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June 30, 2011

Men and Women and the Creation Order

Written By
William O. Einwechter

Introduction

The discussion and debate in the church over the relationship between men and women and their roles in family, church, and society was renewed and reenergized in the 2008 presidential campaign when John McCain choose Sarah Palin, a married woman and mother of five children, to be his running mate and candidate for the office of vice president of the United States. This surprising choice was praised, by and large, by evangelical leaders who saw in her a strong conservative politician who would defend and promote the social values and political issues most important to evangelical Christians.

But there was something amiss in the enthusiastic conservative evangelical support of Mrs. Palin. The world saw it; feminists saw it; Christian egalitarians saw it; a few conservative Christians saw it, but, apparently, many conservative evangelicals who were known for promoting the traditional family, for speaking out against feminism, and for teaching that men and women have separate and distinct roles by divine design did not see it.

In regard to this evangelical support of Palin, three questions need to be asked. First, how is it that these leaders who have said that they believe that homemaking and motherhood are high callings from God and should have priority for wives and mothers, could give their support to a wife and mother of five (one being a baby) who makes the pursuit of high political office her priority? Second, how is it that these leaders who have stood against the feminist movement and its destructive influence on the family, the church, and society, could give enthusiastic support to a woman who embodied the goals, demeanor, and life-style promoted by feminism? Third, how is it that these leaders who have said that they believe that male headship is part of the creation order and have taught that a woman is under the authority of her husband in the home and is not permitted to teach or rule in the church, could say that a wife and mother is permitted and qualified to rule over men and nations in the political sphere?

The inconsistency of the conservative Christian support of Sarah Palin was pointed out by various writers and columnists, both non-Christian and Christian. In the face of this criticism, how did conservative evangelicals justify their endorsement of a wife and a mother of five for vice president of the United States, and rebuff the charge of inconsistency?[1]

First, they argued that while the New Testament teaches that the husband is the head of his wife and that women are not to serve as leaders in the church, the New Testament is silent on the issue of women civil rulers. Therefore, they concluded that women civil rulers must be okay.

Second, they argued that the Bible limits the complementarian relationship between men and women to only two spheres of life: family and church. But, in the civil and social spheres, they infer that egalitarianism is the standard. And so, in their view, women ruling over men in the state is biblically acceptable.

Before moving on to their third argument, it is important that we define complementarianism and egalitarianism, and explain the perspective of the complementarianism of the evangelicals who supported a woman for the vice president of the United States. “Complementarianism” is the view that God has granted man authority (headship) over the woman, and men and women have separate and distinct roles to fulfill by divine calling. In carrying out their God-given roles and responsibilities, men and women complement one another. “Egalitarianism” is the view that affirms the equality of men and women in terms of leadership potential and role fulfillment. Thus, this view denies that God has granted man authority over the woman, and it denies that there are separate and distinct God-given roles for men and women (the distinctions seen in the Bible are merely cultural).

There is wide agreement among conservative Christians that the Bible establishes three spheres of government: family, church, and state. But the complementarians who supported (or at least did not oppose) Sarah Palin only apply their complementarianism to two of these spheres: family and church. This is why they could support a woman for vice president; because in the civil sphere egalitarianism is the divine order. Wayne Grudem calls this position “two-point complementarianism.”[2] His intent is to contrast his own two-point complementarianism with “one-point complementarianism” (i.e., a complementarianism that applies only to the family). But there is another position that Grudem overlooks — the historic position of the Reformed church that teaches a complementarianism that applies to all three governments established by God. Using Grudem’s designations as a model, we should call this historic view “three-point complementarianism.” It is essential to understand that those who limit the complementarian relationship of men and women to the family and the church hold to a semi-complementarian view of men and women. In terms of three spheres of life, family, church, and society, such are two-point complementarians and one-point egalitarians.

Third, they denied, at least by implication, that the creation order of male headship applies to the social sphere and to civil government. They believe, so it seems, that the creation order is limited in its application to the spheres of church and family. In other words, their position is essentially this: the creation order does not apply to all of creation. Evangelical egalitarians are rigorously consistent in the application of their view of men and women to all spheres of life, and there are no internal contradictions in their system. They believe that the creation order establishes full equality (essential, functional, and positional) between men and women in every area of life and every sphere of government. In contradiction to the egalitarians, semi-complementarians believe that the creation order establishes the headship of man over the woman. But semi-complementarians are not consistent in the application of their view because they deny that the complementarian order applies to all spheres of government. This inconsistency leads to internal contradictions in their system and to some manifest absurdities; e.g., God approves of a woman being the president of the United States and ruling over all the men of the nation in the civil sphere (including all the pastors and husbands of that nation), but God does not permit her to lead her own household or govern in a local church.

The 2008 election is now history, but the issues it raised in regard to the relationship between men and women and their roles in family, church, and state continue to confront evangelical and conservative Christians. Questions like the following call for answers: Does the Bible approve of women ruling over men in the civil sphere? Does the Bible limit the complementarian relationship between men and women to the family and the church? Does the Bible support an egalitarian approach to the social and civil sphere? Does the creation order for men and women only apply to the spheres of family and church, or does it apply to all of life? The purpose of this article is to help answer these questions through a study of the biblical doctrine of the creation order for men and women. By studying the creation order for men and women, we lay the foundation for understanding all that Scripture says on the subject of male and female roles and of their relationship to one another. The creation order reveals God’s plan for His whole creation. The creation order for men and women reveals God’s plan for all mankind.

