Divine Sexism

Some people distrust God because they believe he sanctions sexism and authorizes the subjugation of women.

These assertions are untrue. God is not sexist. He does not favor men over women. He never condones the mistreatment of women by anyone.

Women and men are equal in God’s eyes. He endowed them with the same dignity at creation. He grants them equal access to the same salvation and blessings.

The inequality that women have endured throughout history is a consequence of original sin, a manifestation of the evil that infects the world.

Composite Image

God created humankind in his image. His reflection is manifest in the aggregate personhood of women and men.

Only this composite displays his complete image. Males or females alone portray a partial likeness. An imperfect analogy illustrates this mutuality.

Think of God as an artist who painted his self-portrait on a two-piece jigsaw puzzle.

The puzzle pieces have different shapes but equal surface areas. Each veneer depicts a complementary portion of the artist’s likeness.

The two pieces are unique, but they share common elements. Each displays an equal measure of the artist’s skill. Each merits the same level of admiration.

Neither puzzle piece is superior to the other. Neither is servile to the other. Neither transcends the other in importance.

The artist values both pieces equally because each is essential to the self-portrait. His image is incomplete until they are conjoined.

God values every facet of his character uniformly. If he favored men over women, he would demean the aspects of himself that women most embody.

God is not self-loathing.

God’s Intent

We do not know why God created the world, but we know he wanted humankind to pick up where he left off in the creation process.

After commanding the universe to exist and filling the earth with plant and animal life, God formed Adam and Eve and delegated his dominion over creation to them.

He intended for them to recognize the order, discover the science, harness the resources, and find inspiration in the majesty he had designed into the world.

He planned for them to capitalize on this knowledge, to be enlightened by his ingenuity, and to use their imaginations to produce their own handiwork.

He also wanted them to build a blissful community of offspring who would be likewise inspired by the grandeur of the world and the creativity of those born before them.

God intended for Adam and Eve to naturally fulfill this twofold mandate as they pursued their individual and mutual interests.

So, he allocated between them the attributes, aptitudes, and affections that aligned their passions, preferences, and proficiencies with his goals.

God designed Adam and Eve to delight in each other as they fulfilled his mandate. He meant for their relationship to be continuously satisfying on every level.

So, what happened?

Evil Emerged

Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit. Their defiance opened the door for evil to damage the world.

The ensuing chaos corrupted every aspect of their personal lives, as well as their habitat. Their natures became inherently selfish and sinful.

These degradations severed their spiritual bond with God and destroyed the soulful unity they initially shared.

Instead of flourishing organically without effort, these relationships would now require constant nurturing but hereafter produce only intermittent satisfaction.

Mandate Impediments

Original sin changed Adam and Eve but did not alter their twofold mandate.

God still wanted them to produce their own handiwork and populate the earth, although the results would now be imperfect.

He informed Adam and Eve that fulfilling this mandate would be more complex and less satisfying due to the consequences of sin.

Eve would yearn for a soulful connection with Adam, but he would largely determine the intimacy level of their relationship. Childbirth would be painful for her.

The diminished fertility of the earth would require Adam to toil for subsistence, but his efforts would produce spotty results.

As the apostle Paul explained, their now selfish nature would often prompt Adam and Eve to elevate their desires above the other person’s needs.

Their differences, previously accepted without judgment, would become grounds for criticism and prejudice.

They would be naturally inclined to believe moral untruths and make wrong choices accordingly. Indeed, this duality had already materialized.

Advent Of Sexism

The first moral untruth Adam and Eve believed was that their lives would be better if they determined right and wrong for themselves, apart from God’s standard.

Their misplaced confidence in this moral untruth prompted them to eat the forbidden fruit.

The second moral untruth Adam and Eve believed—at least Adam did—was that the two of them were unequal by God’s design.

Adam articulated this fallacy when God confronted him about his disobedience. He began his defense by saying, “The woman you put here with me.”

The implication was that Adam sinned because God had forced him to share his habitat with someone morally inferior.

Adam’s comment was the first expression of sexism in world history.

Theological Distortions

Today men use variations of Adam’s defense to justify their prejudices against women. Or they misconstrue the words of the apostles—Peter and Paul, specifically—or the example of Jesus for the same purpose.

These misguided men are misinterpreting Scripture. God would not make women equal to men and then inspire Jesus and the Bible authors to sanction their subjugation.

Here are some of the theological distortions men use to rationalize their misogyny.

God created Adam before Eve, so men outrank women in his hierarchy.

Creation order does not determine rank. God created sea creatures before he formed Adam. Fish do not have power and dominion over men.

God created Eve to be a helper for Adam, so she was subordinate to him.

The original text in Genesis 2 that translates into the word “helper” is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe God’s role in the lives of reborn believers.

God is not subordinate to us. Eve was not subordinate to Adam.

Eve ate the forbidden fruit before Adam because women are gullible.

Adam was more culpable for original sin than Eve because he had more knowledge. God confronted him before he spoke to her.

Adam was the garden manager. He knew the location of the tree. He learned about the penalty for eating its fruit before Eve existed.

Adam was aware of God’s excellence through his communion with him and his study of nature. He knew God was sovereign over them.

