The Rhetoric of Masculine Christianity

Lindsey Hankins is working on a second master’s degree and aiming at a PhD in the gendered rhetoric of martyrdom so her take on the masculine Christianity discussion provides insight. This is her response to the John Piper claim.

At a recent Desiring God conference, John Piper contended the church and its ministry ought to have a “masculine feel.”  Piper argues this is simply a biblical given.  In his own words,

God revealed himself in the Bible pervasively as King, not Queen; Father, not Mother. The 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.  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 twelve 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. [emphasis mine]

Setting aside for now the problematic conflation of predicates (i.e., ontological being as “male” and “female” and “masculinity” and “femininity” as characteristics) and a shaky exegesis of the Hebrew adam, it is true that this glaringly selective biblical portrait smacks of men.  In fact, no woman can be found.  Well, Eve is there but, sadly, her name seems to have been lost in translation.  Yet—and this may be jarring to some readers—the fact of the matter is that Piper is actually on to something.

Whether he is aware of it or not, Piper has stepped squarely into an age-old thread of Christian thought.

When the elderly bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp, stood awaiting his martyrdom within the Roman amphitheater he’s said to have clearly heard a voice from heaven saying: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.”  Perhaps similar to present-day beer commercials in which manliness can be enacted or lost [e.g., losing one’s “man card”] ancient gender constituted a never-ending pursuit of virtue in which, as arguably the chief virtue, courage and manliness were practically synonymous: in both Greek and Latin the word for virtue—andreia and virtus, respectivelyfound their root in words for maleness—andros and vir.  In other words, the very vocabulary of the time belied a belief that virtue or holiness were inherently masculine.

Clearly this put ancient Christian women in quite the bind: if manliness was holiness, what was it to be a woman?  A pernicious and prevailing view of much of Christian history has been that women, qua women, were, to borrow Aristotle’s verbiage, “deformed males” (The Generation of Animals, 737125).   If we are to take the irascible Tertullian at his word, women were “ianua diabolic” or “the gate of the devil” (On Female Dress, 1.1).  The golden-mouthed Chrysostom wrote in the late fourth-century that Eve had obviously been at fault for the garden debacle simply by virtue of being, well, a woman: “…the woman taught once for all and upset everything…for the female sex is weak and vain, and here this is said of the whole sex” (On the Epistle to the Ephesians, 42.148).

But how did the early fathers speak about those obviously holy women—and there were many—who surrounded them?  As almost a contradiction in terms, the presence of these women often necessitated a rhetorical sex change to accommodate the father’s pre-conceived misgivings.  With more than a little back-bite to it, Clement of Alexandria hoped that at least some women could push past their inferiority: “Women must seek wisdom, like men, even if men are superior and have first place in every field, at least if they are not effeminate” (Miscellanies, PG 8.1275).  Yet to do so, to pursue holiness and a life of virtue, women needed to in essence lose their womanhood.  Praising Melania the Elder, her relative Paulinus of Nola remarked: “What a woman she is, if one can call so manly a Christian a woman!” (Let. 29.6).  Concerning Olympias, Palladius wrote that she was “not a woman but a manly creature: a man in everything but body” (Dialogue, 56).  And Melania the Younger, because of her great piety or “manly deeds” was claimed to be “like a man” by her male admirers since “she had surpassed the limits of her sex and taken on a mentality that was manly, or rather angelic” (Life of Melania the Younger, 39).

While these comments sample only the early period of Christian thought—and in that are but a drop in an ocean of similar sentiments—this notion of masculinity as equal or synonymous to holiness has clearly lingered on to the present. Against Piper’s hope that this “masculine feel” he wishes for Christianity would, as divinely instituted, be “for the maximum flourishing of both men and women,” historically this has manifestly not been the case.  When holiness is equated to masculinity, it is rather difficult to side-step notions of femaleness—or “femininity”—as ontological inferiority.  If by nature weaker physically, emotionally and spiritually as compared to men, the logical—and lived—conclusion against all lip service to the contrary has been that women do not share equally with men in the imago dei.  As Milton would pen in his seventeenth-century Paradise Lost: “He for God only, she for God in him” (4.299).

Piper notes that his vision is “liable to serious misunderstanding and serious abuse” and I could not agree more. His claim is fatally flawed in its rather naïve assumption that masculinity is, somehow, an extra-cultural reality.   Read in light of these aforementioned church fathers, there just might be an over-abundance of male activity in church history and Christian mission simply because women were told in every possible way they were not as human, not as fully human, as the men next to them.  Even more troubling, his statement thatThe Son of God came into the world to be a man” seems to infer—especially in light of the greater arc of Piper’s vision—that it was maleness which God redeemed, not humanity.

Yet the most important issue is not that Piper’s view would be misunderstood.  The absolute fundamental problem would be that it would be mistakenly taken as good news.  The fact of the matter is that Piper is “on to something” insofar as he is rather seamlessly capitulating to a long-standing tendency in church history.  When women are intentionally excised from the biblical narrative, Piper is right, Christianity sure starts to sound masculine.  What the church needs now is not by any means a “masculine feel.”  The church has had this broken and un-balanced “feel” for millennia and far from producing a “flourishing [for] both men and women” it has too often been complicit in a systematic de-humanization of half its constituency.  When masculinity becomes the virtue par execellence the value of what it means to be a woman or “feminine” is mortally undercut.  What the church desperately needs now is a prophetic voice reminding us to value both men and women as equally and wholly made in the imago dei. At the risk of sounding patronizingly obvious, this can not happen when the biblical text is intentionally re-written to exclude women and it can not happen when one aspect of God’s view of humankind is exclusively staged to norm the other.  Christianity ought to have a cruiciform feel, not a masculine one.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Jerry

    Bravo! It’s time we got beyond the curse.

  • Prodigal Daughter

    Beautifully put. And I have wondered if anyone would have listened to Jesus had his first advent been in female form. I think not…

  • Georges Boujakly

    Yes to a cruciform all-gendered Christianity.

    Shall we take the call to a masculine Christianity as an admission on the part of the callers of a failure to be cruciform in exercising male leadership in the church? And as a veiled commendation of feminine cruciform leadership?

  • John Mc

    In Job, God also calls out Job to ‘gird up his loins like a man’ and prepare for a contest with God. Then God proceeds to utterly obliterate any semblance of manliness, courage, power, intelligence, righteousness, and self-confidence which Job might have claimed. In the presence of God gender, and it’s cultural attributes mean nothing. Humility is the proper response to God, and humility is the proper posture of a disciple. And when Job responds with humility God once again praises Job for his righteousness.

    Is Christianity at its heart masculine?  I could lift up counter examples, names of women, Biblical, historical, or contemporary, who have modeled what it means to be disciples; I could lift up the names of women of faith who have inspired and led me in my faith journey; I could lift up women in my family who have and who continue to inspire and nurture my faith; but that would bog down the discussion into a numbers game, or perhaps just an exchange of anecdotes.

    For me, the better response has to focus on the issue of power:  the allegation is in truth a claim of right and power:  or to put it in a Biblical perspective, who gets to sit at the right hand of God?  

    That seat is taken.  For the rest of us then the question is no longer who will lead but who has the humility, and the loving heart, to serve and to follow.  And one’s answer to this question has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with one’s ability to love someone other than oneself, the compassion we have for others.

    Power corrupts, and when humans get involved in running things, especially Church things, it always seems to come down to who’s gonna be in charge.  My gender, my people, my friends, me. But for Christ, and for Christians, it should not be about who’s in charge, but about how each of us can better serve.  Leadership is a gift, granted to individuals and not to a gender, and gifted leaders, if allwed, will usually rise and be recognized by their gifts.  But we are all servants, even the leaders among us.  

    And whatever our gender, whatever our gift, the essential Christian attribute is humility.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

    Probably coincidentally, Bill Mounce has also posted today about what it means to “act like men” in the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians 16:13. He seems to conclude that the meaning is based on the LXX rendering of a stock phrase in biblical Hebrew. I suspect that the same is true of the words (in Greek?) which Polycarp is supposed to have heard – were they ἀνδρίζου καὶ ἴσχυε?

    But both Mounce and you seem to have missed what Suzanne McCarthy noted: Γυναῖκα ἀνδρείαν in Proverbs 31:10 LXX. So she is surely right that, at least in biblical Greek, the word refers to “a necessary quality for all men and women. It typically means “brave” or “courageous” or perhaps “valiant” or “heroic.””

  • scotmcknight

    Peter, thanks for that. I did see what Suzanne said, but my point is that this term is not used for leaders in the NT. Am I missing what you are saying?

    Mounce argues that the term is not for males alone (as does Suzanne) and refers to courage. I’m nervous a bit about his push of etymology for shaping meaning; often called the etymological fallacy. (Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does.)

  • JoeyS

    Wow. Great response.

  • Glenn Sunshine

    While I don’t agree with Piper, an argument can be made that a lot of American Christianity since the nineteenth century has taken on a more feminine flavor. One reaction against this was the “muscular Christianity” movement, the YMCA, etc. It still exists among Christian performing strongmen. The feminized flavor shows up in a lot of the rhetoric of piety, a trend which arguably goes back as far as St. Bernard or Clairvaux but which became far more dominant in some evangelical contexts a little over a century ago. It shows up in some contemporary Christian songs, which my daughter calls “Jesus is my boyfriend” music. A balanced vision of Christianity certainly includes “feminine” characteristics, and in fact, in his very masculine age Jesus extolled the virtues of humility, meekness, etc., which were considered weak and feminine. But Christianity also should include virtues more associated with masculinity as well, including for example moral and physical courage. If Piper’s point is that we’re missing a masculine flavor, that we’re unbalanced toward the feminine, he might be on to something; if it’s that we need the masculine and not the feminine, he’s simply wrong.

  • Richard

    I be like dang… well put.

  • http://www.RandyBuist.com Randy Buist

    “The absolute fundamental problem would be that it [masculine Christianity] would be mistakenly taken as good news.”
    ~ Amen. Amen. Amen. This is not good news & this has nothing to do with the gospel except that it speaks counter to the gospel message. How does someone who supposedly seeks God so deeply end up being so far from the ways of Jesus on this issue?

