Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Eve: The Help Meet

"Until Eve arrived, this was a man's world." -- Richard Armour

Eve has been a controversial figure throughout history. Theologians have argued for centuries over why God created her, what purpose she was to serve, if she was innately inferior, and as of late, if she possesses a what I like to call, "conditional equality," meaning Eve (and therefore all womankind) is equal in worth, but limited in ministry, leadership, and authority.

The basis for "conditional equality" (when referring to Adam and Eve) is the belief that the purpose of Eve's creation was solely for Adam's benefit--solely to be of service to him because God declares Eve will be a help to Adam or his "help meet."

Since the bible calls Eve a "help meet," it has been assumed that she was created as a subservient being to man and for the sole purpose of aiding his will, ambitions, and desires. In Genesis, Eve is called ezer, a Hebrew word, and while some versions translate this word as "help meet" or "helper," other versions translate ezer as "partner" or "companion" because in English, "helper" usually connotates subservience or a subordinate role. However, the Hebrew word ezer carries no such connotation. Ezer implies deep intimacy and partnership. Ezer is formed from two root words, one meaning "strength" and the other "power." Ironically, the same word ezer is used to describe God 17 times in the Old Testament including: Duet. 33:7, 26, 29; Psalm 33:20, 70:5, 115:9-11 and 146:5. In the New Testament, the same word is used to describe the Holy Spirit (John 14-16). We would never assume that because God is called our "helper" that He is "under us," subjugated to us, exists solely for us or that "helper" is His only role. The same is to be true of Eve.

J. Lee Grady, an ordained minister, author, and leader of The Mordecai Project, articulated this concept well:

"The fact that Eve was presented to Adam to help him does make her inferior. One the contrary, God had already said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone," acknowledging that Adam was in an inferior condition without a mate. In the ideal marriage, a wife is a help to her husband and he is a help to her in return. Their need for each other and their deep sense of mutual dependence are what make marriage so satisfying...Marriage is not about who is in control or who serves whom. It is about becoming one."

In my last post: Adam and Eve: The First Egalitarians? I demonstrated how Adam and Eve were called by God to rule and subdue the earth together without a gender hierarchy. Adam's first words upon seeing Eve further confirm, not only her equal worth, but her equal capability to live out their shared-calling, to commune with God and to fill, subdue, and rule the earth.

"The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him..." But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."--. Genesis 2:18-24

Adam immediately recognizes his perfect match, whose likeness (different than sameness) allows him to experience intimacy on all levels. She, too, is made in the image of God, fully capable of carrying out the calling God gives to both of them in Genesis 1:26-28. Why would Adam rejoice about being untied as one flesh (which has massive implications) with someone who existed solely to aid him and was less qualified spiritually, mentally, and physically? Doesn't it make more sense to be united with someone with whom you share mutual dependence, intimacy, and capability; as partners who mutually enhance each other's individuality, calling, and full potential? Both "lead" and both "help." These concepts are not mutually exclusive.

For many, Eve's identity is solely wrapped up in her relationship to Adam. And while she was indeed created to complement Adam, Adam also complements her. More importantly, both Adam and Eve were ultimately created to commune with God. This is a crucial biblical truth because it ties Adam's and Eve's identities to their Creator, independent of each other. This does not negate Eve's calling to Adam, but broadens her calling to embrace and live out the highest of all commandments, the commandments upon which Jesus declared, "hang all of the Law and Prophets." Adam and Eve were created and called to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and love each other as they loved themselves. Think of Adam's words: "Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, ..." He would love Eve as his own body or self, which has a myriad of implications that will be discussed in another post.

The First Couple mirrored Jesus' greatest commandments, which all believers find their complete identity and purpose in. This is not to say that Adam and Eve didn't need each other. On the contrary, this truth enhances their need for each other. Their unique connections and communions with God are what makes them beneficial to each other and allows them to impart godly wisdom and insight to each other. This enables them to become one mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is precisely this equally shared-capacity that makes men and women perfectly complementary to each other.

For further analysis on this topic, Allison Young from Christians For Biblical Equality put together this informative article, briefly walking through the creation story and it's implications.

Next Post: Deborah: A Fundamentalist's Worst Nightmare


Terry said...

I personally, have no argument with you on who Eve was and where she stood in relation to Adam before the fall, so I'll let the rest of the commenters have at this one. Believe it or not, Tia Lynn, we agree!

