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Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Patriarchies

February 3, 2012
God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother. 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 12 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. Now, from all of that 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.
John Piper
I absolutely do not deny the fact that many complementarian marriages flourish. In fact, some of the relationships I most admire operate within a complementarian paradigm. But when [John] Piper assigns God and Christianity a gender, he is  moving beyond complementarianism and moving into the territory of strict patriarchy. For one would imagine that complementarians would encourage a *complementary* perspective on Christianity that includes both masculine and feminine elements! But Piper has essentially said that God is male and that Christianity is and should be masculine. This does not represent a perspective of humanity in which both male and female were created in the image of God and in which masculinity and femininity both glorify God. It’s hard not to read these comments as anything other than an affirmation that masculinity is more Godlike than femininity.
Rachel Held Evans
In order to get what he wants, then, the father must have power to coerce those around him to meet his demands. To have power is to alienate oneself, however, because power is always power over and the preposition demands an object. The fundamental structure of patriarchy is thus binary: me/not me, active/passive, culture/nature, normal/deviant, good/bad, masculine/feminine, public/private, political/personal, form/content, subjective/objective, friend/enemy, true/false. . . . It is a structure, both spatial and temporal, predicated upon separation, not relation. It demands rupture, the split into halves engendered by the abrupt erection of the phallus: those who have and those who have not. It speaks the language of opposites. . . [in] a dimorphic world.
Nancy Mairs

The epigraphs above get us ready to consider again what has to be “biblical” for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, not for the unbiblical. John Piper wants American Christianity [in his American English], not ancient Judaism.  And yet he wants a “God” who gives his “Christianity” a masculine feel, not a feminine one. But maybe he forgot how the kings of the Bible, not the queens, had to circumcise the phallus.  The good kings, not the bad ones, did this with a particularly masculine feel.  And by good king, not bad, we understand David, not Saul.  Here, then, is a biblical story, a love story of manhood and womanhood and godhood, with a rather masculine feel.  It’s in the ESV:

David Marries Michal

17 Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the LORD’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” 18 And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” 19 But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.  20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time,[Hebrew by two] “You shall now be my son-in-law.” 22 And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.’” 23 And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” 24 And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” 25 Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. 26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, 27 David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. 28 But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, 29 Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.  30 Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.

Rewinding back in the Bible a bit, we find these two Kings called Christ. There’s something that makes them head of their household, something that makes them head of state. Yes, that’s right. King Saul (in 1 Sam. 10:1) gets crowned on his head with oil. King David does too (1 Sam 16:11-13). And this good King David is actually, literally called,

τῷ χριστῷ αὐτοῦ τῷ Δαυιδ (in LXX 2 SA 22:50-51). In other words, he is His Christ, God’s Christ, David.

Let’s rewind in the Bible a bit more. We find men only, the priests of God; individually (in Leviticus 4:5 and Leviticus 6:22 in Greek) they are called

“the Priest, the Christ”: ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ χριστὸς.  ho Hiereus ho Christos

Now, we fast forward to the Son, whom John Piper talks about. In Matthew 1:1, he is called

Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, υἱοῦ Δαβὶδ.  Iesou Christou Huiou Dabid  Or, in the ESV translation of this Greek, “Jesus Christ, the son of David.”

So, we jump over to Luke 2:21 in the ESV and find this about this Son:

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Let’s summarize:

God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother; son not daughter.

And so:

God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as Phallus-Foreskin circumcised not uncircumcised; Jewish-male-Christ king not commoner; Jewish-male-Christ priest not Christian theologian.

Mr. Piper is not counting as relevant the sort of phallus his God must have. For when he fast forwards to something a different Saul wrote (a Christian Saul, aka the Christian Paul), he reads something else (in Galatians 3:28, ESV):

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

And to the same men (in Galatians 5:2, ESV), Paul writes other Christian things that seem to discount the masculine feel of this circumcised male God who would be the God of Christianity:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”

Our question then is what sort of advantage does God revealing Himself in the Bible pervasively as phallic, not feminine, give to Christianity?  I think I’d rather attempt a tongue twister.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2012 10:50 am

    I understand that Rachel Held Evans has appropriately prompted a number of responses. Pardon me, then, for being the first to comment on this post of mine. I do want to add three relevant things:

    1. Bram of “Brambonius’ blog in english” has rather helpfully pointed out to us English readers how John Piper’s “Masculine christianity is a privilege of the English-speaking….”

    2. Paul of “Disoriented. Reoriented.” has rather helpfully pointed out that “There are some oddities here.

    Piper refers to Adam, which is indeed a translation of the Hebrew for “man,” but ignores Eve, which is the translation of the Hebrew for “life.” Can humanity exist without life? Which, then, is more important? Further, though Piper doesn’t mention it, the text notes that God makes Eve a “helper” for Adam, which sounds patriarchal, but forms of the same word later are used to describe God himself in the Psalms – an example, therefore, of the divine taking on the primary attribute of the first woman..”

    3. So I wonder when somebody’s going to point out (or where is this being discussed?) that John Piper, by his comments, refers conveniently to the Father and to the “Second person of the Trinity … revealed as the eternal Son not daughter.”

    But what of the Holy Spirit?

    Is Piper neglecting this person?

    Is this the Person of the Trinity also revealed in the Christian Bible as having that “masculine feel”?

    Would John Piper, when pressed, try to argue that the Holy Spirit is the impregnator of the masculine seed in the virgin Mary?

    Would he understand these Hebraic feminine senses:

    “The Holy One is Gaol-tanu, Ima-ha-olam, our Redeemer, Mother of the World. She is Ha raham-aima Compassionate Giver of Life. She is Makor hahaiim, Source of Life. She is our neighbourly spirit, the Shekhinah

    Or does Piper, like some other men before him, not need to see “The Female Face of God in Auschwitz“? Or could he not tolerate “Mary, mother of Jesus, Jewish feminist“?

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 3, 2012 10:59 am

    Thank you for engaging with this topic, Kurk. I hope that with this being so public, there will be a sense that this is a new religion, an off shoot of traditional Christianity.

  3. February 3, 2012 11:12 am

    this is a new religion, an off shoot of traditional Christianity.

    Amen, Suzanne. Sexism, gynophobia, phallogocentrism, and misogyny may all be very ancient and historically pervasive. But the intention to express “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” in such a male-over-female sharply-different gendered way is a religion that’s new, and different from the traditions of Christianity. Christian men in the reformed tradition, such as Calvin and Spurgeon, have not propagated this new sort of statement, and seem by their public statements to have actually countered notions of a “masculine feel” Christian God.

  4. brambonius permalink
    February 3, 2012 2:49 pm

    Now that’s a tongue twister… You’re going further than I did, but I’m afraid you’re right!

    thanks for linking to my humble blog!

    And J.K. Gayle, that post about the radical femininity of Christ is very interesting, thanks! I never thought about the meaning of ‘Eve’ in all of this, and maybe should’ve noted that the ‘helper’ in gen 2 is the same word that is used for God as a helper in the psalms… But I can’t say everything in one post, and I think as a non-native speaker that I have something to bring in this discussion, as I tried to express in my post…



  5. February 3, 2012 3:26 pm


    Yours is one of the most insightful and perceptive posts because you do show what English-native-speakers don’t so naturally see, what Piper overlooks. Thanks for stopping by our blog.


    J. K. Gayle

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