Father’s Day was a good day for me, as I recounted the blessing of my own father and the joys being one. It is good to hear one’s children express appreciation for the positive influence and image of fatherhood in their lives. They are a gracious bunch. By the grace of God, I have been what I was for them, but in retrospect I wish I had taken more time to listen, play, teach, and so on. Fatherhood is a huge responsibility executed best when one is secure in the love of God.
Fatherhood definitely has a distinctive sound to it. For me, the concept of fatherhood raises images and feelings of family protection, provision, and path-finding. It seems different than motherhood which conjures up feelings of nurture, nursing, and nesting. For some reason, I can’t get over the fact that there’s an important difference between these two roles. But lately, on so many levels, it seems these differences are somewhat confused. The lines of demarkation have grown fuzzy. Traditional ideas of fatherhood and motherhood are being challenged.
But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for me, are opportunities to re-examine our theology of gender — to look at what Scripture has to say about this important aspect of our lives. And for me, in examining the Bible, the traditional distinctions between men and women, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives are readily upheld. Since the fall of Genesis 3, abuses of these distinctions and roles are abundant. But if we go back to the creation account, before the occurrence of man’s moral fall, it is evident to me at least, that the distinctions between the two sexes are obvious.
In looking at the creation account of Genesis 2, I see a natural distinction between the two that goes way beyond the purpose of procreation. When God made them male and female, it seems to me, that he had a companionable purpose in mind that would be different than the social connection between two men (or two women, for that matter). In marriage, for example, the relationship is much more than merely sexual. This may seem a gross generalization, but it appears that the woman’s contribution to the relationship is intended to be somewhat softer than the man’s. This difference is generally reflected in their voices, skin texture, and physical stature. Women really are the fairer sex. But masculinity has its own sense of beauty. Even Jesus affirmed this essential difference, quoting from the first chapter of the Bible when He said, “in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). It is a difference of essence, not mere sexuality. One of the best illustrators of this difference that I have seen recently is demonstrated in the series by Mark Gungor called, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.
The second observation for me from the 2nd chapter of Genesis is that there appears to be a relational structural difference. By this I mean that they stand in a slightly modified position in relation to one another, the man having primary responsibility in the relationship. This is partly evident in the fact that Adam was created first (a fact noted in 1 Timothy 2:13) and was given direct responsibility by God to care for the Garden. In addition, Adam was also given a particular moral responsibility in that he was instructed not to eat of a particular tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on pain of death (prior to Eve’s creation)! At first, he was also given sole responsibility for the classification of the animals and birds that came to him in the Garden. And though sin came at first by way of the temptation of Eve which Paul refers to in 1 Timothy 2:14, generically speaking, Adam was responsible for the moral fall of the human race (as Paul points out in Romans 5:12). It is important to point out that this doesn’t mean he had more personal value than the woman, but simply that God chose for the man to have a certain position of more responsibility in the relationship. Just as on a football team, or baseball team, one person is the quarterback or the pitcher, others have their place of importance on the team too in order for it to function successfully.
And that raises a third difference between them evident in this 2nd chapter of Genesis, namely a functional difference. This idea is based on the reference to Eve being created as Adam’s helper, or complement, in order for them to procreate but also to care for the Garden and fulfill what God had planned for Adam when He created him. Through the fall of Adam into sin, this structural and functional relationship has definitely been distorted and Genesis 3 outlines some of the ways in which the man and woman became competitive in the relationship. Abuse ends up flowing both ways with all of its sad consequences.
But what was lost in the fall, was redeemed by Christ through His death and resurrection. That is why these differences established in creation are upheld in the New Testament. So we read of this structural and functional difference in marriage (i.e. Ephesians 5) and also in the church (i.e. 1 Timothy 2:11-15). The way in which this works in actual practice may reveal very subtle differences, but differences nevertheless. Obviously, women can serve in many ways very similar to men, but it seems to me that there is a distinction between men and women established both in God’s creation and redemption that we need to take seriously. And it is not insignificant that this has been the position of the church throughout its history. It is only recently, it seems, that popular culture has insisted on a confusion of roles that doesn’t appear to be biblical. What do you think?