Established by Creation: Nine Reasons for Biblical Complementarity

 

malefemaleIn Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (EFBT) Wayne Grudem is at his complementarian finest as he explains from Genesis why God created men and women equal yet distinct. While egalitarians argue the fall caused gender distinctions and that Christ’s redemption erased them (as explained in their reading of Galatians 3:28), Grudem shows how God created men and women with beautiful distinction from the beginning.

What follows are a synopsis of his points from Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, pp. 30–42. For reasons explained here, I have left off his argument for gender distinction based upon trinitarian analogy. That theological argument is not necessary for making the claim that God created men and women equal, yet different. Therefore, I list Grudem’s nine biblical arguments for biblical complementarity. Continue reading

What is Evangelical Feminism? And Where Did It Come From?

rolesEach week, I write a bulletin insert for our church. The topics have ranged from the structure of Genesis 1–11 to assisted suicide to discerning types in the Bible. They usually relate to the sermon or a hot topic in the culture. And though they do not exhaust the biblical, theological, or ethical considerations of any subject, they do help our church members “think Christianly” about many matters of faith.

This blog post is no different. It broaches a subject that requires far more historical, cultural, and ecclesial attention than I am able to give here. But it is a start. Addressing the matter of evangelical feminism is meant to remind us that none of live in a cultural vacuum, and that even most stalwart “bliblicist” inhabits a world where feminism is the norm.

As Robert Samuelson noted this week in the Washington Post, birth control pills, radical feminism as advocated by Betty Friedan (The Feminist Mystique, 1963), and no-fault divorce have changed the way Americans think about marriage. Family life has been radically altered by these three phenomena, and in many ways they have each contributed to the other. Therefore, witnesses for Christ must be aware of how their thinking has been (explicitly and/or implicitly) shaped by feminism and from where those presuppositions originate.

What is evangelical feminism? And where did it come from?

Feminism can be defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Evangelical feminism is the related belief that men and women can and should exercise the same offices in the church (e.g., pastor, preaching) and that husbands and wives should mutually submit to one another in the home. Such a view is common among Christians today, but it wasn’t always that way. (This view has been defended in the book Discovering Biblical Equality; it is has been opposed by Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth). Continue reading

For Your Edification (7.14.12)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.

BIBLE & THEOLOGY

The Danger of Pragmatism.  Jared Wilson, “Gospel-centered” blogger, pastor, and author, provides a helpful look at pragmatism and its deletrious effect on biblical truth and faithful ministry.

Pastor Wilson lists six symptoms of pragmatism and seven ways churches and pastors can regain a biblical ministry.

Six Symptoms of Pragmatism

  1. Pastors increasingly hired for their management skills or rhetorical ability over and above their biblical wisdom or their meeting of the biblical qualifications for eldership.
  2. The equation of “worship” with a creative portion of a weekly worship service.
  3. The prevalent eisogesis in classes and small groups.
  4. The vast gulf between the theological academy and the church.
  5. Biblical illiteracy.
  6. A theologically lazy and methodologically consumeristic/sensationalistic approach to the sacraments.

Seven Ways  to Fight Pragmatism

  1. Pastors must study and read, and read and study.
  2. Expository preaching.
  3. Pastors must bridge that gulf between the theological academy and the church.
  4. Churches should identify those with the spiritual gifts of teaching and leadership and make sure they are both discipled and discipling, mentored and mentoring.
  5. Impress upon every minister of the church the need for doctrinal soundness, especially those planning and leading “worship.”
  6. Recapture a vision for truth that makes the goal of theology a deeper relationship with God and greater affection for Christ.
  7. Recover the centrality of the Gospel.

Let me encourage you to read the whole blogpost and ask the question: Are you being shaped more by the pragmatic culture around you, or are you being shaped more by God’s truth?

Continue reading

Brothers & Sisters: Play Your Position!

