I’m a science fiction dork. Half of my reading list this year is “space operas.” One hallmark of this genre is that they often include a merry band of space pirates who discover a new planet and send a drone down to observe the unsuspecting inhabitants. The inhabitants tend to be otherworldly, and the space pirates use what they observe about the creatures’ anatomy to learn how they live, what they do, and how much of a threat they pose. Gender
We can learn a lot about a thing’s purpose by observing it. If we use this process to examine the topic of gender and gender roles, what we find affirms the biblical account of the creation of men and women. God created men and women unique from one another so that they may partner together, taking dominion over the earth, filling it, and creating its culture—doing all of this ultimately for His glory (Gen. 2:15-25).
Unfortunately, if we look for a definition of what it means to be a man or a woman, what we will find is a cacophony of views. Even the Church is not united on this front. As believers, it is important that we go back to the Bible and look at what God says about gender. As the One who designed gender, He is also the One who knows for what they were designed. Here are some basic principles about how God designed men and women.
Men and women are created equal.
Scripture is clear that men and women are equal in value. To assign value to something is to determine how much someone would pay for the item. Men and women have the same inestimable value because the same perfect, infinitely valuable Person died to cover their sins. They were bought at the same price (Gal. 3:28).
Men and women have observable physical differences.
When we look at men and women, we observe many differences in their anatomy. Male and female are distinguishable at first by their genitalia, and, as they grow, the differences become more pronounced. With girls hitting puberty sooner, their bodies tend to be a bit smaller and curvier. Even the brain is physiologically different in males and females. Differences include how many neurons are in a specific area, the size or weight of different body features, and what parts of the brain light up under different stimuli (This article by psychologist Gregory Jantz addresses many of those differences). These differences fit with the Biblical idea that male and female bodies were created to work towards the same goal of filling, subduing, and making disciples while operating in different ways.
These observable, physical differences give us clues as to the different roles each gender is to fill.
Without getting into stereotypes or broad over-generalizations, we can still conclude some simple role descriptions from a cursory look at anatomy. John Mark Comer says in his book, Loveology, “My maleness is more than just anatomy. Men were made to implant life into women in ways that women will never be able to. And women were made to nurture children in ways that men will never be able to. That’s why you can’t separate gender from gender roles. They overlap too much.”
Men and women were created with a purpose they can only achieve when they work together and perform their functions.
The Bible is clear that men and women have been called to different functions (Gen. 2:15-20, 1 Corinthians 11:3). When we observe male and female anatomy, it’s inescapably clear that the male body was made for the female body and vice versa. The bodies were made to fit together, to complete one another, resulting in reproduction. But what about beyond that? When we look at how men and women operate psychologically, we see that men are often really good at completing one task or assignment, rather analytically, while women tend to be skilled at multitasking and balancing all the emotional content of a given situation. Together, they are a dynamic duo.
It is clear that men and women need each other if they are to accomplish the task God gave humanity to fill and subdue the earth, bringing glory to God in the process. Rebekah Merkle explains this in her book, Eve in Exile:
“What critical ingredient was Adam missing when he was first created? He needed a helper. By himself, Adam was incapable of doing his job, incapable of either filling the earth or subduing it. So, God created a helper suitable for the job. Woman was not an afterthought, or just someone for Adam to talk to, or someone who would make him sandwiches while he did all the filling and subduing of the earth. She was essential to the entire program. When God gave Eve to Adam, He was handing Adam an amplifier… Eve is fruitfulness.”
Gender complementarity extends beyond marriage.
Genesis 2:18 says, “it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Too often we think of Eve’s role as Adam’s “helper” as being fulfilled in her position as his wife. Certainly it is in marriage that the two genders find the most comprehensive setting for the interlocking design of the genders. However, while the cohesiveness of the genders finds its primary fulfillment in marriage, the complementarity of men and women is not limited to the relationship between husband and wife. Collectively, women are called upon to be “helpers” to men. Women are called to look upon men as their brothers and do whatever they can to encourage, support, come alongside, participate with, and serve them. Everything that man has been called to is best accomplished with the help, support, and partnership of woman.
Likewise, men are collectively called upon to defend and protect women and children, and to benefit and complement women with a degree of dignity, respect, and, when done well, safety and security.
Applications within the church
- Within the church, men and women do not need to be afraid of and avoid interacting with one another. In fact, consistent complementarianism would suggest that men and women work better together. Any task the church sets out to accomplish ought to have men and women working together, fulfilling their own unique callings, as a chorus of harmonious productivity.
- We must protect the sacredness of our complementarity. Men, love the women in your church as you would a dear sister; look out for her interests, respect God’s call on her life, ensure she has room to assist in the work being done in the church, and value her input as given to you for your corporate good from God. Women, learn the vision of the elders and find a place to partner with the men in your church and pour yourself out to amplify that work. Offer a woman’s perspective and input with humility and confidence, knowing that it is your job to provide help and support.
- Do not let Satan pervert this holy union. Find appropriate ways to protect your brothers and sisters in Christ. Maintain careful watchfulness over each other.
Editor's Note: This originally published at Thinking & Theology.