Masculine christianity is a privilege of the English-speaking…


A lot of people were tweeting and fb-sharing this article about some American bloke John Piper who on some pastors conference has said that ‘Christianity has a masculine feel’. Now I generally don’t care about what American Calvinists baptists feel about the religion I’m part of, and I don’t even care about the ‘feel’ of things, since that’s quite arbitrary and highly subjective… But some of the things he said are so weird and ignorant that I have to react, since there’s something very important that can be missed very easily by monolingual English-speaking people.

One of Brother John from Americas lines of reasoning why Christianity has  a ‘masculine feel’ is the following:

the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male.

I’ve heard versions of this argument before, in discussions among English-speaking people about gender-inclusive bible translations and stuff… And yes, one can argue about translating ‘brothers’ or ‘brothers and sisters’, and both sides have some truth in it in this case, Piper is  dead wrong, because he is fooled by his own language.

In Dutch, my first language, it isn’t even possible to interpret the bible like this, since we have 2 words where the English has just one: ‘man’ in English can be translated as ‘man’ (male human being), or ‘mens’ (human being, ungendered). And the word ‘Adam’ in Hebrew does not at all mean ‘man’ as ‘human being with XY chromosomes’, it just means, ‘member of the species Homo sapiens‘, regardles of gender or sex that is. Adam just means human, or humanity. Nothing male or female about the word.

Biker Booker, who knows more Hebrew than me and is able to explain it better, says it like this:

There is not to be taken interest in male of female in this stadium of the book of Genesis. The modern translations of the bible confuse. In Genesis 1.26 and 1.27, modern translations speak of “man”, which has nothing to do with sexuality. The Hebrew original word for man in these verses is “Adam”. So the bible tells us that God made Adam in His image, but 1.27 says that He made them male (zakar) and female (nequebah). In Genesis 2.7, man (Adam) is created out of dust (Adamah), indicating the primordial building block, in other words the human DNA string). so God creates the first human DNA structure and blows in His Holy Spirit to give life to Adam, the first “living soul” (Nephesh). But this in Gods image build human soul is nor male nor female! The bible does not indicate that the Adam had any form of gender or sex. All modern translations indicating sexuality are wrong. The Hebrew text does not indicate this. Verse 2.18 also does not indicate that the “ezer kenegdo”, a help to Adams side, is female. Only in verse 2.2 God divides the DNA material into XX (female) and XY (male) chromosomes. And than God decides to call this new creation woman (Ishshah)and thus Adam becomes a man only on this moment too!
(A similar exegesis of Gen  can be found in Scott McKnight’s the blue parakeet at the beginning of his narrative theology)
And btw,  just like man, meaning human being, does not have the meaning in non-English languages, neither is the word ‘mankind’ gendered. So some discussions among conservative Americans are suite weird to non-English-speaking people. They are just a privilege for the English-speaking, and don’t make sense to the rest of mankind, including the female ones…

about the discussion, I’m not going to waste too much time on it. It’s just not worth it, and it’s a distraction from the gospel… But the tetragrammon YHWH is genderless (transcending our gender polarity) and the Spirit is even female in the original Hebrew, and besides the male description ‘Father’ (which is only metaphor) there are also male and female images for God. Even pictures of female animals are used, but in the end God is beyond our genderedness, and all good characteristics of both genders are images of Gods Character.

As for the Christian religion, read in Jesus’ context Jesus was giving women a lot of space that they didn’t have in his Jewish society. Mary Magdalene is even the first person ever to preach the resurrectio  to the apostles (and is for that considered ‘apostle to the apostles’ by the Eastern Orthodox!) And there are a lot of women taking all kinds of roles in the bible. And there are countless stories of women being called by God, and I’ve met a lot of those women too… Stopping these women from doing  their God-given  ministry would be a serious blow to the Kingdom of God, a sterilisation of the bride of Christ.