Today on the CBMW  Gender Blog, Jeff Robinson provides part one of a review of the new book by Mark Chanski, Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit.  Here is powerful word picture that Robinson includes from Chanski:

Due to high-powered feminist social pressures, they’ve got to keep telling themselves, ‘Play your position!'” Chanski writes. “On the field of life, women hear constant shouts from unprincipled sideline voices telling them to leave their God-assigned posts. These voices are much like the voices of misguided parents telling their goalie daughter to ‘Get the ball, honey, and try to dribble down field and score!’ But the coach has charged her to ‘Play your position’….she’s been assigned a glorious and important position in this world. But the sideline voices attempt to drown out her Lord’s words of instruction.”

Brothers and sisters, in a world of gender confusion and sexual anarchy, may we learn how to play our positions well.   May the church be filled with strong men (1 Cor. 16:13-14) and godly, gentle women (1 Peter 3:4).

Complementing this book for women, pastor Chanski’s first book, Manly Dominionchallenges men– married and single, young and old– to reject passivity and lead courageously. Check it out.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

The Mystery of Marriage: A Quasi-Ordinance

[This is a follow-up post from The Mystery of Marriage: A Parable of Christ and Church  which reflected on George Knight’s article on Ephesians 5 in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991], 175-76)].

From the foundation of the world, marriage was always designed to picture a greater reality.  Generation after generation of God’s covenant people knew of his marital designs and creation, but only in the fullness of time, as Jesus Christ came in the flesh and the Spirit of Christ inspired the apostles to elucidate the gospel of Jesus Christ, did the mystery of husband and wife become known.  Consider Knight’s concluding remarks:

But if this is so, then the order Paul is speaking of here (submission and love [in Ephesians 5:22-33]) is not accidental or temporary or culturally determined: it is part of the essence of marriage, part of God’s original plan for perfect, sinless, harmonious marriage.  This is a powerful argument for the fact that Christlike, loving headship and church-like, willing submission are rooted in creation and in God’s eternal purposes, not just in the passing trends of culture (176).

In our foolish and anti-Christ(ian) world, there are countless marriages that exist in rebellion against the very purpose for which they were designed.  God made marriage for his glory and the expression his covenant love with his bride, redeemed humanity.  Consequently, the establishment of marriage in Genesis 2 was intended to tesify to this reality. 

Today, unbelievers experience the mystery of marriage, but without knowing how to understand it.  They are blind to its salvific and cosmic significance.  Too non-Christian marriages are drenched in bitterness and guile, because unmitigated sin gnaws at their covenantal bond.  But unbelievers are not alone.  Christian marriages war against God’s design for marriage whenever they cast aside God’s intended order for husbands and wives (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).  This can be done by deliberate egalitarianism or by immature believers in need of marital sanctification.  Either way, in failing to recognize God’s wise design for husbands to lead and wives to follow, for men to love like Christ and women to submit like the church, they are dishonoring the Word of God, disobeying the Lord who bought them, and distorting God’s picture of salvation captured in the parable of marriage. 

God’s illustrative purposes for marriage is what makes it a mystery.  Just as the heavens testify to the glory of God, so marriage captures something of his grandeur–something that is seen in the best of marriages, to be sure.  Likewise, as baptism and the Lord’s supper resemble the salvation of Christ’s disciples, so marriage images something about Christ and the church.  In this way, marriage is a kind of quasi-ordinance.  It is not restricted to the church; it is rather for all people.  Yet, in its global enjoyment it testifies to heavenly realities and God’s cosmic plan of redemption in Christ.  In this way, marriage is perhaps one of the largest and potentially broadest means of sharing the gospel, as marriage itself can be called upon to witness to Christ and the church.  The impact of marriage biblically arranged and gloriously incarnated has great evangelistic potential.  Soberly, couples that disregard God’s word concerning marriage, cannot have such effect. 

God’s designs are not new, they are from before the foundation of the world.  Neither is Satan’s attack on marriage.  He attacked Eve in the Garden and he is still advancing towards marriages today.  May we who love the gospel and the biblical vision for marriage, fight to protect our homes from the corrosive effects of an anti-marriage culture, and may we by the power of the Spirit embrace and embody God’s glorious designs for marriage.  So that perhaps, the world around us might come to know Christ by the testimony of our marriages which point to the message we proclaim–Jesus Christ is Lord!

