Manhood, Womanhood, and God
Staley Lecture Series, Bryan College | Dayton, Tennessee
Well, thank you so much for coming back tonight. What I tried to do this morning was to give an introduction to why I think this issue of manhood and womanhood is so important by connecting it with the wider social-cultural issues of the day, show the link, and show why, when I pose the questions of manhood and womanhood today, I don’t merely pose them in terms of roles, but also in terms of nature and personhood. It seems to me that the denial of the fundamental, important, personal differences between male and female reality is leading to the dismantling of creation as God intended it to be and bringing catastrophic changes into our culture and in our social life that dishonor God, are bad for people, and will be the undoing of our civilization if there aren’t gracious turnarounds.
But I didn’t do any serious Biblical defending this morning, and I promised that tonight I would try to take you to the Scriptures. I don’t know whether you brought your Bibles or not, and I regret that I didn’t prepare a transparency of the key text tonight, but I’ll try to say the text as often as I can so that you can think clearly about it. If you have a Bible, we’ll certainly use it.
And then tomorrow morning, after I look tonight at 1 Timothy 2 with you, which talks about the role relationships of men and women in the church, I’ll talk about marriage tomorrow morning in chapel. And another thing, if you looked at the titles on the piece of paper that was given to you, I not only mentioned the body of Christ as a focus tonight, but the business world and the battlefield.
The Business World and the Battlefield
As I was talking with my assistant back at church about whether I should do that or not, we decided it would be worth the risk because even though the Bible does not talk a lot about the role relationships of men and women in the business world or on the battlefield — say, in the Persian Gulf War — nevertheless, my conviction is that when it talks about the role relationships in the home and in the family rooted in creation, not culture and not sin, there are inescapable implications. If these differences that play themselves out at home and in the church are rooted in who we are by nature, then things are going to be different in society as well.
We don’t cease to be male and female in the workplace. We don’t cease to be male and female inside a tank, or a Mig Fighter, or with our hands on an M-16. And therefore, if differences are implied in who we are by nature, they’re going to play themselves out in the world and on the battlefield. It’s risky for me to talk about those things because I can’t point to a verse and chapter as clearly as I can with others. And yet, I think it’s artificial and almost like academic gamesmanship to say, “Sorry, I’m not going to talk about your real questions, like whether a woman should be a drill sergeant, whether she should fly a fighter plane, or whether she should be the president of a bank, and so on. I’m just going to talk about safe questions like pastors and families.” I will try to get to that tonight too and say a little bit about it.
Five Theses on Complementarity
Let me lay my cards on the table now tonight, which I only hinted at this morning, and sum up my view called complementarity in a few thesis statements.
Number one: all Christians, men and women, are called to be full-time ministers. I’m using the word minister in the sense of Ephesians 4:11–12. People like me, pastor-teachers, are called to equip the saints, you, to do the work of the ministry all the time. You are the ministers. And I delighted yesterday morning, when I tried to motivate my people to get into small groups, to say to them that the vast majority of the ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church happens by the people brokering the grace of God from God to other people. First Peter 4:10 describes that kind of transaction. That’s thesis number one. It’s a radical orientation of all men and women on ministry; that is, using your life, your gifts, and your personality to take what God has given you and bend it outward for the blessing of other people in all the situations of your life. That’s ministry.
Number two: ministry is the stewarding of grace from God to people. So thesis one was that you’re all ministers, and the second one is that ministry is fundamentally the stewarding (or the brokering, or the channeling) of grace from God to other people.
Number three: all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament, I believe, are dispersed to men and women. I was eating supper tonight, and in our discussion, we said that that statement would likely be misunderstood because a lot of people would construe the pastorate as a gift. And then I’m going to wind up saying that I don’t believe women are called to be pastors, and so I’m misleading you.
I don’t think the pastorate is a gift; I think teaching is a gift, I think administration is a gift, and I think leadership is a gift. Those are all mentioned in the New Testament. Pastoring is an office; it’s a calling. When Ephesians 4:11 says, “The Lord gave some apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers,” he was talking about people being given to the church, not gifts being given to people. So I think I can stand by my statement that all the spiritual gifts I know of in the New Testament are not restricted to men or women; they are given freely. If a woman has the gift of teaching, the issue becomes, how does she use it? It’s not about whether she has it.
Number four: the office of elder, overseer, and pastor — those are all equivalent terms, I think — is the responsibility of spiritual men, not women, who aim to equip the saints for the ministry through oversight. And that’s what we’re going to work on tonight textually.
Number five: the real action is the ministry of the people, not the work of those elders. Those elders have a servant, equipping role to fit the lay people to do the work in small groups. The reason I’m so eager to get all of our people, men and women, into small groups is that I believe that if the body is functioning the way it’s supposed to, women will be so fully engaged in day-to-day ministry — real hands on ministry — that the question won’t arise nearly as often, “Why can’t I be this one little thing in the church?”
Every time I speak on this in different places, a typical response is that a woman stands up and says, “Well, what can we do?” as though I’ve said you can’t do anything. All I’ve said is that out of the 10,000 ministries there are in the world, there’s one you shouldn’t do: be a pastor, or exercise the unique elder, overseer position of leadership. But we’ll talk more about that.
Reasons for Addressing Complementarity
Well, maybe that’s enough for a summary of what the position would be. It’s a lot more detailed. There’s a lot more to be said about marriage, which I haven’t mentioned at all, but I will tomorrow morning. Let me just give you a summary of why I’m saying what I’m saying. The first reason is that I see it taught in 1 Timothy 2:12–15, which we’ll look at in a minute.