I. Definition of the Creation Order.

What do we mean when we speak of “the creation order”? C. Stephen Evans defines the creation order as the “Lawlike structure or order that is rooted in God’s intentions at creation.”[3] J. M. Spier explains that the lawlike structure of the whole creation is based in God’s sovereignty:

As the Creator, God is a Sovereign Ruler. All creation is absolutely dependent upon Him. He has placed it under law . . . When we say that God has placed His entire creation under law, we include under the term “law,” all Divine ordinances and norms which have their origin in the Sovereign Will of the Creator and apply to all creation. The entire cosmos is subject to Divine law. All creation must obey its Maker . . . Law is the expression of His will. He is the law-giver.[4]

The creation order, then, is a comprehensive idea that indicates that all of the creation is determined by and subject to the sovereign will of God. All things have their origin in the mind of God and take their place in the cosmos according to the all-wise plan of God. Nothing is arbitrary, undetermined, or the expression of chaos. Instead, everything is meaningful, is expressive of divine purpose, and is perfectly coherent with all other aspects of creation. God determines the place, meaning, and purpose of everything. This means that there are no brute (or meaningless) facts in the universe, and each fact (thing) has meaning according to the plan of God.[5] Therefore, if man is to know anything truly he must submit himself to God’s interpretation of the facts of creation, and the Word of God gives God’s interpretation of these facts to man.

A term that is often used by theologians to express the notion that the creation order reflects the will of God and imposes obligation on mankind is the term “creation ordinance.” Walter Kaiser states that the creation ordinances “reflect the work of God in creation and depict ‘the constitution of things’ as they were intended to be from the Creator’s hand. They cover and regulate the whole gamut of life. . . .”[6] The creation ordinances are revealed in Genesis 1 and 2, and these ordinances include man’s duty to take dominion over the earth, to care for it and rule over it and all the creatures therein, to find fulfillment in productive labor, to rest on the Sabbath, to obey the law of God, to join as husband and wife in marriage, and in that relationship to be fruitful and multiply. The creation ordinances establish the pattern for man’s life in the world: his submission to God and His Word, his dominion calling, his worship, his work, his rest, his differentiation as male and female in terms of headship and roles. The creation ordinances have never been repealed and bind all men in all places and in all aspects of life (the fall did not destroy these ordinances; it only destroyed man’s willing submission to them). The creation ordinances are based on the creation order and remain as the fundamental basis for human life as intended by the Creator.

How does the idea of the creation order apply to men and women? Men and women are part of the creation order. Hence, manhood and womanhood have their origin in the mind of God, and God has determined the place of each in the creation. Men and women also sustain a relationship to one another (marital and social) and to the rest of creation according to the sovereign and all-wise will of God. Their individual roles are expressive of the plan of God for them. Hence, man and woman, the male and female genders, are not brute facts, and mankind is not at liberty to interpret (assign meaning to) the fact that humanity exists in two distinct genders according to his own reason or on the basis of his experience. The only infallible standard for understanding the meaning, purpose, and roles of the man and the woman is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

The fundament presupposition in regard to human knowledge that is derived from the doctrine that God created all things in the space of six days and all very good is that man cannot truly know anything unless he submits himself to God’s own interpretation of the creation given in His inerrant and infallible Word. Thus, the questions that we face in regard to the relationship of men and women to one another and their roles in family, church, and society can only be answered by a grammatical/historical interpretation of the Scriptures.

II. Revelation of the Creation Order for Men and Women in Genesis.

The definition of the English word “order” proves helpful in organizing our study of the biblical teaching on the creation order in regard to man and woman. There are three senses in which the word “order” is used: 1) a fixed or definite plan, system; law of arrangement; 2) the sequence or arrangement of events or things; 3) social position or rank in the community.

All three aspects of this definition apply to the creation order in regard to men and women: 1) they are part of a fixed and definite plan or law of arrangement established by God; 2) they were created according to a divinely determined sequence; 3) they have been assigned a definite social position and rank in family, church, and society by their Creator. We shall use these three aspects of the meaning of the word “order” as the scheme for our consideration of men and women and the creation order.

1. The creation of man and woman on the sixth day fulfills the good and wise plan of God.

According to the good pleasure of His own sovereign and immutable will, God determined to create mankind in His own image and to make mankind both male and female. Genesis 1 and 2 gives the divine record of the fulfillment of His will with the creation of man and woman on the sixth day. The creative activity of the first six and a half days leads up to man who is the crown of creation, the highest of the wonderful works of God. God has created the world and made it the perfect home for man; now He makes man to have dominion over it. We note here three things concerning the creation of man.

(1). Mankind is made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27; cf. Gen. 5:1).

According to the creation account, only man is made in the image of God. The image consists in a moral and spiritual likeness to God. Man is a rational, self-conscious being able to exercise his will in deliberate choices. He is a moral being with a sense of right and wrong and an understanding of the difference between justice and injustice. He is a person capable of love and hate. He is God’s representative and invested with authority to govern the earth. No other creature has these attributes or shares his glorious status of being made in God’s image.

(2). Mankind is created male and female (Gen. 1:27; cf. Gen. 5:2).

Man exists in two distinct genders, male and female. Therefore, there are two kinds of humanity — male humanity and female humanity. Both are equal in regard to their essential humanity, but one has the distinct characteristics of a male and the other has the distinct characteristics of a female. The words “male” and “female” indicate more than physical differentiation for the sake of physical reproduction. The fish, birds, and land animals are, like mankind, commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and yet the text does not say that God made them male and female. This is because “male” and “female” goes deeper than the obvious bodily differences and includes certain aspects of their “souls,” i.e., their inner makeup, their disposition, is different. Both men and women are self-conscious persons sharing in the rational, emotional, and volitional aspects of mankind. But they exercise these elements of the image of God on the basis of a distinct inner disposition: a male nature and a female nature.

