Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
“Yes, Jackie, God Is ‘Sexist'”
Frequently e-mails are sent questioning certain doctrinal positions stated in pamphlets that appear on the prca.org web site. Some object to certain statements in the pamphlets. Others ridicule some doctrinal positions that are taught. (Though others do express agreement.) One short note of interest was the following:
Article on roles in marriage
I was wondering do you believe that a wife should really submit to her husband? Does the bible actually say that God wanted women to have a lesser role than men? Or was it a role put on to the women based on the way the society was back then. If not then does that mean God is or was sexist?
I answered the letter via email—but the answer bounced back. The e-mail address was no longer valid. The writer evidently had no wish to receive an answer.
The questions presented have often been raised. They demand answers. I doubt if “Jackie” receives or reads the Standard Bearer, but if she does, perhaps she will understand better the scriptural position after reading this answer. At any rate, this is occasion to reflect on some of the objections often raised against proper “roles in marriage.”
The questioner asks what I really believe on this issue. What I believe ought not to be the question. The question is: what does the Bible say to this issue? The Bible uses at least two words: the wife must “submit” to and “obey” her husband. Ephesians 5:22 states: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Ephesians 5:24 insists: “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Colossians 3:18says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” And in I Peter 3:6we read of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, who “obeyed” Abraham and called him “lord.” She is presented as a proper example for Christian wives.
But is this something true only for the early New Testament church? Or might one say that it is true only as a consequence of the fall of Adam into sin—but now the work of Christ on the cross has removed this “curse”?
Genesis 2 presents God’s account of His work in creation. Adam was formed from the dust of the ground. Eve was made from Adam’s rib. God had said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (fit) for him.” It was on the basis of this creation that Scripture declares in I Timothy 2:11-13, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.”
There are several remarks that must be made in this connection. “Obedience” and “submission” do not mean or imply that a husband may demand anything of his wife. Surely he may not demand of her that which is wrong, that is, contrary to God’s Word. Scripture itself teaches that in Acts 5:29. When it is a question of obeying God or the contrary word of man, one must obey God. In the creation of Eve, God made a “help meet (fit)” for him. That implies that each complements the other. Together they can carry out the commands God gave—including to be fruitful and multiply.
It is also true that God prescribes the manner of the rule and authority of the husband. We read inEphesians 5:22-23, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.” The apostle continues in verses 25 and 28, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” Notice that Scripture here does not state that man is to rule over but to love his wife. It is the kind of love that Christ has shown to His church. He gave His life for the church. So ought man to rule his wife. He cannot show such love—then treat her as a slave. He cannot demand of her those things that are contrary to God’s commands.
Does this teaching make God to be “sexist,” either then when this Scripture was written, or now today? That is an interesting question. In my Webster’s Unabridged (older edition) Dictionary, the word sexist is not found. In recent dictionaries one does find definitions for sexist. It is: “Discrimination based on gender, especially against women; (2) attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.”
“Sexist” appears to be used only in a pejorative sense. It is “sexist” to insist that the husband is to be head in the home. It is “sexist” to teach that normally the man goes to the workplace while the woman maintains the home. It is “sexist” when Scripture insists that the woman is to keep silence in the church.
If all of this is part of “sexism,” then God is indeed “sexist.” The Christian, however, does not see this role of women to be bad or evil. God created the differences between man and woman. He did not create woman in a “lesser role,” though many today would say so—if Genesis 2 is true.
God created woman capable of bearing children. Though there is indeed the pain of childbearing, yet what a wonder that is! Not even the most knowledgeable of scientists can come anywhere close to duplicating this wonder. More wonderful still is the fact that God gathers His people, born of women, in the line of generations. The godly mother has the distinct privilege of bearing and training children in the truths of God’s Word. She is decidedly privileged to be instrumental in preparing them for their place in everlasting glory. One woman, Mary, had that greatest of all honors, that she conceived and gave birth to the Christ-child.
Some speak of the “lesser role” for women. Only one who rejects the testimony of the Word of God would say that. She has a most blessed role in marriage—in many ways more blessed than that of her husband. Truly she is a help meet for him. She has as well his love—for he would give his life for her. And she has the honor of raising covenant seed who in turn will be godly mothers and faithful husbands. What “role” could be more honorable than that?
Can anyone imagine a Christian husband in the day of his death saying, “I have one major regret in my life: that I did not obtain more earthly goods for my family and did not spend more time in the office for them”?
And the Christian wife: “I rejoiced greatly that I found my children walking in truth, as we have received commandment from the Father” (II John 1:4).
Yesterday (at the time of the writing of this article) was Memorial Day. It is a day set aside by our government to commemorate the sad fact that many young men of this country died in warfare “in defense of our freedom.” We are saddened by that loss of life. The Christian surely looks forward to the time when “war shall be no more.” But that takes place only when Christ returns on the clouds of heaven. Present wars serve to remind us that the signs of Christ’s soon return are seen.
