The internet is ringing with stuff about pastor John Piper and his recent opening comments about masculine Christianity, and he said these things before an address on J.C. Ryle. Some have summarized his words not so well; others are simply clipping from a report on Christian Post, which was itself a clip of what he said. So I thought I’d post what he has himself posted.
The theme of his conference this year is God, manhood, and ministry. He knows he’s stepping into a quagmire, or should I call it a field of landmines, and he has done so because he believes in what is often called “biblical manhood and womanhood.” I have no reason to speculate why he chose this topic, though a number of friends have written to me to make suggestions.
What do you think of his definition of masculine? Any thoughts? What do you think of all this recent opining on the the importance of “manliness” and “masculinity”? Do you think he’s forcing the idea?
Here are his words, the key being the last paragraph (after the jump) on how he defines masculine Christianity:
In dealing with the life and ministry of John Charles Ryle, my hope is to clarify and commend what I mean by the value of a masculine ministry. But before we turn to “the frank and manly Mr. Ryle,” let me make some clarifying comments from the Bible.
God has revealed himself to us in the Bible pervasively as King, not Queen, and as Father, not Mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son. The Father and the Son created man and woman in his image, and gave them together the name of the man, Adam (Genesis 5:2). God appoints all the priests in Israel to be men. The Son of God comes into the world as a man, not a woman. He chooses twelve men to be his apostles. The apostles tell the churches that all the overseers—the pastor/elders who teach and have authority (1 Timothy 2:12)—should be men; and that in the home, the head who bears special responsibility to lead, protect, and provide should be the husband (Ephesians 5:22–33).
From all of this, I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And, being a God of love, he has done it for the maximum flourishing of men and women. He did not create women to languish, or be frustrated, or in any way to suffer or fall short of full and lasting joy, in a masculine Christianity. She is a fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). From which I infer that the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families where Christianity has this God-ordained, masculine feel. For the sake of the glory of women, and for the sake of the security and joy of children, God has made Christianity to have a masculine feel. He has ordained for the church a masculine ministry.
And, of course, this is liable to serious misunderstanding and serious abuse, because there are views of masculinity that would make such a vision repulsive. So here is more precisely what I mean. And words are always in adequate when describing beauty. Beauty always thrives best when she is perceived by God-given instincts rather than by rational definitions. But we must try. What I mean by “masculine Christianity,” or “masculine ministry,” or “Christianity with a masculine feel,” is this:
Theology and church and mission are marked by overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ, with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, and contrite courage, and risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading, protecting, and providing for the community—all of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the feel of a great, majestic God, who by his redeeming work in Jesus Christ, inclines men to take humble, Christ-exalting initiative, and inclines women to come alongside the men with joyful support, intelligent helpfulness, and fruitful partnership in the work.
Then Piper, at the end, gives traits of what he is calling masculine leadership:
1. A masculine ministry believes that it is more fitting that men take the lash of criticism that must come in a public ministry, than to unnecessarily expose women to this assault.
2. A masculine ministry seizes on full-orbed, biblical doctrine with a view to teaching it to the church and pressing it with courage into the lives of the people.
3. A masculine ministry brings out the more rugged aspects of the Christian life and presses them on the conscience of the church with a demeanor that accords with their proportion in Scripture.
4. A masculine ministry takes up heavy and painful realities in the Bible, and puts them forward to those who may not want to hear them.
5. A masculine ministry heralds the truth of Scripture, with urgency and forcefulness and penetrating conviction, to the world and in the regular worship services of the church.
6. A masculine ministry welcomes the challenges and costs of strong, courageous leadership without complaint or self-pity with a view to putting in place principles and structures and plans and people to carry a whole church into joyful fruitfulness.
7. A masculine ministry publicly and privately advocates for the vital and manifold ministries of women in the life and mission of the church.
8. A masculine ministry models for the church the protection, nourishing, and cherishing of a wife and children as part of the high calling of leadership.
There is a Greek word for “masculine” (andreia), it never occurs in the New Testament (a word close to it occurs in 1 Cor 16:13, but seems to be addressing the whole church — and means courage). Nor does it appear once in any words quoted here of J.C. Ryle. This is a colossal example of driving the whole through a word (“masculine”) that is not a term used in the New Testament, which Testament never says “For Men Only.” Pastors are addressed in a number of passages in the NT, and not once are they told to be masculine.