Gender-Debaters Point the Finger at Themselves

Christianity Today has published two essays in which an egalitarian and a complementarian point the finger of critique at their own movements. John Koessler represents the complementarian point of view, and Sarah Sumner represents the egalitarian.

I’m not going to comment on this exchange point-by-point. But I do have a question about one of Koessler’s statements. He writes:

“When God created humankind in his image, he created them to be male and female (Gen. 1:27). It is often said that men and women bear the image of God equally. But it might be more accurate to say that men and women bear God’s image together. Men and women collectively reflect the divine image; one without the other is incomplete.”

I think this is not stated as well as it could be. Wouldn’t it be better to affirm that every human being individually bears the image of God? My bearing of God’s image is not somehow jeopardized or “incomplete” apart from my wife’s (see Gen 5:1-3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7). Jesus is the paradigmatic divine image-bearer, and his image-bearing was not at all diminished by his being single his whole life (see 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15).

Bruce Ware addressed this issue in the sermon that I noted yesterday. Here’s the relevant section from Ware’s notes:

“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). That is, she has his nature—the nature of a human being—only as she comes from him. This is Paul’s point in 1 Cor 11:7. Why should a woman have her head covered (a symbol of male authority – see 11:10) but a man not? Answer: man “is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” Clearly Paul does not mean here that woman is not in the image of God, but rather that her being the image of God only happens as she comes from man, who is created as the image of God. Note: much the same can be said of Seth, Adam’s son, who is born in the likeness and image of Adam (Gen 5:3), who himself is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). Here, Gen 5 does not say that Seth is the image of God, but the clear implication is that since he is born in the likeness and image of Adam, who himself is the image of God, Seth too is made in the image of God by coming from Adam.”

Some complementarians might disagree with Ware’s contention that “woman’s humanity as ‘image of God’ is established as she comes from the man.” Ware affirms nevertheless that man and woman each individually bear the image of God.

John Frame addresses this issue in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. He writes:

“Women and men equally image God, even in their sexual differences, even in their differences with regard to authority and submission. The reason is that the image of God embraces everything that is human. Both men and women, therefore, resemble God and are called to represent Him throughout the creation, exercising control, authority, and presence in His name. This doctrine is not at all inconsistent with the subordination of women to men in the home and in the church. All human beings are under authority, both divine and human. Their submission to authority, as well as their authority itself, images God.”

Read the rest of Frame’s article for his entire argument, in which he disagrees with the Barthian notion that “male and female” together comprise the image of God rather than “male and female” individually. He argues that both man and woman individually bear the image of God, and that is the crucial point that I think Koessler has missed.

14 Responses to Gender-Debaters Point the Finger at Themselves

  1. quixote June 25, 2008 at 1:09 pm #

    Denny,

    Why don’t you (or Pastor Nelson or Dr. Ware) hold to the teaching of women keeping their heads covered in church?

    I had asked in a previous thread about how comps. decide which of Paul’s passages to disregard as cultural and which to holdfast to in today’s church. No one responded. But since you brought this verse up on the currect post, can you please help me understand?

    Thanks.

  2. scott June 25, 2008 at 1:21 pm #

    quixote,
    i don’t think any passages should be “disregarded,” including the passages about head coverings. there is an underlying, timeless truth that is being applied in a culturally relevant way. head coverings probably communicated respect and modesty at that time. in our culture, respect and modesty would probably best be communicated in other ways.

    denny,
    it sounds like ware is suggesting that man bears God’s image directly, while a woman bear’s God’s image indirectly, through the man. i understand the biblical verses seem to make this clear, but it seems to be inconsistent with the view that men and women bear God’s image equally.

    in what meaningful sense are men and women equal, in your opinion? how would you word it?
    -scott

  3. Denny Burk June 25, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    Scott,

    Go read this (http://www.cbmw.org/images/onlinebooks/rbmw/head_coverings.pdf). It explains how many mainstream complementarians understand Paul’s exhortations related to head-coverings.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  4. Rick June 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm #

    Denny,

    The answer to the conflict lie in what it means to be an image bearer. As you know this issue has been the subject of theological debate for years. But taking the risk of over simplification and moving in the deep waters of Theology, may I offer this.

    In the context of Gen 1 through 3 there are Theological revelations. The first is God creative nature. But the second, not quite so obvious, is His own nature to create provisions for needs and subsequently create the need.

    It may be over simplistic to say that the whole of the earth was designed to meet a significant portion of the physical needs of man. So God is seen as making provision for needs He would soon create. He then creates man as needy. He is the supplier of the needs through His creation.

