What's the Difference? (Study Guide) (John Piper Small Group) Info

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A ten-session, guided group study spotlighting John Piper's
teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood and the impact of living out
God's design.
Scripture is clear that manhood and womanhood
are the beautiful handiwork of a good and loving God, contends John
Piper in What's the Difference? "God designed our differences, and
they are profound." Yet when rightly understood according to God's
Word, his vision for both men and women is not oppressive, prideful, or
self-promoting. "It conforms to who we are by God's good design.
Therefore it is fulfilling in the deepest sense of that word."
This study guide-a companion to the What's the Difference?
DVD-commends the beauty and the biblical truth of God's plan for men and
women as part of a ten-session, guided group study. Each lesson comes
complete with Scripture and key quotations for reflection, penetrating
questions, and five daily assignments per week to both prepare group
members for and reinforce Piper's powerful teaching so that all may come
to recognize and embrace our God-given differences.

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Reviews for What's the Difference? (Study Guide) (John Piper Small Group):


May 20, 2000

Marriage defined by the Maker for the Modern age!
John Piper delivers a carefully studied Biblical portrait of what it means to be a man or a woman. The principles are based on sound Biblical exegesis, but without a lot of technicality and detail. The chapters dealing with "The Meaning of Masculinity" and "The Meaning of Femininity" are dealt with by the use of carefully constructed definitions that are unfolded word-by-word. Extensive space is given to describing the masculine role of leadership. Piper's approach is Scriptural, and therefore relevant; and he labors hard to bridge any apparant gaps between the Biblical model and its contemporary relevance. He avoids hard and fast rules for specific circumstances, and sticks to sold principles which should govern male-female relationships of differing levels. This would be an excellent book for pastoral premarital counselling.

December 18, 2009

"IN THE LORD, HOWEVER..." (1 Cor.11:11) Sorting Out Crucial Gender Issues
While we were on a ministry trip going as far south as Oklahoma City, a good friend gave me What's the Difference? and asked me to comment on it. After reading it, I felt that the content begged for more than a cursory response. What follows, then, is my attempt to biblically reflect upon some of many issues raised in this book. The whole review article is 6700 words long. Here are some excerpts.

What About 1 Corinthians 7:1-5?

It is interesting that in Piper's major publication, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (1991), there are separate articles devoted to Eph.5:21-33, 1 Cor.11:3-16. Col.3:18-19, 1 Pet.3:1-7, etc., but 1 Cor.7:1-5 is suspiciously absent. Likewise, in What's the Difference? there are two lists of verses provided that deal with marriage, but once again 1 Cor.7:1-5 is not included (pp.21,66).

This omission is unfortunate for the following reasons. First, 1 Cor.7:1-5 is the only place in the NT where the word "authority" (Greek, exousia) is used with reference to marriage. But it is not the authority of the husband over the wife, or vice versa, that is in view, but rather a mutual authority over each other's body. 1 Cor.7:4 states that the wife has authority over her husband's body. One would think that this would be a hard pill to swallow for those who see "authority" as resting only in the husband's headship.

Secondly, Paul states that a couple cannot separate from one another physically unless there is mutual consent (Greek, symphonou). Both parties must agree to the separation or it shouldn't happen. There is in this text, then, nothing supporting the contention that the husband's "authority" should override his wife's differing viewpoint.

John Piper suggests that "mature masculinity accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements between husband and wife, but does not presume to use it in every instance" (p.32). But 1 Cor.7:5 challenges Piper's assumed maxim. If the wife disagrees with a physical separation, the husband should not overrule his wife with the "final choice" (p.33). Biblically, such separation can occur only if both husband and wife are in "symphony" (unity) about such an action.

Now if mutual consent applies in an important issue like physical separation from one another for a period of time, wouldn't it seem proper that coming to one-mindedness would be the broad decision-making model in a healthy marriage? Piper feels that "in a good marriage decision-making is focused on the husband, but is not unilateral" (p.32). In light of 1 Cor.7:1-5 I suggest that decision-making should focus on finding the Lord's mind together. Over the years the good ideas, solutions to problems and answers to dilemmas will flow from both husband and wife as they seek the Lord as a couple for "symphony."

