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The Story of God and the Equality of the Sexes

Hey, Winn here. Welcome to episode 2 of AskDrWinn.

In today’s show, we are working on a question that goes something like this:

Biblical EqualityDoes Scripture suggest equality between Male and Female?

 

In order to give a reasonable answer to that question, one must have a rough idea of the whole story of God.

Biblical EqualityGod is the master storyteller. He has delivered a time-honored story first in an oral presentation, then later in a written presentation. He is responsible for all the ingredients of what goes on in his story.

What are those ingredients, you may ask? Good question! A story could simply be defined as a presentation of a question with the expectation of an answer. A story has a protagonist/hero, one who has an intention and overcomes conflict to secure a resolution. This perfectly describes the Story of Scripture.

Tom Wright, in one of his earlier books, has suggested that the Bible can be best understood as a story which has several acts; for him it is a five-act-play. This story moves from Creation to New Creation through the maze of independence, i.e., conflict toward the goal of humankind restored completely to their interdependent status. I have expanded that idea to a six-act play: Creation, Chaos, Covenant, Christ, Church, and Consummation in my book: God’s EPIC Adventure: The Reader Version. I present a full and detailed storyline of Genesis to Revelation in God’s EPIC Adventure. You can find a link to it in the show notes as AskDrwinn.com/2

Humankind started out on an equal footing. The story of the first couple demonstrates that together they made a decision that resulted in an unequal status. As the story continues, we find in the fourth act, which is the story of Jesus, this fatal decision was reversed once and for all.

So, in this show, I present a presentation that was delivered live to suggest that there is only full equality of male and female in all spheres of life and especially in the life of ChurchWorld, (again ChurchWorld is my word for the institutional church).

The material below does not appear in the live presentation.

In the first act, recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, God creates the universe. The backstory of this Act is that of the Covenant, whose story is recorded in the third act, starting the first stipulation of that covenant, i.e., you can’t have any other God but me. In the second act we have the story of Creation told again with a focus toward humankind being created to be interdependent with God, but as the scenes move forward, humankind decides that independence from God would be better than independence with God and Chaos occurs. So, they break the only stipulation in the Garden and eat of the tree that was forbidden.

Within the first and second act, we have the setup of the story. God created humans to be interconnected with him, and the conflict, humans decided to be disconnected from God. The remaining Acts are told so that the reader can see how the main hero of the Story, who is God, intends to overcome the conflict and bring about a resolution to it.God created humans to be interconnected with him,…

Here are some things to keep in mind. First, from the beginning, there was the kingdom of God and the church. God created a world over which he could have reign. The first human couple formed the first version of the church. There are several upgrades to this version of the church throughout the story. Second, the two humans who were created were created equally, one being second in sequence to be a helper equal to the first one. There was no hierarchy of male over female. Third, the couple together broke the only stipulation in the Garden. Fourth, the curses that were given out for disobedience were only given to the serpent, not the two humans.

One of the interpretations coming out of this story that has long influenced the concept of mutuality of female and male is the interaction where God tells the woman that the man will rule over her. There is a similar saying in close context to this saying that sheds light on how to understand what the storyteller meant. We are told that the sun would rule over the moon. So, to comprehend what this means, we must ask the question, what did that rule look like? It is fair to say that the sun does not, even to this day rule over the moon in the way in which we have become accustomed to understanding authority and submission in our culture.

As we progress into the third act, which tells the story of God’s rule in terms of the Mosaic covenant and Israel as the next version of the church, there are times where we see the substories which demonstrate that the place of a woman, even in a culture which is male oriented, shines out as a light of the equality of female and male in the storyline. Women from Sarah to Esther demonstrate that there is another story at play inside the overall storyline.

In the fourth act, we see Jesus bringing about an updated version of the Kingdom which has come to be referred to as the inauguration of the Kingdom and the move toward a new version of the church in his choice of the twelve as the leadership of Israel who rejected Jesus early in the storyline of the Gospel of Mark. We could call that progression or trajectory. The apex of the Story in Scripture is also the climax of the Story. The conflict which began in the Garden is now solved with the event of Jesus who moved into the neighborhood showing the church how to live a kingdom life as truly new humans, now, but not yet. What occurred in the Garden is now undone in Jesus.

