What is the evidence that men and women are different? We can examine this from biblical, scientific and cultural viewpoints.
First off, the biblical evidence…
It is important to begin here because what we believe on any subject must be grounded on biblical truth. The temptation is to skip over it, because for many of us the biblical evidence is already so settled. Being part of a movement of churches that is strongly and clearly complementarian in theology it is easy to lose sight of the fact that in the wider evangelical world this is still a hugely contentions issue. (“Complementarian” refers to an understanding that men and women are equal in value and dignity but different in role. “Egalitarian” refers to an understanding that there are no legitimate role distinctions between the sexes.)
This was illustrated by a recent interview with Terry Virgo in Christianity magazine, by its editor, John Buckeridge. While asking Terry about church growth and church planting it is clear that all John is really interested in is critiquing the complementarian position Terry holds. For John, this is the issue! Which is a shame, because it rather spoils the interview and makes it far less interesting than it might have been. It is also silly, because the new church streams that have pursued the egalitarian position in the UK have largely fallen apart. John might have better served the readership of Christianity if he had been more willing to listen and learn from Terry than dig away at what is in fact one of the very reasons Newfrontiers has been relatively successful in growing and planting churches.
The best resource I know for unpicking egalitarian arguments is Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth. Here I will just outline Grudem’s biblical arguments for sex distinctions.
Key issue #1: Men & Women Are Equal in Value & Dignity
• Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
• This witnesses against the errors of male dominance and superiority
• Gal 3:28 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.
• This demonstrates that there is no distinction in value between people of different ethnicity or sex. However, people still remain as slaves or Jews or women once they become Christians, and so continue to exercise different roles.
Key issue #2: Men & Women Have Different Roles In Marriage As Part Of The Created Order
• The question here is, Is male “headship” pre-fall or post-fall?
• There are nine reasons to understand it as pre-fall:
1. Adam was created first
2. Adam had a special role in representing humanity [1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.]
3. Adam named Eve, and naming represents authority, just as God named Adam and parents name their children
4. The naming of the human race as “Man” [Gen. 5:2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.]
5. Adam had primary responsibility – it was Adam that YHWH addressed first after the Fall
6. Eve was created to help Adam [Gen. 2:18 “A helper fit for him”]
7. The curse of Genesis 3:16-19 had three aspects: pain on Adams particular area of responsibility (provision); pain on Eve’s particular area of responsibility (child rearing); and pain on their relationship – Eve’s “desire” now is to usurp her husbands rightful authority
8. The restoration of all things in Christ results in wives submitting to their husbands. Colossians 3:18-19 reverses Genesis 3 [Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.]
9. Although Adam & Eve did not know it, they were created to represent the relationship between Christ and the church. This is a relationship in which the husband acts as “head” for his wife. [Eph. 5:23 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.]
• Accepting these points should lead to marriages where the husband is neither wimp nor tyrant but exercises loving, humble headship; and where the wife is neither doormat nor usurper but exercises joyful, intelligent submission.
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