Second, I see it in harmony with the overall picture of complementarity in Genesis 1–2 and in Paul’s teaching and Jesus’s ministry.
Third, I see all the texts that are often brought in to say, “No” — like Galatians 3:28, which says, “There’s neither male nor female,” or Acts 2:17, where Christ pours out the Spirit of prophecy upon men and women, and it says, “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy” — as not at all being against what I’m saying, but rather, as qualifying abuses and correcting misuses of what I’m saying.
Fourth, the aim of the New Testament, I think, is to redeem the distortions and the abuses that have come in with the fall of the leadership of men in the home and the church and the submission of women in those roles. I don’t think the New Testament dismantles creation, but rather redeems sinful distortions of creation. And since I think these distinctions are taught in the Bible — and I’ll try to show you — and since I believe the Bible is inspired, and since I believe God is good; therefore, I teach them in spite of their being controversial with a tremendous confidence that over the long haul, the Lord will take the truth and make it good for you. It’s good for you. It’s not a burden to carry. It’s a blessing in your life. To embrace the truth will make your life deeper, richer, and better than if you resist it.
The Biblical Precedent of Male Leadership
Okay, enough by way of introduction and summary. Let’s go to the text now. I want to look tonight at 1 Timothy 2:11–14. They are probably the most unpopular verses in the Bible in our day and age. Scarcely anybody preaches on these verses because they are so inflammatory and so offensive. People would storm out of many worship services if they were read, but they’re in the Bible and they are, therefore, in my view, God’s word, and therefore they’re good for us and a glory to him. But they need to be interpreted like all the Scriptures. So let me urge you to sit before them and be humble and ask questions about them.
Tomorrow night, by the way, will probably be mainly devoted to trying to answer questions. I can come prepared to pose questions that I’ve learned over the years that people always have and answer them, or I can come and just let you ask questions. I’m trying to discern, think, pray, and ask people what I should do tomorrow night. So if you have ideas, you can let me know afterwards. But it’ll be an answering of objections.
So if you’re frustrated tonight at the end that you didn’t get a chance to say, “Yeah, but what about this when you said that?” then tomorrow night, I hope you’ll get a chance to do that. This is 1 Timothy 2:11–14:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 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.
Almost every sentence in there is explosively controversial — almost every word. The three key words that I think we need to unpack and analyze in order to know what’s being taught in 1 Timothy 2:11–12 are the words silence, teaching, and authority. When it says, “Let a woman learn in silence,” what does that mean? When it says, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” what does that mean? When it says, “Or to have authority over men,” what does that mean?
So those key words — silence, teaching, and authority — are in in 1 Timothy 2:11–12. And then, when we’ve tried to get our hands on that, 1 Timothy 2:13–14 is even more controversial. What are these two arguments? It says that the man was created first, and the woman was deceived, not the man. Those are the two arguments for this. So we’re going to work our way systematically through these things and, in the end, try to draw out broader implications for the body of Christ, the battlefield, and the business world.
The Meaning of Silence
First Timothy 2:11 says “Let a woman learn in silence.” We want to talk about this word silence for just a minute. What does Paul have in mind here? Is it that women should never talk? Do they never talk in some given setting? Is it every situation in life? Is it total silence? The first observation I would make is that the word for silence here, hēsykia, is found in 1 Timothy 2:2, only it’s a slightly different form. Hēsychion is found in 1 Timothy 2:2. And notice the nuance that it has here in verse two where Paul says, “Pray that we may lead a quiet (there’s the word) and peaceable life, godly and diginifed in every way.”
You see, sometimes words like silence carry immediate connotations in your mind that might be slightly off from what a contextual connotation might be. Now here, if you heard the word quiet — “Pray that God would let you lead a quiet life” — your first thought would not be a life in which you never speak. That would not be the thought that would come to your mind, but that might be the thought that would come to your mind when the word is used a few verses later. And so we’re tipped off by the use of the word in 1 Timothy 2:2 that perhaps silence — “Let a woman learn in silence” — may not mean zipped lips, or never talking. It might have more of that flavor and connotation of a quiet and peaceable life.
Here’s another clue. The same word is used at the end of 1 Timothy 2:12, where he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over men, but (literally) to be silent.” Now there, not to have authority over men and to be silent are made alternatives. So the clue you get is that this silence, or quietness, has to do with not exercising authority over men. So there’s a tip off there that there may be a kind of speech that would call the man’s authority or leadership into question, and maybe a kind of quietness and attitude that would not call that leadership into question. We’re going to come back in a minute to that.
My suggestion on the word silence is that it does not mean a total non-speaking involvement in the local church; rather, it would mean probably the kind of speech that would, whatever form it took, call into question the leadership of the men in the assembly or as the eldership of the church.
The Meaning of Teaching
Now, just hold that as a possibility in your mind while we look at the second word: teaching. First Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach.” Now to answer what that means (how extensive it is) what clues are there in Paul, in his nearer and wider context, for whether that’s an absolute bar on all kinds of teaching in all kinds of places or whether there’s a unique focus to that?
Now, one of the ways to get at that is to ask, are there teaching illustrations in the rest of Paul’s writings where women do teach? And there are several. For example, in Titus 2:3–4, Paul says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children . . .”
