The rise of evangelical feminism challenges traditional Christian beliefs related to gender roles in society, the home, and the church. This comprehensive defense of complementarianism contributes to the debate with systematic argumentation and practical application.
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About the Author
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.organd the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God;Don’t Waste Your Life;This Momentary Marriage;A Peculiar Glory;andReading the Bible Supernaturally.
Wayne Grudem(PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, having previously taught fortwenty years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is aformer president of the Evangelical Theological Society, a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, the general editor of theESV Study Bible, and has published overtwenty books.
Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the chancellor & CEO and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004-2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. Ligon and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is the pastor to pastorsat Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including the Preaching the Word commentary on Isaiah and Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, as well as a contributor to the ESV Study Bible. He and his wife, Jani, have four children.
Thomas R. Schreiner (MDiv and ThM, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary; PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the school of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) isEmeritusProfessor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.
John M. Frame(DD, Belhaven College) is J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has published many books, includingThe Doctrine of GodandSystematic Theology.
Vern S. Poythress (PhD, Harvard University; ThD, University of Stellenbosch) is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has taught for nearly four decades. In addition to earning six academic degrees, he is the author of numerous books and articles on biblical interpretation, language, and science.
Dorothy Kelley Patterson (DTheol, University of South Africa) is professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where her husband, Paige Patterson, is the president. She is the author of many books, an active homemaker, a frequent speaker and Bible teacher at women’s conferences, and a mother and grandmother.
Elisabeth Elliot(1926-2015) was a popular speaker and the author of many books, includingThrough Gates of Splendor,Let me Be a Woman,Passion and Purity, andShadow of the Almighty. Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while serving as a missionary in Ecuador.
Dee Jepsen is chairman of the board at Regent University (formerly CBN University). She was formerly public liaison to President Reagan for women’s organizations. She has authored three books, including Women Beyond Equal Rights. She is married to former Iowa senator Roger Jepsen. They have six children and eight grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible
When I was a boy growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, my father was away from home about two-thirds of every year. And while he preached across the country, we prayed — my mother and my older sister and I. What I learned in those days was that my mother was omni-competent.
She handled the finances, paying all the bills and dealing with the bank and creditors. She once ran a little laundry business on the side. She was active on the park board, served as the superintendent of the Intermediate Department of our Southern Baptist church, and managed some real estate holdings.
She taught me how to cut the grass and splice electric cord and pull Bermuda grass by the roots and paint the eaves and shine the dining-room table with a shammy and drive a car and keep French fries from getting soggy in the cooking oil. She helped me with the maps in geography and showed me how to do a bibliography and work up a science project on static electricity and believe that Algebra II was possible. She dealt with the contractors when we added a basement and, more than once, put her hand to the shovel. It never occurred to me that there was anything she couldn't do.
I heard one time that women don't sweat, they glow. Not true. My mother sweated. It would drip off the end of her long, sharp nose. Sometimes she would blow it off when her hands were pushing the wheelbarrow full of peat moss. Or she would wipe it with her sleeve between the strokes of a swingblade. Mother was strong. I can remember her arms even today thirty years later. They were big, and in the summertime they were bronze.
But it never occurred to me to think of my mother and my father in the same category. Both were strong. Both were bright. Both were kind. Both would kiss me and both would spank me. Both were good with words. Both prayed with fervor and loved the Bible. But unmistakably my father was a man and my mother was a woman. They knew it and I knew it. And it was not mainly a biological fact. It was mainly a matter of personhood and relational dynamics.
When my father came home he was clearly the head of the house. He led in prayer at the table. He called the family together for devotions. He got us to Sunday School and worship. He drove the car. He guided the family to where we would sit. He made the decision to go to Howard Johnson's for lunch. He led us to the table. He called for the waitress. He paid the check. He was the one we knew we would reckon with if we broke a family rule or were disrespectful to Mother. These were the happiest times for Mother. Oh, how she rejoiced to have Daddy home! She loved his leadership. Later I learned that the Bible calls this "submission."
