“God Is Not Ashamed” – Our Brothers Speak Out

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

When I challenged men to respond to John Piper’s claim that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel” with posts that celebrate femininity and affirm women in the Church, I never expected this.  Within a few days, we received over 150 contributions.  

Responses came from young and old, clergy and laypeople, husbands and fathers and singles, well-known authors and first-time bloggers. We received submissions from the U.S., Canada, Britain, India, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand in the form of videos, essays, poetry, and song. 

I’ve done my best to read every single contribution, and you can do the same here. Below is just a selection from the many wise, courageous, and affirming words that our brothers from across the world felt compelled to share. I hope they will be as life-giving to you as they have been for me: 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, 
neither slave nor free, 
nor is there male and female, 
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 
– Galatians 3:28

Justin Bowers: Courageous Daughters – A Response to John Piper

“A few years ago, early in my time at a former church, I met a high school girl who was very committed to Christ.  I asked her what her goals were and what she was considering studying when she graduated.  She sort of shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Well I like theology, but I’m a girl so I can’t really do much with that.’ My heart broke for her...

When my daughters were infants I took each of them in my arms and stood in front of a congregation and dedicated them entirely to Christ.  I asked the congregation to support my family and help raise them to be disciples, Kingdom  Agents, and ambassadors of Christ.  I stood before the body of Christ, the BRIDE of Christ, and in solidarity believed with them that God had plans for these girls that can only be carried out to the fullest extent in the community of believers. 

...With all due respect to John Piper, I think he misses the mark.  I get his point and respect much of what he suggests, but I have to believe that regardless of the purity of his motives and the sincerity of his theological belief in this topic, this mindset that limits the dreams I have for my daughters.

The story I want my daughters to live is the one that begins in Genesis.
The story where it is “not good” for the man to be alone.
The story where Eve is taken from Adam’s side–a place of companionship and equality, not to walk behind.
The story where, prior to sin entering the world, the relationship of the man and woman was a mirror of the unity of the Triune Creator–equal and submissive to each other because of love.
The story where the gospels open on amazingly godly women, Mary and Elizabeth, through whom the Kingdom invasion began.
The story where Paul writes, ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’
The story where the body of Christ–the Church–is at its fullest breathing capacity when its members function in their fullest giftedness regardless of any barrier.

Matt Ritchie: The Genderful God and the Reversed Curse

“What are you are saying to women when you say God is a man? You are telling them that they are not, truly imagio dei. You are telling them they are a tacked on afterthought, a dim, imperfect thing that is destined to always fall short of the full light of God’s glory. You are telling them they are not fully human, because they do not fully reflect who God is. This sort of talk isn’t just problematic. It sends an irresponsible message to our daughters, spouses, mothers, grandmothers and friends. It tells them they aren’t really – and can never truly be – literally – as godly as us men.”

Zach Anderson: Christianity – Masculine is the Way?

“...As pastor, teacher, student, and follower of Jesus I want it to be known that I find these statements troubling and damaging. If it were not for the influence of women in leadership I would not be in the church today.”

David Ozab: “Mother, Bride, and Daughter”

“I went to Mass at the Carmel of Maria Regina yesterday for the first time since September. And as I knelt in the chapel under the statue of Our Lady, I thought about a recent controversy in which a popular Protestant pastor, theologian, and writer named John Piper claimed that Christianity has “a masculine feel.” I wondered what the nuns in the cloister kneeling in prayer with me at that very moment—together with Our Lady and numerous female Carmelite saints—would think of Piper’s claim.

I thought about the women who followed Jesus through his ministry and then stood with Mary at the cross when all but one of the male disciples had fled for their lives. Christianity wasn’t exactly masculine at its darkest hour. I thought about the first witnesses to the Resurrection: the women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday expecting to anoint Jesus’ body only to find him risen. Christianity wasn’t exactly masculine at the moment of its great triumph either. And I thought about the women telling the men the good news—the Gospel. Those first preachers of the Gospel weren’t the Apostles—that is the Twelve—they were apostles to the apostles.

I thought about all the women saints again, particularly those who are Doctors of the Church: St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and—following her scheduled canonization this October—Blessed Hildegard of Bingen. These women speak to the whole church, as do numerous others: saints, both proclaimed by the Church and known to God alone. There are plenty of sopranos and altos among the choirs of the blessed.