The creation order establishes mankind as male and female according to the will and purpose of God. The man is given the nature and temperament necessary to fulfill his separate calling as a male, and the woman is given the nature and temperament necessary to fulfill her distinct calling as a female. The Scripture interprets (gives the reason for) the plan of God for making mankind male and female in the many passages that teach on their relationship to one another in terms of authority and in terms of their individual roles and responsibilities.

(3). Mankind is charged with the task of taking dominion over the world (Gen. 1:26, 28).

Man, as God’s representative, is placed as ruler over it. Man takes dominion, and fulfills his calling, when he obeys the commands to be fruitful, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. The dominion mandate instructs man to develop the natural resources of the earth so that the full potential of the creation can be realized to the glory of God. It places all things under man’s feet and charges man to utilizes these things in the development of the world and of human culture that is marked by righteousness. It is important to see that the dominion mandate is given to both the man and the woman and that it can only be fulfilled if they work together and each fulfills their God-given roles as male and female.

Consequently, the creation account of Genesis 1 reveals four very important truths for understanding male and female as established in the creation order. First, both the man and the woman are made in the image of God. In their essential human nature, they are equal. In their basic constitution, they both possess all the elements of human personality: intellect, emotion, and will.

Second, the man and the woman are different in that God created them as male and female. Humanity is not uni-sexual but bi-sexual; there are two dimensions to humanity. These differences extend beyond the physical and also refer to differences in their inner nature, disposition, and temperament. These differences (in body and soul) are not arbitrary but are a specific part of the created order. They are part of the all-wise plan of God for mankind that prepares both the man and the woman to fulfill their own unique roles in that plan.

Third, the dominion mandate is addressed to both the man and the woman, and it can only be fulfilled as each carries out their God-given role as a male or a female. Mankind’s successful accomplishment of the dominion mandate is based on full acceptance of and submission to the creation order of male and female

Fourth, the truths that mankind is made in the image of God, is made male and female, and is responsible to take dominion in the world are all part of the creation order. Therefore, these truths necessarily apply to all aspects of life. It is impossible to separate any one of these facts from the others or to limit their application to one or more spheres of life. As part of the creation order, they apply to all aspects of man’s life in this world. The creation order applies to all creation. This is not only a good and necessary deduction, but the rest of Scripture confirms that the creation order revealed in Genesis 1 continues as the standard for men and women today and it applies to all of life.

2. The manner and sequence of the creation of the first man and the first woman on the sixth day is based on the plan of God and further distinguishes the man from the woman.

The creation order indicates that all of the creation is determined by and subject to the sovereign will of God. The creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 proceeds according to God’s plan, and nothing in it is arbitrary; all is indicative of God’s purpose. The account of the creation of mankind in Genesis 2 further reveals God’s plan for the man and the woman. The manner and sequence of their creation is expressive of the divinely ordained distinction between them and the relationship that they are to sustain to one another. The order of creation — the man was created first — is expressive of the creation order.

Genesis 2 gives details concerning the creation of man and woman that were not revealed in Genesis 1. It is the first “history” (toledoth, “this is what became of”) of Genesis. And so, it is not merely a supplement that gives us more information on man’s creation but is part of the literary structure of Genesis. It tells us the history of man from his creation until his life directly after his fall into sin (Gen. 2:4 - 4:26). Genesis 2 reveals three things concerning the creation of the man and the woman.

(1). Man is created first and in a manner that is distinct from the woman (Gen. 2:4-17).

Genesis 1 merely states that God created man in the image of God, male and female created He them. From that text, it could be deduced that the man and the woman were made in the same way at the very same instant. However, Genesis 2 shows that they were made at different times and in a different manner.

Man was made first, and from the dust of the ground. God formed him from the earth (adamah) and breathed into him the breath of life. Thus, he became a living being, a man with a body and soul (Gen. 2:7). Significantly, the creation of the woman did not follow directly after the creation of man. Rather, man is first placed in the Garden of Eden and is given charge of the Garden and instructed to “dress” it, i.e., to bestow labor on it, to keep it in good order, and to practice the arts of husbandry. Furthermore, he is taught his duty of obeying God’s Word when he is instructed concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and commanded not to eat of it. Finally, he is given the task of naming the animals in the Garden. All of these particulars suggest the essential dependence of man on God and his positional priority over the woman.

(2). Woman is created after the man and from the man.

The fact that the woman was not created at the same time as the man and is created in a completely different manner is one of the most striking elements in the entire creation account. There is a definite reason for this difference, and it is recorded in the Word of God for our instruction. It indicates a difference between the roles and responsibilities of men and women by God’s design. A man does not occupy the position of a woman, and a woman does not occupy the place of a man in the creation order. At the fundamental point of their origin, man and woman are clearly distinguished — and the issue is not merely biological reproduction, but essential nature, position, and function.

It is significant that the woman is not created directly from the ground like Adam. Instead, the biblical text states that she is made from one of Adam’s ribs. This indicates that she derived her physical being from the man. Furthermore, the biblical text does not say, as it did concerning the man, that God breathed into her nostrils the breath of life. The import of this difference is not explained in the text, but it may show that she also derived the immaterial aspect of her life from the man. If this be the case, then it means that she received both her body and soul from man by divine design and through God’s creative power (i.e., the principle of life being first implanted in man by God and now extended to the woman through the man by God’s power).[7] The woman’s origin is, literally, from the man.