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Intimate Allies (pt. 5): A Message I Don’t Approve

In the season of platform messages and political adds, I feel that it is important to assert that I approved of the first four messages that Tremper Longman and Dan Allender present in their book Intimate AlliesTheir emphasis on spiritual warfare and the kingdom of God, evangelism and discipleship, as well as biblical theology to undergird our understanding of marriage is very helpful.  However, there is a message in their book with which I do not agree, and which is, I believe, fundamentally opposed to biblical marriages, biblical discipleship, and spiritual warfare.  It is the culturally accepted notion of feminism and the ecclesial/anthropological matter of egalitarianism as it pertains to the roles of men and women.  (For an outline of the issues see The Danvers Statement).

Without so much as a definition, an argument, or an admission of an egalitarian agenda, Longman and Allender presuppose and assume that an egalitarian reading of the Bible is normative for the evangelical Christian.  (For an opposing view, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe, see The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).  Concerning the Genesis command to fill the earth and subdue it, they write:

In marriage, we are both kings and queens who rule by ordering creation to enhance the glory and pleasure of each other.  We are to rule through sacrificing on behalf of one another (86).

At this point, I am in total agreement.  However, in there next supporting paragraph they deny any kind of intended order in the creation of man and woman.  They continue:

Further, we must recognize that the job description is given equally to men and women.  At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what.  Women are not the slaves or servants of men; men are not the slaves of servants of women.  Men and women together fill, subdue, and rule over all of creation (86).

By failing to cite a biblical reference, include a footnote, or make an argument for the assertion, “At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what,” they disregard biblical testimony to the contrary (cf. 1 Tim. 2; 1 Cor. 11, see Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for biblical corpus of articles that examine and exegete the relevant passage in Scripture ) and contemporary scholarship that argues for gender complementarity.  Instead, they casually assert their culturally sympathetic appeal and assume it will not cause any problems  This is not an isolated incident either.  In a later chapter, once again discussing the account in Genesis 2, they argue:

Once again, this passage [Gen. 2] is misread if either Adam’s statement of Eve’s derivative creation is understood to mean that the woman is subordinate to the man.  The man is not in any way better, superior, or closer to God than the woman is.  Indeed, the passage could not be clearer: the man needs the woman as much as the woman needs the man (216).

Though I disagree with their conclusion, in this instance Longman and Allender make an argument for egalitarianism, instead of propounding an assumption.  Their argument is feminist reasoning that supposes that worth in the eyes of God is dependent on hierarchy or perceived status.  For instance, a CEO is more valuable than his secretary.  In other words, if men and women cannot assume all the same functions within the home and the church, then they clearly cannot be equal.  They fail to take into consideration that God himself is equal in the Godhead and yet with distinctive roles (see Bruce Ware’s book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance). 

Moreover, their argument makes a semantic range fallacy.  They speak of authority (i.e. “subordination) and then proceed to define it in terms of worth or significance (i.e. “better, superior, or closer to God”), when in fact the ordered world illustrates all the time that hierarchy and worth are distinctive spheres of meaning.  A sergeant in the army and a luitenant in the army have different degrees of authority, but the same ontological value; parents and children, in the eyes of God, have distinctive roles of authority and accountability, but both are equally loved by their Father in Heaven; and employers and employees have unique roles, but the same intrinsic value.  To disregard or expunge these roles is to move towards anarchy. 

Longman and Allender disregard these cosmic structures, just as they reinterpret biblical passages that clearly teach that men and women are equal, yet different (see Alexander Strauch’s helpful book by that same title, Men and Women: Equal Yet Different).  After explaining their understandings of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, Longman and Allender summarize on page 191:

We have already pointed out that this commmand [“wives submit to your husband as unto the Lord,” Eph. 5:22] must be understood in the light of the mutual submission commanded by Paul in Ephesians 5:21.  We have also seen that Peter urged men to a submissive attitude toward their wives when he told them to “be considerate” toward them (1 Pet. 3:7). 

