Guest post by Bonnie Sloat: Curse or consequence?

Bonnie Sloat often sends me comments on my posts–always insightful and encouraging. So when she sent me some ideas based on the results of the Fall–curse or consequence, which I found very helpful, I asked if she would consider writing a guest post for me on that topic. Here’s what she writes:

As a marriage and family counselor for many years, I was often confronted with the ramifications of the Fall and how it plays out in the lives of men and women.  I am so grateful for the writing of Donald and Robbie Joy, Lovers–Whatever Happened to Eden? which I discovered some years ago.  It gave me a more complete understanding of what I was seeing in my counseling office day after day.

We’re all aware of God’s original design in Genesis 1:26 & 27:  “Then God said, Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.  They will reign over…. So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

God’s original creation dream was:

  • God created both male and female equal, co-humanity, co-regents
  • Both bear the image of God (the image of God is not mentioned apart from both male and female) and sexuality is a reflection of different aspects of their behavior.
  • Both male and female share equally the God-assigned task of creation rulership without any intimation of role distinctions.

But then we have the Fall when the man and the woman sinned.  What exactly happened when God came to the Garden seeking the man and the woman?

The Serpent is cursed (man and woman were not cursed—only the serpent and the earth).  An adversarial relationship results between the serpent and woman because she actually told the truth:  “The serpent deceived me and that’s why I ate it.”  You only have to look at the plight of women around the world and throughout history to know that Satan hates women.

The Man and the Woman are warned (no curse, only the consequences):

  • The woman will experience increased pain in child bearing (suffering now mars life)
  • The woman will desire to control her husband (seeking the intimacy with a man she was intended to experience with God)
  • The man now has to tame a cursed earth that has a tendency toward chaos and is also tempted to dominate and rule over the woman who was once his co-regent.

In my counseling practice time and time again I would see the effects of the fall as a woman client would compromise her relationship with God to be in a relationship with an ungodly man.  Or a man would rule over or even abuse a woman in an ungodly fashion and often use the Bible to justify his abuse.

The GOOD NEWS is that God’s original Creation Dream has been recovered and put within reach again with the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  My clients and the couples my husband and I work with in Marriage Coaching now have the opportunity to function as co-regents.  It is beautiful to see men and women experiencing the relationships God intended as they submit to God individually and then mutual submission to each other.

We must not base our theology on the corruption that resulted from the Fall but rather on God’s original design for human beings made in His image.

Adam and Eve Photo Credit: freeparking 😐 via Compfight cc

My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available on Amazon

Jesus’ impact on Genesis 3:16

There’s been some interesting (polite, but at times, heated), discussion in the comment section on some of my recent posts (see here and here, for example). Mostly this discussion hinges around Genesis 3:16.

Then he [God] said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

The idea that several have expressed is that  the other effects of the Fall are still with us–pain in childbearing for women and man having to contend with thorns and thistles etc. Therefore the verse in Genesis 3:16 about men ruling over women should be adhered to.

A couple of points:

  • The physical effects of the Fall: If we really believe that we shouldn’t try to combat the effects of the Fall, then women shouldn’t take painkillers during labor, and men shouldn’t use weedkillers or agricultural implements. Until we experience the new heavens and a new earth, we’ll have to live with the physical effects of the Fall, even as God, in his love and mercy, gives us tools like medicine to mitigate them.
  • The relational effects of the Fall: The relationship between God and humankind was broken, and the relationship between humans (think Cain and Abel), including between men and women was broken. I believe Jesus dealt with the relational consequences of the Fall through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. We now have the privilege of having God live within us by his Holy Spirit. And I believe that we can now go back to God’s pre-Fall purposes for men and women, that they can work together as co-equals. Peter preached that the impact of Pentecost was God pouring out his Spirit on all flesh, both men and women. Baptism rather than circumcision became the rite of entry for the people of God.

After all, we pray that God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. We in the church are supposed to demonstrate the Kingdom to the world. What does this mean for men and women?

He shall rule over you– Genesis 3:16

The only verse in the Bible that gives any indication that men should rule over women comes in Genesis 3:16. As a result of the Fall, Eve is told,

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall (will) rule over you.”

For many years, well-meaning teachers used that verse  to persuade (read bludgeon) me into believing that I am to let my husband rule over me. He is to make all the decisions, I am to serve his vision, he is the important one and I am his helper.

It’s only been in more recent years that I’ve come to a different understanding. This is one of the things that has helped.

The word used for “he shall rule” is the simple future tense. It’s not a command. There’s no hint of “he should rule,” “he ought to rule,” “he must rule” over you. That would have been very simple to put in there.

Instead, he shall/will rule is a descriptive statement that has proven true through the pages of history. As we see from the story of the Garden, it was never God’s original intention. He desired for men and women to rule together.

All men are created equal–but what about women?