Why did God create the woman from the man? By so doing, He established the complete unity of the human race through common descent from Adam. Adam is the father of us all. In a unique way, even Eve comes from Adam. Therefore, Adam is able to serve as the federal head of all mankind, including the first woman (Rom. 5:12). In addition, the creation of the woman from the man establishes the proper relationship between man and woman. It indicates the positional priority of the man over the woman, and the essential dependence of the woman on the man.

(3). The woman was created for the purpose of being man’s helper (Gen. 2:18).

This is a very important revelation concerning the creation order. The text explicitly states that God made the woman to serve as a helper to man. There is no need for speculation; the text is clear; the woman is made for the man. In anticipation of the woman’s creation, God declares that it is not good for man to be alone. Man needs a companion, someone who will complement him and assist him in fulfilling the dominion mandate.

The Hebrew word for “help” means one who aids, supports, or assists another; or an assistant. The word itself does not necessarily imply subordination; context must determine the relationship between the helper and the one being assisted. In the context of Genesis 1 and 2, it does imply subordination, i.e., a helper, an assistant. Man has been created first, given the charge to keep the Garden, given instruction on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and has exercised authority in the naming of the animals. The woman comes into a situation where the man already has been made head over the Garden and given responsibility to keep it, has been given vital, life-and-death instructions concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and has exercised his authority over the animals.

The Hebrew term “meet” indicates the idea of corresponding to, or comparable to, and expresses the notion of one thing or person being suitable for another. The word suggests complementarity rather than identity. Therefore, the woman is not exactly like the man in all respects, but, by God’s design, she is completely suitable to serve as his companion and helper.

The creation account of Genesis 2 is very important for understanding the significance of male and female as established in the creation order. The fact that man was created first from the dust of the ground and the woman was created after the man and from the man establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman in the creation order. The order of their creation (i.e., the sequence) is a manifestation of the creation order (God’s sovereign will and plan for men and women). The fact that the woman was created to be the man’s helper and assistant also establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman.

The deduction of male headship from the order of creation (man created first) and the purpose of the woman’s creation (a helper of man) is confirmed in the rest of Scripture where man is placed in positions of leadership and authority in the family, the church, and the state (we will point this out more explicitly later). Furthermore, the deduction of male headship from the order of creation and the purpose of the woman’s creation is confirmed by the explicit teaching of the Apostle Paul.

In 1 Timothy 2:13, Paul appeals to the order of creation to establish his doctrine of male headship in the church. According to Paul, the fact that man was created first is proof that only men should teach and hold positions of leadership in the church. Women, he says, are to be in submission to the male leadership and be silent learners. Paul’s appeal to Genesis 2 and the order of creation shows that the doctrine of male headship is not a cultural convention, but is part of the divinely established order that applies at all times and in all cultures.

In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, Paul uses the fact that the woman was created from the man and for the man to prove the doctrine that a woman should cover her head in the meetings of the church as a sign of her submission to God’s appointed order of male headship. In 1 Corinthians 14:34, it is stated that women are to be silent in the meetings of the church and be in submission because this is the teaching of “the law.”[8]

All three of the essential distinctions between man and woman noted in the text of Genesis 2 are given precise theological meaning by Paul in the New Testament. According to Paul, the creation account of the man and woman in Genesis 2 establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman in terms of headship and authority. The order (sequence) and manner of the creation of the man and the woman is based on the creation order. The creation order, because it is the will of the Creator for all His creation, necessarily applies to every period in history, to every nation, to every area of life, and to every man and every woman.

3. The headship of the man over the woman (i.e., the rank, or social position of each) is established by numerous factors in the accounts of the creation and of the fall.

The creation order places man in a position of headship over the woman. This position of male headship (man’s positional priority over the woman) is part of the essence of the male/female relationship. This fact has been demonstrated above. But there are other factors in the creation account of man and woman in Genesis 1 and 2 and in the account of man’s fall into sin in Genesis 3 that further establishes the headship of man over woman. Here all the evidence for male headship from Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3 is summarized. Such a summary requires a restatement of certain aspects of point one and two above.

(1). Man is first in the order of creation (Gen. 2:7, 21-22).

This has already been discussed above, but its importance for understanding the creation order cannot be overemphasized. The sequence of creation establishes the positional priority of the man in the hierarchy of mankind (1 Tim. 2:13) and is the foundation for all male/female relations in family, church, and state.

(2). Man is charged with the duty of keeping the Garden and commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before the woman is created (Gen. 2:15-17).

Man is given dominion over the Garden prior to the woman’s creation. Adam is established as the keeper of the Garden before Eve has been brought into being. The significance of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is first revealed to man, and the test of obedience is placed upon man even before the woman is created. Hence, the man is the first to hear the Word of God, to be instructed in his duty to obey God’s Word, to be given authority and responsibility in the world, and to exercise God-given authority (naming of the animals) in the world.

Because of his positional priority over the woman, Paul states that man is the image and glory of God in a sense that is not shared by the woman (1 Cor. 11:7). Man (the male gender) stands directly under God with no visible, earthly head. He is God’s vice-regent having authority over all other created beings on earth, including the woman. Man is God’s glory because he shows forth God’s authority over all creation. Man is therefore the crown of creation and shines forth the image and glory of God in a way no other creature does, even in a way the woman does not. What distinguishes the man from the woman (beyond the physical differences)? It is his headship over the woman. In other words, man’s authority and headship makes him the image and the glory of God in a way that surpasses all other creatures, including the woman.

(3). Woman is made from man and for man — to be his helper (Gen. 2:18, 21-23).