  • Drew Strait

    Great post, Lindsey. Thank you!

  • Mindy

    Lindsey, your knowledge never ceases to amaze me!

  • chris

    “The Father and the Son create man and woman in his image, and give them the name “man,” the name of the male.”

    Am I missing something here or is this a mis-interpretation of the word “man” as male when it should be humanity? If so, I’m surprised at the lack of basic interpretive discipline from such a high-profile preacher.

    Great article that thoughtfully dismantles a Piper’s myopia. Thanks Lindey for your courage, strength, and sharpness of thought…you certainly have an imago dei card to which I aspire.

  • http://www.educatingbrian.com Brianmpei

    “Christianity ought to have a cruiciform feel, not a masculine one.” Please and thank you.

    This transcends culture and language. The notions of “masculinity” and “femininity” have changed so much over so many years and cultures that to try to hang a theological position on either in present day terms is bordering on the absurd.

    Crucifixion is always crucifixion and it’s never in style.

  • T

    In Christ I see more than enough to challenge any man, woman or child to become much more than they are or could ever become by virtue of their sex alone. We are called to follow this Christ, to fix our eyes on Jesus. Whether the culture calls this or that part of him ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ means nothing. We follow Christ, and we receive him gratefully in all the ways he is embodied among the humanity he has redeemed.

  • http://www.hobotheology.com Hobo Derek

    Very interesting post. Thank you.

    I’m curious though. What do you make of the Victorian Era, where women were viewed as the paragon of Christian virtue and the moral compass of the family? How does this time period integrate with the trajectory of male-dominated Christian history you are sketching out?

  • Peter

    While I think there is a danger in putting masculinity *over* femininity, I think there have to be reasons that God chose men for at least the vast majority of the most important biblical roles (obviously one was that their culture was more willing to listen to men, but I think that may have been derived from some other biblical truth), and I think that might be worth remembering. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time trying to make any actual points; it would be better if I just talk with you about this. But I will say that it seems to me–someone who’s not even in a hurry to finish his bachelor’s degree–that this might be dangerously close to universalism. But you’re the one going for a PhD in this, so I think I might be wise to defer to you.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

    Scot, I think in the long run Mounce and McCarthy, as well as myself, agree with you that “Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does.” They both in their different ways argue that andreios and andrizo don’t mean what their etymology suggests, but are about courage. It seems to me that if anyone, other than Piper, is guilty of the etymological fallacy it is whoever (Lindsey or Scot?) wrote that “the very vocabulary of the time belied a belief that virtue or holiness were inherently masculine.”

  • Joe Canner

    Another way to interpret the Polycarp story is that it was “manly” to willingly and peacefully give up one’s life for the sake of (and in imitation of) Christ. This is a far cry from the kind of masculinity that Piper et al. are proposing. Yes, Piper suggested that it was manly to absorb criticism and persecution on behalf of women, but I suspect that is of little comfort to women of the Church today. Instead, I wonder if it has ever occurred to him willingly and peacefully give up his right to male headship in order to demonstrate his manliness.

  • Kevin Glenn

    Interesting that such a thread would develop in Christianity when the very words used in the creation narrative to describe the woman were as David Lamb writes in God Behaving Badly, “shockingly progressive”.

    It seems to have been forgotten that the very terms for “suitable helper” contain no trace of inferiority, but rather place the woman on equal ground with the male. “Suitable” – (kenegdo) carries the idea of mirrored otherness, a compliment, even a completion of the one from whom it came. “Helper” – (ezer), according to Robert Alter is best translated “Sustainer” since “helper” is too weak a word and implies an auxiliary and inferior position. Ezer is used through out the Pentateuch to reference God’s sustaining help toward man. For this word to be used in describing the “helper” brought from Adam is to obliterate the idea of the helper’s inferiority.

    Finally, the word “woman” (Ishshah) is a word play on the word for human(Iysh). Adam’s delight in seeing the woman is his recognition of her as his completion (Ishshah, coming from Iysh). As J.A. Motyer writes in his Genesis commentary, “those who would advocate for male superiority will have to find support from somewhere other than Genesis 2.”

  • Percival

    Glenn #8,
    You said,
    “But Christianity also should include virtues more associated with masculinity as well, including for example moral and physical courage.”

    That’s what is at issue. Can any virtue really be characterized as masculine or feminine? Are these not culturally conditioned? Physical courage, for example. Giving birth probably demands as much physical courage as anything I will ever do. And if a woman is physically weaker, doesn’t she exhibit more physical courage just to live in a dangerous world? As for moral courage, I defy completely the idea that being morally courageous is somehow masculine. That just seems silly.

    There do seem to be a few things that are more masculine in general due to biology. Aggression (and possibly impulsiveness), for example. But aggression is not a virtue; it is morally neutral. We are not born with virtues as we are born with gender. Virtue is determined by what we do with what we are given.

  • dopderbeck

    While I agree with the general sentiment of this piece, some of its historical argumentation frankly strikes me as way overheated if not just silly.

    What about, um, Mary, the theotokos? I’m not aware of any of the Fathers or anyone else attributing Mary’s holiness to “masculine” qualities. I’d you certainly cannot gainsay Mary’s importance to historic Christian spirituality.

    There are of course other figures in the early and later Church lauded for feminine virtue and courage — Perpetua (read her diaries!!), Hildegard of Bingen, Therese of Lisieux, etc.

    I might suggest that the antidote to so-called “muscular Christianity” currently faddish particularly among the Reformed and other evangelicals isn’t so much a critique of the Tradition as a recovery of Mary as a polestar of authentic Christian faith and spirituality (even without Catholic Marian dogma).

  • John W Frye

    Threatened boys can become bullies. The alleged “masculine feel” of the faith Piper calls for feels bully-like to me.

  • Patti

    Reply to comment #2 Prodigal Daughter – The story is that people didn’t listen to Jesus. They & we haven’t listened to God incarnate. Jesus’ gender has nothing to do with it.

  • Dana Ames

    Nobody has answered Hobo Derek yet, so I’ll take a stab at it.

    I think that at least part of the idolization of women in the Victorian era had to do with the Romantic ideal of the test of something being real and true being found in and affecting one’s inner, emotional being. Thus the florid, emotional descriptions of the popular writing of the day (less so in the masters such as Dickens) and in the letters of fairly ordinary folks. And thus the enshrining of women – whose inner lives of emotion were seen to be so close to or even congruent with that ideal of Romanticism.

    Dana

  • Dana Ames

    I should also add that this was the case mostly for the emerging middle class, as well as the upper classes, whose women at last did not have to work to help put bread on the table. Poor women have always had to work, and have, along with poor men, always been exposed to being taken advantage of in more obvious, visible ways than are evident among people with more money – sometimes coming down to issues of survival.

    Dana

  • PaulE

    “Christianity ought to have a cruiciform feel, not a masculine one.”

    Isn’t Piper’s argument that a cruciform feel is a masculine one? That the pattern of laying down one’s life in love for another – whether by cross or towel – is one placed on husbands in Ephesians 5?

    I think there is something in Piper’s sermon that needs addressing – there is an interdependence between the genders that seems to be missing (at least in the transcript I read here). I don’t think this post addresses it along the right lines; but I think dopderbeck is on to something in #22.

  • http://josephgibsonelliott.blogspot.com/ Joey

    I wonder if this post by Tim Challies would be helpful for this conversation:

    http://www.challies.com/articles/john-pipers-masculine-christianity

    “I find that I am not entirely comfortable making Christianity more masculine than feminine in its nature. I entirely affirm that God reveals himself as king and father rather than queen and mother, that Jesus came as a man, that men are called to leadership positions within the church and home. There is certainly a masculine feel to Christianity; but does this masculine feel necessarily exclude an equal female feel? Aren’t there aspects of the Christian faith that have a feminine feel to them (I think, for example, of Paul’s talk of nurturing other Christians with the milk of the word — a metaphor with a clearly feminine feel.) and should we also seek to promote these?

    “It seems inevitable that if men are to lead the church, there will be a masculine feel to the churches they lead. Surely if the Lord has called men to leadership, he expects them to lead as men — men who are seeking to live out the implications of the gospel. Most of those who are scandalized by Piper’s comments are already scandalized by his complementarian theology; in the way he defines it, a masculine Christianity is simply an outworking of godly, biblical male leadership — it’s men leading as men.

    “I suppose this is why I don’t find a whole lot of controversy here. His language of ‘masculine Christianity’ is not language I would be likely to adopt for my own use, but I don’t see that what he says here is substantially different from what he and other complementarians have been saying for years.”

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    I don’t find Challies’ comments all that helpful. It seems to me that he is saying that Piper’s language is not useful (maybe wrong, but that is probably reading too much into it) but he is unwilling to actually say anything about it.

    I do think that Challies is right in the last line quoted, there isn’t much different here at least with the ramifications. But I am surprised how many complementarians that I have heard say that Piper is flat out wrong.

  • http://josephgibsonelliott.blogspot.com/ Joey

    Adam,

    I hadn’t seen, so was curious, what complementarians are you referring to that have said that Piper is flat out wrong?

  • Ben Cheney

    Even more troubling, his statement that “The Son of God came into the world to be a man” seems to infer—especially in light of the greater arc of Piper’s vision—that it was maleness which God redeemed, not humanity.

    I don’t see that this is a valid inference at all – who would question that Piper would absolutely and vociferously deny this? I think Hankins raises an interesting comparison in general here, which may lead to some fruitful discussion. However, the force of her argument is dulled inasmuch as she resorts to beating up straw men (straw people?) like that and failing to engage with the best understanding of Piper’s viewpoint.

  • Steph

    To Hobo Derek, piggy-backing on what Dana Ames said …

    Are you suggesting that the Victorian idealization of women is an outgrowth of Christianity during that time?

    Women were presented as good and moralizing agents because of their roles as the “angel of the house.” Men went out into the world and were exposed to corrupting influences. Women presided over the home and were untouched by these influences and could therefore be a counter-force in men’s lives.

