans were killed in retaliation for some challenge to Pilate’s authority. Whether they were instigators or just “collateral damage” is unclear.

Whatever the case, the Galileans had long desired to be rid of their Roman oppressors. All they needed was a messiah who would rise up and lead them to a blood-soaked victory.

But when Jesus heard about these martyrs for the cause, he didn’t mince words. He told his listeners, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

This was not a sweeping call to repentance, lest some disaster overtake you. It was a warning to Jesus’ listeners: “Abandon your plans for armed revolt. Unless you repent of this futile uprising, the entire nation will perish.”

Which is exactly what happened in A.D. 70, when the temple was razed and Jerusalem destroyed.

Again, it was not a natural disaster Jesus was talking about in Luke 13. It wasn’t even divine judgment. It was manmade and self-inflicted.

The Bible gives no support to those who interpret every act of human suffering as divine judgment. Just the opposite. There’s one story where three individuals, too smart for their own good, are rebuked for doing what Piper, Hagee, and Robertson have done in our day.

When disaster strikes, we have but one response — whether the victims are our friends, strangers, or even our enemies. We are told simply to “mourn with those who mourn.”

So as Colorado burns, we put our hands over our mouths and say,

Kyrie eleison. 

The Gazette, Christian Murdock

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When news broke that Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, had taken his own life, it wasn’t long before the outpouring of support gave way to a more repugnant sentiment.

People taking to social media to mock Warren’s faith . . .

To declare his family’s heartbreaking loss to be some sort of payback for his theology or his politics . . .

To speculate on his son’s eternal destiny.

Paraphrasing John Armstong’s timely response to these attacks, the words pathetic and cruel come to mind.

I don’t claim to be a huge Rick Warren fan. I don’t go in for his style of church. Theologically and politically, he and I are probably worlds apart. And I could never quite get into the whole “purpose-driven” thing — even though I was employed by his publisher during the heyday of his mega-bestselling book (and therefore indirectly benefited from it). And yes, I did read it.

So it would be pretty easy for me to congratulate myself for not jumping on the bandwagon of judgment being directed at Warren by a few trolls on the internet.

Except . . .

Despite our differences, I like Rick Warren. He comes across as a nice enough guy. I kinda sorta met him once, and he seemed every bit as warm and approachable in person as he does on TV.

And you have to admit: even if you don’t share all of his politics or theology, Rick Warren is a way better ambassador for evangelicalism than some of the other current and former contenders. His PEACE Plan is something to be admired — even if you disagree with some of the particulars (or just don’t share Warren’s penchant for acronyms).

In other words, it’s easy for me to sympathize with someone like Rick Warren.

So what if it was someone I didn’t just disagree with — what if it was someone I actively disliked?

What if it was John Piper, who doesn’t merely express what I think is some rather sadistic theology, but seems to delight in doing so?

What if it was Mark Driscoll, whose misogynistic rants have wounded more than a few of my friends?

What if it was James Dobson, whose unholy mix of Christianity and right-wing politics has arguably done more than anything else to drive people away from faith?

If any of these three suffered a comparable loss, would I grieve for them? Would I feel sorry? Or would I feel smug?

I have to be honest. The answer scares me a little.

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul encouraged believers to “mourn with those who mourn.”

I’d like to tell myself that Paul is asking Christians to mourn with other Christians, and that Piper/Driscoll/Dobson [add your nemesis of choice here] hardly qualify as good models of what a Christian ought to be . . . therefore we are exempt from mourning when they stumble or suffer loss.

It’s OK to be smug when people like THAT suffer.

Except that it’s not.

You see, Paul wasn’t just talking about how we treat other Christians, those who think exactly like we do, or those we find it easy to like. Just one sentence earlier, Paul also said, “Bless those who persecute you,” which would seem to rule out a narrow interpretation of who he means by “those.”

Bless those…

Rejoice with those…

Mourn with those…

“Those.” As in everyone.

We bless, we rejoice, and we mourn with any and all, because we believe that no one is beyond redemption. We believe that no one is beyond God’s love. A relatively new friend of mine, Trystan Owain Hughes, has a timely (and challenging) piece about this very thing.

It’s not easy to mourn with those we dislike. But perhaps the true test of our willingness to follow Jesus is not our ability to grieve at the suffering of our friends, but at that of our enemies.

So today, I will grieve with Rick Warren. But I’ll be honest and admit that it’s easy for me to do so. It’s easy to grieve with those whom I like. So I will also pray for the strength to grieve with my enemies when they stumble or suffer loss.