So immediately from these pastoral letters, when he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” he does not mean, “all teaching in all situations,” because he says, “I want the older women to teach the younger women.” And then another illustration is found in 2 Timothy 3:14, where Paul tells Timothy, “Remember from whom you learned the Scriptures.” We know from 2 Timothy 1:5 that he learned the Scriptures from Eunice and Lois, his grandmother and his mother. His father was not a Christian and not even a Jew. And they were Jews and they faithfully imparted to this young man the teachings, just as the book of Proverbs says that mothers should do (Proverbs 1:8), along with fathers. So there’s a second kind of teaching, namely from mothers to children, that clearly is not included in the prohibition to not teach.
A third example, now outside of Paul, is Priscilla in Acts 18:26. It says, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos], they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” So there’s an illustration of a couple in the setting of an informal meeting with a fellow who’s got some things wrong in his theology and they, together, talked to him about the mistakes in his thinking, and he came to the truth. So there’s a woman involved in truth impartation in that kind of setting, along with her husband. So we know at least three kinds of teaching, biblically, are not included in the prohibition, “I do not permit a woman to teach.”
Teaching and Authority
So we need to ask, are there any clues in the context that might give us a focus of what he does mean? If he doesn’t mean those three, what does he mean? What kind of teaching is he prohibiting here? I think the next phrase is probably the best way to put a governor and a control and a guide on this. He says. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over men.” So I think the teaching relates to the authority issue. There’s a connection here somehow. If these other kinds of teaching seem to be permitted and endorsed by Paul, and we ask him, “What do you have in mind then?” he says, “I’m talking about a situation where teaching goes together with authority.”
Now, here’s an insight that I got several years ago that, the more I’ve thought about it and the more I’ve read on this, it has really helped to unlock one of the clear implications of this text. If you go back to the lists of qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 and you ask, “What’s the difference? What’s the key difference between a deacon and an elder in the churches?” you find that elders are called upon to be apt to teach. Deacons are not required to be apt to teach. And elders are charged with the governing or the ruling of the church. First Timothy 5:17 says, “Let elders who govern (or rule) well be considered worthy of double honor.” Deacons are never charged with governance or oversight like that.
All of the other qualifications for deacons and elders seem to overlap. I conclude, therefore, that the fundamental distinction between the eldership, or the oversight, or the pastoral life of the church, and the diaconal ministry level of the church, is the preaching and the ruling (or the governing, or the administrative leadership) of the church.
Then I come to 1 Timothy 2:12 and I find it remarkable that those two things are the very two things that Paul forbids a woman to do. He says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority.” So in the context of the pastoral letters, it seems like that’s almost a paraphrase of, “I do not permit a woman to assume the pastoral or the elder office.” Does that make sense? I mean, whether you agree or not, do you see the flow of the argument there that those two things, teaching and authority, are put there because those are the distinguishing features of eldership? So if you ask me, “Then do you allow women to be deacons?” I would say, “Yes.”
Elders and Deacons
Now some of you may come out of church traditions where deacons are the authoritative rulers of the church. That’s just bad ecclesiology. That’s typical Baptist stuff. They have a pastor and a board of deacons who run the church. That’s just not biblical. I grew up in that and I’m a Baptist. It took me about eight years to get my church to change that. Then the issue of whether women should be in that group becomes more difficult.
But if you have a group of elders who assume the role of leadership, as it’s laid out here, then just about everything under that is open to women in the church. So if you ask me then, “What is the teaching that’s forbidden here?” I would say the teaching that is forbidden is the sort of teaching that would carry the authority of the eldership. So it’s teaching done as an elder, in the office of an elder, or like an elder. And there’s a lot of gray areas there. If you were to ask me, “Can a woman teach here, here, here, or here?” I’d probably say, “Yes. No. Yes. No.” But some of that would be my own subjective judgment about what comes close to being elder kinds of leadership.
The Leader As One Who Serves
Let me talk for a few minutes now about this word authority. We’ve already said that it’s the authority of the eldership to govern, lead, oversee, and guide the church. It’s very crucial to add this point. In Luke 22:26, Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” Now I remember debating with Alvira and Berkeley Michaelson. They’re friends. Berkeley has going to be with the Lord now. Alvira, who was always more strong than Berkeley in these debates anyway, at least emotionally she came on that way. Whenever we talked and debated, this is the text they would bring up to me and say, “You’re always talking about leadership. You’re always talking about governance. You’re always talking about authority. Isn’t the New Testament all about servanthood?”
And my comeback would always be, “Yes, but it’s not either-or, is it? Since both are talked about, since elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, surely that’s not a contradiction of Luke 22:26.” And then I said, “When Jesus, in John 13, took off his outer garment, took a towel, bound it around himself like a slave, got down on his knees, took a bowl of water and, like a slave, washed his disciples feet one after the other to their great and utter dismay, serving them, nobody for one second doubted who the leader was in that room. He was on the floor, but he was the leader.” There is no contradiction between servanthood and leadership. Leadership is to be humble. It is to be broken-hearted. It’s not to be domineering, oppressive, and self-exalting, but it’s leadership, nevertheless.
And so, I want to say what they say. I want to affirm what Jesus says here. Biblical leadership is servant leadership. The only kind of leadership I want to call husbands to, the only kind of leadership I want to call pastors to, is a humble, servant leadership that’s willing to bind itself with a towel and willing to wash women’s feet, men’s feet, children’s feet, work in the nursery, talk to the lowly, and put their arms around the nobody’s in the church without any self-exalting sense of importance about them.