1 Cor.7:5 throws a wrench into the works for those who would conclude that the husband has the "final say" under presumed authority commonly known as "male headship." Paul teaches that unless the couple can agree on a course of action, it should not be executed. I suggest that this revelation invites us to re-examine what the husband's headship really entails (cf. Gordon D. Fee, "1 Corinthians 7:1-7 Revisited," Paul & the Corinthians: Studies On A Community in Conflict, Trevor J. Burke/J. Keith Elliott, eds., Brill, 2003, pp.197-213).

Ephesians 5:21-33

With this "profound mystery" as a backdrop, we better understand Paul's words to husbands and wives in Eph.5:22-33. In Eph.5:18 the apostle gives an imperative to be "filled with the Spirit," and five participles follow showing the fruit of such a life. Verse 21 sets forth the fifth evidence of the Spirit-filled community, "submitting yourselves to one another out of reverence to Christ." Here we see a mutual submission among all the parts of the body. This is the setting for the specific relationships that follow, beginning with husbands and wives.

Verse 22 has no verb. It reads literally, "wives to your own husbands as to the Lord." Then why do most English translations read, "wives submit to your own husbands..."? Because they have correctly inferred that submission is implied. In the English language a sentence is not complete without a verb. In the Greek, a sentence may be complete without a verb, but in such cases, the action is assumed to continue from the preceding sentence. The verb in verse 21 is "submit." The assumed verb in verse 22, therefore, should also be "submit."

But that's not the whole story. Since verse 22 was written in such a way as to make it deliberately dependent on verse 21 for its action verb, it is also appropriate to assume a continuation of any previously established qualifiers to that action. In verse 21, the act of submitting is not a one-way street, but mutual - "to one another." If Paul did not intend for that same spirit of mutuality to be assumed in the submission implied in verse 22, he would have supplied a new verb and structured the sentence differently. Even though Paul's focus in verse 22 is on "wives," therefore, there is no justification for stripping the implied "submit" supplied by the translators of its previously established mutuality. A wife should indeed voluntarily "submit" to her husband. But that does not cancel out her husband's responsibility to just as willingly submit to his wife. Indeed, husbands and wives should "submit to one another."
It should be clear, therefore, that Paul's motivation for instructing believing wives to submit to their husbands was not to establish a hierarchy in the marriage relationship - nor in any other relationship between believers. It is the unique, "one another" quality of life within the body of Christ that is its most essential characteristic. Just as elders (pastors) have no inherent right to lord it over those whom they shepherd (cf. 1 Pet. 5:3), husbands have no inherent right to lord it over their wives. In Christ, earthly marriage is an equal partnership, with both husbands and wives willingly submitting to one another as unto Christ. Paul's only reason for underscoring the wives' need for submission to her husband is because her role in marriage, as the following verses so beautifully reveal, is to be an earthly reflection of Christ's bride, the church. And in the "oneness" of that relationship, there is neither male nor female, "for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

Because of church teachings, personal leanings and cultural practices, words like "submission" and "authority" are laden with potential misunderstandings. Dennis J. Preato reminds us that we need to think things through a little more carefully:

The Greek word, hupotasso, is often translated as "submitting to" or "being subject" in Ephesians 5:22. However this Greek word has more than one use and a range of meaning that is quite different from what people today generally think. "Hupotasso" actually has two uses: military and non-military. The military has a connotation of being "subject to" or "to obey" as if you are under someone's command. Most people would probably think of this meaning. However the non-military use means "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden" (Thayer's Greek Lexicon #5293). In ancient papyri the word hupotasso commonly meant to "support," "append," or "uphold" (Ann Nyland, "Papyri, Women, and Word Meaning in the New Testament," Priscilla Papers, 17:4 (Fall, 2003), p.6) . . . . [W]hy would Scripture need to command Christians to be filled with the Spirit in order to be subject to, follow orders, or be under someone's authority? A person does not need to be filled with Spirit to follow orders, for even nonbelievers demonstrate this fact when they "submit," or obey their superiors ("Empirical Data in Support of Egalitarian Marriages & A Fresh Perspective on Submission & Authority," Presented at the Evangelical Theological Society, April 23, 2004).

The wives' responsibility is mentioned in verses 22-24 and 33. It is often overlooked that Paul directs more attention to the husband's responsibilities, as the seven verses in between are directed toward the men in the households. It is possible that Paul has more to say about the husband's responsibilities toward his wife because of the generally low status of women in the first century - they were often viewed as property.