The woman was created from the first man; she traces her origin to him, and according to the Creator’s plan and power, she derives her existence and being from man. Man does not trace his origin or being from the woman. The stated purpose for the woman’s creation is that she should be man’s companion and helper. The text of Genesis does not say that man was created for the purpose of being the woman’s companion and helper (assistant).

The creation order of the positional priority of the man is here made explicit. This is why Paul states that “the woman is the glory of the man” (1 Cor. 11:7). Paul does not say that she is the image of man; she is in the image of God. But she is the glory of man in the same way that man is the glory of God: she shows the position of man in God’s order by her submission to him. Woman (the female gender) does not stand directly under God with no visible, earthly head. She is under man’s authority and is man’s helper, not God’s vice-regent. Woman is man’s glory because she shows forth man’s position of authority over all creation, which includes his authority over her.

(4). Man names the first woman (Gen. 2:23; 3:20).

In the Bible, the right to name belongs to those who have a positional priority over the person being named (e.g., God names man Gen. 5:2; parents give names to their children). As we have seen, one of the first responsibilities of Adam was to name every beast of the field and every fowl of the air (Gen. 2:19-20). This was an exercise of his grant of dominion over the animal world (Gen. 1:28).

After the woman is created, Adam names her. His action of naming the woman indicates his authority over her.[9]In Genesis 2:23, the man gives the woman her generic name to show her origin from man and her distinction from man (Hebrew, ish and ishah; English, male and female, man and woman). In Genesis 3:20, Adam gives the woman her personal name of Eve because she is the mother of all who will come after them.

(5). Man is charged with taking the lead for establishing a marriage and a new household (Gen. 2:24). There is debate over whether or not these statements were spoken to man in the Garden of Eden or whether they are commentary on the significance of the creation of the woman from the man revealed through Moses. Regardless, the headship of the man is further revealed here by the fact that the charge for establishing a marriage and new household is addressed to him and not to the woman. He takes the initiative; he takes the lead in the establishment of a new household.

(6). Mankind is designated by the name of the first man — Adam (Gen. 5:2).

The Hebrew word adam is always used in the singular number in the Old Testament. It is also used in three ways: 1) mankind, as a collective to designate the human race; 2) man, as a male; and, 3) as the name of the first man. Man’s unique position as the head of the race and his headship over the woman is seen by the fact that God names mankind by the name of Adam, the term that also designates the personal name of the first man.

(7). Mankind’s fall into sin took place in a context where the role relationship established in Genesis 1 and 2 is reversed.

It is significant that the Serpent chooses to approach the woman rather than the man with his temptation to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Most likely he thought that he stood a better chance of success by seducing man’s assistant; through her he hoped to bring man down. He fully succeeded. In the Genesis account, Eve fails in that she acts independently of Adam and does not submit herself to his leadership. And Adam fails in that he heeds the voice of his wife and submits to her decision rather than obeying the Word of God.

The apostle Paul appeals to the account of the Fall to support his doctrine of male headship in the church (1 Tim. 2:14). Paul does not give an extensive explanation of how the account of the Fall supports the order of male headship, but it is clear that he teaches that it does. He simply bases his view of male headship on the fact that the woman was deceived. Paul’s point seems to be that the woman’s nature (the female disposition) and her natural dependence on man (in accord with the creation order), makes her more susceptible to false teachers. When the creation order is ignored and men and women act contrary to their appointed places and roles, they give place to the Devil and provide the optimum setting for the corruption of the Word of God.

(8). The curse of sin disrupts the creation order’s original harmonious relationship between the woman and the man.

Genesis 3:16 reveals God’s word of judgment on Eve and on all her female descendants. It is important to note that the two aspects of her judgment are directly related to her special role as a woman. The first has to do with childbirth, and the second has to do with her relationship to her husband. Because of sin, the whole process of conception and childbirth will be “in sorrow.” This means she will now experience pain and trouble in her reproductive system, and her pregnancies and deliveries will be hard, toilsome, and painful.

Furthermore, sin will cause her relationship with her husband to be corrupted by strife and antagonism. The text says “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Note carefully, that this is a pronouncement of judgment and cursing, and it involves a disruption of the harmonious relationship that God had originally intended for Eve and her husband. To understand the exact nature of this disruption, we must consider the meaning of “desire” and “rule”. Because of sin, the woman will now have a “desire” to her husband that she did not have previously. The Hebrew word for “desire” (teshuqa) means a longing, an urge, or a desire. The word only occurs two other times in the Hebrew Old Testament (Gen. 4:7; Song of Sol. 7:1). An understanding of its usage in Genesis 4:7 is critical for understanding its usage in Genesis 3:16.[10]  In Genesis 4, it refers to sin’s desire for Cain, i.e., sin’s desire to dominate Cain and lead him into sin. In a similar way, the woman’s “desire” for her husband is a desire to dominate him and cause him to do her will. Therefore, because of sin, the woman will no longer be content with her position of subordination to the man but will instead rise up against her husband’s authority.[11]

In addition to this, the husband will now “rule” over his wife. The Hebrew word for “rule” (mashal) means to rule over or have dominion over. It is often used of the rule of a king over his subjects, and can indicate a rule that is oppressive and destructive (Isa. 14:5; 28:14; 52:5). Since its usage in Genesis 3:16 is in the context of cursing, it seems proper to understand that the rule being spoken of will be oppressive and hurtful. It is important to realize that the word for “rule” is also used in Genesis 4:7. Cain is urged to “rule” the sin that threatens him, i.e., he is to enter into conflict with the sin that desires to control and him and crush it.[12]

Therefore, the curse of sin disrupts the creation order of male headship and female submission by introducing conflict between the woman and the man. Instead of being content with her God-ordained position of submission to her husband, her desire will be to control him and dominate him. And her husband, whom she helped lead into sin, will respond with a harsh rule that will seek to dominate her. Because of sin, the harmonious relationship of female submission and male leadership established by God will be corrupted by discontented, rebellious women who seek to control their husbands and by self-centered, domineering men who seek to lord it over their wives. The curse is not that a woman must now submit to a man (the word submit is nowhere used in the text), but that in the autonomy of human sin (Gen. 3:5), she will rebel against the creation order by not submitting to her husband. And so, properly understood, Genesis 3:16 provides additional support for the original creation order of male headship and female submission.

