During the past week my family and I read Chapter 22, “Man as Male and Female” in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). In the chapter Grudem argues that God’s creating man as male and female shows God’s image in personal relationships, equality in personhood and importance, and differences in roles and authority. Unfortunately it seems to me that he exaggerates the resemblance between man’s being male and female and God’s being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to provide Biblical support for his view that, although males and females may be equal in personhood and importance, males should exercise authority over females in marriages (Chapter 22) and in the church (Chapter 47). Nevertheless in our family reading we read his entire presentation and here I’ll share from all of it.
In making us in His image, God made us so that we could attain interpersonal unity. This can be especially deep in our physical and spiritual families. Between men and woman, it finds its fullest expression in marriage. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). In quoting the passage, Jesus describes a husband and a wife as “what…God has joined together” (Matthew 19:6).
Grudem claims that God created two distinct persons as male and female rather than just one man because it reflects the plurality of persons in the Trinity. He responds to two objections that might be made to his claim, (1) that God is three persons but Adam and Eve were only two persons and (2) that not only were Jesus and Paul unmarried but also Paul discouraged others from marrying in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. However he doesn’t refer to the more serious objection that God is one being but Adam and Eve were two beings.
Equality in Personhood and Importance
When God created man, He created both male and female “in his image” (Genesis 1:27) and “in his likeness” (Genesis 5:1-2). If men and women are equally in God’s image, they must be equally important to God.
The equality in which men and women were created is emphasized in the new covenant church by the Holy Spirit’s being poured out on both on the day of Pentecost, by both being baptized in water (in the old covenant only men received the sign of the covenant, circumcision), and by Paul’s assertion that there is neither male nor female in the church.
– “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel, ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy'” (Acts 2:17-18, quoting Joel 2:28-19).
– “Those who received his [Peter’s] word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
– “For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).
Thus when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:7, “He [man] is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man,” he isn’t denying that woman was created in the image of God. He is simply saying that there are differences between men and women that should be reflected in their appearance, such as having their head covered or uncovered in public worship. He goes on to emphasize woman’s independence of man (and man’s of woman) in verses 11-12. Proverbs 31:10-31 makes it clear that godly women should be honoured.
Differences in Roles and Authority
In my November 4 and 5, 2013, “The Trinity – Distinctions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” posts I showed that although the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal in deity they have different functions and are different in authority. Similarly although males and females are equal in importance to God, there are differences in roles and authority between them. Paul makes the difference in authority between them clear in 1 Corinthians 11:3, saying, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Just as the Father has authority over the Son although they are equal in deity, a husband has authority over his wife although they are equal in personhood.
Although several writers have advocated that the difference in authority between male and female resulted from the Fall, there are indications of a difference of role between Adam and Eve even before the Fall:
– Adam was created before Eve was created (Genesis 2:7, 18-23). Paul uses this as a reason for his restricting some roles in the church to men, saying “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12-13).
– Eve was created as a helper for Adam (Genesis 2:18-23). Paul uses this as a reason for his having different requirements for men and women in head coverings during public worship, saying “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).
– Adam named Eve. “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). However he didn’t give her the name “Eve” until after the Fall (Genesis 3:20).
– God named the human race “man” rather than “woman” or a gender-neutral term. “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man” (Genesis 5:2).
As well, God’s speaking to Adam first after the Fall indicates that He thought of him as head of his family. “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?'” (Genesis 3:9)
Grudem suggests that the Fall resulted in a distortion of the relationship between Adam and Eve, pointing out that the word “rule” in “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:18) implies dictatorial exercise of authority. He also suggests that redemption in Christ reaffirms the original relationship, Paul’s telling wives and husbands, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19; see also Ephesians 5:22-33).
Application to Marriage
Although husbands and wives are equal in His sight, God intends husbands to show leadership within their families and for their leadership to be recognized by their wives. The husband’s leadership is to be done with love and consideration for his wife, and her recognition of his leadership is to be done joyfully as to the Lord. Paul concludes his address to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33 with, “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
Only one of my systematic theology textbooks besides Grudem’s deals with females or women, Millard J. Erickson’s Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013). In “Both Sexes” (pages 498-501), he emphasizes the equal status with men that women have in God’s sight and the important role that they have played in the work of the kingdom of God.
However two of my dictionaries/encyclopedias have articles on them which I found useful:
– Edwards, Ruth B. “Woman.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 4 volumes. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1979-88. Vol. 4, pages 1089-97.
– Nicole, Roger. “Woman, Biblical Concepts of.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.” Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1984. Pages 1175-80.