Proof #30: Examine God's Sexism

A reply to proof #30 of God is Imaginary.

It is absolutely undeniable that God has created women as a functional subordinate to men, but this was not the ideal situation. In the Garden of Eden, God’s perfect world, what he declared to be “very good,” men and women were equal. It wasn’t until after the Fall that God told the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16b).

But it is still important to note that woman was created from the same stuff as man (see Gen 2:18-25): this means that while she might be functionally subordinate to man, she is not ontologically subordinate to man. The author of God is Imaginary has confused these two concepts. He wants us to assume that the Bible is talking about ontological subordination in all of the passages that are talking of functional subordination.

Functional subordination is not a bad thing. We see it anytime that we must work together as a team. Someone assumes the role of leader, and this person becomes functionally superior to the other team members. This person is still has the same ontology as the others; he or she simply has more responsibility than the others. This is the same with corporations, churches, and even family units among brothers and sisters. We see this among social animals. We accept this as normal. Why does it become evil, then, to suggest that a husband be functionally superior to his wife?

Some would say that it is evil if the sole criteria for functional superiority is maleness. In other words, the woman is constantly denied a leadership role specifically because of her being a woman. Fair. But, there is a logical reason for this, and the apostle Paul states it: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (1 Tim 2:13-14). This is a prophecy of sorts, predicting that women will fall into a false teaching more often than men.

James White, in Pulpit Crimes (Solid Ground Christian Books: 2006), says of female preachers:

As I survey the landscape of female teachers/preachers, I come to an interesting conclusion: the majority I see are simply not orthodox. False teaching, in fact, seems normative for females. Think about it. Consider all the great male preachers today from around the world, godly, orthodox men who hold firmly to the truth. Now look at the leading females: word of faith teachers and preachers, many having obtained their position mainly through their less-than-orthodox husbands. Oh, sure, there are still more male heretics than female ones, but if you just look at the women as a whole, the level of biblical orthodoxy in that group is barely discernable [sic]. Could this have something to do with what Paul himself said long ago about Eve being deceived? (p. 119-120)

This is why the command was given for men to be the preachers/teachers, and for women to learn along side them. Some may consider this reprehensible, but the fact is that the church isn't ours to order, and we ought to obey God's clear instructions. The consequences can be dire if we don't.

Now, let’s look at the passages that critics cite in support of God’s supposed sexism:

1 Corinthians 14:33b-35: Of course no one cites the following paragraph (verses 36-40):

Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.

Why the change in tone?   Because Paul was echoing a practice that the Corinthians did in verses 33b-35, but then in 36-40 was rebuking them for doing that.  This means that he doesn’t want them to continue the practice of forbidding women from speaking during church services.  This is really an uplifting passage, not a denigrating passage.

1 Corinthians 11:3-10:  As above, Paul is echoing a practice that the church is doing, then rebuking them for it. The passage continues:

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.  If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.  (1 Cor 11:11-16)

The two passages from 1 Corinthians highlight a very counterculture approach to worship. In a day and age when women were essentially property, Paul is showing that the first Christians had women in the churches to worship alongside men. That women were permitted inside the building at all is an advance in human rights far beyond what the culture of the day would have permitted.

1 Tim 2:9-12: First, why is adorning oneself modestly a bad thing?  Why is putting on good deeds denigrating to women?  Perhaps the real problem with this passage is “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  Critics maintain that this is an example of God’s sexism while failing to consider who is actually teaching this–who is “I?”  In this passage, Paul is the first person, so this is only an example of Paul’s sexism, not God’s.

Gen 17:10-11: The anonymous author cites circumcision itself, the sign of the covenant, as sexist.  Since women can’t be circumcised, reasons the critic, they are not part of the covenant.  However, the critic seems to miss that God says “every male among you,” addressing both males and females. All share in the covenant, but only the males are circumcised.

Matthew 25:1:  This is the first line of a parable and not sexist.

John 20:17: Mary needed no additional proof of who stood before her–she already knew it was Jesus (see Rom 10:9).  Thomas, on the other hand, wanted more proof and had to actually touch the wounds before he was willing to believe.  I think that Mary actually looks better here!

Genesis 3:16: The implication here is that God didn’t punish man, but that isn’t true–see Genesis 3:17-19 for man’s punishments. As with the two passages from 1 Corinthians cited above, the critic is not giving the entire passage in its context.

Ephesians 5:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:7:  These would be sexist if a woman’s submission was a license for the man to do whatever he wanted to his wife.  Since women are ontologically equal to men, this is not logically such a license.  Instead, the husband is called to love his wife the way that Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25).  This would be the same love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Also, remember that Christ teaches servant leadership:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mt 20:25-28)

In other words, the man as head of house is to serve his wife, as Jesus came "not to be served but to serve." It is a virtue in Christianity to be a humble servant of others. The type of submission described in Paul and Peter's letters isn't being enslaved to a tyrant, as many skeptics try to envision. Rather, it is submission to a godly man who is centered on the needs of his wife and family.

Further, this whole idea of submission to the point of enslavement makes no sense in light of Proverbs 31:10-31, verses never cited by skeptics of Christianity. Here, the wife is envisioned as the family COO, who buys property, runs a business, and edifies her husband and children in the name of the Lord. The Proverbs 31 woman is industrious and honorable.

1 John 2:13: The point of including this passage is to emphasize that the apostle John is writing to young men, but not addressing women. Well, church leadership is to be composed of men, so addressing the men in matters of church leadership would be expected and therefore not sexist.

Then the following rhetorical questions are posed:

Are any of Jesus’ disciples women?  Yes–Mary Magdalene is considered a disciple. Additionally, there are numerous women mentioned in the personal greetings of Paul at the end of several of his letters--some of them in leadership roles within their respective churches. The original twelve were all men, and the ones personally commissioned by Jesus in Acts were also men, but women disciples did exist and are mentioned in the gospels, Acts, and the epistles.

Are any of the elders in the book of Revelation women? Elders are supposed to be men, see Titus 1:5-6.  This follows from the introductory arguments on functional subordination versus ontological subordination–this subordination is only functional.

Are there any books of the Bible written by women? Well, there are plenty of anonymous books to choose from, so we don’t know the answer to this question.

Since, the critic reasons, Christians ignore the sexism of the Bible, that means that God is imaginary. Well, as I have shown above, sexism isn't as "obvious" a conclusion from the passages cited as the anonymous author of God is Imaginary would like us to think.