Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)
Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'To Lead'

In What's The Difference, Piper expands on the 'to lead' bit of his 'mature masculinity' definition, by giving some qualifying statements to avoid misinterpretation of the word. He expands on all of these, but here are the 9 statements he makes. Some of them might be tricky to get the jist of without reaading what he goes on to say about each point, but for what it's worth, here they are-

'1. Mature masculinity expresses itself not in the demand to be served, but in the strength to serve and to sacrifice for the good of woman.

2. Mature masculinity does not assume the authority of Christ over woman, but advocates it.

3. Mature masculinity does not presume superiority, but mobilises the strengths of others.

4. Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of innitiative.

5. Mature masculinity accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements between husband and wife, but does not presume to use it in every instance.

6. Mature masculinity expresses its leadership in romantic sexual relations by communicating an aura of strong and tender pursuit.

7. Mature masculinity expresses itself in a family by taking the initiative in disciplining the children when both parents are present and a family standard has been broken.

8. Mature masculinity is sensitive to cultural expressions of masculinity and adapts to them (where no sin is involved) in order to communicate to a woman that a man would like to relate not in any aggressive or perverted way, but with maturity and dignity as a man.

9. Mature masculinity recognises that the call to leadership is a call to repentance and humility and risk-taking.'

Well, there you go. I'm guessing you might find some of those quite easy to discount, but I reckon it's at least thinking through each one of these, and the implications they would have.

If you are gluttons for punishment, here are two talks that Piper gave in 2007, that expand on his views on leadership.  I actually think they are great talks. The premise is that as a leader, a man is to be 'lion-hearted' and 'lamb-like' at the same time, as Jesus was.

I love this picture of leadership and headship, because it isn't saying 'I'm the boss', it's saying 'I'm taking the innitiative to serve you'.  A good illustration that Piper gives, is Jesus washing the disciples feet. That was pure service, yet He innitiated it, and there would not have been doubt in any body's mind at that moment who the leader was there. 


Deb said...

Those points are actually easier to swallow than the short quote you gave us earlier.

Laetitia :-) said...

I agree with Deb.

And I'm also reminded of the saying: "If no-one's following, you're not a leader, you're a loner."

Anonymous said...

*grumble grumble grumble*

Given that women are also called to be Christ-like, I don't see what's masculine about taking the initiative to serve? Doesn't being a servant like Jesus sound very much like the way submission (a word only ever applied to women in most teaching) is defined?

Are you planning to post the 'mature femininity' expansions? I'd be interested in reading them (and then posting a long and grumbly comment, of course!)...

As for the discounting of some of his points, the one that stands out most for me is the final-say one: Where in the Bible does it say that husbands should have the final say in arguments? Do marriages where the husband eventually goes against his wife's wishes and makes a big decision on behalf of both of them actually work? I would be absolutely devastated if my husband disregarded my opinion in that way and acted without my full consent, especially if his only qualification was the fact that he happened to be born as a male.

Also, in sexual relations, should a women communicate an aura of weak (but tender) fleeing?

I'm stopping now. :o)

Karen said...

You know, I think I like your comment Belle. I'd like to see what he has to say about mature femininity to see how this balances it out.
I'm not keen on the "strong and tender pursuit" bit either. It reminds me of that book "Wild at Heart." I think it's the word "pursuit" that I'm struggling with...

Laetitia :-) said...

Probably best to think of it as appropriate wooing, rather than 'stalker'.

Laetitia :-) said...

Hmm, I thought I had already posted this but it seems I hadn't...

Hahaha - oh dear, Belle - you've given me an image of a woman trying to coquettishly 'flee' down the house hallway. I hope that the man's romantic 'pursuit' is meant in the sense of his wife being aware that he finds her attractive above all others even when they are old and grey because he demonstrates it.

Ben McLaughlin said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I'll post more next week when I have more time. I've pretty much read now as much of the book as I think I'll get thru. It started to get a tad wearisome, so I started skimming.

In essence, where I am at is that I agree with the general premise of where he's coming from, but I worry that he develops his take on it in too specific a way, and in directions that may not be really in the Bible. The word 'implied' is used a lot.

The more I think about it, the more that Ephesians illustration stands for what I think is the truth behind it all. It's a brief description but it says a lot, and has a lot of ramifications, I think. The idea that Christ is the bridegroom, and the church is his bride. And that husbands are to be like Christ to the church, and wives to be like the church to Christ. I've explained it poorly there, but I'll try and go more into it later. But as for that 'pursuit' word, if men are to follow Jesus' example there, surely that's what He did?

I have been looking at these passages a lot the past few days and it feels pretty inescapable to me that men and women are called to different things. Both are called to submit, but the submission is worked out in different ways. Men are called to love, women called to respect. I feel awkward writing that, but that's what it says!

onlinesoph said...

I'm also not a huge fan of point 6. It sounds a bit made up to me! I'm trying to imagine my husband having an "aura of strong and tender pursuit", Mills and Boons style, without giggling.

There's a danger of being overly prescriptive with these things. Having said that, I don't want to take away from the essence of Piper's point, which is the picture of marriage as Ben described.

