4.29.2008

The Nature of Woman

Here's part of a sermon from John MacArthur- a well-respected pastor and author, so these aren't 'fringe ideas'. I don't feel like I took the comments out of context, but you can check for yourself and read the whole sermon here. Thanks to Molly at Adventures in Mercy for the link.

Note: the first point in the sermon is about the role of women in the church, and the third point is about mothering. Here, I'm looking at the second point, which I believe is speaking to the more foundational topic of who a woman is and how she goes about relating to God and others.
In creation, God made man first. Now keep this in mind, man was made for God and woman was made for man. Eve was made for Adam. She was made to be his helper. Genesis 2:18 to 25, she is his glory. Man is the glory of God, woman is the glory of man. She is made to be the helper of man. She is to follow his lead, live in his provision, find safety in his strength and protection in his courage. A tendency to follow was built into Eve until the Fall and then came the curse and in that curse the tendency to rule and then the conflict.
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Now look at verse 14, and this is fascinating. "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." We talk about the Fall of Adam, and rightly so because in Romans chapter 5 that is the way Paul refers to it as in Adam all died, and so forth. We talk about the fall of Adam because Adam, his name represents generic man, if you will, his name represents the race. He is the head of the race and he did fall. But we have to keep in mind that he didn't fall first. First the woman fell and her fall confirms what verse 13 said, that woman needs a head. She needs a strengthener because when she got out from under the strength of Adam and tried to operate independently in conflict with the enemy, she was...what?...deceived. And the intent of what the Word is saying here is that woman needs protection. That she has a certain vulnerability. She was designed with the need for a head. She was designed with the need for a leader. She was designed with the need for a protector and a savior.
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But woman...woman who is designed by God to be under a head and a leader and a helper and a protector and a savior, when she stepped out on her own and acted independently of the headship of Adam, when she acted without his leadership, without his counsel, without his protection, she became vulnerable. And it is inherent in the nature of woman that she should not find herself in that position of ultimate responsibility. For woman has a deceivability when out from under the headship of a man. So the woman then in verse 14 was deceived. She showed by that her inability to lead effectively. She met her match and more than her match in Satan. She shows an inability to act independently of her protector.


What I can agree with:
  • The point of the sermon is that Woman's High Calling is being a mother and building into the next generation. Motherhood is absolutely a high calling. No question.
  • My husband is my 'head' as we understand it- we work as a team, he has the final say, and he will take responsibility for decisions. I love having him as my teammate, and I joyfully submit to his leadership. Absolutely.
The questions I'm left with:
  • "Man is the glory of God, woman is the glory of man." - I am not the glory of God. That is what this implies, and it is a conclusion I've never come to before. This is the opposite of what I've told girls struggling with body image and self-conciousness. Is man made for God to delight in, and woman made for man to delight in? What are the implications of that? Can I bring glory to God? Or just my husband? And what to tell girls trying to find a healthy self-image - "woman is the glory of man"?
  • "when she got out from under the strength of Adam and tried to operate independently in conflict with the enemy, she was...deceived." "For woman has a deceivability when out from under the headship of a man."- Do I have spiritual power on my own, with the help of the Holy Spirit, because I'm in relationship with Him, to combat the forces of the Enemy? Or must I never operate independently of my husband? Are women always deceived as Eve was?
  • "She was designed with the need for a head. She was designed with the need for a leader. She was designed with the need for a protector and a savior." Who is my 'savior' is here? Jesus or my husband, my 'head'? Weren't both men and women designed for a need for a savior, protector, leader and head- and so we all need God? Or is this a specific need for a woman, a 'savior' through her husband?
  • "She showed by that her inability to lead effectively. She met her match and more than her match in Satan. She shows an inability to act independently of her protector." Can a woman ever lead effectively? Anywhere? Act independently? Eve was looking for food- can women even grocery shop on their own?
  • Are women "more flawed" than man, as this makes it sound? (He answers this later in the sermon, "Now may I say to you that a woman is not more defective than a man? Please. She was deceived and he subjected himself to her deception. The weakness of a woman is that she needs a head. The weakness of a man is he needs a woman." That's for another discussion.)
  • "it is inherent in the nature of woman that she should not find herself in that position of ultimate responsibility" I am in a position (at work) where I have ultimate responsibility for my actions, decisions and work. Is this against my inherent nature? If a woman's inherent nature is to not have responsibility for her actions, how do we discipline daughters?
Are these silly questions? Does even questioning these views make me a crazy feminist? What did you guys come up with?

8 comments:

Daniel & Teresa said...

Wow, interesting sermon. My first thoughts are, isn't Christ my strength? Isn't he the one to protect me from being deceived? And what about unmarried women. Can they not live and operate on their own in Christ without a husband? I definitely agree with your questions and concerns- I want Daniel to be the head of our family, but Jesus is my ultimate Lord, Sustainer, and Head, not Daniel. (and Prov. 30 talks about a fairly strong, initiating woman).

Daniel & Teresa said...

Sorry, Prov 31.

James Kubecki said...

There is a lot here that could be interacted with, and I'm still assessing the wisdom of doing so...

