In Piper’s article we discussed last time, he also includes a story meant to illustrate specific gender differences between men and women. It is not convincing.
Suppose…a young man and woman…find themselves chatting before the worship service. He likes what he hears and sees, and says, “Are you sitting with anyone?”
They sit together…as they are leaving, he says, “Do you have any lunch plans? I’d love to treat you to lunch.” [and she replies] I’d love to go.
As they walk he finds out that she has a black belt in martial arts…two men block their way ominously and say, “Pretty girlfriend you’ve got there. We’d like her purse and your wallet. In fact, she’s so pretty we’d like her.”
The thought goes through his head: “She can whip these guys.” But…he pulls her back behind him, and says, “If you’re going to touch her, it will be over my dead body.”…They knock him unconscious, but before they know what hit them, she has put them both on their backs with their teeth knocked out…
And she has one main thought on the way to the hospital: This is the kind of man I want to marry. [All the bold emphasis in the story is mine]
I see nothing wrong with this story—except the finale; the woman is attracted to the man because of his macho, protective behavior—the implication being that godly men are macho and protective and that woman love that. However, this is not the only thing a woman might admire in a man. She could be attracted to his love of art, his love of tending children, his cooking, or any number of qualities. The macho instinct to protect a damsel in distress is not the ultimate mark of manhood.
Now this might powerfully impress the woman in this story—but not all women. This story generalizes about both men and woman to fit complementarian assumptions; they are stereotypes.
Piper’s Conclusions from the Story
Piper draws several points from the story:
The main point of that story is to illustrate that the deeper differences of manhood and womanhood are not superior or inferior competencies. There are rather deep dispositions or inclinations written on the heart…Notice three crucial things.
First, he took the initiative and asked if he could sit with her and if she would go to lunch and suggested the place and how to get there. She saw clearly what he was doing, and responded freely according to her desires…This says nothing about who has superior competencies in planning. God writes the impulse to lead on a man’s heart. And the wisdom to discern it and enjoy it on a woman’s.
Wow! All women like men who take charge! But I suggest that not all women like men who take charge; they might have something else to say about a man’s ‘impulse to lead’.
Second, he said that he wanted to treat her to lunch. He’s paying. This sends a signal. “I think that’s part of my responsibility. In this little drama of life, I initiate, I provide.”
She understands and approves. She supports the initiative and graciously accepts the offer to be provided for…And it says nothing about who is wealthier or more capable of earning. It is what God’s man feels he must do.
But what if the conversation goes differently? What if the woman is the one who suggests lunch and offers to pay? Is she being too forward by robbing the man of his leadership and responsibility? I don’t think so; relationships vary and do not always play out a 1950s scenario.
Some women are very independent and do not appreciate a man who always provides for her, but they might be more open to a partnership relationship with mutual respect for each other. Does this mean these women are defying God’s gender expectations? Not at all; they are just different from more traditional women.
**Third, it is irrelevant to the masculine soul that a woman he is with has greater self-defending competencies. It is his deep, God-given, masculine impulse to protect her.
It is not a matter of superior competency. It is a matter of manhood. She saw it. She did not feel belittled by it, but honored, and she loved it.
I would try to be protective as well, but that would be true whether I was with a woman, with another guy, or helping a stranger. Rescuing damsels in distress is not the specific mark of a godly man.
At the heart of mature manhood is the God-given sense…that the primary responsibility (not sole responsibility) lies with him when it comes to leadership-initiative, provision, and protection.
And at the heart of mature womanhood is the God-given sense…that none of this implies her inferiority, but that it will be a beautiful thing to come alongside such a man and gladly affirm and receive this kind of leadership and provision and protection.
Of course, to ‘come alongside such a man and gladly affirm and receive this kind of leadership and provision and protection’ is to step back and submit. Not all women are so excited about submitting to a man’s ‘headship’, and I don’t blame them; we are all responsible for making our own choices.
It’s fine if a woman wants the headship of a man—but it is not God’s design for all women.
What is the Biblical Basis for all these Gender Differences?
Piper begins with God’s ‘expectation’ that women submit to the headship of men. But he goes on to extrapolate all these ‘deep’ differences created by God that are not at all suggested by the biblical texts. In fact, I think Piper’s cultural biases are showing and he thinks all women should comply with them.
One more thing. You might also wish to read Benjamin Corey’s article on Piper’s statements against women supervising men in jobs outside the home. I recommend it highly.
Articles from this series: Harmful Christian Patriarchy
- How Christian Patriarchy is a Misguided and Harmful Belief that Does Tremendous Damage
- The Alleged Biblical Basis for Christian Patriarchy
- Examining Passages from Genesis Used to Support Patriarchy in the Church
- Complementarian Patriarchy and Fundamentalist Patriarchy are Both Harmful; But How are They Different?
- John Piper and Christian Patriarchy
- John Piper Tells an Unconvincing Story to Illustrate Gender Differences between Men and Women
- The Many Women Leaders in Paul’s Circles Don’t Seem to Represent Christian Patriarchy
- 5 Ways Christian Patriarchy Harms Men
- The Feminine Side of God in the Bible
- Patriarchy, Bill Gothard, and the Umbrella of Protection
- An Overview of Bill Gothard’s Role in Today’s Cultish Fundamentalism
- Resources on Christian Patriarchy, Abuse, and Extreme Fundamentalism