We live in a world obsessed with image and appearance. But as the old saying goes, “We should never judge a book by its cover.” Not too long ago an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune chronicling how many home buyers place luxury above quality. For many, the mere looks of a home are more important than its durability. Experts within the home buying industry said that most home buyers agonize over the wrong things. The reason is that many find it boring to discuss foundations and stud walls, being more concerned about fixtures, lighting, and hot tubs.
God is the grand architect of mankind. He fashioned our souls, as well as the bodies that house these souls. He designed us to look and function a certain way. It is true that many within our culture overemphasize their appearance in relentless pursuits to look more handsome, more built, more beautiful, skinnier, or more athletic.
But as it is with homes, so it is with people in this world broken by sin. We often put effort into our own concepts of image and appearance without taking into account the image God wants us to reflect. This is becoming increasingly true regarding the blurring of male and female distinctiveness. But the reality is that God has built male and female in such a way that apart from living according to the way He built us results in a physical, emotional, and spiritual structure that will succumb to the winds of human philosophy that blow very strong. Part of reflecting the image of God in which mankind was made is intrinsically and fundamentally related to living out our maleness or femaleness.
It’s not that we shouldn’t care about our image. We should care greatly because God himself cares greatly! In fact, He cares so greatly that His passion and purpose in creating the distinctions between male and female is beautifully expressed in the opening chapter of the opening book of the Bible. Moses, writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirt, puts it this way:
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
It’s not an accident that the opening chapter of the opening book of sacred Scripture emphasizes the distinctions between male and female. These distinctions are fundamental to life–literally. Life isn’t even a possibility apart from procreation. Procreation only occurs between male and female, not male and male, or female and female. But the distinctions go far beyond the biological and physiological categories and extend to differences in functionality as well. This comes out in Genesis 2 and 3. Men and women are the same in the sense that both sexes have been created in the image of God. But men and women are different in the sense that they were designed to function with distinct purposes within the home, the church, and even society. In Genesis 2, the covenant was made with Adam before Eve was created. Adam, therefore, served as the covenantal head of the human race. His job was to wash Eve with “the water of God’s Word” (to borrow the language of Ephesians 5:26), which said not to eat of the tree. He was created first and was Eve’s head (I Timothy 2:13-14).
Writing about the Roman society which had abandoned God, Paul says they exchanged “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom 1:23). At the heart of Paul’s words is the principle of idolatry. Idolatry is such a serious offense to God that not only is the worshiping of false gods prohibited according to the Ten Commandments, but even a graven image meant to represent God is also sinful. God does not want us to make an image of God, but rather to reflect the image of God. And what was the great idolatry of the Roman society? Well, apart from the pantheon of false gods and images, they worshipped the human body in a sense. Paul continues in Romans 1:24-25 by telling us God gave them over to “lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
This also describes the American culture, which is obsessed with the human body to such a degree that “image” and “sexuality” are big idols. The creature is worshiped instead of the Creator of the creature. And what happened to the Roman culture is happening to our own. Paul says, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26-27).
The First Feminist
Our culture’s wholehearted embracing and celebration of homosexuality did not occur in a vacuum. For decades now the church has given a pass to feminism, allowing it to creep into the church like a quiet mouse. Feminism didn’t begin in the 1960’s, however. Feminism began in the Garden when Eve usurped God’s authority by eating the forbidden fruit, influenced her husband to do the same, and Adam submitted to her instead of leading and protecting her. As one preacher put it, the history of the world can be summed up in three simple points: Adam’s “rib”, Satan’s “fib”, women’s “lib”.
Everything can be traced back to the Garden. As Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles 1:9). The sinful tendencies of both men and women to fail living out functionally what it means to reflect God’s image according to their own respective sexes originated in the Garden.
You know a society has abandoned God when it does three things: 1) denies His existence evidenced in creation, 2) suppresses His law written on the conscience (i.e. heart), and 3) ignores His truth in the canon of sacred Scripture. Once this happens, all bets are off. If there remains no God because His voice has been muted, then there remains no moral, objective standard. Man becomes his own god. Man chooses his own idols as well as his own understanding of what he wants to “be” or look like.
Though some professing Christians have chosen to take softer stances against homosexuality, many are rightly condemning it as sinful, including same-sex attraction. For this I am grateful. There are still Christians not buckling under the intense pressure of an over-sexualized culture. Sadly however, the recent Revoice Conference hosted by a PCA church, as well as the voting of Resolution 9 in the SBC, reveal a dangerous trend in two of the biggest and most conservative denominations. Some within the visible church are beginning to say that same sex attraction is not sinful so long as one doesn’t act on those passions (Revoice). Others are adopting godless ideologies with feministic roots (SBC and critical race theory). Some are even saying we should celebrate the “beauty” (?) of the homosexual community, affirming its intrinsic aesthetic quality without endorsing the practice of homosexuality itself. These positions are not only confusing, vague, and bizarre, but outright dangerous and overtly unbiblical. In principle such positions violate the tenth commandment which tells us not to covet. It’s a sin to even desire to be with someone of the same sex. Any same sex attraction in the heart of a sincere professing Christian must be mortified, put to death, and fought against with Holy Spirit power and sanctified vigor.
Sexual Warfare and Gender Confusion
Satan has a much bigger agenda than simply creating an environment where homosexuality becomes the new normal. He is after confusing the sexes entirely. He is concocting an androgynous stew he wants everyone to eat. Many have sold their birthright to eat this stew in order to feed their inordinate passions. There is much at stake. If Satan can blur the distinctions between male and female, then he undermines biblical marriage between male and female. And if he undermines biblical marriage, then he undermines procreation. If he undermines procreation, then he stamps out Christian generations raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We know he can’t ultimately succeed. The Lord Jesus Christ is ruling and reigning. His kingdom has been inaugurated. But the church is a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and has a responsibility to be a city on a hill; to be salt and light. To be sure, Christ will rule until all His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110:1; I Corinthians 15:26-28; Philippians 2:10). Soon the war will be over. “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many people, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). But this prophesy has not been fulfilled, and we are still at war. Satan still “prowls around like a roaring lion” (I Peter 5:8). And Satan’s massive assault on marriage is an attempt to destroy the God ordained institution meant to reflect the gospel itself. Paul is clear that marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church and the church’s submission to Christ in Ephesians 5. He states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).
Understanding the imago dei is critical for a proper understanding of marriage, the family, and gender. Over the next several posts, I hope to crystalize what it means to reflect God’s image as male and female, and what this means for marriage itself. I will draw my main three points from Genesis 1:26-28 where we see that as God’s image-bearers we possess: a God created dignity, a God designed diversity, and a God intended duty.