Despite this knowledge, however, Adam did nothing as he listened to Eve discuss the merits of eating the forbidden fruit with Satan. He failed to protect her from evil.

After they ate the forbidden fruit, God said Adam would rule over Eve, so men should control women.

In Genesis 3, God never empowered Adam to limit Eve’s autonomy. Instead, he said their relationship would be discordant due to their sinfulness.

God told Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” He did not say, “You will want to make your own decisions, and he will rule over you.”

God originally designed Adam and Eve with a mutual desire for a deep heartfelt connection with each other. However, original sin altered the uniformity of this dynamic.

God told Eve that the intimacy of her relationship with Adam would now be subject to his desire for the same level of affection, which would not always match hers.

In their letters, Peter and Paul said wives should submit to their husbands, so men should dominate women.

Peter and Paul never authorized a master-servant patriarchy in marriage. Instead, they prescribed a lover-beloved symbiosis based on mutual respect.

They instructed husbands to love their wives out of respect for them. They told wives to respect their husbands out of love for them.

Undergirding this mutual respect is the understanding that women and men are inherently equal by God’s design and declaration.

Peter describes women as weaker vessels, so men are superior to them.

The original text in 1 Peter that translates into the phrase “weaker vessel” pertains to the cultural impotence of women, not their inferiority or incapability.

Women were marginalized in New Testament times. They were considered property. They had little influence. Peter told husbands to follow the example set by Jesus.

He instructed them to honor their wives by respecting their personhood and encouraging them to develop and utilize their capabilities.

Women are supposed to be subservient to men because Peter told them to follow the example of Sarah, who referred to Abraham as lord.

The original text that translates into the word “lord” is used elsewhere in the Bible to express respect, not subservience. Today we use the words “sir” and “madam.”

Sarah was not secondary to Abraham. She was an equal participant in God’s covenant. He changed both of their names. And he affirmed her influence in their relationship.

At one point, Sarah confronted Abraham about an issue he was reluctant to address. God agreed with her and told Abraham to take her advice.

Paul instructed women on how to behave in church services because they must be put in their place.

Paul was not anti-woman. He valued the female ministers in the early church. He said they could teach and prophesy. He praised them by name in his letters.

Paul nullified a Corinthian church rule against women speaking out and asking questions during worship services.

He said that men and women could participate in church services. His concern was for the worship experience to be orderly and proper.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul did not prohibit all women from being church leaders. Instead, he disqualified only domineering women, just as he banned angry men. Both traits evidence spiritual immaturity.

Paul assigned worship roles to men to ensure their active participation in church, not to denigrate women. Adam failed Eve through his passivity. Paul did not want men likewise to fail the church.

Paul told women to cover their hair and dress in accordance with cultural norms to preserve church decorum and minimize outside criticism, not to suppress them.

Paul never confined women to domestic roles. In several letters, he praised a woman named Priscilla, who helped run the family business.

Only males should lead the church because Jesus chose twelve men as his first disciples.

Jesus commissioned these apostles to go out and publicly deliver a controversial message to patriarchal societies in which women were marginalized. They relied on the goodwill of their listeners for food, clothing, and shelter.

These itinerant evangelists suffered persecution and deprivation despite their elevated social status as men. All except John were executed for proclaiming the Gospel.

Had Jesus assigned the same mission to his female disciples, they would have faced unrelenting danger in that hostile environment.

Instead, he worked within the constraints of this sin-damaged world to advance the Gospel. He protected his female followers in the process.

After his ascension to heaven, women occupied leadership positions in several New Testament churches. They founded the Phillipian church.

Old Testament Stories

Sexism was one of the earliest manifestations of evil after Adam and Eve sinned. It appeared long before the first recorded murder.

The Old Testament documents the debasement and mistreatment of women that followed the advent of sexism, including the misdeeds of its heroes.

God did not include these descriptions in Scripture to excuse or endorse these offenses. Instead, he wanted to underscore the depravity of evil in its guise of sexism.

Divine Absolute

Women’s equality is not a malleable human construct subject to the transient determinations of each society.

It is a moral truth, a divine absolute that is uniformly ascribed by God to every woman in every culture, as evidenced by the fourth commandment.

Moral truths emanate from God’s character. He is immutable. He never changes. Neither do his moral truths.

Reborn believers should, therefore, espouse, exemplify, and defend the equality of all women in all walks of life, inside and outside the home.

God’s Ideal

Women most embody half of the attributes, aptitudes, and affections God deemed necessary to build prosperous societies.

To the extent societies uphold women’s equality, they benefit from their passions, preferences, and proficiencies. As a result, they begin to approach God’s ideal.

To the extent societies codify women’s inequality, they deprive themselves of their contributions. As a result, they fall far short of God’s standard.

Similarly, spiritually reborn men who welcome the righteous influences of women are more likely to attain the level of godliness that God desires for them.

Those who ignore or suppress these influences are virtually assured of not achieving the same level of godliness due to their pride.

Sexism Remedy

Jesus prescribed the remedy for sexism. He said spiritually reborn men should love God profoundly and treat all women as they would want to be treated.

Abiding by these precepts is essential to walking in harmony with God. Disregarding them evidences either mindless ignorance, selfish indifference, or willful defiance.