And I though about the women who made a profound difference in my life. My mom who taught me the Golden Rule through both word and example, my wife who brought me back to my faith when it, and I, were all but dead, and my daughter who taught me how to be a father. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Ben: Redemption and Strength in Women and Men

I think God gave Christianity a redemptive feel, a feel of reconciliation, a feel of hopeful expectation through his desire to save wayward, broken people like us. And that transcends categories of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine.’ Reconciling isn’t a masculine act any more than it is a feminine one. I know as many female reconcilers as I do male ones.”

Eric Clapp: A Response to John Piper’s Masculine Christianity

“While Piper repeatedly highlights the rest of the male-centered stories of the Bible, he leaves out the fact that God has been represented as:

A mother (Numbers 11:12, Job 38:8, 29, Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 49:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 66:12, Hosea 11:4, Acts 17:28)
- A seamstress (Nehemiah 9:21)
- A midwife (Psalm 22:9, Psalm 71:6, Isaiah 66:9)
- A woman working leaven into bread (Luke 13:18-21)
- A woman seeking a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10)

If we’re proper students of history, we know that Christianity has been masculine and dominant for far too long. I suggest that it’s actually a time to re-imagine feminine images of God. I think when we do that, we gain a richer theological imagination that helps us move outward into a new realm of possibility. And that’s something that excites me."

Scot McKnight: John Piper – What He Said

There is a Greek word for 'masculine' (andreia), it never occurs in the New Testament (a word close to it occurs in 1 Cor 16:13, but seems to be addressing the whole church — and means courage). Nor does it appear once in any words quoted here of J.C. Ryle.  This is a colossal example of driving the whole through a word ('masculine') that is not a term used in the New Testament, which Testament never says 'For Men Only.' Pastors are addressed in a number of passages in the NT, and not once are they told to be masculine.”

JR Daniel Kirk: Imaging the Biblical GodOn Jesus’ Choosing Twelve Males, and Power-Inverting Kingdom, Take 2

“ ...In what is the clearest connection of God to human gender, perhaps the only clear and intentional such connection in all of scripture, it is both male and female, together, who mirror God to the world.This means that a 'masculine' church or a church with a 'masculine feel' is inherently lacking in its ability to reflect the image of God to the world."

“According to the economy of the world, with its measures of greatness, to be the twelve is to be exemplary, in the place to lead, to exclude others from leadership, to stand close to Jesus and guard the gates of who else can draw near. And to the extent that we look to Jesus’ selection of them, and the apparent marginalization of the women, as paradigmatic for male leadership in the church, we show ourselves to be people whose minds have not yet been transformed by the very story to which we are appealing.”

“The gospel of the cross overturns such understandings of insider standing, power, and status. It rebukes our natural tendency to affirm as eligible leaders only those who are like the original insiders. When we use the Twelve as a weapon for fending off women from church leadership we align ourselves with the misapprehending disciples rather than the gospel proclaiming Christ.” 

Krish Kandiah: “Is Christianity Supposed to Be Masculine?

“No one can refute that Jesus was a man and he called 12 male apostles but what inferences are we supposed to make from this? Should we infer from the fact that they were all Jewish that Christianity should be culturally Jewish in its current expression? Should we evangelicals infer from Jesus’ singleness that Christianity should be primarily single in its focus (with a proof text from 1 Corinthians 11 to offer in favour of its superiority)? The nature of the exegetical process of moving from what was to what ought to be is a difficult one. Prooftexting and ignoring large amounts of other biblical evidence is not sufficient.  In my opinion, it is a theologically unhelpful step to move from the observation that Jesus was a man to the premise that Christianity should be masculine. This is as flawed as saying because Jesus was a young single Jew so Christianity should be singularly Jewish and youthful...

For Paul it would seem that a predominantly masculine Christianity would betray the logic that Christ is all and in all. In fact it is interesting that the traits that Paul mentions to describe the people of God here (renewed, holy, beloved, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient) aren’t those that Piper mentions for his masculine Christianity. Piper’s selective reading of scripture means he could end up promoting a deformed Christianity rather than a fully biblical one. Something I am sure he would not wish to see.”

Bo Sanders: “Bananas, Bullies, and the Bible – You Can’t Start in the Middle”

“Like Ray Comfort and his banana, John Piper ends up making the opposite point than he wanted to! Comfort intended to exalt the original design but instead highlighted human cultivation, influence and adaption. Piper desired to show how God has made us but instead showed how we have made God.”

