The wounds inflicted by men and women on each other constitute the fundamental fault line running beneath all other human conflict. If gender difference is used as the justification for the devaluation of one part of humanity, then the door is opened for the selective devaluation of all of humanity based on some difference from a perceived ideal. Gender conflict…is the biggest reconciliation issue of all, outside of our need to be reconciled to God the Father.
John Dawson, Healing America’s Wounds
Sadly, the modern Western world has been caught up in a divisive, and truly exhausting, game of “men vs. women” and is failing to see the possibility of men and women working together in unity.
A lot of scientific study has made many a speculation regarding the reality of sexual dimorphism in living things, reasoning that the differences happened through “natural selection”. These theories and speculations are often used to deconstruct social values, the male-female distinction, male-female roles and even the validity of a universal morality among the human race. The aim of natural selection itself seems to be the continuation of life—to procreate. In this, “natural selection” appears to be a very intelligent “thing” that “created” the male-female distinction in order to keep life going. It’s one of the things I’ve never understood about the idea of natural selection, the driving force of evolution: it’s not considered a random process. Instead it’s considered a process of power (a.k.a. survival of the fittest).
But from where does this power and purpose come? Regardless, whether you believe in the power of God or the power of natural selection, this power has figured out how to keep life continuing. It has for that very reason “chosen” all of the male and female distinctions that we have.
Consider what this power has “designed” for us. Wikipedia contributors compiled the following facts on human sexual dimorphism for us:
- The average differences between males and females include all the features related to reproduction…
- The average basal metabolic rate is about 6 percent higher in adolescent males than females and increases to about 10 percent higher after puberty. Females tend to convert more food into fat, while males convert more into muscle and expendable circulating energy reserves. Aggregated data of absolute strength indicates that females have, on average, 40-60% the upper body strength of males, and 70-75% the lower body strength. The difference in strength relative to body mass is less pronounced in trained individuals.
- A study, carried about by analyzing annual world rankings from 1980–1996, found that males’ running times were, on average, 11% faster than females’.
- Females are taller, on average, than males in early adolescence, but males, on average, surpass them in height in later adolescence and adulthood. In the United States, adult males are, on average, 4% taller and 8% heavier than adult females.
- Males typically have larger tracheae and branching bronchi, with about 30 percent greater lung volume per body mass. On average, males have larger hearts, 10 percent higher red blood cell count, higher hemoglobin, hence greater oxygen-carrying capacity. They also have higher circulating clotting factors (vitamin K, prothrombin and platelets). These differences lead to faster healing of wounds and higher peripheral pain tolerance.1
This is what “natural selection” has selected so that we can all exist today. But post-modern society isn’t even listening to what its own gospel of natural selection is telling them. Why? Because it’s a means to believe that we can simply “do whatever we please” without having to face any repercussions in life. It allows us to erroneously believe that the individual reigns supreme. But for those who know better let’s take a deeper look into the way the Bible lays it out.
Under the Biblical worldview we see these as two distinct designs with two purposes to go with those designs. The difficulty we have in understanding this is not because the Bible isn’t clear on what it says about manhood and womanhood, but because of our pride and the pure profoundness and mystery behind manhood and womanhood which many of us are ignorant of. There is a wealth of instruction about manhood and womanhood in the Bible yet it is not as easy to understand as a lot of other doctrines and many of us are deeply divided over it. It may be a surprise to some, but the New Testament gives us a dualistic take on manhood and womanhood that validates a sense of both complementarianism and egalitarianism.
Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man…nevertheless in the Lord the woman is not independent of man nor man of the woman… 1 Corinthians 11:9,11
The woman was originally created with a purpose to help the man yet in Christ we are equally dependent upon one another. This speaks of a unique dialectic. We have a higher and a lower nature and they are not the same.2 John Wesley notes, “Nevertheless in the Lord Jesus, there is neither male nor female – neither is excluded; neither is preferred before the other in his kingdom.”3
At home spouses may be husband and wife, but at the same time in Christ’s kingdom, they are brother and sister.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (emphasis mine)
Again, Peter says women, though weaker according to the flesh, are equal heirs in the grace of life. Therefore, show honor to them.
Sexism, racism, and discrimination are products of sin. The Bible teaches us to love each other and that we are one through Christ without whom we are bound to sexist and racist attitudes. In the Holy Spirit we are re-birthed with a nature according to the Spirit but not according to the flesh. Consequently, there is neither male nor female in Christ but all are like angels. Hence, in the Kingdom of God there will not be any marriage.4 Still, even though we are now sons and daughters of God, we have our lower nature as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve in whom we are definitively male and female.5 Women are equal to men as all were created equal, but we were not created the same. It is important to note that these separate designs were declared good and are still just as good and beautiful as the designs of the sun, the moon, and the stars. As far as our lower nature is concerned, strength is an authority in its own right. So the natural order of authority lies in the area of strength and weakness.
“Ask the prior question, is sexuality anything more than biology?”
“Masculinity means initiation…God is the initiator.”