Here again, Longman and Allender are twisting meaning and common sense.  When you go to the doctor, you want him to be “considerate” but you don’t want your visitation to be a collaborative effort!  If in consideration for your feelings, he asked you to take the lead on your colonoscopy, you wouldn’t stay with his practice long.  You expect, and for good reason, that he or she be an authority in medicine.  Your responsibility is to submit, even if it is a woman!  (This hierarchy structure is different than that of the home or church). 

Or, to give another example, this time from Scripture, Jesus is the kind and compassionate head of the body, but this does not undermine his absolute authority.  The analogy of head and body only works because the healthy human body is controlled by the head.  When limbs, under their own initiative begin to lead, something is wrong.  Therefore, consideration and submission are not synonymous, as Longman and Allender suppose.

Throughout their otherwise faithful book these explicit egalitarian appeals arise.  They are exegetically reinforced in Chapter 11, “Submitting to One Another in Love,” and they are seen at work in at least two personal testimonies that portray their wives as spiritual co-leaders in the home (38, 52).  In short, while helpfully setting marriage in its discipling and warfare locus in the kingdom of God, they weaken their kingdom-worldview by denying God’s gender roles.

So overall, I commend the four aspects of the book I previously considered (Warfare, Evangelism, Discipleship, and Biblical Theology), but I do not commend their egalitarian agenda.  Intimate Allies is a book I would recommend to well-read Christians who want to see how their marriage fits into God’s eternal strategy of the Great Commission and spiritual warfare, but it is not a book I would ever use for (pre)marital counseling or that I would commend carte blanche.  There are too many other good books out there that are more faithful to God’s Word.  Finally, I am tremendously appreciative of Tremper Longman’s work, I look to him as an expert in OT and Biblical Theology, but in this instance, I cannot universally commend Intimate Allies.

My name is David Schrock, and I approved this message.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Marriage: A Theological Helpmate

Have you ever reflected on how indebted Systematic Theology is to Marriage? Have you considered how many doctrines are improved by the biblical teaching on marriage and the earthly reality of this blessed institution? Moreover, have you thought about how many doctrines would be lacking nuance and passion without the marital imagery employed by Scripture to flesh out these truths? Or finally, have you paused to think about how your own marriage has enhanced your understanding of sin, sanctification, the gospel, and eschatology, or any other biblical or theological truth? I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and here are a few doctrines inspired and improved by marriage:

The Attributes of God are impoverished without marriage–in particular, the love of God. God who is love (1 John 4:18) is most passionately displayed in the passages of Scripture that demonstrate his love for his people as the kind a lover has for his bride (Zeph. 3:17-18). Take away the Song of Songs and a gaping hole is left in the Scriptures to be able to understand the zealous love God has for his treasure–the blood bought bride of Christ. God’s love sings, but without marriage there be no such occassion for songs of love.

Ecclesiology, or the nature of the Church, is emptied without the Bridegroom and the Bride. Remove Ephesians 5:22-33, which speaks of the glories of marriage and the mystery of Christ and the church, and you lose the loftiest description of what the church is to be like. Moreover, without Ephesians 5 the picture of Christ’s faithfulness to wash his bride and make her spotless and radiant is depleted. The tenderness and power of God’s sanctification is portrayed in Christ washing his bride clean (cf. Ezek 16).

The doctrine of Justification is a public declaration of a new legal status. Marriage does the same thing, and provides a wonderful analogy to understand this doctrine. An impoverished woman, who is doted on and loved by a kind suitor, is made in an instant the heir of all his wealth, reputation, and regard. How? Through the pronouncement of vows and the recognition of witnesses. This is just like justification by faith. So it is with justification by faith. We who trust in Christ for our lives and our righteousness find ourselves unified to him as a committed wife, one absolutely dependent on his leadership, and one who gladly exchanges our old name for a new.

This marital analogy also applies to understanding the New Covenant. Surely covenants were made throughout the Bible between males and co-laborers (cf. Jacob and Laban), but all of these covenants were devoid of love. In marriage, covenant faithfulness meets sublime love and tender mercies. In this, marriage serves as a picture of the new covenant with Jesus Christ. Whereas the old covenant could be construed as a workman’s contract, the new covenant is certainly the bond of a husband and a wife.

