Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Adam and Eve: The First Egalitarians?


“Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him."--Matthew Henry

Since a Christian woman's identity and function are irreversibly intertwined with the idea of gender roles, we must examine what gender roles are: what do they entail? Do they enforce limitations? Are they all-time binding? What was God's original intent for the sexes?

To adequately examine biblical gender roles, we must take a holistic look at scripture and start at the very beginning. So, what do Adam and Eve tell us about gender roles? Well, I'm glad you asked. :)

Genesis is a fascinating book for many reasons, but the tale of the first man and woman is especially telling. The Creation account portrays the ideal purpose and function of man and woman. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve's failure overshadows their brief time living in God's ideal--in perfect unity and harmony with Him, each other, and all of creation. As a result, we glorify the altered relationship between man and woman that came as a result of the fall and hold it up as God's ordained model. One of the greatest misconceptions about the creation account is that a divine gender hierarchy which places women "under" men was seamlessly instituted from the moment Eve was created. This is simply not so.

The Fall instituted a plethora of consequences---a deteriorating creation, death, separation from God, rampant sin, and the dominance of men over women (“a man will rule over his wife...”). Since this ugly change is part of the curse, we must conclude that male domination or gender hierarchy was NOT part of God's original plan and did not exist between Adam and Eve prior to the fall, since it is an explicitly new development existing because of sin. The Good News of the Gospel is that Christ, the second Adam, came and died to restore all of us, men and women alike, to God's original design.

Biblical Scholar Phyllis Trible notes that:

"The Fall created an inequality in the family relationship that had not existed before. And if Christ has become a curse for us (Gal. 3:13), then that curse of inequality is undone in Him."

God reveals the terms of His ideal plan in Genesis 1: 26-28. Keep in mind that the word "man" here is not synonymous with male, but mankind and humanity.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Notice that God commands BOTH Adam and Eve to rule the earth and over all creation. God didn't say, "Adam, you are to rule and Eve, well, you can go do some dishes, maybe fold a little laundry..." They were both called to rule, complementing each other, supporting each other, serving each other, sacrificing for the other, and deferring to each other.

Alas, sin stripped humans of this inheritance. The implications of the fall, that mankind would be stuck with a sinful nature, indicates the stronger would inevitably exploit and dominate the weaker and more vulnerable. This is not exclusive to gender, but hierarchies also developed between races, the wealthy and poor, the powerful and the weak, and so forth. When God declares that "a man will rule over his wife," in Genesis 3:16, it’s important to make the distinction between description and prescription, between what will happen and what should happen. All sorts of horrible consequences came about because of the fall: death, separation from God, murder, rape, incest, oppression, abuse, perversion, etc. None of these are God-ordained, but the unfortunate consequence of free will (sorry Calvinists!). And all of which, Christ came to redeem. He bore the curse of the fall, took it upon himself to free us from lives of sin and restore humanity to God's original design, a relationship with our Creator and spiritual equality among His people. We won’t come fully into that until Christ returns, but it begins now.

John Temple Bristow, a new testament scholar, elaborates on the realities of the Fall:

If this kind of marital relationship, far from being divinely ordered, is the product of sin and the curse, then it is to be avoided rather than commended. It is characteristic of marriage outside of God's grace. To prescribe this kind of relationship is to advocate living under the penalty of sin imposed upon Adam and Eve, as if Christ brought nothing new to marriage relationships."

Part of the redemption we find in Jesus is "the great reconciliation." Our spiritual place has been restored with God and each other. Just as we are no longer alienated from God through Jesus' death on the cross, we are no longer under the curse that creates the dysfunctional hierarchies between races, socio-economic classes, and the sexes. Yet, we are hesitant to claim and live out humanity's original calling that Christ paved the way back to.

Redemption is a multidimensional, beautiful truth of the gospel that invades every area of our lives.

Next post: "Eve, The Help Meet", which will explore who Eve is and why she was created.

20 comments:

musicmommy3 said...

Dear Sista-Friend,

I know you asked us not to come back with NT but I can't help it and I'll tell you why...

I realize you will get there eventually but in the interest of looking at the Scripture as a whole...if this is true:
"To prescribe this kind of relationship is to advocate living under the penalty of sin imposed upon Adam and Eve, as if Christ brought nothing new to marriage relationships." Then what do we do with many of the verses in the NT that talk of the husband being the head of the wife? If it was to go back to the state before the fall surely God would have made that more clear as He did in other areas (ie: healing, resurrection power, freedom from sin, etc).
Am I missing something or am I jumping too far ahead of you?

To be honest I love that whole glorifying the fall theory...I have pondered it but I have tto come back to the Scriptural support for continued male headship in the home (the husband is the head of the wife) even after the fall.

:) Love ya!

Tia Lynn said...

