In his 2012 biographical address on "The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle," John Piper highlighted the value of a masculine ministry — and with it, the importance of Christianity having a masculine feel. It's a provocative thing to say when, not only in our day, but throughout history, true masculinity has seemed too often like an endangered species, under assault from both the left and the right.
Such a controversial claim is open to swift misinterpretation, especially when heard from presuppositions not shared by the speaker. Does Piper mean that the church should be masculine only, and in no sense feminine? Or might he mean there's an essential place for both, relating to each other, all the way down, in a complementary way?
So we asked him in the speakers' panel, "Should Christianity also have a feminine feel?"
His response, in short: "The answer is yes. [In a] church . . . proscribed by and protected by a masculine feel, there will be a feminine feel in lots of places."
Here's his full response (with a transcript below) describing the complementary relationship of masculinity and femininity in the church:
If it is done right, this masculine feel creates a space. It is big, it's roomy, it's beautiful, it's peaceful. It's just full and radiates with all the good things of life and in it women, flourishing, will give it that feel. So that as you walk in on Sunday morning and strong singing, led primarily by men, and then a voice from God is heard, and women are loving this, they're radiant, they're intelligent, they're understanding, they're processing, they're interacting. Then all the gifts that were just articulated will flourish in that space. And as you navigate that community there will be feminine feels all over the place.
If I would have had another hour I would have like to spin out the benefits of that community. One of the things I would have said is that in a community where there is a secure, strong, humble, masculine feel, men are free to be appropriately feminine. And women are free to be appropriately masculine. In other words, when you look at any given human being, the most attractive, interesting, winsome human beings are not all masculine or all feminine. They are appropriately, if they are a man, prominently masculine. And there are things about this guy that are remarkably tender, kind, warm, nurturing (the kinds of things we would associate with a woman).
And when you look at a woman who is dominantly and prominently feminine, she will have a backbone, she will be articulate, she will be thoughtful (things we tend to think are male). And in a community that is well-defined there is freedom to have a man, who in some places might not be viewed as masculine. He is an artistic guy. I didn't want to create, and I want to uncreate, any sense that the only, appropriate masculine guy is the guy who hunts, or who does flag football, and doesn't like anything creative or artistic or doesn't like to write or make music. . .
So the flavor is yes. The answer is yes. The church, as you move through this community, proscribed by and protected by a masculine feel, there will be a feminine feel in lots of places.