The converse to faithful marriage–adultery and divorce–also speaks to doctrinal matters. Harmatiology, the doctrine of sin, is improved (if you can or should say such a thing) by the devastating effects that a broken marriages depict. In other words, in divorce and adultery, sin is seen in its baldest form. The wickedness of a man who forsakes the woman he loves, or loved, unveils the wretchedness of humanity, the total depravity of the human condition. Moreover, adultery which breaks the covenant to ones spouse invokes a response of jealousy and rage. This it would seem is the fire necessary to destroy the covenant breaker. In this jealousy, hell is inflamed. God will punish in hell those who have broken covenant with him, those who have run out to adulterate themselves with this world (James 4:4), and have willingly rejected God’s kind offer to renew their vows through repentance and return. Without marriage though, the ravaging effects of sin would not be as clear.

Finally, without marriage, Eschatology would be neutered. The doctrine of last things is filled with joy for so many reasons, but the crown jewel of the coming millenium and the return of Christ is the marriage feast with the lamb. Oh, how I look forward to that day! But without marriage and the joyous occassions of weddings that mark our calendars, we would be less informed about the joy and purpose of two souls joining as one. But with marriage, we understand and are enlightened to the hope of a eschatological marriage that will be forever and without end. The celebrations we experience now in this age when a man and woman join together in holy matrimony are but dim reflections of the cosmic celebration that is coming soon (Rev. 19:6-10).

These are just some of the ways marriage informs our theology. God has given marriage to all humanity for pleasure, procreation, and purity (no particular order), but it seems that he has also given it as a picture for us to see him more clearly. May we with the light of Scripture embrace our spouses and consider the biblical teaching on marriage so that we might better know our Lord.

Lord Jesus, thank you for marriage…For the wife you have given me…For the biblical portrait of marriage…And for the way you have designed it to reveal to us your glory and your goodness. Amen.

Gender-Specificity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

When Paul speaks in Titus 2:1 about sound doctrine, he immediately turns to relationships. Rather than expatiating a systematic theology, Paul says that theology is worked out in the context of distinctly masculine and feminine roles, in youthful and elderly stages of life, and in varying spheres of leadership and influence (i.e. masters and slaves).  Clearly theology that is genuine is incarnated in the daily life of Christians.  In regards to husband and wife relations, Christopher Ash in his book Marriage: Sex in the Service of God  picks up this same idea– theologically-infused living– when he comments on another Pauline passage in 1 Corinthians 11.  He writes:

Paul’s teaching here (1 Cor. 11:2-16) seems to be conditioned by women (perhaps reacting against the abuses of patriarchy) behaving as if they can ‘go it alone’ in their behaviour, whether by ceasing to be gladly feminine or by reluctance to cooperate in the marriage partnership. By their contentious and disorderly behaviour they bring disrepute on the gospel. In the absence of proper order (which includes Christian subordination of the wife to the husband, and headship as sacrificial serving authority) there will be rivalry rather than partnership between the sexes. Perhaps in Corinth the women needed reminding both of their interdependence with the men and that they were made ‘for the sake of’ man, as partners in a shared God-given task. Disorder (and in particular a wrong attitude of subordination) leads to rivalry in which the weakest go to the wall; the task will be neglected. Proper order will promote sexual relations in the service of God (302).

Ash does not only address women but men as well.  Writing later in his book, he furthers his argument of gender-specific gospel living by saying:

The love of husband for wife is to be modelled on the cross. It is to be self-sacrificial love and not the self-serving enjoyment of some misguided privilege. Christian headship in marriage is marriage in the shape of cross; most contemporary debate misses this central point. For Christ to be head of the church was not a cheap or comfortable calling; it involved crucifixion (322).

The purpose of marriage then, says Ash, is that “the husband takes upon himself the goal of being such a husband whose love will lead his wife into growth in personal and spiritual maturity (for there is not dichotomy between these two), so that his greatest aim in marriage is not his self-fulfillment but the blossoming of his wife. ‘Husbands should be utterly committed to the total well-being, especially the spiritual welfare, of their wives’ (Peter O’Brien 1999:422-424). This might sound a little self-righteous, as if he from his Olympian spiritual height can raise up his wife to his level; it is in fact deeply humbling. No husband can take responsibility seriously without himself being deeply conscious of his own need for cleansing, holiness and growth in grace” (324).

