John Piper on Men in Ministry, and the Masculinity of Christianity

Alert reader of this blog, Craig Beard sent me the following link which presented a precis of John Piper’s recent address at a conference on the ‘Masculinity of Christianity’. Here is the link— God and Jesus, on this showing are not in favor of women in ministry, or for that matter female images of the deity either, despite the fact that there are many such images in the Bible. If you take time to read the article there are several things that come to light.

John Piper is concerned, as are other Reformed writers and thinkers, for instance some in the Gospel Coalition, with what is perceived to be the stripping of male dignity and honor in our culture. He seeks to rub some healing balm in the wounds of men who have been assailed about their male chauvinism and macho approaches to women and life in general, especially in this case, men who are ministers. But as I have mentioned before on this blog, the problem with the church is not strong women, but weak men who can’t handle strong women, much less tolerate women in ministry. So, they have to provide rationales for these views. And to do so requires all sorts of exegetical gymnastics, ignoring of contexts, and even dubious theology and anthropology.

Here is some of what Dr. Piper said recently—

God’s intention for Christianity is for it to have a “masculine feel,” evangelist John Piper declared on Tuesday.

“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother,” Piper said at this year’s annual pastors conference hosted by the Desiring God ministry. “Second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male.”

He continued, “God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”

“Now, from all of that I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female.”

I decided to let this percolate for a while before I reacted. Let me be clear that this sounds like a classic over-reaction to what is perceived to be the malaise of our culture. It’s like the reaction of a certain Pacific Northwest pastor who decided to lecture the ‘men’ on the campus of a Christian University in Seattle on true manhood, by associating ‘real men’ with those who focus on getting their wives naked and eating red meat. That’s real manhood.

It’s an interesting portrait of true manhood since: 1) Jesus and Paul and many early Christians probably never ate red meat, and 2) Jesus was never married nor interested in objectifying women and treating them as sex objects. But back to Dr. Piper. What Dr. Piper says is not merely bad theology in various ways, its dangerous theology. If I am hearing him right, it sounds closer to Mormon theology than Christian theology. Why do I say that?

Well let’s start with the orthodox Christian point that GOD IS NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE IN THE DIVINE NATURE. The Bible is clear enough that God is ‘spirit’, not flesh and gender is always a manifestation of flesh. In the book that Laura Ice and I wrote some time ago, entitled The Shadow of the Almighty we made reasonably clear that: 1) there are plenty of both masculine and feminine images and metaphors applied to God in the Bible; 2) that interestingly enough it is not true that God is much called Father in the OT. In fact such language is rare, with almost no examples of God ever addressed as Father in the OT in prayer or entreaty, and 3) connecting such language with culture and human anthropology is a huge mistake on both sides of the ledger.

Just as it is wrong to say that the father language in the Bible is just a bad outcropping of the thinking of those who lived in an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture and couldn’t help themselves, so it is also equally bad theology to suggest that the reason for the Father and King language in the Bible is because this tells us something about the divine nature or even the divine will that ‘Christianity’ have a masculine feel.

In fact the Father language for God is much more plentiful in the NT than in the OT (for example about 145 times just in the Gospel of John). Is Christianity meant to be somehow more patriarchal than OT religion? One of my concerns here is the false suggestion that we should draw an anthropological conclusion on the basis of some of the theological language. Really? Really? I find this an amazing chain of illogic on so many fronts.

Let’s start with the fact that one of the probable reasons why we have so much more Father language in the NT compared to the OT is because of the unique relationship Jesus had with God who was, to judge from the metaphorical use of the language ‘only begotten’, to be seen as the only non-adopted child of God. Now none of us have such a relationship with God. We are at best sons and daughters of God by adoption. Not so Jesus. In other words, you can’t draw anthropological conclusions about all of us based on the masculine imagery used of God the Father and his Son. That dog simply won’t hunt.