So here’s something we learned last week…

Neo-Reformed theologian and self-described “paleo-Confederate” Doug Wilson thinks slavery was basically all right.

In fact, he wrote a whole booklet about it, Southern Slavery As It Was, in which he erroneously claims:

  • That most enslaved blacks were happier and better off than most free blacks and even many urban whites.
  • That Southern slavery created a veritable multiracial utopia. Quoting Wilson: “Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that… has never existed in any nation before the [Civil War] or since.”
  • That slavery is biblical and abolitionism nothing less than “rebellion against God.” Again, quoting Wilson: “The New Testament opposes anything like the abolitionism of our country prior to the War Between the States.” (“War Between the States” is how neo-Confederates refer to the Civil War.)

Conveniently, Wilson relies almost entirely on pro-Confederate, pro-slavery revisionists like 19th-century theologian R.L. Dabney to lend a veneer of credibility to his questionable history.

But Wilson has already been vetted and debunked by properly qualified historians. (See, for example, Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t.) So enough about his historical malfeasance. For those interested, Anthony Bradley and The Wartburg Watch have done an excellent job shining a light on the real Doug Wilson — bravely so, considering Wilson’s history of going after anyone who dares to criticize him.

Wilson’s views, abhorrent as they are, aren’t what I’m wondering about. What I want to know is this:

Why does the neo-Reformed community embrace Doug Wilson as one of their own? Why are they giving this guy a platform? Jared Wilson is hardly the first neo-Reformed blogger to get mixed up with the other Wilson. The Gospel Coalition features several articles and resources from Doug Wilson. He is a recurring speaker at John Piper’s Desiring God conferences. The only person with more stage time at the 2012 conference was Piper himself. And when Piper invited Wilson to speak at the 2009 conference, he introduced Doug Wilson with this video:

“Doug gets the gospel right,” Piper said. Namely, because Wilson affirms “substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone.”

Never mind that Doug Wilson tries to justify slavery, directly contravening Jesus’ inaugural sermon in which he announced that he had come to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and to “set the oppressed free.”

Is this what it’s come to? Is it really OK for Doug Wilson to get Jesus categorically wrong, so long as he ticks John Piper’s “substitutionary atonement” box? Is it really OK that he defends the oppression of an entire race, so long as he whispers “sola fide” in John Piper’s ears?

I think it’s unlikely that most members of the Gospel Coalition share Doug Wilson’s thinking on slavery. (At least I hope they don’t.) So why are they giving him a free pass? Maybe they weren’t aware of his views before, but they sure as heck are now.

What does it say about their priorities that they have refused to denounce Wilson for his reprehensible views? What does it say if they’re more comfortable associating with someone who rationalizes slavery but adores Calvin than someone who may not be a Calvinist in good standing but has the good sense to admit slavery was and is a horrendous evil?

Colorado burning

27 June 2012 — 2 Comments

Yesterday, photos of smoke, ash, and devastation began to fill my Facebook feed.

I have a lot of friends in Colorado Springs.

I heard from one who spent the evening watching the ash descend on his house and praying it wouldn’t light. Another spent the morning watering her roof.

Then came the updates from those forced to evacuate — who don’t yet know whether their homes are still there.

As Christians, the best thing we can say (if we say anything at all) is Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.

Sadly, if the fires had struck any other city, some religious leaders might be tempted to say more.

If this were New Orleans, for example, someone might declare the fire God’s judgment on homosexuals, as John Hagee did when Hurricane Katrina struck.

If this were Port-au-Prince, someone might attribute the victims’ misfortune to a pact their ancestors supposedly made with the devil. That was how Pat Robertson explained the 2010 earthquake that killed over 300,000 in Haiti.

If this were Minneapolis, and there was a gathering of liberal Lutherans in town, someone might proclaim the 15,000-acre conflagration as “God’s gentle but firm warning” to repent, much as John Piper did when a tornado briefly disrupted the ELCA’s national convention taking place in his hometown.

But this is Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family, Compassion International, The Navigators, and a hundred other evangelical ministries. This is the veritable Jerusalem of the Rockies, with THREE Christian radio stations.

So who’s going to stand up and condemn it? Who’s going to claim insight into the divine counsel and tell us why God allowed and/or caused this disaster — and precisely who he’s mad at this time?

Is it Focus on the Family? Has God grown weary of their conflict with those whose values don’t line up with theirs? Is he mad at the entire state of Colorado for voting to ban gay marriage in 2006 — an effort spearheaded by Ted Haggard, a once-prominent Colorado Springs pastor?

Should progressive Christians take this opportunity to do some pontificating of their own?

The answer is, of course, no.

You see, even if you believe God is meticulously sovereign — that he not only allows bad things to happen but determines each and every one of them, it takes a colossal amount of hubris to point the finger at someone else and say, “God brought this disaster to judge YOU.”

Even if you believe God has used calamity to judge people in the past, that doesn’t mean you or I have the authority to say which disasters (if any) are divine judgments today.

“But unless you repent, you will all perish.”

When the tornado hit Minneapolis during the ELCA’s convention in 2009, John Piper took to his blog and quoted Luke 13:1-5 as proof the cyclone represented God’s judgment against the gathering of liberal Lutherans, among others.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

On the basis of this and a few other texts, Piper believes every disaster, natural or manmade, is the judgment of an angry God.

But let’s take a closer look at Luke 13.

Jesus learns that some Galileans were slaughtered in the temple by order of the Roman governor. Galilee and the surrounding area was a tinderbox of Jewish resentment against Roman occupation. (See this post for more about the political climate of first-century Galilee.) It’s more than likely these Galileans were killed in retaliation for some challenge to Pilate’s authority — whether they were the instigators or just “collateral damage.”

Many Jews of Jesus’ day longed to thumb their noses at their Roman oppressors. All they needed was a messiah who would rise up and lead them to a blood-soaked victory.

But when Jesus hears about these martyrs for the cause, he doesn’t mince words. He tells his listeners, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

This is not a general call to repent of just any sin, lest some disaster overtake you. Jesus is warning his listeners to abandon their plans for armed revolt. “Unless you repent of this futile effort to retaliate against your enemies,” he tells his compatriots, “the entire nation will perish.”

Indeed, Jesus’ prediction came true when the temple was razed and Jerusalem destroyed in A.D. 70.

Again, it was not a natural disaster he was talking about in Luke 13. It wasn’t even divine judgment. It was manmade and self-inflicted.

The Bible gives no encouragement to those who interpret every act of human suffering as divine judgment. There’s even one story where three individuals, too smart for their own good, are condemned for doing so.

Rather, we are told simply to “mourn with those who mourn.”

So as Colorado burns, we put our hands over our mouths and say,

Kyrie eleison. 

_______________________

Related posts:

Some complementarians want to frame the gender debate as a battle for the Bible, the gospel, and the very soul of the church. Some have even implied that their side is the only one that takes scriptural authority seriously.

Exhibit A, Thomas White, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

If we lose the battle over the gender debate, we lose the proper interpretation of God’s Word, we lose inerrancy, we lose the authority of the Bible itself.

Exhibit B, Wayne Grudem:

I believe that ultimately the effective authority of Scripture to govern our lives is at stake in this controversy.

And exhibit C, John Piper:

As soon as you ask what are the implications of not following through with what Ephesians 5 seems to say or what 1 Timothy 2 seems to say… sooner or later you are going to get the gospel wrong.

Complementarians revel in their embrace of the so-called “difficult doctrines” or less palatable parts of Scripture. According to Wayne Grudem, egalitarians “pick and choose” what they like and don’t like in the Bible. Complementarians, on the other hand, faithfully adhere to “every word.”

But it’s not even close to being true. 

How many complementarians, for example, support reinstating the biblical test for an unfaithful wife? Women suspected of adultery were forced to drink a vile cocktail of water, dust, and ink — which, according to Numbers 5, would cause them to miscarry if they’d been having an affair. (That’s not very “pro-life,” is it?) ANY woman could be subjected to this indignity, even if the only basis for suspicion was her husband’s paranoia. And by the way, she had no similar recourse if she suspected her husband of infidelity.

Yes, it’s part of the Old Testament. But remember, Dr. Grudem said “every word.”

How about Leviticus 27:1-8, which assigns a monetary value to men and women? Males ages 20-60 were valued at 50 shekels of silver. Women the same age were worth only 30 shekels. How do we square this with the belief that women and men are “equal before God,” something modern-day complementarians strongly affirm?

What about Paul ordering women to cover their heads during worship? Complementarians frequently refer to Paul’s teaching about headship in 1 Corinthians 11, yet they mostly ignore the part about head coverings (which was the whole reason for Paul’s comments about headship in the first place).

Or what about the apostle Peter who, after advising slaves to essentially take a beating for the Lord, told wives to obey their husbands “in the same way”? I don’t know of any mainstream complementarian who argues that Christian wives should stay in abusive relationships for the sake of their unbelieving husbands.

So how is it that complementarians follow “every word” of Scripture while only egalitarians “pick and choose”?

Next up: complementarianism’s appeal to church history…

It seems #mutuality2012 has caught John Piper’s attention. Piper is one of the elder statesmen of the complementarian perspective, which teaches that women must unilaterally submit to the authority of men in both the home and the church.

Today, Piper tweeted the following:

At issue are the “household codes” in the New Testament (Colossians 3:18-25; Ephesians 5:21 – 6:9; 1 Peter 2:18 – 3:7), which address the relationship between husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters.

Complementarians often cite these household codes when arguing that God wants women everywhere to submit unilaterally to their husbands. Egalitarians like me point out that if you’re going to argue this way, consistency demands you interpret the slave/master passages the same way.

Not so fast, says Piper. The article he tweeted, “Is a Wife’s Submission Culturally Outdated?” by Tony Reinke from Desiring God Ministries, argues that Paul treated marriage and slavery differently. Therefore, even though both appear in the same set of household codes, one is forever binding and the other is not. Wives’ submission to their husbands is rooted in “the theological fibers of creation or eschatological expectation.” In other words, the instructions concerning husbands and wives “have theological strings attached to them that slavery does not.”

I’d like to suggest three problems with this argument.

1. None of the household codes say anything about creation.

Paul does appeal to creation elsewhere — for example, when giving some ground rules for women prophesying in church (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). But unless Piper & co. are prepared to tell women to start wearing head coverings to church, they may not want to hang their hats on this argument.

2. Paul roots slaves’ obedience in something much bigger than creation.

It’s true that Paul doesn’t base his instructions to slaves on anything in creation or eschatology. Instead, he roots it in obedience to Christ:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ… (Ephesians 6:5-6, NIV)

In other words, pretty much the same way the wife’s obligations to her husband are rooted in obedience to Christ.

3. Four words: “In the same way.”

The apostle Peter also included a set of household codes in his first letter. After instructing slaves to obey even when their masters abused them, he turned his attention to wives:

            Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands… (1 Peter 3:1)

Peter makes no distinction between a slave’s obedience and a wife’s. Married women are to submit in the same way (Gk. homoyoce) that slaves do.

In short, Piper is pressing an artificial distinction. Both commands are rooted in theology. Both are connected to obedience to Christ.

Both were also products of their culture. Household codes were hardly unique to Paul or Peter. (Rachel Held Evans has a good overview, if you’d like to read more about them.)

I am the pater familias!

Similar codes are found in ancient letters from Philo and Josephus. The household codes were considered essential to the preservation of Roman society, at the center of which stood the pater familias or head of the family. Any new movement or sect thought to undermine the authority of the pater familias (and with it the stability of the whole Roman system) would have drawn unwelcome attention.

Paul did not throw away the Roman household codes; to do so would have been suicide for himself and the early church. But he did seek to reform them by urging the pater familias to show a measure of kindness, restraint, and respect not typically expected of him.

Paul did not liberate the weaker parties (slaves and women) from their culturally-bound obligations. Rather, he offered them a way to work within these obligations — turning them in an opportunity to imitate Christ’s suffering and thus redeeming an unjust situation.

So when it comes to the New Testament’s instructions for women and slaves, I don’t think Piper and Reinke have made their case. You can’t say one is a product of its culture and the other is a timeless command. They are either both one or the other. We can’t have it both ways.

“Let’s say you’re offered a job in another state. You want to take it, but your wife doesn’t want to move. What do you do?”

Crap, I thought.

Ten years ago, my soon-to-be wife and I were sitting with the pastor who would marry us — assuming, that is, we passed the test otherwise known as premarital counseling.

On the whole, counseling was a good thing. I highly recommend it for anyone thinking about taking the plunge.

Our experience, for the most part, consisted of the usual: personality tests, role-playing (not THAT kind), and reading a few marriage guidance books.

Then our pastor dropped this little bombshell-of-a-question into our laps. It wasn’t simply a prompt to talk through styles of conflict resolution. It was a test to see whether I would embrace my God-given masculine authority and take charge of my wife.

“Um…” I said, followed by a nervous pause. “We would talk about it, you know, to see if we could get on the same page.”

Apparently that wasn’t good enough.

“What if you talk about it, and you still can’t agree?” the pastor asked.

Me: “We would… talk about it some more?”

“Let’s say you’ve discussed everything there is to talk about, and you STILL can’t agree. Then what?”