Both headship (expressed in sacrifice) and submissiveness (to unjust authority) are expressions of the way of the cross (327).

In these bold and counter-cultural statements, Christopher Ash is saying something twenty-first century Christians need to hear.  Both expressions of headship and submissiveness adorn the gospel of God and manifest, in part, the inner workings of the Trinity. In fleshing out male and female roles, husbands and wives, become more like the men and women God created them to be.  In other words, they more accurately display the gospel of Jesus Christ when they bear the fruits of biblical masculinity and feminity in the roles of head and helpmate.  Just as Jesus came as the perfect second Adam, so too married men and women, when they gladly take on their biblical roles, dignify humanity and call men and women living outside of God’s moral order to return to the truth. 

Realistically, the world’s response may not be commendation and praise, but rejection of the gospel light reflected in these godly marriages.  Nevertheless, when the world encounters a gracious patriarch willing to lay down his life for the care and protection of his family and gentle feminine companion unwilling to usurp his authority or combat his leadership, the world encounters something different, perhaps even transcedent.  When the world encounters a 1 Corinthians 11 woman or an Ephesians 5 man, it encounters a picture of Christ and the church! This is a powerful testimony and one the world can only hate. It cannot deny its Spirit-wrought reality!

May who claim the name of Christ all grow in grace and godliness, not as androgynous saints, but as brothers and sisters manifesting distinctly masculine and feminine godliness in the marriages God has given to us.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

The Complementarian Task: Marriage, Gender Roles, and the Great Commission (pt. 2)

Yesterday, we considered the biblical theological continuity and discontinuity of the creational imperatives of ruling and bearing children and how they are picked up in Jesus’ Great Commission.  I concluded by asking how gender roles in marriage impact the presentation and the proclamation of the gospel.  In other words, I wanted to get at how gender roles in marriage interact with the Great Commission.   Are they necessary for the discipling of the nations in such a way that if abandoned the message of salvation would be distorted or denied?  Or are they merely inconsequential components that actually impede the progress of the gospel?   Would it be better to “get over” issues of gender so that we can reach the plethora of egalitarian socities that are resistant to the gospel?  Which is it? Surely Scripture which in its opening chapter distinguishes male and female has something to say about the matter. 

In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman” (1 Cor. 11:2).  Just as Peter says, “wives, be submissive to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1ff), commending them to be daughters of Sarah who showed her husband respect and deference by calling him “lord.”  “Likewise, husbands, live with your wifes in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).  Even if the world lives to turn the Bible on its head and rejects these teachings in passionate unbelief, the Scriptural portrait is undeniable.  Men and women are equal, yet distinct.  Both made in the image of God, they are co-heirs; nevertheless in their roles and natural relations they are different.  Husbands are to lead and wives are to help.   This is the original pattern, and this is the restored relationship in the plan of redemption.  The man’s good works are uniquely masculine, while the woman also displays a particular feminine conformity into the image of Christ.  And in the Great Commission, these roles are not to be undermined.  Rather as mutually distinctive partners, husbands and wives, can, should, and must complement one another in the work, not compete for one another’s place of service.  Douglas Wilson writes about this in his book, Reforming Marriage:

A husband and wife are not to be shoulder-to-shoulder, marching off to work at the task together. Nor are they both to be home all the time, face-to-face, eternally and perpetually ‘in love.’ Rather, with both man and woman understanding their respective roles, he faces his future and calling under God, and she, by his side, faces him (Doug Wilson, 66).

The point is, Jesus’ Great Commision is not a sex-less enterprise. Rising from the dust of the original imperative to be fruitful and multiply, it is not to be accomplished by androgynous disciples; rather, it is to be fulfilled by redeemed men and women who are shaped by the Spirit into distinctly masculine and feminine representives of the kingdom. Paul commends this in Titus 2 when he instructs older women to teach younger women and older men to model the faith before younger men (cf. 2:1-10).  Though cross-gender evangelism is frequent and fruitful, this is not the same thing as biblical discipleship.  Men need godly men to whom they can pattern their lives, and women need mature females to train them in domestic holiness.

