On Sunday, Dr. Bruce Ware delivered one of the finest, most succinct presentations of the Complementarian point of view that I have ever heard. His address was the second of a Complementarian series of sermons being hosted by Denton Bible Church (the first address is here). The message is deeply biblical and powerfully delivered. The audio is available from DBC’s podcast, or you can listen to it below.
The substance of Ware’s address consists of ten reasons “why we should affirm that God designed there to be male headship” in the original created order. In essence, Dr. Ware explains how Genesis 1-3 teaches male headship as a part of God’s pre-fall creation. Here is a summary of the ten reasons:
1. The order of creation, with the man created first, indicates God’s design of male headship in the male/female relationship (Gen 2; 1 Tim 2:13).
2. The means of the woman’s creation as “out of” or “from” the man bears testimony also to the headship of the male in the relationship (Gen 2:23; 1 Cor 11:8).
3. While both man and woman are fully the image of God (Gen 1:26-28), yet the woman’s humanity as “image of God” is established as she comes from the man. Adam names her “isha” (woman) because she was “taken out of ish (man)” (Gen 2:23; cf. 5:3).
4. The woman was created for the man’s sake or to be Adam’s helper (Gen 2:18, 20).
5. Man (not woman) was given God’s moral commandment in the garden; and woman learned God’s moral command from the man (Gen 2:16-17).
6. Man named the woman both before and after the entrance of sin (Gen 2:19-20, 23; 3:20).
7. Satan approached the woman (not the man) in the temptation, usurping God’s design of male-headship (Gen 3; 1 Tim 2:14).
8. Although the woman sinned first, God comes to the man first, holding him (not her) primarily responsible for their sin (Gen 3:8-9; Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:22).
9. The curses on the man and woman indicate the fundamental purposes for which each was created, respectively (Gen 3:16-19).
10. The Trinity’s equality and distinction of Persons is mirrored in male-female equality and distinction (1 Cor 11:3).
There is much that I could say in commending this sermon, but I want to focus here on one thing that I really appreciatedâ€”Dr. Ware’s method. Dr. Ware explains the meaning of the Genesis creation accounts not only by appealing to the historical sense of the text, but also by reading it in light of the apostle Paul’s comments on Genesis. Thus, Dr. Ware moves back and forth between Genesis and Paul’s writings to explain the creation accounts.
The theological and hermeneutical presupposition undergirding Dr. Ware’s approach is worthy of note. Dr. Ware assumes that the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament is normative. In other words, Dr. Ware treats Paul’s interpretation of Genesis as an authoritative and binding interpretation. This is not a presupposition that characterizes the mainstream of biblical scholarship. Most critical scholars treat the New Testament and the Old Testament (and the individual books within them) as if they represented different and sometimes contradictory theological perspectives.
Unfortunately, this critical way of reading the Bible has infected much of what passes for evangelical scholarship. Some evangelical Old Testament scholars have bought into the interpretive assumptions of their guild so much that they no longer feel any need to understand how the Old Testament’s message fits into a canonical unity with the New Testament. For them, the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament is a problem for the NT scholars, not the OT scholars.
Dr. Ware’s presentation offers a reading of the Old Testament that takes the New Testament’s use of the Old very seriously. For this reason, not only is Dr. Ware’s interpretation of Genesis countercultural, but so is his hermeneutic.