How Dispensable is Gender?
The Inclusive Language Edition of the NIV Bible published in Britain in 1995 says in the preface, “It was often appropriate to mute the patriarchalism of the culture of the biblical writers through gender-inclusive language when this could be done without compromising the message of the Spirit” (p. vii). There are two questionable assumptions in this sentence. One is that the patriarchalism reflected in the Bible is not a good thing and should be muted. The other is that the “message of the Spirit” floats loose from the words inspired by the Spirit. I am not convinced that either of these assumptions is true. Here are a few questions for you to think about in this regard.
- Why is God predominately called our Father? (Matthew 6:9)
- Why is God revealed as a King not a Queen? (Psalm 95:3)
- Why did God create man first and then woman? (Genesis 2:7, 22; 1 Timothy 2:13)
- Why did God create woman as a “helper fit for [man]?” (Genesis 2:18)
- Why did Satan address his deceptive scheme to Eve? (Genesis 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:14)
- Why did God first call Adam to account for the disobedience for the pair? (Genesis 3:9)
- Why did God give man and woman the name—“man”? (Genesis 5:2)
- Why were all the priests in the Old Testament men? (Exodus 39:41)
- Why was the second Person of the Trinity incarnate as a man? (Luke 2:7)
- Why does John choose masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit? (John 16:7-8)
- Why does Jesus choose only men as apostles? (Matthew 10:2-4)
- Why did Paul not permit a woman to teach or have authority over men? (1 Timothy 2:12)
- Why did Paul use the term “brothers” when addressing the church? (Romans 1:13)
- Why are believers called “sons of God,” although in Christ “there is neither male nor female?” (Galatians 3:26, 28)
- Why is a husband called the head of his wife? (Ephesians 5:23)
- Why is the wife called to submit to her husband? (Ephesians 5:24)
- In the comparison of Christ and the church why is the husband compared to Christ and the wife compared to the church? (Ephesians 5:24-25)
- Why does Paul say “the head of woman is man?” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
- Why does Paul say, “Man was not made from woman, but woman from man?” (1 Corinthians 11:8)
- Why does Paul say “man was not created for woman, but woman for man?” (1 Corinthians 11:9)
- Why does Paul move from honoring fathers and mothers to address men, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger?” (Ephesians 6:2, 4)
- Why does the Bible repeatedly refer to our believing ancestors as fathers? (Hebrews 1:1; 3:9; 8:9; 2 Peter 3:4)
- Why does John say that he writes to the fathers and the young men? (1 John 2:13, 14)
- Why does the Bible often use a generic “he” but never a generic “she”? (Revelation 3:20; John 14:23)
- Why does Paul urge the entire church to “quit you like men” (KJV) or “act like men” (NASB)? (Greek: andrizesthe, 1 Corinthians 16:13)
A rough over-all answer to these questions might go like this: It’s because, while man and women are equally valuable in God’s image, men bear a primary (not solitary) responsibility for leadership and protection and provision in the human race, and that they therefore bear a representative role when it comes to accountability (Genesis 3:9; Romans 5:12-14). This unique calling is a responsibility to bear in sacrificial love, not a right to seize in dominating power.
Longing to be like Christ,
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