Angela, your question is completely valid. You weren’t throwing anything in my face. :)

Part of the reason this series has been so challenging for me to put together is precisely because there is SO much information to cover and so many examples within scripture on these topics. In an effort to keep from overwhelming people with crazy amounts of info, jumping from verses all over the place, I have decided to break the series up, somewhat chronologically, tackling one issue at a time. I am a firm believer that scriptures should affirm each other and not stand in opposition to each other, so like you, I realize that one story in Genesis does not silence the rest of the bible, as if to say, “see, case closed!” :)

The point of this post is to establish original intent behind male and female relationships. Headship, submission, and public ministry will all be tackled in upcoming posts. I will try to present the various interpretations on each subject and let the chips fall where they may!

Be true to your convictions sister!

Terry said...

I'll honor your wishes and refrain from going NT on you, no matter how tempted I am to do so. If we follow this line of thinking (based on Genesis alone with the Galatians verse thrown in for good measure), why then do we still have to work to eat, snakes still slither on their bellies, and having babies still hurts like the dickens? Shouldn't those parts of the penalty be rolled back as well? Maybe I need to exercise a little more faith to get ready for what I'm facing in a couple of months! ;-) Am I playing nice?

catrina said...

I could go along with train of thought but like Terry I thought of painless childbirth. I've never subscribed to that bandwagon because no matter what Gods intent was, it is the consequence of sin. If "a man will rule over his wife" is part of the curse of the fall, then I have to accept that consequence along with pain in childbirth and weeds and thorns in my garden.

musicmommy3 said...

Terry,

You're such a goody goody. Quit making me look bad by playing by the rules! :P


(I'm just teasing of course. I'm feeling punchy this morning.)

Terry said...

By the way, I linked to this study in my most recent post. I hope that was ok. I think its useful for believers to engage in dialogue with other believers who don't think as we do. It keeps us sharp and makes us think.

Tia Lynn said...

Yes Terry, you are playing nice! :) And I don’t mind you linking to me, although some of the people that comment on your blog scare me! Just kidding.

I completely agree that YES, we are still dealing with the consequences of the fall such as death, pain, sickness, etc. and will be dealing with those realities until Jesus comes back. No doubt about it. However, the difference seems to be the glorification factor. No one glorifies death or illness or aims to experience it, and if there’s a way out of it, we take it! We recognize it for what it is and it sucks. I also think there are inherent differences between death, illness, and pain still being in existence and how humans relate to God and each other. As I see it, Jesus’ death on the cross immediately restores human beings spiritually (which impacts human relationships), in that we now have direct access to God and are empowered to live a life free of spiritual bondage, as equal beings with each other. We regain our spiritual inheritance—which include the gifts of the spirit that are NOT given according to gender and we are ALL called to use them. Death, illness, pain are part of our environment. They are outside factors beyond our control and part of still existing in a fallen world. Those things are “redemption part 2” because they will be redeemed when Christ returns. But again, we avoid the realities of the fall when we can. We should seize every opportunity of redemption available to us, not just for the sake of women, but for the sake of all people. It’s freeing for both the sexes, which will be a topic in another post.

And again, “a husband will rule over his wife” is descriptive, not prescriptive. God did not delight in the curse, it’s the result of free will. Just because something will happen because of sin, doesn’t mean it should happen and that we should continue in it when it’s avoidable.

Determining the intent of God at creation for men and women IS a crucial point, because complementarians (for the most part) teach that men were created to “lead” and women to “help” right from the start. In reality both were created to lead and help. This is ONE part of the egalitarian viewpoint, not the whole of it, but it’s an excellent starting point.

And I promise, promise, as I progress through these posts, I will get the all the new Testament concerns. I am not about pitting scriptures against each other so I can pick the one I like best. I’m looking for affirmation throughout the entire bible. :)

Terry said...

Hey Tia Lynn, I just got your comment. I'd love to know what you thought of the birth control/QF post over at Amy's Humble Musings? I thought it was pretty good stuff. I'm sure you didn't agree with all of it, but it was a well balanced piece, no?

Julie said...

Through what Christ did on the cross he initiated the healing of relationships. There is of course still sin and brokenness in the world but to rejoice and promote brokenness instead of healing denies the tremendous work of Christ. Sure the world won't be ideal until Christ returns and all is redeemed in the New Creation, but that doesn't get us off the hook in the here and now. We are called to love, to serve, to heal, and to follow Jesus. He turned things upside down in how he treated women and other outcasts - even taking them on as his students, disciples, and patrons. Accepting his forgiveness, healing, and call to partner with him in redeeming creation has to include following his example in regards to women. (and sorry I went NT - but its hard to speak of the Fall without redemption!)

Tia Lynn said...

Thanks Julie! Well said.

Let me make a little clarification people. Please feel free to express your thoughts on these posts, even if it means referring to the New Testament, I never meant to inhibit this. I just meant, don�t throw in my face N.T. scripture as if I am unaware of it. Look at each post in context, what it�s trying to establish about the text in question, and debate me on that. Because I promise I will get to the N.T. :)

David said...

