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.”
30 responses to “He Made Them Male and Female”
I love your writing and thinking. I have also seen that this gender role thing is playing into the transgender movement. I know of parents who see their son drawn to playing with dolls and think they must me a female trapped in a boy’s body, and parents who have tomboy girls and think they are then boys. The same thinking affects many of the transgender people- a man feels our culture’s definition of feminine describes him and so he wants to be a female, and vv. I used to know many cross dressing gay men and I was always saddened by the fact that their cross dressing was really the worst of the “feminine” in our culture- high heels, tons of make-up and huge boobs.These cultural gender roles are very harmful in all ways. Years ago pink was the color for boys and blue for girls, and boys were cheerleaders not girls, and men wore high heels- it’s all just CULTURE, not biology or God created.
I think I agree with a lot of what you are saying. People enforcing certain behaviors on boys and girls and the sissification talk. I think we are on the same page.
I do wonder about being a male or female and that not being an essential attribute. God created them male and female to me seems to imply essential attribute. You give a list of attributes and say that all can change and you would still be you. If your wife passes you would not be a husband, if you legally changed your name you would not be a Powell, and if you dyed your hair you would not have grey hair. But if you changed your gender would that the same category as those other things? Is it really just physical characteristics that make us male and female? If you changed your gender would it not be an attack on the creator who made you male and not female and thus an attack on who you really are?
I was wondering then if you could expand on that a bit especially in light of the transgender challenge we face today.
Again I do think I agree with a lot of what you say and I am not a big fan of Phil Johnson’s talk. The church does not really need to be Chuck Norris-ed up, but rather conformed to Christ. But, I would like to hear more about how you got there.
Thanks, Lee. I didn’t mean to say or imply that male and female are not essential attributes. They ARE essential attributes of humans, created in God’s image. The question I was asking was “what are essential attributes of male or female”
In other words, what attribute, if you took it away, would make a human no longer a male or a human no longer a female?
And the answer to that question I left deliberately vague, other than to say that the accidental attributes (kindness, nurturing, softness, pastel colors) are NOT it.
I DO believe that being either male or female is an essential attribute of humanity, which I believe Gen. 1:27 teaches, and I also believe that male and female have essential attributes that distinguish them from one another. I reject that the sexes are interchangeable. According to Gen. 1:27, God made them male and female.
Therefore we know two things: 1, male and female are essential attributes of humanity – one or the other. And 2, male and female are different, and therefore also have essential attributes all their own.
But what those essential attributes ARE I would be hardpressed to say. Every suggestion seems to fail. Chromosomes are possible, but there are difficulties if you go that route, because other than doing a dna test, how does a doctor know to say, “It’s a boy”. And yet doctors do and everyone knows that the doctor is correct. Is it the presence or absence of certain body parts? Yes and no. Because a transgendered man is still a man (and every knows it, despite their squawking to the contrary). Otherwise they would not need to have legal enforcement. No one has to pass a law commanding the government to call a man a man. But they need a law if they want to get us to call a man a woman. So what is the essential attribute, that everyone instinctively knows, that makes a male a male and a female a female? it’s an interesting question, and the Bible leaves us with the mystery. I’m OK with that.
This is not really all that different than trying to pinpoint an essential attribute of anything, really. What can you say is an essential attribute of a dog, other than “dogginess”?
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I’m not trying to start anything and you can ignore this question if it will start a flame war.
How would this affect egalitarian/complementarian debate?
Also, how do you answer when (usually) men state that the “sissification” of the church is not only the softening stance on the truth but the turn towards emotionalism over doctrine? Or the argument that the emotionalism of “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs are contributing to a dumbed down Church?
That is to say, how do you break down what you’ve said in your last paragraph so even the most hardened “masculine” Christian man can relate; or are there points to be made from what is being said, just that there needs to be better terms than “sissification”?
I know the questions ignore the traits that you call “accidental”, but the questions still come up. (Is there a better term than “accidental’? After all, these are God given traits, not random chance… sorry, don’t mean to nitpick.)
And finally, how should we, as Christians, define a masculine man? Is it how he leads his family? Loves the Lord? Discipleship? In which case, perhaps we drop the “masculine” and just call him a godly man?
Sorry, your article got me thinking overtime (which is a good thing).
