Saturday, January 23, 2010

John Piper and Inter Varsity

I have appreciated Mike Bird's response to Stiles on Inter Varsity. I won't deny that the ethos of Inter Varsity has changed in ways that would be unfamiliar to me since I was last involved, some time ago. I won't defend every aspect of Inter Varsity, but I always did appreciate the interdenominational communion. It was the place where I first learned that Anglicans and Catholics - and even Baptists - were also Christians.

I notice that one recent debate which really grates for some is that N. T. Wright is welcome as a speaker by Inter Varsity, while John Piper is not.
    Yet IV seems to have forgotten why it exists. Bad theology of the gospel and weak ecclesiology are undermining IV's mission. Increasingly, IV's tendency is to take on issues which should be neutral in IV and left for gospel-centered churches to decide. Such secondary doctrinal issues (such as paedo- vs. craedobaptism, Arminianism vs. Calvinism, charismatic vs. cessationist) should ultimately be decided within churches; that's the place to agree or agree to disagree, not IV.

    Not only that, but InterVarsity seems more and more willing to partner with churches that do not hold to the gospel, from liberal protestant churches to the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, IV is breaking fellowship with people who are solidly evangelical: John Piper, for example, is a persona non grata because of his view of women in ministry. Yet N.T. Wright, who's book Justification opens the door for a quasi-Catholic view of justification, speaks regularly at IV conferences.
I don't remember taking on issues which should be left for the churches. We were an oddball mix of charismatic, and paedo-baptist, as far as I can remember.

However, I firmly agree that John Piper should be kept as far away as possible from InterVarsity. In 1939 Grace Koch Belden went down to Philadelphia to become one of the first InterVarsity workers in the USA. In 1939, my mother was the president of the InterVarsity chapter at McGill, at the time when Charles Troutman was there, as well as Gordie Thomas who went on to become the director of the Grenfell Mission. It was not until 1941 that InterVarsity USA was founded.

Will someone please let John Piper know why he is not wanted in InterVarsity. "Women in ministry" was not the downfall of InterVarsity but its founding strength. Yes, we see Stacey Woods' name a lot, but I always think of them as Stacey and Yvonne. I last visited them in 1976 in Lausanne. Cathie Nicoll was also an important Canadian leader and established InterVarsity in Jamaica.

John Piper, on the other hand, is the master of the toddlerhood of Christianity. He wants leadership in the church, which has - for the most part - always been male, to continue to be male. He also wants leadership in parachurch organizations, which historically has employed more Christian women in leadership, to become male.

It is important to realize that John Piper does NOT approve of female leadership in parachurch organizations. This would be a significant reason why he would not be invited to speak at any parachurch event where women are in leadership.

N.T. Wright, on the other hand, is considered iffy in certain areas of his doctrine of justification. The simple truth is that while everyone can identify the gender of chapter leaders in Intervarsity, not everyone can articulate whether they agree with Piper or Wright on justification. That's just the way it is.

The sad thing is that InterVarsity, since it is open to women, also acts as a switch and bait foil for the church. Young women can worship as equals in university, and then later they find themselves in an evangelical church where they have to be trained into submission, broken in, so to speak.


Rod said...

Excellent post, Suzanne. Well articulated and informative.

Anonymous said...

It's great posts such as this one why I follow and read you daily. God bless.

Martin Gamble said...

I agree with Rod and William. This is a great post. InterVarsity certainly helped me when I was struggling with serious problems.

Donald Johnson said...

IV is a great org. My respect for them went up knowing they decline Piper a forum to present his masculinism.

Lydia said...

My niece went up to McMasters a few years back and IV was where she found Christian fellowship in a totally strange place.

Over break, she brought 25 of them home with her for a weeks visit in the South. What a great bunch of young people.

Ironcially, her sistein Minn where her husband was working for Piper and attending his Bible College or whatever it is.

The contrast of these two sisters in doctrine toward women could not be more clear. The sister with IV was teaching men and accepted as an equal. The sister at Pipers church/college was trading recipes in the women's ministry.

Lydia said...

Oh, and the sister at Piper's church has a degree in Greek from Wheaton.

Peter Kirk said...

Oddly enough the situation in the UK is rather the opposite. UCCF, the successor to IVF in the UK (renamed in the 70s I think), is dominated by people who toe the Piper line on women's ministry, and on Reformed theology in general. It must be quite a shock for graduates to find themselves in churches which mostly (except for newfrontiers) accept women as equals in all kinds of ministry.

Donald Johnson said...

I know in some cases a talk is given with restrictions and other times not.

The problem with Piper is almost everything about his understanding of Christianity is affected by his masculinist worldview, so it would be hard to disentangle it.

EricW said...

I guess some people don't see that patriarchalism (aka complementarianism), while it can be supported from the Scriptures, is just as reprehensible as slavery, which can also be supported from the Scriptures.

Would people sit on their hands and smile and keep their mouths shut if IVP let persons with sound doctrine, but who approved of and promoted slavery, come and speak?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I forgot to add at the end this quote from Stiles,

"There is still time for IV to turn things around. I'm hopeful. It's been done before. Just look at what the leadership of Al Mohler did for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Hi Martin,

Its nice to hear from you. There were some good times in InterVarsity.

Mara Reid said...

"There is still time for IV to turn things around. I'm hopeful. It's been done before. Just look at what the leadership of Al Mohler did for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Dear God, let's hope the non-egals don't get their claws into IV. What a nightmare.