Hey Tia Lynn... or Tia... or TL...
Hey I'm a male egalitarian so I'll honor whatever you want to be called. ;-)

Anyhoo thanks for the heads up on your blog post. I've been devoid of blogging lately due to life getting in the way so I haven't been up on much of anything...

Let me make a few points but I'll try and keep them pithy.
First, there are male egalitarians out there. I know a few. Most are not of the evangelical persuasion I must confess. But it's not myth - we are real.

Second, if you are a woman that is a complimentarian please don't try and re-educate me because according to how you believe what you believe a woman should not teach a man. So I respect your position and by 'teaching' me, you compromise it. You can of course ask your husband to comment, but I'll admit now that I've been down that road and I don't want to go back.

Besides, my wife wouldn't let me! hahahaha.

Okay, so I'm being a bit of an ass, but it's all in good Christian love. ;-)

I agree completely with Tia's post here. In fact not much more needs to be added to that.

However to address some of the, "What about the NT?" comments, let me say a couple things...

First, the NT was used for centuries to justify slavery because Paul mentioned slavery without condoning it in the NT. Dare we use that same logic with the subjection of women? You would say it's different, but I ask you how?

Also, we must reconcile Paul's statements about the subjection of women to his other comments about how there there is no male or female, slave or free...etc but that we are all the same under Jesus. We also must examine Paul's life and mission where he commissioned women to start churches, and certainly validated Jesus respect and elevation of women; from the woman at the well to the women who were the first to see the resurrected Jesus.

We must also understand the nature of scripture. The word of God? Yes. But the writers we're addressing a specific culture at a specific time. Most notably Paul who addressed issues of culture in a specific time to a specific people in a specific culture about a specific situation. If we take the approach that complimentarians take, then we must also ask the questions, "Should women cover their heads? Should they speak at all? Are they only saved through childbirth and the washing by a righteous man?"

Complimentarians say they are following scripture, but they are following scripture to the extend they understand and agree to abide by it's specifics. I do the same thing as an egalitarian. I certainly respect those who hold to their convictions, but let's not pretend that one view is more scripturally accurate than another.

Lastly, I do understand that men and women are different. We have different abilities (generally speaking) and God has certainly created us differently even beyond the physical. But different does not mean unequal. In fact, all the more reason to promote equality because then we get a better picture of the completeness of God when we understand that we are both created in His image... equally.

Blessings!

musicmommy3 said...

David,

Haven't you heard?...Some of us are complimentarian in the home and egalitarian in the church. LOL

So, while I won't try to change your mind, because it's obvious you are as strong in your convictions as I am, I don't need my husband to "teach" you. I could do that fine myself. haha
Just teasing you back. :)


I will add this to the discussion...I remember when this was being debated over at my blog last year and someone wrote,"A good complimentarian marriage will look like an egalitarian marriage." I would agree with that statement.

In fact, while my husband and I were eating dinner last night I was sharing a bit about this study and even though he is a complimentarian he was a little confused at the difference btwn them. It was actually cute. When I was explaining what an egalitarian believes he was like, "but that's what we do. We make decisions together, and I don't treat you as less than me." I laughed and said, "Yes, but to be a true egalitarian you have to think of God as the leader and husbands/wives as completely on the same level authority wise."
He thought and said, "No, I think the man is the head of the home...but our marriage still looks like what they are talking about."

:):):)

Tia Lynn said...

Angela and David...you two should go on the road. You guys would have a funny act. :)

musicmommy3 said...

Tia,

I'd have to ask my husband first and David would have to make the decision together with his wife. :)

LOL

Makeesha said...

I just want to say that I am BAFFLED by the idea that you are patriarchalist in the home and egalitarian in the church. I really don't even know where to go with that. But as i always say, if it works for you I'm certainly not going to get you to mess with it.

oh, and I have such an amazing man - yay David!

musicmommy3 said...

It's really not that baffling. I don't think that both areas household/church body are treated the same way in Scripture. If anyone is interested I'd be happy to explain in detail in my own blog.
I will say that I don't approach it as "the way it will work best for me." I just think that in the way I see Scripture that male headship in the home is clear but that it is not so clear in the church. There is much more Scriptural support for women ministering alongside men in the church and using their gifts and talents for the Lord and not just helping the males.

Makeesha said...

oh I know WHY you believe the way you do, I just don't interpret those verses the same as you and it's an issue of hermeneutic consistency for me as well.

I think you misunderstand though if you think egalitarians don't believe in any form of "headship" - there's some good academic work on the subject on cbeinternational.org so I won't belabor the point here...cuz I really don't care- I've been where you are and have no interest in going back.

musicmommy3 said...

I never said you didn't.
Read my other comment in Where Do Women Belong". :)

Am I correct in thinking that you guys believe that Christ is the head of the marriage and that husband/wife are equal under Him?

Tia Lynn said...

Ok you two, quit getting ahead of me! We'll get there! hehe. :)

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