What is God’s design in Genesis?
How is it that there are millions of Christians who all look to the same Genesis account yet find themselves with different and contradictory truth claims from the same account? While many conclude that man was designed in a special way that sets him above the woman with special God-given privileges, there are still many others who conclude that God created both man and woman as equal rulers over creation. We all need to be careful that we don’t just see what we want to see because there is a tendency for each one of us to read our own position into the account. But as Christians, we should desire to value truth above all else for it is God’s design that we want to discover, not mankind’s aberration of God’s design.
As we search diligently in the creation account in Genesis, we look for how God conveyed His design differences to the attention of the first man and woman. Did the man know that he had been designed differently? Did he know that his design gave him special privileges that were withheld from his wife because she did not have the same design? And was it conveyed to Eve that she was not on the same level as Adam? According to Ray Ortlund, God gave the man a special mission, and a special “call” to accomplish and the woman had a special mission to please him.
God made Adam first and put him in the Garden with a job to do, a mission to fulfill. In the heart of every fallen man is the self-doubt that wonders, “Am I man enough to climb this mountain God has called me to? Can I fulfill my destiny?” A wise wife will understand that question at the center of her husband’s heart. And she will spend her life answering it, communicating to him in various ways, “Honey, I believe in your call. I know you can do this, by God’s power. Go for it.” In this way, she will breathe life into her man.
God made Eve from Adam, for Adam, to help him follow the call. In the heart of every fallen woman is the self-doubt that wonders, “Do I please you? Am I what you wanted?” A wise husband will understand that question at the center of his wife’s heart. And he will spend his life answering it, communicating to her in various ways, “Darling, you are the one I need. I cherish you. Let me hold you close.” In this way, he will breathe life into his wife.
So according to Ortlund, there is one call – for the man alone, but did you notice that he gave no scripture to support his view? Let’s now view what God Himself has revealed.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
God said that both of them were made in His image. He said that both were designed according to His likeness. Then God reveals that the design is for them to rule. Would this not be the perfect place for God to say that He made the male to rule and the female to support the man’s rule? Why is it that this alternate design pattern of one that is called and the other who is to please the one who is called, is never mentioned? Why is it that the first mention of God’s design is equality in creation in God’s likeness and an equal design of rulership? Did God make a mistake and forget to show the design difference to the first pair? If we believe the Bible to be God’s inspired, inerrant word, we can be assured that God did not make a mistake. There has been no difference in God’s design for their likeness or in their design that mandates their rule.
The next thing that we notice is that both were designed to rule the fish and the birds and the cattle and the earth as well as everything that creeps on the earth. Now isn’t this odd? If there was a design difference, shouldn’t we see something like a design that keeps a woman to the water world kingdom while the man gets to rule over all three kingdoms – the air and the land and the sea? How come with so many levels of rule that they both get it all? How come there isn’t even a breath of difference between their rule? Those who say that man has a different mission to fill have a lot of explaining to do regarding why God’s design is not different for the woman. There is no divided kingdom.
The next thing that we notice is the coveted blessing that was held out to the first born is given to both of them:
Genesis 1:28 God blessed them;…
God didn’t hold out the special first born blessing to just the man. Instead, He gave the same special blessing to both:
…and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The blessing involved their fruitfulness on the earth, their freedom to rule and the full extent of their rule. Both of them were given the whole earth to fill and subdue it and rule over every living creature and rule over the land. Where is the difference in design here? There is no difference at all. There is only equality.
Notice another thing that is highly important. In the issuing of the rule, God doesn’t call out the man to speak to him first as if his calling was special or different than the woman’s calling. God spoke to them both. Then God gives them the food that they have permission to eat, and God does not divide the two of them into a gatherer and a cook.
Genesis 1: 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
The word “you” is plural in this verse. God speaks to both Adam and Eve and gives them both the mandate to be fruit and plant inspectors as they both need to know which plants have seeds. Again there is no design difference between Adam and Eve regarding their mission or their work. Note also that God doesn’t give Adam the mandate to teach Eve about which foods they can eat. God gives her His word by Himself. Both are treated as responsible and equally designed rulers.