Mike Zosel: “Why the Church Needs Women”

“The Greek culture within which Paul preached was fundamentally Platonic in its outlook.  The Greeks despised the ‘material’ world for the sake of the ‘ideal’.  They believed that the immaterial soul was ‘imprisoned’ within the material ‘body’, and that virtue consisted in forsaking the body for the sake of the soul.  Along with this worldview came a very specific hierarchy of being: at the top was God or the gods, who were completely immaterial; just below them were men; and much further down were women and animals.  The more closely tied something was to its body, the less value it had.  Women, because of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and so on, are much more closely tied to their bodies, and so were considered further away from virtue, reason, and truth...

[But] God did not consider woman’s flesh as something to be despised or ignored or covered up.  No.  God selected it to be the very vessel of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  God saw fit to honor women by entering the world through one of them.  God partnered with a woman, in her flesh, to become flesh. All that icky uterus stuff the West devalues women for?  God was delighted to inhabit a woman’s flesh, to make it the very vessel through which God became a human being. So, all of this talk about the Church’s ministry being a 'masculine ministry'?  As if women are primarily ‘alongside’ men (read: nonessential)?  Please.  In order to bring salvation to all men, even God needed the help of a woman.  In fact, God could never have done it without her!"


Landon Whitsitt: “Mama’s Boy: Reflections on a Masculine Christianity”

“The Psalmist has so many images at his disposal to use, but, when it comes time to describe again his relationship to God, what image does he call upon? A little boy and his mama.  A little boy who loves his mama so much that all he wants to do is be near her...

Developmental Psychologist James Fowler taught us that the earliest understandings we have of God come from the way we are in relationship with our parents, specifically our mothers. Think about that: We know who God is because of the ways we were loved and nurtured by our mothers as babies.

I’m afraid John Piper might be a little jealous of that. I know I am. I am a good father, I think, but when I look at the ways my boys revere their mom, I get kinda frustrated. When the five year old acts like he would crawl back into his mother’s womb if given half the chance, I feel that twinge of jealousy. But that’s the way I feel about God. I love God so much that all I can think about is being surrounded by that Divine Love. In the end, I like God as Mother because it reminds me that I’m just a Mama’s Boy, that I can’t really do this on my own. Sometimes, I’m just too scared to do this on my own, and I just need to crawl up in my Mama’s lap and let her hold me and tell me everything is gonna be all right."

Ben Gosden: “Women’s Witness to the Gospel” 

“My earliest recollections of faith come in the form of Sunday School lessons taught by wonderfully loving and patient women. I encountered the Bible with the help of these women through reading and learning texts (memorization drills) as well as interactive activities (usually in the form of crafts). And so before I learned that God could somehow be male, God was made manifest in the form of these wonderful women of faith who served the church by teaching children the faith. I’ve known countless women who have devoted their lives to shaping the faith of others. And in doing so, they’ve also modeled the faith in radical ways, teaching me the virtues of faithfulness, justice, and compassion.”

Mike Edsall: “Women With Guns”

“She raised kids and I studied Greek and read thick commentaries but she kept finding things I didn't, deep things, profound truths.  She connected dots I didn't even know were there.  If she couldn't teach men, how could she teach me so much?   If she was so good at it, why didn't I take advantage of her insights more often?  The problem with Stephanie was she was able to do all the things she ‘couldn't.’"

John: “Through a Glass Manly”

“What I do know is this. The first two Christian leaders to take me seriously, questions and all, and to model the love of Jesus to me, were women. I grew up in Southern California, not too far from Fuller Seminary, and Kathleen and Mary were pastors-in-training, gaining experience by serving as interns in local churches. What I learned later was that they were also trailblazers, women who were clearly gifted and called by God into ministry, but who had to fight (gently and patiently, as it turned out) for the chance to serve the church—as women—as Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Alongside the passages of Scripture that have been used to fence the pulpit for men only, I also see these two women who helped to shape me into the Christian and pastor I have become.”

Eric Pazdziora: “The Myth of the Weaker Vessel”

“Lindsey Vonn has won an Olympic gold medal; I haven’t. Jane Yolen has published over 300 books and won most major literary awards; I haven’t. My boss, the VP of a large publishing house, is a single mom with a doctorate in theology, which I don’t have. And I wish you could have known my friend Evangeline, who earned a master’s degree in her 60s and was editing the next volume of a Bible commentary the day she died after a 20-year fight with cancer. Weaker? I think not.

Tim Owens: “In Response to Masculine Christianity – A Letter to My Daughter”

“Audrey, God has called you to more than this. And as you become the daughter you are called to be, you will likely face the lash of criticism. And so every time a statement is made or a caveat given, every time an opportunity is denied...every time you are left feeling smaller or told that you bear less Image, remember that you have been called to more than this. Your love must be stronger, your faith bolder, and your determination more rugged than their doubt...”

