Gender Theology

Tim Isbell, December 2017

The #MeToo movement got me thinking triggered me to develop this webpage. Writing it increased my understanding of the current culture in light of Christian faith, and now helps me better engage with the women and men in my life. Perhaps it will help you, too.

The webpage addresses gender theology from three biblical viewpoints: 

  1. the Genesis story,
  2. Jesus in the gospels, 
  3. and the early church as described in the Acts and epistles. 

It's longer than most of my articles, running to 8 printed pages. The best way to print it out is to go all the way to the bottom of this webpage and look closely down in the blue-green footer. There you'll see a Print function. Click on it. 

The Genesis account

Genesis 1 uses plural pronouns to describe the creator, "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the whole world. So, God made them, male and female.'" Christians came to understand this as one god in three persons who work interdependently: Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit. So God is intrinsically social, and being made in the image of God means that humans are also intrinsically social. 

Further, the passage tells men and women to fill the earth and work together, collaboratively and not hierarchically, in its governance.

Genesis 2 retells the creation story and adds some detail. God and humans were to live in a covenant partnership where humans remained responsible to their creator. The covenant had a condition: that human freedom did not extend to deciding the nature of good and evil - that belonged to God alone. God marked this condition with one restriction: They were not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they did, they would die.

Chapters 1 and 2, taken together, establish two essential things about humans:

  1. Both men and women are created for accountable dominion, meaning that we are to jointly reign over the world while always remembering that it's God's world - not ours. We are the caretakers
  2. Both men and women are created for holy sociability, meaning that we are to live in honest and transparent relationships with God and with each other.

Genesis 3 describes the couple's Fall into sin. The serpent convinced Eve to question God's goodness. It told her that eating the forbidden fruit would open her eyes to good and evil and then she could rule just like God. She didn't value her relationships with God or Adam enough to consult with either of them. Instead, she took the fruit and ate it. Because she broke the covenant, God laid this burden on Eve, "I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain, you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.

We're not sure whether Adam heard Eve's conversation with the serpent. Regardless, when she offered the fruit to Adam, he didn't say, "Wait a minute, let's talk to God about this first." The Bible simply says Adam took it and ate it. Adam didn't break the covenant because he wanted dominion; Adam's sin was letting his relationship with Eve supersede his relationship with God. So God laid this burden on Adam, "Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

This third chapter teaches that Eve broke God's first rule; she violated the "accountable" part of accountable dominion. Adam broke God's second rule; he violated the "holy" part of holy sociability. God's response to each fit the sin of each. Before they could eat of another tree in the garden, the Tree of Life, God expelled them to live the rest of their lives in a more hostile place.

The remaining 926 chapters in the Old Testament describe the downward spiral of sin, only somewhat limited by the Laws that God provided as the beginnings of his redemption strategy. In Genesis 12, God invited Abram and Sarai to follow him. God stuck with them and their descendants through the good and bad. Occasionally we find something to lift up women and some hints of a redemption strategy somewhere in the future. But most of the Old Testament describes the dominance of males, and women treated as their property. Fortunately, thousands of years later something special happens through Jesus and in the initiation of the new community at Pentecost. That story is contained in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. 


Jesus in the gospels

As we look especially at how Jesus related to women, we'll begin to see Jesus introducing a New Covenant Theology of Gender - one that is "informed" more by the first two chapters of Genesis than the rest of the Old Testament. Let's consider three aspects of Jesus' ministry:

  • Jesus' teaching strategy
  • Jesus called individuals to himself, individual women and men
  • Jesus' inner-ring included women

Jesus' teaching

Jesus preached to large groups, responded to questions as teachable moments, and taught individuals who wanted to learn. Unlike other first century teachers, Jesus was remarkably willing to engage with women. One indication of this is his use of balanced gender illustrations.

For instance: Luke 8 includes two parables. The first, designed for men, tells about a farmer who scattered seed on three kinds of soil. The second, intended for women, is set within a home. In this one he notes that nobody would light a lamp and put it under the bed, they'd put it on a lampstand where everyone who enters the house will see it. Both parables speak to different aspects of sharing the gospel with others; the first aimed at men and the second at women.