Continue thinking through these things. Remember our only guide is scripture. Emotionalism isn’t a bad thing. Emotionalism over doctrine is not a feminine trait. It’s a sinful one. “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs are just as capable as being written by men as by women. Every woman I know hates those as much as I do.
Why can’t we just say, these are wrong, rather than saying “these are feminine”, or “sissy”?
I’m using accidental in a philosophical sense, not in the colloquial sense. It doesn’t mean random, it means that these traits are not essential, but..I don’t know another word.
The fact that I have two arms is an accidental fact. This means that if I lost both my arms I would still be me. It does not mean that I grew two arms by random chance. That I am in the image of God is an essential fact.
A masculine man is a man who is born male. He may be a covenant breaker, or a covenant keeper, but he is still masculine. That’s my point.
As a male, there are duties that he has been given by God – most of them are identical to women as well.
Women are also called to lead their families, love the Lord, be disciples – so, yes. I would just call one who does these things “godly”, and drop the sexual stereotypes altogether.
I think in our admirable zeal to call fathers and husbands to faithfulness, we have gone beyond scripture and started using terms such as “sissy”, “feminization”, and so on, and it has caused a lot of damage.
Men should be faithful in their callings, if they are called to be husbands and fathers, or whatever they are called to.
Women should be faithful in their callings as wives and mothers and whatever else they may be called to.
But faithfulness and unfaithfulness are neither masculine nor feminine characteristics, and we should quit saying that they are.
Hope this helps.
I caught that “I don’t know another word,” but really, “nonessential” already pretty much covers it, as a single word for what you already said, (“not essential.”) Not the essence.
I cried and cried reading this. You blindsided me. Thank you so much.
I appreciate you highlighting the difference between essential and accidental (maybe “providential” ?) qualities. I do think there is behavior and mannerisms unbecoming to a man, that wouldn’t be so to a woman, and visa versa, and therefore would deserve the deriding term “feminised” (without being insulting to females). For example, one time a male friend who tended to the flamboyant and I (a female) were in a haunted corn maze. My friend was screaming loudly and hanging on to my arm. At the time I felt how incongruant this was. To your concern that such a person would feel that he is therefore a woman or gay, I would answer that behavior or personality is no more fixed than sexuality. A sensitive male who is seeking to glorify Christ will have to be brave in the Lord to lead and protect his family. An independent female will have to learn how to submit cheerfully to her husband’s leadership (if Godly). But I don’t think we need be afraid to use deragatory language for deragatory behavior (i.e. feminized, bitchy, maybe even “being a dick” to be fair?)
I don’t see an edit button so please read “incongruent” above. Thanks
Linnea, squealing at a haunted maze is an annoying characteristic, not a sinful one. I know many women who would take issue with that being called a feminine trait. I know that there are gay men who deliberately play act their “feminine” traits – queen it up, if you will – but neither I nor Phil Johnson were talking about that.
As I said in my other posts, there are legitimate uses for the colloquial “feminine” and “masculine” terms, but Phil Johnson, with his testosterone posturing was more damaging than helpful.
Thanks for your reply, Sam. Sorry for all the typos in my original post. It goes to show me how dependent I’ve become on a spell checker :).
How far do you think one can go in disregarding cultural norms established for the sexes before it becomes sinful, or is it more the intention behind the action? I’m specifically thinking of clothing and hairstyles
Why does it actually matter? Just wondering.
I’m thinking of the gender confusion that exists today. Gender-fluid and masculine presenting (butch) and Xie (instead of he and she), and all the new terms that have to be invented for this new age we live in. We have to ask what are we are communicating by our mannerisms and clothing, whether consciously or not.
How about extrinsic instead of accidental. Thank you for this article. I find that these gender issues often hinder the gifts and service of many people both male and female. I have found this to be true for me.