    As women began to break away from those roles/spheres, they were described, towards the end of the Victorian era, as “unsexed women.”

    What we have here is better than misogyny but far short of proper esteem and validation.

    And also, “muscular christianity” began its rise at this time and so it seems the Christian brothers could not long suffer the sisters to play the role of moral influence before taking back ground.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    I gave up on “Masculine Christianity” when it came to Church school ads with NASCAR racing scenes (complete with full sound effects). No. Actually it was in 1998, when Promise Keepers scheduled their mass rally in our town on Mother’s Day. As a female friend of mine told me, “Oh, what they could gain from having at least one woman among them.”

    Peace,
    Randy Gabrielse

  • Cedric

    With all do respect, this article makes a serious blunder in connecting masculinity with godliness in relation to Piper’s thoughts. Piper does not go that far and though this article does a good job of supporting where that ridiculous notion came from, it is irresponsible to connect that to Piper. If you have read the breadth of his teachings on this subject, you would not arrive at this conclusion. To come to this conclusion and have so much support around it from so many people who appear to be educated is frightening.

    Revealing the obvious by saying the Christian religion has a masculine feel should not be this controversial. The scriptures support exactly what Piper is simply reiterating. The Son of God was a man and you can either disagree with that decision or say it has no purpose, but you cannot refute it’s happening.

    Godliness has no gender, but humanity does. Just because those two things have been abusively connected in the past should not lead us to create a genderless religion. This is an absurd direction and will bring the church to its knees as it erodes the unbelievable wonder of masculinity and femininity. They are both full of wonder!

  • gaz

    I had never heard of Piper until last year, being in Australia, but I grew up among some young Reformed types, and have just read Roger Olsen’s “Against Calvinism”. I think Piper gets too much airtime. His Calvinist gospel is not good news, his “grace” and “love” don’t feel like grace or love. Surely Christianity can do without such bad and false PR.

  • Steve Sherwood

    Cedric,

    I think that is exactly what Piper is saying. I’ve read a fair bit of him, including all of the text of this talk. He is arguing, God is uniquely masculine, Godly leadership is uniquely masculine, so, therefore, how is not the conclusion then that he believes Godliness to be masculine?

    I’m sure he would say, “Ah, femininity is beautiful and has an honored and wonderful place in the heart of God” but it seems to me that he sees that that place is ontologically ‘other’ for Piper than what primarily makes up God.

  • John Anderson

    While I do think Piper is strongly committed to the notion of God as primarily “male,” and I feel is quite wrong on that, it is equally unfair to hang him out to dry on the basis of a rhetorical plea for male Christians to “man up!”

    The problem Piper is addressing is that of the wimpy male, not the strong woman. Men in record numbers are going down the path of Peter Pan–they eschew mature relationships with strong women in favor of play-dates with like-minded boys. Their idea of sex is not mutual give-and-take with a real woman, but a self-focused fantasy with a Penthouse model.

    In other words, it isn’t fair to condemn Piper for telling men that they ought to ACT like men–in the best sense of the word.

    As far as male-based language–well, somebody once said, “you go to war with the army you have.” We also have to talk Christianity with the language we have. Is it offensive to say admiringly of Mother Theresa, “Now there is a woman with big brass ones . . . .” Or was it wrong of Latimer to encourage Ridley (or vice-versa, I forget which) as they were waiting for the torches to be applied to their pyres, with the words, “Be strong, and play the man!” In other words, “Die game,” “Die with pride,” “Let’s show these losers how a real Christian endures martyrdom,” or similar words.

    I use female rhetoric whenever I can, but having inherited a male-dominated history (and language) I use whatever is required to make my point.

    I think that’s what Piper was doing, by the way. “Men! It’s time to MAN UP!” Is there anything wrong with that?

    Of course, I realize that the typical under-educated tradition-bound, culturally-blinded Christian male might respond to such a call with a moronic burst of misguided misogyny, and cluelessly thrust more capable and useful females aside in their clumsy rush to asserting their maleness–but that’s a different problem than the one Piper is addressing.

  • Lindsey Hankins

    To Ben Cheney (#31), thanks so much for a helpful critique. I agree with you that Piper would “absolutely and vociferously” deny that God became incarnate to redeem (only) maleness. What I was trying to say–and certainly was not clear enough about–was that seen in light of a larger argument where “masculinity” is so preferentially elevated–indeed, is divinely ordained to categorize Christianity–it is not a far leap to baptize maleness as the fullest, truest image of God. My fear is that while Piper certainly knows the distinction his greater reading and listening audience might not be so discerning.
    To #34, we might have to agree to disagree. I have read a good deal of Piper and, particularly in this latest speech, I absolutely do see a strong connection between masculinity and godliness. Its certainly true that he (Piper) does not discount femininity and godliness. However, I would still argue that the ways in which maleness and femaleness, masculinity and femininity are discussed lean towards not only a hierarchy of leadership, but also a hierarchy of holiness.

  • http://www.hobotheology.com Hobo Derek

    Dana Ames, Steph,

    Thanks for the responses.

    I think you are both right to distinguish between female piety in culture versus in the church. That is a valid and helpful rejoinder. Your responses reveal just how complex this history and issue truly are.

  • scotmcknight

    John, I hear you but I’m unconvinced that is Piper’s point. I don’t think he’s trying to get wimpy males to man up but for people to see the masculine — that’s his term — nature of Christianity through the evidence of man-centered leadership and male language for God. There is a difference between male and masculine, and Piper is arguing the latter from the former. This is a very serious issue, one that is virtually claiming there’s a masculine center to the divine being and to God’s work in this world, and it is does not take alternative themes into account, does not recognize or incorporate the denial of the typical “masculine” nature of the Greco-Roman male in how the NT’s Jesus is passive before violence, how the husband is to give himself for his wife (that’s not “masculine” in the ancient world), and I could go on… In my judgment, John Piper made a fundamental category mistake and, at the same time, wiped out other sorts of evidence. By the way, while I disagree with Piper’s complementarianism, his view of leadership is entirely reasonable — it just isn’t masculine; it’s Christ-like. Huge difference for many of us.

  • scotmcknight

    John, one more: Does Piper accuse males of being wimpy in his talk? I can’t get to it right now. I don’t recall that element being in view. I could be wrong in memory.

  • Larry S

    Maybe, Piper et al should consider re-introducing adult circumcision to prove that Christian men are willing and ready to man up ! :)

  • Cedric

    Steve,

    Your argument implies that godly leadership and godliness are the same thing. This line of thinking could also imply that people who aren’t leaders cannot achieve godliness. I don’t think you believe that but it proves the point I am trying to make about overreaching on this topic.

    Godliness has no gender and should not be defined in those terms. Believing that leadership is a primary function of godly masculinity is actually another topic all together. Directly connecting masculinity and godliness drives blog traffic but in this case that connection is not intended and admittedly inferred.

    Those of you waging war against the unique differences are winning so I don’t think you should strain your credibility by irresponsible transference. I am a marriage counselor and most of the couples I see in crises have no idea how to practically operate within the marriage. The question of how should a man act, how should a women act goes unanswered because of the systematic destruction of all masculine and feminine models found in the bible. If you chose to stay on this course, all I would ask you to consider is to find a way to somehow quantify the results of this direction. What does success look like when you achieve a genderless Christianity.

    Just out of curiosity, if someone asked you why God chose to make Jesus male, what would you say?

  • Adam Shields

    Cedric,

    I know of no one that is trying to eliminate gender. Physical gender exists. Social gender roles are mailable, but have some relationship to the physical. The problem I think comes when people force social constructions on as hard and fast individuals. My wife makes more money than I. I work as a nanny for my nieces. She primarily cooks, I hate sports. Hard and fast roles of how genders relate may work for some but do not work for all. Piper wants them to work for all.

  • http://wordofawoman.com Michelle

    I quoted you and linked to your post on my blog today.
    I tied it in with the new 116 Clique song “Man Up Anthem” which says in part:

    “Let me take you back to the tree in Eden
    If you read it you’ll see that Eve was deceived
    But Adam’s the one who let her eat
    Instead of leading
    No we ain’t leading
    We Bump That
    Basically little boys with muscles and our mustache
    To femininity we need a remedy
    The God-Man 100% masculinity.”

    http://wordofawoman.com/2012/02/14/lecrae-116-clique-and-john-piper-100-masculinity/

  • Steve Sherwood

    Cedric,

    I really do think Lindsey says it well in her call to be “cruciform” not masculine. If I in my marriage, act in cruciform ways, Phil. 2 kenotic kinds of ways toward my wife, I believe I don’t really need to ask myself “Am I taking the appropriate male role here in this situation?” The same goes for my wife, I think. Wouldn’t you as a counselor say that the fundamental problems in relationships are less about confusion over how to adequately be a man or a woman, but how to not be a self-absorbed jerk? I was this weekend part of a worship experience that focused attention on the Duet. call to “not be tight fisted with the poor among you but to have an open hand toward them.” That to me seems to be the relational crisis in a nutshell. I know how to be “a man.” It’s how to not be tight fisted, but open-handed in my relationships that gets me every time. Cruciform, not masculine.

  • Elaine

    It’s not that gender disappears. But what if our bodies are made differently, without those differences being ultimately determinative of individual gifting, callings and conforming to the image of Christ? Where’s the harm?

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    Thank you, Lindsey. I really appreciate your scholarship, here. I hope you’ll write more!

    Cedric #43, why is the Word incarnate a man? “The scandal of particularity”… I don’t think many of us women would argue the facts, in the historical world Lindsey sketched & today, too, that a woman would be largely ignored, if listened to, at all. It’s a BFO that God had to speak in a voice people would/could hear. But, the contention is that the inability to hear & value women is a product of sin, not God’s intention for any of us made in God’s image.

  • phil_style

    @Jophn Anderson “I think that’s what Piper was doing, by the way. “Men! It’s time to MAN UP!” Is there anything wrong with that?”

    What does this “man up” thing mean? Can a woman “woman up”? Does that look different from when a man “man’s up”? Can a woman “man up”?