First Peter 5:3 says, “Do not be domineering over those in your charge” — he’s speaking to the elders — “but be examples to the flock.” Second Corinthians 10:8 says, “God gave us this authority in the church not for tearing down or destroying, but for building up.”
So I want to say a hearty, loud, strong yes to servanthood and lowliness. Blessed are the meek, they’re the ones alone who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). But I do not see a contradiction between that and leadership. I see it as a style and form of Christ-like leadership, not a cancellation of leadership in the church. So elder authority is servant authority, even though it is used to govern the church.
Let me just toss in here something that comes to mind. I use this in marriage. I probably won’t say it tomorrow morning. It applies well to the church. In a marriage, one of the little handles I give to couples for trying to help men assume their responsibility is that I ask, “Who in your relationship says, ‘Let’s,’ most often.” It could be things like, “Let’s go out to eat. Let’s talk tonight about the kids. Let’s get our finances in order. Let’s get to church on time. Let’s not spend money any longer on these things.” And I say to them, “If the woman must constantly be the ‘Let’s’ person, she’ll be frustrated and he’ll be nagged.”
Let’s is the primary marriage word for leadership; it’s not, “Do it.” That’s not the primary marriage word for leadership. It’s “Let’s.” It sounds like, “Let’s talk. Let’s go out. Let’s get this fixed. Let’s straighten up.” Leadership is simply initiative moving a group or a couple forward in a vision, and they can craft the vision together. How do you craft it together? You talk together. Who takes the initiative to get the talk going? If she has to, she will and she must. If she has to do that again and again and again and again, year after year, she’ll come into my office and weep.
I said to somebody this morning, “When I came to Bethlehem, the most common marital dysfunction I anticipated was wives complaining perhaps about abusive husbands, or sexually active husbands who take advantage of them, or something like that.”
It’s been just the opposite. Over 13 years, there has been a stream of women weeping in my office over lazy, no-good, vision-less, inactive, no-leadership husbands who won’t discipline the kids, won’t handle the finances correctly, won’t take initiative in getting the family to church, won’t lead in devotions, won’t pray at the table, and they call themselves Christians and are just loafers. Women, by and large, want men who lovingly, humbly, respectfully take initiative and make things happen in their family. Now, I’m getting onto tomorrow morning and I’ve got to resist this here.
The Meaning of Authority
Let me try now to sum up defining authority and submission, because we have those words here in this text. It says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness, and let men have authority in the church” (1 Tim 2:11–12). Here’s my definition: authority refers to the divine calling of spiritual, gifted men to take primary responsibility (primary is a very important word) as elders for Christlike, servant leadership and teaching in the church.
Now, I have worked years on these sentences because I hear so many objections. I mean, I just have choruses of critics around me as I say these things. So I pick words that, every one of them, I can give a rationale for why I use them. And I know that it’s overwhelming to try to hear a sentence like that and take it all in. But what else can I do?
Now what, then, is submissiveness? What’s submission? I’m talking about the church and not marriage here. We’ll talk about the same things for marriage tomorrow morning. The definition of submission is: the divine calling of all the rest of the church, men and women, to honor and affirm the leadership and teaching of the elders, and to be equipped by them for the hundreds and hundreds of various ministries available to men and women in the service of Christ.
The easiest way recently that I have talked about submission in marriage and the church is to say that submission is being glad about the leadership of those who are your leaders. So if you’re a wife, the submission I want from Noël is that she’s glad I’m her husband and that I take initiatives and that I lead the family. That’s it. If she’s not glad about it, she’ll act in certain ways that make it really clear to me that I’m not respected and affirmed as a leader and then I’ll be unhappy. If she’s glad about it, that gladness is what I think the Bible means by submission. It’s the same thing in the church. Submission among the people of the church is to say, “I’m so glad we have godly leaders in this church. Let’s follow them. Let’s pray for them. Let’s support them. Let’s let them lead.”
This does not rule out their fallibility and their mistakes. Therefore, there are built ways to call an elder into question appropriately, biblically and through constitutions, without being insubordinate. There are ways that elders submit themselves to be corrected and held accountable.
So let me conclude then by saying that the conclusion I come to with 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is that the silence that women are called to is not a total or absolute silence, but an avoidance of the kind of speaking that would call into question, or demean, or usurp the leadership of the elders and the pastors in the church. The kind of teaching that is forbidden is the teaching that carries the authority of the elders — an eldership teaching, or a teaching role or teaching office that is interwoven with that kind of authority. And the kind of authority we’re talking about is the pastoral eldership office, which is a servant role and not one that demands rights and rides roughshod over people.
Two Reasons for Distinct Roles
Now, let’s move from there. You can keep your questions and write them down so that you’ll remember them either later tonight or tomorrow. Let’s go 1 Timothy 2:13–14 where the arguments are given. Even though Paul is an apostle and has divine authority from the risen Christ, he argues. He always argues. He argues from Scripture. And he has two arguments here for why he has said what he has just said — namely, about men having primary responsibility for leadership in the church. And his first argument is, “For Adam was formed first and then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). That’s his first argument. And his second argument is, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:14). So let’s just take those one at a time. The first one is, “Adam was formed first and then Eve.”
