John Piper’s Advice For Women in the Workforce

I respectfully disagree with John Piper's principles for women. This just isn’t biblical.

I am having a hard time understanding these guidelines. My influence in the civil sphere has to be non-personal and non-directive? Or I will upset the feminine masculine dynamic? Should we then get rid of women doctors and nurses? I don’t see how one could do that job without being both personal and directive. I’m sure they have many male patients whom they have to tell what to do. And we wouldn’t want women in any administrative roles then either. There would be so many jobs that “mature” women would not be able to serve in were they to follow these principles.

I know that John Piper’s books and sermons have been a tremendous blessing to many in the faith. That is a wonderful truth that I do not want to minimize. But especially because of this, because many Christians look up to him and receive his teaching with much enthusiasm and appreciation, I am concerned about some of his teaching on manhood and womanhood. So many people value Dr. Piper’s wisdom that there is an “Ask Pastor John” program.

Have you heard or read the transcripts of a recent episode, regarding a woman who wrote in asking, “Can a single Christian woman, who is a complementarian, become a police officer?”

When I saw the question, I thought, “Well this should be a short episode. Yes, as long as she can pass all of the education, physical, and background requirements for the job.” But I guess I didn’t realize that there is a biblical manhood and biblical womanhood filter that this question needed to go through. Dr. Piper lays out his definitions:

At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. The postman won’t relate to the lady at the door the way a husband will, but he will be a man. At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

I find these definitions troublesome. Some of the words used here to describe mature manhood sound an awful lot like the Hebrew word ezer, or as we know ithelper, that describes Eve in Gen. 2:18, and in verses like Ps. 20:1-2, 33:20 and 121:2, describes God’s provision and protection for Israel.

As far as the postman goes, I am at a total loss. Are we referring to the obvious, ontological fact that he is a man, or to something in his behavior that makes him a manly postman at the door? And if I am a woman opening the door, am I to be affirming this manliness in some sort of way?

And I suppose this definition of mature womanhood exposes me as terribly childish. I do not think it is my purpose as a woman to be constantly seeking affirming, receiving, and nurturing strength and leadership from worthy men. I am married to one man. I affirm that Scripture teaches that my husband has the responsibility of headship in our home. Even then, I take the ezer with the kenegdo. I should be a suitable strength matched for him, discerning if his leadership is of the Lord. I also affirm that only certain men are called to ordination in the church as pastors and elders. Those are special leadership positions that I affirm as a result of the goodness and authority of God, who is the authority of us all. Isn’t this what a complementarian believes?

I’m sure that Dr. Piper would agree that both men and women are made in the image of God and therefore share in their primary calling to glorify God, although I would say and enjoy him forever, where he would say by enjoying him forever. I don’t think these definitions for manhood and womanhood are helpful when it comes to living out our vocations as men and women. In fact, I think they can cause harm as we serve together in our vocations under the cultural mandate.

Dr. Piper says that it is unwise to make a list of jobs that would be okay for a woman or a man to work, but offers two principles that he has written a book to fully unpack. He continues answering this question by offering these two principles as a guide for this woman and everyone listening:

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