From time to time, I get asked if I will put a post on my blog by a guest author. I often try to do so because I love to promote the work of others. Anne Garboczi Evans is a Christian fiction author with Hartline Literary Agency. She holds a Master’s in Counseling. She approached me a few weeks ago because she had found SimplyChurch on a list of the top 100 Christian blogs, (I know–crazy. I find it hard to believe too).  She pointed me towards an article she has written. “All Men Are Created Equal–But What About Women” is on a subject close to my heart, and Anne writes with humor and a compelling logic. So here are the  first few paragraphs of her article with a link to the remainder of the article:

The issue of women’s roles in marriage, the church, and the workplace is a sharply debated one. What’s right? Patriarchy? Complementarianism? *gasp* Egalitarianism? How do we avoid merely instituting the cultural norms of the Middle Ages, 1950s, or 21st century rather than actually doing God’s will?

As any Bible-believing Christian, when I want to know what God thinks about something, I look at the Bible. And no one can deny that the Old Testament is chockfull of Patriarchy: Solomon with all his wives, Naomi left penniless because she didn’t have a man, Nabal’s abusive use of Abigail. Yet, the Old Testament is filled with other things too: adultery, idol worship, unbelief, lies, and murder. The fact that God found something worthy of recording does not mean He approves of it. In fact, a major portion of the Old Testament is a lesson in what not to do. Hence, Stephen asked his countrymen which of God’s prophets they hadn’t persecuted or killed.

So the fact that Patriarchy and hierarchal relationships between men and women is in the Bible really tells us nothing about God’s will. We need to dig deeper into the Biblical text to discover not just what happened, but what God thought about what happened.

It’s well worth your time to read the remainder of Anne’s article.

 

Adam and Eve — Credit: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available. Check it out.

Eve was deceived…

As a  young Christian I was taught that  because women are more prone to deception than men, therefore men should be the teachers. Adam was created before Eve, and therefore all women should be in submission to male leadership–whether that’s husband, pastor or some other Christian man. (I shudder even now to think how, albeit unwillingly, I swallowed these maxims. But I wanted to be a good Christian woman, and if that’s what it took…)

The idea comes from 1 Timothy 2

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.(vv 12-14 NKJV)

Two incontrovertible facts:

  1. Eve was deceived and then sinned.
  2. Adam was formed first, then Eve.

Let’s review the background from this letter. Paul was writing to combat heresy in the church in Ephesus (I Tim 1:3).  In Acts 20, Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would come in, including some men who would distort the truth. The book of 1 Timothy is full of warnings against false teaching:

  • People were spending their time in meaningless discussions, wanting to be known as teachers of the law (1:6-7).
  • Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples who had deliberately violated their consciences and shipwrecked their faith and Paul had  thrown them out (1:20).
  • In the last times some would follow deceptive spirits and demonic teachings, saying it’s wrong to be married or eat certain foods (4:1-3).
  • Paul exhorts Timothy not to waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales but instead to train for godliness (4:7).
  • Some younger widows had already gone astray to follow Satan (5:15).
  • People who contradicted Paul and Timothy’s teaching were arrogant and lacked understanding, stirring up arguments that resulted in jealosy, division, slander and evil suspicion. Their minds were corrupt and they were using a show of godliness to become wealthy (6:2-10).
  • Paul gave a final exhortation to Timothy to avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who have wandered from the faith.

Again, the background to 1 Timothy is to deal with false teaching in a culture that was dominated by a female-centered religious cult.

Jon Zens in his excellent book,What’s With Paul and Women? makes the following points:

  • “First” is a function of time, not of superiority. Nowhere in the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 where both Adam and Eve are given the command to have dominion over creation, or in I Timothy 2:12, is there evidence that women are to be subordinate to men.
  • The worship of Artemis, goddess of the Ephesians, was a female-dominated cult ruled by women priests that included public sexual displays and fancy clothing and jewelry.
  • This cult taught that Artemis was born before her twin, Apollo, and that women, as the superior gender, therefore could dominate men.
  • Women in Ephesus looked to Artemis, the mother goddess. for protection–for their virginity, for aid in barrenness and for help in labor.
  • The history of the church shows that most false teaching has been propagated by males.
  • Eve being deceived by the serpent was not an example of what goes wrong when a female usurps male leadership, but of disobeying one of God’s commands. Paul uses the same example in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to show how an entire congregation can be deceived, both males and females.
  • It’s not right for anyone to teach with the goal of dominating others.
So is 1 Timothy 2 a “timeless universal restriction” on women? Or was it written into a specific situation where certain women in Ephesus had been deceived by false teaching and were passing it on to others?  Do we run into danger if we allow a cultural understanding to balance a literal obedience to the word?
What do you think?
 