But there is more to be said as well. Jesus had a human mother. He could not and would not address God as mother lest he dishonor the one who was actually his mother. And this leads to a further point– the language of Father and Son when applied to God the Father and Jesus is, wait for it, metaphorical language trying to indicate the special and intimate nature of the relationship of these two. It is relational language and it tells us nothing about the inherent divine nature of either the Father or the Son. It tells us nothing about the gender or masculinity of God. It tells us that God the Father and God the Son are family, intimate. Why do I say this?

Because, unless you are a Mormon and think God literally, sexually begat the Son, then you realize that this language has nothing to do with gender or sex. Nothing. It is simply making clear the intimacy of the relationship between two members of the Trinity. Were there something inherently gendered to the relationship we would expect the same to be true of the relationship of God the Father with the Holy Spirit, and yes, it’s heresy to genderize the Spirit and talk about the Spirit as a woman. No member the Trinity, in the divine essence, has a masculine or feminine DNA.

Now there was a further good reason that God-talk in the Bible avoided genderizing God, especially when it came to female language. This was because most pagan female deities were so highly sexualized in both image and concept that they were seen as deities of fertility. But the God of the Bible is not a fertility God, not a God of the crop cycle, not an Astarte or an Aphrodite or an Artemis.

The God of the Bible is a God of history, a God of grace rather than a God that is simply part of nature, like the pagan deities who manifest themselves in all too human or animal ways by copulation and propagation. In other words, the ‘regenderizing’ of the God language in an attempt to rescue the floundering masculinity of Christian males is a ploy of desperation which does dis-service to the nature of such language in the NT which is relational without being genderized.

And at the anthropological level we must take seriously what Paul says, namely that we are not carrying on the old fallen patriarchal heritage of OT times, because frankly in Christ there is no male and female (Gal. 3.28).

It was the original curse, not the original blessing that was pronounced in the following form— ‘your desire will be for your husband and he will lord it over you’. The effect of the Fall on human relationships is that ‘to love and cherish’ became ‘to desire and to dominate’ which entailed unilateral submission of females to males, something that was never God’s original creation plan. You won’t find a single statement in Gen. 1-2 about the silence or subordination of women to men. Eve is simply the necessary compliment and suitable companion to Adam. What you will find is statements making clear the inadequacy of the man without woman who is the crown of creation, for the text says ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. This is never said about the woman. Patriarchy is not an inherently good thing, an inherently God thing, and it should not be repristinized and set up as a model for Christian ministry.

Let’s deal with some of Piper’s ‘subordinate’ arguments. Jesus picked twelve males. Of course Jesus operated in the context of OT Israel didn’t he? And the Twelve were quite specifically sent to the lost sheep of Israel which was still living under the Mosaic covenant, were they not? You will notice that after Acts 1, the 12 as 12 literally disappear from the landscape of early Christianity and the telling of its tale. And you will also remember that Jesus had said that even at the eschaton the role of the 12 was to be in relationship to OT Israel, sitting on judgment seats judging the 12 tribes. The choosing of the 12, in short, is no paradigm for Christian ministry of the sort that John Piper and I do— which is to say, ministry in relationship to an over-whelmingly Gentile audience!!! Ministry to a group of people who never lived under the old covenant, and as Paul makes clear, never should!!

Now I could go on about how Jesus also chose female disciples (see Luke 8.1-3) and how they were the first and crucial witnesses to the Easter events last at the cross, first at the empty tomb, first to see the risen Jesus with Mary Magdalene commissioned to go and proclaim the Good News to the remainder of the 12, but you can get all that from reading my Women in the Ministry of Jesus.

More importantly I would want to stress that there were women apostles. The 12 were not all the apostles, as the example of Paul himself shows. Romans 16 is clear enough that the husband and wife team of Andronicus and Junia were noteworthy apostles. Acts 18 is clear enough that Priscilla and Aquila both taught the notable Christian evangelist Apollos. 1 Cor. 11 is clear enough that women can share inspired speech and prayer in worship, yes speaking out loud, to the glory of God. Romans 16 is also clear enough that there were women deacons too.

