Why John Piper’s Theology is for the Dogs

One of the books I’m reading right now is Inside a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz.  I’m an ardent dog lover, and an even more ardent lover of my dog, Nellie (named in part for the 19thcentury activist and journalist, Nellie Bly). 
Nellie the dog is an awesome running partner, but still behaves in inexplicable ways: like greeting my return from taking out the trash as though I’d been gone for years. Her entire body wags when I come back inside as if she’s saying “Oh My God! Where have you been! I can’t believe you left me in the kitchen alone for an entire 10 seconds!”
Just a few chapters into the book, I’m beginning to understand Nellie better. Horowitz suggests that, fundamentally, if we want to comprehend a dog’s behavior, we have to consider the world from the dog’s perspective, studying what the dog sees, hears, and (most importantly) smells every day. Nellie’s perspective is quite different than mine, and she processes the same world we inhabit in ways I do not. Her different processing compels her to do things differently. On my morning runs, I would never rub my body over the dregs of a roadside carcass, for example, something Nellie loves to do. Makes you want to pet her the next time you come over, doesn’t it?
Perspective matters for humans as well as for dogs. (That’s where I’m going with this post, if you wondered. Plus, I haven’t had a chance yet in this blog to brag about how fabulous my dog is.)
Perspective matters. So that when I first saw this image, I thought there was much in its sentiment with which I could agree. 
Amen. This is one of the ideas Kendra and I have been exploring together: that evangelicalism’s wimpy theology has confined and confused women, limiting women to subservient roles that may not match their strengths, interests, or calling. We long for a different theology, one that celebrates the myriad ways women and men are created in God’s image.
But then I discovered that this image was promoted on John Piper’s Desiring God website. My perspective of the image began to shift, just a little. Piper has written often about complementarianism, and about what he terms biblical womanhood.
In fact, the image is a quote from Piper’s 2008 sermon, “The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood.” So once again, my understanding of the image shifted. Piper’s certainty is certainly galling: as if anyone knows what “the ultimate meaning” is for anything, or can offer us a definition of “True Womanhood.”
Through the course of a sermon that plows tired ground about femininity, biblical womanhood, and the special, special (but limited!) place reserved for women of God, Piper reminds us that men are to be the head of the church and the home, and women are to follow their own divine calling, which is to “honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”
Piper provides a caveat for single women who have their own beautiful place in God’s world: Meh. Marriage is an extraordinary thing, Piper says, but if you aren’t married, hey, Christ is available. You can marry him. (At least there should be plenty to drink at the wedding ceremony, right?)
Judging from Piper’s sermon—indeed, from Piper’s entire oeuvre—it seems he is perpetuating the wimpy theology he decries. The God Piper describes is one not big enough, not strong enough, not wise enough to allow women to be all they were truly meant to be: created in God’s image, with the strength and wisdom to pursue a myriad of divine callings.
At least that’s my perspective. Nellie may have something else to say about the matter. Who knows, she might suggest I roll around in Piper’s writing a little bit, just so I can get a better sense of why I think it stinks.