Religious debate: Can a woman be a cop?

The long-time pastor of a Minneapolis evangelical church is getting some examination in some religious circles after he said women shouldn’t be police officers.

John Piper made his comments in his Desiring God podcast when asked by a listener who said she felt drawn to being a police officer.

Piper, for years the pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and now chancellor at Bethlehem College and Seminary, said he doesn’t like to make lists of what jobs should be for men and what jobs should be for women. But he said being “directed” by a woman offends “a man’s God-given sense of responsibility and leadership.”

To an extent, a woman’s leadership or influence may be personal and non-directive or directive and non-personal, but I don’t think we should push the limits. I don’t think those would necessarily push the limits of what is appropriate. That is my general paradigm of guidance. And you can see how flexible it is and how imprecise it is. So let me give some examples.

A woman who is a civil engineer may design a traffic pattern in a city so that she is deciding which streets are one-way and, therefore, she is influencing, indeed controlling, in one sense, all the male drivers all day long. But this influence is so non-personal that it seems to me the feminine masculine dynamic is utterly negligible in this kind of relationship.

On the other hand, the husband-and-wife relationship is very personal and, hence, the clear teaching of the New Testament that the man should give leadership in the home and that she give a glad partnership in supporting and helping that leadership come into its own.

On Christianity Today today, contributing editor Krish Kandiah suggests Piper is “hijacking Scripture.”

The delineating factor basically seems to be that women can have influence over men if the men can’t see the women leading them. This involves a number of huge assumptions that the Bible does not speak directly into and ignores some important biblical examples.

Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in Theology at St Andrews University, commented to me: “How about Rebekah’s instructions to Isaac in Genesis 27? When Josiah discovers the Book of the Law and sends for guidance from the prophet Huldah, her response – ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, This is what the Lord says…’ – sounds at least moderately directive!”

Complementarian theologian Carl Trueman has raised serious concerns with Piper along similar lines, arguing that he has gone beyond the scriptures:

“I rarely read complementarian literature these days. I felt it lost its way when it became an all-embracing view of the world and not simply a matter for church and household. I am a firm believer in a male-only ordained ministry in the church but I find increasingly bizarre the broader cultural crusade which complementarianism has become.

It seems now to be more a kind of reaction against feminism than a balanced exposition of the Bible’s teaching on the relationships of men and women … Too often cultural complementarianism ironically offers a rather disenchanted and mundane account of the mystery and beauty of male-female relations. And too often it slides into sheer silliness.”

“There are many things to love about John Piper: his commitment to global mission, his concern for the alleviation of poverty, his vision of delighting in God’s glory as the central purpose of human existence and his enthusiasm for biblically faithful preaching,” he writes. “But despite all of these wonderful traits, I hope he doesn’t get the opportunity to offer my daughter career advice any time soon.”