In short, roles in ministry have nothing to do with gender, whereas some roles in the physical family do, as the household codes in Paul suggest. One of the great problems in modern conservative Christianity of all forms is the muddling up of the physical family with the family of faith. Roles in ministry are and should be determined by calling, gifting, not by gender. And there is a good reason for this. It is the Holy Spirit who determines what gifts and graces a person is given, for the common good. It is not male leaders who should decide this issue, or for that matter female leaders.

Did Paul and other apostles appoint overseers to congregations? Yes apparently they did according to not only the Pastorals but other Pauline letters. Were they all men? Nope. Euodia and Syntyche in Philippi are Paul’s co-workers there, and the term ‘sun-ergoi’ is precisely the term Paul uses for his fellow leaders of congregations. In any case, he would not have addressed the issue of a private squabble between two church members in a public letter like Philippians.

No, he addresses the problem and asks for crisis intervention precisely because these two women were some of the leaders in that church. One of them may even have been ‘the Lydian’ referred to in Acts. In other words, Acts and Paul and other parts of the NT make clear enough that there were women in ministry in the early church, just as there should be today.

What about those household codes? Just a final word about them. Paul is a wise pastor and he must start with his converts where he finds them, and correct things as he goes along. One of the dominant institutions of the Greco-Roman world he must deal with is the patriarchal household structures, and if you bother to compare what Paul says to what Plutarch or other pagan writers say it is clear enough that Paul is putting the yeast of the Gospel into the existing fallen structures of society and working to change them in more Christian directions. For example, when Paul says things like the body of the husband belongs to the wife alone, this was a radical notion in those days (1 Cor. 7). He is eliminating the prevailing sexual double standard which was typical of the patriarchal system.

Or for example when Paul places more strictures and responsibilities on the husband/father/master than you ever find in the secular literature, he is changing the nature of the game and ameliorating the harsh effects of the existing patriarchal system. Paul addresses both children and slaves not as property but as persons who are moral agents and can respond positively. And yes, Ephesian 5.21 does show where all of this is meant to end up– with mutual submission of all Christians to all other Christians in love, not merely unilateral submission of females to males, or wives to husbands.

Christ himself, who indeed was a male, provides the model of true submission for us all. He did not come to be served but to serve, and what characterized him most of all is what Phil. 2.5-11 says characterized him– he stripped or emptied himself and took on the role and function of the most submissive member of that society– a slave, and died a slave’s death.

In short, John Piper is not helping the cause of either orthodox theology or orthodox praxis or orthodox anthropology with his pronouncements. And it is a great shame and pity.

Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’– The Interview, Part 2
Forward Thinking on Reading Backwards– Part Four
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’– The Interview, Part One
Man Shoveling Snow in Lexington while Break Dancing
  • Benw333

    Dan, look at the second half of the hymn— Jesus is given the name above all names and the status above all statuses. The text is clear enough that the risen Jesus is co-equal in name, nature, and status with the Father, so much so that the divine names are used interchangably for both Father and Son, and the passages in the OT which were applied to Yahweh are now applied to the Son, such as the allusion to Isaiah here (‘every knee will bow’). This is a serious matter, and you must surely know that the great ecumenical councils condemned Grudem’s view as heresy. Jesus does not now have a subordinate role to the Father. The fact that he did during the period of his earthly ministry is irrelevant since he is now the exalted Lord. Read Kevin Giles’ detailed refutation of the Grudem view.

  • Lindsay Bodkin

    Great post Ben. As a woman who who was a member of a Southern Baptist Church for many years I struggled with my role within the church. I thought surely just because I’m a woman I shouldn’t be confined to teaching children’s church. Thank you for your diligent research into the scriptures. It is a source of encouragement and affirmation. I’ve read 2 great posts over at Scot McKnight’s blog responding to Piper’s statements. I’ll have to pick up your book, Women in the Ministry of Jesus.