Other examples of Jesus using balanced metaphors: 

Luke 4.23-27. To make the point that a prophet is not accepted in his hometown, Jesus reminded listeners of two Old Testament stories. In the first, he told of a famine in Israel when many Jewish widows were short on food, but God sent his prophet to “a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon” rather than to a widow in Israel. In the second, Jesus reminded listeners of a time when many lepers suffered in Israel, but God only healed Naaman, the Syrian military general. Listeners would have remembered that this story started when an Israelite servant girl in Syria told her mistress that a prophet in Israel could heal her husband's leprosy.

Luke 11.5-9 and Luke 18.1-8.  Jesus used two stories to teach the importance of persistence in prayer. In the first, at midnight a man knocked on his neighbor's door and asked for three loaves of bread. After substantial pestering, his neighbor opened the door and provided the bread. The second story told of a persistent widow who pestered a judge until he delivered a favorable ruling. This second story also carried a subtle message for both the women and men listeners; it called women to exercise accountable dominion and urged men to provide justice for women.

Luke 15.1-10. In the first parable, a shepherd lost a sheep. In the second parable, a woman lost a coin. They both went looking and find the lost items. 

Matt 24:39-42. Jesus told listeners that when he returns “two men will be working together in the field - one will be taken, and the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

Mat 13:31-33. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a man plants in the field, and like the yeast that a woman uses to make bread.

Matt 24:44 - 25:1-13. Jesus told two stories about being ready for Jesus’ return. In the first, the master put a servant in charge who must remain conscientious of his duties lest the master return and find him unfaithful. In the second, ten virgins were invited to a wedding. Five were wise and came prepared with oil for their lamps; the other five came unprepared, without oil. So they had to run back to get oil. The wise five enjoyed the wedding; the other five missed the wedding. 

The gospel writers make it crystal clear: Jesus' went out of his way to teach both women and men. This made Jesus an outlier among the teachers and preachers of his day. Even now, in vast parts of our world, a Jesus-follower who uses gender balanced teaching is an outlier.

Jesus' called individuals 

Jesus called individual women and men, independent of their fathers or husbands, to full discipleship.

Consider this challenging passage: Luke 8.19-21Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to see you.” Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” (See also Matt 12.46-50 for another telling of this story.)

It's clear from earlier in Luke 8 that Jesus is talking to a gathering of both men and women. Then his mother and brothers show up and try to take him away. Jesus' response is forthright. Essentially he says that following God takes precedence over family. Think about that. The women in that place and time were the property of their fathers, or if they were married, of their husbands. Jesus is turning the culture upside down. The fathers and husbands may have missed the full implication of Jesus' words, but the women and girls didn't. In the early church, there were many martyrs, people who chose to die for their faith. History says many of them were celibate women who chose to follow Jesus rather than be owned by their father or become the property of a husband. From this instance in Luke's gospel, and other instances in the gospels, women heard that they were called as individuals to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. And many did.

Even today there are huge populations where women still live as property. In some of these same places, evil men cruelly dominate other men. When the seed of the gospel enters such darkness, it is only a matter of time until the oppressed begin to realize that their Creator offers them a direct relationship. God could, but won't, force them into servitude. Instead, God invites them to follow Jesus. As some respond, and the Gospel seeds begin to sprout in lives, not only do individual lives change but so do cultures. In the transition, many suffer for their faith in Jesus. Some even died. Fortunately, there is good news in the resurrection.

I understand that the previous paragraph sounds ominous for many places in our world. And I applaud and support attempts at secular, diplomatic solutions. But I have much more confidence in the Gospel of Jesus than any other alternatives. 

Before we get too comfortable in the "freedom" we have in western democracies, we need to realize that the sin within us is as strong as an external oppressor. Becoming our own master is no solution because sin contaminates us from within. The gospel offers the only freedom available. God will not impose himself on us, yet he offers salvation from all oppressors, external and internal, and freedom to live as his person. Salvation is ours by choosing to follow Jesus, the Christ, as Lord.

With the above in mind, here are some other gospel passages where we see Jesus calling women and men into full discipleship.

Luke 2.25-35 and 36-38. In the first passage, Luke recounts the prophecy of the old man named Simeon about the baby Jesus. And in the second, Luke tells the prophecy of the old woman named Anna. Not only did God affirm and speak through these two people, by the time Luke wrote his gospel he was enlightened enough to include both stories.