    I take “man-up” to mean – be assertive.
    That’s all very fine, but let’s look at what Jesus was assertive about. Asserting humility, asserting the subjugation of one’s own will. Asserting non-violence. Asserting the rights of the poor. Asserting the position of the least in society.

    “be assertive” applies to both men and women. So there’s absolutely no need to refer to only one gender when we call for assertiveness.

    Christian assertiveness is about empowering others. “man up” (c) assertiveness has too many connotations of self-empowerment, ego and the exhibition of will.

  • http://thepoustiniks.wordpress.com Susan

    I was in a meeting once where the person leading it asked us to come up with two lists. On the left we write all the descriptors of “masculinity” and on the right, “femininity.” What we found, as a group, is that once the lists were made, we realized that first of all our lists differed, and second that almost everything on one side could be found in the opposite gender and vice-versa. The only characteristics that were non-transferrable were related to anatomy.

    To point out that certain historical figures were of the male gender is one thing. But to further assume males were “chosen” because males share in common a gender-delimited set of characteristics in virtue, personality, callings, affections, gifts, abilities, and so on is quite incredible.

  • Paul

    Susan,

    I was once showed a study in school that was similar, but with different results. I can’t remember the details exactly, but they had groups create lists on characteristics of the following:
    - Christian man
    - Christian woman
    - Christian (in general)

    What they found was the list for Christian man & Christian lined up nicely (a few differences). But the list for Christian woman & Christian differed greatly (for example, the list included “submissive” for Christian woman, but a Christian was called to be “bold”). There was an assumed double standard for women in the group making it difficult for them to understand how to truly follow Christ.

  • phil_style

    @Susan #50 and Paul, #51,

    Some really interesting results there from these excellent anecdotes. Paul’s example in particular shows how the gender-specific words alter the association with the word “christian”. Really good stuff this.

    I am minded to carry out a little experiment with my evangelical friends now to see how they “describe” these different groups.

  • Cedric

    Steve#46, I am fine with focusing on sacrifice in relationship and it is true that most relational knots come down to self-centeredness. But, when we go to untwist those knots with men and women, we find unquestionable differences in thought processes, communication and responses to soul level pain. Anyone that denies that needs to spend more time listening to real stories from real people.

    The unintended consequence of the line of thinking in this article and subsequent responses would seek to have me believe that the inherent differences between men and women are not real, relevant and valuable beyond the physical. One word – dangerous! Fun to talk about but outside of an academic discussion it doesn’t work. Next, we’ll try to convince each other that we can make apple pie with oranges. “It only matters that they’re equally juicy”. It doesn’t matter that they have unique differences that make a tangible impact on the end result. That result being something no one wants to eat.

    The human soul demands an answer when it comes to gender. That soul level question is a hole that has a specific size and shape. Cramming a godliness peg into that hole just won’t do. Steve, the reason you don’t ask yourself “Am I taking the appropriate male role here in this situation” is because that question has been answered for you somewhere along the way. You know yourself to be male/masculine to some significant degree or you wouldn’t be married to a female.

  • Percival

    The question of why God revealed himself through a man – Jesus is an interesting one with no answer. That’s my favorite kind! It means I am free to speculate.

    How about this? The ‘God-bearer’ Mary was a woman. If she had given birth to a girl, the male is left out and diminished.

    Or this. The woman shall be saved through child birth. Already, men are biologically too plentiful when it comes to procreation. It won’t be long before science makes the human male almost completely unnecessary. What is the value of a male to the species? Not that much in some ways.

    Or this? Pagan religions typically have violent male gods having intercourse with the female earth – often as a rape. They are both somehow deficient even with the other. We have a perfect and complete unmarried man, Jesus, coming for a bride who has been made pure and perfect. A perfect marital image.

    Or this. Rats, forgot my other idea. Someone else can have a go at it.

  • phil_style

    At a recent Desiring God conference, John Piper contended the church and its ministry ought to have a “masculine feel.”

    At a recent blog, Phil_style contended the Church and its ministry ought to have a “feminine feel”, in order to properly demonstrate it’s calling as the Bride of Christ.

  • Percival

    Cedric #53,

    You are talking about inherent differences in the female and the male soul apart from culture and nurture. This is an area that, in my opinion, calls for agnosticism.

    However, your quote below…

    “Anyone that denies that needs to spend more time listening to real stories from real people.”

    …is the kind of thing that practitioners say to those outside the field when they have no objective evidence that they are right. This kind of attitude has been proven to be faulty too many times for me to put any stock in your, admittedly, much greater experience in counseling. Sorry.

    Do you have cross-cultural studies that back that up, or does it just seem too obvious to question?

  • Diane

    If Jesus is the model of what a man should be, we need to redefine masculinity in accordance with Jesus rather than remake Jesus in accordance with our culture’s definition of masculinity. This seems to state the obvious, but what I hear in Piper is: “Men don’t like Jesus so much so let’s change him to be more palatable.” That’s certainly easier than changing ourselves or our culture.

  • phil_style

    @diane #57 YES!

    The Jesus who let the government beat him, who associated with outcasts, who did not spend his time chasing after financial rewards, who shuns the use of violence, who wept when his female friend was weeping, who confronted his friends when they behaved like idiots.

    Let’s compare him with the man’s man who:
    Resists violence and practices self defence, associates with the respectable, looks to constantly improve his career situation, calls for righteous punishment of wrong doers, plays the “rock” when his partner is falling apart, let’s his close mates get away with “just boys being boys”…

  • Cedric

    Ann#48 – Thank you for answering my question, but I have some more if you’re game. Aren’t you making an assumption when you say that it’s a BFO for God to have spoken in a voice people could hear? Why, on the point of gender, is God all the sudden subservient to cultural influence?

    Why, on almost every other level, did God refuse to accommodate the culture when it came to Jesus and his particularity? To your line of thought, shouldn’t Christ have been at least a ruler of some kind in order to maximize his influence within the culture?

    I do agree with you that the devaluing of women is a product of sin and I am very comforted to see someone say that in this context. Though, I question the wisdom in how we’ve responded to that fact. In your mind, is it even possible that God could have been going for a construct predicated with godly male leadership in mind or is that completely off the table? And let me qualify this scandalous statement. By construct, I mean standard or rule. There are exceptions to rules that don’t have to be qualified as evil, such as women in leadership. But that doesn’t mean we supplant the entire construct, does it?

    Does it concern you at all that we are basically saying that on this one decision, we think God might have been drunk or something?

  • http://2hold.wordpress.com/ Charis

    QUOTE Lindsey @38: “where “masculinity” is so preferentially elevated–indeed, is divinely ordained to categorize Christianity–it is not a far leap to baptize maleness as the fullest, truest image of God. My fear is that while Piper certainly knows the distinction his greater reading and listening audience might not be so discerning.”

    A justified fear. I lived under just such a misconception for decades and it is not “good news” and made for a very bad marriage.

    Nowadays I boldly walk in my recovered feminine spiritual authority and I see clearly how one could emphasize different historical and biblical figures and come up with an equally strong argument that “Christianity should have a FEMININE feel”. eg The church is “the BRIDE of Christ”.

  • Cedric

    Fear leads us to a place that may seem better for a time, but will look like the wilderness in the end. Abuse and pain can cause us to question everything and if the heart goes unhealed, it will automatically begin to build in self-protections in order to control from experiencing more pain. Those self-protections have nothing to do with faith and one day we look up and realize that what we believe has nothing to do with faith in God’s mysteries and everything to do with what we have rationalized in our own minds.

    If you argue that Christianity cannot have a masculine feel then by principle you must agree that Christianity cannot have a feminine feel or all logic fails.
    And if you can go as far as to ascribe biblical characteristics of femininity to the church, then those same characteristics and scriptural references should apply to women. Therefore, emphasizing that there are real designated and discernible differences between men and women. At a practical level this confusing new world view would manifest in a marriage ceremony as the woman standing as the groom and the man standing as the bride. Is anyone actually counseling their kids to take such action? If not, why not?

    If you continue to argue that there are no purposeful differences, you have to be arguing for a genderless Christianity as the end point, which is a prevalent argument that is gaining speed and socialization in secular society.

  • Percival

    Cedric #61,

    I know you didn’t mean this the way in the way I am going to take it, but here goes.

    You mentioned that some are arguing for a genderless Christianity “as an end point.” I know that you mean the ‘end point’ as a rhetorical endpoint, but it makes me wonder what is our endpoint as human beings? With a resurrected body, will we retain all our features of gender? Our emotional makeup? Our longings? Does a soul really have gender? These are probably questions that are largely unexplored because they are unexplorable. You seem to think that our souls have either a female gender or a male gender. I doubt it. You seem to assume it.

  • Percival

    By the way Cedric, I don’t think people are arguing that there are no differences between genders.

  • Cedric

    Percival #56 – I would include the heart, mind, will and emotions when I refer to the soul. If you do not, then I would agree that discerning inherent soul level differences might be unknowable. If, however, your definition of the soul could include the heart and mind, I could not apply agnosticism.

    The unique soul level qualities inherent in men and women, I believe, are knowable as silly as that sounds to have to put forth in a statement. We are far too pedantic here and that is why I made the statement about listening to others. If you can refute my statement, then please do so. If you have listened to a quantified number of married couples or simply men and women in the midst of their life-altering distress, heard their issues and have walked away with the idea that there is no inherent masculine/feminine filter then I’d like to hear about it.

    Are there cultural and environmental influences that alter the inherent pattern or nuance the filter? Absolutely, but that does not negate the pattern, the code, the construct. There is a standard deviation (pattern) to every substantive and viable data group. Outliers exist to reinforce the objective, not demolish it. You aren’t just pushing the Christian norm here, you are pushing on what is psychologically normative.

    What exactly are you hoping to achieve in the end?

  • Elaine

    “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” – these are Jesus’ own words. He doesn’t seem to be making a case for a “masculine feel” according to current gender norms.

  • Percival

    Cedric #64,

    What am I hoping to achieve in the end? The truth, or as close to it as I can get. I am open to persuasion.