  • Mikaelstenhammar

    Thanks! As always, well written and full of insights. More power to you!

  • Dan Martin

    Right, I Ben. I’d look at the “name above all names” in pretty much the same light as 1 Cor. 15:27-28:

    27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”

    It’s not a popular view I know, but it seems rather plain to me that Jesus himself, and the apostles after him, saw him as clearly–and not only temporally–subordinate to the Father.

    I haven’t read Grudem…my misgivings about the generally-accepted doctrine come from a sense that what I read in Scripture just doesn’t quite harmonize with what “everyone knows” it says. I do realize the Nicene and Constantinian councils would find me heretical and anathematize me… So, I suspect, would many today. I remain troubled by the near-canonical authority invested in those “Fathers” by the church today. It seems to me a lot could be gained by re-examining the basics by the simple question…”Does the text really say that?”

  • Benw333

    Fair enough Dan. I understand the dilemma.

  • John Thomson

    I agree Dan, with your general point and with your last sentence.

    Father/Son if these are eternal relations and we have no reason to think otherwise imply by their very nature subordination.

    Even the title ‘Word’ suggests subordination.

  • Lindoncoffee

    Dan, I would suggest reading different translations of Phil 2. Also, you might find this interesting on the subject of Phil 2 concerning Calvin, Darby, etc

    Also what do you do with John 5:18? Even the Pharisees got it about Jesus claiming to be ‘equal’ with God.

  • John Thomson

    ‘When Jesus speaks of “father” in John he uses this in a completely different way than WE use the term father for our own fathers.’

    Nonsense. The whole point of its use is as YOU say analogical. We are to understand from what we understand about ideal human ‘fatherhood’ what it means for God to be our Father. It seems that God ‘invented’ fatherhood to reveal something very important about himself.

    I do not say patriarchy is founded on 12 men apostles simply that these are consistent with the patriarchy that is established in creation as Paul makes clear in 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2.

    12 men apostles is simply an added indication that patriarchy is not abandoned. (Incidentally while all were Jews not all were fishermen.)

    My personal belief is that in final new creation patriarchy will cease (as will marriage) though not necessarily levels of authority. However, while new creation lives in the midst of old creation it honours the features of the first creation that were intrinsic to it, in this case, patriarchy.

  • John Thomson


    I should really resist picking you up on this for it is a side issue in this debate, however, I do find the regular appeal to the evils of dualism I read nowadays somewhat exaggerated and misplaced.

    Now to be sure there is a false dualism but we must not allow false dualisms to lead to us denying any dualisms.

    Man is for example body and spirit. And if you do not accept this then remember the dualisms God creates in Genesis (heavens and earth, day and night, light and darkness, land and sea, male and female). God is not opposed to all dualities; he creates some.

  • John Thomson

    Is it not because God is the source of all things he has authority over all things? Has not a parent authority over a child because he/she is the source of the child?

    I agree that ‘head’ must be contextually determined. Though as far as I can determine ALL uses in the Septuagint imply ‘leader’.

    As I have said, ‘image and glory’ are to do with subordination as the ‘sign of authority’ makes explicit and IMO beyond dispute

  • John Thomson

    Hi Lindoncoffee

    If you believe that heirarchy and role does not contradict equality (as I do) then there is no problem.

    Indeed, even in humiliation the Son was equal to God in the sense that he never ceased to be God. He laid aside majesty not deity.

    The issue is not the Son in incarnation but the Son as the second member of the Trinity. All three persons in the trinity are one in being and worth. They share the same attributes of deity. The only difference between Father, Son and Spirit is each respective identity – Father, Son and Spirit. Father/Son suggests one commands the other obeys. This is borne out by what we are told (the Father sent the Son… the Son never sends the Father).

    If the economic trinity does not truly reflect the eternal trinity then God has not revealed himself as he is. God remains unknown.

