ACR JournalDoctrine

Journal – Created male and female

It is foundational to what we know of God, as the one who speaks his pow­erful word to bring all things into be­ing, and who then orders, arranges, and blesses. It is foundational also to what we know of ourselves, as uniquely cre­ated in the image of God, and commis­sioned to rule and subdue. We learn here what it means to live and work in God’s creation and relate to the rest of that creation, leading to a genuine Christian – rather than pagan – envi­ronmentalism. We also learn what it means to have a genuine Christian – rather than pagan – understanding of gender and sexuality. These chapters are simultaneously timeless and pro­foundly pertinent within our culture.

In Genesis 1 and 2 we see that our gender, male or female, is a central part of who we are, as created by God. We see this briefly in Genesis 1 where we read ‘God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’ (Gen 1:27). Genesis 2 then shifts from the wide angle shot to the close as we see in more detail what this means.

God remedies something that is not good

If we have been reading from the start of Genesis, the words in 2:18 could not be more striking. Everything so far is blessed by God as good, even very good, but now we are told something is not good: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’.

Note that this is God’s declaration rather than a feeling within the man. It is not that the man is feeling lonely, but rather that his aloneness is not good, according to God. It is not good because alone the man is unable to do and be what God commands human­ity to do and be. The commission in Genesis 1:28 is for humanity to ‘be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’. The man cannot do that alone, and it refers to more than simply procreation. In the whole task of ruling and subduing, he needs a suit­able helper.

God the good provider no sooner has identified the problem than he enacts the solution. He will make a suitable helper for the man. There is no sense of subordination in the word ‘helper’. How could that be when frequently in the Scriptures God himself is the helper of his people? This helper is one who brings vital aid from their strength to match a need.

The Hebrew word translated ‘suit­able’ conveys the sense of opposite and complementary. Wenham paraphrases it as a ‘helper matching him’, while Hamilton puts it this way:

[The helper] will be neither a superior nor an inferior, but an equal. The creation of this helper will form one-half of a polarity and will be to the man as the south pole is to the north pole.1

This theme of equality and comple­mentarity is repeatedly emphasised in the rest of the chapter. For instance, the woman is taken out of the man’s side and formed by God. She is out of him, like him, and yet different and distinct. When the man sings with joy in 2:23 he rejoices in the equal image-bear­ing identity of the woman: ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’, at the same time as she has now been taken out of him and is not him. Equal and yet beautifully corresponding and distinct. Even the vocabulary the man chooses stresses this identity and complemen­tarity: ‘she shall be called Ishah for she was taken out of Ish.’

Humanity doubts that God is good

God in his goodness remedies some­thing that is not good. He does not leave man alone but provides an equal and complementary helper alongside him. This only makes the perversity of what happens next even more striking. Immediately, through the subtle temp­tations of the serpent, the woman and man are led to doubt the goodness of God.

The serpent’s strategy is to first twist God’s word to make him look restrictive and harsh (3:1). He then leads them to doubt the certainty of God’s judgment on rebellion (3:4). Then finally he paints God as one who does not really have humanity’s best at heart (3:5). Having succumbed to the strategy, doubting God’s word and good intentions, the woman and the man (who only in verse 6 do we realise has been standing beside God. Male and female is not arbitrary, flexible, or coincidental, but is essential to who we are. As Claire Smith puts it:

God made us with sexual polarity, as either male or female. We cannot divorce who we are from our gender. We are not genderless ‘persons’. We are male or female persons… It is a fixed part of our identity. It is not a role we put on and take off or only need for marriage or procreation. Our gender is inseparable from who we are.2

Of course, as in all of life this can be tragically impacted by the fall, lead­ing to physiological or psychological gender anomalies. But these gender anomalies are just that, an anomaly. God’s intention in creation was never for a blurring of genders or a mixing of genders. Any attempt today to obliter­ate, disguise, or live at odds with one’s God-given sex are contrary to God’s word and against authentic human good. Each of us, as we have opportu­nity, must show compassion towards those who experience the brokenness of our world in this particular way, or who are victims of the confusion cre­ated by recent gender theory. However, compassion and truth must not be pit­ted against one another. We show the greatest compassion as we speak the truth in love to those who are strug­gling or misled in this area.

Finally, this equal but complementary nature of male and female is the basis for the teaching of the New Testament on men and women in church and in marriage (eg., 1 Cor 11-14; Eph 5; 1 Tim 2). This is an unchanging truth of human reality. No matter what changes in our human culture, male and female are equal but not interchangeable. They are together in the image of God with a wonderful complementarity, and with different roles and responsibilities. Male and female beautifully designed by God to mesh together as they serve him side by side in the world. According to God this is good – in fact it is very good.

The key question in all of these situations is this: do we believe him? Do we believe what God tells us about ourselves? Or do we find ourselves tempted to wonder, ‘did God really say…?’. At that point we do very well to remember that God did say. He made us male and female, equal and beautifully complementary. And that is very good. Given to us for our good by our good and generous God.

her mute all along!) assert their inde­pendence as their own wise determin­ers of good and evil (3:6). How quickly then the beautiful scene of Genesis 2:25 unravels as they turn to coverup, shame with each other, an almost comical attempt to hide from God, and plenty of blame-shifting in every direction. The man shifts blame horizontally (woman) and upward (God), while the woman shifts blame downwards (the serpent).

This pattern of human rebellion is paradigmatic, representing the very same spiritual dangers we face as we consider the issues of gender, marriage and sexuality today. The truth of God’s word and his generous character is dis­torted in such a way as sin can seem sensible and appealing to our hearts and minds.

Seeing and trusting that God is good

At each of the various pressure points we face today, it is vital to continue to trust that God is good. This is the fun­damental challenge.

This is true as we consider the nature of marriage. The pres­ent-tense application given in 2:24 asserts the binding contem­porary relevance of this teach­ing. The reason for the ‘cleaving’ in marriage is the identity and complementarity of the man and woman as created. As the woman was created out of the man, so in marriage a man and a woman are united. This is strongly cov­enantal language, signifying a deep mutual commitment bound by solemn promises. This is why male-male or female-female couplings are simply not marriages, by defini­tion. Whatever they might be under Australian law, they are not marriages according to God. As is said at every wedding conducted according to the Anglican prayer book, ‘be assured that those who marry otherwise than God’s word allows are not joined together by God, neither is their marriage lawful in his sight’. Whatever Australian law might say, this is what God says. This is the clear teaching of Scripture and is not arbitrary, but essential to who we are. At this point we have a simple choice to make between the world and the word of God.

This is true at the pressure point of understanding the nature of gender. God made us male or female. Those who have no place for God’s word will doubt and distort this, but as those who have been brought into the light by the word of Christ, we must not lose courage as the world twists or simply ignores the word of our creator. We must keep on seeing and trusting the goodness of

1 Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis (NICOT; 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990, 1995), comment on 2:18.

2 Claire Smith, God’s Good Design: What the Bible Really Says about Men and Women, 2nd ed. (Sydney: Matthias Media, 2019), pp 168-9.