A Biblical Examination of the Original Doctrinal Statement of the “Christians for Biblical Equality”
First Paragraph – “Full Equality”
Let us begin, then, with the preamble, which consists of two paragraphs. The first reads:
“The Bible teaches the full equality of men and women in Creation and in Redemption (Gen 1:26-28, 2:23, 5:1-2; 1Cor 11:11-12; Gal 3:13, 28, 5:1).”
The first thing that we notice is the use of ambiguous terms, and a lack of definition. For the reader may well be puzzled by the term “full equality”. What meaneth this? Is this supposed to mean that men and women are the same in every respect? Surely not! “Full equality”, used here without qualification, would, however, seem to suggest that there are no differences at all in the origins, natures, roles, capabilities, or status of men and women. That is a preposterous claim; but if that is not what is intended, then different language should have been used.
What is needed is language that will distinguish those aspects of human nature that are the same in men and women from those that are not. This would not have been difficult to do, had the authors of this document wished to do so. Their vagueness may be related, however, to their agenda, which is to assert equality of status or rank – “political” equality, if you will – and to simultaneously de-emphasize the differences between the sexes, whose existence tends to support the idea of differing status and sex roles. To assert that the Bible teaches a broad, “full equality” between the sexes would hardly be credible; but this studied vagueness helps to create confusion of categories, and thus hide the real intent from the insufficiently alert reader. In other words, when they say “full equality”, they don’t really mean it. This is propaganda, and should not be mistaken for serious theology; despite the biblical veneer and the proof-texts.
It will hardly clear things up if we read the rest of the sentence. For what is the meaning of “full equality… in Creation”? Again, this is very vague! Will anyone pretend that there are no differences in the biblical account of the way men and women were created, the Divinely-appointed circumstances of their separate creations? Or will anyone claim that men and women are physically identical? Or that they function identically in all respects – physically, emotionally, and mentally? For nothing less will suffice to warrant the term “full equality” in connection with the word “creation”.
There is not much help in the next clause “full equality… in redemption”, either. To be sure, both men and women are redeemed in exactly the same way, by the same priceless blood of Christ. The atonement applies equally to all classes of humankind. Is that all that is meant here? Then how is it germane to the premise? No, once again, we must keep in mind the agenda, which is to justify the abolition of any sex-based restrictions on women in any sphere. This is merely a ruse to open the doors that God has shut so firmly against them. What the words fairly mean is not what they want the reader to think when he reads them. They want to pretend that “full equality in Redemption” somehow means that redemption means a cancellation of sex roles and sex-based distinctions; because they want to find some way to get around the scriptural prohibition against women abandoning the home, speaking in church, appearing before God uncovered, preaching to mixed audiences, and becoming officers in church and state.
Like all radical revolutionaries, they are dishonest. They cloak their intention under fair words, and manipulate – rather than reason and persuade – the minds of their hearers. Mixing Egalitarian ideology and Christian doctrine is like mixing oil and water: they cannot be made to cohere. So it is of the first importance that they be made to seem compatible by means of obscuration – in other words, smoke and mirrors.
Now, to the proof texts. Since the manifesto has failed to furnish us with an unambiguous definition of their position at this point, it is of course impossible to say for sure exactly what the texts are supposed to be proving. But since their agenda is clear, we will not hesitate to examine the texts to see if there is anything in them to support the new dogma of equality. And we begin with Genesis 1:26-28, a favorite with feminists; but unfortunately for them, no real proof of their position:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
As to “full equality”, we find here neither the word nor the thing. The subject is not discussed. Man and woman are made in the image of God, but that does not eliminate all the God-created differences between the sexes. It does not make woman equal to man in status or rank, nor does it mean that they share the identical role. That she is intended to share in the dominion (as a Queen with her King), and in the overall task assigned to him (as his helper) does not make her his equal.
Next we come to Genesis 2:23. It will help if we also quote v. 24 as well:
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
But there is no mention of equality here, and no evidence of equality, either. The expression, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” does not imply equality, but oneness. Adam is saying that she is a part of him – that they are “one flesh”, as v.24 declares. He recognizes that she is both like, and unlike, himself . So he calls her – not man (Hebrew, Ish), which would imply full equality, but – woman (Hebrew, Isha), which is the feminine form of the word, indicating the difference in sex.
We commonly refer to our children as our “own flesh and blood”; but that does not mean that they are equal to us – only that they are our own natural children. As Paul says, a child “differeth nothing from a servant” (Galatians 4:1), because he is completely subject to his parents.
In fact, the text highlights the fact that Adam was the source of Eve’s being; so how could he ever be merely her equal partner? The clear meaning of the revelatory Divine act by which Eve first began to be, as interpreted by Paul in 1 Cor 11:7-10, is that man is endowed with a dignity and authority that woman does not possess. This is confirmed by the fact that he has the authority to name her, as he does here, before the fall, with her generic name (woman); and as he does again in 3:20, after the fall, with her personal name (Eve). Only someone with authority over a thing (or person) can rightfully choose its name.
Next, Genesis 5:1-2:
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”
What there is here to justify the claim of equality escapes me. We have already discussed the significance of the fact that both male and female were made in the image and likeness of God. All that remains to discuss is the phrase, “and called their name Adam”. But what, you say, has this to do with sexual equality? Good question. But before the answer, a few notes on the translation are needed.
