Male and Female Differences Are Blessings from God
Why didn’t God make us all a combination of male and female, so we wouldn’t be so dependent on one another? Why not make us each complete in ourselves? For one thing, we wouldn’t have been as happy if we were complete in ourselves. God made us so that we would have a need for him, and this need would impel us to grow to be like him. He also made us so that we would need one another, and thus would grow together toward unity. By design, all of God’s creation is constructed to avoid self-sufficiency. Everything about our earth and its inhabitants is designed to promote harmony, interdependence, and unselfishness.
—W. Peter Blitchington1—
You can view summaries of all the articles in this series here.
Key point: Not only Article 4 of the Nashville Statement affirm the truth of Scripture; human experience does as well.
For the past several weeks, we have been considering various articles of the Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality. This week we will briefly consider Article 4, which states,
WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.
How do we know these things? Let’s consider the affirmation portion first.
First, we know that male-female differences have existed as long as there has been at least one man and one woman on earth, because God created the first man and the first woman with complementary traits, qualities that differed in order to make them an effective team (see Gen. 2:18,21-24). The differences remain in men and women today, and so does the complementarity. This doesn’t mean that any man and any woman are compatible in the sense we would consider an individual couple’s compatibility. It means that generally speaking, when a man and a woman come together in marriage, before anything else is taken into account, innate male-female differences set the stage for the two of them to fit together, work together, and “do life” together effectively. Out of their diversity, a oneness, a unity, arises—if the husband and wife accept and cooperate with the differences between them.
Second, after numerous creative actions on God’s part, God saw the things He had made, and they were good, but He went on to declare it was “not good” for man to be alone. Then, significantly, after creating both the man and the woman—and everything else—God saw everything He had made and proclaimed it to be “very good.” This included His design of the man and the woman as different in complementary ways.
Third, we know that male-female differences “are meant for human good and human flourishing” because right after creating the man and the woman, God gave them special instructions. Genesis 1:27-28 reports,
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
While a variety of factors are involved in the situation described in verse 28, the differences between the man and the woman are an inseparable part of this mix.
Now let’s consider the denial portion. How do we know that male and female differences did not result from the Fall and are not a tragedy to be overcome?
In this, our fourth point, let’s reiterate our first: Male-female differences were a part of God’s original design.
Fifth, God created men and women alike in that both are human, yet different from each other in both obvious and subtle ways. At the same time, He also made both men and women in His image. A man reflects God’s image in ways that a woman cannot, and a woman reflects it in ways a man cannot. All of this was and is God’s original design. While the Fall of humanity into sin marred God’s image in both men and women, it did not eliminate it. We see evidence of this in Scripture following the Flood.
Sin distorted but did not eliminate God’s image in members of the human race.
In Genesis 9:6-7, God declared to Noah,
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Bring forth abundantly in the earth
And multiply in it.”
Had the Fall obliterated God’s image from people, killing someone wouldn’t matter. But it does matter! Moreover, it is male-female differences that make it possible for humanity to “be fruitful and multiply.”
Sixth, even though the consequences of the Fall for men and women were gender-specific, they weren’t the source of male and female differences. No longer would the marriage relationship, childbearing, or work be free of frustration. Rather, they would at times produce tension and strife. Figuratively speaking, sin threw obstacles onto the path of the marriage relationship!
Ironically—and this is our seventh point—we see evidence that God’s image has been marred and distorted by sin, not in the innate differences between men and women, but in the efforts of some to treat men and women as identical. This is what is creating confusion, difficulty, tragedy, and all sorts of problems (also go here).
By contrast, consider the words of Peter Biltchington at the top of this post. When a husband and wife understand that each one needs the other, each is poised not only to receive encouragement and help from his or her spouse, but also to offer these. We grow when we give of ourselves, and many people benefit, not just us! As Dr. Blitchington affirms, God’s design discourages an unhealthy independence, and it promotes, in his words, “harmony, interdependence, and unselfishness.”2 If we are honest, we are compelled to admit that our observations and experiences validate this truth. God’s design is very good, just as Scripture affirms.
The effect of sin still is evident, but so is the image of God in people everywhere—an image that includes male and female differences.
Next week, we will take a break from our series on the Nashville Statement and recognize the 500th birthday of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This document challenged the corruption of the church and urged reform and renewal. Thankfully, Luther’s action set the stage for many of the reforms Luther sought. We are beneficiaries of it even today.
Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1,2W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles and the Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1981), 51.