In Eph.5:22-33, then, we see a beautiful picture of husbands reflecting the Lord's pattern toward their brides - sacrificial nourishing, protecting and caring - and the wives reflecting the pattern of the ekklesia toward her Groom - respect and submission.

Concluding Thoughts
My assessment is that What's the Difference? promotes its own agenda by magnifying the alleged "role" differences between men and women, and does not give proper priority to and focus on husbands and wives becoming "one" in marriage.
While John Piper claims to have "made every effort to bring the thinking of this book into accord with what the Bible teaches" (p.14), I do not think that he succeeded, and I believe he also effectively muted much of the Biblical testimony about women. He affirms that "God does not intend for women to be squelched or cramped or frustrated" (p.53), yet his views seem to contribute to these very tragic ends.

The template for gender that What's the Difference? lays down does not seem to be in line with the truth as it is in Jesus. The conclusion for Paul is this: "In the Lord, however, the wife is not independent of the husband, nor is the husband independent of the wife. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman" (1 Cor.11:11). For Paul the functions of husband and wife were to be viewed from the perspective of interdependence and respect, not hierarchy.

August 31, 2006

According to John Piper
Although the Bible says not to love the world and its imperfect ways, John Piper is apparently quite comfortable with the worldly definition of men and women: that is, that men are meant to be leaders over women. You know, there's a reason that Christ told us not to be worldly; the world, ever since the beginning, has had its own way of distorting God's perfect design and His plans for a peaceful life for us. The definition of women as followers and men as leaders is a classic example of one of these distortions, and yet why do so many believe it?

Piper seems to think that women naturally need men to be in charge of them and that men naturally hate women leading or teaching them. As an example, he gives us the image of a female umpire over a male baseball team and calls this unnatural. I can see why this would be unusual, but unnatural? Women have been educated teachers for centuries; in fact, that used to be one of the few professions we were allowed, and now suddenly we shouldn't teach anyone with male organs? Even if it's just teaching young boys to play ball? If a man hates the idea of being taught by a woman simply because she IS a woman, his reaction is caused by a sexist society or upbringing that has lead him to think female leadership is unnatural, not by some natural instinct that tells him it's wrong. I almost find it amusing how Piper assumes that such male pride is a God-given trait. Such discrimination needs to be eliminated, not encouraged as normal and healthy.

Piper also seems to think that women are born with a natural need to follow and truly flourish when they follow men. Submission is no more inborn than sexism; girls who believe it's their lot in life to follow a man have been taught to think so. On the other hand, if you raise a boy and a girl, treat them equally and give them all the same opportunities, you can bet that by the time college comes around, your daughter will NOT turn to you and say, "Well, rather than going to college, I guess it's time for me to find a man that I can happily obey till the day I die!" No, girls do not come up with such ideas on their own; we are born, as men are, with a natural desire to lead our own lives.

Now, granted, I have read Piper's sermons on marriage and I actually loved a great deal of what he had to say. Unlike some authors, Piper doesn't believe that husbands may command their wives, or that wives must be silent or speak in robotic tones when questioning their spouses choices. His portrayal of marriage was actually more of a partnership than I originally thought and I saw no real disrespect for women in it. The main problem I have with Piper's theology is not namely the issue of women in marriage, but of women in general. His tendency to preach against them being equal in leadership to men is what I find to be contradictory to God's design. In his own way, Piper greatly honors women (he also proves this by featuring women as heroines very often in his poetry). I just wish, on the subject of women being leaders, he would look further and deeper.

September 9, 2008

Let's be fair about this.
There are all ready sufficient reviews of this book that a shopper ought to be able to make a decision whether or not to purchase it. What prompted me to add another was my impression that some of the reviews need to be questioned. This is a thin book, a light weight study on an extensive subject. Piper attempts to cover a lot of material in very few pages.

Some reviews might give the impression that this book is sufficient in and of itself to provide the reader with a workable understanding of the marital relationship. If after reading it you close the cover and think that you have sufficient foundation to live out a healthy marital relationship, you are headed for trouble. This book should be followed up by more comprehensive writings on the subject. Doing so might not appeal to many men as the role of marital head is very demanding and counter to all tendencies to be selfish.