    But the is one thing wrong. It is not good (still needy) for man to be alone. And thus a woman is created. The pre-sin problem was aloneness.

    But then He says He created man and woman (them) in Our image. It is my belief that what God was doing was reflecting how the Trinity (Our) relates in His creation of mail and female. The Trinity relates (meets each person’s needs). And in a similar way, a man and woman, in marriage, meets each others needs in the most intimate way possible in humanity. Marriage then becomes a unique way in which God reveals His nature and glory. This is why He hates divorce.

    And just as there are roles in marriage, there are roles in the Trinity. Just here is a hierarchy in the Trinity and submission in the Trinity so there is in a marriage. And this same principle of hierarchy and submission must be reflected in the church.

    There is so much more to be said on the subject but the answer to the debate is not found in the Hebrew or Greek words alone. It is found in Theology.

    OK, let me have it.

  5. bonnie June 25, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    Thanks for posting that on the Koessler statement. While I agree with his main points, I think that particular thought was poorly stated. The thought that man without woman, and vice versa, is incomplete is sometimes used to affirm marriage as the only biblical path for believers. Koessler doesn’t affirm that, but his statement could be used to buttress that argument.

  6. quixote June 25, 2008 at 3:31 pm #

    Bonnie,

    Ware’s thought (paraphrased by Scott as: “it sounds like ware is suggesting that man bears God’s image directly, while a woman bear’s God’s image indirectly”) also seems to buttress that argument.After all, woman can only beart God’s image as she relates to man, and not on her own.

    Scott,

    Some cultures today STILL enforce head coverings for women. That’s my point. Why is ours allowed to disregard it yet hold so tightly to other Pauline directives?

  7. scott June 25, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    Some cultures today STILL enforce head coverings for women. That’s my point. Why is ours allowed to disregard it yet hold so tightly to other Pauline directives?
    in our culture, i think paul would admonish women to show modesty in other ways. in certain muslim countries where head coverings are still the norm, perhaps paul’s application might be the same, encouraging christian women to wear head coverings as a sign of respect and modesty.

    again, i don’t think we are allowed to disregard the text. i think we should examine the text, look through the cultural context, and get to the timeless principle behind it. then we must think through that principle again, with our culture in mind, to see if the specific application should look different.

    denny,
    thanks for pointing me to the article (16 pages, single-spaced, yikes!), but that doesn’t address the question i asked you…

    in what meaningful sense are men and women equal, in your opinion? how would you word it?
    -scott

  8. bprjam June 26, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Talk of individuality in the “image of God debate” seems to smack of modernist philosophical leanings that indicate indivisibility found in the individual.

    Pre-modern and post-modern thought don’t work that way, though. Perhaps the debate about being created in God’s image (which is a plurality?)is being controlled by philosophical presuppositions as to the basic unit of humanity.

    In other words, it seems to me the discussion should start with “What is the image of God?”, followed by “How does mankind fit into that image as outlined by the scripture?” and “Is mankind unique in this image?”

    I think that the idea of being complete or incomplete without a significant other completely misses the point of the order in which we live. Sure, we can live without marrying or dating, but I would argue that it is “not good” for any individual to be alone (what does that mean for being in the image of God?). Furthermore, all individuals (even Jesus!) come from woman. Without her, everyone is incomplete. In that sense, Jesus’ “completeness” relies completely upon “male” (this a fudge since I believe God transcends maleness) and female “help”.

    In short, this whole debate seems wrong-headed.

  9. bonnie June 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    So, do you guys feel that God’s Word indicates that without marriage, men and women are incomplete, that a single woman or single man is unable to truly be in the image of God?

  10. Truth Unites.. and Divides June 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    (Read this on another blog)

    “When I say secondary, I mean secondary. Not unimportant, but secondary. There is primary, and secondary, and tertiary, etc. It is of primary importance that people “love one another” and “love the Lord with all your heart…”. In a liberal wicked culture, this means something **quite** different from the meaning it had in the context the early Church.

    [Set off in Block Paragraph]

    Thus the attitude which says “theology is very much secondary” and means “we can ignore theology as long as we all just get along” (as opposed to meaning “theology is secondary because it is a means to an end… an end which requires that sound theology but is more than just theology”) is, quite frankly, the kind of attitude which is at the heart of the modern apostasy… and the kind of thing you’ll regularly hear from the homosexualists and other heretics.

