I don’t usually post about things that get me riled up online. There are plenty of angry people on the internet already, and since the temptation to be articulately nasty is one of my besetting sins, I do a lot of counting to ten and clicking over to funny cat pictures when I’m reading about the discussions about gender roles in today’s church.
Today, though, I’m making an exception. Dr. John Piper is an author and preacher whose theological writings have blessed and challenged millions, myself included. However, virtually every time he decides to make pronouncements about the modern application of his theology, I want to beg him to please, please stop talking.
I’ll let you listen for yourself: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/do-you-use-bible-commentaries-written-by-women
The first part of the podcast is rife with the usual assumptions and overstatements common to his viewpoint – men are like drill sergeants! Women are like city planners! It’s just confusing and wrong when women try to teach and preach like drill sergeants! (Or something along those lines – I was laughing too hard to remember it verbatim.)
However, toward the end I stopped giggling because my jaw dropped in astonishment when he explained why he is comfortable reading and teaching from Biblical commentaries written by women, but he would not allow the same women to teach the same material from the pulpit. He says that the book “puts her out of my sight, and in a sense takes away the dimension of her female personhood.”
Takes away the dimension of her female personhood.
This surprised me, coming from the man who teaches that we are intrinsically male or female, and that our roles in family and church life are permanently and irrevocably determined by our maleness and femaleness.
It’s tempting to joke that all I have to do to be a God-approved preacher is go into the next room, where I’m out of sight of anybody who might be offended – ta-daaa! My female personhood is balanced out, and I can teach now! It’s also tempting, as other women have done, to wonder exactly what it is about my female personhood that is a problem when men can see me, but not when I’m on the other side of a book or the internet. (The answer here is generally “boobs.”)
But the reality isn’t quite that amusing. In the movie “Erin Brockovich”, a woman diagnosed with cancer asks the poignant question, “Ya think if ya got no breasts … no uterus … you’re still technically a woman?” The answer, of course, is an unequivocal yes. Even the staunchest complementarians draw the line at saying that a man who has survived testicular cancer, but at the loss of the relevant body parts, is now disqualified to teach – he is still a man.
We are still men, still women, even when we are sick or old or childless or unmarried or (dare I say it) not all that romantically interested in people of the opposite gender. We do not stop being men or women for any of these reasons, and we darn well don’t stop being them just because we’re not in the same room as John Piper.
I am a woman. I love the Lord, and I love His Word. In earlier seasons of life, I’ve taught and done well at it, by all accounts of the people I’ve taught. Even though this season of life has me listening and healing instead of talking, I am still intrinsically a teacher – and still intrinsically female. I don’t believe that combination of traits is an accident. I think that if God has given me things to say and a woman’s voice to say them in, then it’s because he wants those words spoken in this voice.
We are his hands and feet, but we are his voice too. These hands are small. These feet have red nail polish. This voice is a soprano, and it’s the voice of a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt. If God decides at some point that people need to hear it, then I hope they hear what He wants them to hear.
And on the off chance that Dr. Piper decides to drop by my little Quaker congregation and I’m contributing to the discussion that Sunday, then I will set up a chair for him in the hallway, pray that he will be blessed, and talk loud enough for him to hear.