Yesterday John Piper posted a podcast answer to the question “Is There a Place for Female Professors at Seminary?” (A hat tip to Matt Mikalatos for tweeting this.) Piper stipulates that his answer to the question of whether women should be teaching in seminaries is predicated on an assumption that complementarianism is true. (Complementarianism is the view that men and women are equal but different such that particular leadership roles in the church and home should be reserved for men.) And so, Piper is addressing the question, assuming that complementarianism is true, should women be allowed to teach in seminaries?
Piper Says NO!
His answer is a big NO. Why? Piper explains:
“If it is unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded? I don’t think that works. The issue is always that inconsistency. If you strive to carve up teaching in such a way that it’s suitable for women, it ceases to be suitable as seminary teaching.”
As I respond to Piper I want to be clear that while I am not a complementarian, I’m willing to grant his assumption for the sake of argument. Thus, my response proceeds as follows: even if we grant the truth of complementarianism, it does not follow that women should not teach in seminary.
A Two-Point Rebuttal
I’ll make my case via two points. First, seminaries are full of students who are not pursuing lead pastoral positions (the realm complementarians restrict to males). My seminary is typical in this regard. Thus, while the MDiv is the standard ministerial degree, we offer two additional Master’s degrees: the MAICS, and MTS.The MAICS equips students for various forms of cross-cultural work while the MTS provides a basis for post-graduate academic study or personal enrichment. Meanwhile, the MDiv serves students pursuing a broad range of ministerial outcomes beyond the lead pastorate, all of which would in principle be open to women even under the terms of complementarianism. Thus, the typical seminary includes many students who are not pursuing the vocational office which Piper believes is limited to men. On this point alone his entire exclusionary argument fails.
For my second point, we can focus on that relatively small subset of individuals who are seeking the role of lead pastor, a group that complementarianism insists must be male. Here we can address Piper’s question directly:
“how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?”
Actually, this is quite simple, Piper: these female professors are not exercising the role of lead pastor over their male students. The fact is that for Piper’s argument to work at all, he must assume that the complementarian is committed to a pedagogy in which every seminary professor must model the office of lead pastor for every student seeking the vocation of lead pastor. And that is absurd.
To sum up, Piper’s attempt to exclude women from the seminary is based on 1) a completely spurious narrowing of the function of a seminary to equipping lead pastors and 2) an absurd pedagogy which requires that every professor model the office of lead pastor.
Piper is Sexist and Sexism is Sinful
Now we face a question: why would a seemingly intelligent man present an argument excluding women from teaching in seminary based on such inexplicably bizarre, demonstrably false, and straight-up tendentious assumptions? I submit the most obvious answer is motivated reasoning. That is, Piper wants to exclude women from teaching in seminary, and he then seeks to construct some sort of ad hoc arguments to justify his desired outcome.
Excluding women from a role irrespective of their ability to fulfill that role based only on their gender? That, folks, is the very definition of sexism. And so, we come to our hardly surprising conclusion: John Piper is sexist.