“Biblical” Womanhood and Manhood

In his concept of biblical womanhood and manhood, John Piper describes “the heart of biblical manhood as ‘a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.'” Firstly, and with respect to Piper, this is a description and not a definition (as he will call it elsewhere in his book). Secondly, Piper (and Grudem) argue for protection as a pre-Fall mandate. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to have someone explain in an adequate manner how they see the protection mandate in a pre-Fall environment. From what danger was the man supposed to be protecting the woman? Some will say the temptation of the serpent (as if the man is the woman’s overseer) or from her own ignorance since God gave the command not to eat to Adam. Unfortunately, this falls short since Eve’s response indicates she understands eating the fruit is a Bad Thing.

In his explanations goes on to describe what I would identify as specific cultural expressions of masculinity. For example, he says “Consider what is lost when women attempt to assume a more masculine role by appearing physically muscular and aggressive. It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation. The more women can arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs. Mature masculinity will not be reduced to raw desire in sexual relations. It remains alert to the deeper personal needs of a woman and mingles strength and tenderness to make her joy complete.”

  1. Regarding his “hasty and volatile” point, I’m going to suggest that—within the bounds of marriage—hasty and volatile sexual encounters can lead to much satisfaction (and fun) for both parties if done correctly. As a wise woman once told me, “if you know what you’re doing it doesn’t have to take all day.” Granted, a steady diet may lead to dissatisfaction, but I’d say the same thing about cookies. I love me some cookies, but I can’t make a meal of it. But every now and then…
  2. Moonlight walking is well and good—if you’re into that sort of thing. What if a woman doesn’t like moonlight walks? Does that mean she isn’t a woman according to Piper’s understanding? Also, what about my athletic sisters who enjoy running and working out? Will he assert that they should stop running and take up some other, more sedentary activity? I’m proud of one of my friends and former co-workers who just posted that she ran 35 miles this month. I think its an awesome accomplishment, and in no way detracts from her femininity.

Ultimately, want I want people in the BWaM camp to remember is that the particular North American, Caucasian, suburban, protestant, expression of masculinity and femininity may not be (and should not be) the standard by which we measure what is good and right. If you’re going to claim the Biblical adjective, then please stick to the Bible.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to ““Biblical” Womanhood and Manhood

  1. After talking with you a few times about this, so glad that you put it in writing. I think this also fits with the exaggerated role difference imposed on each sex to distinguish what men and women should be like in terms of behavior and practice. This of course is nothing more than prescribed formats of masculinity vs femininity.

    • Thanks for the comment. There’s a lot more to say in response to Piper and Grudem’s book (and not all of it bad). As I’ve said in person, this idea of a particular kind of Christianity rooted in a particular culture as being the standard of Christianity is beginning to grate on me