We hear, almost unendingly, statistics concerning the death of soldiers in Iraq. It is reported that last April there were 64 servicemen killed there (a total then of 2,399 through April since the war began). Those are sad, even frightening, statistics. Here in Michigan the flag is ordered by the governor to be lowered for a day each time a Michigander is killed.
Without meaning to minimize the terrible fact of war and death of so many young men, we find it striking that there are other statistics that never gain such prominence on news today. In 2005 there were 16,972 deaths on our high ways directly related to drunken drivers. That’s 1,414 for the month of April. These deaths were direct consequences of violating the laws concerning driving while drunk. The number of servicemen killed in April is miniscule in comparison to that.
That brings up another set of statistics more shocking still: the killing of the unborn, not by “terrorists,” but by Americans. The abortionists, “good” Americans all, killed approximately 1,293,000 babies before birth in 2005. That would be approximately 107,750 per month. Imagine the outcry in our land if 2/3 of our armed forces were killed in one month in Iraq!! Awful though the death of the soldiers is, it represents only a very, very small number compared to those slain in our own land. Many deplore the death of young men in the army—for they did not get the opportunity to live a “full life.” Yet most of those aborted babes did not make it out of the womb alive.
When God’s command is broken (thou shalt not kill), soon life becomes disposable. The weak and infirm and those with deformities are simply disposed of. It becomes a matter of “choice”—not even of the individual involved, but of another party. The Daily Mail (a British newspaper found on the Internet) of May 28, 2006 had a shocking report about some of the reasons for abortions in the British Isles:
Babies aborted for not being perfect
The ethical storm over abortions has been renewed as it emerged that terminations are being carried out for minor, treatable birth defects.
Late terminations have been performed in recent years because the babies had club feet, official figures show.
Other babies were destroyed because they had webbed fingers or extra digits.
Such defects can often be corrected with a simple operation or physiotherapy.
The revelation sparked fears that abortion is increasingly being used to satisfy couples’ desire for the ‘perfect’ baby.
A leading doctor said people were right to be ‘totally shocked’ that abortions were being carried out for such conditions.
Campaigners warned we are turning into a society that can no longer tolerate imperfection. Doctors were recently told they can now screen IVF embryos to try to weed out inherited cancers.
Ethical groups fear parents are opting for abortions because they are not told of the support and help available if they continued with the pregnancy.
Details of the terminations emerged as new figures revealed an alarming rise in the use of an abortion pill that has been linked to 10 deaths.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that between 1996 and 2004, 20 babies were aborted after 20 weeks because they had a club foot.
It is one of the most common birth defects in Britain, affecting one in 1,000 babies each year. That means around 600 to 700 babies are born annually in the UK with the problem, which causes the feet to point downwards and in severe cases can cause a limp.
However, it can be corrected without surgery using splints, plaster casts and boots. Naomi Davis, a leading paediatrician at Manchester Children’s Hospital who specializes in correcting club feet, said: ‘I think it is reasonable to be totally shocked that abortion is being offered for this.
‘It is entirely treatable. I can only think it is lack of information.’
Figures also show that four babies were aborted since 1996 because they were found to have webbed fingers or extra digits, which can be sorted out with simple surgery.
Remarkable pictures recently have revealed how at just 23 weeks a baby in the womb appears to smile, yawn and flinch in pain.
In 2004 it emerged a baby was aborted at 28 weeks after scans showed it had a cleft palate. Curate Joanna Jepson tried to ensure criminal charges were brought against the two doctors involved but the authorities last year decided against prosecution.
She however vowed to continue in her fight to make terminations illegal after 24 weeks and to ensure cleft palates were not included within the term ‘serious handicap’ and used to justify late abortions.
Ms Jepson reacted angrily to news of the club foot abortions.
‘The law was not designed for this,’ she said. ‘Actions like these are fostering a disposable attitude to human life and I’m extremely concerned it is going on.
‘I am appalled that the medical profession is allowing or even suggesting abortions for these conditions.’
Sue Banton, founder of the group Steps for parents of children with foot disorders, said last year one couple decided to terminate a pregnancy at 25 weeks after discovering their baby would have a section of foot missing.
‘We gave them other families to talk to, but they just didn’t want to know,’ she said. ‘It is terrible.
‘I know lots of perfectly nice people with this condition and you just can’t imagine them not being here.’
But, sadly, most abortions are performed simply as a matter of “birth control.” The “accident” of conception of an unwanted baby can be taken care of by a simple surgical procedure (or by taking a pill). No wonder that euthanasia soon follows in a society—and soon after that, a society that will decide who will live and who will die. All this points to the increasingly difficult times in which we live. May God grant faithfulness to His church in these evil days.