Now that we observed what God said let’s look to see what Adam said that would define any special design that he may have known that he had.
When Eve was talking to the serpent, did Adam claim that talking to the animals was his part of the rule? No, Adam did not claim that there was a special animal rule that belonged to him alone because of the way that he was designed.
Did Eve understand that Adam had a special rule that she was to support him in that did not belong to her? No, there is not a single word from Eve to show she believed that Adam had a special rule. Well, what about the “helper” words of God? When God said that it was not good for man to be alone and He would create a helper comparable to him, does the term “helper” mean a lesser rule? Absolutely not. God is called our helper, but He does not have a lesser rule than we do. Eve did not miss out on an equal rule with Adam because she was his helper. In fact, the only way that she could be Adam’s helper is for her to be competent in the work. She is never said to need to wait for Adam’s instructions. She had her instructions from God Himself. She was a co-laborer with Adam.
Many will bring up an objection by saying that Adam’s first creation showed his special position. The timing of his creation was necessary for Adam since God’s design was that the woman was to be made from his body. How could she be created from his body if she was made at the same time? The fact that God gave them both the first-born blessing should remove any doubt that her creation from his body was meant to signal a secondary rule for the woman and a special first place rule for the man.
With no facts about a unique design of man that makes him the sole ruler or a special design that would include the rule over the woman, it appears that the documented account of the creation of man and woman has been rewritten and retold in such a way as to conform to fallen man’s way. The question we must ask is why complementarians are allowed to rewrite history? When the very foundation of the complementarian position is based on a recreated account of the origin of humankind, how is that a faithful way to view truth?
It has been said that changing the historical context changes the way we view the present. This is the power of historical revisionism. The very first attempt at rewriting history came out of the mouth of the serpent. Did God really say…, he asked as he challenged the historical account of God’s words. The rewriting of history was the foundation point for the very first lie. Today we are being told that the woman was not designed to rule but instead she has been designed to support the man in such a way that she does not do what he does. Can we actually change woman’s design by denying that she was created as a ruler and one who would give powerful aid to the man? How did the design of the woman get turned around so that complementarians are being taught that the woman was designed to be ruled by the man? It appears that it is true that if you tell a lie long enough and often enough, people will believe it. But a lie is never changed into the truth by repetition.
The next event that has been subject to historical revision is the fall. The consequence of man’s sin is downplayed in the fall so that the ruling of the man over the woman in Genesis 3 is made to be God’s original design even though God never mentioned it before the fall. History has also been rewritten when the words of God’s warning told to Eve about her husband’s after-sin way of relating to her is reinterpreted as God’s original design, not her husband’s new sin nature. But the truth unravels the revision when we study the context. For if the context of the fall can be stripped away, then one can argue that God’s original design was weeds, a cursed earth, and the necessary death of mankind.
I feel for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have had their “truth” molded by historical revisionism. But I would encourage all of us not to forget the lessons of the past. We are to remember what God has done for us. God made the woman to rule alongside the man. When God originally created the man alone, He stated that it was “not good.” It is “not good” for man to fulfill his rule over creation alone. God made both the man and the woman to rule, and the original rule was to be over God’s world and His animals, not over each other.
I also feel for my dear sisters in Christ who have been taught the revision of the creation account so that they have become afraid to go through the open doors that God has held open for them. I would like to quote a few words from a Women in Ministry blog from the First Baptist Church, St. Simons Island, Georgia. This church has recently made a bold move to include women in a position of service in their church. Celeste writes some very thoughtful words about the open doors that God has for women. I encourage you to read the whole post as I was very touched by it.
I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength; I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough. Revelation 3:8 (The Message)
I wonder how many times in our lives we’ve prayed and asked the Lord to just “open a door” for us and told Him all that we would try to do to obey Him and to honor Him as we’d enter through it.
Open doors are a wonderful thing…
and the visual effect for us is very provocative and encouraging.
Then a door opens…
Indeed…now what? How will we go through these open doors when we have fallen captive to the lie for so long? Celeste gives words of advice in the finish of her post.