So, What Went So Terribly Wrong?

In my last post, I lamented that since the “very good” creation by God of women and men in His own (non-gendered, not male) image, the plight of women throughout the world, and largely because of religion, including Christianity, has been dreadful. I quoted a silly little man, a “Christian intellectual,” who claims that the category of the “holy” is — must be, can only be — the masculine, and I said that something went terribly wrong in Creation because of such thinking.

At the risk of “beating the snot out of a straw man,” one of the more poetic offenses I’ve been accused of, I’d like to offer a Biblical explanation for what the Fall did to men and women and their relationship. In short, it utterly ruined and debased it, introducing both domination and oppression to the mutual honor and affection of the Garden and fulfilling the Lord’s observation that men would, indeed, now face a fallen world by subjugating women. I realize this explanation isn’t satisfactory to patriarchs, complementarians, and traditionalists, and that even if Biblically sound evidence of God’s original, pre-Fall, intention for women and men were offered, many men — and women — wouldn’t accept it. Entrenched ideas of power, domination, subjugation and inequality are difficult even for the Spirit to dislodge from a person, and women continue to suffer.

But the pre-Fall testimony of Genesis is clear: Both men and women were given the command to “subdue the earth;” there was no indication, in any translation, that men were to subdue and women were only to submit. The Hebrew word for “help,” often translated “help meet,” is ezer, which is almost always used in Scripture as a description of a helper-rescuer, a completer, a greater strength — in short, God Almighty. To accept the use of ezer in reference to the help that comes from On High in most instances, but reduce its meaning to “helper,” “assistant,” or “subordinate” does violence to the Scriptures. It also leads to violence against the woman, the “flesh of my own flesh” given to Adam to complete and cooperate with him.

Fortunately, most theologians today don’t come right out and say that women are ontologically “less than” men, nor do most blame Eve for the Fall and its horrific consequences. There is no evidence that Eve had been instructed to not eat of the fruit; Adam was. Eve was deceived, yet took complete responsibility by acknowledging that she, the one to whom the command had not been given directly by God, had been tricked. Adam, on the other hand, having received God’s specific command, not only ate of the fruit, but blamed the woman. Clearly, as Romans 5 illustrates, the man brought sin into the world; just as clearly, the “second Adam,” Jesus Christ, reverses the effects of Adam’s sin, however imperfectly that reversal is demonstrated by sinful humankind. It is also foolish to say, although it’s said often in complementarian/patriarchal circles, that Adam’s sin was to bow to his woman’s “leadership” or “authority,” thus abrogating his “headship.” There is nothing in the text that says that and much in the New Testament that argues against it. Some may want to argue for authoritative headship of men over women, but that argument cannot be confirmed in the Old Testament, and it cannot be sustained in the New.

I’ve studied the writings of complementarians — those who deny the mutuality of women and men in church, home, and society — for more than a decade now, and I find that arguments that limit women’s freedom to lead and to fully exercise their gifts in the church, home, and society are based on male-supremacy presuppositions — culture informing hermeneutics — as well as an entirely false, even heretical, view of the Trinity. In short, an argument that apart from the Incarnation, Christ was and is and forever will be subordinate to the Father in the Trinity is not only bad theology, but a tree from which only poison fruit can develop. I’ll discuss subordinationism in a future post, and I invite comments.

Until then, I am privileged to identify as a Biblical feminist. It’s the illuminating Spirit of God who gifts me and who expects my God-given gifts to be used in His service. As time permits, then, I’ll write about the subordinationists’ error, the stark mutuality Paul describes in the New Testament, and the Gnostic heresies that influenced the culturally-bound limitations he prescribes for women living in a culture saturated by bizarre and un-Biblical views of men and women, flesh and spirit, creation and sin. I’ll also ask why complementarians really hate when egalitarians claim Galatians 3:28 for their cause, even though I suspect I know the reasons. The fruit of the sinful partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil became rotten to the core, and the fruit of the patriarchal Tree of Bad Exegesis and Male Supremacy is just as ruined — and ruinous.

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