Likewise, we who claim the name of Christ must realize that the evangelistic task is not simply about winning disconnected individuals to the Lord, though many will come on their own (Matt. 10:34-36), but to see the families of the nations (Ps. 22:27)–men, women, and children–saved and adopted into the family of faith.   When this happens, relationships are built, roles are revived, the household of God flourishes, and the glory of the gospel is seen.  The gospel then does more than give eternal life to the transexual male who flees from their former lifestyle, it completes its task by “restor[ing] the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6).  Likewise, the gospel’s witness and effect is not only seen in that it redeems the soul of a pro-choice prostitute, it also dignifies that woman’s choice to become a mother, so that she may be saved through child-bearing as she “continue[s] in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Tim. 2:15).  Here we are not talking about the rudiments of the gospel–what must be believed–but the effects.  The gospel is seen in the transformed lives of men and women (cf. James 2:14ff, not coincidentally James includes a man and a woman in his illustration–Abraham and Rahab).

This kind of specific gospel transformation can only take place when gender roles are upheld.  Moreover, the Great Commission can only have its true effect when the nations obey all Scripture has to say about men and women’s roles.  This can take place in the jungle tribe that forsakes polygamy to conform their marriages into unions that resemble Christ and the church, or it can take place in the urban jungle where a young married couple decides against the pill and to pursue a family in a culture that normalizes two-person incomes.  In his wisdom, God designed his Spirit-indwelt children to find gender-specifc niches in his family–as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters–and in doing this the Great Commission is advanced.  To neglect this is to reject the whole counself of Scripture and the need to rightly reflect in our marriages and homes the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is not optional, but absolutely essential.

Focusing on the need for marital conformity to the Great Commission is instructive because it calls Christian husbands and wives to consider their marital orientation and to ask, “How are we fulfilling the Great Commission?” For those who are married, this must be the central aim of their marriages. It must become the one thing that sets the agenda for everything else. Truly, this is a high and holy calling and one impossible without the Spirit, but then again, why should we settle for anything less?  Jesus promised to all those who believe in him, that he would come and live within them, until the end of the age, and that by his Spirit we would be bold witnesses (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  This is the promise that accompanies the command to be worldwide witnesses. This reality is true personally and in marriage.

May the Spirit of Christ be pleased to grant us grace and wisdom to fulfill the task of winning the nations, through husbands who lead their families to love the kingdom of Christ and wives who come alongside their men to help accomplish the task.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

The Complementarian Task: Marriage, Gender Roles, and the Great Commission

Over the next couple days, I want to consider the subject of gender complementarity and the Great Commission. While reading Reforming Marriage by Doug Wilson, this subject arose, and it prompted some lengthy reflections. I hope you will consider the subject with me.

“For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9).

Douglas Wilson comments on these verses: The prepositions in these verses are important. The woman was created for the man. The man was not created for the woman. Now Paul is telling us here about how God made us. His instruction elsewhere about what we are to do as men ans women is based on what we are as men and women, and how we are oriented. The fundamental orientation of an obedient man is to his calling or vocation under God. Under normal circumstances, he cannot fulfill his calling alone–he needs help. The fundamental orientation of an obedient woman is to give that help.  Another way of saying this is that the man’s orientation is to do the job with her help, while the woman’s orientation is to help him do the job. He is oriented to the task, and she is oriented to him (Douglas Wilson, Reforming Marriage [Moscow: Canon Press, 1995], 64-65).

Responding to Wilson’s cogent analysis, the question becomes, “What is the God-given task?  And what difference do gender roles make in the accomplishment of the task?”  In other words, can the task that Wilson describes be accomplished without particular attention to the roles?  Fortunately, the Bible is not silent to the nature of the task or the means by which men and women united together accomplish the task. 