But since my father was gone most of the time, Mother used to do most of those leadership things too. So it never occurred to me that leadership and submission had anything to do with superiority and inferiority. And it didn't have to do with muscles and skills either. It was not a matter of capabilities and competencies. It had to do with something I could never have explained as a child. And I have been a long time in coming to understand it as part of God's great goodness in creating us male and female. It had to do with something very deep. I know that the specific rhythm of life that was in our home is not the only good one. But there were dimensions of reality and goodness in it that ought to be there in every home. Indeed they ought to be there in varying ways in all mature relationships between men and women.
I say "ought to be there" because I now see that they were rooted in God. Over the years I have come to see from Scripture and from life that manhood and womanhood are the beautiful handiwork of a good and loving God. He designed our differences and they are profound. They are not mere physiological prerequisites for sexual union. They go to the root of our personhood. This chapter is an attempt to define some of those differences as God wills them to be according to the Bible.
* * *
Let me say a word about that phrase, "according to the Bible." The subtitle of this chapter is "Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible." What that means is that I have made every effort to bring the thinking of this chapter into accord with what the Bible teaches. At the same time, however, I have not tried to include a detailed exegetical argument for every assertion.
There are three main reasons that seem to justify this approach:
First, for the purposes of this chapter, it seemed best to present the Biblical vision of manhood and womanhood as clearly and concisely as possible, and to leave the comprehensive technical discussion for the following chapters. I have also tried in articles, sermons, and unpublished papers to give credible account of the Biblical foundations of what I say here.
Second, I have tried to include enough Biblical argumentation in this essay, especially in the footnotes, to show why I believe this vision of manhood and womanhood is in fact "according to the Bible." I hope it will be obvious that my reflections are not the creation of an independent mind, but the fruit of a tree planted firmly in the soil of constant meditation on the Word of God.
Third, experience has taught me that there are two ways to commend a vision of manhood and womanhood. One way has to do with rational argumentation concerning factual evidences. For example, an evangelical Christian wants to know, Does the Bible really teach this vision of manhood and womanhood? So one way of commending the vision is by patient, detailed, careful exegetical argumentation.
But there is another way to commend the vision. A person also wants to know, Is the vision beautiful and satisfying and fulfilling? Can I live with it? This is not a bad question. Commending Biblical truth involves more than saying, "Do it because the Bible says so." That sort of commendation may result in a kind of obedience that is so begrudging and so empty of delight and hearty affirmation that the Lord is not pleased with it at all.
So there is a second task needed in winning people over to a vision of manhood and womanhood. Not only must there be thorough exegesis, there must also be a portrayal of the vision that satisfies the heart as well as the head. Or to put it another way: we must commend the beauty as well as the truth of the vision. We must show that something is not only right but also good. It is not only valid but also valuable, not only accurate but also admirable.
This chapter is meant to fit mainly into the second category. Not merely, but mainly. It is designed to show that our vision of manhood and womanhood is a deeply satisfying gift of grace from a loving God who has the best interests of his creatures at heart. The vision is not onerous or oppressive. It does not promote pride or self-exaltation. It conforms to who we are by God's good design. Therefore it is fulfilling in the deepest sense of that word.
* * *
The tendency today is to stress the equality of men and women by minimizing the unique significance of our maleness or femaleness. But this depreciation of male and female personhood is a great loss. It is taking a tremendous toll on generations of young men and women who do not know what it means to be a man or a woman. Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood today is epidemic. The consequence of this confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender-free persons relating on the basis of abstract competencies. The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that come with the loss of God-given identity.
It is a remarkable and telling observation that contemporary Christian feminists devote little attention to the definition of femininity and masculinity. Little help is being given to a son's question, "Dad, what does it mean to be a man and not a woman?" Or a daughter's question, "Mom, what does it mean to be a woman and not a man?" A lot of energy is being expended today minimizing the distinctions of manhood and womanhood. But we do not hear very often what manhood and womanhood should incline us to do. We are adrift in a sea of confusion over sexual roles. And life is not the better for it.