The fifth act continues to show us how the church of the first century struggled with learning how to be the true humanity for the sake of others. The culture in which they lived provided one story of how to live while Jesus had provided another story. Paul, the earliest writer of “help” letters written to churches, wrote about this new humanity idea in the first book of the New Testament era to be written, the book of Galatians, to demonstrate to the folks in Galatia who were Judaizing themselves. He told them that the distinctions that the old humanity had held sway over them had been broken in Jesus and there was neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. In the ministry of Jesus to bring about the beginning of a new creation, these distinctions had been broken and cast aside.

Remember, these books written in this period of time were ad hoc and dealt with specific problems that the churches were facing when learning to live out their new humanity in their old culture. Some of these books have passages that had to do with the place of women and their function in the church, which when they heard them allowed them to find the freedom described from Paul’s pen. While it looks like some of those books may contain passages that forbid the work of women in the ministry of the church, they do not mean what it looks like they mean with a surface reading with an old English version governing the reading. The context produces quite a different picture of what is meant.

We live now in the tension between the end of the fifth act and the beginning of the sixth when Jesus comes to consummate the kingdom of God.We live now in the tension between the end of the fifth act and the beginning of the sixth when Jesus comes to consummate the kingdom of God. There are thin moments when the presence of the future is revealed in the lives of women and men as they minister God’s grace to others.

So What?
What does all this have to do with women in ministry and leadership? The great storyteller has provided us with a story to live into as inaugurated Kingdom people where the verdict of the future is enacted now, but not yet. (Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 979). In a succinct way, God created the world in which male and female were equal. By their choice, the male and female decided to become independent from God’s design. In this independent world humans move to another story, one in which a male was superior to a female. God selected a people, Israel, through whom he would send his son, who in a great climactic event would overcome the conflict brought on by independence and its results and bring resolution to the problem introduced by male and female. In this climactic act, Jesus brought a new creation, not unlike the first one before independence became the rule. In that new creation, male and female are once more equal. In this new creation, there is neither male nor female, i.e., there is equality between the sexes. The concept of headship which had been produced by humankind in its independent state has been completely reversed.

So why should churches include the participation of women and men on an equal basis in the church? Because the Story that God tells makes no distinction between the sexes in ministry in the kingdom ministry of the body of Christ. Living into his Story calls us to move from other stories, which culture and society and even parts of the church tell us is correct, to live in this new creation. The lens of the inaugurated Kingdom with the its future verdict acted out now demands no less.

Resources

Story

Griffin, Winn. God’s EPIC Adventure. Woodinville, WA: Harmon Press, 2007.
The Reader Version of this book should be released in December 2013.
Bartholomew, Craig G., and Michael W. Goheen. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

Audio

Men and Women Not Equal in Ministry
Carson D.A. The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1987.
Doriani, Dan. Women and Ministry: What the Bible Teaches. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishing, 2003.
Grudem, Wayne. Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. (Reprint).
Hurley, James B. Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002.
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, IL: Crossway; Redesign edition (November 30, 2012).

Men and Women Equal in Ministry
France, R.T. Women in Church’s Ministry: A Test-Case for Biblical Hermeneutics. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004.
Giles, Kevin. The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 2002.
Grenz, Stanley J. Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995.
Keener, Craig S. Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 1992.
Keener, Craig S. Was the Apostle Paul for or Against Women in Ministry? An article from churchplants.com (accessed November 13, 2013)
McKnight, Scot. The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008.
Morphew, Derek. Different but Equal: Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate. Cape Town, South Africa: Derek Morphew Publishing, 2011 (Kindle).
Pierce, Ronald and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. InterVarsity Press, Second Edition, 2005.
Stackhouse , John G., Jr. Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.
Sumner, Sarah. Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership. Downers Grove, MI: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
Webb, William J. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.
Williams, Don. The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church. Woodinville, WA: Sunrise Reprints, 2010.

DrWinn
Winn Griffin’s participation in the church spans about 60 years, ministering in four different denominations, serving on the staff of three mega churches, and functioning as a pastor in four churches. He has a BA, MA, and two Doctor of Ministry degrees. In addition, he has authored two books and eight eBooks. Winn's focus on AskDrWinn is to give space for folks to ask about Bible stuff that they have questions about. He is married to Donna Faith and they have two adult children and live in Washington State. » Read Winn's Full Bio
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