“Femininity means response.”6
When it comes to the problem of understanding the male from the female we have to think spiritually, and let the Spirit lead us into the truth.7 Otherwise there could be something vital missing from our instruction if we don’t have the spiritual eyes necessary because,
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:32
Going to the beginning God shows us his intention for creating the male and female:
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 1:28
He created them male and female, and blessed them, and called their name Adam in the day when they were created. Genesis 5:2
And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman [ishah], because she was taken out of Man [ish].” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:22-24
For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 1 Corinthians 15:39
What is important to us here is the oneness intended between the man and woman as illustrated in these scriptures. It was for the sake of oneness that Eve was brought forth from the body of Adam. They are a king and queen and to be keepers of the earth together as one. They both are named one name by God: Adam. “Adam” was a formal name given to Adam and Eve and to all of us by God.7 We are “Adam” by name. We were then given distinct and definitive purposes and designs for our dwelling on earth. Adam was to guard and protect, and Eve was to mother all the living. However, this oneness was destroyed by sin and men and women became divided and entrenched in a seemingly endless struggle for existence against one another.
Then a new thing happens for humanity through the grace of God: a plan to make all things new.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Clearly, there is a lot of mystery and profoundness in this dualism. In the Kingdom of God we all have a second and different birth and are considered new creations. We went from “Adam” to “Hephzibah”.
The tension comes in trying to figure out how to be two different things at the same time. On the one hand, we are still of the natural order as men and women with our respective roles as appointed by God’s design. On the other hand, we are re-created by Holy Spirit with a new image. However, we must keep in mind that we do not fully “bear the image of the man of heaven” just yet. We await this eagerly when our family structures and our church leadership structures are no longer necessary.9 Nonetheless, there is a sense of egalitarianism that we can all experience because of our newness in the Spirit. We all have equal authority from God to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim his Word as his ambassadors to the world.10 We also have the same source of wisdom within us, even if we are young.11 Men, women, and children alike, are equally enabled by the one Holy Spirit to express gifts, proclaim the gospel, rebuke spirits, teach sinners, utter words of eternal wisdom, prophesy, use the name of Jesus in authority, and make requests of God.12 To be clear, all who are in Christ obtain equal authority over the kingdom of Satan and the world itself.13 In a time to come, all saints, male and female, will judge the world as well as the angels.14 And yet, though we are above the nations, and have an authority over the nations, we are still taught to follow the rule of submission to earthly authorities because it is God who has appointed them.15 This is how we should look at the issue of submission and authority within the family and in the Church as Christians. Women are not anymore inferior to men than Jesus was to Pontius Pilate to whose authority he submitted.16 As God had appointed Jesus a purpose to follow, so he has appointed a purpose for us to follow for the sake of his own glory. God does all things for his own glory.17
So while we are to no longer regard people according to the flesh we must still follow the appointed order of creation, and it’s science, as long as we are here.18 The original design, and science, must be followed to keep present families and social structures, including the local church, strong, safe, and prosperous. Otherwise things will tend to fall apart and become a divided and dysfunctional mess as we are currently seeing in our time. So it is not a matter of following rules or being neat under the law. Rather, it is a matter of following sensibility and wisdom.
We live and walk according to the Spirit as a holy nation. We are the Kingdom of God meant to witness its reality and coming fulfillment to the world. As it is, we have two natures which come from two totally different places. The tension between the two is great but we must always remember where our true allegiance and hope is. Our old nature must be a slave to our new nature and not the other way around. In the following passage in Ephesians, Paul speaks dialectically of how our new nature and relationship with each other and toward Christ relates to our original nature within marriage.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “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. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 19
The all important role of headship is seen throughout these scriptures in the form of love. According to God’s purpose in his creation, the one who is the head becomes the one who loves and lays down his life for the off-spring. That is because they love and treasure them above all else. To scorn it as a master-slave idea is incorrect because the master is not going to have any interest in laying down his life for his slave. It is something that is not only evident in the world of humans, but throughout the animal kingdom as well. And oh how we need to see men laying down their lives for their wives and families again! In the Kingdom of God we find ourselves on a different level where we are all to equally submit to one another because Christ is now the “head of the household”.
Equality is not about our value or roles or desires. Equality is about God’s love. We all have inequalities—all sorts of them. But what sort of people ought we to be in regards to these inequalities? Firstly, we must be like God, who is no respecter of persons and who shows no partiality. Secondly, we have to be obedient to his will for our design as humans, for this pleases God.
1 Wikipedia contributors. “Sexual dimorphism.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 7 Nov. 2015.
2 See Galatians 5:16-25. Keep in mind that in verse 24 it reads “we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The passions and desires—not the design—of the flesh are what became corrupt.
3 John Wesley’s Notes on the Entire Bible, 1765, on 1 Corinthians 11:11
4 Matthew 22:30, Galatians 3:28
5 Genesis 1:27
6 Elizabeth Elliot. The Mark of a Man. (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1981).
7 John 16:13
8 A formal name in the Hebrew language was denoted by the word “haShem” meaning the namewhich is a word frequently used by Jews to refer to God.
9 Romans 8:19-23; Mark 12:25
10 Mark 3:15; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
11 James 1:5, 3:5; 1 Timothy 4:12; esp. Job 32:7-9
12 Joel 2:28; Luke 11:13
13 Matthew 5:5; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Revelation 2:26; 1 Peter 2:9
14 1 Corinthians 6:1-3
15 Romans 13:1-7
16 Consider Jesus’ words before Pilate in John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
17 Isaiah 48:11
18 In Ephesians 6:1-4 Paul teaches about submission according to the order of the original creation in the context of the relationship between parents and children even though in the Kingdom of God they are not known as parents and children but as siblings: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The same would hold true of the roles for husbands and wives.
19 Ephesians 5:22-33