Christianity and Gender

Christianity and Gender February 4, 2012

Lots of stuff on the net about John Piper’s claim that Christianity has a masculine character (see whole thing here). Piper himself claims that “Theology and church and mission are marked by an overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community. All of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus.” That is standard complementarian theology, nothing new here, nothing to rant about. But the statement that Christianity is inherently masculine is the wrong way to express that. It is the implications that are very unpalatable. It sounds like women are less Christian than men. And we are left wondering if Gal 3:28 should be stricken from our Bible’s as heterodox. Why does Scripture call the church the bride of Christ? Why are believers likened to pure virgins? Why does Paul refer to himself like a mother in childbirth for his Galatian converts?

My friend Simone Richardson, who is the wife of a Presbyterian minister, writes in counter-point on her blog:

God gave Christianity a feminine feel on purpose. Throughout history his choice has consistently been for the underdog – quiet, bookish Jacob over big hairy Esau , harp playing poet David over beefy Goliath, the village of Bethlehem over the city of Jerusalem, a stable over a palace… and now, the oppressed gender over the oppressor gender. It makes sense that Christianity has  a distinctly feminine feel. If one wants to be part of God’s kingdom he/she will need to leave macho behind and  learn to submit to Christ as a woman does to her husband.

Christianity is both masculine and feminine precisely because male and female are one in Christ.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Anonymous

    Good counterpoint. And great last line, that is the point that is often missed in the conversation, we are one in Christ.


  • DougGroothuis

    The first grouping of words is not a complete sentence. This makes for a deterrent beginning, I’m afraid.

  • Sarieking

    Interesting, but I’m not sure what I think about the counterpoint. Even as a committed complementarian I have difficulty with a statement that Christianity is either distinctly masculine in character or feminine in feel. Not sure either position is a helpful expression without weakness in implication.

  • Jason

    The whole discussion reminds me of this saying:

    Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.”

    Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

    (Gospel of Thomas 114)

  • I very much appreciate your summary, “Christianity is both masculine and feminine precisely because male and female are one in Christ.” I believe that really captures the point. So silly to define Christianity as one or the other when the Scriptures are so full of metaphorical language. We are children, a bride, slaves, and on an on…

  • Of course, if the leadership is masculine, that means surely that the church is feminine. Bride of Christ and all…

  • Jacob was a also a master of manipulation, David a kick-ass warrior (who was from Bethlehem, and a stable is not a particularly feminine place. Paul got it right…he was like a mother and a father. We don’t need to leave macho behind…both genders should be celebrated and recognized as part of God’s design.

  • Jonathan Shumate

    I don’t think the claim that “Christianity has a masculine feel” makes it sound like women are less Christian than men. If you read the article, Dr. Piper is merely bringing up a number of valid points regarding the masculinity of the Christian faith. As you say in your blog this is nothing radically new from a complimentarian point of view. I don’t see what’s so controversial of saying that the fact that Adam was created first, that God reveals himself as Father, that the second person of the Trinity came as a man, that God has called men to lead in the church and at home means that Christianity has a masculine character. He even acknowledges that such a statement is easily misinterpreted or by those who hold to un-biblical views of masculinity. If one reads the article, sees how he defines what he means by “masculine character,” and why he brings this up (context is about Ryle), then there is nothing wrong with saying “Christianity has a masculine feel.”
    On the contrary, the rebuttal of the woman contains a great deal of problems. To assert that “throughout history his choice has consistently been for the underdog” is explicitly contrary to what Christians mean by sola fide: God shows no partiality to anyone–he is not inherently on the side of the underdog or the big dog. He is on the side of His people. David’s victory over Goliath is not because God is siding with the underdog but rather because God is God and when enemies seek to destroy His people, He will fight for them. God fought for His people through David–David won not because he is small but because God is BIG. It also has an inherent polemic in it–that women are the underdog in gender relations. In fact I don’t see how anyone can use David as an example of how Christianity has a feminine character. He exhibits some of the most masculine (and even unhealthy masculine traits) in Scripture.
    While it’s true that men have oppressed women throughout history, it is also true that God is for masculine leadership among His people. He calls men to a kind of masculinity that is radically different from the values of the world, one that is pushing back the curse of Genesis 3, but he nonetheless supports male headship and leadership. Paul reasserts the continuation of this pattern in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11.
    It would also be important to read Piper’s comments in light of current gender issues in American culture, and the feminization of evangelicalism in the Church of North America.