  • Clint_riggan

    Dr. Witherington,

    You say in your post: “What you will find is statements making clear the inadequacy of the man without woman who is the crown of creation, for the text says ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. This is never said about the woman.”

    This seems an odd statement that is totally meaningless. The man had already been created so why would there be an expectation for the text to say ‘it is not good for the woman to be alone’ since man was already there and the woman would never be alone? You seem to take some significance from the lack of a statement in the text that is totally unnecessary to begin with.

  • Benw333

    John why in the world should source necessarily entail authority? The source of coal is a coal mine, but that doesn’t give the mine authority over the matter :) The source of light is the sun but that doesn’t give the sun authority of the light. The source of human life is a sperm and an egg, but that doesn’t give either one authority over the child that comes from it. The source of my college degree is Carolina but that does not give them any ongoing authority over me, and I could to go on. There is no necessary logical connection between source and authority over, though in some cases there may be a connect.

  • Max

    Dear Heidi, thank you for your comments. I don’t doubt the intelligence and ability of women. In my country we have a woman as our leader. I just want to understand what Paul is actually saying. I understand he would want the women to have a good education and so forth, but is it not possible that Paul means just what he says, that he lives in a culture that never questioned the authority of men, that took it as the norm, and that women were not looked upon as teachers? We however live in an unusual time. A Marxist dialectic has prevailed that questions the whole authority structure of our society, and for decades we have been carried along with it for better or worse. It has turned our society upside down. The foundations have all been questioned and cut up. We don’t live in normal times. Our world is quite foreign to Paul’s.

    It certainly is an intriguing hypothesis you present. Oude means neither, it separates the two ideas of teaching and usurping authority. I can’t see how you can join them like that. I know there were false teachings regarding the law, as would be common among Jewish converts, and talk of genealogies, profane babbling, and old wives tales but I can’t see a reference to Greek ideas here, or women particularly being deluded by heresies, apart from the old wives tales and profane babbling. What you are saying about the women’s heresies is a hypothesis, and cannot be proved.
    Furthermore Paul goes on to recount the qualities desired in the leaders of the church in chapter three. A Bishop, a deacon and so forth. It is obviously a man who desires these offices, as Paul discusses their wives as well. These offices require teaching as the method of rule and care of the church- apt to teach. He declares this as an implicit assumption in his readers. Those who are to teach are men here…
    It seems to me that Paul is alluding to this passage here,
    “6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
    So our mother Eve saw and considered and prevailed upon her husband to eat- she was the teacher in this case, she took what she learned from the serpent and passed it on to her husband. She was made as the verse says to be a help meet for him. But here as a teacher she is not helping him at all.

  • Benw333

    Max in fact there were women teachers, and leaders in places like Macedonias in Paul’s age that he will have known about, and so it is not surporising there are two women leaders inj the Philippi church which started in the house of Lydia. The more you know about the culture the more you realize that Paul was siding with the rising roles of women in several spheres. BW3

  • Guest

    “the problem with the church is not strong women, but weak men who can’t handle strong women, much less tolerate women in ministry.”
    wow, this is such an ignorant, angry stereotype of complementarians I refuse to even engage in your line of reasoning. This is the type of statement I expect from some of my angry, defensive new Reformed brethren. Is it really impossible to hold to a complementarian view and not be a weak man that can’t handle strong women? I would be less defensive since it appears that denominations who ordain women already are seeing more women enter the seminary than men. Your position seems to be “winning the day”.

  • John Thomson

    Hi Ben

    I agree source need not always imply authority though I would say in many cases it does – particularly in the cases germane to this discussion.

    But it is a little disingenuous, is it not, to make sperm the source rather than the sperm donor – the parent.

    Incidentally, I disagree as one who has bought many of your books and particularly enjoyed your commentary on Galatians. I confess, in this area, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that your considerable exegetical skills are harnessed to a prior conclusion and commitment. Naturally, you will disagree.

