Questions from the Garden
John Piper, “Questions from the Garden: Response from John Piper,” The Standard 73:11 (December 1983): 36. This was a response to Alvera and Berekely Micklesen, “Male and Female in the Garden of Eden,” The Standard 73:11 (December 1983): 32, 34.
Why do the Mickelsens quote R. David Freeman as an authority instead of the apostle Peter? Freedman says woman is “a power (or strength) equal to man.” Peter says woman is the “weaker sex” (1 Peter 3:7). Freeman is cited as an “authority” in the sense that none of his evidence is given, only his name and conclusion. This is not helpful. In fact neged with the preposition he occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and nowhere else is neged paired up with ezer. So it’s hard to imagine how Freedman could make a case for his peculiar translation on the basis of any similar parallels. Whether the equally human “helper” is subordinate or not depends on the contextual clues, which I try to spell out in the main article.
In the Mickelsens’ article the only contextual argument I see for their conclusion is that in Genesis 1:26-31 the man and woman share the responsibility of subduing and having dominion over nature. Form this they infer that “God gave to men and women the same…responsibilities in His world.” Which means, I presume, that women are as responsible to lead men as men are to lead women. But surely this is an unwarranted inference. A shared responsibility to subdue nature does not at all imply that in this shared work man should not be the leader of woman. How can the couple’s relationship to nature determine their relationship to each other?
The Mickelsens trace most moral evil to the desire for dominance. Yet they urge women with gifts for leadership to use them. So there must be a kind of leadership (and response of being led) which is not contaminated by an arrogant or unloving domination. I agree. Therefore it will never suffice to accuse men of evil when they believe it is their God-given duty to be leaders (servant leaders, to be sure) in relation to women. Of course, all Christians are called to servanthood. But as soon as you admit that there should be some “leaders” and some “led” in the church (cf. Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Thess. 5:12), you show that bishops who lead and husbands who lead are no necessary contradiction to servanthood. Jesus was the model servant, yet no one ever doubted who was in charge of the twelve.
The issue of gifts will be taken up in its place. Suffice it to say now that if Henrietta Mears could return from the grave and write this series for me I would gladly hand over the pen. She even held out for men in the Sunday school departments, and would not teach a regular class with men beyond college age. She is a testimony to what a woman can do who basically has the same view that I do.