Luke 7:36-50. Jesus is at a dinner party at Simon the Leper’s house. Typically, women did not eat with the men, especially when guests were present. Instead, the women were expected to serve and work in the kitchen. Also, Jewish men were not to speak to a woman in public, not even their wives. And Jewish women were never to have their hair loose in society; this was considered promiscuous and grounds for divorce.

But a woman enters the dinner, interacts with Jesus, loosens her hair and uses it to wash Jesus feet with perfume. Jesus never resisted nor rebuked her.

When the host tried to “correct” Jesus, he told a parable that affirmed the woman.

Lk 10:38-42. In this passage, Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary, where Lazarus also lived. Martha was doing a typical woman’s role: serving. But her sister, Mary, took the traditional male position and sat at the feet of Jesus (the rabbi) as if she were a male disciple. Martha complained. But Jesus affirmed Mary’s position as the better choice. Mostly, Jesus was encouraging Mary, and other women around, to exercise their accountable dominion.

Mark 10.1-12. Some male religious leaders came to Jesus to trap him with a question about divorce. In those days, only a man could trigger a divorce, and for the flimsiest of reasons. Once divorced, a woman's options were limited. Jesus responded that God intended marriage as a place where the husband and wife unite into one, and for a lifetime. When the leaders persisted, Jesus replied, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery." Jesus' suggestion that if the husband has a right to divorce, the women should have that same right sounded preposterous to the male leaders.

John 4.1-42 is the Samaritan woman story. She was a woman that a Jewish teacher would avoid because she was a woman from a wrong culture group. Beyond that, commentators say she was either a victim of the divorce system or worse. And yet, Jesus initiated a conversation with her that dove into her intimate life. Then he turns it into a teachable moment where he reveals himself as the Messiah and allows her to witness him to the town.

John 8.1-11 tells the story of when religious leaders brought an adulterous woman to Jesus for judgment, but without the unfaithful man. The leaders challenged Jesus to follow the law and sentence her to stoning. As the leaders pressed Jesus for a decision, he knelt down and began writing in the sand. After a while, he stood up and said, "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone." And the leaders backed off. Some commentators suggest that Jesus may have been writing the sins of her accusers in the sand for them to see. Finally, Jesus asks the woman, "Where are your accusers? Go and sin no more."

The religious leaders were apparently more interested in the law than in the woman. Jesus was more interested in the woman than the law. 

Matt 22.23-30. In this story, some religious leaders ask Jesus a hypothetical question about the resurrection: If a woman is sequentially married to seven brothers, which brother gets the woman in heaven? If we had any doubt that women were considered property, this passage makes clear the answer! Jesus answers, "When the dead rise there will be no marriage." In other words, "You men won't own any women in heaven." 

Jesus' inner-ring women

The four gospels report more about Jesus' male disciples than women disciples. But the gospels also provide enough passages for us to know that Jesus' inner-ring included several women - most notably Mary Magdelene. Given how Jesus' teaching treated women as equal learners alongside the men, and how Jesus' behavior recognized women's value equally alongside the men, it is not surprising that many women followed Jesus. Indeed, Jesus ministry was the key element lifting women from the category of property to fully functional followers of Jesus. So it's not surprising to see women included in Jesus' inner ring.  

For instance, consider Luke 8:1-3: Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

In all four Gospels, women are first to the tomb and the first to see the risen Christ. Jesus commissioned these women to proclaim the resurrection news to the disciples, despite the low status of women in the first century, where they were not permitted to serve as legal witnesses in the Jewish courts. "He has risen!", the central tenant of Christian faith was given to women to communicate to the rest of Jesus' followers.

Mk 15:40-49 & Matt 27:55-62 describe the women at the cross. 

Matt 28:1-8, Lk 24:1-12, Jn 20:1-10. Stories of the female witnesses to the empty tomb. 

The First Century Church

In my earlier comments on Genesis 3, I hinted that something special occurs at "Pentecost." And in the intro to my comments on Jesus and the gospels, I mentioned how Jesus began to introduce a New Covenant Gender Theology. We've reached this part of God's story. 