Adam Was Formed First
What Paul is doing here? It sounds like he read his Bible, chapters one and two of Genesis, and he considered that even though it says in Genesis 1:27 that God created man male and female, both in the image of God and of equal value as persons, nevertheless, when it gets to detailing the way of creation, it says that Adam was created first. He was put in the garden. He was given by God the moral guidelines for the garden. And then God looked and he said, “It isn’t good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). He lined up all the animals in front of him. He looked at them for the kind of thing he needs, and he didn’t find it. What’s the reason? You don’t find the kind of needs that God was talking about met in animals. It’s personhood — equal-value-in-the-image-of-God personhood.
Therefore, God brings woman out of the side of man and presents her to the man for the fulfillment of that role. Paul steps back from that, he thinks, and he concludes, “God created man first, gave him the governance of the garden, and brought woman in alongside him as his helper because God wanted the man to go ahead and take the lead.”
Now, you have to decide, are you going to go with Paul in that or not? Ιt’s unbelievable to me how many evangelicals say, “Hogwash.” They just say hogwash to Paul’s reasoning. I think he’s right. I think it is good reasoning. Because if I ask, if I were God and in the way I created man and woman, I wanted to communicate an absolute egalitarianism where the roles were parallel, I would’ve created them simultaneously. Why mix it up? Why do it the way he did it if he really wanted to be clear on this issue and say that the man has no primary responsibility for leadership? Isn’t it an easy way to say the man has primary responsibility for leadership because God put him there first and brought the woman in after?
Now, you can call that into question, and you can say, “Well, the animals came before the woman, so the animals are leaders and she’s not.” That’s the standard way of debunking this argument. And my response to that is twofold. First, it would never enter the Hebraic mind that God was considering those animals as leaders in relationship to the man. And second, the law of primogeniture, the firstborn, didn’t apply to the cattle in the family, it applied to the sons and daughters in the family. In other words, just because a man had cattle before he had children doesn’t mean the cattle get the inheritance. And Jews knew that. They would listen to this argument and they would think, “What? We’re talking persons here.”
When a son is born first, the second son gets a different blessing than the first son. The order of things was clear in the Jewish mind. And so there were cultural and textual pointers to those readers that there is significance in the order.
Adam Was Not Deceived
The second argument is, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:14). Now the historic interpretation of that has been that women are more deceive-able and gullible than men, and therefore, they shouldn’t be put in a position of doctrinal leadership because they’re going to be led more easily into error. Now, I wonder if that’s what that means. Oh, you’ll get yourself crucified if that were what you taught on this passage. I doubt that that’s what this means. I’ll try to give you an alternative interpretation, but let me put in a for instance here to say that even if that were what it means, it may not sound as offensive as you think.
Complementary Strengths and Weaknesses
Let me try something on you. If somebody were to ask me, “Are women more vulnerable to deception than men?” You know what I would answer? I think they are more vulnerable than men to deception in some areas, and I think men are more vulnerable to deception than women in other areas. And if you were to ask me, “Are women weaker than men?” I wouldn’t immediately say, “Well, obviously. Women don’t compete against men in almost any sport. For one very simple reason: the men would always win.”
But I would not answer that way. I would answer by saying, “Women are weaker than men in some ways, and men are weaker than women in some ways.” If you ask me, “Are women smarter than men?” I went to Wheaton and I would almost be inclined to say, “Obviously,” because the women at Wheaton were so smart. The screen of getting into Wheaton is so much higher for women than it is for men that they ruin the curve in every class.
I was in a high school class with 368 people and I was 20th, and the 19 ahead of me were women. So it never entered my mind that men are smarter than women. I would be inclined to think the other way. But I would never answer that way either. I would always say, “In some ways, women are smarter than men, and in some things, men are smarter than women.”
Now here’s what I’m getting at. It’s really easy and naive to try to line up a list of weaknesses of masculinity and line up a list of weaknesses of femininity and then say the one is better than the other. Do you know what I think would happen if you were God and you knew them all and you understood them to their root and you lined up the plus and minus of strength and weaknesses for men and women, and you tallied them up at the bottom, subtracting the weaknesses, adding the strengths? I think the number you would get at the bottom would be the same. But the weaknesses and the strengths in each column are going to be different. And here’s the exciting part. This is why I like the word complementarity. If you took the lists and you laid them on top of each other, the complementarity of it would be wonderful.
In fact, I think the reason there are these so-called perceived weaknesses and strengths is because a man’s weaknesses are meant to call forth a woman’s strengths, and a woman’s weaknesses are meant to call forth a man’s strengths, so that there is a complimentary meshing, rather than a being at odds or two people insisting they have exactly the same traits trying to form a relationship.
Let me illustrate something just to show you more clearly what I mean. Statistics that I’ve read say that six times more men than women are arrested for drug abuse, and 10 times more men than women are arrested for drunkenness. Also, 83 percent of all serious crimes in America are committed by men. Twenty-five times more men than women are in jail. Virtually all rape is committed by men. So women manifestly are superior beings, right? I mean there is a remarkable problem with manhood; it’s an awesome problem — the wickedness of the abuse of manhood.
Now, lest you women get too carried away, your sins are just of another more subtle and less open and powerful kind. But God sees us all. When you lay those two out beside each other, the weaknesses and the strengths, I think the number you get at the bottom is the same.
Gullability and Deception
Now, that was a parenthesis around this issue of, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman” (1 Timothy 2:14). And I’m saying I’m not sure that means, “Women are more gullible than men; therefore, they shouldn’t be pastors.” I doubt that that’s the argument here. Let me tell you why.
