This is part 2 of a book review: Biblical Femininity, Discovering Clarity and Freedom in God’s Design for Women, Edited by Chrystie Cole, Grace Church Publishing, 2013. (Part 1 here.)
Chapter 2 of the book continues by moving into Genesis 3 and the Fall. Suddenly the book says that the serpent “turned the tables on God’s created order, circumventing Adam and addressing Eve instead.” (page 40) – Huh? Where does this come from?
As addressed in part 1 of this review, poor arguments that lacked evidence were made that Adam was the responsible one. Now it suddenly uses the phrase “created order” without explanation. The book does not elaborate, so this review will do so. Because Adam was created first, some see this as evidence of the man having special status and privilege (primogeniture). Yet, there is no evidence of primogeniture until a considerable time after creation, and this is retroactively imposed on the creation account. Furthermore, the biblical norm was often not primogeniture, but God blessing or specially using those born later such as Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David.
Some will also state that because Adam named Eve that this shows him having some special authority. However, in the Bible, the act of naming does not necessarily imply authority. For example, Hagar (the Egyptian slave of Abraham and Sarah) gave God a name! Does that mean Hagar had authority over God? I hardly think so.
The book accurately points out (as can be overlooked by some commentators) that Adam was there with Eve when the serpent approached in Genesis 3:6. The book states that Adam was supposed to lead Eve through this but Adam failed to do so. And further says the Fall occurred because Adam was passive instead of taking authority, and Eve took initiative or authority that was not hers to take. Again, this is imposed on the text. Where is the evidence?
The book states “Where Satan reversed created order by approaching Eve, God affirmed his created order by going first to Adam.” (page 42) Because God went to Adam first after the Fall, is this proof that Adam was in charge of Eve? Note that God addressed Adam as an individual, and then God went to Eve separately and questioned her as an individual. (Genesis 3: 8-13). God did not hold Adam accountable for what they did, but for what he did. EVE DID NOT NEED A SPOKESMAN. They were both treated as separate moral agents.
Furthermore, if Adam was the authoritative leader in Genesis 1-2, then the judgment on Eve after the Fall of “he will rule over you” would have been pointless, since it would have brought no change in status. The clear implication of conferring rulership to Adam after the Fall is that he was NOT Eve’s ruler prior to the Fall! While man indeed emerges as ruler in Genesis 3, this is the sad result of their sin and their ensuing judgments. It is certainly not an ideal to be followed or emulated. In Christ, men and women are to move beyond the curse and be an example of relationships that have been redeemed.
A final point in regards to the statement that “God affirmed his created order by going first to Adam.” So does God always go to a man first? No. Even in the patriarchal Old Testament times, God spoke directly to women, or used an angelic messenger, such as with Rebekah in Genesis 25, Hagar in Genesis 16, or Samson’s mother in Judges 13. Was God being “satanic” by reversing the created order and approaching women? And God even used women to speak TO MEN on his behalf such as with Deborah in Judges 4, Huldah in 2 Chronicles 34, and the wailing women in Jeremiah 9. (Many New Testament examples could also be give, but the focus is on the Old.)
The book states that “Genesis chapters 1-3 are foundational in our understanding about God, mankind, and sin. Each of these chapters provides detail about God’s intended design and purpose for the man and woman as well as their core sin. Adam was created and given authority over the earth. He was given responsibility to lead, but in Genesis 3 he demonstrated passivity…Eve asserted herself above God and Adam, rather than coming along side or coming under authority.” (page 43).
The book, in my opinion, fails miserably to provide evidence for that conclusion. The foundation is faulty thus the rest of the book is suspect.
Based on the faulty foundation, the book now states that a woman’s core capacity is to “invite, nurture, and partner” and the man’s is to “pursue, provide, and protect.” (They admit that the words are not used in Scripture, but say that the concepts are scriptural.) The man’s core temptation is to be passive, and the woman’s core temptation is to be autonomous. There are individual chapters on a woman being inviting, nurturing, and partnering.
The emphasis throughout the book, stated in different ways, is that women are designed to under-gird or bring strength to others. Women enable others to lead because they follow them. Women further the advancement of another person by contributing assistance to them. This is what women do for their husbands. If a woman does not have a husband, she will be helping her boss at work or the director at the place she volunteers in this way. This is what women were designed to do. We nurture and partner. The distinct implication is that women do not have positions of authority or leadership.
Okay. There is nothing wrong with serving and helping others. Jesus did it, and we are to imitate our Savior. It is a powerful opportunity to bring assistance and strength to others. This is actually what Christianity is all about! Christianity is about serving, not leading – no matter if we are male or female. Being a helper is not a gender role. Christian men and women alike should aim to be helpful servants.
Yet then, why this book’s unilateral emphasis? Why the obsession with men being leaders and women falling under their authority? Jesus said we should not be obsessed with authority. It seems that certain Christian men, with their high level of concern for men being the leaders, have failed to heed the warning of Jesus.
The emphasis of this book limits women in their God-given abilities and potential. Instead of being encouraged to step out and serve God in bold ways, women may be fearful of overstepping their bounds as assistant or not even realize their own capabilities.
Can a woman even have her own unique calling for God’s Kingdom if her “design” is to help others (particularly men) fulfill their callings?
This recent post says not! I suggest reading it, as you can see an example of where this type of thinking can lead.
And if they do step out, women are branded as pushy or troublemakers. Yep, they are guilty of that core temptation of autonomy! Gifted women, who could be advancing God’s Kingdom as unique female image-bearers of the Creator God, are stuck between a rock and a hard place: the status quo or falling into the sin of autonomy!
There are too many “exceptions” in the Bible of women stepping out, leading, or exercising authority (in society and in their homes) for women to be limited in this way.
Interesting posts here: Bible Women with Spiritual Authority and here: The (im)Propriety of Bible Women with Authority. Women in both the Bible and history have been brave, courageous, strong, initiative taking leaders.
While this book has some positives and has sincere intentions, it does not meet the objective of the subtitle to bring clarity and freedom in God’s design for women. I do not recommend it.
**June 2016, now a part 3: Biblical Femininity, part 3 [Book Review] – Let the women think!
** For anyone interested, the evangelical Christian organization CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) specializes in encouraging men and women to serve in their homes and churches, not based on their gender, but based on their God-given gifts. I am really grateful for this organization. **