    I live in a different culture and I often hear statements like, Women are like this and men are thus and so. All the time they pronounce these ‘universal truths’ without realizing that these observations are culture-bound. For example, here, it is assumed that women have a stronger sex drive than men. And strangely enough, it often seems to be true.

    In the studies that I was exposed to back in the 80′s, if a child is raised as one gender and everyone thinks the child is that gender, then more often than not, their behavior and even their mind will be like that gender. I would be interested in any updated studies from after the stone age. :) However, especially after reading up on ‘confirmation bias’ I have been more sceptical of claims made from the vast experience of experts that are not backed up by clinical studies.

    Of course men and women are different. Individuals are different as well. If someone is taller, they are treated as a tall person. If someone has breasts, that fact is taken into account. If someone has hormonal mood swings, that helps shape attitudes toward them and their attitude toward others. There is role-splitting that takes place as cultures shape their gender identity. There is, in every culture, a kind of gender negotiation that takes place until roles and gender characteristics are somewhat settled. As insiders, we all assume these to be the natural roles. And we, who play the roles, are genuinely not acting – rather, it is who we have become.

    Even my child, who is black but has been raised in a white family far from African-American culture, takes on an African-American persona as she tries to figure out who she is. It is certainly not genetic for her to define herself that way or even for other people to treat her that way.

    Time for bed. Sorry that I won’t be able to reply.

  • Cedric

    Elaine #65 – Interesting point, but I think your argument would be more compelling if Jesus was born a eunuch in a culture where opposite genders exist don’t you? Should Jesus have to make a case for something that he literally models in his flesh. Also, Paul says a similar thing about sacrificing marriage for the kingdom, so we’d have to start arguing against marriage as a part of God’s original design as well. This point does not settle for us why Jesus was born male, which is the stumbling block here.

    This reply also helps others to see where this line of thinking can lead to in the “end” – eunuchs?

  • Elaine

    @67,

    Jesus’ own words aren’t compelling enough for you?

    “Should Jesus have to make a case for something that he literally models in his flesh.”

    Are you implying that the presence of His gin_talia trumps His words? What exactly is it you see Him “modeling in his flesh” that is exclusive to males?

    And how do reconcile that with the call for all Christians to be conformed to the image of Christ?

  • Cedric

    Elaine, I am implying that we should not use Jesus’ words out of context in order to overthrow a pattern he himself weighs in on with clarity. That pattern being that there are separate genders with unique characteristics associated with each. If Jesus had intended to promote a genderless religion he would have come as a eunuch instead of choosing a specific gender. He is simply exalting self-sacrifice here for the sake of the kingdom. He is not advocating that all men become eunuchs in order to support the notion that there is no gender in Christianity.

    “What exactly is it you see Him “modeling in his flesh” that is exclusive to males?” Well, he was a man so I can’t really say that he modeled perfect godly femininity now can I? What do you think he modeled in terms of gender?

    “How do you reconcile that with the call for all Christians to be conformed to the image of Christ?”

    The call to holiness transcends gender and therefore both male and female cooperate with the Holy Spirit to be sanctified. The sanctification process is designed to redeem the sin filled parts of our soul. Is masculinity or femininity in and of itself sinful? If you believe it is then I can see why you would believe being conformed into the image of Christ would relieve gender associations. If you don’t believe it’s sinful then you wouldn’t expect for masculinity or femininity to diminish as the soul is sanctified.

    Men and women literally have different biological reactions to intimacy, stress, relationships, pain and yes even the sanctification process. It is a scientific fact that the brains of men and women function very differently and even release different chemicals such as vasopressin and oxytocin.

    Because of major advances in neuroscience, the scientific community is coming to embrace and support the factual differentiations between men and women so as to improve care and quality of life and the church is saying that in God there is no difference. I wonder which argument the world finds more archaic?

  • Elaine

    Cedric,

    I didn’t ask what you thought He modeled about “godly femininity”.

    My question is: What exactly is it you see Him “modeling in his flesh” that is exclusive to males?

  • Cedric

    Sorry, I thought you might get my point without having to state the obvious.

    Jesus Christ was perfect
    Jesus Christ was godly
    Jesus Christ was male

    Jesus Christ modeled perfect godly maleness in every way.

  • Dana

    So, Cedric, men have Christ to model a “perfect godly maleness”.

    Women have…..is there no such thing as “perfect godly femaleness”?

    Only males have perfect godliness to emulate?

  • Elaine

    @71,

    “Jesus Christ was perfect
    Jesus Christ was godly
    Jesus Christ was male”

    I see only one of those as exclusive to males.

  • Elaine

    @71,

    Just for the record – I have no interest in ridding the church or the world of gender.

    I agree with you that
    “The call to holiness transcends gender and therefore both male and female cooperate with the Holy Spirit to be sanctified.”

    You ask, “Is masculinity or femininity in and of itself sinful?”

    Give me the definitions of masculinity and femininity to which you refer and then I could answer.

  • http://2hold.wordpress.com/ Charis

    Cedric,
    FWIW (and I can only speak for myself) I think there are big differences between men and women and I too get frustrated sometimes when people appear to deny this.

    The problem I see with “one way” messages such as Piper’s is that they devalue femininity and communicate rejection. By most measures at least 25% of women have been sexually abused/molested which brings self-rejection and shame surrounding feminine “vulnerability” and “weakness”. My own reaction to preachers communicating the inferiority of femininity was to “redeem” my evil inferior femininity through people-pleasing hyper-submissive home-schooling quiver full practice. Other women might go another way and try to obliterate their femininity through radical pro-abortion feminism. They are two sides of one coin, IMO. Both are based in shame of femininity.

    God is NOT ashamed of His daughters and I wish high profile male preachers were not so good at undermining God’s love for -and confidence in- His female children!

    For Dana and Elaine regarding a feminine role model: If Jesus is “Masculine,” the Holy Spirit is “Feminine.”

  • Elaine

    Cedric@71,
    Some of you end remarks sound a bit like an argument for biology is destiny. I doubt you mean it that way.

    I’m not and do not not know of any Christian egalitarians arguing that there are no differences between the genders.

    It’s not that gender disappears. Why would it be a problem
    that our bodies are made differently, without those differences being ultimately determinative of individual gifting, callings and conforming to the image of Christ?

  • Cedric

    Dana – Yes, men have Christ to model perfect godly maleness! Women have Christ to model perfection and godliness but he cannot model femininity for them as he is decidedly male.

    Why was Christ not female? I have no idea, just trying to deal with the foundational reality. If he was female, we would have the opposite issue. Men would have to rely on Christ’s presence and the Word of God to steer them to mature masculinity.

    I do not suggest trying to undermine godly masculinity as a viable way to discover godly femininity.

  • http://2hold.wordpress.com/ Charis

    Cedric @77
    Jesus never married and never had sex. If men are to follow his “perfect godly maleness”, Roman Catholicism has a celibate priesthood. Just sayin…

    I was raised RC, went to catholic school for 10 years, and (despite the awful quotes in the OP from the Church Fathers) my experience was that they were far more respectful to women than my 30 year experience as an evangelical. We had Mary and female saints who were held up as role models.

    And the priesthood was denied to anyone except males who were willing to make a vow of celibacy. Not too much jostling for that “privilege”!

  • Dana

    Cedric –

    This is what I hear you saying:

    No, there is no perfect godly femaleness. (You didn’t say this directly, but I understand you to be saying this indirectly. If this is true, I don’t know why you wouldn’t say it plainly.)

    Males can image Christ more completely than women. (Males have perfection, godliness and males. Women only get two out of three.)

    If Jesus had been female, men would rely on Christ’s presence and the Word of God. I guess that means that women should rely on Christ’s presence and the Word of God. Is there something else besides Christ’s presence and the Word of God that men presently rely on?

    You are very worried about godly masculinity. Godly femininity? Not so much, except as how it could undermine Godly masculinity.

  • Ben Cheney

    Lindsey #38 – thanks kindly for the clarification. I agree with you that Piper’s characterisation of Christianity as “masculine” makes it quite possible for someone to misunderstand that he intends to conflate holiness and maleness. Still, it seems at least logically possible to me that the Church Fathers could have held to some true and helpful things about godly masculinity while simultaneously being grossly misinformed and prejudiced about godly femininity. As such, I wonder to what extent your argument relies on guilt by association between Piper and the Fathers, because we agree that Piper is often at pains to make distinctions and qualifications that the Fathers (based on your research here) seemingly did not.

    Having said that, I much appreciated your post here, and it’s definitely good food for thought. Whatever the way forward is, I certainly agree with your sobering conclusion that the church has “too often been complicit in a systematic de-humanization of half its constituency”.

    All the best with your future research.

  • P.

    All too often, many Christians make idols out of gender and gender differences. I can’t remember who it was, but one theologian noted that the Bible doesn’t deal with our differences, but with our commonalities instead. So, in that, Jesus models femininity just fine in that he’s a model for how women should be. Actually, he models humanness for us, and yes, men and women have this equally in common – just don’t tell many Christians!

  • Cedric

    Elaine76 – Isn’t the point of egalitarianism to level differences so as to achieve a model where both sexes are completely equal? Aren’t the differences the enemy because they can begin to reveal unique attributes that lead to roles? How could you not argue against differences and uphold your objective of total equality? You imply the only differences between men and woman are physical and I cannot spin up the energy to argue that point again see 68. There are heart level differences between the genders. Men and women are inclined differently and biological research proves that point so we’ll just have to disagree there.

    Charis75&78 – I hear you and am well aware of the identity robbing impact of abuse. 25% is way low for both men and women. My first hand account as a counselor would put that number well above 60% for both genders. I deal with a lot of spiritual abuse as well from all denominations. My experience connects with my concern here that this movement is primarily a response to pain and rejection. It is a way to protect against future abuse which is never a healthy approach. Most importantly, we have no direction for those who need help with gender identity. I cannot tell them that my God is genderless and they can simply chose to connect in any way they want to as long as it doesn’t lead to a unique role that might make someone else jealous.

