Monday, February 6, 2012

Wrestling the Pig: "Masculine" Christianity

Like one who grabs a wild dog by the ears, so is the person passing by who becomes furious over a quarrel not his own. (Proverbs 26:17)

Never wrestle with a pig--You both get dirty, and the pig likes it. (Various)

'Pirate-themed Pig Wrestling in a Cowboy Town - Laramie, Wyoming' photo (c) 2007, Greg Younger - license:

In general, I try to stay out of the culture wars. I spent several of my younger years (I'd say "less mature" but that might be overestimating my present self) taking forceful sides on all kinds of issues, among which was the "complementarian" and "egalitarian" view of gender and ministry. Then, over time, the reality of Titus 3:9 sank in, and I've tried to move away from argument and towards actually producing something. Sometimes I do well at this, sometimes less so.

With that in mind, I'm going to (mostly) avoid getting sucked into Piper's most recent silliness. I'm grateful for John, and I've benefited tremendously from some of his writings. I think he's dangerously wrong when he writes on men and women, though, and thanks to some prompting from Rachel, I'll make a couple observations. Specifically, my thoughts on this statement:
A masculine ministry seizes on full-orbed, biblical doctrine with a view to teaching it to the church and pressing it with courage into the lives of the people.

I'm part of a great church that pays me to work on both the spiritual formation of the congregation and the church's global participation in the Great Commission. There's a funny thing about Paul's description of those two tasks, though. When Paul refers to what we'd call "missions" or "evangelism," he tends to use masculine metaphors. Planting a field, fighting a war, running a race: women can do these things, sure, but in the Greco-Roman world they're strictly the domain of men. When speaking of spiritual formation, thought, Paul's metaphors take a decided turn towards the feminine.

"I fed you milk, not solid food" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)? "I am undergoing birth pains until Christ is formed in you" (Galatians 4:19)? Paul is "like a nursing mother caring for her children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)?

I'm all about pursuing "full-orbed, biblical doctrine with a view to teaching it to the church and pressing it with courage into the lives of the people." But if we're working from Paul's own metaphors, I don't really think that "masculine" is the term I'd use. And it's even more awkward when Piper says that a masculine ministry "models for the church the protection, nourishing, and cherishing of a wife and children as part of the high calling of leadership."

I've got one other thing to say about this, but I'll leave it for its own post. For those interested in more on Paul's feminine metaphors, I'm told that the book "Our Mother Saint Paul" is quite good, although I myself haven't read it.

1 comment:

John Stonecypher (a.k.a., ShackBibleGuy) said...

Excellent point about that pattern in how Paul uses gender-ish metaphors. I hadn't thought of it that way. I wonder how Piper's "masculine Christianity" affects his church's effectiveness at spiritual formation/nurture?