Christy Fritz said...

our pastor spoke of biblical femininity along time ago, introduced the word meaning of "ezer" as you have here. it helped our family alot to realize that my strengths were God-given and infact intended for use within my marriage. this was helpful as some of my strengths didn't always mesh with what i thought the traditional or correct wifely helpmeet roles were. it really cleared up some of the fog in my head, and gave good perspective. he also spoke on the feminine aspects of God in that series. i didn't hear the first one, but i think i'll go back and listen to all of them, as you've sparked my interest in this topic once again with this study.
as always,thanks for your thoughtful posts.

catrina said...

I would say that I am in agreement with this post, maybe eguals have a misconception that complimens think that women are inferior or that we aren't equal in God's eyes. I don't know if you have any readers that are that rigid, but I know they exist. I think that there are extremes from both sides. Also to address David's comment from below about slavery. There is a huge difference. Jesus or Paul didn't come and abolish slavery, they taught us how to live if we were slaves, which was doing our work as to the lord, rejoicing and praying without ceasing. As sad as it is there is still slavery and injustices in vast parts of the world, and yet God still asks those believers to live their lives to glorify him. Freedom is more of a spiritual concept than physical and since it is still a fallen world God gives us ways to live in freedom and peace. Paul shows us an excellent example when he was in prison. Of course slavery is not love in its very nature, but to compare that arguement to the marriage relationship and roles within the marriage seems odd to me. Titus admonishes older women to teach younger women to be keepers of their homes, and obedient to their own husbands so that the word of God is not blashemed. I find it funny how some people preceive what my life must be like. Once again a little snippet on a blog is not enough to have a good conversation or really see into people hearts.

Tia Lynn said...

Catrina, you bring up an excellent point, not the slavery thing, I would argue with you on that some other time! :)

You are totally right that most complementarians would never dare believe women to be inferior. I would never want to make that claim because it is an unfair representation of most complementarian people who are good-hearted, faithful, and loving. My old church, Calvary Chapel, is definitely complementarian, but I would consider them to be more moderate (they're a great church BTW). Our church, who let’s women get up and speak during worship, is also very moderate complementarian for the most part. As Angela said, there are even people who are complementarian in marriage and egalitarian in church service. So everyone within complementarianism or egalitarianism does not march in lockstep on every issue and there are extremes. Good point Catrina.

But the reason for this post, establishing Eve’s identity apart from Adam, is because a lot of what the church has been ingrained with about what women can and cannot do comes from the exact belief that women ARE inferior. Even though most NOW don’t believe the inferiority part, they hold on to the implications of that teaching that went on for CENTURIES, which were based on inferiority, not scripture alone. For instance, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Origen, and other early church fathers, as well as the protestant reformation leaders, ALL taught women’s inferiority (on the basis of Eve) to keep women from full ministry within the church and home, not this “equal but different” nice-sounding ideology the church adheres to now. So within that context, scripture being interpreted through the lens of female inferiority, Eve’s true identity, purpose, and capability must be established to unravel the complementarian position, even though AGAIN, most complementarians (except rigid fundamentalists, sectors of the Baptist denomination, etc.) do not consciously believe women to be inferior and as Angela said, even function as egalitarians.

Peter said...

It’s good that you are taking on this series. I’m looking forward to the studies on the New Testament. If we have the same view (wink, wink), I’m sure they will be outstanding.

I agree that bringing attention to Eve’s original design is imperative to such a study as this. Many believe how the church operates is “purely” scriptural, but are oblivious to how Church history influences (sometimes contaminates) our understanding of scripture. We denounce the belief of female inferiority, but embrace the consequences of it.

BTW, nice picture of Eve at the top. Nothing like some strategically placed hair and fruit, huh?

catrina said...

Tia, Yes and that is why I honestly believe that Jesus was one of the first feminist so to speak. He came and shattered a lot of old traditions and taboos. He exalted women back into the position that he created them to be in the first place. I guess I then believe that he established guidelines for what marriage, home, church, business looks like, and therein lies the discrepancies between e's and c's. I could argue that Gods original intent was for us to be naked, but I believe that is contrary to what all the latter scriptures say about modesty and nakedness. Clothing is a consequence of the fall, but I don't believe that I should challenge that based on original intent. Do you see where I am coming from on this? It is almost the same thing that you are doing with Eve. Am I missing something or is that a valid point? BTW, thank God for clothes, huh!

Tia Lynn said...

Yes Catrina, Thank God of clothes! :)

And I agree with you that Adam and Eve’s original intent is not enough to silence the rest of the bible. I don’t see Adam and Eve’s original position as standing in opposition to New Testament scripture in the least though.

I see them affirming each other, which we’ll get to during the N.T. segments of the series, promise.