    Just my thoughts, I am signing off. I don’t blog and have never engaged in a blog debate and response like this before but it was cool. I was not in session these past two days and saw this on a friends facebook so I thought I would jump in and see what happened. But I have to get back to work. Thanks for the conversation, I enjoyed it!

  • phil_style

    @Cedric,

    No the point of egalitarianism is not to level differences, but to realise that just because someone belongs to a gender group, they do not by default, necessarily exhibit all the traits that are statistically more common to that gender group – and therefore do not deserve to be pigeonholed by virtue of their gender.

    Women, on the whole (as a statistical group) might make better radiator technicians than men. But that does not mean that by default any individual woman should be treated as a radiator technician.

  • http://2hold.wordpress.com/ Charis

    Cedric,
    Vice-versa- enjoyed the interaction!

    I hear ya on counseling experiences illustrating the differences! Not a counselor, but I have to “counsel” the children and my 11 yos asked me about masturbation yesterday! This Danny Silk video speaks of the differences between male and female and he nails a huge one, IMO. Look from minute 2:53 here: http://youtu.be/-UQwhK85DvI

    BTW, if you have a non-shame based but cautionary resource to recommend for an 11 yo, I need one!

    Research on that counseling topic led me to one more thought about Jesus’ “maleness”. He was born of a woman with no human male involved. (HT: the beginning of Christopher West’ series on “Theology of the Body”)

  • Sue

    I think the point is that in the Hebrew Bible, men and women were equally described as chayil, the word that is used for “mighty men.” “Mighty” often translated as “heroic” or “brave” could also be translated as “virtuous” for women, therefore making invisible the fact that men and women equally are to display this characteristic.

    Although men and women are different, they do not differ in their display of “chayil” or “andreia.” Ruth was chayil, as was the woman of Proverbs 31, who was also her families provider. She was also strong.

    Right there you have the list. Women are to be strong, brave and complete providers of their families. This is the call to the godly woman.

    The use of the word andreia is Greek is dual. First, it comes from aner, which is used of women in Plato’s Laws. Not exclusively male, it is a class reference, an age reference, and a responsibility reference. The aner is an adult, male of female, who is a citizen (not a slave) who provides for children and elders. Women are equally called to this in Plato’s hypothetical world.

    In Clement of Rome, we read that women undertook many andreia deeds. Women martyrs were andreia.

    We really cannot understand this, unless we understand that unlike masculinity and femininity in English, andreia contrasted with cowardice. No woman in the Bible was ever called to cowardice. All women are called to andreia. There is no such thing as a Christian woman who is not called to fully display andreia in her life as a Christian. It is an accident of the patriarchal world, that men were thought to more fully display andreia, as they were the only full citizens in the Greek world.

    In Christianity, there is no call to femininity in the Bible. There is no call to masculinity. There is only a call to andreia, for men and women alike, and equally a call to gentleness, and meekness and a call to feed others with milk. This also is for men and women alike.

    And Boethos, that is ezer, was the word, when refering to Christ which was translated as “defender” and “champion.” Women are called to be that perfect “defender” and “champion” that Christ actually is.

    That there are ancient writings that use andreia as more consistently “male” and imply that women must become “male” to display courage, does not surprise me. Women had to be virgins to be “male.” This was the call to female Christians. Then, of course, there was a countercall for women to submit. This is the tension of the early church. Do we need to reengage with this, or can we understand that both men and women, married and single, are to act according to our God-designed natures, to display courage and gentleness both.

    The biological differences between men and women are something that makes us display our courage and gentleness, sometimes in slightly different ways, but they do not ever impact on our call to be fully human, that is anthropos – truly human.

    Christ was only ever called human in any passage that described how he was the mediator between God and humans. He was never called the mediator, male, or even aner, but only anthropos, which woman equally is.

  • Elaine

    One thing I see in all of this is that we err by not viewing humanity as a whole. It takes the full spectrum of everything male/female masculine/feminine to comprise “human.”

  • Elaine

    Cedric@82,

    Regarding:
    “You imply the only differences between men and woman are physical and I cannot spin up the energy to argue that point again see 68. There are heart level differences between the genders. Men and women are inclined differently and biological research proves that point so we’ll just have to disagree there.”

    Uhmm…isn’t “biological research” dealing in the “physical”? Or has that science been upgraded to judge the “heart”?

    You base these “heart level differences between the genders” on biology of the physical; yet at the same time try to claim it’s another type of “difference” besides “physical.”

    I wish you could spin up the energy to explain that.

  • http://www.aglassdimly.com/ Jugulum

    Scott McKnight,

    I’d appreciate knowing more about what you meant when you said:
    At the risk of sounding patronizingly obvious, this can not happen when the biblical text is intentionally re-written to exclude women and it can not happen when one aspect of God’s view of humankind is exclusively staged to norm the other.

    What rewriting do you have in mind? Were you being literal (i.e. translation issues), or figurative (i.e. neglecting passages)?

  • scotmcknight

    Jugulum, I did not write this post, Lindsey Hankins did…

  • Steve Sherwood

    #88 and Scot, would that statement have likely been about Junia getting written out of the text in order to be a more palatable Junias?

  • Cedric

    Elaine#82 – I can’t resist, you hooked me back in. Forgive me for making the assumption that connections between the physical and the soul are accepted. Science has been upgraded to speak on issues of the heart because the latest research indicates that what occurs in our pre-frontal cortex connects directly to the mind and then to the heart.

    Research (easily found in the JAMA) clearly defines, with statistics, that men and women are physically, psychologically and emotionally different. Let me give you an example. It is well documented that women suffer more than men from things like depression. The subsequent effects of depression generally include fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. Those subsequent side effects, if the depression goes untreated or unhealed, can become normal in a person’s life. As something like anxiety becomes normal it becomes rooted in the heart and can actually become part of their life. The thoughts in a person’s literal brain become beliefs (I will always be anxious) in a person’s mind and those get rooted in the heart. Prov. 12:25. A parallel example would be something like lust or dyslexia for men.

    It’s not only imperative that we understand how the soul works, we must respect the inherent differences between men and women so that we can effectively lead them into healing, both medically and spiritually. Medication is necessary and a wonderful help, but it does not bring healing. You have to go into the heart and allow Jesus to bind it up at the root for both men and women. When you do this, it becomes blatantly obvious that there are inherent patterns resulting in heart level differences and contrary to popular belief, that is not a bad thing.

    What data or information do you lean on to help you believe that our physiological design has no connection or impact on our soul?

  • Lance

    Next up: John Eldredge?

  • Meg

    Cedric, you’re onto a dangerous biological ‘innateness’ argument.

    An example? Women engage in more emotional labour. Not because it’s innate, but because it’s socially expected (e.g. women are supposed to ‘smile’ more otherwise as leaders they are perceived as overly ‘bossy’. There is no equivalent expectation for men).

    What’s the bet that emotional labor is linked to anxiety or burnout? Your study doesn’t answer that question. It just shows that there are differences, but it doesn’t ‘prove’ they’re innate. They could be social (e.g: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/first-person-plural/201005/emotional-labour-the-british-campaign-trail)

    Besides, what is important about gender differences is not
    whether they arise from social structure or from
    brain structure, but that they are not inevitable, and they can be changed.

    Why is that important? Because it is psychologically damaging to ‘box’ people. Stereotypes based on gender have negative impacts. Stereotypes often arise from ‘erroneous’ early research claiming to be biologically innate and the effects still live on today.

    For example, ask for someone’s gender before they begin a maths test. Women perform worse than men. Only ask for their name on a maths test? Men and women perform roughly equally. I’d highly recommend reading Cordelia Fine’s “Delusions of Gender” which documents and critiques research finding gender differences. From a psychological point of view, the Pipers of this world are making these kinds of inequities deeper than before.

  • Cedric

    Meg93, I take your point and agree that there are pitfalls with arguing for biological “innateness” or design. But those pitfalls and the subsequent potential human perversions do not automatically make the argument obsolete. To be clear, I am not talking about early research, I am looking at current data gathered due in large part to technological advances that literally map brain functions. The fact that men and women experience things such as pain and attachment differently is not ‘erroneous’.

    Additionally, I hope you could concede that there are pitfalls to your argument that there is no such thing as ‘innateness’ and everything is a product of social influence or conditioning. We certainly cannot back this theory from the beginning if you believe that God and not society did the actual creating.

    I have to strongly disagree with your point that the most important thing is that we can change. Just because we have the power to manipulate how we think, manage and express our gender doesn’t mean that’s the best course for humanity.

    When we are helping people to find their way in life, we can either focus on mitigating their weaknesses or developing their strengths. John Maxwell, Marcus Buckingham, Jim Collins and many others have mountains of data supporting the idea that strength building far exceeds mitigating weaknesses. A good example would be the counseling profession. There was a new study released recently from Harvard (I believe) showing that men are becoming more and more scarce in counseling degree programs across the country. Why? The study finds that as more women have entered the work place, they are systematically taking over what they are very good at – counseling. Women have strong ‘innate’ strengths when it comes to counseling. Does that mean that men shouldn’t be counselors – no. But it does mean that men who want to be counselors should be counselors because they have the strengths to support strong proficiency in that arena. Not because they can do whatever women can do and do it better. The person that begrudgingly chases a position because they want to prove a point ends up wasting their life mitigating weakness instead of flourishing in their strengths. That person will suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety as they dread going to work everyday. They may be proving the point that we can all “do” the same thing but it can take that person twice the effort as another with the ‘innate’ qualities to do that job with excellence.
    Certainly our goal here on earth is not to prove that if we work hard enough we can all be the same?

    And on your final statement, I think we’ve inadvertently moved from battling the corruption associated with masculinity to battling against masculinity itself. Here, the church is becoming bedfellows with the well-established secular movement to undermine and abolish masculinity. If masculinity was viewed as a good and positive part of God’s creation, how would Piper’s comments garner such a harsh response?

  • http://2hold.wordpress.com/ Charis

    Cedric @94,

    To answer your closing question, Piper’s comments garner a harsh response not because they are accepting and validating of masculinity, but because they come across as rejecting of femininity.