In Genesis 1:28, God instructed Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Their task was to have dominion over the earth, labeling all creation and overseeing its productivity. In Genesis 2, before the formation of the woman, this was Adam’s vocation in the garden of Eden:  “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). In other words, by drawing connections between Genesis 1-2 and 1 Corinthians 11, the plain teaching of Scripture is that man was given the task of having rule in the world and the woman was created to assist in that endeavor. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”, says the Lord (Gen 2:18). Why?  So that together they could accomplish the task of multiplying image-bearers, cultivating creation in the field and at home, for the purpose of having God-glorifying dominion over all creation.  This was the original task.

Enter Genesis 3 and this program is destroyed through stealth.  Adam fails miserably at his priestly task of service and protection in the garden (cf. Num. 3:5-10), and Eve is acts as his tempting accomplice when she listens to the serpent and dismisses Adam’s protective role of authority.  (Adam is by no means guiltless.  He watches the whole scenario take shape, and passively remains silent [Gen. 3:6]).  The result is a curse upon creation, the land that the man and woman were to cultivate and keep (Gen. 3:17; cf. Rom. 8:20ff).  Moreover, a curse is put on them with the promise of pain, toil, interrelational strife, and ultimately death.

But what about the task?  Does it change?.  A survey of the Scriptures, seems to indicate that it does not.  Despite the increased difficulty, in fact, the impossibility of accomplishing the task, the imperative to be fruitful and multiply does not change, nor does the command to have dominion over the earth. The problem is now that men and women have insufficient resources to accomplish the task.  This is because all descending offspring are now marked by their father’s pattern of rebellion and sin (cf. Rom. 5:12-21), and their ability to rule over creation as God’s vice-regents is now infused with personal ambition, relational competition, and the ever-present threat of re-appropriating the serpents promise, “to be like God.”  The task of subduing the earth for God, when humanity is in sinful rebellion against God.

Still the task remains. As the biblical narrative unfolds, glimpses of YHWH’s creational directive surface. To borrow terminology from Stephen Dempster’s work on the Hebrew Bible, dominion (rulership over creation) and dynasty (the proliferation of offspring) continue. Man’s orientation to the field and to the task of subduing the earth remains, though viciously skewed by sin and sometimes enacted with utter disregard for the Creator. Likewise, women in the Bible and in history continue to fulfill the task by bearing children who image God (cf. Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Nevertheless, humanity itself has been unable to fulfill the task in all of its glory as is apparent in a world that groans and in a human race that dies!

So what can be done? 

The resolution to the problem is that in the midst of mankind’s puny attempts to carry out the work established by God in the beginning, God himself interceded and interjected his own man to accomplish the task. Promised from the beginning (Gen. 3:15), brought about in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4), Jesus Christ came as the second Adam (cf. Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15) to accomplish the task, to redeem and remake humanity, and to put all things once again under humanity’s feet. He did this by living a life completing obedient to his Father in heaven, thus attaining perfect righteousness, by dying an undeserved death on a Roman implement of torture and punishment–the cross, and by raising again on the third day proving his righteousness and newly creating the promise of life after death (1 Cor. 15:1-3). In so doing, Jesus Christ accomplished the task and recast it in the form of the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In the Great Commission, we have the miraculous and powerful reversal of the effects of the Fall and the re-establishment of original task: “Make disciples” corresponds with the original command to be fruitful and multiply.  Now image-bearers of the risen Christ are not simply born, they are reborn, and all those who are born again will be able to enter and see the kingdom of God (John 3:3-8). Moreover, the authority that Christ possesses is a promise that the earth, knocked from under the feet of Adam and Eve, will one day be restored to all those who have submitted themselves to Jesus Christ, believed his gospel, and have been made ready (i.e. made ready through imputed righteousness) for his coming reign. In this, the task has been restored to redeemed humanity in an already but not yet fashion. Whereas the creational imperative to be physically fruitful remains, and the task of cultivating the earth–even in its corrupted state–continues, the greater task now becomes the preaching of the gospel and making disciples of all the nations in preparation for the age to come. This is the task of the Great Commission, and the task of every Christian couple!

From here we can ask, “How do gender roles fit into this biblical mission? Are they essential or merely optional?  And why does it even matter?” Certainly, the Bible is not neutral and gives us instruction for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-4). Tomorrow, we will pick up this theme and continue to consider marriage, gender roles, and the Great Commission.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss