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Thinking and Living Biblically in a Gender-nuteral Society - The Big Picture

Series: Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jun 18, 2003

Genesis 1:26-27

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Thinking and Living Biblically in a Gender-neutral Society
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood series
First Presbyterian Church
Jackson, MS
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan


Genesis 1:26-27
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: The Big Picture

As you turn in your Bibles to Genesis 1, let me give you a brief overview of what we will attempt to do in this study of what the Bible says about manhood and womanhood. What are our roles considered as men and women, distinctly and differently, in this world? Especially, what are our roles in the home and in the church? Asking the question that way makes it clear that this is not just a married person's issue. This is an issue for us as men and women because it addresses the way we relate to one another, not only in the home, but also in the home.

Now there are some handouts that describe the activities of CBMW, [1] and for the sake of full disclosure, I need to go ahead and say that I am the chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is what CBMW stands for. There are a number of resources that will be available, one of which we hope to have next week, 50 Crucial Questions Regarding Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This is the most helpful short treatment of some of the questions that we're going to try to address this summer that I know of, produced by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. John Piper is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a very able New Testament scholar and author of many books, and recently spoke at the Reformed Theological Seminary Student Missions Conference; and Wayne Grudem, another gifted New Testament and Systematic Theologian, put together this pamphlet. What I like about it is that the questions are just the type of practical questions that we so often hear asked in the area of biblical manhood and womanhood, and the answers are short, most are a paragraph long, and they’re designed to be helpful to lay people, so they are free as much as possible from technical jargon. There will be a number of other books available in the Bookstore and Library now, such as Dennis Rainey's Building Strong Families, Biblical Womanhood in the Home by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who many will recognize as a member of the DeMoss family which founded the DeMoss Foundation that supports many pro-life activities. The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace is familiar to ladies who have used this in various studies.

There is a large volume, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem that is outstanding, and actually contains the chapter called “50 Crucial Questions on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” as well as other theoretical and practical information. For instance, one of the authors, George Rekers,[2] a Southern Baptist lay person, on the teaching faculty of the University of South Carolina medical school in the area of psychiatry, perhaps the major research psychiatrist on the issue of homosexuality, an evangelical and Reformed Christian, also has a theology degree, has an article on raising masculine boys and feminine girls. So this gives you some idea of the practicality of the book; it's not just theoretical. How do you do this in a society that actually encourages a blending of gender behavior? You might also be interested in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is produced twice a year and is very helpful in keeping you abreast of issues relating to this broad and important topic of what the Bible teaches about manhood and womanhood.

I. Introduction
Now, the view that I am going to be promoting over the course of this study if often called Complementarianism, as opposed to Egalatarianism. Egalatarianism teaches that men and women are equal, and there are no role distinctions proper to men and women in the home and in the church. There is no male headship and spiritual leadership in the home or church. Men and women exchange all functions equally and without distinction, apart from those biological barriers that are as yet insuperable for men to transcend in terms of role function.

Complementarianism, summarized simply means this: God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary. And that's why the word complementarianism is used, because they are different and complementary in functions. The differences between men and women are actually designed by God to help one another, to aid one another in areas in which we lack. So, God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and believing community, that is the church, being understood as part of God's created design. And what we're going to try over the course of this study is foster the biblical view of manhood and womanhood in the family and in the church.
The church has had for some number of years a Family Matters Committee, that looks at the structure of the church and asked questions like, “How can we make First Presbyterian Church programmatically more family friendly?” Or, “What are the ways that we could help encourage healthy families?” The church is always involved in trying to work in crisis situations and reacting to specific problems that families run into in the course of life, but what could we do to actively encourage strong and healthy families? In fact, this committee met recently and thought that it would be helpful to address this issue over the course of several weeks, so why don't we have a series on biblical manhood and womanhood? We are now beginning that study.

There are four reasons why this is very important. (1) It is never safe for Christians or the church to act unbiblically or to ignore the Bible's clear teaching. Since the Bible has a lot to say about male-female role relationships in church and family, we dare not neglect it. Especially today when the church is being tempted to compromise with cultural standards as opposed to obeying biblical norms. And that is precisely what is happening in the church today. God's word regarding manhood and womanhood in church and family is being ignored and undercut. At CBMW we aim not only to blow the whistle on this defection, but to advocate the Bible's teaching on this subject.