    [End of Block Paragraph]

    This is absolutely true. And so how did [this denomination] get to this place? It is because Christians have not loved each other. But I’m not talking about tea and crumpets and pasta dinners. I’m talking about love that stands up and confronts. “I opposed Peter to his face” out of love and “shall I come with a stick” out of love and “I am perplexed about you” out of love and “my soul takes no pleasure in cowards” and “remove such a one” out of love and “stop sinning or something worse will happen to you” and “reject a contentious man” out of love. It takes this kind of love to protect the church. This kind of love gains nothing for the one that dispenses it. It divides. It creates tension. It roots out. It is painful. This kind of love is born of only one place – a mystical union with Christ. A pure love of Christ and a powerful life unhindered by a bad conscience. It take the humiliation of confessed sins.

    Theology teaches us skill in how to love, but you have to have the heart right first. A coward with a sword makes a useless soldier.

    When is last time you (a figurative “you”) actually confronted a cantankerous person? When is the last time you stood ground and had others break fellowship with you? When is the last time you confronted a brother about his sins and had a complete mess on your hands as a result? This kind of love is what is missing, not some sappy feeling that says “you’re ok, I’m ok” or “include all at all costs”. I’m talking about the kind of love that excludes when necessary, and longs and burns for Christ, to the point it is willing to confront sin head on and not back down when the wicked threaten with instability.

    Love is offensive, but “the wicked flee when no one persues”. However, the wicked don’t flee when Christians don’t love on the offensive. The wicked have not flown the coop because they are not scared. There has been a failure to love in the power of Christ. This kind of love always will “silence the enemy and the avenger.” (Psalm 8).”

    Pastor Tommy Nelson has this kind of “offensive” Love. God bless him.

  11. Don Johnson July 4, 2008 at 8:52 am #

    It is the man who should not wear a head covering, the woman has a choice whether to do so or not, Paul says she has authority on her head.

  12. Don Johnson July 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm #

    I think I have read something by Sumner where she tries to take a middle position, not really egal or non-egal.

  13. Lydia July 4, 2008 at 11:33 pm #

    “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.”

    Huh? It really makes no sense what he is saying. Her ‘humanity’ as the Image of God comes from the man?

    What gives us the Image of God? Surely not the building materials that God used. That would mean that man gets his image of God from dirt.

    ” Why should a woman have her head covered (a symbol of male authority – see 11:10) but a man not? Answer: man “is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” ”

    Boy, he really twists this one. The words ‘symbol of’ were added to the text by translators. It actually reads that a woman has authority over her own head! To cover or not cover. That is what the passage is about.

    Paul’s whole point is that the men of that time do not need to be ashamed that their wives uncover in the Body.
    Before Christ, the wife was not NOT the husbands ‘glory’. Now, in Christ they are. This does NOT mean that women are not the Glory of God, too. Remember: headcoverings…cultural problem Paul is addressing.

    How come men should not cover? Because Jews covered when they worshiped to show their shame for their sin. Now, this Jewish tradition is not appropriate to worship the ONE who took their sin on the Cross. But for women, it was ALSO a cultural dilemma to uncover. Prostitutes uncovered in public. An unbelieving husband could divorce his wife for uncovering in public.

    All you have to do is read down a few verses and Paul explains it all by telling us that:

    “11In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

    Funny how the comps ignore this part and how Paul concludes this teaching.

    “13Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? ”

    Yes. But it is a choice. Judge for yourselves, he tells them.

    Here is another example in this passage of a horrible translation:

    “14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?”

    Really? So Paul’s long hair for a vow was a disgrace? Samson was a disgrace because of long hair? Nature teaches us this? Very bad translation. Paul is saying that NO! Nature does not teach us these things. All hair, male and female grows long in nature if not cut. So he concludes that her hair can be a covering, if anyone wants to be contentious about it:

    “For long hair is given to her as a covering.” She can use her hair as a covering.

    (Does Ware interpret this that short hair on a woman is wrong?)

    But the best for last…

    “16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

    Sheesh…this is about headcoverings and a serious cultural dilemma within the Body.

    I do, notice, however that Ware ignores the fact that Paul ASSUMES the women were praying and prophesying in the Body in verse 5!!

    “Some complementarians might disagree with Ware’s contention that “woman’s humanity as ‘image of God’ is established as she comes from the man.” Ware affirms nevertheless that man and woman each individually bear the image of God.”

    Then why the ‘humanity’ bit?

  14. Lydia July 4, 2008 at 11:46 pm #

    TUAD, There are some who have graciously confronted you about your comments that you have ignored.

    I enjoyed reading that last post but let me say that a woman will not go to hell because she proclaimed and preached Christ crucified to anyone who will listen reqardless of gender. She will be obeying the commands of the Word for the holy priesthood. She also has anointing from the Holy Spirit to do so if she is a true believer. (1 John)

    However, many will go to hell because they are not Born Again. We ALL need to tell them.

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