I would love to comment here. I am a female and have absolutely no gender confusion. But, I have always been a tom-boy. I have mostly rejected girly things (other than wanting to be a mom) for most of my life. I think like an engineer. Nail polish and hair-dos and makeup and even dresses are of no interest to me. And I seem to think more analytically too. When I began researching biblical gender roles I became very lost and somewhat hopeless. I didn’t feel like I fit the part of those biblical feminine women. So much so, that I wondered if I could truly be a follower and have these issues. I’m quiet and reserved. I’m not the social butterfly that enjoys all those women’s gathering at church where other women thrive. I’m not dying to be in the big strong arms of a man. In fact, I thought WAY more about being a mom than wanting a man in my life. Of course you can’t have one without the other. The whole message is a difficult one for me. I want to be me and it be okay. I want to know that I’m loved for me. I want to be interested in working on cars and mowing lawns and that be okay. Why must I fit a mold that wants to kill the real me? It feels hopeless to be in this thing called the church with everyone telling you who you should be. I feel like a square peg in a round hole.
Toiler – you are a gift to the body of Christ – just the way you are. You are meant to contribute with the gifts and passions that God gave you. I would encourage you to not concern yourself with trying to fit into that round hole although I do know that it can be distressing. I often wonder how many of us feel the way you do. But truly you are a gift! Don’t let those gender roles hinder you from serving and using your gifts.
Read Psalm 139 to see what God thinks of how you were made. Listen to him,rather than the words of men.
I have more, but I hate typing on my phone. 😊
Toiler, you are more than okay just the way you are. I could say much of what you said because I am the same way. It has been a hard road to fight to be who I am. I could share a little if it helps so that you know you are not the only one who tried for so long to push the square peg into the round hole. I wouldn’t say I’m a tomboy, but I too, never seemed to be interested in the girly things the other girls were. Ditto on the nail polish, hairdos, makeup, and dresses. I am in blue jeans 99% of the time. No gender confusion here either. Absolutely an analytical, logical thinker. How wonderful that you enjoy working on cars and mowing lawns! It is so okay. I remember trying to take shop class in high school, but it conflicted with another class I wanted/needed and they would have had to move things just for me, so I let it go. I always wished I could have made that work. I never wanted to get married. I did not feel called to it (or to motherhood, to be honest – though I love my children fiercely and give motherhood my all). It was false teaching and manipulation that got me into a marriage to a man I didn’t love and who didn’t love me. (I don’t mean to blame-shift; it was my sin that left me open to those things, but that is how I got here). Oh, how hard I tried to be not just obedient by “wife-ish” according to all the church’s expectations. I am finished. If I never set foot in a church again, I’m okay. Better no church than a bad church. My marriage is abusive, and if I ever get out of this, I have absolutely no desire for a husband (truly, not just because of the abuse). I am speaking of physical desire specifically; I just don’t desire marriage on any level, no matter how healthy. Jesus knows how He made me. I have wasted too many years listening to human beings telling me who to be. Please feel free to be yourself and be at peace, if you can.
We need to be pen pals. So much of what you said resonates with me. I’m just learning this blog thing as a way of releasing all my internal turmoil. Is there a way to private message? I don’t even know. Maybe someone can show me how to connect in a more private way. Thanks for the sweet comments!
You are normal, it is alright to be you Jesus loves just the way you are! I grew up on a farm where the girls did every thing that need doing if they had the physical strength to do it, the only gender restriction seem to be when it came to housework as long as there was a girl around the males didn’t go near it. LOL
God made us the way we are culture tries to fit us into molds and much of it is a power play which in God’s eyes is a sin. Remember when the disciples came to Jesus and two of them wanted to know if they could be on his right and on his left, places of perceived power, his answer is rather revealing.
Mar 10:42 And Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them.
Mar 10:43 But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister;
Mar 10:44 and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.
Mar 10:45 For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Culture and society has imposed many molds on people throughout the centuries that has distorted and placed in bondage God’s children, the church has been no different, just because the culture discounts your abilities and talents does not lessen your worth to God! You are a strong and beautiful woman in God’s eyes.
Pro 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. In one translation I read the word virtuous was translated ‘masculine’ I don’t particularly like that one but it is close to most of the translations for the Hebrew which when used in relation to males is translated strong, courage etc.
Years ago when I had my first car a VW Bug my mechanic was a WWII vet and he said his best mechanics during the war were all women.
I wonder if culture stopped trying to put male and female into boxes and let children grow in to the human beings God intended without the stereotype if much of this gender confusion would vanish.
Break Up the Fallow Ground, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your comment. It is so full of wisdom.