Acts 1-2 describes Jesus' last instructions before he ascended into heaven. He told his followers to remain together in Jerusalem for "the baptism of the Holy Spirit... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

So men and women waited together in Jerusalem, and waited, and waited. Finally, 50 days after Jesus' crucifixion, the Holy Spirit came and filled all those women and men, launching the new community with the assignment to carry the good news of Jesus "to the ends of the earth." That launch is called Pentecost (because of the 50 days). 

One key element of life in the new community was a new Gender Theology. For the first time since Genesis 2, there was a community where both women and men were free to live in accountable dominion and holy sociability. This has always been the call on the Christian church, though the church has lost its way in this Gender Theology area many times. Still, the New Covenant Community is designed to live out the sort of Gender Theology described in this webpage.

After Pentecost, Acts continues by describing the early growth of the church in Jerusalem, under the leadership of the Apostle Peter. The story extends into the Gentile world, primarily through the missionary work of the Apostle Paul. In addition to the Acts narrative of the church's growth, the New Testament includes many letters to churches and individuals, many written by Paul.

So let's browse through the Acts narrative and then dive into some of the letters. 

Browsing Acts

Acts 1.14. Notice that both women and men were in the upper room. Just that was very unusual. Further, notice that God gave the Holy Spirit indiscriminately to everyone, women and men, at Pentecost. That also is extraordinary.

Acts 5.1-11 describes a married couple who followed of Jesus: Ananias and Sapphira. They sold some property, and the husband took some of the money and gave it to the church, claiming that it was the total purchase price. Somehow Peter knew this was only part of the purchase price, which would surely have been fine if Ananias had been honest in his declaration. Peter confronted Ananias in his lie. Immediately, Ananias fell dead on the floor.

Three hours later his wife, Sapphira, came to Peter looking for her husband. Rather than treat her as an extension of her husband, the Lord (and Peter) addressed her independent of her relationship with Ananias. Peter asked, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes, that was the price,” she replied. Then she dropped dead, too.

Notice this: Peter treated the woman as an individual. He didn’t immediately declare her guilty just because she was married to a lying husband. Peter sought to see if she would exert her own accountable dominion, or whether she’d let her relationship with her husband supersede her relationship with the Lord. Given the culture, where a wife was her husband’s property, Peter’s strategy was extraordinary - undoubtedly the result of a prompt from the Holy Spirit and the imprinting of watching Jesus interact with women in the gospels. So in this one story, both God and the early church treated a wife separate from her husband.

Acts 16.11-15, the story of Lydia. Paul wandered around modern-day Turkey hoping to find a way to go and preach in Asia. But somehow the Holy Spirit prevented him and his team. Then, in a dream, the Spirit sent Paul to the city of Philippi. 

There was no Jewish synagogue in Philippi, so Paul went to the riverbank where he thought people might be meeting for prayer. There he found a group of women, including Lydia, who was a representative for a manufacturer of purple cloth. Paul began telling them about Jesus, and Lydia became a follower. As it turns out, Lydia was from Thyatira, a city in Asia! Could it be God intended the good news of Jesus to get to Thyatira via this woman instead of via Paul? Most likely, yes. Such a strategy has God’s fingerprint all over it.

Acts 17.4,12. While the gospel attracts under-resourced and subordinate people groups, even upper-class women recognized the liberating promise of the Gospel, and many became Christians.

Acts 18.24-28. Here’s a story of a Christian married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, partnering to teach a man named Apollos about Jesus.

Acts 21.7-9. Notice that there were four young women prophets in the early Christian church at Tyre. They were daughters of Philip, the evangelist.

Romans 16 is Paul’s salutation for this letter, written from Corinth to the Christians he knew in Rome. The chapter lists about 20 partners in the Gospel and over half of them are women.

So Acts offers a balanced view of women in the early church. And we see the church treating women as full players in the Christian community as well as in spreading the good news of Jesus. So the treatment of women in the early church is an extension of the respect for women we see in the gospels. 

Normative teachings

We read passages in Acts about Peter and Paul endorsing women in leadership roles within the emerging church. So in this section, I'll pull out some passages that I think capture Peter's and Paul's top-level thinking on the theology of men and women. 

Peter's role in the early church was primarily as the pastor and leader of the Jews who converted to Christian faith. Most of his ministry was in and near Jerusalem. What we know of Peter's activity and thinking in the early church comes from Acts, and maybe 1 and 2 Peter.