Ironically the most perceptive thinkers recognize how essential manhood and womanhood are to our personhood. Yet the meaning of manhood and womanhood is seen as unattainable. For example, Paul Jewett, in his very insightful book, Man as Male and Female, argues persuasively that maleness and femaleness are essential, not peripheral, to our personhood:
Sexuality permeates one's individual being to its very depth; it conditions every facet of one's life as a person. As the self is always aware of itself as an 'I,' so this 'I' is always aware of itself as himself or herself. Our self-knowledge is indissolubly bound up not simply with our human being but with our sexual being. At the human level there is no 'I and thou' per se, but only the 'I' who is male or female confronting the 'thou,' the 'other,' who is also male or female.
He cites Emil Brunner to the same effect: "Our sexuality penetrates to the deepest metaphysical ground of our personality. As a result, the physical differences between the man and the woman are a parable of psychical and spiritual differences of a more ultimate nature."
After reading these amazing statements concerning how essential manhood and womanhood are to our personhood and how sexuality "conditions every facet of one's life," it is stunning to read that Jewett does not know what manhood and womanhood are. He says,
Some, at least, among contemporary theologians are not so sure that they know what it means to be a man in distinction to a woman or a woman in distinction to a man. It is because the writer shares this uncertainty that he has skirted the question of ontology in this study.
All human activity reflects a qualitative distinction which is sexual in nature. But in my opinion, such an observation offers no clue to the ultimate meaning of that distinction. It may be that we shall never know what that distinction ultimately means. But this much, at least, seems clear: we will understand the difference — what it means to be created as man or woman — only as we learn to live as man and woman in a true partnership of life.
Surely this is a great sadness. We know that "sexuality permeates one's individual being to its very depth." We know that "it conditions every facet of one's life as a person." We know that every I-thou encounter is an encounter not of abstract persons but of male or female persons. We know that physical differences are but a parable of male and female personhood. But, alas, we do not know who we are as male and female. We are ignorant of this all-pervasive dimension of our identity.
But what about Jewett's prescription for hope in the face of this stunning ignorance of who we are? He suggests that we discover who we are "as man or woman" by experiencing a "true partnership" as man and woman. The problem with this is that we cannot know what a "true partnership" is until we know the nature of the partners. A true partnership must be true to who the partners are. A true partnership must take into account the sexual reality "that conditions every facet of their life." We simply cannot know what a "true" partnership is until we know what truly "permeates [our] personhood to the very depths." If we are really ignorant of what true manhood and womanhood are, we have no warrant to prescribe the nature of what true partnership will look like.
The sexual turmoil of our culture is not surprising when we discover that our best Christian thinkers claim not to know what masculinity and femininity are, and yet acknowledge that these are among the most profound aspects of personhood that "condition every facet of one's life"! How shall parents rear daughters to be women and sons to be men when even the leading teachers of the church do not know what manhood and womanhood are?
The conviction behind this chapter is that the Bible does not leave us in ignorance about the meaning of masculine and feminine personhood. God has not placed in us an all-pervasive and all-conditioning dimension of personhood and then hidden the meaning of our identity from us. He has shown us in Scripture the beauty of manhood and womanhood in complementary harmony. He has shown us the distortions and even horrors that sin has made of fallen manhood and womanhood. And he has shown us the way of redemption and healing through Christ.
To be sure, we see "through a glass dimly." Our knowledge is not perfect. We must be ever open to new light. But we are not so adrift as to have nothing to say to our generation about the meaning of manhood and womanhood and its implications for our relationships. Our understanding is that the Bible reveals the nature of masculinity and femininity by describing diverse responsibilities for man and woman while rooting these differing responsibilities in creation, not convention.
When the Bible teaches that men and women fulfil different roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, it bases this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 (especially vv. 8-9, 14); Ephesians 5:21-33 (especially vv. 31-32); and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (especially vv. 1314). In the Bible, differentiated roles for men and women are never traced back to the fall of man and woman into sin. Rather, the foundation of this differentiation is traced back to the way things were in Eden before sin warped our relationships. Differentiated roles were corrupted, not created, by the fall. They were created by God.
* * *
This leads me then to attempt at least a partial definition of manhood and womanhood. This is risky business. Every word we choose could be misunderstood. Unsympathetic readers could jump to conclusions about practical implications that are not implied. I would simply plead for the application of that great principle of good criticism: Before assessing an author's position, express an understanding of it in a way the author would approve.