(2) When biblical manhood and womanhood is denied, altered or unpracticed, it results in disasters for families and marriages. Unbiblical husband-wife relations, for instance, can lead not only to marital failures but also to gender confusion in children and first-order societal problems. The research on this is, frankly, scary. Theology is practical, and when we ignore the Bible's theology it has very unpleasant practical results. The way a young man learns how a woman is to be treated is by watching the way his father treats his mother. The way a young woman learns how she is to be treated by a man is by watching her father relate to her mother. So the dynamics in relationships set into a child's mind for good, or for ill, and it's usually a little of both, their expectations for life. The more deviant that behavior is from biblical norm, the more severe the effect on children. Sometimes effects they never ever get away from. So it is vital for us to pay close attention to what the Bible says about how men and women are to relate. CBMW seeks to help Christians “connect the dots” between the biblical vision for manhood and womanhood and the experience of a healthy Christian marriage and family.

(3) The issue of the nature of manhood and womanhood is very much at the heart of the cultural transition we find ourselves in the midst of right now. Male-female role relationships, the definition of a family, and the homosexual rights movement are bellwether issues of our culture. These are symptoms of a foundational shift in our culture. Behind them is a worldview mega-shift from a Judeo-Christian (biblical) framework to an essentially religious-pagan (unbiblical) framework—in other words, the rejection of a transcendent Creator God.

Look behind every problem in our culture and you will find under it the rejection of the transcendent Creator God. The alteration we are seeing in the definition of the family, in the homosexual rights movement, in gender role confusion, behind that is the rejection of the transcendent Creator God. Within the homosexual rights movement, we've observed the fastest cultural shift ever to occur in the history of the world, in our lifetime. In the early 1970s, were you an executive in a Fortune 500 company and it was discovered that you were engaged in a homosexual lifestyle, you would have lost your job, immediately, without question. Today, were you an executive in a Fortune 500 company and were you to question a colleague because of his or her homosexual lifestyle; or were you, heaven forbid, to dismiss them because of a homosexual lifestyle, you would lose your job and your career with it. That change has taken place in thirty years. Homosexuality has gone from being looked upon as a perversion to being a preferable cultural norm. So, when we look at family issues in our culture, you’re seeing the major symptom of our culture's rejection of the transcendent Creator God.

This pagan framework is being actively imported into the church by many self-avowed Christian leaders, even evangelicals. And thus someone must speak out. This is what CBMW aims to do. Bruce Ware explains:

Today, . . . , the primary areas in which Christianity is pressured by the culture to conform are on issues of gender and sexuality. Post-moderns and ethical relativists care little about doctrinal truth claims; these seem to them innocuous, archaic, and irrelevant to life. What they do care about, and care with a vengeance, is whether their feminist agenda and sexual perversions are tolerated, endorsed and expanded in an increasing neo-pagan landscape. Because this is what they care most about, it is precisely here that Christianity is most vulnerable. To lose the battle here is to subject the Church to increasing layers of departure. And surely, it will not be long until ethical departures (the Church yielding to feminist pressures for women's ordination, for example) will yield even more central doctrinal departures (questioning whether Scripture's inherent patriarchy renders it fundamentally untrustworthy, for example). I find it instructive that when Paul warns about departures from the faith in the latter days, he lists first ethical compromises and the searing of the conscience as the prelude to a full-scale doctrinal apostasy (1 Tim 4:1-5).

4) Finally, the denial or twisting of the Bible's clear teaching on manhood and womanhood is one of the central ways biblical authority is being undermined in our times. This why Bruce Ware has said: “to the extent that compromise on issues of biblical manhood and womanhood occurs, the church establishes a pattern of following cultural pressures and urgings against the clear authority of God's written word. When this happens . . . the church becomes desensitized to Scripture's radical call and forms instead a taste for worldly accolades. To compromise on a little thing will pave the way for compromises on much that matters.” The Bible speaks very clearly to such issues as marriage being between one man and one woman, and not one woman and another woman. The Bible speaks very clearly about the perversion of non-monogamous, heterosexual sexual activity. The Bible speaks very clearly as to male-female role relationships in the home and church, and if you can get the Bible to say what it's not saying in those areas, you can get the Bible to say anything you want it to say. In short, if you can reverse the Bible's clear teaching on male-female role relationships in the home and church, you can get the Bible to say just about anything, and thus you turn it into a wax nose to fit the shape of your own personal preferences. So, for all those reasons, I think it behooves us to spend some time as a congregation in this, thinking about these crucial issues this summer.