    Their effect does not occur in a vacuum, and I have my doubts whether (despite being a counselor) you can put yourself in female skin enough to understand the impact of a constant undercurrent of “keep your mouth shut and stay in your place, woman; if it wasn’t for the likes of you, we’d still be in the Garden of Eden!”

    Just this past Fall, I dropped out of a Sunday School class (the only adult class the church offers…) because the elderly male teacher routinely started with a “joke” such as “Why don’t women need a drivers’ license? Because there are no roads between the kitchen and the bedroom.”

  • Elaine

    Cedric@91,

    You seem to be conflating gender and masculinity/femininity. But they are not one and the same. Just to be clear, ‘Gender’ means the properties that distinguish organisms on the basis of their reproductive roles – males impregnate females who give birth to offspring. Masculinity and femininity are terms used to describe social traits or attributes. These are fluid terms depending upon the society.

    (Did you notice I did ask you for your definition @74…I would really need to know exactly what you mean/include in your definition of masculine and feminine to be able to give an answer. As for “gender” No, not sinful at all, but rather created by God.)

    God is neither masculine nor feminine. That would be humans trying to pigeonhole God into a fluid construct based on whatever our society’s definition is at the time –making Him in our image. To look at Scripture and compare the ones that we deem as fitting our humanly constructed definitions of mas/fem. and then say God fits more times in our “masculine” category seems the height of presumption.

    God is more than adequate in Himself to account for all the characteristic qualities of masculinity and femininity.

  • Cedric

    Elaine#96 – I am conflating gender and masculinity/femininity because I believe them to be inextricably linked. I agree with you on the technical definitions and understand why it would be necessary to separate them in some cases, but in the context of our discussion I think it’s relevant to make sure we see the inherent connections in order to get some kind of handle on human identity and subsequent traits.

    The practical issue with simply disconnecting gender with traits and making the traits totally fluid is the confusion it brings when helping to build or rebuild identity. Nowhere is this more evident and relevant then when working with people struggling with transgender identity issues. With your line of thinking, I’d have no way to help them build a gender identity beyond sexual function. They say, “I want to be a godly man/woman” and we say? God has no gender and is therefore silent on associated traits.

    And just to clear up another technicality…when you say that God is neither masculine or feminine I think you might be conflating the Trinity. Are you speaking about God the Father? Because, there is a strong qualified belief that God the Son is currently in heaven as a physical (flesh and bone) person? Do you believe that Jesus ascended into heaven a man or a genderless being?

    If Jesus is in heaven as a male, wouldn’t God be forced to weigh in on traits directly associated with Christ’s maleness? I agree that God is more than adequate to account for all the characteristic qualities of masculinity and femininity – but in your opinion what are those qualities associated with masculinity and then femininity?

  • Elaine

    Cedric@97,
    “I agree that God is more than adequate to account for all the characteristic qualities of masculinity and femininity – but in your opinion what are those qualities associated with masculinity and then femininity?”

    I asked you first @47. So please do tell.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    Charis, #95, I hope others followed you when you dropped out of that class. As a matter of fact, I hope you stood up and excused yourself, politely – because such a rude comment deserves leaving-in-the-middle of “class”!

  • Cedric

    Elaine#98 – I am so sad that you are deflecting from the meat of #97, but that seems to keep happening. Also, I don’t see that question in #47, but I answered your implication, with examples, in 91 and 94. I’ve also answered many of your other questions specifically without reciprocation! Knowing how important equality is to you, I’ll give you a chance to even the score! :) Unless of course, you believe there are no discernible and agreeable traits specific to men and women, therefore conceding that your line of thinking leads to a genderless construct!

    My list will bore you, but you have the chance to become one of the only egalitarians I’ve talked with to either produce a list or admit that gender has no standard differentiation when expressed. Most just walk away.

  • Don Johnson

    Methinks Cedric thinks too much on gender.

    I am egal. Yes, there are diffs between human males and females. These diffs are to be celebrated. Many of the diffs are simply overlapping bell curves on some attribute.

    A basic Kingdom principle is that the stronger are to help the weaker. This does not have much to do with gender, except that in a physical sense, the bell curve for males says they are often stronger than females. But in other senses, a female may be stronger than a male.

    So what is to be done to end up with the strongest church or the strongest family? It seems obvious, let everyone play to their strengths and let the stronger help the weaker and get gender out of the equation.

    For example, there might be pastoral concerns that are best handled by a female than a male for whatever reason; but if all you have are male pastors, that church will be lacking in the ability to best serve the need.

  • Don Johnson

    P.S. When I wrote “get gender out of the equation” I meant in places where it is not determinative. For example, only a female can bear and birth a baby and only a female can nurse a baby from her body. Only a male can impregnate a female. These are just part of the good design of humans from God and we should accept this differences. I am happily married to my wife, for example.

  • http://tiro3.typepad.com/spoudazo_logos_blog/ TL

    Cedric,
    ”but you have the chance to become one of the only egalitarians I’ve talked with to either produce a list or admit that gender has no standard differentiation when expressed. Most just walk away.”

    I suspect that those who walk away from such bait are the smart ones. Humans are too diverse to limit to boxes. Gender cannot be escaped. None in their sane mind will say there are no differences. But trying to limit certain soul characteristics to one gender and not the other is a really bad understanding of the complexities of being human.

    #97 If Jesus is in heaven as a male, wouldn’t God be forced to weigh in on traits directly associated with Christ’s maleness?”

    Christ is both 100% human and 100% Divine. Christ clothed Himself with human flesh. (Phil. 2:7) Elohim does not change. God is Spirit, not flesh. Further, God created gender and included it in all His creation, even bugs and plants. Gender is not divine. It’s a worldly attribute that isn’t all that ‘special’.

    #94 regarding mountains of human research.
    Human research changes as time progresses. Humans are after all not divine, and do not have all understanding.
    Your quip that Meg is battling masculinity is an inaccurate statement probably because you are at your core battling femininity as most hierarchalists are. Those who believe in Biblical equality value both men and women and promote both men and women to do whatever God is calling them to in ministry and service.

    #91 ”It is well documented that women suffer more than men from things like depression. The subsequent effects of depression generally include fear, anxiety and low self-esteem.”

    In societies where women are forcibly forbidden from the ability to pursue activities that interest them, women are more prone to depression. Men who do the forcing and set aside the more responsible and interesting activities for themselves are not as prone to depression because they give themselves more freedom. They are free to live and choose according to what they can prepare and learn for. They reserve the preferred activities to themselves. In different nations and cultures, the way people suffer will be different.

    That’s all I have time for now.

  • Elaine

    Cedric@100,

    “Also, I don’t see that question in #47″

    Please pardon my typo – I meant #74.(and #96)

    @97“They say, “I want to be a godly man/woman” and we say? God has no gender and is therefore silent on associated traits.”

    So, what are the associated traits you list for these people when they ask you?

    In answer to your question: I believe Jesus has a glorified resurrection body. I do not think any of us without resurrection bodies know exactly what that entails. Jesus did say, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” This implies that there will be no sexual intercourse; the natural physical appetites and sexual desires of this world will give way to higher and infinitely more gratifying delights. So, it’s not that I’m avoiding your questions. It sounded like a red herring rabbit trail to me. I don’t think anyone can say with certainty it has any direct bearing on our discussion.

  • Cedric

    Don#101 – Thank you for your comments, but please consider that this might be about a deeper principle then simply the idea of gender. I will continue to try to make that point and appreciate anyone willing to look deeper.

    To that end, you and I agree there are kingdom principles, many in fact. My question to you is simply whether or not the kingdom principle that “the stronger are supposed to help the weak” is fluid or changeable?

    If not, what makes this particular principle, as it is revealed in the scriptures, not fluid. If it is fluid, why?

    By the way, I don’t think you could know my view on women in pastoral leadership because I haven’t written about it on this blog.

    To clarify, are you saying that physical differences between men and women are a valid point of differentiation when considered strengths and weaknesses or not?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cedric, sorry for this being a hit and run comment, but I want to try and help.

    It seems that you continually are making the stereo-type of male and female abilities the reality. You seems to have a hard time with confronting people as individuals instead of classes of people. That is the point of this.

    You will have, no doubt, near a 100% shot of a man having a particular organ and near 100% when a woman does not. But any other given trait diminishes the individual if you generalize before getting to know that individual.

    And masculine vs. feminine traits do do vary by society. The only constant that I am aware of is the men tend to be more aggressive. But even that is a generalization. It does you absolutely no good to have the generalization that men tend to be more aggressive than women unless you are gambler since all that you are talking about is probabilities. When we talk about actual people it can be nearly anywhere on the spectrum. So you can’t have a rule or a generalization that you apply to individuals outside of gambling.

    As others have said, there is broad overlap between men and women in every aspect.

  • Cedric

    TL#103 – Please explain to me what you mean by bait? Your own words…”None in their sane mind will say there are no differences”. So what are the differences you speak of and why would me asking for you to explain what you see as differences between men and women be baiting you. Even if you believe those differences to be fluid, what are they at this time in history in your opinion? If you admit there are differences but cannot explain them, how is that smart? And when did I say I was trying to limit characteristics?

    “Gender is not divine”. There are a lot of things that aren’t divine that we still value as relevant factors in life. “It isn’t an attribute that’s all that special.” Do you believe God created gender? I assume you do, so how did you get to the belief that this part of God’s creation isn’t special, valuable and inherently intentional? Do you have anything biblical or otherwise to support this view?

    Also, your comment about “battling femininity and being a hierarchalist” is totally assumptive and stereotyping, which I think goes directly against the main point of this article. You don’t know me well enough to make such limiting statements intended to pigeon hole.

    Depression – This is not my research, it come from the JAMA study I referenced and it has no support for your opinion that men are responsible for higher rates of depression among women. It focused primarily on the differing biological factors that are pretty well accepted in all cultures and societies. Women naturally carry a much heavier biological burden then men.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cedric, why don’t you just come clean then and say if you are a hierachialist or egalitarian?

    And again in #107 you are mixing the issues of the difference between means and individuals.

    A hierarchalist takes the stereotype and applies it to all in the class regardless and individual merit. It appears you advocate for this approach.