I would commend the following descriptions of masculinity and femininity for consideration. It will be very important to read them in the light of the subsequent comments. These are not exhaustive descriptions of all that masculinity or femininity mean. But they are intended to embrace both married people and single people. Even where I illustrate manhood and womanhood in the dynamics of a marriage relationship, I hope single people will see an application to other relationships as well. The definitions are not exhaustive, but they touch all of us. They are an attempt to get at the heart, or at least an indispensable aspect, of manhood and womanhood.
AT THE HEART OF MATURE MASCULINITY IS A SENSE OF BENEVOLENT RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD, PROVIDE FOR AND PROTECT WOMEN IN WAYS APPROPRIATE TO A MAN'S DIFFERING RELATIONSHIPS.
AT THE HEART OF MATURE FEMININITY IS A FREEING DISPOSITION TO AFFIRM, RECEIVE AND NURTURE STRENGTH AND LEADERSHIP FROM WORTHY MEN IN WAYS APPROPRIATE TO A WOMAN'S DIFFERING RELATIONSHIPS.
The Meaning of Masculinity
Here we take the definition of masculinity a phrase at a time and unfold its meaning and implications.
AT THE HEART OF MATURE MASCULINITY IS A SENSE OF BENEVOLENT RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD, PROVIDE FOR AND PROTECT WOMEN IN WAYS APPROPRIATE TO A MAN'S DIFFERING RELATIONSHIPS.
"AT THE HEART OF ..."
This phrase signals that the definitions are not exhaustive. There is more to masculinity and femininity, but there is not less. We believe this is at the heart of what true manhood means, even if there is a mystery to our complementary existence that we will never exhaust.
"... MATURE MASCULINITY ..."
A man might say, "I am a man and I do not feel this sense of responsibility that you say makes me masculine." He may feel strong and sexually competent and forceful and rational. But we would say to him that if he does not feel this sense of benevolent responsibility toward women to lead, provide and protect, his masculinity is immature. It is incomplete and perhaps distorted.
"Mature" means that a man's sense of responsibility is in the process of growing out of its sinful distortions and limitations, and finding its true nature as a form of love, not a form of self-assertion.
"... A SENSE OF ..."
I use the word "sense" because to be masculine a man must not only be responsible, but sense or feel that he is. If he does not "sense" or "feel" and "affirm" his responsibility, he is not mature in his masculinity.
The word "sense" also implies the fact that a man can be mature in his masculinity when his circumstances do not put him in any relationship where he actually has the possibility to relate to any woman. He may be in combat or out to sea away from women. He may be in prison. He may have a job on an oil rig in the North Atlantic. He may be a monk. Or his style of life may simply make interaction with women very limited.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood"
Copyright © 2006 Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PREFACE (2006) Friday, March 20, 2009,
PREFACE (1991) Friday, March 20, 2009,
FOREWORD: For Single Men and Women (and the Rest of Us) Friday, March 20, 2009,
SECTION I: VISION AND OVERVIEW,
Chapter 1: A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible John Piper,
Chapter 2: An Overview of Central Concerns: Questions and Answers John Piper and Wayne Grudem,
SECTION II: EXEGETICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES,
Chapter 3: Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1–3 Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School),
Chapter 4: Women in the Life and Teachings of Jesus James A. Borland (Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary),
Chapter 5: Head Coverings, Prophecies, and the Trinity: 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 Thomas R. Schreiner (Bethel Theological Seminary),
Chapter 6: "Silent in the Churches": On the Role of Women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b–36 D. A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School),
Chapter 7: Role Distinctions in the Church: Galatians 3:28 S. Lewis Johnson Jr. (Believers Chapel, Dallas),
Chapter 8: Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church: Ephesians 5:21–33 and Colossians 3:18–19 George W. Knight III (Knox Theological Seminary),
Chapter 9: What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?: 1 Timothy 2:11–15 Douglas Moo (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School),
Chapter 10: Wives Like Sarah, and the Husbands Who Honor Them: 1 Peter 3:1–7 Wayne Grudem,
Chapter 11: The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A Survey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching Thomas R. Schreiner (Bethel Theological Seminary),
Chapter 12: Men and Women in the Image of God John M. Frame (Westminster Theological Seminary),