Let me briefly touch on some of them. We will look at first at what God originally intended in creation, in Genesis 1, 2 and 3, and see the original creational design for male-female role relationships. Then, we’ll go to Galatians 3 and ask what happens in the restoration of redemption to male-female role relationships in this fallen world. What changes, what stays the same, what's like the creational relationship, and what's like the relationship established after the fall. We’ll look at I Corinthians 11 and ask the question, “How is Jesus the example of both the man and the woman in the marital relationship?” Did you realize that in I Corinthians 11, Paul's illustration has Jesus being the example for how the man is relate to both God and to his wife, and how the woman is to relate to God and her husband? Jesus serves as the example for both the male and female in the relationship. We’re going to look at the whole issue of spiritual leadership in the home and church, and why men are to have that spiritual leadership. We’re going to look at the “s” word, that's right, submission. We’re going to look at what that means and what it doesn't mean, and how that applies practically in our lives and experience. We will look at those controversial passages such as I Timothy 2 and 3, and I Corinthians 14 that speak of women being silent in the Church, and ask, “What in the world does that mean and why, how does that impact us, and why would God have commanded these things?”

Having looked at that, we will look at the issue of the significant ministry that God has given to women in the home and in the Church. One thing I love so much about Piper and Grudem's volume, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is that the very first chapter of this book starts out, not by asking what women can't do, but by listing all the things that they can do. That's one reason our women are so tired is because they can do all those things. Then, we’ll look at Ephesians 5 and Colossians 2, and the whole issue of how husbands and wives serve as pictures of Christ and His Church, and ask how manhood and womanhood should work in practice in the home and Church, and at the end, we’ll have a First Forum to deal with any of the sticky questions we haven't answered in the course of this study.

Now, if you would turn in your Bibles to Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Amen. This is God's word, let's pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for this time to meet together to study Your word. Enlighten our eyes, our hearts, by the truth of Your word. Mold our wills to conformity to Your word. Make our homes and our church to be in conformity to Your word, that we might experience the delights of God, bear witness to this world, and resist the evil tides of this age, we ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

In Genesis 1, we are told for the first time in the Bible, but not the last, that man, that is humanity, considered generically, man, both man and woman, human beings, are created in the image of God. And immediately that leads you to ask the question, “Well, what does it mean to be created in the image of God?” And there are actually four very important Old Testament passages that provide for us a specific answer to the question of what it means to be made in the image of God. They are Genesis 1:24-31, then Genesis 5:1-3, Genesis 9:1-8, and Psalm 8:1-9. Those passages help us to understand what it means to be made in the image of God. If we were to take the time tonight to study those passages closely, we would learn several things about the image of God. Let's look at them in order to get a framework of understanding as we begin to study biblical manhood and womanhood. What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

First of all, it means that man is distinct from the animal creation. Look at Genesis 1 again, especially verses 24-25, where five times the various creatures are said to be made after their kind. But when you look at verse 26, man is said, not to be made after his kind, but how? In Our image, according to Our likeness. And then look again at verse 27. “In His own,” that is in God's own image, “in the image of God He created him.”

What is Moses’ point? His point is that man is unique; it's not just that he is smarter than the animals. It's not that he's smarter than dolphins; it's not even that he can communicate better than the animals. Who knows whether we can communicate better than animals. Maybe some of you wives are wondering whether your husband can communicate better than animals. That is not the point. The point is that man is of a different genus than the other animals. He is different; he is made after the image of God. And that is the very first thing that we learn that it means to be made in the image of God. We are distinct from the animal creation.

Now, can I come back to my assertion about the doctrine of the Transcendent Creator? Why is the animal rights movement over-running us today? Because behind the animal rights movement is a denial of the doctrine of the transcendent Creator God. The idea is that God is in all the creation. He's in the trees, He's in the sky, He's in the animals; He's all part of us and therefore, we are all divine. What does that do? It blurs the distinction between humans and animals. Now, you will note that all eastern religion attempts to blur distinctions, especially the distinction between the transcendent Creator God and His creation. And by blurring that distinction the aim is to overthrow transcendent authority from the transcendent Creator God. This is happening in the realm of law and government, but also in the realm of family and theology and in every other branch, and it's behind the radical animal rights movement in our own day. So there's the first thing. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? We’re different from the animals; we are after the likeness of God. Secondly, it means that man is endowed with the capacity for and the responsibility of exercising authority over this creation–dominion and rule. Look at Genesis 1:28. What does God command Adam and Eve to do? To subdue the creation and to rule. Look at the declaration of verses 29 and 30. This is reiterated in Genesis 9:2&3, and it is also celebrated in Psalm 8:4-8. We are to rule over the creation as stewards.

