So as I sat down at the computer this morning, I was wondering which particular box in my attic I should unpack and bring down. And one of the first things I encountered was an email from a friend with some links, in case I was looking for something to jump in on. Well, I was, as a matter of fact. Guidance, I call it.
A minor dust-up involving complementarianism outside marriage and the church has arisen. John Piper started it here by answering a woman who wondered if she could become a police officer. Aimee Byrd responded, as did Carl Trueman a couple ways, and we should not neglect mentioning Scot McKnight.
What I want to do here is agree with John Piper on the fundamental issue at hand, and to do so in a way that emphasizes how important this is. John Piper is on to something here, and to let it go is to fall into a conservative complementarian neo-orthodox retreat to commitment. I hope explain that shortly.
But first, I think some of Piper’s particular criteria for navigating the question (directive authority & personal contact) are not helpful across the board, the way they need to be. More work is needed here. I can easily think of counter-instances where I don’t think there should be any biblical hesitations, but which violate his criteria — e.g. the lady of the house directing the landscapers on where to plant the bushes, or telling the men from the moving company which rooms the boxes go in.
But Piper is right that we must function as biblically-minded men or women all day every day, and we must figure out what this looks like in all our daily interactions. This means making judgment calls, and so his interlocutors are hooting at him and conjuring up weird instances where his standard creates weird situations. But what about their standard? If God’s standards for femininity apply only when church is in session, and/or in the privacy of our own evangelical homes, then what do we have to say about women fighting in mixed martial arts competitions? All good Christians need to say that such things are demented, but given the premises of those sidling out of complementarianism, why? Why are they demented? You do agree they are demented, right?
Second, Aimee Byrd set out an ostensibly even-handed way of approaching such questions. On the surface, it seems preeminently reasonable.
“When I saw the question, I thought, ‘Well this should be a short episode. Yes, as long as she can pass all of the education, physical, and background requirements for the job.'”
Yes, but we live in a generation where the required outcome is that women will in fact start passing all those tests, and we will coax them along until they do. And when we have dragged them across the finish line, a great celebration will commence. If anyone points out what is happening, his sorry little male ego will be remanded to sensitivity camps.
The standard looks like a simple application of the biblical requirement of “equal weights and measures.” But once you have affirmed the “same standard” approach, good luck applying it. The same measuring rod will get you a first rate man but a third rate woman, or a first rate woman and a third rate man. Why? Because a defensive lineman is not a quarterback, a china vase is not a backhoe, and a crescent wrench is not a hammer.
And this brings us to our evangelical sophisticates who, unlike John Piper, believe that crescent wrenches are only “not hammers” in the church and family. Outside in the world, where complementarianism is thought to be the height of SILLINESS, feel free to pound in the brads with the crescent wrench, which actually can be done, come to think of it. You might run up against the limits of your theory when you try to get the lug nuts off your tire with a hammer though.
So yes, you heard that right — some folks think God’s creation pattern can be ignored out there in the creation.
Carl Trueman provides a great example of what I meant by the retreat to commitment on this issue.
“I rarely read complementarian literature these days. I felt it lost its way when it became an all-embracing view of the world and not simply a matter for church and household.”
God has given us a distinctive way of living in the world, modeling for the world how the authority of Jesus Christ extends to absolutely everything. The Great Commission did not tell us to go out into the world and settle for privatized carve-outs and ghettos.
Let us end with some Bible. That still okay? It is from Deuteronomy, so I might be pushing it.
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 22:5).
This is a verse that prohibits cross-dressing for the men, but something else is prohibited to the women. Men are told not to put on women’s clothing, which is the sin of the transvestite. Women are told not to wear keli geber, the gear of a soldier. The phrase can be understood as the panoply of a warrior, but it could also perhaps be extended to include something like a telephone lineman’s tool belt. So, no. A Christian complementarian woman should not become a cop, especially when it involves riot gear. No.
The fundamental Christian confession is that Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of the church, of the family, and of the nations of men. He is Lord of Heaven and earth. He is Lord of the private spaces and the public places. There is not one square inch in this cosmos over which Jesus Christ is not the absolute and final sovereign.
What this soft complementarianism jive is doing, what this accidental feminism is accomplishing, what this retreat to commitment is unwittingly trying to do, is to replace the triumphant cry that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords with the much more acceptable and palatable view that Jesus is our much beloved tribal chieftain.
Granted, the rules that Jesus has for us here in this village can sometimes feel pretty strict, but it is manageable because a bunch of us have figured out how to go into the big city on the weekends and take in some of the sights. One of the favorite attractions is to catch the babes mud-wrestling, which is, I can assure you, something we would never allow in the church or in our households. I mean, my word.