Christian H:  “Feminine Christianity”

“...There are hosts of women who are already doing that work--nursing, visiting, comforting, forbearing, listening, reconciling, praising, lamenting, mourning. So this post goes to them, those women who are already achieving what we all ought to be achieving. This post goes to those women who are being Christian by being what our culture calls feminine. Thank-you. I hope more of us men will someday be strong enough to be feminine Christians alongside you.”

Mixing the Metaphors: “Masculine Christianity – A Cup Half Empty”

“ If we refuse to see G-d in the feminine then we have lost half of our means to express our hope.  Our symbolic cup does not 'runneth over'…it remains half empty.  A Christianity that embraces the feminine metaphors doubles the tools we have to express the divine."

Stephen Lamb: “Some Thoughts on Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers”

“As an argument against this way of thinking, this kind of idolatry, I turn to the work of Walter Brueggemann, who, in an interview last year with Krista Tippett for On Being, explained the reason for the abundance of metaphors we find for God in the scriptures this way: ‘The Biblical defense against idolatry is plural metaphors. If you reduce the metaphors too much, you will end with an idol.So more metaphors gives more access to God, and one can work one metaphor for a while, but you can’t treat that is though that’s the last word – you’ve got to move, and have another, and another.’”

Dave Huth:  “God Is Like” 

Matt Curry “Does Christianity Have a Masculine Feel?”

“In the interest of locating common ground, I want to start by saying I agree with Brother Piper if he means that, throughout much of history, men have tightly held the reins of the human institution known as the Church. I would say, however, that this is more a masculine grip than a feel. I disagree, though, that this has anything to do with God, and I am disappointed that a good Bible-believing evangelical wouldn’t call this so-called masculine Christianity by its most appropriate name: sin...Each of us gravitates toward language that speaks to us about our own relationship with God. Yet, God is neither male nor female, which are characteristics of the created order. It is undoubtedly true that Christianity has a “masculine feel.” Yet the movement of the Spirit (feminine in the Hebrew) has moved the Church toward repentance and inclusivity as more people recognize that God is the loving Mother and Father of everyone. In the Presbyterian Church (USA), one of our more recent confessions states that even though we rebel against God, God remains faithful, ‘like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home.’We have farther to go."

David Henson: “Of Mothers and Fathers – Male Privilege, Parenting and the Priesthood”

“...The power in an exercise like this one organized by Rachel Held Evans is that it gives a man like myself a forum simply and publicly to say, ‘I am culpable in this mess.’ Despite being an advocate of egalitarianism. Despite being a feminist. Despite being a stay-at-home dad. And I am sorry, and humbly repent, for all that I have done and all that I have left undone as my sisters and fellow sojourners seek equality while I glide through denominational structures, powers, hierarchies and institutions with an ease that I truly should not.”

Tony Casados: “Women in the Ministry – Leadership vs. Authority”

“But here’s the rub.  If we’re going to have strong women, we MUST have strong men.  Men strong enough not to be threatened by gifted women.  Men strong enough to teach and learn from talented women.  Men strong enough to challenge and be challenged by strong women.  We need men who are leaders if we’re going to have women who are leaders.  And guess what men.  It’s our responsibility.  To whom much is given much is expected.  We have taken the mantle of authority.  It’s time to take on the yoke of leadership.

This isn’t about authority.  We’ve got that one figured out.  It’s about leadership.” 

Paul Anthony with “The Radical Femininity of Christ”

“The men didn’t get it. They betrayed, abandoned and hung him on a cross. Yet while he was there, who stayed with him? The women. They got it. They stayed at the cross. They returned to the tomb, and as a result, were the first to see the risen Christ. The crucifixion and resurrection stories do not have a “masculine feel.” Indeed, the whole life of Christ is decidedly opposed to the masculine norms of his day."

Frank Viola: “God’s View of a Woman” (used with permission)

Consider this. When God decided to make His entrance upon this planet, He visited a woman. He chose a woman to bring forth the Eternal Son, the Messiah—the Anointed One for whom Israel had waited thousands of years. The life of God was first placed in the womb of a woman before it got to you and to me. And God was not ashamed.

Sisters in Christ, this is your Lord’s view of a woman. Take your high place.

But that’s not all. As Jesus ministered, He ripped down all social conventions that were pitted against women. On one occasion, He rose to the defense of a woman caught in adultery. He became her attorney and saved her life. And God was not ashamed.