Now, put on your thinking caps for by five minutes here because I’m going to think with you about Genesis 2–3. Let’s go back there and ask what this can mean. In what sense was man not deceived? I mean, he ate the fruit. Satan engages the woman in conversation. Genesis 3:1 says:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman . . .
Now there’s a clue there — his subtlety and the one he chooses to address. Just bear that in mind. The scond observation is this. Adam was evidently with Eve when that happened. He didn’t sneak up and find Eve by herself. Adam was with her. Now, why do I think that? There’s a couple of reasons. If you look at Genesis 3:6, it says:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
Nowhere in Genesis 3:1–6 does it say she went and found him and brought him. Nowhere does it say he arrived on the scene. The assumption without any break in the flow is that Adam was with her, listening.
Heeding Eve’s Voice
Then if you go over to Genesis 3:17, you find that God disapproves, not just of the fact that they ate the fruit, but of the dynamics of the relationship that were happening. And this is getting right at the crucial essence of what I think Paul was after here. In Genesis 3:17, God says to the man after the fall, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife . . .” She did not say a word to him in chapter two — not a word. What does God mean? He says:
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you . . .
What does he mean? She didn’t say, “Come on, Adam. Eat.” She didn’t say a word in Genesis 3:6. The only word she says in chapter two are words to the serpent. I take that to mean, therefore, that Adam was there and he was listening, he heard her talking, and he let her take the lead. He didn’t defend, he didn’t protect, he didn’t intervene, and he didn’t assume responsibility. And at the very outset, something was going awry in the relationship.
So I think the subtlety of Satan was precisely this: he knew what God had established in Genesis 2, namely that the man was to assume a special burden of responsibility for the moral life of the garden. He knew that man was called upon to be strong and protect and care for this woman. And therefore, he comes up, he glances at the man and looks away from him, defying his role. In his silence to the man, he mocks his leadership and engages the woman and draws her in to the leadership role while the two are together. And when they both give into that deterioration, or dismantling, of what God had ordained, the fall happens.
Not Owing to Culture or Sin
Therefore, here’s what I think Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:14. I think when he says, “Adam was not deceived,” he means, “Adam was not approached by the deceiver and engaged in direct conversation to do dealings.” The deceiver was very subtle in not engaging the man, but rather defying God’s order and taking up the woman and putting her in the position of spokesman leader. He says, “But the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:14); that is, she’s the one who took up dealings with the deceiver. She’s the one who was led into direct interaction with him and became the one who was directly deceived, while the man was abdicating his responsibility and was just as guilty, and maybe more because he was just standing there.
The point of the first half of 1 Timothy 2:13, where it says Adam was created first, is that God, in his created order, said to the man, “Take initiative because I have taken the initiative to put you there first.” And then when it came to the fall, God said, “The reason things have collapsed between man and woman, the reason there is such deterioration in the world, and the reason there is such abdication of responsibility and abusive responsibility from men is because at the very beginning, this is what happens when you exchange roles. This is what happens when a woman puts herself forward or a man abdicates responsibility in an area where they’re meant to operate in a different kind of complementary.”
So my summary, then, of this whole unit is that men — godly, spiritual, humble, and Christlike men — are called to be the overseers who bear the primary responsibility of leadership in the church; that women and men are called in alongside them to assist them in realizing the vision that God gives to the church with the hundreds and hundreds of kinds of ministries that are open to men and women in touching the lives of people.
And the reason for this is not culture and it is not sin; the reason for this is that God created it that way (1 Timothy 2:13). And when that way is defied and broken, there comes collapse, deception, and ruin into the world (1 Timothy 2:14).
Applying Complimentarity Beyond the Church
Now, let me take just a few minutes, even though I see I’m getting near the limit here, and go beyond the church. Because if what I’ve said is right, if I’m anywhere near the truth, then the reasons for why we relate the way we do in the church — and tomorrow you’ll see it even more clearly, I hope, from Ephesians 5 regarding marriage — is because of creation. God made us to be a certain way, not because of culture and not because of sin. Sin distorts these relationships but it doesn’t create these relationships.
And so what I’ve tried to do in this book, What’s the Difference, is answer the question I gave this morning: what is at the heart of femininity and what is at the heart of masculinity? And then, I seek to answer, what are the implications for the battlefield? And what are the implications for the business world? And I can only briefly touch on these tonight, but let me do that. Let me give you the definitions that I have in here and send you to the book for all the newest exposition.
Here’s my definition of manhood. I wonder if you’ve ever heard anybody risk a definition of masculinity and then femininity and answer the 11 year old’s question: “Mommy, what does it mean to be a woman and not a man? Daddy, what does it mean to be a man and not a woman?” So I’m going to try anyway.
Take masculinity first. What I do in this book is take every one of the words in the definition and I write a page on that. Every word that comes in the rest of this definition, I have pages explaining it.
At the heart of mature masculinity there is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s different relationships.
That would take hours to unpack. Let me translate it into the 11-year-old answer. My son Barnabas is 10, so if he were to ask me, “Daddy, what doesn’t mean to grow up and be a man and not a woman?” I would say, “It means that you grow up to be a strong, humble person who feels a special responsibility toward women to see that good things that need to get done, get done, a special responsibility that they be safe in your presence, and a special responsibility that they have what they need, especially when they’re close to you and have a special relationship with you.”
