Tuesday, 17 May 2016

John Piper on Women’s Breasts

The latest edition of Premier Christianity magazine has an opinion piece (well, the article is labelled ‘In My Opinion’) by John Piper, a piece that is itself a slightly shorter version of this blog post. The article is entitled ‘Christians Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed by Sex’ (Premier Christianity, June 2016, p. 15), and in it Piper paints a positive picture of ‘the forthright sensuality of sexual love in marriage as the Bible portrays it.’ But the following words captured my attention:

The breasts of our wives are telling us about the glory of God, the goodness of God, the beauty of God, and more. We are to see it and worship him as we enjoy them.

So why did these words in particular capture my attention? First of all, it appealed to my inner seven-year-old boy (‘He said “breasts”—tee hee!’). But the words also compelled me to re-read the article—and as I did so, I became concerned that Piper is essentially objectifying women. Consider this quotation, taken from Piper’s previous paragraph:

It is no shame that ‘a man’s ways are before . . . the Lord’ as his wife’s breasts fills him at ‘all times with delight’ (Proverbs 5:18-21, ESV), [sic] This is why God made her that way – and made him with those desires.

All this seems not-so gloriously androcentric to me: God made man with certain desires, and God made woman to satisfy those desires. Ostensibly, there’s little wrong with this as such—but Piper seems not to make the point that, presumably, God also made woman with certain desires that man is made to satisfy. To be fair, I think Piper probably implies this; his final sentence reads, ‘Read these descriptions [from the Bible], look at your husband or wife – and worship God’; but the fact that his focus on women’s breasts and his references to the male’s perspective in the Song of Songs (4:5-7; 7:6-9) really does convey the idea, at least to me, that Piper sees the sexual encounter between a husband and wife as primarily the wife pleasuring and satisfying the husband. If the earth moves for the woman, too, that’s probably a bonus.

This objectification of women is further seen in Piper’s claim that ‘we [men] are to see it [the glory of God?] and worship him [God] as we enjoy them [our wives’ breasts].’ There’s something I find quite disturbing about all this. It’s almost as though sex takes place between God and the husband, with the wife little more than an inflatable doll to aid the process. Is this really what Piper implies, or wants to imply?

Aside from this objectification of women, I do have another concern with the article—though not with its content as such. On the Premier Christianity blog, where the slightly longer version of Piper’s article is found, the piece is said to have been ‘adapted from the new book Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper’. But adapted by whom? And how adapted is it? Is there a possibility that Piper’s argument has been misrepresented by the process of editing the original text for an opinion piece in a magazine? I must admit that I doubt Piper has been misrepresented, but I suppose the possibility must remain until an actual read of Living in the Light proves otherwise.


  1. I have three things to say:
    1. I laughed when I realised what the picture is.
    2. Very timely that you should post this. The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors also has a post about John Piper, which I have reblogged.
    3. When will Piper stop spouting rubbish? Yes of course my husband takes a delight in my - er - appendages(?) but 'God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them' (Genesis 1:27). Male *and* female were created as a reflection of Himself. It's both, not just one. Why is the world so surprised that women experience lust? Why do some Christians perpetuate the very worldly view that women exist for men's pleasure?

    1. 1. It's a couple of lovely garden tweety birds. What's so funny about it?

      2. I've just read your post and the reblog. I recall seeing that Piper video (or something like it) a while ago. I just can't agree with him.

      3. This comment reminded me that some have argued El Shaddai means something like 'the breasted God'.

  2. I always have thought there's something suspicious about the term 'twitcher'.