Acts 2.14-41 is a lengthy retelling of Peter's inaugural sermon, the sermon that launched the Christian church. He preached it to an international crowd who spoke a wide variety of languages. They were mostly of Jewish ethnicity, having traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. Peter and the followers of Jesus had just emerged from the Pentecost experience where they received the Holy Spirit. In the sermon, Peter tells the crowd, "God, says, 'In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants - men and women alike - and they will prophesy.'"

Paul's role in the early church was primarily as the missionary to and leader of Gentile Christians all around the Mediterranean Sea.

In Galatians 3.26-29, Paul writes to the people in Galatia, a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians: "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you." At the center of Paul's understanding of the new community is the "leveling of the playing floor" to accommodate all kinds of people: Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female. This is what's "new" about the new community launched at Pentecost.

Also consider Paul’s teaching beginning with Ephesians 5.21, "... submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." This, also, was a message to Christians. The rest of the chapter applies this concept of mutual submission to Christian husbands and Christian wives, Christian fathers and their children, and Christian masters and Christian slaves. Keep in mind that Paul's letter went to a church for reading in a public service where there would be very few if any, unbelievers. And those were undoubtedly investigating Christian faith.

In Ephesians 5.22-23 Paul told wives to submit to their husbands in the same way they submit to the Lord. And Paul instructed husbands to give up themselves for the good of their wife in the same way that Christ gave up himself for the good of the church. Notice in this passage that Paul first addressed the wives and then the husbands, an unusual occurrence. A teacher would not even have the wives in the same room, and even if they were, the teacher would not address the subordinate wife. So just the facts of their presence, and that Paul addressed them first, elevates the wive's position in the setting. (In pre-marriage counseling I’m cautious with this passage. If both the groom and the bride are serious Christians, this is good practice for their marriage. But if (especially) the husband is not, I sidestep it unless they (or the Holy Spirit) bring it up.)

Next, Paul addressed children before addressing their fathers, again elevating the traditionally subordinate party. And Paul's message to the fathers was not to exasperate his children.

Finally, Paul followed the same template in addressing the slaves before the masters.

While unusual in the secular world, a call to submission was universal throughout the New Testament. It's a big part of the message of the cross. Read Philippians 2:5-11. Then, and now, mutual submission is the foundation of Christians community.

I believe that the above excerpts from Peter and Paul capture the normative beliefs about gender in the early church. They come from the two most influential leaders and address both the Jewish and Gentile audiences. And they square with the gender theology message in the gospels. 

Problematic scriptures

Unfortunately, the epistles also contain some troublesome passages. Here's my best thinking on them.

Consider Peter’s writing in 1 Peter 3.1-2, 7. Peter advises wives to be submissive to husbands as a way of helping husbands become Christians. So it's obvious that Peter is writing to Christian wives who are married to unbelieving husbands. This passage also implies that many wives became Christians before their husbands. History confirms this.

Verse 1 begins, “In the same way…” which means in the way described in the immediately preceding scripture (1 Peter 2.13-25). That passage is Peter’s advice for how Christians were to deal with the secular authorities. Peter told Christians to respect those in power, including kings, heads of state, and officials they appoint. Then Peter gave similar advice to Christian slaves, telling them to accept the authority of their masters respectfully. Essentially, Peter told Christians that for the good of the fledgling church and despite their freedom in Christ, they were to live as much as possible under the authority of the unbelievers above them. The implication was to trust God for eventual justice, if not in this world then in the next. As an example, Peter reminded the believers that this is also what Jesus taught and practiced.

Then at the start of chapter 3, Peter turned his attention to Christian wives saying, “In the same way, you women must accept the authority of your husbands.” Peter certainly did not mean husbands were right to dominate their wives, or that men were right to dominate women. His advice was strategic for the time and circumstance of the church.

Consider Paul’s writing in his first letter to Timothy. Paul usually was a champion of salvation by faith. But in 1 Timothy 2.11-15 Paul told women that the work of childbearing saved them. Also in this passage, Paul prohibited women from some leadership roles in the church. If this were all we knew of Paul’s teaching, Christianity would be radically different. Some commentators suggest this advice was appropriate for the 1st century, but not intended for today - possible. I suspect Paul was addressing a specific situation he knew Timothy faced. As such, I do not take this as a universal teaching.