Again, the difference between Adam and Eve being naked in the garden and women exercising godly authority in the home, marriage, and church is what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished. Jesus’ death on the cross did not negate the fact that we are living with corruptible, lustful bodies, thus clothing is still a good idea. Jesus’ death on the cross DID however, restore both men and women spiritually (just like Adam and Eve prior to the fall) and empowered all His people to be filled with the Holy Spirit and called them to use their gifts and exercise godly authority (which is different from worldly authority).

Again, these ideas will all be addressed in other posts. I don’t feel I can do them justice in the comment section. But, yes, your point is valid that one story in the bible does not “over-rule” the rest. Lucky for you, egalitarians don’t believe that either. :)

tilly hester said...

I am floored by your depth of study, and you’ve only at Genesis! Looking forward to the rest of this series. Good discussion so far too. Although, what’s with some of the complementarians immediate accusation of “ignoring scripture” when you haven’t even presented the entire case yet? People are so afraid of any idea that might prove their own wrong.

Marissa said...

well tilly hester...allow me to introduce myself. My name is Marissa and I am Tia's complementarian best friend. I am one of the people that said something about "ignoring scripture". actually my exact words were "ignoring a whole lot of scripture". and i wasnt referring to Tia's series that she is presenting. I was saying in general I believe many verses are ignored. I am not new to this whole complementarian/egalitarian debate. I know the Bible and I have heard all the arguments people present for why we should or should not submit to our husbands or be pastors in Church.I am not afraid AT ALL that I will be proved wrong. I know in my heart what I believe and I am extremely unwavering in that. Call me closed-minded or whatever but I know what the Lord has called me to, in my life and my marriage and I can say with 100% confidence that I am following what He has commanded.

tilly hester said...

Hello Marissa. I am sorry. I did not mean to offend you or imply that you are uninformed about your beliefs. I actually wasn’t talking about you, but Paul who left a couple comments. His tone wore on my nerves. He struck me as a person attacking egalitarians, instead of just expressing his views with respect. My apologies.

But if I may, when you make the statement that egalitarians “ignore a whole lot of scripture,” it comes across as belittling or discrediting the sincerity and intelligence of egalitarians. Plus, it’s inaccurate. As a long time egalitarian myself, I believe in scripture and its authority. I am well acquainted with every verse about male/female “roles.” We have a different understanding of what those verses mean. You are free to disagree with egalitarians passionately and voice why you oppose our interpretations, but to say we ignore scripture is plain untrue. I am familiar with the complementarian understanding of those particular verses and respect their conviction. I disagree, but do not accuse them of disregarding scripture. And I do not know of any egalitarians that want to do away with wives submitting to their husband. We believe in mutual submission, which means both spouses submit, not “no” submission.

From the conversations I have had with Tia Lynn, it would seem to be that she is an egalitarian (correct me, if I’m wrongly assigning this title to you, Tia Lynn), surely you don’t think your best friend ignores scripture. So, give us the same courtesy.

I would just like to witness a frank discussion on this topic, without each side dismissing the other and nobody listening to any voice beside their own. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s at least be fair to each other even when we disagree.

Marissa said...

i just wrote this huge comment and then accidentally erased it. I will try to type it again tomorrow

Tia Lynn said...

Wow Tilly, way to put me on the spot! :) Yes, over the last year I have come to identify with egalitarianism, which is why I felt I needed to put this series together. I was one of those people that had never heard the egalitarian perspective FROM EGALITARIANS, I had only heard criticisms of them from the opposing views.

I assure you that Marissa did not mean any disrespect. We are from New Jersey and are naturally blunt, strong-opinionated gals. We’ve actually become more subdued in our “old age,” if you can believe it! She’s my BFF (hehe) and one the greatest people I know. She’s never treated me with an ounce of disrespect when we disagree. I understand it’s hard when you feel your beliefs are misrepresented. But that’s why I am doing this, to at least give the best representation I can, so each side can better understand each other. :)
Peace <><

musicmommy3 said...

"I would just like to witness a frank discussion on this topic, without each side dismissing the other and nobody listening to any voice beside their own. "


BTW, A lot of us who comment on this blog, who are complimentarian, are friends with Tia IRL. Most of us are also very blunt or passionate or both. :)

Paul is probably a die hard fundamentalist. His comments always lean that way. Apparently he is like us, blunt and not afraid to say what he thinks.

I'm hoping that BOTH sides (commenters here not Tia-I'm SURE she'll do this) back things up with their interpretation of Scripture. That way it will be obvious that we just interpret Scripture differently, not ignore it. :)

I'm really enjoying this so far Tia. Love ya!- Ang :)