Witherington Critiques “Masculine Christianity”

Lately among some Calvinists there has been promotion of “Masculine Christianity”. Not all of their ideas and observations are off mark. God is referred to as male in scripture, and there is a place for exhorting men to keep their responsibilities. However, it sometimes becomes evident that Piper, Driscoll and others are not as interested in encouraging men as they are in keeping women “in their place”. And that is sinful. It is wrong to prevent women from leading when they are gifted and have been called by the Holy Spirit to do so. And it’s also misguided to present God in such a way that focuses only on His “masculine” qualities. Women are made in God’s image too. Every quality a woman has also comes from God.

Ben Witherington gives a good critique here: John Piper on Men in Ministry, and the Masculinity of Christianity. From the post:

Well let’s start with the orthodox Christian point that GOD IS NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE IN THE DIVINE NATURE. The Bible is clear enough that God is ‘spirit’, not flesh and gender is always a manifestation of flesh….Just as it is wrong to say that the father language in the Bible is just a bad outcropping of the thinking of those who lived in an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture and couldn’t help themselves, so it is also equally bad theology to suggest that the reason for the Father and King language in the Bible is because this tells us something about the divine nature or even the divine will that ‘Christianity’ have a masculine feel.


Filed under Ben Witherington, John Piper, women in leadership

6 responses to “Witherington Critiques “Masculine Christianity”

  1. slw

    I think it is important to realize God made man in his image, male and female he created them. It is only the curse that made any distinction between the sexes in authority. It amazing how tightly redeemed males hold onto cursed authority in the Kingdom of God.

  2. Witherington has basically taken the egalitarian side in this long standing debate. Piper has stated his position some time ago. Now perhaps one could argue with Piper’s idea the Christianity has a masculine flavour; it may be better to say the church has become overly feminised in the West and needs to regain some (biblical) masculine qualities?

    But to the issue of complimentarianism versus egalitarianism Witherington is no that persuasive. Yes he gives a acceptable picture of his position, but it is hardly an argument against complementarianism. You approve of his post because you agree with him, which is fine, but if he presented a similar style of arguments in favour of Calvinism you would be more critical. You would see him as affirming a position without addressing the common (Arminian) responses to such a position.

    Examples: He asserts that the divine nature is neither masculine or feminine. Perhaps, or maybe the divine is both. But this is something that many complimentarians believe. (This is like a Calvinist arguing that total depravity proves Calvinism ignoring that Arminians affirm total depravity.)

    He compares masculine and feminine descriptions of God ignoring that the masculine descriptors are often direct and the feminine ones are always similes.

    He explains that masculine pronouns apply to the Father and Son by necessity ignoring that the Spirit is neuter in Greek and feminine in Hebrew, yet gets the designation “he” also! (This seems to me to be sloppy when he affirms that referring to the Spirit as “she” is heretical.)

    He suggests that Piper is not helping the orthodox position. What does that mean? Complemetarianism is hardly heterodox. And he says, “they have to provide rationales for these views. And to do so requires all sorts of exegetical gymnastics, ignoring of contexts, and even dubious theology and anthropology.” If one is going to make such bold statements I think he needs to specify exactly which false doctrine he is addressing and how it
    *requires exegetical gymnastics;
    *ignores context;
    *is dubious theology; and
    *is dubious anthropology.

    Even if Witherington is correct, I don’t find this article persuasive against the alternative, and his accusations against Piper are pretty strong without adequate support.

  3. star ray

    Romans 16:7

    “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” NIV

    “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me”. ESV

    “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” KJV

    This is where Witherington gets the idea Andronicus and Junia were apostles? I read these 3 translations, all I understand is Andronicus and Junia had good reputation among the other apostles.

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