I admit that this title is not original with me. I borrowed it from a justly famous essay by Dorothy Sayers. As the title suggests, she asks an important question. At first glance, it seems like a trivial question. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that we get the wrong answer most of the time.
I was in a bookstore the other day. I had a gift certificate so I figured that perhaps I could finally pick up this Sayers essay that I have been wanting to read. I asked the young lady at the counter if she had it.
She was your standard brainwashed college student who has been carefully groomed not to think for herself. I have before inquired about several conservative titles and she tended to avoid me with contempt as a privileged, white, misogynist male.
She said, “Women are human, by the way…”, with contempt dripping from her lips.
I responded, “Sayers was a champion for women’s rights in the early 20th century and one of the first few women to graduate from Oxford.”
She muttered, as she searched for the book in her computer, “She would have been appalled at the Supreme Court decision this past week,” referring to the well-publicized Hobby Lobby case.
At that point, I realized that I was dealing with a person who was unaccustomed to thinking her own thoughts. Or, as Sayers would put it, one who was not living as if she were fully human.
What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person….What is unreasonable and irritating is to assume that all one’s tastes and preferences have to be conditioned by the class to which one belongs. This has been the very common error into which men have frequently fallen about women – and it is the error into which feminist women are, perhaps, a little inclined to fall about themselves.
Sayers was prophetic, as my exchange at the bookstore illustrated. “Because she is a woman, she also agrees that women are incapable of making moral choices, but are simply animals with a need to rut in the streets like everyone else. Being animals, they cannot be expected to make their own decisions, provide for themselves, or live with the consequences of their actions. She therefore, being a woman, would assume that a court decision forbidding the government from forcing rich white males into providing abortion services free of charge is by its very nature an attack against women.”
“Since they are not human, they cannot be expected to resist their urges to mate freely with the alpha male, and must be kept and provided for by their masters – the rich, white males of Hobby Lobby. But Hobby Lobby believes that women are human beings and don’t need to be stabled and kept, so they must be destroyed.”
But the only way that this logic follows is if women are not really human beings, but are rather animals that exist to gratify the lusts of men – unchoosing, unfeeling, and unfettered by moral restraint.
Rich white privileged professors have indeed been successful in grooming our daughters into a life of sexual slavery, all under the guise of “women’s rights.” And they are incensed when anyone calls them on it – when anyone suggests that perhaps their daughters are in fact, human beings, created in God’s image, designed by God Himself to live with Him in eternal blessedness, reflecting His glory forever.
They sneer with contempt at those young women who insist on being treated as image-bearers, demanding covenant promises and faithfulness, desiring respect and honor, before uniting in a bond of love, intimacy and the joy of marriage.
They are terrified that perhaps the objects of their lusts have these old-fashioned morals based upon an old-fashioned book that demands that women be treated as human beings, rather than animals.
So they have made an all-out effort to remove any notion of humanity from our sexuality, grooming our daughters while we pay more and more tuition dollars for the privilege.
I read that essay a while back and have been thinking about it.
While I was thinking about it, I dusted off a book from my shelf called “Reforming Marriage” by Douglas Wilson. I read it and wondered when we were going to get this right. Wilson, in seeking to “combat feminism” makes the same assumptions about women as the bookstore employee. Women aren’t really fully human, but were designed by God to be dominated by men.
He quotes Genesis 5:1-2.
This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.
Then he writes,
In Hebrew, the …word translated mankind is Adam. In other words, God created Adam and his wife male and female, He blessed them and called them Adam. She was, from the beginning, a covenantal partaker in the name of her husband. God does not call her Adam on her own. He calls her Adam with him (Reforming Marriage, page 15)
I have often said that if we are not right about Genesis One, we will be wrong on everything else. This topic is no exception. Wilson acknowledges on the next page (Page 17) that Adam is a generic term for man or mankind. In this, he is absolutely correct. Not only is the word “Adam” the proper name for the first male of the species, it is also the term for humanity in general. From this, it is apparent that Wilson is teaching that apart from the male, the female has no humanity of her own. “God does not call her Adam on her own.”
Wow. This is not only poor anthropology, it is also horrible exegesis. It does not follow that since Adam means humanity, that it must mean humanity every time that it is used. Nor does it follow that since Adam is the proper name for the first male of the species, that it means this proper name every time it is used. Ultimately, context must come in to it. Wilson changes the meaning of the word midstream through his argument, switching back and forth between the two different meanings of the word Adam.
Wilson is using this argument to give biblical justification for the wife taking her husband’s name, but he reads into the text that which isn’t there, interpreting the text to mean the opposite of what it actually means. It is one thing to say that God calls the woman “human”. It is quite another to say that God calls her Adam because she derives her humanity only through him.
