Sermon Decoding – Part 4

So when, what are the principles that come out from and for those relationships? 2nd Principle – God made men and women equal –  “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” (vs 11); Paul is drawing here on Genesis, the first couple of chapters of the Bible to talk about what did God mean to do when he created men and women, when he made everything? And in this verse he does something very interesting because he also includes this phrase: “in the Lord” which is a little signpost that he’s talking about not just creation but also new creation – how we relate now as new Christians, and it’s like the tip of an iceberg, and it’s just the tip of it and underneath is all this really huge iceberg, an important theological point that says what God intended from the beginning in creation is in line with in harmony with what God is doing now in salvation and in the new creation. And so God intended men and women from the very beginning to depend on each other to share and to be equal together and that’s exactly what sin distorts and undermines and corrupts and that’s what God is restoring in salvation and in the church. So how do we know that interdependence was on God’s heart from the beginning? “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27.) This is a huge verse because it defines what it is to be human. To be human is to image God, to show what God is like, to represent God. And we see here by the use of male and female that it’s making it clear that male and female together are equally blessed, equally God’s image, equally having dominion and responsibility to take care and cultivate the Earth. and the wording here means that’s not an incidental feature, to be male and female is actually crucial for this. We can’t image God without gender. There is no neuter, neutral place to be, it’s maleness and femaleness together that show what God is like. That we’re equal in being and yet different in the shape of our being. And again recognizing that God the Father and God the Son that’s their relationship.

Here’s the point where I really wanted to ask: “What gender is God?” Since humanity is the image of God, we seem to have a clear picture of the maleness of God’s image through Adam, and eventually Jesus, the ‘second Adam’. Eve doesn’t have a feminine counterpart, a ‘second Eve’ who serves as the image or reflection of God’s femaleness. If male and female are so crucial to fully image God, then why is there no feminine counterpart which serves of an example of that which the female images? The divine feminine is a concept that can be seen in the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, Egyptians also believed in gods and goddesses, various Mesopotamian societies also bowed to gods and goddesses – these gods and goddesses were often shared between cultures, they might be slightly changed, a different name here, a different consort there, a different attribute or story elsewhere – but it seems to be a common element that every male god was complemented by a female goddesses. Christianity’s divine masculine is obvious, but it’s divine feminine is a question mark. If men and women are together a complete image of God, then the image of God that we have is incomplete as God’s masculinity is imaged far more clearly than God’s femininity. It brings up a question about the interdependence of male and female if God doesn’t seem to depend on his (her?) own femaleness to any meaningful extent, why should men depend on their women to any extent either? Look at how the church is organized – the leadership is overwhelmingly masculine, for every male leader, there is no female counterpart. Men don’t depend on women, there’s no interdependence there. Even in some churches, some responsibilities that tend to fall on women – teaching children, are sometimes viewed as the men’s responsibility particularly when it comes to teaching baptized boys. The signposts are constantly shifting, changing, as to what men and women can do, what male and female can do and cannot do in churches. It’s as if there are doors that women can’t walk through – levels where women can’t climb – and there on out the men go it alone and it is not good.

And so these verses, both in Genesis and in 1 Cor. 11 that talk about our equality and our interdependence well they also at the same time point us to our third principle. Which is this: God made men and women different. God matters most. God makes us equal but he also makes us different and there’s an interesting hint to this truth, simply we think about the body. And in the Christian faith, the body matters a lot. How we are created physically is a part of who we are.

