Monday, June 22, 2009

An issue of gender

Jeff at Losing My Religion has posted several blog entries on "healing" the harm done to women by the church. I have noted where I think that Christian men have failed women and it has nothing to do with them not being allowed to be elders (see: Apologies to our sisters ). I took some umbrage at his latest post, The Two-Fold Image of God , where he argues that Genesis 1: 27 is not how we should view men and women today, that the gender roles we see in Scripture are the result of the fall but that those roles have been "redeemed" and that the "oppression" of women is a misinterpretation of Scripture. The result of this is that we need "healing" which equates to allowing women to serve in ways that are clearly forbidden by Scripture.

Here is the problem. Men and women are both created in the image of God. No one is arguing that. But man was created first from the dust of the ground and woman was created from man. This same relationship, as I pointed out in a comment, is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul references the creation order:

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (1Co 11:7-9)

Paul is not telling us that this relationship is undone by the cross. In fact Paul goes out of his way on a number of occasions, including and especially in 1 Cor 11: 2-15 to reiterate and reinforce that men and women are equally saved, equally image-bearers but have different and complementary roles in the church. Does that mean men are superior and women inferior? Of course not! Does that mean that men are more image-bearers than women? Of course not! Does it mean that God willfully and intentionally created man first and then woman and did so for a reason? Absolutely! This is important: Equality and role distinction are not mutually exclusive! You can be different/complementary and not be inferior/superior! Men and women can and are called differently, gifted differently and that is not only OK, it is glorious and the divine design of the Father. To question that is to question Him, to say to Him that you don't care for the way He designed the world. Ephesians 5: 22-32 spells out in plain language the roles of the genders and guess what? They have a hierarchy and they are different. Man is not complete without woman and woman is not complete without man. We are created to be gloriously different and dependent and complementary of one another. I thank God that He made my wife different than me! Where I am weak, she is strong. Where she is weak, I pray that I am strong. We are different but designed to complement one another, not by uniformity but indeed through our differences!

I understand that the world doesn't like this. I understand that we are tempted to question what God's Word says when we find it is not to our liking. I would however raise a serious admonition to be careful when we tinker with the Word of God to salve our sinful pride and to appease the world. The issue of gender is not a fringe teaching or a vague one. It is obvious and clear and frequently mentioned. I would encourage you to read this sermon by Ligon Duncan, Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: The Big Picture, who has a slightly different (and dare I say a more thorough and Scripturally sound) take on Genesis 1:27 and then visit Jeff's post and share some thoughts.


Jeff McQ said...

Maybe I should kick it off. :)

First, thank you for the mention in your blog, although you disagree with my conclusions. I am all for healthy, even spirited, dialogue on opposing viewpoints, when it's done respectfully. (You'll understand why I say "spirited" when you read my response to your last comments on my blog.) :D

Second...I don't claim to be a theologian, and there are plenty of people who can out-Greek and Hebrew me. I probably should have stated somewhere in the blog post that these are my reflections and attempts to figure some things out, and I reserve the right both to be wrong, and to change my mind. I am, however, one who believes in the practical application of Scripture, and one to ask questions. I have never been one to accept certain interpretations of the Bible simply because that's the way we've always done it--because man is still fallible. I am compelled to know *why* we interpret it such a way, and when our interpretations have results that are less than life-giving (like in the harm we've done to women over the years), I question whether we got it right. That's exactly what I'm doing in this case, and that's pretty much the theme of my blog.

Third--you should know that I used to be a complementarian. :)

Fourth--I took a look at the sermon you linked to, and I was suprised to find that I don't actually relate to either of his definitions for complementarianism *or* egalitarianism. I seem to rest somewhere in between. I honestly felt that his arguments really carried a bit of a stereotype of the alternate viewpoint. Although our family does not resemble complementarian thinking as it is described here, I respect, honor, and cover my wife, and my son has picked up on that and knows how to treat women. And he is nowhere near gender-confused. :) I guess what I'm saying is that so many times we argue our points for the sake of winning the debate, rather than wrestling with opposing views to ascertain the truth. At first glance, that is the vibe I got from the sermon. At any rate...if I am an egalitarian, he really came nowhere near to pegging what I believe.

That I mentioned in my blog, I harbor no illusions that either one of us is going to sway the other to change his views. But it gives me courage to know these things are being talked about and thought about, at the very least.

I leave you with this...that I've come to realize it really is impossible NOT to interpret the Bible. When we back a point by saying, "The Bible says," we are not just repeating what it says--we're making a judgment as to what it *means.* This is why two men like us can look at the same Bible and reach such different conclusions about its meaning on this issue. And that's why I'm inclined to respect your interpretation, even though I disagree with it, and even as I hold my own interpretation loosely and in the fear of God.

P.S. Fifth--I grew up in Alma. Go Scots! :)

Arthur Sido said...


Thank you for your comments and willingness to exchange ideas, here and on your blog. I posted a lengthy and *ahem* spirited response to your last post. My only statement regarding your post is that we are all always interpreting Scripture but that HOW we interpret Scripture is key. Do we approach the Word from the standpoint of modern mores and culture or as the literal Word of God? Are we consistent? These are all issues that temper how useful our interpretation is.

Jeff McQ said...

"Spirited" is right...*ahem*. :)

Arthur, on this point I actually agree with you. We need to do our best to take the Scripture at face value and *apply* it to our modern-day lives, but not allow culture to inform it (but rather the other way around).

Where we are in disagreement is on who is doing what with regard to interpretation. Contrary to your belief about me and others like me, I am not attempting to popularize the gospel, nor am I basing this on the influence of our culture. I am actually looking further back than our classic interpretations, past the Western Greco-Roman culture (which influences our thinking more than we care to admit), and trying to discern the original intent of Scripture based on its original context and culture. I am looking further back than you may realize, and my conclusions are more informed and studied than I think you give me credit for.

I don't intend to say more on the subject; we've both made our points, and we do not agree, and I'm okay with that. I just wanted you to know that my conclusions are not based on flimsy assumptions or a disrespect for the authority of the Word of God. I am honestly trying to get this right, same as you.