So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Gen 1:27 KJV)
I recently unwittingly created a kerfluffle. You can read about it here:
Rather than continue debating it on Facebook, I decided that I would answer one question here, since it seems to be the heart of the debate.
The question is this: “Are there any differences at all between the two sexes – male and female.”
The question is an important one. One the one hand, we reject the homogenization of the sexes, because God created male and female. Obviously there is a difference. The most obvious difference is a biological one. Males have certain body parts; females have certain body parts. God created them that way and called it “very good”.
But the conservative movement seems to have fallen off the other side of the horse. In the video that I took issue with, Phil Johnson links weakness, softness, emotional hurts and pastel colors with the feminine sex, and courage, strength, godliness and manly love with the masculine sex.
Apart from the fact that I have no idea what manly love is, and how it differs from the love that God calls all Christians to, these characterizations perplex me.
As you can see in the discussion, it ended with a question – other than physical characterizations, are there any inherent differences between men and women?
At the risk of boring my readers, perhaps it would be helpful to put this into precise terms. The question concerns attributes. An attribute is that thing which answers the question “what is it”. I am a human, a Christian, married, a father, grandfather, with grey hair, and I was born a Powell. These all answer the question, “What is it?”
But it will not do to stop there, for if one of those attributes were taken away, I would still be me. If my wife passed, I would no longer be a husband, but I would still be me.
So now we must distinguish between essential and accidental attributes. An essential attribute is that without which the thing is no longer the thing. And accidental attribute is that which describes the thing, but does not define the essence of the thing.
How’s that for making a subject dense?
In the list of my attributes, all of them are accidental except one: I am a human. Any one of the other attributes you could take away, and I would still be me.
So lets apply this to maleness and femaleness. When the question is asked, “Are there feminine and masculine traits other than physical traits?” I must ask what you mean. Are you speaking of essential or accidental attributes?
My granddaughter is four. You can give her any two objects – tools, trucks, stuffed animals, or paper drawings – and the big one will be a mommy and the little one will be the baby. Others report similar phenomenon in other girls.
Is it then valid to take this observation, abstract it and give it a name – say, nurturing – and call it an essential attribute of femininity? I think not.
The same can be said of playing with dolls, building playhouses, emotional bonding and so on. Are these essential attributes of being a female? If you say yes, you are opening the door to much abuse, as we see today. The horrible word “sissy” is merely one example.
A boy who plays with dolls, is sensitive, emotionally bonds with those around him, talks about his feelings and likes pastel colors is labeled a “sissy” – a biological male with feminine traits, as if there were any such thing.
For where is this in the scripture? Where does the One who created them male and female give us warrant to call a male a sissy and a female a tomboy? If we as the people of God are confused is it any wonder that the world around us is confused? When we speak of the church becoming feminized (or worse, sissified), the only possible outcome is a world left very confused by gender roles, gender assignments, and what it means to be a boy or girl.
Let’s take boys. Boys are supposed to be men, right? Rough-housing, posturing, courageous, strong, gun-toting, and so on.
The observation is made that men are generally stronger than women. I don’t have a beef with that. Say it if it makes you feel better. But what have we accomplished?
The problem that continues to raise its pesky head is the problem of essential attributes. Remember that an essential attribute is that without which the thing is not the thing. If I lose an essential attribute, I am no longer me.
So we take the general observation that men are stronger than women and then we make it an essential attribute of maleness. In other words, when men are physically weak, they are no longer men. Do you see the problem? If these assertions are correct, what are we to make of a man who become physically restrained – through age, infirmity, or accident? Are they then no longer male?
Take it one step further.
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. (Pro 14:1 KJV)
This passage is generally interpreted that women are called to be nurturers. But then what are we to make of those women who are widowed, bed-ridden, unmarried – are they no longer women?
It is interesting to note that according to the grammar, building the house is an essential attribute of wisdom, not femaleness. The ESV translates it correctly:
The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. (Pro 14:1 ESV)
The thing that builds houses is wisdom, not femininity. A woman may be foolish and destroy that which God calls her to build, but she is still a woman, albeit a foolish one.
According to the creator of heaven and earth, according to the One who made them male and female, a man can be wise or foolish, but he is a wise or foolish MAN. A woman can be wise or foolish, but she is a wise or foolish WOMAN.
We see the boy who is drawn to pastel colors, loves texture and fabric, and would rather stay home than go hunting, and we call him a girly boy. We say “Be a man. Do man things.” And when we do so, we deny the Creator of heaven and earth who made this boy just the way that he is.
We see a girl who loves sports, hunting and putting cars together and we call her a tom-boy.
And then we take it a step down from there and start talking about the sissification of the church.
I hate it.
Let’s get back to what the Bible teaches. The scriptures alone are our guide for faith and practice. “God made them male and female.”
The only essential attribute of human beings is the image of God, and that God made them male and female. Without the image of God, we are not human. There is no human being that is not either male or female. All the other attributes are accidental. Some have them, some do not.
But how do you define male and female?. A simple reading of the text does not admit any essential attributes of maleness and femaleness other than biology. A man has certain chromosomes and body parts. A woman has certain chromosomes and body parts.
Beyond that, there is a wonderful, wide variety of personalities, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. But these are individual, not gender specific.
For parents, instead of telling your daughters to be more feminine, teach them to be wise women. Teach them to be godly. Teach them to grow in the fruits of the spirit.
Instead of teaching your sons to be more manly, teach them to be wise men. Teach them to be godly. Teach them to grow in the fruits of the spirit.
And whatever gifts God has given your sons and daughters, instead of categorizing them as masculine or feminine, teach them to rejoice in those gifts and to use them for the glory of God and the dominion of the creation.
And please, for the love of the truth, quit talking about the feminization of the church. It isn’t godly. It isn’t biblical. It isn’t edifying. It serves no purpose other than to manipulate applause from the foolish at men’s conferences.
You can talk about how the church has forsaken its calling to proclaim the truth in love. You can talk about how the church has become spineless. You can talk about the church being either faithful or unfaithful. But these are neither masculine nor feminine traits. There is no reason to bring sex into it at all. It’s insulting to men. It’s insulting to women. It’s insulting to the creator, who made male and female and said, “Behold. It is very good.”