And I would use this illustration. If, when you grow up and you marry and things aren’t going well in your family, and Jesus comes to your front door and rings the doorbell, and your wife goes to answer the door, and she opens it and Jesus is standing there, Jesus is going to say to her, “Is the man of the house home?” He won’t say first, “You and I have something to deal with.” He’s going to say, “Is the man of the house home?” You know why I think that? Because when God knocked in Genesis 3:9, what did he say? It was after the fall, and he said, “Adam, where are you?” Eve was the one who went down first, but he didn’t say, “Eve went down first. Where are you, Eve?” He said, “Adam, where are you now?” Now, why did he do that?
The Need for Godly Men
I was listening to a tape just the other day of Gilbert Bilezikian, and he was critiquing me and Wayne Grudem and our book. And I was so glad. I heard a woman raise her hand, and she butted in and asked him a question: “What about their point that God comes to the man first after the fall and holds him accountable even though Eve was the one who seemed to deal with the deceiver and sin first?” And all he could say was, “I don’t think it has any significance.” I think it has significance.
So my little 10 year old, when you grow up and Jesus comes to your door, he’s going to say, “Is the man of the house home?” And then Jesus is going to say to you, “There’s some leadership issues that probably account for why your wife is acting the way she’s acting. And if you were a better husband, if you did things right, if you were humbler, if you spent more time with her, if you cared more for her, if you didn’t speak so carelessly with her, if you put down the newspaper when she’s talking to you, she would probably not react the way she’s reacting and the kids wouldn’t be acting out the way they’re acting out. We need to talk.”
Somebody told me in the faculty reception this afternoon, “Don’t you think that you need to put a lot of focus on what men ought to be today?” And I said, “I put almost all focus on what men ought to be today,” because I think if men were the kind of men that the Bible calls you to be in the church and the home, most of our problems would be solved. I don’t go around telling women to be submissive. You really don’t need to be told. I think it’s so built into a woman to delight in godly, humble leadership of men they admire and respect that the real issue is, can we get men to be men?
Here’s my definition of femininity or womanhood:
At the heart of mature femininity there is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s different relationships.
That last part means that you don’t relate to the postman the same way you relate to a pastor, or a husband, or a son. In all those male relationships, there are different ways that this definition works its way out.
Now, I don’t have a daughter. But if I did and she asked me, “What does it mean to be a woman and not a man?” I would try to say, “It means to grow up and be a wise and caring person” — so I start the answer both with the boy and the girl in the same way — “who feels a special desire, a special calling, to give good men a lot of backing, a lot of encouragement, and a lot of support for the special responsibility they have from God to be leaders and protectors and providers. It means that you become a creative partner to help men carry through the goals of the relationship in which you find yourselves.”
Now here comes the really controversial part that will catapult us for the last few minutes into the business world and the battlefield. I’m still talking to my little daughter now, and I say, “If you have a leadership role in the world that makes men the recipients of your influence” — you could think of a hundred examples right off the bat — you will seek to exercise this role in a way that does not compromise the deep sense of responsibility that belongs to their manhood.” Now, what in the world? How in the world are you going to do that? Should women be drill sergeants in the army? Should women be the umpire behind home plate in major league baseball? Or should they be referees in fighting? Should women fly Mig jets in the Persian war? Should we have lost five women in combat in the Persian Gulf War?
Complimentarity in the Business World
My answer to the business world is an indirect answer that will probably satisfy nobody because I cannot give you a list of man’s jobs and woman’s jobs. I think that would be a hopeless enterprise that would never work. There are peripheral things. In other words, I would argue that a woman shouldn’t be a drill sergeant and get in the face of an 18-year-old kid or a 35-year-old man, chewing him out and telling him to do 41 pushups. And I’ll argue that a woman shouldn’t serve on the front lines of the infantry. But I can’t, in the thousands of jobs in between there, give you a list. So here’s what I do.
On the basis of what I’ve seen in the created order, I would say all relationships between men and women in the business world find themselves on two continuums — a continuum of personal to non-personal and a continuum of directive to non-directive. To the degree that a woman’s relationship to a man in the business world is directive, it needs to be non-personal. And to the degree that it is personal, it needs to be non-directive. Now here, let me give you an illustration because that maybe isn’t clicking.
I can picture a woman architect who spends almost all of her days over a drawing board, creating detailed systems of heating and electrical and structural dimensions of a building. She hands over these blueprints to about 5,000 men to build a skyscraper and virtually controls their activity for the next six months because she drew it and they follow it. And I would see no problem with that. Why? Because there is no personal dimension. It is not the woman there over him every day telling him, “Do this, do that, do this, do that.” It is being mediated through this piece of paper, and so it’s non-directive. It would be the same thing, say, with a female traffic planner who designs which streets are one way and which are two way, where the stoplights are, and how they go on and off. Maybe she is a civil engineer or something like that.
So men, all day long, tens of thousands of them, are stopping and starting and driving in directions because she decided which way they’re going to go. And I don’t see any problem with that. Why not? Well, because there’s no personal, sexual, gender dimension in it. However, on the other hand, there are personal relations. I think an in-your-face drill sergeant is very personal. I think marriage is very personal. And you can come up with others. I threw out the umpire thing. I don’t have much stake in that. But you can imagine the kinds of personal relations and personal dimensions in which a woman, if she’s not going to call the man’s sense of responsibility into question, is going to have to have a demeanor that affirms him.