First, it is probable that the first sentence belongs with the previous chapter, and is a tolodeth that identifies the book that comprises the previous three chapters of Genesis as Adam’s personal history. Similarly, the words in Genesis 2:4 comprise a tolodeth that marks the proper end of the creation account which begins at 1:1. This view is argued persuasively in The Genesis Record, by Dr. Henry Morris.
Second, verse 1 of chapter 5, if the above premise is correct, is only the second instance (the first being at 4:25) of the word “Adam” used as a personal name. Before that time, when he is mentioned, he is the only man, and therefore is referred to as simply, “the man”. He is there uniformly spoken of as “the man” (ho adam); and “man” (adam), without the article, is uniformly used generically.
Third, the Hebrew word, adam, is usually translated “man”, and should be, here in 5:2, as well, for God is naming the species, inclusive of male and female – or, in other words, “mankind”. It seems more reasonable, therefore, to render the phrase in question, “and called their name ‘man‘”.
Hence, the meaning of that phrase is that Adam, before Eve was created, had already received from God the generic name of “man”. This is supported by the fact that God had said, prior to his creation, “Let us make man…”; and in fulfillment of this, we read “So God created the man…” And since there is no record of God extending that name to Eve after she was created, it is reasonable to understand that she inherited the name from Adam, just as his children would, because she was of the same kind. Adam, in the day he was created, was mankind, and all the rest of mankind – including Eve – came from him.
This argues inequality. There is surely a connection between the fact that God is everywhere in Scripture represented as masculine, the fact that the Divine Son, the image of God, assumed a masculine nature, and the fact that His first created image was a man – not a woman. It would not be incorrect to say that Adam was distinguished from Eve as the more “God-like” of the two.
Next, we must consider 1 Cor 11:11-12:
“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”
Having already referred to the preceding verses above, the reader should easily see that these verses are not proof of equality. The opposite is true: these truths are spoken for two practical reasons: first as a consolation to woman, lest she be downcast, because it has been so strongly stated before (11:4, 7-10) that man is over the woman; and second, because men are apt to go too far, and to abuse their authority, unless some check is offered to their vanity. Men need to be properly appreciative of women, and to recognize that any superiority they may have comes from God. These considerations, which are given parenthetically, cannot properly be used to deny what is taught in the preceding or the succeeding context.
Then there’s Galatians 3:13:
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”
Feminists use this verse in connection with the claim that woman was originally free from man’s authority, but was reduced to subjection as a penalty of Eve’s sin. They abuse it to teach that Christ has reversed the “curse” of being under male authority, thus restoring the original equality of the sexes. But this verse plainly has no color of relevance to the subject at hand. As the context shows, the “curse of the law” under discussion is that which brings eternal death on lawbreakers. Bear in mind the intimate connection of verse 13 with verse 10:
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
Verses 11 and 12 discuss justification from the curse. And in verse 13, we have Christ “hanging on a tree” (the crucifixion) to redeem us from this curse. I repeat – this has nothing to do with some supposed “restoration” of the claimed “original equality” of the sexes. The eternal “curse of the law” (the soul that sinneth, it shall die) is not to be confused with the temporal curse pronounced on Eve after the fall, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”. Experience tells us that this dynamic is still all too prevalent. Will anyone dare try and persuade a woman in labor that the curse on childbearing has been removed by the death of Christ? Why not, if the other has been? So this verse has nothing to do with the subject in hand. Redemption will eventually reverse these curses – but not yet. In any event, as we have already shown, Adam’s authority over Eve is not founded in any curse, but in the original created order before the fall.
And Galatians 3:28:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
But let’s look at it in context with verses 26-29:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
At last we come to the most popular egalitarian proof-text! But what does it really say? Does it say that Jews now cease to be Jews? That Greeks are no longer Greeks, slaves are no longer slaves, or freemen no longer free? Does it say that males and females are now neutered? Of course not! It merely says that those outward distinctions that restricted access to the typical presence of God under Mosaic Judaism no longer obtain; that the status of children and access to God are conditioned upon faith in Christ alone. Parallel statements are found in 1 Cor 12:13 and Colossians 3:11, with the difference that “there is neither male nor female” only appears here in Galatians 3.
The text has nothing to do with the abolition of sex roles. In context, it has nothing to say about the social order. To make it into a statement of male and female equality, one would also have to say that it abolishes bond-servitude; contradicting Paul’s strong and explicit teaching elsewhere. Paul recognized the master/slave relationship as valid and lawful, returning the runaway slave, Onesimus, to his master, Philemon. He taught that slaves are to be content in that role, and to serve their masters in the fear of God; while masters are to be just to their slaves, remembering that they have a Master in heaven. (1 Cor7:20-24, Ephesians 6:6-9, Colossians 3:22-25, 1 Timothy 6:1-5, Titus 2:9-10)
And last of all, Galatians 5:1. But we’ll look at it in context, verses 1-6:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
The subject is the necessity of circumcision for Gentiles, and Paul says that if you are circumcised in the hope of being justified by the law, then you will have missed Christ and salvation. There is not a hint that this text bears on the subject of sexual equality.
So there you have it! Definitions that don’t define and proof texts that fail to prove. It must be remembered that these are their strongest proof-texts. If this is the best they can do, what need is there to read any further? Nevertheless I will examine in detail the second paragraph of the Preamble, which is meant to define their position on holy Scripture.
Howard Douglas King
January 31, 2020