What did God intend at creation?
It seems that everywhere we look these days, complementarian men are quoting the act of creation as God’s intention to put the women underneath the rule of the man. They are also quick to note that there are two different kinds of rulership of the male. The first kind of male rule is that of an autocrat, tyrant or despot who rules in spite of the woman’s own will or intention. This kind of rule, they say, is not what is taught by Christian men. The second kind of rulership is described by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as headship and this is defined as “two spiritually equal human beings, man and woman, the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction.” (pg 95 Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood a Response to Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem). The difference between the two rulerships is that one allows the man to rule the woman for his own benefit and the other rulership has the man ruling the woman for the benefit of God as a God-ordained spiritual leader.
Let’s unpack this down to the presuppositions that are required to form the foundation of the God-ordained male rule. This post will consider the first two claims of male-only rule:
1. The male rules for the benefit of God because the male is somehow more like God than the female is.
The claim is that God is male and that only the male was made directly in God’s image. The implication is that because God is a “male” and because He rules the universe, males are more like God and have been given a God-ordained rule within their male nature. At the same time, these God-ordained male rulers believe that God withholds from women the ability to be “like” Him in rulership, because of their God-ordained nature as a “helper”, thus the male alone rules for God and the female alone submits.
First of all, it is important to note that God is not male. God has no male sexual organs and He has no testosterone. God also does not have a body, so it is impossible for Him to be structurally or hormonally male. In His essence, God is neither male nor female and because He is neither, God is free to describe Himself in female terms just as He is free to describe Himself in male terms. God describes himself as a nursing mother in Numbers 11:12 and Isaiah 49:15, yet we know that God as pure Spirit has no sexual parts that could make God female. Those who claim that God is female are just as wrong as those who claim that He is male for God is neither.
Secondly, within the expression of God, we find Him as a Divine ruler and a Divine helper so being like God would involve both ruling and functioning as a helper. If a Christian man refuses to be a helper because he believes this is a woman’s “role”, then he is failing to live out the image of God. God is Himself called our helper in Scripture.
In Genesis 1, God laid out the function of His image-bearers here on earth. Both of God’s image bearers were to rule the earth and the animals. God gave no indication that the male is any more “like” God in His image than the female is “like” God for God has chosen to give His image to male and female alike.
2. The male rules for the benefit of God because the male was created first.
God created the man first (2:7) and stationed him in the Garden of Eden to develop it and to guard it (2:15) (pg 100 Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)
God did not say that He would create Adam first so that the male alone would have a unique right to rule the earth. To claim that being created first is a Divine stamp of approval over and against the second one who was created is an arrogant stand against God’s own testimony from Genesis 1:26, 27. God initiated His plan by His own spoken Word and He brought the plan into existence by creating both the man and the woman in His image. Both had His stamp and both had the mandate to rule.
While ancient culture gave priority to the first born male child, God deliberately by-passed that cultural priority at times by choosing His servants from outside the rank of the first born. On the other hand, it is important to note that Adam and Eve were not in a competition of “first-born” son’s rights since they were not created as siblings, but created to be united as husband and wife.
The last point is that Adam’s privileges given to him before Eve was created from his body, cannot be a sign of male supremacy unless it can be proven that Adam was given something that was withheld from Eve because she was a female. No such God-ordained withholding of privileges is present in the Scriptures, so complementarians are left with a “beginning of creation” male supremacy through sheer wishful thinking alone.