Photo Credit: Rich_Lem via Compfight cc

Guest post by my son, Jon: God’s design for men and women

Yesterday evening, I finally looked at the responses to the article on Eve and the apple I posted on Friday. To my surprise, it had generated an intense and fascinating discussion. One of the commenters was my oldest son, Jon who blogs here. Some of his comments were so outstanding I’ve compiled them together to create a guest post. Here’s what he wrote:

Some people say from the Genesis account that women are by their nature gullible and need a man to guide them in making decisions. Really? Perhaps it’s us men that are more gullible if we believe someone who tells us that :). I think this is a great example of exactly what God said the result of the fall would be…men trying to rule over and belittle women.

Don’t misunderstand me, there are clear differences between men and women…some areas where women tend to be stronger and other areas where men tend to be stronger. But I’m married to a women and she’s anything but gullible. The truth is I need her as much or more than she needs me when we’re making decisions.

When God created man in his own image, he specifically said “male and female he created them.” There’s something about the different sides of God and his character and personality of which both men and women are each uniquely created to be image bearers.

But I’m tired of men putting down women and using scripture to defend it. That’s exactly the sort of thing that really pissed off Jesus.

It’s interesting to note that Adam and Eve were standing in the garden together when the servant tempted Eve. It’s not like he pulled her aside or away from Adam to tempt her–we know that from the text. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate it.” I think they’re both equally guilty, Adam could have easily stepped in and saved Eve; he heard the same speech, but he didn’t step in.

I don’t know if we’re supposed to walk away from the first three chapters of Genesis thinking that somehow man or woman screwed up more or less. However, I think the real gold is in what happens next, because it’s here we understand what the curse was about.

I understand it this way…

The way God designed it was that both genders would get their identity and value from Him and Him alone. To see this just read through the first two chapters of Genesis and you’ll see God’s design for men and women and their lives together. Let US make them in OUR image… let THEM rule. It’s a model of unity, of co-leadership. My friend Morgan wrote a great post about it here.

I think the really interesting part in the light of trying to understand the history of Gender Inequality is what happens later in the story when God shows up and explains what the curse is about. He says, the serpent will become enemies with the woman (we know all about that), that the women’s desire is for the man but he will rule over her, and that man will desire the ground but have to work to get food from it.

And from that point on in history women have not only tried to get their identity from men but been held captive and ruled over by men…not the way God designed it at all. This isn’t a good thing; this is the curse. As we read the rest of the story and look at human history it’s clear that women have been the most abused, the most enslaved, the most held captive of any group of people. This isn’t the way God designed it at all; this is exactly what the enemy wanted.

But there’s good news…and the good news is that Jesus came to free us from the curse. When he came he announced his mission with a passage from Isaiah 61, and that passage says He came to heal the broken hearted and to set the captive free. TO SET THE CAPTIVE FREE. The question is who was the most captive since the curse? Who had been most mistreated and enslaved throughout human history? Women, right? The good news was that Jesus came to set the captive free.

Just look at how he treated women compared to society of his day. The women at the well, the women caught in adultery, Mary and Martha…and on and on. He treated women as equals in a society that didn’t.

I’m not sure that I walk away from the first three chapters of Genesis thinking that somehow Adam or Eve screwed up more or less…but I do walk away understanding the origins of all the mistreatment of women that we’ve seen since that time and even today. And when I read the rest of scripture (and for that matter look at human history) with that understanding, with the understanding that so much of what I see is a result of the curse that women will be ruled over by men, it helps me understand human history and patriarchal societies, and even the present day abuses of women. And it makes me want to stand with Jesus and fight to see the captives fully set free, so that men and women can be equal the way the God intended it. As Paul put it in the letter to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

That’s the good news.

Eve and the apple

A few years ago Paul Young, author of The Shack was the main speaker at a House2House conference. Paul gave some fascinating insights on the account of the Fall in Genesis 3.

I’d often wondered why Adam was blamed for the Fall rather than Eve. I’d always assumed it was because he was the one to whom the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given. However, there may be more to it than that.

As a response to my last post, Chris posted a comment reminding me of what Paul Young had shared at that conference. The following are Chris’s comments:

Amongst a whole lot of other stuff Paul pointed out that the woman has always been in a healthier place than man. When Yahweh questioned the woman she pointed to the snake and said, “He deceived me and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)

She spoke the truth.

When Adam was questioned he hurled an accusation against Yahweh, “The woman you gave me…” (Genesis 3:12)

Adam blamed God.

Eve says that she and the serpent did it. Adam says that the Lord and Eve did it.

And where did they look for their sense of worth and significance after the fall? They could no longer find it in the Almighty. Eve looked to Adam (at least she looked to another person). Adam looked to the ground, the soil from which he could raise crops.

She is in a fundamentally better place. Men have such a lot to answer for, we still get our sense of worth from what we do (for the most part). Women find it mostly in relationship. Far healthier.

Interesting! What do you think?

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk (Creative Commons)