By now, I’m sure many of you have heard or are aware of John Piper’s most recent podcast about whether or not women should be professors at seminaries. There has been a great deal of discussion surrounding this podcast, and though it may be needless to say, that discussion has not been very positive, nor has it been in support of his stance, rather, the discussion has been in resistance, against his stance. This post that I am writing today is not going to be a “letter to” John Piper, nor is it going to be a list of all reasons as to why I think that he is wrong (although, I do 100% believe that he is wrong). If I’m being completely honest, people like him don’t deserve my energy or finger muscles, at least not right now when I have a sermon to write and then preach on Sunday 😉
I do know full well what it is like to put my energy into debating with people about what women “can” and “cannot” do, and if I’m being honest, I’m sick of feeling as though it is my responsibility to explain to these ignorant men, why my call from God is just as legitimate as any other call. So, this post is more of a response based, not on how listening to this theological disaster of a podcast made me feel, rather, a response on how to move forward, as well as a sincere thank you to the men out there who hold to a egalitarian view, and strive each day to make room for women’s voices when people like Piper try to take them away. I want this response to be one where I thank the men who constantly strive for our equality, and I want to thank, indirectly (and at some point directly), all of the men in my own life who truly give me hope, that the destructive beliefs like the ones Piper preaches so often, will not last forever; not so long as men like you all step up, speak up, and make room for us women at the table, acknowledging that when women aren’t being heard, half the body of Christ is not being heard. God’s love is what will last forever, and these beliefs, I cannot help but write, are not God’s love. In fact, I can’t sit here and believe for one second that trying to prohibit women from doing what God has called them to do, whether teach, preach, or anything else, does not absolutely tear God’s heart right up.
So, without further ado, Piper’s article/podcast is linked here.
If you want to spare your ear drums (and sanity), I’ll give a short summary:
Piper states that it is as unbiblical for women to be professors at seminaries, as it is unbiblical for women to be pastors. Piper quotes the infamous 1 Timothy 2:12 passage, while neglecting its context completely, while reminding us that it is unbiblical for a woman to have authority over a male, whether in preaching or teaching (and probably more than that, which they just have not admitted yet). Piper uses the matter of mentorship as part of his argument – women cannot train pastors (i.e by teaching theological courses at seminaries) if they cannot even be a pastor themselves. Piper’s (and many others’) stance on this is that women should mentor women, and men should mentor men. This is all a very complementarian view, which, if you are unfamiliar with the term, in a nutshell means that women and men have separate roles in the Church, in marriage, etc. I’m sure you could guess this, but the answer, in Piper’s opinion, is no – women should not be professors at seminaries.
People were very shocked by this podcast. I wasn’t, and many folks who are also familiar with Piper, were not surprised by his stance on whether or not women should be professors at seminaries. I’ve found that no matter how many times you encounter people who believe things like this, you’re never not shocked, simply because of how unbelievable the belief is, especially in 2018. I actually lived in this for a year of my life, surrounded by people throwing these complementarian views in my face, and I still run into it occasionally, as do so many other women. It’s a real thing; it may be shocking, and unbelievable, but it’s not new, and it’s not going to go anywhere unless women and men continue to step up, and speak out against it. It genuinely hurts my heart to know that some people actually think this stuff puts a smile on God’s face. This sexism, and oppression, hatred, and fragile masculinity. It’s scary that sometimes it seems as though some people put more of their energy into defending why women cannot x, y, and z, more than they put their energy into spreading the Gospel. Think about that for a minute.
While I remember many of the not so wonderful days that I had as a student walking the grounds of Liberty University, one that I remember most vividly was when I was told by a guest speaker in my intro to church ministries class, that I was committing emotional adultery with any mentors of mine who were married, a male, and oh, God forbid they were a pastor, too. I don’t remember his reasoning behind why he thought this, likely because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I do remember that he had a PowerPoint on it, and when I went up to him after class to question this odd opinion that he had just taught a class of 60 undergraduate ministry students, he told me this remark that is written above.
This encounter with that guest speaker makes me laugh in retrospect, but in the moment, it made me feel so unbelievably uncomfortable – as though I was being talked to as a temptation to be avoided instead of a human being. I never had a pastor who was a woman until I got to college, and many of the people in my life who are my mentors are men, and that’s not by choice, because plain and simple, I don’t choose my mentors based on their sex. I choose them based on their ability to give me wisdom, guidance, build me up, challenge me, and support & love me well in my endeavors. That’s how it should be. One of the many implications Piper makes in this podcast is simply another man (him), trying to control women and what they do and don’t do – and he’s doing so in the name of God, which is scary, friends. It’s actually terrifying that this is seen as God’s love, will, and Word.
This podcast infuriated me, but it did not surprise me. It didn’t surprise a lot of people, and that’s sad. I know John Piper’s work and views well enough to not be surprised anymore, and while that may be okay, I don’t ever want to become immune to it, because when we become immune/not affected by things like this, our incentive to promote change and move forward from these harmful beliefs, disappears, and we don’t want that to happen. We need that incentive and we need to be active in resisting this and speaking against it.
So, with that, I just want to say a quick thank you to the men in my life who aim to do just that; who not only seek to silence but get rid of the inequality all together. Thank you, guys. Thank you for never making me feel inferior, and for never treating me as though I am inferior. Thank you for never making me feel uncomfortable. Thank you to the men who will go to the ends of the earth to give me opportunities to grow instead of telling me my place is with the children and not behind a pulpit. Thank you to the men who don’t treat me as thought I am an object, and instead treat me with respect. Thank you for knowing how to treat a young woman like myself well. Thank you for talking to me like an adult and not like a child. Thank you for making me feel safe. Thank you for acknowledging that I am strong and not inferior, while simultaneously carrying yourself in a way that lets me know you’d gladly beat the crap out of anyone who tried to hurt me. Thank you for not mansplaining (we all know why we’re thankful for that).
Thank you to the men who go out of their way to stand up for women, who treat us as equal individuals (because we are), who fight for women and don’t let this disgusting message be preached without trying to drown it out with your voice for equality in the Church and in the world.
I wrote this post as a woman who has been incredibly hurt, talked down to, taken advantage of, and made uncomfortable by men, but also as a woman who, in my bias opinion, knows some of the greatest men in the world, who fight against Piper’s harmful teaching – my dad, my friends and pastors and mentors who are men, and (some) of the men I have dated… there are incredible, respectful, sexism-destroying, loving, caring, men & leaders, both in the Church, in the community, in the workplace, and in the world, who are using the voices they have, to do good and destroy sexism and the mistreatment and inequality of women. Don’t lose hope. Change is a long a process. But it’s happening.