Obviously this is a topic which is not without some objections or questions. I have encountered a few rebuttals that were not so much arguments but more like a “what about” in others trying appreciate the value of the point I am making. It is a considerable issue in my view. So, instead of a third essay I will approach this last little piece with a Q and A format.
Q. Are you saying that The Church is literally a woman?
A. Manifestly that cannot be true because men and women abound in The Church so its literalness is that of the people of whom it consists, both masculine and feminine.
Q. If The Church is not literally a woman how can you justify arguing for its heightened femininity?
A. The Church is symbolized by femininity because of its relationship to Christ. This is where its literalness as feminine comes into view. That is to say, the whole body, all the men and women who make up The Church, corporately and individually as it relates to Christ, do so as his bride with Christ as the head and with us, The Church (again both corporately and individually), yielding ourselves as a wife does to her husband. However, while we are symbolized by femininity, our yielding as the betrothed virgin to Christ is done so quite literally. We do not symbolically exercise ourselves as a church, we do so literally and our literal exercise (Christianity) stems from our symbol as feminine and specifically as those betrothed to Christ.
Q. Is The Church’s femininity a complete or partial parallel to human femininity?
A. Good question. It is not a complete parallel and not intended to be one. That is, if you take two different women, while they are both feminine they may express certain things differently. So trying to find an ideal and/or specific human female for comparison would be fruitless and unintended not to mention harmful since they have sinful weaknesses. Notice, when we are informed that Christ is our head we are to understand that concept as a wife is with a husband as her head. Only the general principle of submission to a head is in view and not the choice of a particular woman that must be followed (though a specific head, Christ, is pointed out). The point is one of acquiescence to Christ in the manner of a wife to her husband.
Q. So are you saying there is no place for masculinity in The Church? If The Church is to have a feminine feel, then what about men? Isn’t this extremely biased? It smacks of theological error and gender-based spirituality.
A. A distinction must be made here and if it is not, one can easily come to the above conclusions. You ask if there is any place for masculinity and to that I would ask (and do) what do you think church government is? It is the use of masculine properties (not in whole but in part) to lead The Church into submission to Christ.
Take a ship; it is personified in the feminine. Does that mean everyone on a ship is now to view themselves feminine? No, rather the ship must be guided; it must be helmed or led by a Captain and crew. Ignoring contemporary social constructs where a woman is able to be a Captain of a ship in many places, take simply a male Captain. What is he doing? He is guiding her. He remains the he that he is and she remains the she that she is though she is navigated by him and he is part of her.
There is something to be said and recognized about masculinity with regard to God's divine order for church government and ordained Ministers. The property of masculinity is indeed used (again in part) to guard The Church and to preserve its femininity. And certainly, you will feel that in its employment at times.
Q. You said in your first response to this issue that spirituality is gender neutral. If The Church is dependent upon those being made spiritually alive then wouldn’t that imply that The Church really is not masculine in its “feel” as Piper described or feminine in its "feel" as you assert?
A. Again, I would encourage a distinction to be made here. Our spirituality is God’s Spirit who has resurrected our spirit and made us alive spiritually, we are united with him in Spirit. This does not exist as a comment on the nature of The Church, rather on the nature of spirituality itself. And empowered by this spirituality as part of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, we genuflect ourselves to a submitted or yielded state to Christ, our head. Thus, our acquiescence is personified as a feminine exercise of the wife to her husband through the power of our spiritual life.
Q. Do you believe that you can over-apply or over-reach with this personification?
A. Yes, one can. I do not believe I have and certainly have not intended to present it as an absolute with no room for modification but other arguments withstanding at this time, it seems rather predominant with regard to the issue that primarily The Church is a bride, a feminine body, for her Lord Jesus Christ. But to be clear, this is in response to the claim of John Piper that “God intended for Christianity to have a masculine feel”.
Q. Christianity and the The Church are not necessarily synonymous; doesn’t that give some room here for John Piper's assertion?
A. While they are not synonymous, per se, their relationship in your question assumes they are not connected sufficiently. Christianity, in essence, is the expression of The Church. Submission to a husband is not the woman herself but it is the expression of that woman or her person and specifically her femininity. To attempt to divorce The Church from Christianity is to attempt to divorce one’s person from the expression of their person. Both are a logical disasters and the former a theological one.
Q. So is there any value to what John Piper said and why is it and he of such concern?
A. There is a kernel of truth that one can filter through his poorly considered claim which is that we will experience certain masculinity in the church but we will experience femininity just as well . However, these are horizontal and not vertical experiences. From person to person, being the anthropological creatures we are, we will experience being ministered to with respect to gender. There will be a resonation of the familiar. But every time that horizontal is felt and experienced, whether it be with a feminine or masculine property present, ultimately the intention is that when it leads us to the vertical it does so in a posture of submission, one of a bride to her groom, the body to the head.
What does concern me about John Piper is that as a celebrated Teacher of the Bible among some groups, he is consistently guilty of elementary theological failures. We can and should expect this in lessers but the elevated stature he is afforded gives little room for such foibles.
Think about this. John Piper simply utters the claim that, "God intended for Christianity to have a masculine feel", without thorough effort (he gave it a tacit treatment as if to nod and then ignore its implications) to reconcile it with one of the major themes in the New Testament about The Church which is its relationship to Christ as his bride. This demonstrates a very unhealthy willingness to disregard employing a mature and measured theological temperament and manifests, frankly, an appetite for ministerial posturing with unfamiliar and proprietary claims. That is not a good thing friends, not in one held is such high esteem.
Of course, this is to say nothing of outstanding objections to his theologically and logically horrendous body of contradiction formulated in his novel and proprietary doctrine known as Christian Hedonism which is a special form of doctrinal poison unto itself that it seems many a young and vulnerable mind is attracted to and consumes before their ability to discern its hidden yoke of bondage arises. That deserves continued scrutiny, objection and rejection.
Q. This is off topic but one I wanted to ask. Are you aware that you should do a better job of editing? Really, sometimes it is simply funny as I read what seems to be non-proofed posts. What gives?
A. I give, to you and the rest of my readers, that is what gives. Okay, really I am quite aware of the spelling and grammar issues at times. There are several reasons:
1. I think faster than I type, thus I am usually rushing to type out in any form possible the concepts and words that are being formed in my head (many writers do this so I cannot plead special exception here, only a de facto one). Thus, if you think what you read is bad (and I am a good typist by the way) you should see its initial form.
2. I am a bit impatient. If I were a doctor I would probably be called, "Dr. Cesarean". So I am confident I post things too soon with regard to thorough editing.
3. I like to pretend, at times, its is a signature of mine, a person with good or challenging prescriptions scribbled on a napkin, so to speak.
4. Time. Like everyone I do not have much of it. Forgivest thou me.
I am aware it does not help seriousness, at times, when pictures hang in a crooked fashion or a shirt has a smudge on it. I get that but this is not a blog of renown and it is just what it says, The Pedestrian Christian. Thanks for your interest though and encouraging and challenging responses.
(*Though not always I capitalized The Church in this piece as an emphatic devise).