The brilliant and prolific Rachel Held Evans has encouraged men to write blogs in response to a talk given by John Piper who was speaking at a conference earlier this week.
“I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female… He does not intend for women to languish or be frustrated or in any way suffer or fall short of full and lasting joy in this masculine Christianity. From which I infer that the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families that have this masculine feel.”
I really struggle with that quote, Its not without truth but for me it feels incomplete, unsatisfactory and very uncomfortable. In addition as much of what Rachel and others have said it does not seem to reflect the full picture of scripture and especially in reality the way that Jesus seemingly sought so significantly to challenge the dominant male orientated approach of his day in word and action!
The response of the blogs has been overwhelming and these two from Paul Anthony and also from Frank Viola are just some of the many profound and thought provoking responses written with great depth, biblical scholarship and integrity as a contribution to this discussion.
For me whilst I can see the validity, justification and even the value of talking about God using masculine imagery, I am also very concerned and convinced that it cannot be the only way to talk about God, that feminine imagery is also vital for us to begin to more fully understand and relate to God.
First and Foremost the very fact that Genesis (1:26-28) talks about Male and Female being created in the image of God surely creates the need for us to recognise that God Transcends Gender but also includes Female and Male imagery as a valid and important expression to help us reflect and understand who God is. Rob Bells Nooma 21 called She is a brilliant articulation of this.
I’m still working on my specific blog to creatively and constructively contribute to this debate, in many ways I feel I can’t contribute much or anything original or more profound than has already been written.
What does concern me about Piper’s speech is the sense in which he connects masculinity with a rather stereotypical view of what it might mean to be a man and outwork that in a ‘masculine’ way. For me we see in Jesus a radical lived out life that greatly valued Women and their vital contribution to society enabling us all to be enriched, enlightened and enabled more fully.
Paul Anthony sums this up so well:
My contention, then, is not that Jesus was born male so God could make a point about the coolness of guys, but that Jesus’ maleness was culturally essential to his ministry and ultimate death. Nevertheless, I will certainly agree with John Piper that Jesus was a man.
“But he wasn’t a typical man of his era. In fact, his attitude toward women was decidedly unmasculine.
From the woman caught in adultery to the woman at the well, from the bleeding woman to the many sick mothers and daughters he healed, Jesus upended the social norms of his day. He ate with tax collectors and “sinners,” including prostitutes, who may or may not have been in the profession willingly but were almost certainly the victims of constant abuse. And, yes, he chose 12 male disciples to be his close friends, but he also was intimately connected with four women – Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, and his mother”
To say we need a masculine outworking/expression is therefore , in my view, unbalanced and not reflective of how Jesus sought to live and outwork his life and ministry in all its fullness!