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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Male and Female He created them." But why?

During our recent vacation, I spent time madly catching up on the big backlog in my blog feed reader.

As usual, all this reading spawned dozens of post ideas (many of which I will probably never get to). I read a lot on one particular subject, and I was inspired to tackle a hotly debated topic that I've not touched on for a while: male and female roles in marriage.

Yeah. That.

It will take several posts to explore the topic, even in part. I will likely intersperse the series with some more lighthearted fare. I don't want things to get too serious around here.

As a prelude to this series, let me say that this is not a salvation issue. It's also not a sin issue. As such, differing opinions on marriage roles are just that - opinions. My own opinions are strongly held and thoroughly considered, but I also believe I can learn from the others with whom I disagree. I concede that each side of the debate probably has it partially right. We all see through a glass dimly. Let's try to appreciate that fact.

I am hoping to spark discussion. However, I am asking that we keep the discussion honoring, respectful and positive. Hostile, mean-spirited or snarky comments on either side of the debate will not be tolerated. Period.

Side note:  to be intellectually honest you should always seek to understand what those with whom you disagree have to say. Sadly, I find that many on either side of the complementarian/egalitarian debate only read and discuss the topic among those who share their opinion, thus adding to the deeper divide between the two. Similarly, it seems many Christians shy away from examining anything "secular" or not overtly "Christian." This series will likely stretch a few of these boundaries.
Yin and Yang

As I was catching up on my blog reader backlog I came across a post on the importance of yin and yang in relationships. In case the concept of yin-yang is unknown to you, it is the ancient Chinese concept that seemingly opposite (or more accurately, complimentary) forces are often deeply interconnected. Examples include light and dark, high and low, and, pertinent to our discussion today, male and female.

The article spoke of the balance and harmony created through difference and contrast in relationships. These get lost, the author posed, in our quest for fairness and equality.

Fundamental to the concept of yin and yang is the fact that you can't have yin without yang. It makes no sense. Light has no meaning without darkness. There is no high without low. And there is no male without female.

Now yin-yang is not a "Christian" concept, and the post I refer to was not on a "Christian" marriage blog. However, as I thought about it, it dawned on me that God is actually the original designer of yin and yang, even though the Bible doesn't use those terms.

Yin and Yang and God

Not sure about that?  Consider these yin-yang moments at the dawn of creation:
  • Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4)
  • Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9-10)
And finally:
  • 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." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them... Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good... " (Genesis 1:26-27, 31)

Clearly male and female are both created in God's image. In human creation there is no sense of more and less, no sense of difference in importance or worth.

But there is difference. There is distinction. Male and female.

So the pertinent question is, "Why?"

Is there anything more to maleness and femaleness beyond the physical differences for the purpose of procreation?

Egalitarians mostly argue for the meaninglessness irrelevance of gender in defining roles in marriage. Certainly those with an ardently feminist bent do so with vigor. It seems to me that to do so argues for yang without yin or vice-versa, and this cannot be.

Others try to uncouple yang and yin from male and female. Again, to me this is a non-starter. If we believe that God made us male and female for a reason, can we so easily disregard the distinction and purpose of the two?

My observation is that society (including much of the church) is pushing men to be less yang (male) and more yin (female). At the same time, other societal forces seem to compel women toward more yang and less yin (to be more like men).

Is this blurring of the lines between yin and yang a result of societal enlightenment? Or are we undermining God's intent for His creation? Are we finally overcoming eons of patriarchal suppression of women by men or are we simply allowing political correctness to blur our eyes from the truth? Tough questions.

What Do You Think?

I have more thoughts to share on this important topic, but I want to pause here to get your thoughts.

Would you do me a favor and answer the following question in the comments:

With respect to marriage, why did God create us male and female?

Photo credit: Arcane-Rhapsody



Bob said...

You seem to be violating your own principles. How do you reconcile this statement:

"to be intellectually honest you should always seek to understand what those with whom you disagree have to say"

with this one:

"Egalitarians mostly argue for the meaninglessness of gender."

As an egalitarian, I find that statement offensive. What you have posited here is a straw man argument. I am very well-read on the subject and I have NEVER heard an egalitarian argue for the "meaninglessness of gender". On the contrary, egalitarians are true complimentarians who believe that the genders complement each other in a non-heirarchical way.

If you have an example of a known egalitarian arguing for the "meaninglessness of gender", I'd love to see a quote.

Faramir Pete said...

Hi Scott, well you certainly like to tackle the tough questions!

I will try to respond to your final question with my own opinions, and I stress they are just opinions and in line with most of humanity, I have come by them honestly and reserve the right to revisit and revise from time to time, so the opinions I hold today are not necessarily the same as they were a few years past.

Okay so why did Gad make us male and female?

The obvious answer is to allow us to reproduce and there are few if any mammals that are hermaphrodite.

