Sexual Identity, Gender Role, and Submission to the Word of God
Video footage of a recent panel discussion on Dr. Phil has landed conservative Daily Wire contributor Matt Walsh in the crosshairs of the liberal elites and blue haired matrons of policing wrong think on social media. His crime: asking his opponents to define what a woman is. A simple inquiry into the definition of a term has caused a shockwave of outcry and vacuous bloviating that is difficult not to laugh at for the mere absurdity of the outrage. But what is more absurd still is the novel deviation from the understanding of traditional masculinity and femininity that has dominated Western thought for centuries. This confusion about some of the most fundamental aspects of our own personhood has become rampant in our culture in recent days, and it has led to the harmful destruction of societal norms that allow for humans to flourish and prosper. As believers in the one, true God, we ought to desire to submit to the Lord’s will and conform to His design for our good and His glory. And when our culture chooses to rebel against these, we ought not to be surprised at the collapse of our culture under the weight of His judgement and the harm that our sinful rebellion against His will brings to us and our neighbors.
The Role of the Sexes: A Biblical Foundation
The Bible has much to say on the roles and responsibilities of men and women, especially within the covenant context of marriage. Men are to be the leaders of their households sacrificially loving their wives with Christ as their prime example while women are to be the life-giving nurturers and supporters of their husbands’ leadership. Paul states in Ephesians 5:22-23a “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church,” He goes on to say in verse 25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Paul illustrates in the same chapter that marriage is a symbolic representation of the relationship between Jesus and the Church which the Bible often metaphorically refers to as “the bride of Christ.” Peter, in complete agreement with Paul, encourages wives to “be subject to their own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1) and “likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.” (1 Peter 3:7) The covenant of marriage flourishes when it models the perfect structure that God has instituted; that is with the husband as the head and leader of the home, guiding his family in humble attunement to the Word of God, and the wife submitting to and supporting his Godly leadership.
The theme of masculine leadership and feminine submission extends beyond the context of marriage, however, as seen when Paul discusses the qualifications for eldership in 1st Timothy stating that
“[He] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1st Timothy 3:2-5)
In these verses, Paul states that a man is not qualified to hold a position of authority in the Church of God if he is not governing well: self-governance and governance of the household that God has entrusted to him (more on this later) Earlier in the chapter, Paul leaves no room for misunderstanding the hierarchy of the sexes when he states,
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Paul commands unequivocally that women are not to have positions of authority over men in the church, but rather are to submit to the authority and leadership of men. In order to prove that this is God’s good design for His creation, Paul appeals to the created order of men and women recorded in Genesis. God creates man for the purpose of taking dominion of the garden that God has placed him in (Gen. 2:15), subduing and naming the animals and maintaining the perfect harmony of God’s created order. (Gen. 1:26) But God Himself recognizes that “It is not good that the man should be alone;” and therefore purposes to “make him a helper fit for[e] him.” (Genesis 2:18) Men and women are both created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) bearing equal and special dignity among all of the created beings God has populated His world with, and they exist within the creational hierarchy of leader and helper from the days of our first parents. While men have been tasked with the position of headship in the home, God, being infinite in wisdom and love, has not only created and commanded women to be the “helper fit” to support men; He has also given women the gift of childbearing. Through this biological reality, God teaches us that women are to be life-givers and nurturers, and His law reflects this in commands like Deuteronomy 22:5 wherein women are commanded not to dress in “what pertaineth unto” men. Many (myself included) understand the Hebrew word used here to mean not just garments or clothes, but even utensils or arms, suggesting that women should not forswear their God-given role as life-givers to take up the death dealing instruments of war that men use. God also commands in Exodus 23:19 that we are not to “boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” This command catechizes us into understanding this creational truth: what is intended to create and sustain life should not be used as an instrument of death. If we apply these principles of the law to our own understanding of the sexes, we see a clear distinction in the role of women and men: women are life-givers and thrive when they fulfill their creational mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) and men thrive when they fulfil their creational mandate to “subdue it [earth] and have dominion.” (Gen. 1:28)
Evil Perversion: Attack on God’s Good Design
If humans flourish when they submit to and joyfully partake in God’s good design for His creation, it should come as no surprise that in the Fall of Man we see a direct attack on it. Satan tempts our first mother Eve (a name given to her because of her unique role as the mother and child bearer of our race) to rebel against God’s law and so usher into the world sin and death, but this temptation is presented to Eve in a very specific context: in the presence or absence of a negligent Adam who fails to lead and protect his wife whom God has entrusted to his care. Adam’s failure to fulfill his role as leader and protector marshals the entire human race to damnation. The first failure of man is a failure of Godly governance: Eve (and later Adam) fail in self governance, but Adam fails also in the governance of his family (remember Paul’s qualifications for ecclesiastical leadership?) This failure to perfectly obey God’s covenant with them brings on the judgement of God, but even in God’s punishment of Adam and Eve this creational hierarchy can be seen. Adam’s curse makes his creational mandate of taking dominion of God’s garden more difficult through “thorns” and it will only be accomplished through the “sweat of his brow”; Eve’s curse reflects her own creational mandate in that she will have multiplied pain in childbearing and her desire will be “contrary” to her husband. (Gen. 3:16-19)
Conclusion: Submission to God is Life
In a recent sermon, Pastor Jeff Wright noted that when Christians think about and discuss the topic of sexual identity and gender normativity, “we are necessarily and inescapably dealing with an issue of authority. Is there an authority outside of myself that I am required to conform to?” When discussing that authority, Pastor Wright notes that the authority in question is a “life-giving” authority, and that this idea is in direct contrast with our cultural perception that more options is equal to being more free. Using the illustration of a sheep that wants to be free to run off the cliff in opposition to the boundaries of the pasture that the shepherd places for the sheep in order that they might grow and flourish, he teaches that submission to legitimate authority brings life, while living in opposition to that authority is not freedom, but in fact destructive and ultimately fatal to those that rebel. The illustration is instructive and the lesson timely, as our culture plummets pell-mell in hostile rebellion over the boundaries that God has placed on us for our flourishing and His glory regarding human sexuality and gender roles in society. When Matt Walsh is attacked for simply asking “What is a woman?” and the audience claps with raucous praise when his opponents are unable to answer the question, I do not hear the thunderous advance of glorious progress to the great Utopia of progressive liberalism, but rather the bleating screams of rebellious sheep plunging to their death in wanton rebellion against the goodness of their Creator.
May the children of God be bold in loving their neighbors by living lives unashamedly submitted to God’s Word, and may God save the West from this evil, godless, and destructive sexual perversion claiming our culture.