Belle, I wonder if the scenario in your third paragraph would be better improved if we added the concept of love to male headship. You asked: "Do marriages where the husband eventually goes against his wife's wishes and makes a big decision on behalf of both of them actually work?" Such an act sounds to me like the perversion of God's intent for the marriage relationship. Let's imagine that instead, the husband chooses to have 'the final say in disagreements' by choosing to take initiative in loving his wife; sacrificially as described in Ephesians 5:24. What that make a marriage work? I'd argue yes. My husband is a great example of this. Often when we fight, he'll be the first to forgive or apologise. Or the first to take steps to work towards a solution (this isn't because we're a shining example of a godly marriage, but because I'm ridiculously stubborn and can hold a grudge like there's no tomorrow).

It can sound awfully counter cultural to say a husband makes the final decision in big matters, but if a husband has his wife's best interest at heart, if he is making every effort to love and serve her, to encourage her in godliness, then I don't think this is such a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that men are called to love and women respect, I don't think there should be any embarrassment in saying that! I do think you should be embarrassed if you're implying that women shouldn't love and men shouldn't respect, though.

As you mention, Ben, Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to each other (as do other passages), and Paul gives examples of how this can play out for men and women. I fear we've grown up in an equal enough society to take it for granted that Paul's teaching for MEN to also submit and love would have been a huge surprise and cultural shift for his original readers; he's not bringing the women down, but raising them up and letting them know they actually matter too! In such a patriarchal time, this was profoundly liberating.

I feel like we get caught up in semantics just to protect complementarian theology - if you're a man these actions aren't called "submitting" they're called "loving", because only women should submit, etc. Does that make sense?

Soph, I absolutely agree that headship includes love; as Ephesians mentions, the husband should love his wife as their own bodies that they're the "head" of - I'm not sure why headship has to mean leadership, and can't just be the head of the body so that the two are "one flesh". I'm very much like you when it comes to arguments, and my husband is often the first to apologise; but is it "headship" if he does that, and "submission" when I do (occasionally...)?

You wrote that "if a husband has his wife's best interest at heart, if he is making every effort to love and serve her, to encourage her in godliness" that wouldn't be a bad thing; shouldn't a wife be doing *exactly the same thing*? What else is submission and respect in practice?

Husbands should definitely act in love and submission to others, as should wives, as should all Christians who are unmarried, because we're all following the same Christ Jesus, "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..."

Sorry for the super long comment!

onlinesoph said...


Yes, a wife should be doing the same thing as her husband in terms of love. All Christians are called to love each other and encourage each other towards godliness, especially in a marriage. All Christians are called to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ.


I do think the Bible lays out a special dynamic for the husband and wife, one that is more specific than the general command for all Christians to love and submit. And I don't think the two concepts - that of all Christians loving and submitting to each other, and the specific picture of love and submission in marriage - has to be mutually exclusive. Just because I submit to my husband, doesn't mean I can't take the initiative to love him. And just because my husband has loving headship over me, doesn't mean he can't submit to me in certain areas. As you said, we're talking about general ordering principles here, not semantics.

Lots of Christians get caught up in 'roles' and forget about the unity of being one flesh. Often, those 'roles' say more about our cultural expectations rather than any biblical principle - i.e. that women must stay home while men work. I also totally agree with you that headship doesn't necessarily equate to leadership. We are too quick to make this jump when actually, the bible never exorts men to 'lead'.

But I do think that the image of a body and a head, and similarly of Christ and the church, is a pointed one. Paul isn't *just* saying that husbands and wives are to live in mutual respect and love for each other. He is setting up a specific ordering principle.

So to go back to your question, "You wrote that "if a husband has his wife's best interest at heart, if he is making every effort to love and serve her, to encourage her in godliness" that wouldn't be a bad thing; shouldn't a wife be doing *exactly the same thing*? What else is submission and respect in practice?"

I think a wife will do more than just mutually love her husband. To submit (and this will make me sound very unpopular, but here goes...) means that she will accept her husband's initiative to love. When my husband makes a decision that he says is for our best interest, I'm to submit to it instead of fighting him (even if I think "I know best"). When he chooses to serve me in a particular way, I'm to uphold that. Yes, you could argue that surely your husband does the same thing, but I think there is a specific dynamic here. Christ never submits to the church. The church never lays down her life to sanctify Christ. That tells us something about the husband and wife dynamic.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I definitely am not any authority on this topic, nor do I have everything right, so always keen to hear what others have to say.

Anonymous said...

You say Paul “is setting up a specific ordering principle”, and perhaps this is the fundamental difference in what we believe. Paul’s NOT setting up a specific ordering principle here; if anything, he’s turning the existing ordering principle upside down! As I said in my earlier comment, it’s too easy for us, in our Western society, to miss how liberating Paul’s words here (and in so much of the New Testament) are; we see them as hierarchy rather than equality, because we can’t comprehend what marriage (or much else for women) looked like in the patriarchal society Paul’s speaking into. We may get a glimpse when Paul says, at the end of that section, that masters should remember that there’s no favouritism with God – slaves, masters, Jew, Gentile, man, women; we’re all one in Christ Jesus. Unfortunately we skim over these passages, thinking “Yeah, yeah, of course!”; they’ve lost their profundity for us, which is sad.

Ben, thanks for opening up a forum to talk about this topic! It’s exciting, especially as it seems many (in Sydney, at least) don't realise that complementarianism isn't the only option for evangelical Christians.