That said I think the reason is held in an earlier part of the verse which contains the quote to which the question refers. god said let us make man in our image.

Clearly this God is not talking to himself in the same way we might, he is talking to a community - the trinity to be precise. And the Godhead that is the Trinity contains everything that we see in mankind, all of the masculinity and all of the femininity that we see in each person we meet. So why did he choose to gather the masculine parts together in a separate expression of himself and the feminine in another? Well for me the answer is really quite simple, he wanted to show different things. The man exemplifies the protector, the warrior and the physical strength, while the woman exemplifies the nurturing, the nest maker and the beauty of the Godhead.

And yes I can here those swords being pulled as you read that. But before you attempt to decapitate me, remember it is not MY design, it is His! Or Hers.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Scott! I often find lots of God's truth outside of organized religion. I'm looking forward to the rest of the post(s).

Scott said...

Bob - thank you for your comment. You caught me in an imprecise use of language that overstates my point. I should have stated it more clearly and with less inflammatory words.

I should rather have said that most egalitarians argue that gender is irrelevant when it comes to defining roles in marriage. Is that a statement with which you could agree?

I apologize for the offense and pledge to choose my words a bit more carefully.

And would you care to offer your answer to my question, "Why did God create us male and female?"

Scott said...

Pete - I agree that in God are all the attributes of humanity - both male and female. I also agree that the differences between the sexes are God-designed. No swords from me here.

Scott said...

Robyn - thanks for your support as I delve into this. All wisdom is God-breathed. I try to seek truth wherever I can find it.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that when God said it's not good for man to be alone, it was because if man was in and of himself there would be no relationship - he could just exist in a nice little vacuum. Man, being a single being, wouldn't be able to reflect the glory of a triune (personality) God. So we have a triune reflection in the paradigm of God, Husband, Wife. So to make a duplicate of a human male would be redundant - the Father, Son, Holy Spirit are different from each other. He chose to make a human - but different than the male.

Bob said...

Thanks for your graceful reply, Scott. Yes, I agree with your modification in the sense that I do not agree God mandates particular roles for particular genders.

Your original question does not have one simple answer. However, I would start with the idea of relationship. God is by nature relational, existing in an eternal relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To create mankind "in His image", it was necessary for mankind to exist in the context of a relationship. Man was not complete/perfect/"good" until he had a peer relationship.

Unknown said...

The yin and yang are a concept which is by definition anti-Biblical. Are you actually arguing God, without Satan, could not exist? Or God's creation needed bad before it could be good? The God I find in the Bible is defined as good. He, alone, is able to proclaim his creation good. The yin and yang philosophy fails for Christians as it changes the nature of God from self-existent and supreme to a dependent and subordinate.

Scott said...

Sam - thanks for offering your perspective. I think you missed my point. God exists outside of creation. He is altogether uncreated. I am pointing to yin/yang in God's creation, not in God himself. We know that, for example, He is only good. We know that in him there is no darkness. I don't have a theological basis for the existence of evil because I have never studied it, but I certainly do not see it as you have claimed. Nor do I see the existence of yin and yang in creation as in any way anti-biblical.

With that aside, do you have an opinion to offer on the reason that God created us male and female?

Unknown said...

The issue I have is the creation is representative of the creator. (I can tell a painting is a Picasso regardless of if I see the signature.)
Since we are created imgagio Deo, the yin and yang would still apply to the creator (if it applies to the creation.) God declared his creation "Very Good." Yet, there is no corresponding "very bad".

As for the reason God created us male and female, this fits with the rest of mammalian animals. Biologically, we are animals. (Why did God create cooperating sexes? - I have no idea.) I lean more towards the purpose as reflecting the triune God (as UpWithMarriage and Bob Mitton stated.)

Paul Byerly said...

My guess is God intended to create both man and woman, but wanted Adam to understand his deep need in this area. As to why men and women, I think God wanted us to be able to feel deep desire and connection, things which are a part of His nature.

SoulSurgeon said...

St. Paul explains the marital relationship as a metaphor for the relationship of Christ and his church. From the beginning this was its purpose. To show this relationship there needed to be male and female.

Unknown said...

I personally believe that God created male and female to not only procreate but to create the true image of the Triune God on the earth as well. I subscribe more to the equal but different (Complementarian) view.

I believe that through the commands for husbands to love their wives and wives to honor/respect their husbands, you get a mutually beneficial relationship. For me this is very much the same as how God places people into their roles in the Church body. No one is less than another (we are all under God). I also believe that husband/wife are equal in all areas except responsibility and that the husband (by order of creation) has more responsibility. This also gives the husband more authority (which is tempered and controlled through the command to love our wives as Christ did the church).

I am not saying any other ways are wrong but this is what has been spoken to us through the Spirit and scriptures.

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