III. Confirmation of the Creation Order for Men and Women in the Rest of the Bible.

The creation order of the positional priority of the man revealed in Genesis 1 and 2 is confirmed and explicitly applied to all spheres of life in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The fact that the rest of the Bible upholds the creation order for men and women proves beyond doubt that the order of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is expressive of the creation ordinance of male headship. In a discussion of the ethical foundation of the wisdom of the book of Proverbs, Walter Kaiser makes these observations on the unity of the creation order of Genesis 1 and 2 with the revelation of Old Testament law and Old Testament wisdom literature:

The motivational clauses also reveal the ethos for the admonitions in Proverbs. That ethos is Yahweh’s created order and the knowledge of God that is directed by the . . . “fear of the LORD” . . . The object of right living is to live in harmony with the created order and the knowledge of God. Only then will fullness, wholeness, success, and avoidance of tragedy be ours—both physically, materially, psychologically, and spiritually. For Proverbs to name one aspect, such as material success, is to invite success in every other area as well since life may not be fractured and neatly partitioned as it is currently fashionable to do in the West. The law promotes the same order that creation initiated and wisdom illuminated. Thus the ethos of the orders of creation is the ethos of the law and both form the ethos of wisdom [emphasis added].[13]

Kaiser’s point is very important. The ethos (the universal, objective characteristics and standards) of the creation order is promoted by the law of God and illuminated by the wisdom literature of the Bible. In a sense, all of Scripture is engaged in either the promotion of the creation order or the illumination of the creation order.

This fact is entirely true of the creation order of the positional priority of the man and the submission of the woman to him as his appointed helper. All of Scripture promotes and illuminates this created order and applies it to all areas of life. Although the semi-complementarianism of modern evangelical thought limits the created order to the spheres of the family and the church, the Bible consistently applies it to all spheres of life—family, church, and state. The biblical view is that the creation order of male and female applies to all of the creation.

Due to constraints on the length of this essay, only the first point of this section will be discussed in any detail. The rest will be limited to a summary statement and a listing of Scripture references for the reader to look up and contemplate at his or her leisure. The Scripture references are an attempt to be thorough, though the lists are not necessarily exhaustive.

1. The creation order for men and women applies to all aspects of life and in the mediatorial kingdom of Christ.

One of the most important affirmations that the creation order applies to all spheres of life is found in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” In the context, Paul is seeking to correct the abuse of good order in the Corinthian congregation by the failure of certain women to observe the apostolic “ordinance” regarding the woman’s need to cover her head in the assembly as a visible sign of her subjection to the divine law of male headship.[14] 1 Corinthians 11:3 lays the theological foundation for the practice of headcovering. But it also sets forth the divine order for the government (the hierarchy of authority) of all aspects of man’s life in the world. Paul appeals to this God appointed order for all creation to establish proper decorum in the meetings of the church. According to Charles Hodge, Paul begins his correction of the Corinthian’s problem by stating the principle upon which his instruction will rest,

. . . so that by assenting to the principle, they could not fail to assent to the conclusion to which it necessarily led. That principle is that order and subordination pervade the whole universe, and it is essential to its being. The head of the man is Christ; the head of the woman is the man; the head of Christ is God. If this concatenation be disturbed in any of its parts, ruin must be the result.[15]

The word “head” is based on the Hebrew word for “head” (rosh) which means a chief or leader, one in a position of authority over others. The word was used of, 1) the  king of Israel, 1 Sam. 15:17; 2) the High Priest, 2 Chron. 19:11; 3) the head of a household, Ex. 6:14; 4) the leaders of the tribes of Israel, Num. 1:16. The word “head” refers to divinely appointed offices in the Old Testament.[16] Paul is using the word to depict God’s hierarchical structure for the world. The divine order of authority is thus: God - Christ - Man - Woman. As God is the head of Christ in all areas of the divine government of the world, so is Christ the head of man in every aspect of man’s life. Thus, the only logical conclusion is that the man is also the head of the woman in every aspect of man’s life; i.e., in all spheres of government: family, church, and state.

It is significant to note that this order is the same order as the creation order established in Genesis 1 and 2 with one notable addition, the inclusion of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. “Christ” is the divine title for the Messiah, the Seed of Abraham and the Son of David who has come in fulfillment of the promises of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. According to Psalms 2 and 110 and the New Testament interpretation of these Psalms, Christ is now seated at the right hand of God and all authority in heaven and earth have been granted to Him (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:33-36; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 1:5). Furthermore, He has been commissioned to bring an end to the rebellion of the nations so “that all people, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dan. 7:14). Christ is the appointed mediator between God and man. He stands as a mediator in regard to both the redemption of sinners and the rule of God over the world — the two aspects of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

What this all means for the subject of this study is that the creation order of man’s headship over woman is reaffirmed as the divine order for the mediatorial kingdom of Christ — a kingdom that governs all of life. Thus, the claim of evangelical feminists that Galatians 3:28 removes the idea of male headship from the kingdom of Christ is here definitively refuted. In its context, Galatians 3:28 is stating the equality of spiritual privilege and covenantal standing for all who believe in Jesus Christ, irrespective of ethnic, social, or sexual differences. In the terms of the Abrahamic covenant, all are the seed of Abraham by faith in Christ; this is the focus of Galatians. In terms of the Davidic covenant, the appointed order of authority for Christ’s kingdom is God - Christ - Man - Woman.