Chapter 13: The Church as Family: Why Male Leadership in the Family Requires Male Leadership in the Church Vern Sheridan Poythress (Westminster Theological Seminary),
Chapter 14: The Meaning of Authority in the Local Church Paige Patterson (Criswell College),
SECTION III: STUDIES FROM RELATED DISCIPLINESD,
Chapter 15: Church History: Women in the History of the Church: Learned and Holy, but Not Pastors William Weinrich (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne),
Chapter 16:Biology: The Biological Basis for Gender-Specific Behavior Gregg Johnson (Bethel College, St. Paul),
Chapter 18: Sociology The Inevitability of Failure: The Assumptions and Implementations of Modern Feminism David J. Ayers (The King's College),
Chapter 19: Law Is It Legal for Religious Organizations to Make Distinctions on the Basis of Sex? Donald A. Balasa (Attorney, Chicago, IL),
SECTION IV: APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS,
Chapter 20: The Family and the Church: How Should Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Work Out in Practice? George W. Knight III (Knox Theological Seminary),
Chapter 21: Principles to Use in Establishing Women in Ministry H. Wayne House (Western Baptist College),
Chapter 22: The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective Dorothy Patterson (Criswell College),
Chapter 23: Where's Dad? A Call for Fathers with the Spirit of Elijah Weldon Hardenbrook (St. Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church, Santa Cruz),
Chapter 24: Women in Society: The Challenge and the Call Dee Jepsen (Author, Washington, D.C.),
Chapter 25: The Essence of Femininity: A Personal Perspective Elisabeth Elliot (Author, Massachusetts),
SECTION V: CONCLUSION AND PROSPECT,
Chapter 26: Charity, Clarity, and Hope: The Controversy and the Cause of Christ: (including a response to the statement by Christians for Biblical Equality) John Piper and Wayne Grudem,
Appendix 2: The Danvers Statement,
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,
ABOUT THE AUTHORS,
What People are Saying About This
"In Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, twenty-two men and women commit their talents to produce the most thorough response yet to evangelical feminism. All who are concerned with the fundamental question of the proper relationship between men and women in home, church, and society will want to read this important book."
—Association of Theological BooksellersAssociation of Theological Booksellers
"The best book in print today on this subject. A very important contribution in an age that needs to know."
—Christian Literature WorldChristian Literature World
"Piper and Grudem have achieved a commendable breadth of subject area supported by clear, specific, and precise treatment-all of which consistently make the case for 'biblically balanced male leadership' in home, church, and society."
—Michael G. Maudlin, Discipleship Journal
"Without a doubt this is the most impressive and comprehensive statement of a conservative evangelical understanding of these issues to be published to date. No one seriously involved in seeking a responsible Christian engagement with such concerns can afford to ignore this magisterial undertaking."
—Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
"A trumpet-call to the church at large to wake up to the issue. Yet for a book that pulls no punches, it remains reasoned and courteous. It also sets an excellent model in the principles of biblical debate."
—Graham Keith, Banner of Truth Trust
"This significant contribution to the ongoing debates over roles and liberties consciously seeks to be governed by Scripture rather than by contemporary culture. Headship by men is a responsibility from God, not a privilege for their own advantage. Much of the confusion of our day is laid at the feet of men who have failed in their role by being either domineering or domesticated. Here is strong medicine for healthy balance with full respect for women and men in their intended roles."
—William Smallman, The Baptist Bulletin
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Comprehensive (it's a big book!) and available free in PDF format on the Desiring God website!
Some of the best conservative evangelical theologians write the most comprehensive defense of the biblical view of complementarianism. Some of the contributors are John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Thomas R. Schreiner, D. A. Carson, George W. Knight III, Douglas Moo, and H. Wayne House. This is a book that can be accessed over and over to address the main issues in this debate. I cannot overstate the importance of this work on this very important issue.
This book is an absolutely amazing reference tool for single, married, divorced, widowed men and women. Biblical rooted and grounded.
right wing drivel but have to read a balance of the good and bad, must keep an eye on the dark side's witterings