  • Benw333

    Hi John: I do disagree, and don’t want to be disagreeable, but you could not be more wrong about pre-determined preferences determining my exegesis. I used to hold a variant of the opinion you do while in seminary in the 70s and it was precisely spending three years of doctoral work on this subject and its original contexts that convinced me I was wrong, badly wrong, which is why I am saying now— the exegesis and the contextual study does not support your view. It’s a possible view, but not very probable when you look at the exegetical and historical particulars. Blessings anyhow, Ben W.

  • Mike Helbert

    Sorry, I have read Grudem, particularly his Systematic Theology. It seems that there is a little bit of eisegesis happening there. He starts from a predetermined premise, i.e., no women as teachers or in any authoritative position, then forces the text to fit that premise.

  • Benw333

    Hi Guest: I speak from a lot of experience of men precisely like this, including a lot of pastors with weak egos strength. Obviously its not true of everyone, but that is irrelevant. The fact that I have run into all over the country in dozens of schools and seminaries means we are dealing with a prevalent tendency, no doubt. Blessings, BW3

  • Benw333

    And I should have added in dozens and dozens of churches as well.

  • Justin Taylor

    Dr. Witherington: did you read Piper’s original piece (easily accessible online) or is the 2500-word response only to a popular newspaper summary?

  • Benw333

    Justin thanks for this. I could not find the original on line, but was sent segments of the talk…. Ben

  • John Thomson


    Every blessing to you too. You have remained amicable and friendly against my hostile fire. Many thanks.

  • Kyle

    Jesus is, of course, more like God because He IS God. But the problem with your view here is that it clear makes men more like God than women, for men are given more authority, and those with the most authority are most like God. But this entails that women image God less than men.

    I think there are good theological reasons for keeping the Father language primary (in particular, because of the Incarnation and Jesus’ relationship to the Heavenly Father and His earthly mother). But I indeed have no problem with referring to God as mother in a real sense, and you shouldn’t either, for the Bibles uses motherly metaphors often enough to justify that reference. The Bible does not support using exclusively masculine terms for God.

  • Max

    Dear Prof W,
    There must have been women teachers, but it does not necessarily follow that he approved of them teaching and usurping authority over the man. If he did why did he not make it more obvious, and why was the church not filled with women teachers and leaders in the following years? There were many teachers in his time, and many conflicts and issues Paul faced with them. It does not follow, because the elephant in the room – that is the passage in First Timothy 2, says he did not permit it. Why ignore the obvious? If he is not now permitting, implying he sometimes does allow and sometimes does not, what does that say for his apostolic integrity? Does he get some things wrong and change his mind later?

  • Benw333

    Max lets start with a simply fact. All those cultures were patriarchal in nature, and women in many settings were not allowed to be educated. Most could not read or write. It was mostly only high status women who got educated in that world, and for example would be able to read and teach from a Pauline letter. The surprise is not that there weren’t more women teachers, the surprise is that there are some in such a situation. They needed to be able to read both the OT scrolls and the NT documents. And the sad truth is that the situation did not become more conducive towards women’s education until the modern era. For example, women were not allowed to attend Oxford in England until the 20th century, which is ridiculous. The world continued to be fallen and patriarchal in character. Paul never changed his mind. He was always in favor of women and men preaching, praying, prophesying, teaching BUT they needed to learn before they taught. The context is clear enough in 1 Timothy 2 that Paul is dealing with high status women who wanted, and would be able to teach, but there were two problems: 1) they needed to learn first (such women could have instantly had ritual and even teaching roles for example in the pagan religions such as the worship of Artemis), ans 2) they needed to respect the already extant male teachers and not try to usurp their authority. Paul is correcting a problem. And the matter is complex. But clearly enough under the right circumstances (see Acts 18) adult Christian women could teach adult Christian men like Apollos, and under the right circumstances they could pray, prophesy, and preach as well— see 1 Cor, 11-14. Blessings BW3

  • Dan Martin

    Lindoncoffee, I don’t find the article to which you linked very compelling, because it appears to me that the author and those she quoted are starting from the presumption of trinitarianism and imposing that onto the texts…I think that’s called eisegesis.