Next, consider Paul’s letter to Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, it appears that Paul wrote that women should be silent in the church, and if they had a question, they should ask their husbands. But three chapters earlier, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul gave guidelines for women to prophesy in the church. So something seems grossly wrong about this prohibition on women speaking in the church.

In the NRSV, this passage begins with this unusual phrase, "As in all the churches of the saints..." The same passage advocates for following the Law. Neither of these fit Paul's style; both fit the style of the Judiasers whom Paul frequently criticizes. Most likely, this prohibitive passage was a later insertion into Paul's text by some Judaisers. (For more on this, see Gilbert Belezikian's Beyond Sex Roles, Chapter 5.) Because this passage is so contrary to life in the Christian churches of the first century, and even to the content of the rest of this letter to the Corinthians, I don't consider this passage normative.

For a short time after moving to California, Robin and I attended a church where this passage was normative. Our conclusion: the passage is too inconsistent with the rest of the New Testament and Paul's teaching. So we left that church soon thereafter.

Final thoughts

As authentic Christians, our primary identity does not flow from our family of origin, nor from our spouse, nor does it even require a spouse. And neither does our identity come from our tribe or from our "self." Instead, our identity flows from our adoption into God's family, where Jesus is our elder brother, the one whose sacrifice made possible our adoption. Here, we do life with countless adopted brothers and sisters under the nurturing care of the Holy Spirit. For now, our home is the Church. This is the New Covenant that God hinted at centuries earlier.

A New Covenant Gender Theology, as described in this webpage, is a key part of God's new community. Since Pentecost and right up to today, the Holy Spirit uses a series of redemptive loops to enable women and men both to live in accountable dominion and holy sociability with God and each other. When Christians get this right, the people around them notice something different - and oddly attractive. So people ask the reason for the hope they see in us and the Spirit helps us respond with gentleness and respect. The result? God's New Covenant family grows. 

Authentic Christian living is a challenge to both women and men. In every culture, the Gospel is both good news and a threat to the status quo. In some places and times, Christian living is dangerous. Fortunately, we have God's promise of the resurrection.

While writing this webpage, I imagined a 14-year-old girl reading it in Syria, Bangladesh, Sudan, or another dark place where males treat her as property. To her, the Christian Gospel must sound extraordinary and wonderful, and too good to be true. She's certain to spot the personal danger, should she follow this gospel. And she's sure to see how it threatens her family and others in power over her. 

Life was similar for females in the first century. Even so, many risked their lives to follow Jesus. They courageously endured hardships, sometimes martyrdom. And they trusted what was beyond knowing. Through their lives, the seed of the Gospel sprouted. Over time, the culture benefitted. 

Of course, the Gospel also invites males into lives of accountable dominion and holy sociability. I'm confident that God wants Christian men to treat women like Jesus did in the gospels. That is, to encourage women to live in accountable dominion and holy sociability, to treat them as full persons created in God's image, and to accept them as full partners in the inner-rings of life. 

Today, many western democracies (unknowingly) benefit from the fruit of the Gospel that still grows from seeds planted centuries ago. Still, we all inherit the inclination to repeat the sins of Genesis 3, and we all succumb to the temptation to serve as our own master. Just like all humans since Adam and Eve, we need a savior from outside ourselves. His name is Jesus. He's still available.

The #MeToo movement is a helpful step that I wish could turn the tide on gender sin. But I don't have hope that any set of human actions are nearly enough. What I do hope for is that Christian churches, those new covenant communities truly led by the Holy Spirit, will get their gender theology straight and start living it out. God will welcome this and it will lead to more cultural change than any human strategies.



Resources and notes:

  • Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Gender and Grace. For a sample regarding Genesis material, see chapter 2: Act 1 and Act 2 )
  • Donald M. and Robbie B. Joy, Whatever Happened to Eden?
  • Gilbert Belezikian, Beyond Sex Roles
  • CBE International, an organization teaches the equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28.
  • My notes from four Gender Theology Sermons
This webpage is my response to the #MeToo movement, so it focuses on the issues of the traditional sexes. While the theologies regarding LGBTQ and God Our Mother are important, they are beyond the scope of this webpage - and (currently, at least) beyond my ability to address.   
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