We all know what people like John Piper think about women preaching and teaching the Bible from a church pulpit:
That kind of thing is a boys only job.
A follower recently asked him, “Should women be allowed to teach at seminary?” and I guess none of us were really surprised with his reply:
That kind of thing is a boys only job.
Personally, I don’t even know why a reader/listener of his would even ask the question– in 2015 he was asked whether or not women should be allowed to be police officers, and his response was more of the same, yet broader:
Most kinds of things are boys only jobs.
In the 2015 remarks, he actually said that any job that included personal influence, guidance, or leadership over a man would be an affront to God’s created order. Since his position is that women are forbidden from leading, not just in church but essentially in the whole of society, his answer on women teaching at seminary was predictable:
“Let me put it another way in the form of a question. If it is unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded? I don’t think that works. The issue is always that inconsistency. If you strive to carve up teaching in such a way that it’s suitable for women, it ceases to be suitable as seminary teaching.”
Piper goes on to say:
“Seminary teachers need to be “more than competent historians, competent linguists, competent exegetes, educators, or theologians… The proper demand on the seminary teacher is to be an example, a mentor, a guide, an embodiment of the pastoral office in preparing men to fill the pastoral office.”
Translation: Why would we let a girl teach a boy how to do any particular part of a boys only job?
Ah, but lest we make the incorrect assumption that Piper sees women as being inherently inferior and incapable of teaching seminary, he closes with this caveat:
“The issue, as always, is not the competence of women teachers or intelligence or knowledge or pedagogical skill. It’s never competence! That’s not the issue in the home or in leadership. It’s not the issue in church leadership. It’s not the issue in seminary leadership.”
So here’s where we’re at:
Women have the intelligence to teach the Bible.
Women have the competence to teach the Bible.
Women have the skills and abilities necessary to teach in general…
They just shouldn’t use those skills and abilities, and they shouldn’t use that competence and intelligence, if it means that men are in the audience.
While I’ve been a Christian more years than not, and hold steadfastly to our faith, I have to admit: the idea that having a vagina should disqualify someone from using their God-given gifts or hard-earned knowledge, is one of the most dangerous and mission-defeating ideas we’ve ever come up with.
So, what about a vagina makes it so hard to teach the Bible? Nothing.
In fact, as Piper himself admits, there is no logical reason why women cannot teach or preach the Bible, other than the Apostle Paul apparently said so 2,000 years ago.
As Rachel Held Evans pointed out, Piper presents not so much a high-view of the role of pastor, as he presents a low-view of women:
And, it’s not just the Bible– seminary is a long, long process that includes sooooo much more than just the Bible. Seminary often requires gaining exposure and competence in other areas of study as well, things like: ancient and modern history, Greek and Hebrew, learning research methods, anthropology, counseling, other world religions, etc.
Does having a vagina make it impossible for someone to teach men any or all of those things?
As for me, I thank God that I didn’t spend eight years of my life studying in seminaries that listened to Piper’s illogical argument– I could not have made it, nor would I have the skills and abilities I have now, were it not for these God-honoring women who devoted themselves to training and equipping individuals like myself.
Translating biblical Greek? I wouldn’t be able to do it had it not been a woman of God dedicated to teaching Greek at seminary. I failed it the first time I took the class with a male professor, and it wasn’t for a lack of ability or effort on my part. Yet, I was discouraged and considering giving up seminary until I took the class with a female professor who taught in a way better suited for my learning style, and who also graciously met and tutored me outside of class until I started to gain proficiency.
How to deliver a sermon or talk in a way that engages one’s audience and keeps them with you? I learned that from a godly woman who taught at seminary.
How to research topics, analyze information, do field research, and ultimately take all you’ve learned and discovered and put forth a compelling argument in an organized, concise way– so that the Church could benefit from it? Well, I realized mid-way into my doctoral work, that even though many men had taught me, I didn’t really learn how until a godly woman who taught seminary re-taught and mentored me on how to do it well.
Yes, I am a devout Christian. Yes, I believe in the inspiration of Scripture and that scripture must be handled seriously.
But this idea that being a woman should disqualify gifted and competent people from teaching any number of topics at a seminary level?
Well… that defies all logic, reason, and the countless experiences of all the pastors, teachers, church historians, Christian counselors, Bible translators, missionaries, and theologians, who attest to the reality that we had a richer and fuller season of preparation at seminary– not despite having female professors and mentors, but because of them.
(* For my friends in the LGBTQ community: since Piper rejects anything beyond gender binaries, and I am reacting to his own gender-based argument, I associate “vagina” with “woman” in a way I would not do in other contexts.)
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.