God, thank you for IV's stand. Please strengthen their resolve to keep Piper and his false teaching on women out. Keep him out so that the reckless damage done in the SBTS doesn't find its way into IV.

(Forgive the little prayer. The above quote sent chills down my spine)

Donald Johnson said...

SBC FORMED over the slavery issue. The slave holders just could not see why the baptists mostly in the North did not think slavery was Biblical. They were accused of being liberals, forsaking the gospel truth.

SBC has a history of accusing those that do not agree with them of being liberals, but it is something they should hesitate to claim.

Blake said...

Maybe my experience with IV was unique but I really don't understand why all this recent negativity has been directed toward IV. My own chapter had a good relationships with the charismatic, evangelical, methodist, lutheran, catholic and even the Southern Baptist church in town. The other students, leaders and chapters we met at the various conferences we went to all appeared conservative, evangelical and orthodox to me (mind you I'm a Southern Baptist so if anyone's going to complain about that I will). Many of the national IV leaders go to the same evangelical megachurch which I've visited and thought was a solid church.

I suspect a lot of these complaints shouldn't be directed at IV as a whole but to particular leaders in IV they've met or heard about and don't like. I know of a few people in IV that I wouldn't be disappointed if they left, but those kind of people exist in every organization. I also suspect that many people would like to treat and critique IV as if it were a denomination with the hierarchy and chain of authority. If anything though IV should be likened to the free church structure. Individual chapters may be less than desirably orthodox (in some people's opinions), but that hardly reflects on all IV chapters. I personally have not yet met people from a chapter of IV that talked about doing things I thought was bad or unorthodox and I've met people from many many chapters all over the midwest.

Even with regard to the egalitarianism I think the critics are exaggerating things. In the chapter of IV I was a part of I don't know anyone other than maybe our staff worker that was a true egalitarian. Most of the students came from complementarian backgrounds and remained that way through their experience with IV. Most probably became more liberal complementarians and would be closer to egalitarianism than the chauvinistic complementarianism found among more fundamentalist congregations. It wasn't that big of an issue in our chapter and I never got the impression it was an especially big issue in other chapters when I questioned them precisely on this issue. In fact when the topic came up at conferences we were usually told that the relationship was more like a dance where the male is the leader and leads with the slightest touches and movements while the women do the dance maneuvers that get noticed or something like that.

There's so much more I could say about this. I truly don't understand why it seems IV is suddenly getting all this bad attention. I know I am ever grateful for how I grew spiritually there and I intend to support the ministry as long as I live.

EricW said...

In fact when the topic came up at conferences we were usually told that the relationship was more like a dance where the male is the leader and leads with the slightest touches and movements while the women do the dance maneuvers that get noticed or something like that.

That is the weirdest analogy/explanation/justification for complementarianism I've ever read or heard.

I'm not sure I get it. It makes it sound like the woman is a puppet with the man hiding out of sight but pulling the strings (gently and lovingly, of course).

Blake said...

I think the point was that the dance only works and is beautiful when both do their parts and the male doesn't have the part of being flashy, but leads in a humble way according to the requirements of the dance. I've never danced so it doesn't make any sense to me. I'm not sure I'm the best to explain the analogy as fully as it was used.

Lin said...

"Just look at what the leadership of Al Mohler did for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Yes, I lived through it and saw MANY good people thrown under the bus over this issue. I also have several female family members who graduated from there back in the early 90's with ministry degrees. No more.

It never stops at Patriarchy as a doctrine. It becomes politics and eventually evolves into ESS which is now taught at SBTS.

And it is the most successful SBC seminary.

EricW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EricW said...

"ESS" = "Eternal Subordination of the Son" - correct?

Lin said...

ESS" = "Eternal Subordination of the Son" - correct?

11:26 AM

Yes. It is huge at SBTS. As is Family Integrated Church and the absolute authority of elders over the Body and the husband as prophet, priest and king over his wife and kids.

It all points back to one thing...being puffed up with authority and power over others. It is all the same sin and the doctrines are created to fit the sin.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have to chuckle a bit if the dance analogy is being used by Baptists. I don't dance either so really it appears to me to be an effort to romanticize the subordination of women. I won't comment on that one further. :-)

Blake said...

It wasn't baptists who used it Suzanne, it was IV staff.

Brian Krieger said...

Perhaps I am missing something (I often am), but where does Piper condemn women leadership outside the church (parachurch)?

Lydia said...

Hi Brian, I wish I had time to look for the article on CBMW where Piper says that a woman who has male direct reports at work should only make 'suggestions' and not give direct orders. To give direct orders upsets the natural order of things.

Oh, and his advice on how to give directions to a man so as not to appear to be teaching him.

Brian Krieger said...

Interesting, that would be an interesting read. Suzanne, do you have a reference?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Tonight, Brian.

Peter Kirk said...

Brian, see this post of mine and this one for some evidence. It seems that John Piper doesn't even fully accept women as bus drivers.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


On page 355 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,

"Since parachurch organizations (such as mission boards or campus ministries) and Christian institutions (such as colleges and seminaries) are also part of the church universal, the body of Christ, it would seem that such restrictions should apply to their governing boards as well. They are a part of the church; why should they act as though they were not?"

This is in chapter 20 by George Knight but it is edited by Piper and Grudem. I do think that Grudem keeps the list of what a woman may and may not do, so it would be interesting to see if there is a difference there.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Grudem provides his argument, based on work done by Bruce Ware.

Brian Krieger said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I had left a comment yesterday about it (again), but cyberspace gnomes are afoot.