Should The Curse Just Keep On Cursin?

No. It shouldn’t.

I’m reading a new book by Old Testament theologian David T. Lamb called “God Behaving Badly — Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist, and Racist?” In it, the Oxford-educated Lamb examines the O.T. texts that make Yahweh seem, on first read and apart from context, like a petulant, vindictive, jealous God who delights in the smite — the kind of God who makes it easy to set up the all-too-common “Angry God Of The Old Testament” vs. “Loving God Of The New Testament” dichotomy, a theological schizophrenia embraced just as often, I think, by Christians as by those outside of the Church. I’m eager to get through it, because I stumble at times in my own worship when I consider some of the “problem texts” Lamb talks about, and I haven’t always grasped them in a way that helps with my talking with non-believers.

But one thing hit me immediately: Unlike so many conservative Christian authors, theologians, pastors and statesmen these days, Lamb uses “sexist” in the title with a rock-solid presumption that the reader, like the author, sees it as a bad thing — a bad thing just as clearly as “angry” and “racist” would be both in describing God and as a defining ethos or characteristic of human beings. In a Christian culture not defined and influenced by masculinists, patriarchs, misogynists and complementarians, that would, in fact, be presumed. But as a culture full of binge drinkers would soften or, worse, make acceptable behaviors like “drunkenness,” or a Church full of thieves would blunt the ugliness of words like “theft” and “larceny,” the male-dominated, male supremacist history and strength of Christiandom has made even reasonable, righteous people question whether or not it’s virtuous or vile to be “sexist,” and I have to admit that its inclusion in the title as an obvious “bad thing” was ultimately why I bought it.

So, here’s Lamb’s take on the “curse verses” of Genesis 3 that so many take to be prescriptive, timeless, and binding in their effect on the equality of women:

“The negative consequences of the curse are not meant to be accepted. God himself acted to overcome them . . . Just as God resists the consequences, we also attempt to diminish their effects. We reduce pain at childbirth. We make it easier to harvest crops. We work to reconcile men and women and to eliminate sexism. With God’s help, we are not willing to live in the reality of Genesis 3 (men ruling over women), but we strive to get back to Genesis 1 and 2 (male and females as God-like helpers for each other), and we look forward to a time when, because of our unity in Christ, distinctions between male and female are diminished (Gal. 3:28). The curses are not good things to be welcomed or even unavoidable realities to be accepted, but are negative consequences to be overcome.” (David T. Lamb, 2011, InterVarsity Press, p. 59)

Amen!

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