Finally he laid his cards on the table. “As the man, it’s your God-given responsibility to make the final decision. And it’s your wife’s job to go along with it, even if she doesn’t agree. So… what would you do?”

I knew I couldn’t say what the pastor wanted me to say. But our wedding was just a few months away. I wasn’t sure I was ready for a theological argument with the man who was supposed to preside over the ceremony.

So I said, “As a man, I would use my God-given authority to decide not to decide until we could agree.”

He wasn’t expecting that. He paused for a minute, then said, “Well, you COULD do that. But you don’t have to.”

Only a year before, I would have agreed with our pastor about my “God-given responsibility.” I would have agreed it was my job as the husband to make the final decisions, and that it was my wife’s job to respectfully submit to my authority.

(I was quite a catch.)

I had no room in my theology for things like mutual submission, female pastors, or other harbingers of feminism.

The gender roles debate isn’t going away anytime soon (at least not for evangelicals). John Piper’s recent comments about Christianity being a masculine religion and Rachel Held Evans’ response (which prompted over 150 male bloggers, including myself, to speak out) have put a spotlight on the issue once more.

Scanning the list of speaking topics at the recent Desiring God Pastor’s Conference, which was attended by several thousand pastors, you get the impression that some complementarians (those who advocate for the authority of men in the home and the church) have a one-track mind:

  • Masculinity Is the Glad Assumption of Responsibility
  • Departing from Masculinity: Two Ditches to Avoid
  • What Does It Mean to Be at Man?
  • Discipling Men in the Local Church
  • A Culture of Hope for the Men of the Church
  • Why Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Matters
  • How Manhood and Womanhood Are Different
  • The Difference Between Masculinity and Femininity
  • The Resurgence of Complementarianism

Which is why I’ve decided to tell my story over the next few posts — how I went from holding a “complementarian” view of gender roles to being committed to the full equality of women in every sphere, including the home and the church.

Part 2 of this series can be found here.

A few days ago, Rachel Held Evans challenged male bloggers to respond to John Piper’s depiction of Christianity as a “masculine” religion. That’s why I wrote yesterday’s post about Huldah, a female prophet to whom the Jewish high priest, a male, turned for direction after rediscovering the Book of the Law.

There are many of examples of women in God’s story that contradict Piper’s claim, and today I want to look at one more.

It’s well known the 12 disciples were men. Piper makes much of this point, though J.R. Daniel Kirk has shown how Piper obscures a vital element of the gospel by doing so.

It’s also well known that in Jesus’ darkest hour, his female followers stayed close to him, while his male disciples scattered.

The women who followed Jesus feature prominently in the resurrection as well. Each gospel tells the story a little differently. In two of the gospels (Matthew and Luke), it’s the women who announce the resurrection to the remaining 11 disciples. (In John’s account, the women tell Peter and John about the empty tomb, but they don’t seem to realize why it’s empty.)

The women’s role is much more than a matter of being in the right place at the right time. According to Matthew and Mark, an angel gave them the task of announcing Jesus’ resurrection.

In the New Testament, an apostle was someone who had a direct, personal encounter with the Messiah and who, on the basis of that encounter, proclaimed the good news, teaching it with authority. The disciples are often referred to as “apostles.”

Now back to the women at the empty tomb. They are the first witnesses to Jesus’ triumph. They bring the good news of resurrection to the male disciples.

Given that Jesus’ resurrection lies at the very heart of the gospel (as Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 15), we can put it even more bluntly: women proclaimed the gospel to the apostles so they could proclaim it to others.

God chose women to be apostles to the apostles.

Not exactly what you’d expect from a “masculine” religion.

To be fair, the four resurrection accounts differ — and not just in trivial ways. According to Mark, the women run in fright. They tell no one what they’ve seen because they’re terrified.

What accounts for the difference? Each writer shapes the story to serve his own purpose. Each has a slightly different point to make, so each freely modifies the details as needed.

This shouldn’t cause us to lose confidence in the reality of the events they’re describing. But it should give us pause to remember: the Bible has a context. It has a cultural backdrop. Each book had an original audience to which it was speaking.

No book presumes to say everything that could be said about everything. The Bible does not seek to give us the final word on every matter.

Multiple perspectives, multiple viewpoints live together within its pages — which should give us pause when we read something like, “I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man.” It may be — in fact, it is very likely — this was a specific word to a specific community dealing with a specific situation. To apply it to every church in every situation is to steamroll over the rest of the Bible, including the parts where women are apostles to the apostles.