John Piper wrote in Co-ed Combat and Cultural Cowardice:
If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.
But combat isn’t the only place we arm women and give them the job of protecting us. In fact, most combat (while hopefully focused on advancing our national interests) is not about directly protecting our borders or our civilians. To protect civilians we have police, not the military. Surely if it is cowardly for a man to allow a woman who wants to be like men to go into combat, it is at least as cowardly for a man to give a woman a gun and a badge with the obligation to come and protect him should he face danger.
Women as police should in fact bother Piper all the more because he rejects the idea of using force to protect himself and his family from criminals. In Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves? Piper asks if as a Christian man he is permitted to shoot someone who is attacking his wife. As Steven Wedgeworth at The Calvinist International explains, Piper dances around the issue, but the thrust of his argument is that a man should not defend his wife with violence in such a situation.
The most shocking part of Pr. Piper’s essay is, as we have said, his 8th point. He offers up a common situational dilemma faced by Christians looking into the question of the appropriate use of force. He says, “A natural instinct is to boil this issue down to the question, ‘Can I shoot my wife’s assailant?’” He then goes on to give 7 aspects to an answer which amounts to an unclear and qualified negative. We won’t quote these answers in full (you should read them for yourself), but they amount to an argument that bearing witness to Jesus precludes the use of deadly force.
Wedgeworth reinforces this later in his article:
Piper is answering a question about how a man should care for his wife, and by extension his children, by pointing the man towards self-sacrifice and martyrdom. But self-sacrifice is not the issue in question, and the man is not actually justified in sacrificing other people in the name of his own love for Christ. One does not love their neighbor by imposing martyrdom upon their neighbor during times of crisis.
This is not hyperbole from Wedgeworth. While Piper is circumspect in his Arm Themselves article linked above, he is much more open in his article Guns and Martyrdom. There Piper explains that one of the many reasons he does not own a gun is because this would interfere with his plan of allowing a man who breaks into his home to kill him. Piper’s reasoning is that he is ready for heaven, but a man who would murder him (and his family) is not.
In Arm Themselves however Piper does leave open the possibility of calling the police should someone attack himself or his wife. Piper believes a husband shouldn’t defend his family with violence, but he isn’t above calling upon someone else to do so. This brings us back to women as police. If Piper won’t defend himself and his family, and instead will call someone else to do so, what if that someone else is a woman? Surely this is the very cowardice Piper and other complementarians complain so loudly about. This raises the question, would Piper tell women they should not become police officers?
Clearly this creates a complementarian dilemma. He can either accept a scenario where he would call a woman to defend himself and his family (something by his own criteria which would make him a terrible coward), or he can say no to a woman who wants to usurp a man’s role. It is hard to imagine which would be more terrifying to a complementarian, but in Piper’s case at least we know the answer. In Should Women Be Police Officers? Piper responds to a woman who asks if this is an appropriate role for a complementarian woman.
Beth writes in, “Hi Pastor John! I’m a woman who enjoys being a woman. I have no desire to be a man, or to compete to be better than men at being masculine. For a couple of years now, I have felt drawn to police work as a vocation. I am unmarried and, should I become married and my husband object, I would discontinue work as a police officer. At this point my question is a question of principle: Can a single Christian woman, who is a complementarian, become a police officer?”
Piper opens by explaining that his goal is not to tell her what she should do, and then reinforces this by claiming that he is unwilling to tell a woman that any particular job should be out of bounds:
I love Beth’s spirit and I hope I can be of help without telling her what she should do.
Now in the home, the Bible makes plain that these definitions imply a leadership role for men that bear the burden of loving and leading the wife like Christ, and that in the church that men bear the responsibility to lead the church as elders. But what about outside the church in thousands of possible roles that men and women may fill in society? My sense is that it is unwise to make a list of women’s jobs and men’s jobs. There is simply too much diversity and too much flexibility in how many jobs there are and how the jobs are done and what the very relationships with men or women are in all the various jobs. It just won’t work to try to make a list like that.
Keep in mind that if telling a woman no wasn’t terrifying to a complementarian, this would be an extremely easy question. Piper is deeply convicted that:
- The police have the unique role in our society of applying violence in the protection of men like himself and his family.
- Women should not be placed into roles where they would in the ordinary performance of their duties be expected to protect others, especially men, through violence.
It is only the deep rooted fear of saying no to a woman that makes this in any way hard, especially since in this case of the woman clearly is open to a “no” answer. When complementarian heavyweights like Piper punt on the incredibly easy questions, it demonstrates that we can’t expect them to be capable of handling even moderately difficult questions without likewise caving in to fear.