what John Piper sees when women teach

what John Piper sees when women teach April 27, 2013

what john piper sees when women teach cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“What John Piper Sees When Women Teach” by David Hayward

A few weeks ago I did a cartoon and commentary called Too Bad Women Teachers Have Bodies. I also wrote a post called John Piper and Women Who Teach in which I critique an interview of Piper. My cartoon and post make reference to his ideas about the offensive presence of women’s bodies in the teaching role.

I like the way Rachel Held Evans puts it:

“Piper is essentially arguing that so long as he does not have to acknowledge my humanity, so long as I keep a safe distance so he is unaware of the pitch of my voice and the presence of my breasts, he can, perhaps, learn something about the Bible from me.”

For Piper, it is important how a man feels when a woman is teaching. I listened to this short podcast asking Piper if he would use bible commentaries written by women. His response is if a man “feels like she is gaining authority over him, then it’s wrong and should stop.” Piper is concerned about what is happening when “an active authority is being exerted on a man from a woman”. There’s something that changes when it’s personal “woman on man” directly and personally face to face. He says, “When I am directly pressed upon by this woman in an authoritative way… should I be experiencing that? And my answer is no… That is contrary to the way God made us”. He uses the analogy of a drill sergeant who gets in your face:

“‘Hut one! Hut two! Keep your mouth shut private! Get your rifle up here! Turn around like I said!’ I don’t think a woman ought to be doing that to a man because it’s direct, it’s forceful, it’s authoritative, it compromising something about the way a man and a woman were designed by God to relate.”

When asked if it’s okay to quote from a woman’s bible commentary during a sermon, he says it’s okay to quote her because…

“… I’m not having a direct, authoritative confrontation… she’s not looking at me and confronting me and authoritatively directing me as ‘woman’. There’s this interposition of this phenomenon called ‘book’ and writing that puts her out of my sight and in a sense takes away the dimension of her female personhood. Whereas if she were standing right in front of me and teaching me as my shepherd week in and week out, I could not make that separation…”

Obviously, Piper has an issue with women’s bodies. Some might argue that his statements are being taken out of context and he’s being targeted for making a few careless assertions. But I disagree. These ideas are deeply influenced by his theology which can be read or watched, for example, in his sermon, “The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle,The Value of a Masculine Ministry, where he blatantly says,

“God made Christianity to have a masculine feel. He has ordained for the church a masculine ministry.”

I like how Rachel Pietka writes about it in her Christianity Today article, “Hey John Piper, Is My Femininity Showing?”:

“Specifically, women would do well to consider Piper’s ethos. What kind of person fixates so intently on women’s bodies and insists on their removal from his sight? What kind of person recommends subservience in women, dominance in men, and so quickly equates authority with force? What does his implied affinity with an era that notoriously oppressed women say about his character?”

(Tomorrow on The Lasting Supper we are having a Potluck Hangout called “Can I Be Feminist and Spiritual?”. Right on course with this topic! You are invited to join the community and participate if you want.)

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