Tuesday, August 18, 2015

HT Phoenix Preacher, Aimee Byrd at Mortification of Spin on the problematic gender views of John Piper

Even at the peak of my contentment within Mars Hill I never quite got John Piper.  The guys who liked John Piper seemed to not have enough good to say about him and when I read him my impression was, so he's a Calvinist Baptist, I guess.  What's so special about this?  Christian hedonism?  Meh.

Over time Wenatchee The Hatchet went from finding Piper unimpressive to finding Piper annoying.  It was as though every natural disaster was a time for Piper to reflect on what a gentle reminder the disaster was.  If your puppy got hit by a runaway truck Piper would be there to meditate on what a gentle reminder it was for you to repent.  Piper and Pat Robertson began to seem in the same orbit in the solar system.

And then as I read Piper's notions about gender roles it began to seem weird.  Not weird in the sense that Wenatchee The Hatchet is rah-rah for progressive anything as such, weird as in Piper's views were vague at best and the less vague they got the dumber they seemed.

Fortunately complementarians of the Piperian variety can get to saying stuff so weird that even really conservative types can begin to say "Wait a minute ... you can't seriously mean that." 

Thus we get Aimee Byrd at Mortification of Spin, sharing that John Piper's ideas are idiosyncratic, incoherent and seem to have no plausibly defensible basis in biblical texts.


Have you heard or read the transcripts of a recent episode [WtH http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/should-women-be-police-officers, for those who don't scroll-over] , regarding a woman who wrote in asking, “Can a single Christian woman, who is a complementarian, become a police officer?”
When I saw the question, I thought, “Well this should be a short episode. Yes, as long as she can pass all of the education, physical, and background requirements for the job.” But I guess I didn’t realize that there is a biblical manhood and biblical womanhood filter that this question needed to go through. Dr. Piper lays out his definitions:
At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. The postman won’t relate to the lady at the door the way a husband will, but he will be a man. At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.
It's a shame, really.  Such profligate imprecision in language on Piper's part.  After all, the indefinite article does not indicate whether "a husband" is "her husband", which may get to a core idiocy in the ambiguity of the language John Piper uses that is more delicately addressed by Aimee Byrd.  Perhaps a Piperite might consider it befitting the gentleness of her femininity?
I find these definitions troublesome. Some of the words used here to describe mature manhood sound an awful lot like the Hebrew word ezer, or as we know it helper, that describes Eve in Gen. 2:18, and in verses like Ps. 20:1-2, 33:20 and 121:2, describes God’s provision and protection for Israel.
Byrd quotes some more from Piper:
There is a continuum from very personal influence, very eye-to-eye, close personal influence, to non-personal influence. And the other continuum is very directive — commands and forcefulness — directive influence to very non-directive influence. And here is my conviction. To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order. To an extent, a woman’s leadership or influence may be personal and non-directive or directive and non-personal, but I don’t think we should push the limits. I don’t think those would necessarily push the limits of what is appropriate. That is my general paradigm of guidance. And you can see how flexible it is and how imprecise it is. So let me give some examples.
I am glad that he articulated that this is his own conviction, rather than saying flat out that this is what Scripture teaches. I find it very confusing
Because it's completely idiotic, that's why it's confusing.  Did John Piper forget that, as Aimee Byrd noted, there's this woman named Deborah in the book of Judges?  Byrd does not mention Huldah but Huldah the prophetess was consulted about the authenticity of a book of the law, right?  Skeptical biblical scholars and skeptics have even gone so far as to propose that that book was probably Deuteronomy and that a Huldah and/or Jeremiah formulated the book within that generation. Whether a person accepts or rejects that we can switch back to a commentary like Barry Webb's on The Book of Judges and not that, contra the deep and fervent wishes of contemporary complementarians, there isn't any textual evidence or even inferential basis for the idea that anyone thought it was unacceptable for Deborah to be either a prophetess or a judge.  Reading that back on to the text won't make it so. 
Would Josiah have been an unmanly man for heeding the words of Huldah?  Sure, Barak was told the glory that could have been his would go to a woman, because rather than accept Deborah's instructions and go as commanded he insisted that she be with him.  That was acceptable, but in exchange, Barak would not get the glory of the victory.  For whatever reason, Barak seemed totally okay with this.  God's people were delivered in a time of battle and God was praised and maybe Barak didn't care quite as much amidst that that he didn't get the gold star for the victory. 
Piper is vague and if he weren't vague he'd get to explain how a teenage son should respond to a direct and personal order from his mother to wash the dishes respects his manhood.  After all, physically speaking, the guy's a man.


Mike said...

I've never understood the attraction to Piper. It's so bizarre as to be inexplicable; something like tulip mania in Holland in the 17th century, where something of no apparent value becomes in the minds of some enormously foolish people something of almost inestimable worth (not suggesting Piper the man, made in God's image, has no value, but suggesting that perhaps his teaching and persona and celebrity status have not only no value, but negative value).

Because for a group of people so superficial as the average YRR fanatic (not slamming the reformed in general, there's a striking difference between the average old school reformed and this present breed), Piper fits none of their criteria. They cannot live vicariously through his public vulgarities, bullying, and leering innuendo as many did with Driscoll, Piper's not a relatively clever speaker like Washer, he's not good looking, not very insightful, he has fine academic credentials but seems completely intellectually addled. He looks and acts like the average ineffectual uncle, the droning bore at Thanksgiving dinner.

In spite of this, though, he has an arrogant, smug edge to him that is extremely offputting. I have experienced him in person, used to live in the Twin Cities area and went to some of his events, I've sat in Bethlehem Baptist and watched him preach, was in his church meeting with a parachurch ministry regularly. Was overwhelmingly unimpressed. I didn't get him two decades ago, don't get him now. I have no clue why he'd be a hero to 20-somethings. But then again, I didn't get Beanie Babies, either.

Tiago said...

You weren't fair.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It's not as though Trueman and Byrd are egalitarians here.

"The whole piece also indicates the problems that occur when the issue of male-female complementarity is detached from the specific issues of marriage and church ... the consequent complication of even the most routine male-female encounters creates a world where people are practically infantilized."

If Trueman had wished to he could have pointed out that Mark Driscoll's character issues withstanding, his ideals about masculinity and femininity could not have been helped toward being less cartoonish if John Piper's form of complementarianism was the well Driscoll was drinking from. I happen to agree with Trueman here that if you're going to endorse complementarianism it ONLY applies to family life and ecclesiology, not to the rest of life at large.

Ali said...

As someone who comes from a family that seems incapable of embracing someone else's views without some reservations, I do get the attraction of John Piper. Growing up in an ill-defined evangelical/charismatic church scene, he was willing to tackle the hard questions and come down on a conservative side. Calvinism and traditional gender roles were an anathema in my cicles, so I appreciated his teachings on those things (and a lot of others). Being perhaps genetically incapable of agreeing with Piper on all his details has never meant I don't like and appreciate him. In fact, while I don't think his reasoning to figure out whether women should be police officers is great, I agree with him that complementarianism can't help but apply outside church and family -Deborah and Huldah notwithstanding. They may ruin his formula, but they don't need to ruin the general principle.