Feminine Masculinity?: A Personal Reply to Rachel Held Evens and John Piper

Hey’all,

We are temporarily departing from our series on the “Joy of Theology” to take up a special issue.  Rachel Held Evans put forth a challenge to men to write a “blog post that highlights the feminine images of God found in Scripture or that celebrates the importance of women in the Church. (Be positive and be creative!).” This is in response to John Piper declaring that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.”  As a man, I could not help but rise to the challenge!

“As a man…” Well, that just stopped me in my tracks. “Who am I?” A personal note: I have never felt like a very masculine man.  I never played sports, never was buff or even fit, or ever lived up to the masculine identity that television and Hollywood projected. So, I’ve always felt disconnected from masculinity, knowing that biologically I am a man, but not feeling manly.

The man Derek Zoolander joins with the human race in asking the eternal question: “Who am I?

And so, I was always pegged as the sensitive, emotional type, types that traditionally are not ascribed to masculinity.  I am sensitive. Men are tough. I am emotional. Men don’t cry. I am in touch with my feelings. Men don’t feel.

But in my life’s journey in becoming comfortable and confident in my identity as a man, I have been encouraged by the Biblical witness to the fullness of manhood and womanhood. A full manhood lives in the reality of masculine and feminine identity, and a full womanhood lives in the reality of feminine and masculine identities. I see Biblical people as living out their identity in the reality of the fullness of genders, in the fullness of the image of God, and not as isolated towers of masculinity or femininity.

Was Rahab any less feminine and more masculine to aid the Israelites in the capture of Jericho? Was Deborah any less feminine and more masculine to lead Israel to victory? Was Esther any less feminine and more masculine for saving the Jewish people from genocide?

Was David any less masculine and more feminine to dance before the Ark of the Covenant?  Again with David, was he any less masculine and more feminine in his friendship with Jonathan? Was the Beloved Disciple any less masculine and more feminine to lay his head upon Jesus’ chest?

Some will argue: yes. But I disagree.  I see these examples of people living in the fullness of their identities, perhaps even in counter-cultural ways and coming before God in celebration.

It’s actually the last illustration that means the most to me, and in this I see the best example of relinquishing our strongholds of identity and collapsing into the love of Christ.  The love of Christ invites us to lay our heads upon his chest in adoration and security. It invites us under his wings like a mother hen gathers her chicks (sound familiar?). All in all, God invites us to be the bride of Christ, and enter into holy union with our Creator.

So, in one sense I am saying that our relationship with God is bigger than our gender, but in another sense I am saying that we love God within an engendered culture and regardless of our gender.  But we can be free from the cultural constraints on our gender identity.

So am I suggesting an abandonment of the masculine and feminine?  No, that would be a fatal mistake.  What I am arguing for is for recognition to the openness of our genders in expression of love and worship of God. What I am arguing against is “gendermandering” the Bible, theology, and spiritual experience. That means that the Christian experience cannot be masculinized or feminized; it depends on the unity of the masculine and feminine in the reality of the unity of the image of God.

We should recognize our worship of God in light of who God made us to be.  We worship God regardless of our gender, and we cannot allow our gender to become the norm of how we interpret the Bible, theology, and spiritual experience.  Rather, we must be open to the fullness of how and who God created us to be in the unity of our masculine and feminine identities.

In sum, this reply to Rachel Held Evans may not have directly addressed her challenge.  However, I wanted this to be a demonstration of whence I come to the discussion of gender, the Bible, theology, and spiritual experience.  In light of my personal experience, I want to break down the strongholds gender has placed on theology and open the floodgates to the experience of God in light of and regardless of gender.

The original article: http://rachelheldevans.com/john-piper-masculine-christianity

11 Comments

Filed under A Feminine Masculinity?

11 responses to “Feminine Masculinity?: A Personal Reply to Rachel Held Evens and John Piper

  1. “Gendermandering.” Love it.

  2. Cindy Fournelle

    I agree with you, John.
    Manly….? Womanly….? How about just humanly?

    • I’m with you Cindy. Humanly encompasses it all. My Bible study group looked at women in the Bible–not many to study, but what we found was that they embraced human qualities of love, nurturing, and strength. God chose many individuals–men and women, to share His message with the world–both men and women.

  3. To your list of questions I add – “Was Jael any less of a woman for driving a tent peg through Sisera’s head – no, rather – more.”

  4. I am compelled to leave a comment. John, you are an excellent writer, theologian and thinker. I am amazed once again at who God has made you to be. I look forward to reading this blog regularly. Maybe, I’ll pick up a few tips on blogging. Regards, Joy E.

  5. Kate Wallace

    Great post John!

  6. I don’t understand why we need to root gender hierarchy or gender equality in a metaphysical nomology.

  7. Hi John.
    1. What if we stopped buying into the idea that there are just two genders? Maybe that’s the next step for us to really get closer to this God creature…
    2. Closely related, but not completely: I’ve really been into the story of Rahab lately. Check out an article written by Kwok Pui-Lan called Sexual Morality and National Politics – muy interestante!

  8. "Liam"

    Nailed it. John, you are fantastic. I appreciate your existence from afar.

  9. Oake

    John, this perspective and your writing are beautiful. While I do not share your particular faith story, I too feel that gender bifurcation is both artificial and oppressive. It seems to me that this is more in response to John Piper than to Rachel Held Evans, though, while you have entitled this post “Feminine Masculinity?: A Personal Reply to Rachel Held Evens and John Piper”, in your summation you only indicate that it is in reply to Rachel.

    I thank you for sharing your understanding of this Issue so vulnerably and intimately. I appreciate it. It is my genuine hope that people in the faith communities of which you are a member, and more broadly those in the wider Christian culture and culture at large, may be open to your wisdom and begin to walk more closely in the path they profess.

    Thank You John.

    May you continue to be a Blessing and to be Blessed,

    Oake

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