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The Creation Story - January 4

The Creation Story


The distinction between male and female begins at creation. What did God intend with this diversity? How should these two diverse sexual beings relate to each other? Creation establishes God’s intention and consequently it is important to study the creation story.

I. The Divine Community.

A. Community of Reciprocal Indwelling Love. At the center of the Triune God is holy love which mutually indwells each. There is transparency, full participation in the life of the other, and mutual indwelling. The Father, Son and Spirit love each other and dwell in each other (John 17:20-23).

B. Community of Role Relationships: The Father and Son. Before the creation of the world, the Father loved the Son (John 17:24). There is full equality between Father and Son in terms of nature (or essence), but they have diverse roles in relation to creation.

C. The Community of God is “Unity in Diversity.” The unity lies in their essential nature which is one, but the diversity is their distinctiveness (Father, Son and Spirit) and distinct roles in the history of redemption. For example, Father created through the Son by the power of the Spirit. The Father redeemed the world through the Son by the power of the Spirit.


II. Imaging God in Community (Genesis 1).

A. Humanity as Male and Female (Genesis 1:27). The Triune community created a community. God created unity (humanity) in diversity (male and female).

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created him (s);
male and female he created them (pl).

B. Egalitarian Status as Divine Imagers. Both male and female image God, and together they are a unity that images the unity of God’s own community.

C. Humanity's Task: Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:28). This is a task given to both male and female. They share the task of co-creating with God as they fill the earth and care for it.

Then God said,
“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;
and let them (pl) have dominion
over the fish of the sea,
and over the birds of the air,
and over the cattle,
and over all the wild animals of the earth,
and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”


III. Gender Roles in Community (Genesis 2).

A. Mutual Companionship.

1. "Helper Corresponding To Him" (Genesis 2:18). “Helper” does not imply someone inferior as God himself is a “helper” (Psalms 54:4; 70:5). This recognizes the co-function that male and female have in the world.

2. "One Flesh" (Genesis 2:25). This recognizes the unity that they share. Husband and wife are one. This includes mutual authority over each other’s body—an egalitarian sexual ethic (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). The only time the New Testament uses the common word for “authority” to describe male/female relationships it is a mutual authority.

B. The "Headship" Principle (1 Corinthians 11:3).

1. An Egalitarian Perspective.

a. “Headship” in 1 Corinthians 11 refers to origin or source. It is a relational understanding of the how male and female relate to each other. Woman was created from man. But this is not an authority relationship. Rather, it reflects only one dimension of the relationship between males and females.

b. The other dimension of that relationship is noted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12. The male/female relationship is one of mutual interdependence. Just as females came from males, so males now come through females—one is nothing without the other.

c. “Headship” as some kind of male domination or authority is rooted in a distortion of what God originally intended in creation. Genesis 3:16 describes how males will rule over females in the wake of the disrupted relationship between the two due to sin and the breakdown of harmony in the world.

d. Galatians 3:28, according to this perspective, articulates a vision of male and female as one in Christ where no distinction is made between them in their service to God.

2. A Complementarian Perspective.

a. A Complementarian Understanding of “Headship”.

i. “Headship” should not be interpreted through the lens of human fallenness where women were oppressed, subordinated and relegated to an inferior status. This kind of headship is the result of sin. “Headship” is not equivalent to “boss,” “master,” or “superior.” Of course, some have so interpreted “headship” and thus used the biblical term as a mask for their own power and control agendas.

ii. “Headship” means initiative, responsibility, and accountability. But headship does not dominate or oppress. It serves while taking responsibility for the direction and course of the relationships involved. The model for this headship is the relationship between the Father and the Son—they loved each other and yet the Father took the initiative and responsibility for the redemptive work to be done in the world. Another model is the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:23-31). Human “headship” should image the divine models within the Triune community and between Christ and the church.

b. The Argument for Complementarian “Headship”.

i. Male as "Firstborn" (1 Tim. 2:13). The notion of the “firstborn” or primogeniture is significant in biblical history. As firstborn, responsibility and accountability for the family falls to this child in event of the father’s death. This does not mean he is superior or greater than his siblings, but rather that there is an inherent responsibility that belongs to the firstborn. Jesus himself is elder brother and firstborn among his siblings.

ii. Female as the "glory of the male" (1 Corinthians 11:7-9). This text serves the same function as 1 Timothy 2:13. It grounds male headship in the “firstborn” nature of males. Thus, females are the glory of males and females honor males as their head by virtue of creation.

(a) Source/Origin. Woman was created out of the man. Her being is derived from the male. This implies equality (the same nature), but it also means that the male is the primogenerate.

(b) Function. Woman was created on behalf of the man. She was created to complete him—to complete community. The function does not imply some kind of slavery (always a helper, only a helper and nothing but a helper), but rather means that the primogenerate male is responsible for the community as its eldest member.

IV. The Fall (Genesis 3)

The point is that Genesis 3:16 is not the basis of headship, but the consequences of sin invading the gender relationship. Genesis 3:16 is the beginning of the “battle of the sexes.” It is not prescriptive, but descriptive. In consequence of sin, wives will seek to dominate their husbands and husbands will oppress (master) their wives. Dysfunction is a consequence of the Fall.

Genesis 3:16 reads:
NRSV: "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
NIV: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

Genesis 4:7 reads:
NRSV: "its [sin] desire is for you, but you must master it."
NIV: "it [sin] desires to have you, but you must master it."

The parallel between Genesis 3:16 and 4:7, which use the same Hebrew words for desire and rule/master, indicates that the desire is a controlling one and the mastery is a tyrannical one.

Egalitarians would argue that this is the beginning of male headship--it is a fallen, oppressive structure in the world. Complementarians would argue that this is a distortion of male headship--it is a degenerative form of leadership that oppresses women.

V. Common Ground.

A. Redemption seeks to restore creation. The fall of humanity into sin distorted the human relationship God intended between male and female. The Fall was the beginning of the battle of the sexes. Redemption is a process of healing that distortion and restoring human relationships in accordance with God’s divine intent in creation. The church must participate in this process of redemption and be a place of healing so that the peace and harmony God intended in creation is present in the church.

B. Both male and female are created in the image of God. They share the task of representing God in the world and fulfilling the divine mandate to care for it. They have a shared status as imagers and a shared task as stewards of God’s creation. They are equally valuable before God and equally charged with the function of imaging God in the world.

C. Male and female are interdependent—it is a mutual relationship. In a marriage relationship they are incomplete without each other. In the human community as single males or females, humanity is still incomplete without the other gender. Each contributes to the whole and the whole is incomplete without the other. Neither sex finds their value independent of the other, but in relation to the other in marriage or in the larger human community. The male has no priority of worth or value and the female’s value/worth is not secondary to the male or derived from her relationship to a male.


VI. The Significant Disagreement.

The central question between Egalitarians and Complementarians is whether male headship where communal accountability and responsibility is primarily given to the male is something God intended in creation. Complementarians answer yes and thus see male headship as a legitimate biblical principle. Egalitarians answer no and thus see male headship as a form of oppression that should be reversed by redemption.

Questions for Discussion:

1. What does it mean to say that both male and female are created in the image of God? What does this imply about their relationship to God and each other?

2. What does “mutuality” imply about the relationship between male and female?

3. Why do Egalitarianians believe there was no male headship prior to the Fall? Why do Complementarians believe there was male headship prior to the Fall? How might we mediate this disagreement? How significant is it?

4. What does “headship” imply to you? What negatives are associated with that terminology? Does it have any positives? How should the relationship of Father and Son in the divine community shape our understanding of “headship”?





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