‘Difference’ might not be a sound argument either. After all, the same idea was used to explain why segregation, Apartheid, racism, etc. was valid. God made races different, God made tongues different, God makes us different from them. This difference must be an important Biblical truth. So we should maintain this difference, through laws designed to oppress them to keep us in power, through teachings designed to promote our interests and demote their interests. In one episode of Star Trek: The Original Series called Plato’s Stepchildren, Kirk says: “Alexander, where I come from, size, shape, or color makes no difference.” In Christianity, male and female makes a difference. You’ll see in the rest of the sermon: Male = servant-leader and Female = strong helper. Not once does he use servant-leader of women or strong helper of men. You’ll also notice that he’s consistently using ‘man/male’ ‘woman/female’ and not ‘husband’ ‘wife’ in this talk. If he were to use husband/wife, then any men and women who aren’t married know that this is yet another sermon that doesn’t really apply to them. But by choosing to say “man/woman” “male/female” he can make it apply to everyone. Sure, that creates a problem with the idea that men (in general) are the head over women (in general), but aside from that, it conveys what he needs it to – basically in the Lord there is a hierarchy where certain men have authority over certain women. In the Lord, men are pastors and preachers and deacons and teachers and elders. In the Lord, women are care-givers and nursery-workers, kitchen-keepers and church-cleaners. The interdependence there is that the men are leaders who depend on women not leading, and women are not leaders who depend on the men leading them.

Other religions would say that the body is a shell, it is indifferent and what really counts is the soul. That’s not the Christian view. The Christian view is that precisely you can’t separate soul from body, body from soul, that’s why Resurrection, Easter is so important. Because God is doing something to heal and to save the body.

Do spirits or souls have gender? In this line of thought, there’s a deep link between the body and the spiritual self. Whatever makes a body masculine or feminine is connected to us in our spirits. To that end, some might say that God designed male spirits and male souls to put into male bodies and female spirits and female souls to put into female bodies. The implication of this verse really carries on into eternity, as if the subordinate of women to men continues just as the Son is subordinate to the Father because in heaven, once we’re resurrected we will have bodies. Bodies have gender. Man is the head of woman. And since he doesn’t say that “there will be no marriage in heaven” and that “we will be like the angels” he leaves people with that conclusion – that once we are bodily resurrected in heaven, it will make no difference in the role of men and women. That is, males will still have eternal headship and females will still have eternal submission to look forward to when they’re bodily resurrected in Heaven.

And so Tim Keller raises an interesting question, he says: “Are the differences between the male and the female body, are those significant not just physically but also relation-ally? And emotionally? And even spiritually?”

Again, suggesting that there is a spiritual difference between men and women just serves to solidify the gender distinction and allow for it to be viewed as an impassible barrier. Whatever anyone is born as is what they were long before God made their body, God made men and women as male or female in eternity past long before the first day of creation, God made men and women as male or female before they were conceived or knitted together, before they were born, before they matured, and before they died. In heaven (or more probably hell), they will be male or female. I think they thought this up to counter anything inconvenient, like people who aren’t simply male or female but both or neither. It’s also to explain away transgender identity.

Paul draws on Genesis 2:18, The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”. And if you’re reading through Genesis, Genesis 1 is about this big overarching picture of creation and the refrain is that it’s good, God says that it is good … God says that it is very good. And you come to Genesis 2 and it kind of telescopes into the creation of humanity and suddenly you get it’s not good. And it’s not good precisely because of what God just said right before this – verse 15 – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

I see people say this all the time, Genesis 1 is the big picture, Genesis 2-3 is zoomed into a specific part of it. The problem with that is that necessarily takes events out of sequence, Genesis 1 animals are made before mankind is, Genesis 2, man is made, then the animals, then the woman. That really messes up the time-table obviously. Jews who realized the problem with this scenario explained it away with the myth of Adam’s first wife, Lilith. She was made as his equal in every way, made at the same time from the same ground and refused to be submissive so she ran away. God made Eve as his second wife, ensuring that she would be submissive by making her from his side. Read through Esther and pay attention to the parallel – Vashti refused to be submissive and the advisors were worried that other women would not be submissive, so she was executed so that she could be replaced with someone who would be submissive. What did Esther do? Everything Hegai told her to do. Between that and her beauty, she won the contest easily. But what is the rest of the story about? Her submission? Or her lack thereof? Look- the ancient world had a vested interest in this idea that it’s necessary for women to submit. The ancient world had a vested interest in this idea that it’s necessary for people to be slaves. We’re not the ancient world. We did away with slavery. But we’re going to keep the idea that women must submit?

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