Christ’s headship extends to all the governments established by God: family, church, and state. Because the extension of the creation order to the civil sphere is denied by semi-complementarians, it is vital to understand that Christ is the mediatorial king of all civil rulers — God has placed Him over them all; cf. Ps. 2:10-12; 110:1-2; Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 7:14-15; Matt. 28:18; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 1:5; 19:16. This fact leads to the conclusion that it is His will that civil rulers be men, for in the order of divine government men stand directly under Christ. To have a woman in the office of civil ruler would make the order of the civil government within her jurisdiction as follows: God - Christ - Woman - Man. This hierarchy is a clear denial of 1 Corinthians 11:3 and the appointed order for Christ’s mediatorial kingdom: God - Christ - Man - Woman.

2. The creation order for men and women applies in marriage and family.

In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, the creation order of male headship in marriage and family is affirmed both explicitly and implicitly. That the man is the head of his household is upheld in the patriarchal order of the Old Testament and the patriarchal order of the New Testament. The Bible leaves no doubt that the creation order of male headship is the divinely appointed order for the home (Gen. 2:24; 18:12; Exod. 6:14; Num. 30:1-16; Josh. 22:14; Matt. 19:4; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-25; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12; 1 Pet. 3:1, 5-7).

Furthermore, the Word of God confirms and illuminates the creation order of distinct roles for men and women. In the Bible, the man is seen as the leader, provider, and protector of his family, and the woman is portrayed as a keeper at home who supports her husband, nurtures her children, and manages her household (Gen. 2:15; 3:16-19 — note that the terms of the curse are applied to each according to their God-given spheres; Num. 1:20; Prov. 31:10-31; Eph. 6:4; 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:8, 10, 14; Titus 2:4-5).

3. The creation order for men and woman applies in the church.

Male headship in the government of the church is affirmed in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The redemptive community is first placed in the hands of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel is delivered from bondage under the leadership of Moses and conquers the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. The Old Testament priesthood is of the house of Aaron and open to men only. In the New Testament, Jesus appoints only men to be his apostles, and the leadership of the church is placed in the hands of men — elders and deacons. Male headship is explicitly stated to be the order for the church. All the books of the Bible are written by men (Gen. 12:1-4; Ex. 3:10; 28:1; Mark 3:14-19; Acts 6:3; 14:23; 1 Cor. 11:3; 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:11-12; 3:1-13). The Word of God teaches that men are the leaders and teachers in the church and women are to be silent learners (1 Cor. 14:1-40; 1 Tim. 2:11-12).

4. The creation order for men and women applies in the state.

In accord with the creation order, the Bible teaches that men are to bear rule in the civil sphere. By precept and example the Word of God establishes the headship of man in civil government. All the appointed civil leaders (i.e., the patriarchs, elders of the tribes, Moses, Joshua, commanders of the army, kings, judges, and elders of the town and cities) of the Old Testament are men. Furthermore, the qualifications for civil rulers in Israel specifically state that only men may serve in that office. The New Testament does not overturn this order, but in fact establishes it through the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ. Whenever the Bible speaks of civil magistrates it does so in terms that refer to men and never in terms that refer to women (Ex. 18:21; Deut. 1:13; 16:18-20; 17:15-20; 31:28; 2 Sam. 23:3; Neh. 7:2; Isa. 3:12; Rom. 13:4; 1 Cor. 11:3). In Scripture, the man serves in the “gates” and the woman serves in her home (Prov. 31:23).

5. The creation order for men and women applies in society.

As mankind is the creation of God, human society (all of mankind’s social relations) is necessarily grounded in the creation order; it is impossible for it to be otherwise. If the creation order establishes male headship, then society must be under that order. Furthermore, all of society is based on the institutions of family, church, and state. If the Bible establishes male headship in the family, the church, and the state, then it is hard to see how any other conclusion can be reached than the conclusion that male headship is the divine order for society. Finally, if all aspects of man’s life are under the lordship of Jesus Christ, then the order of God – Christ - Man - Woman must apply to all aspects of man’s life. In the Old Testament, the foundations of a stable and prosperous society are defined in terms of male leadership (Isa. 3:1-3, 12). In the New Testament, the order of authority in Christ’s kingdom (a kingdom that rules over all) places man over the woman (1 Cor. 11:3).

We live in a society that has almost entirely rejected the creation order. Therefore, every aspect of life and every area of government in our society is currently out of order (at least to some degree). Because of this, seeking to live according to the creation order will be difficult and perhaps costly. Though God’s people cannot impose the creation order on an unwillingly society, they can get their own lives, houses, and churches in order in obedience to God and as a witness to the truth of God’s appointed order. Furthermore, it will be impossible for the people of God to entirely separate themselves from the structure of the egalitarian society in which they live “for then must ye needs go out of the world” (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-13). But as much as lies within their power and jurisdiction should be structured according to the creation order of male headship.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we assert, on the basis of the Genesis account of creation of the man and woman and on the teaching of other Scriptures, that the creation order establishes a full complementarian view of the relationship between men and women. In summarizing our study and drawing out its implications for the debate over the roles of men and women today, we offer the following affirmations:

1. The creation order reflects the plan of God and establishes the lawful arrangement of all things in the creation. The creation order is universal in terms of time, place, and culture.