I would like to comment on your final sentence, “I wonder if culture stopped trying to put male and female into boxes and let children grow in to the human beings God intended without the stereotype if much of this gender confusion would vanish.” I have been thinking this for some time as well. It seems to me to be much worse in the church culture even more than in the world. Did not God make a wide variety of characteristics, strengths, traits, personalities, interests, and more? Culture writes some of them on the male side and some on the female side, and then what happens if you are a male with too many that are written on the female side or vice versa? Do you deny yourself and your own identity and spend your life stunted, frustrated, and self-condemning? If the message and pressure are strong enough, it’s not hard to make the leap that some feel compelled to cross over to the other side of the line just to be themselves. Then the church sees the problem and blames it on the fact that we need to make the division even more distinct and makes it worse by claiming God’s authority and putting His voice to it and driving people from Him. I don’t mean to over-simplify the whole issue, but I do think there is a connection worth considering.
“Quit ye like men; be strong.” If by “men” the verse means “male humans”, then wouldn’t it mean there is a certain strongness essential to men, though not necessarily physical? (This would also not mean that women couldn’t be “strong” with a female human “strongness.”)
The fact that the men are being told to “be strong” is evidence that this strength is not intrinsic or an essential male trait. (They are still male without it, but are expected to add this type of strength to themselves as males.)
Seeingthelight and Toiler, I very much identify with what you have expressed. After leaving the military (then ratios of men to women were 12:1 at my location), I nearly went crazy from the chattering at church women’s meetings. (I enjoy visiting with everyone occasionally now.) Nail polish, hair-dos, make-up, and outfits do not seem to be part of what Scriptures describe as anything to do with being a woman anyway. I wield a hammer more skillfully than a needle. All our sons are “masculine,” though some would be categorized as more “alpha” than others. Some of our daughters are more “girlie” than others, but do things not necessarily traditionally left to their gender.
But there do seem to be physiological, nutritional deficiency causes for what is nebulously referred to as “loss of masculinity or femininity,” as seen in research such as “POTTENGER’S CATS,” etc. (I mention this with clinical intererest only, not with a blaming or judging mentality.) If these blatantly God-hating times are so confused about all things gender-related, could the confusion, including possibly physiological, just be fallout from a society’s rejection of our Creator and His distinctive creation of “male and female created He them”, with error all across a spectrum?
I didn’t have the right tools to find the answer to your question re the word man in your quote of 1 Co. 16:13 so I asked a couple of my friends who have much better tools than I to check it for me, this is what Drs. Eddie and Susan Hyatt found…
“I checked several translations and only the KJV and the 1984 NIV have the word “man.” All others I looked at have something like “be courageous” or “be brave.” The 2011 NIV dropped the word “man” and have translated the word as “be courageous.” This shows that the translators do not consider this to have anything to do with gender, but is an exhortation to courage.
The word ἀνδρίζομαι is a form of aner and is a compound verb that Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines as “to make brave” or “to be brave” or “to show one’s self a man.” It was obviously an expression for encouraging bravery and courage and could be applied to both men and women.
There is no indication whatsoever that Paul had anything other in mind than encouraging the Corinthians to be courageous in the midst of their difficult situation.
I trust you find this helpful.
Eddie & Sue”
The whole church is being addressed here, men and women. The furthest thing from Paul’s mind was to divide the Church up by sexes with this verse
This short comment of Pastor Powell’s triggered a thought that I have been having for some time and this might be a good time and place to ask. It is not directed at anyone in particular; I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts. Is anybody else concerned or even confused by the abundance of men’s groups and women’s groups or men’s Bible studies and women’s Bible studies and so on? I can’t honestly find a Biblical basis for the division, as though we have entirely different things we are to learn in order to follow Christ. It seems so pervasive a thing, and I am left scratching my head.
I agree. I addressed it in my blog “An Acts 17:11woman”. I’m on my phone,so please forgive the brevity.
Great article and great comments!
Thank you for this insightful article. It’s imperative that we understand the differences between sex and gender in our social and cultural conversations. Sex is indeed biological and physical features of male and female. But everything outside of that is a gender conversation which is solely based on social and cultural norms. I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve had to say here. I am currently taking a course in sexuality and ethics, and we are exploring these ideas of masculinity and femininity that are perpetuated in the church.
Thank you. I am so glad that there are some who are thinking about the issues, rather than just the knee-jerk reaction of conservative bloggers. We should be better than that