In the meantime, one specific thing puzzles me. You appear (and apologies if I am misreading) to take issue with the statement that "Man is the glory of God, woman is the glory of man."

In fact, it appears that your issue is with that statement itself, and not any interpretation on MacArthur's part. So my question is this...

Could you clarify if you disagree with 1 Corinthians 11:7 itself, or, if you do not, then please clarify how you would apply that verse?

d. said...

I was reading further in l Cor.11:11-12--"In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God."
Woman was made from man to be his companion/helper. Woman was a gift from God to man.
So, do we live to bring glory to man or God? I think God because he is our Creator and Savior. We are to be the women God created us to be with the different gifts and abilities He has given each of us. D.

Anonymous Cogitations said...

The first issue that came to my mind when reading this post is the following: I personally know some people who view Genesis as purely allegorical. In the time period in which this was written, many people groups had their own version of creation, etc., so it is logical that the Israelites would have done the same. I'm still pondering this perspective, but I at least wanted to bring it up since a person's view as far as whether it is meant to be taken allegorically or literally affects your interpretation and application. If indeed it is allegorical, then it would be necessary to take cultural issues at that time period into account. What was the current view of women and how did that affect their "story telling?" If it is to be taken literally, it seems that this speaker's interpretation of this passage needs to be reconciled with other passages throughout the Bible. For example, I asked myself just as Teresa did, what about women who are single?

I don't think these questions are silly. I also don't think it's wrong to be a feminist. There are actually different waves of feminism. Basically, all feminists are not alike. I think US churches in general associate negative connotations with the word "feminists" because they are scared and don't understand what it means to be a feminist. So many churches talk about a "war on culture," when in reality, the Gospel has already been twisted and manipulated to be convenient in our culture. Just as being environmentally friendly matches up with the concept of being a good steward, there are aspects of feminism that match up with teachings and behaviors of Christ.

Joanna said...

Anonymous Cogitations - I agree, there's nothing wrong with being a feminist (or an environmentalist!)- I just knew it had a certain connotation in Christian circles, so I threw it out there for discussion- because there are certainly Christians who would label me one for asking these questions, and not mean it in a positive sense.

James- Good question. My interpretations aren't well researched, but just my impressions and feelings after reading this. My immediate questions came out.

Honestly, I didn't immediately connect the 1 Corinthians 11:7 phrase in MacArthur's sermon because it wasn't referenced, and it was being used in a somewhat different context. I had always read the 1 Corinthians passage as a "rules for worship for that specific time and culture"- women should worship with their head covered, men shouldn't cover their head, women should have long hair, men shouldn't- and glossed over it, because it's not something most Christians follow today. There is danger in glossing over any passage in Scripture, for sure. The whole verse [with my logical conclusion] reads "A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. [so she ought to cover her head]" Even in context, I'm not sure what it means, "woman is the glory of man"- a few verses later (v 15), it is said that long hair is the glory of woman, and certainly long hair is not to woman what woman is to man and man is to God? So, I don't know.

When just a part of the verse is pulled out, "... man ... is the ... glory of God... woman is the glory of man", and it's put in the context of 'man is woman's savior', I come to different conclusions- women aren't created for the glory of God, and women are just for flawed men's purposes. Both those conclusions are troubling.

But, I'm not the Greek scholar that you are, so maybe you have different thoughts. :)

Thanks everyone for weighing in so far!

James Kubecki said...

Ha! 11 chapters of a textbook does not a Greek scholar make...

I tend to view that verse as following a structure along the lines of:

[Cultural application of principle] because of [universal truth].

As in:

[A man ought not to cover his head,] since [he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.]

(And yes, I admit I consulted m-w.com on whether to use principle vs. principal. I always mess that one up.)

In case you're interested, the "man as glory of God and woman as glory of man" text... It appears that most commentators I read* seem to approach is as something along the lines of "man is a representative of the delegated authority of God, just as woman is a representative of the authority of man" etc.

I think we would agree, also, that woman's image-bearing of God is definitely not less than that of man.

But I would say that her image-bearing (and representation of God's glory) derives from man, if for no other reason than how woman was created, which is the point of Paul's explanatory note in v8 immediately after.

Lastly, you might be interested to see a posting on one of the blogs I read regularly. It's an overview on complementarianism and egalitarianism.

*Commentators are of course, not inspired. I'm just talking about folks that I think of as generally faithful to the word.

Joanna said...

James- I didn't know "glory", could be used to mean "a representative of the delegated authority". I even checked out the Amplified Bible translation before posting my comment previously, to see if there were other things 'glory' could imply. The verse does make more sense when glory is replaced with "a representative of the delegated authority". Still doesn't explain why long hair is the "glory" of woman (but, just to be safe, I haven't cut my hair in a long while). I don't argue with the commentator's approach on the verse at all.

When 'glory' is interpreted by its English meaning, as I was doing, I would hope I can bring glory (praise, honor, or distinction; great beauty and splendor; worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving) to my God as well as my husband! Thanks for clearing up the meaning of the verse and sharing what you know about it.

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