    If women, on average, exhibit more depression, less anger, more athletic skills, more or less of anything, it is meaningless to whether a specific woman or man is capable of a certain role or job. Do you agree or not or are you just baiting the conversation?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …and to bring it back to the point of this post, Piper and company advocate for making choices for individual positions and assignments based on group averages and those are irrelevant, hence he is a bigot. That is why it is important not to conflate group averages with decisions relating to individuals.

  • Cedric

    Elaine#104 – No problem, I should have caught it. I would still like to hold out on my side of this point only because I’d actually like a determination on the associated qualities of masculinity and femininity. It seems that there is agreement here on both sides, but what exactly does it look like from the egalitarian side? Saying there are differences and then saying they are actually the same without naming them is illogical (not your words).

    What does the official egalitarian position put forth as the differences between men and women? There has to be one! Either there are and they = ? Or there aren’t and attributes associated with gender isn’t a reality, right?

    As far as the question of Christ’s gender at this moment in heaven, I believe it is incredibly relevant. Not for the point of elevating a gender as some can’t imagine isn’t my intent, but because of what it implies about how we view God. Do we see God as someone who does arbitrary and meaningless things or do we see him and incredibly intentional (though mysterious), connected and completely integrous? It’s only a rabbit trail if you believe this to be meaningless and I understand that might be the case, but let’s settle it with finality if you are willing. God’s decision to make Christ a male and leave him that way post resurrection (best we can tell) is:
    a. meaningless
    b. purposeful

  • Cedric

    DRT#106 – Stereo-typing? Prove your statement. And I have no idea what to say to your second statement regarding confronting individuals verses classes. Another totally baseless statement. I am having several individual conversations with both men and women on this blog and considering every point equally. You are deeply misconstruing my intentionality in trying to understand how egalitarians handle the specifics of inherent gender differences within your belief structure.

    And to that point, I do give you credit for being the first person willing to generalize on even one trait that seems connected to men or women. Qualified psychological studies agree with you that testosterone, which is more prevalent in men, is connected to aggression. Women have it too, but the rule, standard, norm is that this is more dominant in men. Since we at least agree on that generalization, let me ask you if that fact is creatively purposeful or meaningless?

    I don’t understand the gambling reference. I hope you don’t go to a doctor that doesn’t study or understand human generalizations and patterns especially regarding gender. Imagine a doctor or psychologist that treats every patient exactly the same and never learns from the one before. Imagine a doctor that takes your line of thinking when treating men and women for things like heart disease, migraines, diabetes, prostate cancer or menopause. Imagine a doctor that doesn’t believe that mental health and physical health are deeply connected and that everything is a flip of the coin with the same probability regardless of gender. The treatment would differ based on the individual but not recognizing indisputable evidence and patterns that support general differences is the real gamble.

    Generalizations can be misused, but that fact does not negate their purpose and validity. I submit, again, that the true reason for this article is

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cedric, I wish you would state your premise and then let us debate that instead of you concealing your motives [not very well, I might add] baiting others.

    I don’t believe that Jesus’ gender post resurrection matters one little bit.

  • Cedric

    DRT – As you have previously demonstrated, it would appear that your intent is to create a surface level debate based on stereotypical characteristics that you have already tried to use as a way to discredit my points instead of answering them. My motive is to deconstruct the foundational issues from the ground up. The problem is that no one will answer my most basic questions about what you believe and why you believe it. Are you game or are you going to continuing using the excuse that I am baiting?

    For example. “I don’t believe that Jesus’ gender post resurrection matters one little bit.” If it doesn’t matter what his gender is then do you agree with the qualified belief that Jesus ascended as a male?

    If so, then you will have to walk away from a common egalitarian view that God is genderless because 1/3 of the Trinity most decidedly has a gender.

    If not, you will have to admit that during the ascension, Jesus was transformed into a genderless being and you’ll need to support that notion somehow.

    Does that give you enough of a premise to debate?

  • Elaine

    Cedric,
    @110 “No problem, I should have caught it. I would still like to hold out on my side of this point only because I’d actually like a determination on the associated qualities of masculinity and femininity.”

    And you accused me of dodging your questions. :)

    “If not, you will have to admit that during the ascension, Jesus was transformed into a genderless being and you’ll need to support that notion somehow.”

    You are putting forth a false dichotomy. You cannot give irrefutable support of either stance – this is a useless moot point.

    This conversation is getting nowhere under your line of questioning. Please state your case so we can actually discuss it instead of wasting time going in circles?

  • Cedric

    Elaine – I totally disagree that the point is moot and circular. You cannot have it both ways. In 96 you state that God is neither masculine or feminine. In 114 you say that there isn’t irrefutable to support either position which means that you believe that we don’t know the state of Christ’s gender at this time.

    Doesn’t that mean that your position should be that you don’t know what God’s status is when it comes to gender? Saying that God is neither masculine or feminine is a baseless claim by your own logic which means you should not use that, as so many do, as the foundation of your belief structure.

    My case is that your view of God (in this context) is foundational to your belief system and that view cannot be supported. It would be very compelling for you to argue well on the status of God’s gender at this time. The biblical resurrection would absolutely dictate Christ being resurrected in the exact body that was crucified. The burden of proof is on you to deconstruct what seems clear. I can’t imagine you don’t appreciate the implication of this particular issue.

    However, I will agree to abandon the debate supporting that Christ ascended as a male and now exists in heaven as a male and leave that as a matter of faith vs. fact for the sake of moving on. As long as you concede that you cannot have it both ways. The conclusion must be that you do not know for sure the state of his gender and therefore cannot say that God has an association to gender or doesn’t. Which means you cannot comment on associated attributes.

    If you agree with that conclusion, we should be able to move on. If you cannot, I think we’re probably done here.

  • Resi Arriot

    Cedric- Your fixation on Christ’s male organs & gender is curiously unsettling. Why is Christ’s being male such a big deal for you? What are you hoping to prove?

  • Cedric

    Fixated on the male organs of Christ? – definitely off sides my friend. It’s a simple discussion point, not sure why it would elicit such a offensive response. Should be simple enough to refute with persuasion or facts without making it personal. Not interested, take care!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cedric#113,

    Do I think that Jesus was ascended as a male? Well, actually I have not given it much thought because I consider the post resurrection Jesus to be immune from any bias due to gender. So whether he was anatomically male, or hormonally, or whatever, I don’t think his maleness is of any importance, or lack thereof.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    OK, I read the other comments Cedric.

    It boils down to this for me. I don’t believe that Jesus could exhibit a bias due to gender because he is without sin. Even if he is anatomically male, which he could be in the resurrected body, it does not mean that he would be biased because of that. By bias I mean that he would act differently if he were anatomically female. He is perfect, like God, without bias.

    Now what is your point?

  • Resi Arriot

    Cedric@115,

    “You cannot have it both ways. In 96 you state that God is neither masculine or feminine. In 114 you say that there isn’t irrefutable to support either position which means that you believe that we don’t know the state of Christ’s gender at this time.”

    It’s your prerogative to conflate the term “masculinity” with “male gender” in your own comments. It’s not your prerogative to say that I am intending any such conflation in my comments. It is also inaccurate to make claims from them on that basis.

    What I did say @104 was: I believe Jesus has a glorified resurrection body. I do not think any of us without resurrection bodies know exactly what that entails. Jesus did say, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” This implies that there will be no sexual intercourse; the natural physical appetites and sexual desires of this world will give way to higher and infinitely more gratifying delights.”

    It seems futile to continue dialog with a person who insists on judging what others say by some undisclosed definition.

  • Elaine

    Cedric,
    That was my comment @120. I had not noticed that someone else in the office had used this computer to post a comment as well and his name and email stayed in place. I didn’t notice that until I had already pressed “submit”. I will also say that I was quite shocked by his comments. My apologies for leaving this page open at my desk.

  • Resi Arriot

    Cedric- I owe you a very big apology for my rude comment yesterday morning. I acted on impulse & what was supposed to be a joke on my co-worker Elaine went no bueno. It was never meant for you personally. Your’s was the closest to pick on. There is no good excuse, I acted like a fool & beleive me there’s been hell to pay today. Again, I apologize to you, Elaine, Scot McKnight & everyone here. I really messed up.

  • scotmcknight

    Many thanks Resi and our graces extend to you.

  • C

    “Christianity ought to have a cruiciform feel, not a masculine one.”

    Thank you.

  • Elaine

    Scot,
    Thank you so much for your faithful witness to the grace of God. Your one short sentence has reached farther and done more than I could express here. It has blessed my life and those around me in unexpected ways! Your blog serves as much more than simply a place to discuss today’s issues, but I’m sure you already knew that. Even so, I needed to say it. Sometimes few words speak volumes.

  • http://www.esler.org Ted

    As a mission agency exec who has seen hundreds of candidates go through the mobilization process and out onto the missions field I have to ask, “Where are these masculine men?”

    We get lots of women who want to go to the hardest of the hard places but relatively few men. Among the singles in our organization, women outnumber men 2 to 1. I see lots of courageous, brave, and sacrificial 22 year old women apply to go to places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., but not so many young men.

    What do we mean by masculine?

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    God is eternal, and thus has no need to reproduce, and thus has no need of sexual dimorphism. Because it is difficult enough for us to imagine an unimaginable infinite-personal God, our God has chosen to self-reveal to humankind in a masculine personal context. We should not think for a minute, though, that this fully and completely defines what God exactly is. God ultimately transcends all our conceptualizing and imagining.

    Because of human sinfulness, in most times and places throughout history men and women have not related to each other on the basis of true equity, but rather with the women definitely – and often severely – under the oppressive rule of the men. In most times and places, therefore, it has been the men that have been the movers and shakers. History has mostly been about men, so it should be no surprise that most of bible history is also dominated by men. Does this really have more to say about God or about humankind?

    Jesus doesn’t call us to be hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine; He calls us to be like Him, to become the best that all human beings can be. The fruits of the spirit are not male or female things, they are human things – or they could and should be, for both the male and female human beings that want these fruits to grow in their hearts.