Some other reviews give the impression that the reviewer is well versed in the doctrinal position of John Piper. If you are going to attack the theology referenced in this book, this is the wrong forum. These attacks would be better debated against books like Wayne Gruden's "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" which provide a more extensive foundation for their conclusions. For shoppers, these reviews could lead them to demonize the book and its author, to their own loss.

June 30, 2015

Terrible... I have a conservative background, my gf has a liberal background. We read through this together and were both pretty put off by it. He makes wild claims about what is the right and "mature" thing to do. At one point he basically lists a bunch of career types that women shouldn't do.

December 30, 2009

Different is Good
I decided to read What's the Difference? primarily because I want a better understanding of what God says about myself and my wife. Like most married men, I want a stronger marriage. This short book is actually one of the chapters from a much larger book called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Pastor Piper believes in complementarianism which is the theological view that because men and women are different genders, we are designed for different (complementary) roles and responsibilities. We are of the same worth before God, but we do not share the same authority and responsibilities in the church and in the family. The Bible teaches that I am to lovingly lead, protect and provide for my wife and girls and that my beautiful and intelligent wife is to help me in my role. If you find that archaic, you need to read this short book to complement your reading of the Book. What's the Difference? is the seventh Piper book I have completed, and I hope to complete books #8 (This Momentary Marriage) and #9 (The Future of Justification) next month.

January 17, 2019

Great gift
Great book. Lost idea in today's world sadly.

November 13, 2013

Right On
As always, Dr Piper is on target if your theological convictions are thoroughly biblical in their origin. He is fresh air in an age where doctrinal smog seems to be preferred over black-and-white clarity.

February 22, 2016

Good read.
Read it. Insightful. Biblical.

September 11, 2013

Good book
Men and women were created as treasures of God.... equal but not the same. We need to celebrate the differences and understand what that means to our roles in our home, our church and in our culture.

March 21, 2009

A good place to begin
This is an excellent resource to begin an understanding of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This an excerpt from Piper's larger work. The intent is you would read this, get acquainted with the concepts, and gain a desire to continue to dig deeper. My hope is that you would so that you might find freedom and rest in God's design for manhood and womanhood.

October 21, 2013

what's the difference ? manhood and womanhood defined
this book is every good we are doing a woman bible studies and this goes with it one lady read the book and really liked it now another lady is ready it.

April 17, 2015

Sound, Biblical exposition
A sound Biblical look at issues of women in the church. "Where is it written and what does it really say?"

October 22, 2012

Lacks support for most of it's points
Although this book is an abridged version of Piper's far larger book, it lacked support for most of the points it made. The book takes a very conservative/traditional viewpoint. Not very insightful.

February 1, 2019

The Kindle Edition is not the actual book
If you buy the Kindle edition you are going to get a study guide of the DVD and you are not purchasing the book; these are different books! Be advised. That should have been more clear, Amazon.

May 31, 2017

Clear and Concise
The author John Piper is one of the editors along with Wayne Grudem of the massive Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In fact this present book was originally written as a chapter for the larger work and while Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. While that work is more detailed in providing exegetical support and the reasons for why Piper and company takes the position they take yet Piper published What's the Difference? as a stand-alone book is to present “a Biblical vision of manhood and womanhood as clearly and concisely as possible, and to leave the comprehensive technical discussion for other publications” (14). Piper also wrote in chapter one that he wanted to have What's the Difference? as a “portrayal of the vision that satisfies the head as well as the heart” (16). In other words Piper’s second purpose is his desire to show how a biblical view of manhood and womanhood is “deeply satisfying gift of grace from a loving God” (16).
I appreciated Piper working towards a biblical definition concerning the discussion of manhood and womanhood. Manhood and womanhood is one of those things that we feel that we know or take for granted but might be hard for us to define when we think of it consciously. I appreciated that Piper offers definitions of manhood and womanhood by the end of chapter one of the book and was nuanced to note the difficulties and challenges along with how easily his definition could be read in the most uncharitable light (I might that’s true of anyone’s attempt at a definition). With the definition of manhood and womanhood stated in the end of chapter one Piper then explains each part of his definition in chapter two and three on what is masculinity and feminity respectively. I also appreciated Piper’s definition of biblical headship and biblical submission in terms of the roles of husband and wife. As Piper defined it, "Biblical headship for the husband is the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant-leadership, protection and provision in the home" (66). Piper defined biblical submission for the wife as “the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts" (66).
I know the topic of a Biblical view of manhood and womanhood is controversial and goes contrary to what some within even Evangelical churches want to hear let alone what the greater culture in the West thinks about gender roles. Piper explains it rather graciously and clearly. I must add that this work should be seen as the first stop on the issue and not the last word for those who might find it disagreeable. But I do think Christians would find it edifying. I particularly enjoyed Piper’s discussion of the nine point of male leadership for its nuance and consideration and care for woman, the family and also for other men. In essence biblical leadership is servant leadership and not tyranny.