    Nor do I find the alternative translations particularly helpful. The problem I have is that they don’t acknowledge the tension presented by Jesus’ clear statements of subordination. That’s my answer to your question re: John 5:18… Read verses 19-29. The bottom line is that Jesus and Paul both left us with an unresolved tension between those places where they stress equality and those others where they make a subordinate claim. These must be held with a bit of an open hand IMO… but it seems to me that the balance between them is cleaner from a subordinate-but-divine argument than from the extrabiblical, fourth-century construct of the Trinity.

    Ultimately I think the Nicene Fathers tried to do God the ‘favor’ of clarifying his revelation and got it wrong.

  • Benw333

    Dan functional subordination of Jesus, when the Son of God took on human flesh, and ontological subordination are two different things. The notion that you cannot have functional subordination and equality together is nonsense anyway. For example, I work for Asbury Seminary. I am functionally subordinate to its President as an employee. That says nothing about my ontological equality, indeed my equality in Christ, with that person.

  • Pastorcam1982

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is the most well thought out and biblically accurate response to this whole subject.

  • Dan Martin

    True to an extent, Ben, and also completely beside the point. The functional/ontological dichotomy is perhaps logical, but completely extrabiblical. It may even be true….but the operative word is MAY. My issue is that I see nothing in the record of Jesus’ words, nor in the teaching of the apostles, that requires parsing ontology in this manner. Consequently I oppose the credal insistence on trinitarianism, not because I’m certain it’s false, but because I see sufficient evidence to introduce reasonable doubt.

    My argument, therefore, is not intended to dissuade trinitarians from their doctrine so much as to oppose their insistence that anything else is heresy…or perhaps more correctly, to redirect the discussion from the ontological distraction back to matters of discipleship and Jesus’ Lordship.

  • Benw333

    I have to say Dan, I don’t see how in the world you can read either the Gospel of John or Paul without coming to grips with the ontology that is right there in the text, including claims about Christ’s pre-existence and relationship with the Father such that ‘I and the Father are One’ (but in what sense). Jesus says he came as a servant as does Phil. 2, which speaks to his functional role, his modus operandi, but his position and role changes after the resurrection.

  • Dan Martin

    Ben, three things. First, I think the question of ontology is a Greek philosophical issue that was likely not on Jesus’ or John’s agenda. Second, I think it’s an extrabiblical distraction from the real questions of our discipleship and Jesus’ Lordship… a distraction with no bearing upon either our obedience or salvation. Third, I believe the reductionism that is credal Christianity has done great damage to the Way to which we are called.

    To your question I pose a counter-question I asked a couple days ago: how do YOU reconcile ontological equality or unity with 1 Cor. 15:27-28? And perhaps more importantly, why do you care?

  • Dan Martin

    Please note I have never disputed Jesus’ preexistence or divinity…merely ontological equality or unity with the Father.

  • Benw333

    Dan you can’t affirm the divinity of Christ, i.e. that he is God, and not affirm his ontological equality with the Father. That’s just a non-sequitur.

  • Benw333

    And once more Dan, 1 Cor. 15 is talking about functional subordination to the Father, hardly different from the functional subordination of my son to me when he was growing up, though we shared equality of ontology as human beings. You are overlooking the fact that the NT is written in Greek, and various of its writers were influenced not only by Greek rhetoric but by Greek philosophy in the way they present Christ. This is not an invention of later Greek councils.

  • Dan Martin

    Respectfully, Ben, and Jesus did, and therefore I can. Paul did, therefore I can. The functional / ontological dichotomy is a struggling attempt by others to square a circle best left as paradox.