I had the privilege of speaking at a colloquium at Millsaps College about two months ago on Eco-Spirituality. I was invited to be on the panel, and the panel was introduced as a very intelligent distinguished, diverse panel. And when it got to be my turn to speak I said, “Uh, I'm Ligon Duncan and I am the diversity on this panel.” Talk about Daniel in the Lion's Den, well, let me tell you, there we were. And during that discussion of Eco-Spirituality I suggested that the proper way to frame our responsibility to creation was as stewards; we are stewards of the creation and responsible to God. That's the basis of our ecological responsibility. The gentleman who runs the Eco-Spirituality Center strenuously objected to this. “How could we be so arrogant to think that we could steward anything?” Now, I did note that his job was supposedly to tell corporations how they were supposed to steward things, but at any rate, that's another issue. Stewardship is the picture there. If we're going to exercise authority, we're to do it as stewards. It's not that we're just doing things the way we want to do it; we're doing it in responsibility to the transcendent Creator God. So we don't mess up His stuff. We’re going to give an account to Him for His stuff, so we’d better be careful with His stuff. This is all His; He owns it all, and we're His stewards to rule it for Him in a right way.

Thirdly, what does it mean to be in the image of God? Not only to exercise dominion over the created order, but also to be image-bearers of God in His attributes. Man is made the bearer of certain attributes of God. For instance, as God is rational; so also is man. By that, I simply mean that God has intelligence and will and is able to form plans and execute them, and man also has been granted, by God, that capacity. He is endowed with knowledge and rationality and understanding. That scene, for instance, in Genesis 1:19 and 20, when Adam names the animals, and it's not just that the animals come up and Adam says, “OK, let's see, I'm going to call you Joe and I'm going to call you Ralph and I'm going to call you Bill.” It's not that kind of naming; it's that Adam is naming the animals a name which is suitable to their character. It is an exercise of intellect as well as of rule, and man has that king of intellect.

Secondly, as God is personal and relational; so also is man. Think about it. Within the Trinity, there is a triune relationship going on. The Father loving the Son, the Son loving the Spirit, the Spirit loving the Father. And in man, and in especially manifested in man as male and female, we reflect that relational and personal reality of God by relating to one another. And that is done in an especial way in the male/female role relationship.

Remember, Augustine makes that quip, “If God had intended marriage for companionship, He would have ordained that two men would have married one another.” OK? Very cynical. And you can see Augustine's own sexual past coming out in that. He had had a relationship of fornication with a young woman, a concubine of his, for many years, and he was totally washed-out on sex because of his own sin. You will see, by the way, preachers wanting everybody else to repent for their sins from time to time. And usually Augustine is right, but in that area, he was dead wrong. The Puritans, by the way, had a much healthier view of this. They said that God has ordained marriage for companionship. But when somebody says, “Yea, but women are really different from men, and men are really different from women.” The Puritans said, “Right! That's the whole point.” God has ordained that we would have relationship with people who are really different from us. And the very differentiation provides an opportunity to manifest the way the Father loves the Son. The Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Son, but they love one another and they relate to one another and their personal life is expressed in that relationship. And so, our maleness and femaleness as image-bearers is a reflection of that personal relationship in the triune God. And as God is moral, so also is man. God made man to reflect His moral likeness, and so we are made in the image of God in that way.

Fourthly, man's life is sacred because of the image and has to be treated so. That's why God tells Moses that those who take the life of man, by man shall their life be taken. Why? Because man is made in the image of God, and because we are image-bearers taking the life of man wrongly is an affront against the Creator God and devalues life and dehumanizes man.

And fifth, or finally, man is endowed with an immortal spiritual aspect to his being, the soul or spirit. We see this, for instance, in Genesis 2: 7. “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” And so, we see this aspect of man that is going to go on forever in personal self-conscious knowledge, thought, and action. God breathes into him the breath of life. So man is created for blessing, he's created for communion, he's created in the image of God, he's created for dominion, and he is the image of God in all these ways. That's what it means for man to be created in the image of God.

II. God created man in His own image and designed him as vice-regent over His creation.
Now look specifically at verses 26 and 27, because I want to close with two observations that relate to this issue of biblical manhood and womanhood about the image. When we say that God created man in His own image, we are affirming that God created man as man to be a ruler over His creation. And that means that both men and women, human beings, participate in that rule over His creation–both men and women participate in that rule over creation. Look at verse 26. “Let us make man in Our image according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And this verse reminds us that man was created in God's image and likeness and destined for dominion over the remainder of the creation.