March 6, 2016

All is good.
Product as described. All is good.

September 30, 2014

Four Stars
Good book, but I accidentally ordered the study guide

February 5, 2019

Awesome Introduction to Manhood and Womanhood According to the Bible!
The book defines manhood and womanhood according to the Bible. The author's perspective is complementarian. At a time society is confused over what it means to be male and female, this was a refreshing, biblical look at gender roles. They were instituted by God and we should embrace them. Men are to be leaders and protect women while women are to submit to and affirm male leadership. This would involve men providing moral/spiritual guidance to their families. Women are to assist men in accomplishing their goals. In the church, this would mean men are to be elders and women are barred from prominent leadership roles. The women would show a willingness to submit to her church leaders in this area. The author appeals to passages relating to marriage and uses marriage as an example of how these gender roles work. He did deal with how they impact our jobs but I think that section could have been expanded. I loved the list of women's ministry opportunities at the end! It shows several ways women can serve the church. The footnotes provided helpful info too. This book piqued my interest and I'm looking forward to researching it further.

June 13, 2018

Important Book!
Such confusion in the church over these very important matters. Dr. Piper shows us what the Bible says about God’s distinct creation of male and female.

October 30, 2017

Five Stars
Amazing book and solidly Biblical.

May 9, 2017

Man And Woman From A Biblical Perspective
What's the Difference was first published in 1990 and was and was attempting to clarify and put into 'Biblical Focus' the distinctive's between men and women.Since the publishing of this book,27 years ago,this particular issue could be considered,from a Biblical vantage point,to have catapulted to a problem of epic proportions.At the heart of the issue is God's order and design and is there a willingness to submit to God's order.In giving his approach to what the Bible teaches Piper gives this reasoning-"...we must commend the beauty as well as the truth of the vision.We must show that something is not only right but also good." I like this approach because it seeks to show that God's way is always the best way for us(no matter what the world thinks about our convictions and beliefs).With increasing pressure to conform to 'Worldly Thinking' in defining manhood and womanhood,there will be the temptation to shrink back(worldly philosophy seeks to blur the distinctions ,if not remove them altogether)thus the fear of man may become a snare for some.Believers must ask themselves,Do I want to please God or man?

How important are sexual distinctive's to our identity? Mr.Piper quotes a couple of Christian writers in this regard-Paul Jewett "Sexuality permeates one's individual being to its very depth..." and theologian Emil Brunner "Our sexuality penetrates to the deepest metaphysical ground of our personality." It is a core component of our personality.I think 'The Feminist Movement' and the 'Sexual Revolution'(of the 1960's and 1970's)has had a huge impact for those who want to blur the distinctive's by stressing-"The equality of men and women" and "By minimizing the unique significance of our maleness and femaleness."

The author gives nine ways in which 'Mature Masculinity' is expressed.The first of these is a great example of how well Piper handles this delicate subject,which can be hard to pinpoint with precision at times(but I think he has given us a sound Biblically nuanced guide)-"Mature masculinity expresses itself not in the demand to be served,but in the strength to serve and to sacrifice for the good of the woman."

John Piper has addressed with precision,sensitivity and 'A Biblical Mindset',one of the 'Hot Button' issues both in Christianity and in the culture of our day.It is an important and extremely relevant work for 21st century believers.May our Lord be pleased to grant it a wide sphere of influence for our good and His glory.

September 3, 2016

Highly recommend
Wonderful biblical description of what it is to be a man or woman.

January 11, 2016

Great book.
Good book, right to the point. Usually John Piper is well worth reading.

August 8, 2014

I know it will be great as I love what I've read so far
Still reading, I know it will be great as I love what I've read so far!

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