Jesus was noted for palling around with sinners. He supped with prostitutes and tax collectors. We are told in John Chapter 4 that He met a woman, and He did something that shocked the disciples. He talked to her in public. And He was not ashamed...

But that’s not all. Jesus Christ had a custom of using women in His parables and making them heroes. He talked about the woman who searched and found her lost coin. He spoke of the woman who was unrelenting in the presence of the unjust judge who honored her for her persistence. He spoke of the widow who dropped all the money she had into the temple treasury and praised her for doing so. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Once Jesus was dining with a self-righteous Pharisee. And in walked a woman. But this was not just any woman. She was a woman of the streets—a prostitute. Upon seeing the Lord, she dropped down to her knees and did something unsettling.
In the presence of Pharisees, this woman unbound her hair and poured costly perfume upon the feet of our Lord. This unclean woman touched Jesus Christ in public. She wept, washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. This scandalous and improper act mortified the self-righteous Pharisees. At that moment, these religious leaders lost all respect for Jesus and doubted that He was a true prophet. But your Lord was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But that’s not all. Your Lord allowed an unclean woman to touch the hem of His garment, and He was not ashamed. In fact, He praised her for it. He also gave a Canaanite woman who was viewed as a dog in the eyes of Israel one of the highest compliments He ever gave anyone. He also healed her daughter, and He was not ashamed.

In the Lord’s last hours on this earth, He stayed in a small village called Bethany. It was there that He would spend His last days before He gave His life on Calvary. In Bethany, two women whom Jesus loved had their home: Mary and Martha. They were His friends, and they received Him. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

When Luke writes his Gospel, he refers to the twelve disciples with the shorthand phrase the Twelve. The Twelve lived with the Lord for three-and-a-half years. And they followed Him everywhere. But Jesus also had a group of female disciples. Luke also used a shorthand phrase to refer to them. He simply called them the Women (Luke 23:55; Acts 1:14). Interestingly, Luke used this phrase the same way that he used the Twelve.  They were the Lord’s disciples also—the female counterpart to the Twelve. The Women followed the Lord wherever He went, and they tended to His needs. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But there’s more. The greatest disciples of Jesus Christ were not the Twelve. They were the Women. The reason? Because they were more faithful. When Jesus Christ was taken to die, the Twelve fled. They checked out. They said, “See ya!” But the Women stayed with Him. They didn’t leave. They followed Him up to Calvary to do what they had been doing all along—comforting Him, taking care of Him, tending to His needs. And they watched Him undergo a bloody, gory crucifixion that lasted six long hours. To watch a man die a hideous and horrible death is something that goes against every fiber that lives inside of a woman. Yet they would not leave Him. They stayed the entire time. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Following His death, it was the Women who first visited His burial. Even after His death, they were still following Him. They were still taking care of Him. And when He rose again from the dead, the first faces He met—the first eyes that were laid upon Him—were the eyes of women. And it was to them that He gave the privilege of announcing His resurrection, even though their testimony wouldn’t hold up in court. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

On the day of Pentecost, the Women were present in the upper room, waiting for Him to return, along with the Twelve.
Unlike His male disciples, the Women never left Him. They followed Him to the end. Their passion for and dedication to Jesus outshined that of the men. And God was not ashamed.

Throughout the Lord’s life, it was the Women who tended to His physical needs. It was the Women who looked after Him. It was the Women who supported Him financially during His earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3). It was the Women who cared for Him up until the bitter end as well as the glorious climax. Not the men. The Women were simply indispensable to Him. And He was not ashamed.

But beyond all these wonderful things that the Lord did in showing us how beautiful women are in His eyes, He did something else. He chose you—a woman to depict that which He came to earth to die for—His very Bride. And He is not ashamed.

Sisters, rise to your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Brothers, honor your sisters in the Kingdom of God. For God honors them. When our Lord pulled Eve out of Adam, He didn’t take her out of his feet below him. Nor did He take her out from his head above him. He took her out of his side.

Sisters, you are fellow heirs in the Kingdom of God. You are fellow priests in the church of God. You are honored. You are cherished. You are valuable. You are needed.

You are His friends, His followers, His daughters, yea, His own kin.

So sisters, take your high place . . . this is God’s view of you.


Read the rest of the contributions here. I’ll be sharing more throughout the day. 

Don't forget to pass this along to the women (and men) in your life who may need to hear it! (For Twitter, use #BrothersSpeak.)

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