John Piper on: is it wrong for guys to listen to female speakers?


Yup, it’s a head scratcher. Perhaps this is a question that has plagued you for sometime? But of course, if you entertain this as a real question, it’s only half the question, because in the world of John Piper it must also be wrong for gals to listen to female speakers. Or, God help us, to prefer them over male speakers.

Admittedly, if you’re reading this and you are on the outside of traditional Evangelicalism you’re going to say something like, “What the hell!?” At the same time, if you’re an aware “unchurched” North American male you also know that you’ve suckled (a bizarre term in this context, but appropriate) at the teat of the “churched” faith of Patriarchy. And on the whole, benefited. True, acculturated patriarchy is slowly being undone, but it hasn’t been without resistance—and the great efforts of feminists from 16th century Jane Anger, to Gloria Steinem to (third-wave feminist) Julie Zeilinger. And Christian feminists, such as Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, who authored Gender and Grace. (A book I read 20 years ago that cracked apart my own paternalistic attitudes.)

But for John Piper and his followers, as well as the neo-Calvinist movement, Patriarchy, veiled as complementarianism, is a critical aspect of the faith that must be perpetually upheld.

The sadness here is the abject failure to see the trajectory of radical equality outlined in scripture. Because, while Christian patriarchy has done everything it could to keep women subordinated, Christianity itself has held the kernel of liberation and has been, and can be, instrumental in championing real equality. It was, after all, in an age of female non-entity, female as chattel, where Jesus’ recognition and relationships with women sounded the bell of equality.

Literalists of course, blind to context and culture and the Spirit of unfolding creation, and somehow fearful of true equality will continue to see God as decisively male, the feminist movement (even in it’s most basic definition of social, political and economic equality) as “of the devil,” and female speakers as, well, okay to a point.


  1. Spiritual gifts are not gender based. Christ has broken down the barriers and made them all one, Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. Christ was all about equality and freedom. But some modern (and I use the term loosely) patriarchic Pharisee throwbacks, despite their clear grasp of truth in some respects are blind guides in others.

  2. Thank you for that affirmation and for the reference to Gender and Grace. I intend to pick that up. I’m grateful to be working in a denomination which not only has women elders, it ordains women and empowers them to pastor and has for decades. Since both genders are created in the image of God, both masculine and feminine voices are critical to the building up of the whole body into completeness. I’m just daring now to begin speaking this truth. Grateful for your insight in this post.

  3. I have read Piper’s “Desiring God” and appreciated it greatly, especially the theme of God’s desire for us. This statement by him jars with that.
    And … wondering if Joyce’s denomination is taking applications….

  4. Fine minds and admirable persons have demonstrated for a long time the ability to hold selected contradictory “TRUTHS” from the Bible. This is a fine example of ignoring “… in the image of God” in Genesis creation account.

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