In the end, even saying that Christianity has a ‘human feel’ to it does not completely do it right. Yes, Christianity is a human religion, and Jesus became human, but there’s no need for speciesism here, the scope is the salvation of the cosmos, the restoration of all of creation! The scope is God self, eternal spirit beyond all of Creation while intimately involved with every little particle of it. The God who became human (in male form, yes, but he came as the new Adam, the new human being, to recapitulate the curse for all of Homo-sapiens-kind, not  just all of male mankind!) came to restore the Cosmos, and in Him there is no male or female. We all have our gifts, our place, and our difference, but they do not at all depend primarily on gender.

(Btw saying all men should be leaders by definition is also nonsense, and in a sense quite misandric too, but let’s not go there…)

If our Christianity doesn’t have a ‘God’ feel to it above all of our human concerns, we are bordering on idolatry… I though someone as obsessed with the glory of God did know that….And frankly, the way this discussion is held never ceased to amaze me. And ‘it’s the US’ is not a excuse, the same day everybody forwarded the John Piper article, people from my own ‘tribe’, vineyard USA tweeted a link to this article about women in ministry, and the least I can say is that it has a quite different ‘feel’…

So please, let’s not waste time with this… Let’s proclaim the Kingdom, free the captives, heal the sick, and bring good news to the poor. Now those things would be controversial and transforming…

Let’s love the hell out of this hurt planet…

Shalom

Bram

related blogposts: ‘male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa, the cultural problem of Mark Driscoll’s effeminate worship leaders, Biblical manhood or the fruits of the Spirit?

edit: the best other post on this controversy, apart from Rachel’s, is this one about the radical femininity of Christ. Must-read!

12 responses to “Masculine christianity is a privilege of the English-speaking…

  1. Pingback: Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Patriarchies « BLT

  2. Thank you, Bram, for your comment over at our blog. And thanks for this post, for your take on what John Piper overlooks.

    Since you mention Scot McKnight’s exposition of Genesis, maybe your blog readers would also be interested in his blog on what Piper said:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/02/03/john-piper-what-he-said/

    All the best!
    J. K. Gayle

    • I’m not the greatest scholar in the world, but I can tell you what the non-english world sees….

      Didn’t notice that post on Jesus Creed, thanks, but it will take forever to read all those comments..

  3. Thank you.

    Oh, and “…let’s not waste time with this… Let’s proclaim the Kingdom, free the captives, heal the sick, and bring good news to the poor. Now those things would be controversial and transforming…”

    YES!

  4. I’m fairly sure a straight reading of Genesis 2-4 without the added “context” Piper uses would cause one to believe that God initially planned for Adam to have a watchful mother-figure to lend him aid and that it is only the Fall that places rash, violent men at the top of the hierarchy.

    Of course, that would also be a context-less way to read, but I think it requires a very careful selection of background to make any sort of sense of Piper’s claim that Genesis 2 actually establishes some sort of federal headship of Adam (I believe “federal headship” is the Piperine term).

  5. Pingback: Weekend Links! « Sarah Moon

  6. Pingback: Language is quite fallible (Chesterton) | Brambonius' blog in english

  7. Pingback: ‘Masculine Christianity’: Roundups and Reactions « Disoriented. Reoriented.

  8. Your block quote, while insightful is confusing it says: “The Adam becomes the male XX man and Eve the XY female.” Earlier it correctly identifies femame as XX and male as XY but it seems to have a typing error here or am I just misreading it.

    • Thanks for noticing what I had overlooked. You’re right, it’s confusing. There is a very interesting insight in the Hebrew language of genesis, but there is something wrong with the genetics in that quote. You’re right that it is confusing, so I’ve deleted the last sentence “As God takes the Y chromosome out of the XY sexless Adam. The Adam becomes the male XX man and Eve the XY female.” which is indeed genetically wrong, The point wasn’t about genetics but about Hebrew anyway…

  9. Pingback: on Ishtar, myopic Anglocentrism and sloppy ‘scepticism’… | Brambonius' blog in english

  10. Pingback: On nudity in game of thrones, and some American bloke again… | Brambonius' blog in english

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s