Male-Female Dynamics in the Workplace
Here’s the illustration I tried to think of. Let’s say a woman is a bank loan manager. She negotiates mortgages. She sits at a desk in a bank and she helps people get mortgages so they can buy their house. And there’s a man who drives a truck for a career business. And basically, he runs between banks and others institutions and he walks in and asks her what she wants him to do, and she says, “I would like you to take this to First Bank and give it to Ms. So-and-so.” And he does it. Okay, now, how can this work if, by nature, men feel special responsibility to lead, care for, and protect women. And women, in their submission, are to affirm that and receive that and nurture that?
I believe that it’s possible for a woman in that kind of role and a man in that kind of role to relate in such a way that she deals with him, speaks with him, and affirms him in ways that exalt his manhood and he honors her womanhood. This is where it gets real risky for me to try to give you specific examples because you can always think, “Oh, that’s hokey,” or something. But I can easily imagine them talking and her thanking him for doing such an excellent job. Or after work, she sees him in the parking lot and she has to walk through downtown Minneapolis up onto the second level of the dark parking ramp, and she says, “I’d rather not go up there alone. Would you mind walking me to my car?” And all of a sudden, even though he’s the one who has taken the instructions from where to carry this, she says, “I want to look to you for protection here.”
There are other ways that I think women in the business world can creatively affirm a man. She might inquire about his wife and his children and affirm him in his leadership there. She might talk about the way he’s moving and behaving in the company in a way that affirms that and so on.
Complementarity on the Battlefield
With regard to the battlefield, I won’t bother reading this long quote I have here from one of the generals that I wrote down. But basically, I find that there were 35,000 women in the Persian Gulf and five were killed as reprehensible. I find it reprehensible. It’s an indictment of manhood in America. The Minneapolis Tribune in my city wrote in April of this year:
The Gulf record has helped explode the myth that women are less able to succeed or sacrifice in the service of their country.
That was never a myth. Nobody ever doubted it. And then they went on and added this:
It’s senseless to forbid women to use in combat the skills they already use daily. Like their male counterparts, female soldiers should be allowed to perform any task of which they are capable.
Now, that is vintage argumentation today. Competency is all that matters to these people. They are simply denying massive underlying realities. This general here says, “What’s being denied is nature and what men are — namely, men have built into them a sense of responsibility to take a special initiative in protecting women. And if you put them side by side on the battlefield, you can bet your bottom dollar, if he has any ounce of manhood in him, he won’t treat her the same way he treats the buddy on the other side. He will feel, ‘I must be careful for her.’”
And what the Tribune is trying to do is get men to deny one of the most noble features of their manhood, namely this inbred sense that, “I will fight for her. I will protect her.” It has nothing to do with her competency. She may shoot better, drive the tank better, fly the airplane better, and know computers better. That’s irrelevant. I am called as man to protect.
Deeper Than Culture
Here’s an illustration. I’ll close with this. It’s one I used when I taught at Bethel. Just picture yourself now. You’re on a date. You finish studying at the library, and you’re going to go over to McDonald’s across the highway to get ice cream or something, and you’re walking across campus and this guy jumps out with a knife, threatening you both. I ask the guys now, really, tell me. If this has happened three times and she jumped out the first time and took the initiative to disarm the guy. And you jumped out the second time to took the initiative to disarm the guy. And she jumped out the third time, say it’s the fourth time now, and he says, “Go ahead, it’s your turn. Take him,” just because it’s got to be equal. Can’t put her down by jumping out to protect her. I say, “Really, now? Does your masculinity give you that sense? Is it just a cultural thing? Is there nothing built into you guys that, at that moment, would feel some kind of special responsibility to take the initiative?”
And then I complicate matters by saying, “Suppose she has a black belt in karate and you’re a real wimp. And you know she could just go whack him and he’d be on his back. At that moment, I don’t think that would make any difference.” If you said, “You have the black belt. Go ahead,” everything in you would cry out, “Wimp. You’re not a man. What’s wrong with you?” And I don’t think that’s culture. I know that I’ll be told that’s culture, but I think it’s built right into who we are. It’s a sense of taking initiative and responsibility to protect and provide.
And I have no problem, women, when he throws himself for your sake at him, if you get in there and finish the job off. That’s no problem at all. You might have to do that. Many women have saved men lunging out, doing something crazy because they think it’s needed. And women, with a smarter way to fix it, might hit the guy over the head or something. That’s okay. What is needed for that man and that woman is to feel a kind of choreography in their relationship that affirms who they are as male and female.
Well, I hope tomorrow morning when we look at Ephesians five, I can provide a broader biblical foundation for this nature rooted-ness of the differences I’m suggesting. And I realize that I’m leaving open a whole range of differences in the way you work this out in the business world, the way it gets worked out in the battlefield, and the way it gets worked out at home. And I’m not interested in writing scripts for men and women. I’m interested in basic principles.
The way Noël and I work out our marriage is not by writing out, “This is man thing, this is woman thing. This is man thing, this is woman thing.” But rather, it is me taking, I hope, a spiritual, biblical responsibility with initiative in devotions, prayer, worship, discipline, finances, and bearing the burden of the family and how it works, and then letting the details of who vacuums on any given night fall into where it will. That’s not a big issue. When she goes away like she did for the last 10 days, I do everything. I wash the clothes, I wash the dishes, I vacuum the floors, and I make sure the boys are off to school, and I don’t feel my manhood compromised at all. Well, I have to stop. I could just keep rambling on and on. Let me close with prayer.