  • Dan Martin

    Maybe. It doesn’t appear so clear-cut to me. “all in all” does not seem like it would want or even tolerate such qualifiers. If it were that important and if the authors were, as you suggest, well-versed in Greek thought, why do you supposed they chose not to be more precise in their formulation? And why, I say again, does it matter?

  • Sean Brouillet

    Although I’m coming late to the conversation, and my own two cents may have already been stated, here is my thought. god as creator/source of all creation and more specifically man(kind), is i designated as the “father” relationally, specifically and especially by the gospel accounts of Jesus’ own genealogy. I emphasize “relationally” because there being no “mother” in the process this is obviously not a term of gender. Mothers and fathers make children, but God as creator IS our Father, but not only in the sense of source, but in the context of relationship. to me this is clearly not, as Mr. Piper seems to think that God has made the faith “masculine” as though God is more masculine than feminine (as though you weigh how often each gender specific term is used, and which side has the most uses wins the gender contest) As was stated, God is spirit, and as such is not defineable by gender. Now I don’t think that this diminishes in any way the obvious gender roles and/or differences inherently created in the human sexes, or God’s use of them as models, examples, or spiritual/relational tools (forgive the term). However, and here is my point, since God IS the source and not the product of creation, couldn’t it be that rather than Him being forced to fit in with our genders, simply because gender-specific terms are used in relation to (himself), he uses these terms to teach us, re-teach us, and even model his own intentions for creating the roles themselves. In other words, by using these relational terms for us throughout the scriptures, He is actually putting on display WHAT a Father is supposed to be and do, what a mother is supposed to be and do. God is not a father because he is a male figure, but because he is a “father”, he shows us what it is to be a father.

    It is also by this use of the relational roles that paul’s understanding of gender roles is and can be understood when he specifically uses the first couple as the model and example of how and why men and women are meant to interact. why is the husband the head of the wife? because God is the head of Christ, and Christ is the head of the church. Why do men loves their wives like their own bodies? Because Christ (the bridegroom) loves His bride that way. God creates relationships we can understand and then relate to, and then uses Himself in all of the Godhead to model those very things for us.

  • dc

    As Christ is the groom (and therefore very masculine) and the church is the bride (and thus very feminine), that makes us all women, right? I mean, that’s how to do the exegesis, right?

  • Marg Mowczko

    Hi Max, Are you Australian like me? I have a post about Junia which looks at some of the issues you’ve raised. I am reluctant to post the link here as this is not my blog; but, if you’re interested, google “Junia and the ESV”. I have articles on other New Testament women too.

  • Brambonius

    The dutch translation I’ve read ‘she should have autorithy over her head’…

  • Mike

    I’m here a bit late, but wonderful post, Ben. And you’re right on. Thanks for taking a few days, breathing deeply, but still speaking directly and forcefully.

  • Donald Byron Johnson

    Great article. Small typo on “compliment” when “complement” is meant.

  • Donald Byron Johnson

    Thanks for your insights. I ordered the book. I am egal.

  • Victorious

    “The part of this article I really enjoyed is the perspective on the “blessing before the curse” in Genesis. God intended something different, but women must live with their inheritance from Eve, just as man must live with his. It does not mean, however, that the curse has to rule our lives.
    That’s the beauty of God’s love. Once you give that sin to Jesus, that gender “curse”, we are free again to love one another as God intended.”

    Just wanted to clarify that neither Eve nor Adam were cursed. Only the serpent and the ground were cursed.

  • Donald Byron Johnson

    James, the Lord’s brother was not one of the 12.

  • Donald Byron Johnson

    Any believer can teach, Paul says this elsewhere.

  • Donald Byron Johnson

    The text actually says it is not good for the human (adam) to be alone.

  • Donald Byron Johnson

    BDB Definition of ish:
    1) man
    1a) man, male (in contrast to woman, female)
    1b) husband
    1c) human being, person (in contrast to God)
    1d) servant
    1e) mankind
    1f) champion
    1g) great man
    2) whosoever
    3) each (adjective)

    So ish in Hos can be referring to a human.