John Piper wrote an article on his ministry’s website called Do Men Owe Women a Special Kind of Care? and it is worth considering not so much for it’s wisdom but for the interesting errors made that are just a sample of bigger errors I’ve seen other ministries make regarding the theology of marriage, masculinity, and femininity.
Egalitarianism tends to obscure the deeper differences between manhood and womanhood. This has not served us well in the last fifty years. It has instead confused millions and muted a crucial summons for a distinctly masculine care.
Piper considers himself to be a “complementarian”. I did too, for a long time, because the word is usually presented as the label for the notion that men and women complement each other. But I’ve found that it is more closely aligned with feminism and egalitarianism than it lets on, and so I’m not as ready to jump on board with it anymore. Regardless, Piper considers himself to be responding to egalitarianism with the better, Biblical view. I argue that instead of helping the confused, he just adds more confusion, not Biblical clarity.
Emphasis is mine:
No, say complementarians. God requires more of men in relation to women than he does women in relation to men. God requires that men feel a peculiar responsibility for protecting and caring for women. As a complementarian, I do not say that this calling is to the exclusion of women protecting and caring for men in their own way. I am saying that men bear a peculiar burden of responsibility that is laid on them in a way that is not laid on women.
And since this calling is rooted, not in asexual competencies, but in the nature of manhood itself, its implications for life are not limited to marriage. To be sure, a husband bears unique responsibilities to his wife. But this deeper meaning of manhood does not lose its significance when he walks out of the door of his home. Men, as men, everywhere, all the time, bear a burden, under God, to care for the well-being of women, which is not identical to the care women owe men.
This message, at the heart of complementarianism, has been all but muted in our culture. Many would rather sacrifice this peculiar biblical mandate, given for the good of women, than betray any hint of compromise with egalitarian assumptions. Thus, I am arguing, we have forfeited both a great, God-ordained restraint upon male vice, and a great, God-ordained incentive for male valor.
Piper goes part of the way in the right direction, saying that men and women are not symmetrical with identical capabilities and responsibilities. But he then goes radically wrong.
Up until he says “men, as men, everywhere, all the time, bear a burden, under God, to care for the well-being of women” he uses Scripture. But here and on, he does not. There simply is not a command for men, as men, to care for the well-being of all women, as women. He claims that this message – that all men are to take care of all women – is the heart of complementarianism.
The Biblical view of the sexes is quite different. It puts wives in submission to their husbands “in everything”. It makes the husband the head of the wife. Fathers raise up their daughters as well, and provide for them until they marry, after which they have a new head to submit to. No husband has a responsibility to provide for someone else’s wife or daughter. Widows and orphans, sure, but not wives and daughters. And in the Biblical view, marriage is the rule.
Piper, saturated in feminist culture, saddles men with an impossible responsibility instead of telling people to get married.
As one final thought, consider this same Scriptural abuse applied to another passage. The method, just to remind you, is to take an expression like “husbands, do X for your wives” and say “men, do X for women in general”. Now apply that principle to this verse: “Wives, submit to your husbands in everything”.