2. Male headship is part of the creation order, and thus it applies to all of man’s life and to all spheres of government — family, church, state, and society. Male headship is a creation ordinance, and it continues in the post-fall world being affirmed in the Old Testament and specifically affirmed in the New Testament as part of the order of Christ’s mediatorial kingdom.

3. Egalitarianism is false and stands in direct contradiction to the specific revelation of the creation order in Scripture and to the many individual texts that affirm, apply, and uphold the creation order in family, church, and state. Egalitarianism is not acceptable in any sphere of life; it is not the doctrine of family, church, or state.

4. Semi-complementarianism (or “two-point complementarianism”) is correct in applying the creation order to family and church, but is wrong in denying the application of the creation order to civil government and society. Semi-complementarianism is really, to coin a phrase, semi-creation orderism because it denies that the creation order applies to all spheres of life. It also introduces conflict between the various spheres.

5. Full complementarianism is the biblical model for all mankind. It is only when men and women live in harmony with this model that they will experience fullness, wholeness, and success—physically, materially, psychologically, and spiritually.[17]

6. The successful integration of family, church, state, and society is based on the faithful application of the creation order to all of these spheres. When the creation order for men and women is ignored confusion and conflicts between these spheres will be introduced.

1. ^ Our three point summary of the rationale that evangelical complementarians gave in defense of their support of Sarah Palin are based on the arguments and rationale that were presented in the following articles: David Kotter, “Does Sarah Palin Present a Dilemma for Complementarians,” parts 1-4 (September 3, 5, 8, 10, 2008; http://www.cbmw.org/Blog/Archives); Albert Mohler, Jr., “An Unexpected New Motherhood Debate,” (September 2, 2008; http://www.albertmohler.com/blog.php?selectMonth=09&selectYear=2008); Albert Mohler, Jr., “Palin Can Serve Family and Country” (September 5, 2008: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/r_albert_mohler_jr/2008/09/a_tale_of_two_offices.html); Richard Land, “Baptists, The Bible & Women: There is no ‘Palin predicament’ for Southern Baptist or Evangelicals” (September 19, 2008: http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?id=28959); Denny Burk, “Responding to David Gushee” (September 18, 2008; http://www.dennyburk.com/?p=2470).

2. ^ Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Multinomah Publishers, 2004), p. 518. Grudem, a two-point complementarian, approves of egalitarianism in the civil sphere. He argues in his book (p. 140) that it is biblically acceptable for women to serve as civil rulers. He is supported in this perspective by David Kotter and The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Richard Land, Albert Mohler, and Denny Burk (see the previous footnote for documentation of their two-point complementarianism).

3. ^ C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 30.

4. ^ J. M. Spier, An Introduction to Christian Philosophy (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1954), p. 32.

5. ^ Materialism and atheistic evolution maintain that all the facts of the universe are brute facts; they have no inherent meaning in themselves — they just are. Even though mankind is in rebellion to God, the majority of men have not been willing to accept the premise of their own meaninglessness or the meaninglessness of the world or of history. But instead of submitting to God’s interpretation of themselves and the world and finding true meaning therein, they have set themselves up as the ultimate interpreters of reality and as the ones who determine the meaning of themselves and the particular meaning of any fact of science, history or experience.

6. ^ Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Towards Old Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), p. 31.

7. ^ Where you stand on the debate between traducianism and creationism on the origin of the individual soul will influence your decision on this point.

8. ^ Law may refer here to specific statutes in the Mosaic covenant-law, but more likely it is a reference to the revelation of the creation order in Genesis 1 and 2. All of the 5 five books of Moses were referred to as the law by the Jews (the law, the prophets, and the writings are the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible; cf. Lk. 24:44).

9. ^ This does not suggest that the woman and animals are on the same level — far from it! The text is clear that the woman is made in the image of God, that she herself has dominion over the animals, and that Adam instantly recognizes that she is a full human being just like him — bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. The relationship that the man sustains to the woman is unique. Nevertheless, the fact that the man names the first woman does indicate his headship over the woman.

10. ^ Both were written by Moses and appear in the same section of the book. In determining the meaning of a word, we should begin by seeing how the author uses the word in other contexts.

11. ^ It is significant to note that the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (this translation is called the Septuagint, and was carried out in the third century B.C.), rendered the Hebrew word for “desire” by a Greek term (apostrophe) that means a turning away from someone or something, and it can refer to a turning away from someone who is in authority over you; in this sense, it carries the idea of leaving a position of submission, i.e., to rebel. It seems, then, that they understood “desire” in the sense that we are arguing for here.

12. ^ Again, the Septuagint supports this interpretation because the Hebrew word for “rule” is translated by a Greek verb (kupieuo) that means to exercise authority over someone or have control over them as their lord. Thus, it can mean to be master of or to dominate someone, and could well be translated as “to lord it over.”

13. ^ Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Towards Old Testament Ethics, p. 304.

14. ^ 1 Corinthians 11 has two focal points: headcoverings and the Lord’s Supper. Both involve the abuse of visible signs that are intended to cause the church to remember the two main works of God and the foundations upon which the history of the world rests: creation and redemption. Headcoverings are a visible sign of the creation order for men and women. The  Lord’s Supper is a visible sign (involving bread and wine) of the redemption of the elect through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that headcovering is a third sacrament (there are only two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper), only that the uncovered and covered head are visible signs that point to the creation order.

15. ^ Charles Hodge, A Commentary on 1 Corinthians (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), p. 206.

16. ^ William White, “rosh,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1980), p. 825.

17. ^ Kaiser, Towards Old Testament Ethics, p. 304.

This article was originally published in three parts on the Vision Forum website, January 2010.