Moses’ point is this. God called the male of the species and the female of the species both human.
As human beings they were in God’s image directly. As humans they were directly accountable to God, joint-heirs of the promise. As humans, they had minds, will, thoughts, feelings, desires and longings.
And not just the male. The male AND the female.
Moses is teaching here that women are indeed fully human, in every sense of the term.
In fact, the first time that females are mentioned, they are mentioned in this context, from Genesis One:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
It cannot be avoided. The dominion mandate is given to BOTH the man and the woman, from the very beginning. Wilson avoids this by simply not mentioning it. He writes,
In addition to taking care of the Garden of Eden, Adam was also to multiply and replenish the earth. There was an obvious need for a helper as he could not multiply the species all by himself. The task assigned to him was that of exercising dominion over the earth; in order to accomplish this task many descendants were needed (Page 29).
Dominion, to Wilson, was given to the man. The woman was to be his helper by bearing descendants. Women are not fully human. The dominion mandate is not given to them apart from their husbands. They have no gifts nor abilities nor strengths other than those given for the purpose of bearing and raising children. If they are in heaven, they will also be subservient to the men there, for this is God’s created order.
But this is not what the text in Genesis actually says. The female is a human being, in every sense of the term. As a human being, she also is fallen in Adam and redeemed in Christ. She is a member of Christ and a partaker of His anointing. Her humanity is not mediated through her husband and neither is her justification and sanctification. She also is complete in Christ, and must therefore take heed to these words:
18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Col. 2:18-19)
Paul’s entire point in this epistle is that Christians are redeemed by Christ alone. He alone is the mediator and savior of the world. False teachers will seek to drive Christians from Christ by offering other mediators – in this case, angels. Rome offers their priests, but Wilson offers the husband as the mediator of sanctification. Both take away from the humanity of the Savior as well as the humanity of the “lesser” people of God. Both are denials of Christ.
When a woman takes a husband, she is to submit to him in the Lord. But this isn’t what Wilson teaches. He teaches that women as a class are created a little less human, with their humanity mediated through men.
When we are wrong in Genesis One, we are wrong everywhere. Wilson’s poor theology leads to the following advice from Wilson:
“The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.
“He does this, without rancour and without an accusative spirit, until she complies or rebels. If she complies, he must move up one step, now requiring that another of her duties be done. If she rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.”
At best, she is a recalcitrant child. At worst, she is inhuman, and incapable of wanting to keep an orderly home all on her own, or perhaps even having a “less than neat” personality. She cannot be renewed by the Holy Spirit, but her husband must show her (gently, of course) how a Christian home really should be. She cannot possibly have a reason to not have dishes done. She, of course, is not allowed to think that maybe it would be OK for the dishes to sit on the sink until tomorrow. She must think as her class tells her to think. She is not allowed to be tired, irritated, exhausted, discouraged, lonely or worn down. She is not human. She is an appendage of the man, made only to be dominated by his whims and desires – gently, of course.
Wilson writes, “(God) created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage.” (Page 24)
But you know something? Women and men both have all different types of personalities, likes, dislikes, styles. They are sloppy or neat, obsessively clean or obsessively unorganized. Some women like trucks and some men like to design clothes. Some women like Aristotle; some men like to Pinterest. To be human is to be an individual, accountable to God alone, free from bondage and tyranny. There is a difference between mutual, loving order and dominance and subjugation. The world has “50 Shades of Grey”; the church has “Reforming Marriage”. Neither are biblical. The desire of fallen man is to rule over his wife. But this is the curse. And Christ did away with the curse.
I guarantee that if a man called the elders of our church to his house to explain to his wife how to be faster at doing dishes that he would end up with a far different conversation than the one Wilson imagines.
It is at once terrifying and exhilarating to be married to a human. The reason that God took Eve from the side of Adam was not because Adam would always be dominant, but that Eve would be fully human, of one blood with Adam. Just like him in every way, but female. The creation mandate was given to them both – male and female. Moses couldn’t have said it more often or more clearly.
God could have made something else to clean Adam’s dishes, bear his children and serve his whims. But it wouldn’t have been good for Adam.
So God made a woman. Adam could only love a woman. You can be aroused by all sorts of things. You can get a machine to do the dishes in a timely way. You can get a television to talk to you at night. You can get a snuggle pillow to hug at night. A donkey can carry bags and a monkey can be fun.
But you can only love a woman. In order to love a woman, you have to see how she sees. Understand what she is feeling. Know her dreams and desires and goals. Know what she fears and what she longs for.
These attributes only apply to humans. If your wife isn’t really human, just part of a class, you can use her to your destruction; but you can’t love her.
Fallen man thinks that they want a chef in the kitchen, Martha Stewart in the home, and a hooker in the bedroom. God says otherwise. He says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.”