Notice the contrast between the way the inanimate objects are created in Genesis 1 and the way that man is created. Look at Genesis 1: 3, 6, and 14. How does the creation on those various days begin? “Let there be…. Let there be…. Let there be….” You see God speaking this impersonal something into being on those days. Now listen to how man is created in Genesis 1:26. From “Let there be….Let there be….” Now in Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man.” You see, even the personality of God working to bring this personal being into existence is reflected in the language. And there is both a static and a dynamic element to our image of God; both a personal and a vocational aspect of the image of God. We are in the image of God, and we must reflect the image of God in our actions. So there's a combination of being and doing in being the image of God. You do the image of God, and you are the image of God as a human being.

But all of those created in the image of God, all human beings exercise that dominion, so there's authority manifested in the lives of all human beings.

III. God established certain blessings and obligations for man at the very outset of His relationship with man.
Secondly, however, look at verse 27. God established certain blessings and obligations for man at the very outset of His relationship with man and in Genesis 1:27, He indicates that there is a fundamental, creational, divine differentiation in the human genus. Listen to what He says. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female, He created them.” So that this differentiation is essential to our being able to reflect the relational aspect of God's Trinitarian nature. This differentiation is entirely good.

Notice that this differentiation between male and female is not the result of the fall. It is something that God intended from the beginning. That's why we're calling this whole series, “Vive le difference.” It's a good thing that men and women are different and we need to celebrate that because there are very few people in our culture that celebrate that. Usually, you are apologizing for that in our culture. But it's meant to be celebrated. Thank God, literally, thank God that He has made men and women different. It is entirely good. It ought to be celebrated.

Notice again that paganism and feminism attempt to blur that distinction. Paganism not only says, “There is no distinction between the transcendent creator and the creation; the creator is in the creation.” So also, paganism says, “There is no difference between male and female, and there is no difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality; it's all one and the quicker we stop having those distinctions the better world we will have.” Paganism of all sorts makes that argument and notice that when it does so, it is striking against a fundamental distinction and differentiation that the transcendent Creator God wove into the very fabric of creation and hence, when it is denied, everything else breaks down. Nothing works right when those distinctions are denied. The male/female differentiation and distinction is essential to human image-bearing.

Let me tell you something very interesting that Peter Jones taught me. If you look at pagan religions, what you will often see is that the priest in pagan religions is a homosexual. And there is a reason behind that because pagan religions try to do what? Blur the creator/creature distinction in order to blur all other distinctions in order to press home this truth. What's the great truth of paganism? All is one; truth and error, right and wrong are illusions. All is one. What's the whole point of the yen and yang of the eastern religions? All is one. Differentiation and distinction is illusion.

What is enlightenment for the unbeliever? True enlightenment is getting beyond good and evil and recognizing that all is one. And so it makes perfect sense, doesn't it, that the pagan priest would be one in whom both of the sexes are expressed. The priest may be a hermaphrodite, or he may be a homosexual or something else, but he generally combines those aspects of sexuality. And it is designed to break down this basic differentiation and distinction that God has woven into creation. There is relating to the other, you see, within the godhead, and if there is to be relating to other in humanity, then there must be real distinctions in humanity and the fundamental distinction that God has woven into humanity is maleness and femaleness. But this also facilitates our reflecting both rule and submission in our human relationships. To have a fundamental distinction in the human family facilitates our showing what rule and submission should look like in the human experience. It's not that women manifest submission and men manifest rule. The way that God has set it up is for every human being to manifest both rule and submission, but just in different ways.

So, the story of the Bible is not, “So women, here's what you need to learn–submit. OK, next page. And men, what you need to learn is “rule.” OK, next page. That is not the story of the Bible. Man and woman both need to learn what it means to rule and to submit and when to do it and how to do it, and it is in those latter two categories where the hard issues come. But the fundamental picture for the human family is that every human being has to know what it is to exercise dominion and to show proper submission. Now, in what relations do you do that? In what functions do you do that? That's why we're spending ten weeks on that this summer; it's hard especially in a culture which is sending you mixed signals. But the fundamental picture is drawn for us right here in Genesis 1-3, and that's where we're going to come to next time we are together.

Thanks for being here tonight. We’ll have more chairs next time. Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this opportunity to meet together, to consider this vitally important issue; make this time profitable to us. Not just interesting, but profitable, in such a way that it would change the way we relate to one another in the home, that it would make our church relations healthier, that it would make us more energetic and happy and content in Your service; that it would bring You glory and honor and be a witness to the world. We want all these things and more to come about because we know that when You enable Your people to be faithful to Your Word, blessing always results. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

1. CBMW. http://cbmw.org/index.htm
2. The Final Faculty Evaluation. George A. Rekers, Ph.D. http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri0004/rekers.html

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the web page. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
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© First Presbyterian Church.

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.