In the last article (found here) on the biblical distinctions between males and females, we established the God-created dignity inherent in mankind. All of mankind (men and women) were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 says,“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after our likeness’.” Man was imprinted with a dignity above the rest of God’s creation in that he bears the image of God. But the next verse reveals that mankind also bears a God-created diversity. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
The Beauty of Diversity
Diversity is good. It’s beautiful. It’s intentional. Distinctions between male and female go beyond the physiological and biological, extending to roles and functionality as well. The egalitarian chafes against this, arguing that equality between male and female is determined by equality in function. But Scripture does not recognize this as legitimate. Rather, any definition of equality between the sexes is determined by the truth that both male and female are of equal value before God in their personhood, or essence. Four times in Genesis 1:26-27 we see emphasized the similarity and equality of the sexes in terms of who they are in their very essence, but not their function. They are God’s image (v26 and 2x in v27) and likeness (v26). The distinction between male and female in the working out of their functions is alluded to later. First, in Genesis 2:7 we see that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground first. Only afterwards did God then create Eve from Adam’s rib. Who God created first bears significant import for the functionality of men and women. Paul quotes Genesis in I Timothy 2:12-13 to support his argument that its prohibited for women to teach men in the church because it exercises a certain unnatural authority not given to her by God. Man was created first, and therefore was designed to be the authoritative leader and teacher of woman. The reason Paul gives for this is that the man was not the one deceived by the serpent, but the woman was deceived. Second, in Genesis 2:18 we see the woman referred to as man’s “helper”. This more than implies her submission and assistantance to Adam. The very definition of assisting means helping, not leading. Third, in Genesis 3:16, we read God’s words to the woman after the first transgression was committed, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Egalitarians rightly point to the pain in child bearing of Genesis 3:16 as a curse for the woman due to her sin. But the cunning emphasis of these evangelical feminists is not on the pain of childbearing, but childbearing itself. But the diversity of male and female established in Genesis 1:28 before the Fall, which provides the possibility for childbearing since only male and female can together “be fruitful and multiply”, comes before Genesis 3:16. This means that the curse was not childbearing. Childbearing was part of the creation mandate before the Fall. In fact, Scripture describes childbearing in terms of the exact opposite of a curse. Scripture speaks about it in terms of a blessing. Genesis 1:28 begins, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’.” The curse was not childbearing, but raher the added dimension of pain in childbearing. The woman was, therefore, gifted with the distinct ability to bear children before the Fall as part of her identity as woman. Obviously, the man was not given the same ability or function. Beyond that, this implies the woman’s natural ability to nurture the children she bears.
The Benevolence of Diversity
The roles between the sexes were designed to produce natural complementarity, not vengeful competition. It was a loving act by God to create two distinct sexes which, when working together, provide fertile ground for deep roots of love to grow. The Fall, however, has now reversed this so that it is natural for the flesh to compete rather than cooperate. Throughout history, males have tended toward the abuse of women. And it equally goes the opposite way as well. Throughout history, females have tended toward trying to control males. Such is the other part of the curse as the second half of Genesis 3:16 reads, “Your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And so the battle of the sexes goes on. This is most pronounced in the marital relationship between husband and wife. Every marriage (Christian or not) struggles to some degree with these tensions and curses.
But though woman is created with the same intrinsic value as the man since she bears God’s image, she is nonetheless assigned a different role in the home, church, and society. This is part of the beauty of God’s creation–the difference in her sovereignly God-imparted role. The fact that man might tend to view the woman as inferior has no biblical basis. Two times in verse 27 its repeated that mankind is created in God’s image, but this time the female is associated with this image-bearing, pressing home the point that she is equal in value and worth before God just as the man is. She possesses just as much of the image of God as the man does (if I can put it in such inexact terms of measurement). But equality in image-bearing does not mean male and female are identical. The sexes were created unambiguously, biologically, physiologically, and functionally different. Therefore, they are not biological accidents flowing from evolution. It matters that males look and act like males, and that females look and act like females. Why? Because God created us this way. To do anything other is to act unnaturally and sinfully.
Women are, of course, also quite capable of viewing men as inferior to women. This is perhaps more true in our culture than men viewing women as inferior. In our day, many say that promoting the equality of women with men, in terms of how they function (i.e. what they can and should do in the home, church, and society), is a matter of elevating and celebrating the female. You never hear any talk about celebrating men in our culture. Even suggesting such a thing comes across as mysogynistsic. And to refuse to join in celebrating or encouraging women to be everything the man aspires to be is considered degrading and oppressive to women. But actually, the exact opposite is true. When the God-ordained differences between the roles and functions of women and men given in Scripture are emphasized, the female is honored. Husbands are truly loving their wives when they guide them to embrace their womanly role. In turn, women are loving their husbands by embracing their womanly role. In the same vein, men are loving their wives when they act like men, and women are loving their husbands when they act like women. It sounds so simple. But not really. Not in a culture that has changed the very definition of marriage. But forget society’s confusion, and turn to Scripture’s clarity. The fulfilling of these God-ordained differences results in a beautiful complementarity that allows love between husband and wife to flourish. So rather than bringing men and women together, demanding functional equality between the sexes actually pushes them apart. On the other hand, by emphasizing that women were not designed to function in the same exact way men are, actually results in bringing men and women together. Should this surprise us? Not when we recognize the latter works because it's operating in accordance with the way God designed the sexes to interact.
The Business of Diversity
The beauty of God’s creation is only seen when it functions according to its design. As God’s image- bearers, male and female have a responsibility to reflect His image in their distinctly male and female identities respectfully. Male and female categories are to be lived out to the glory of God. Male and female traits are intrinsic to nature. They are intrinsic to mankind’s identity as God’s image-bearers. Male and female characteristics are not to be muddled together into some sort of androgynous stew. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our culture is serving up to us.
But the church is to take a different stand–a countercultural stand. We are to stand on Scriptural laws, not societal norms (when such norms are unbiblical). Christian men and women are to proactively make it their business to point out the differences between male and female. We have an obligation to be salt and light to the world. The business of every Christian is to make it their business to set forth these differences in the home, church, and society. In the next article, we will consider three matters of business that all Christians must give due consideration to with regard to this.