Genesis 1:27 says: ” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” God created two distinct genders or sexes, male and female, with two separate, unique roles. Throughout Scripture we see that God expects men and women to keep the distinctions that He designed—the man the head, the woman the helpmeet (Genesis 2:18-25; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 14:29-35; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Psalm 127-128; Romans 1:26-27). Man and woman have different roles, but are the same in essence (Gal 3:28). God designed men and women different, gave them different roles, and out of respect for Him, wants them to honor His design. To show agreement with His design, God gave this order in Deuteronomy 22:5.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
The words are specific and easy to be understood. The Hebrew and the English say the same thing. There’s no problem with the translation here. The verse prohibits certain activity. You’ve got three parts—one for the woman, another for the man, and the consequence for not obeying the order. The cultures who have cared about the Bible have understood and practiced this verse the same way for centuries.
You see what the verse says. The verse doesn’t say:
The woman shall not wear the military gear of a warrior man.
The woman shall not put on ornaments that a man wears and use utensils that a man uses.
The woman shall try to look different than a man.
The woman shall not be a transvestite.
The woman shall not be a cross-dresser.
The woman shall not participate in Canaanite worship practices that require wearing a man’s clothes.
None of these have been how Christians have believed and practiced this verse. The verse is not a euphemism for something else. It isn’t idiomatic. It is very straightforward. And in the end, God says a man or woman who disobeys this prohibition is himself or herself an abomination to Him.
The woman is not to have on a male article. The man is not to put on a woman’s clothing. Both sides assume that a certain article or certain articles of clothing in a God-honoring culture have been designated exclusively male and a certain article or certain articles of clothing in a God-honoring culture have been designated exclusively female. It is obvious from the verse that God wants men and women distinguished from one another in appearance, but the verse says more than that.
I believe that in principle we are helped in understanding God’s will in this matter by looking at 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, we are reminded of the point of the instruction about dress and appearance: male headship and female submission. Arguments are made for Christians to continue differentiating themselves in gender and role with their appearance, and in particular a symbol of submission and then male headship, the head-covering. Despite women being equal in essence to men, God expected His designed role distinctions to be honored in appearance. Why? Creation order (1 Cor 11:7-9). A testimony to angels (1 Cor 11:10). To honor God (1 Cor 11:12). To not be a shame but to be a glory (1 Cor 11:7, 13-15).
There is a reason why the problem today is women wearing a male article, not men wearing a female. This is clear by seeing the problem in Corinth. It is a headship and submission issue. It is the woman wearing the pants, not men wearing the skirt. Today men may hide behind a woman’s apron, but it started with women wearing the pants.
Obedience to Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 is more than a testimony or stumbling block issue. Obedience to these is a statement to God. It is an act of worship to Him. It is a deed of deferment to His greatness and goodness. By obeying the prohibition, we are saying to Him, “You are wise. You know what you are doing. You know what’s best for us.” Angels were there at the creation of male and female, so they were there to see what God had in mind. I think there is more to it, but that isn’t as important. For instance, I believe that we learn sexuality and gender and role by appearance. This is a means by which children grow up and see the differences. In other words, without the clear delineation in the roles by means of the symbols of male headship and female submission, we have role confusion. This in part explains the rampant homosexuality. Sexuality is in part learned and we haven’t taught it as a culture.
Deuteronomy 22:5 doesn’t mention pant-skirt. It, however, assumes that God’s people would have such articles that were exclusive to each gender. And it is true that we have had that in our culture and because of Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. What is it that in our culture has symbolized male headship, an article that was uniquely designated for the male, to be seen as a testimony to God and others of our agreement with Him in His design? Let’s think about it. Is it the hat? Is it the shirt? Is it underwear? Is it shoes? Is it the cape? Is it socks? No and no and no and no and no. Is it pants? Yes. Does history show this? Yes.
So why did women start wearing pants? It wasn’t out of conviction. It wasn’t acceptable to Christians and not really accepted by anyone when our culture reflected more Judeo-Christian ethics. Was it a group of godly people who got together to pray about being obedient to to God’s will? Of course not. It was in defiance of the idea of male authority. It was women’s liberation. It was convenience. Today it is just normal. Women don’t want to stick out, want to fit in. So now it is worldliness, going along with the spirit of the age, and even in churches. Here is a church that has that crazy skirts-only-on-women standard and the women wear pants in the other church—which one will I choose?
I’m not going to argue about whether it should be obeyed any longer because it is Old Testament law. That is a johnny-come-lately argument that goes along with the licentiousness and antinomianism of our day. Men use grace as an occasion to the flesh. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. As it applies to Deuteronomy 22:5, this argument wasn’t even around until women started wanting to wear pants.
You’ve got those who use the “they wore robes” argument. Let’s jump right to their point. They say that men wear men’s pants and women wear women’s pants. Christians or this culture have never made that designation. We have never stated the unique design of the woman’s pant. What makes “women’s pants” to be “women’s pants?” There isn’t any distinction. Again, that’s just an argument after the fact. The whole point of pants was to take away differences and distinctions. Everyone knows this. Every history says this. The purpose of Deuteronomy 22:5 is distinction and difference. The purpose of pants was sameness. The robes argument doesn’t work because even if they were robes, which the passage doesn’t say, there would have been a unique male robe and a unique female robe. We haven’t done the same thing with pants.
The biggest argument that I hear is that the whole conversation is just stupid, tiresome, or ridiculous. The people that talk about it “have an infatuation with a different era and want everyone else to have the same.” Or, “you legalists!” The whole thing is actually about God and what he said. Christians should care. However, believers have decided to go along with the spirit of the age. Sad, but true.
If it isn’t about how crazy this discussion is, then it is about how that instead of focusing in on such a minor doctrinal point, why don’t we spend our time on the grand, important issues, like justification and grace and the trinity and the love of Christ. Or, “stop juding people’s external appearances and start looking at their heart and how much they love the Lord.” Whoever says those things ought to think of this: “abomination to God.” The very fact that God put this in the Bible makes it important enough, but we know that there is more to it than only a dress and externals issue. It does have to do with the heart.
A wife should not disobey God in order to obey her husband.Â Acts 5:29 is the pivotal verse for this:Â “We ought to obey God rather than men.”Â The chief responsibility for the wife is to obey God.
Obeying the husband and obeying God shouldn’t conflict, but we know that sometimes they will.Â In Matthew 10:36, Jesus said that “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”Â He doesn’t mention the husband-wife relationship, but the husband andÂ wife areÂ an obvious example of two people who live in the same household.Â Â The Lord brought a sword that separates family members and that conflict will come when a saved wife follows the truth in disobedience to her husband.Â We see the same type of affect on a marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:13-15:
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
The unbelieving husband might depart because of the wife’s sanctifying type of lifestyle, which would again be her obedience to the truth.Â The unsaved husband might not like it and decide to end things.Â If she was obedient to him in all matters of his opinion, that contradicted God’s Word, there would be no conflict between the saved wife and unsaved husband.
1 Peter 3:1-6 gives the example of a saved, obedient wife with either an unsaved husband or a disobedient, saved husband.Â In the 1 Peter context of a Christian’s suffering at the hands of the world, the unsaved husband is mainly in mind, but the text simply says he “obeys not in word.”Â How will the unsaved husband be won to salvation or the disobedient be won to obedience?Â Verse two says by her “chaste conversation.”Â What is a chaste lifestyle?Â It is an obedient-to-God lifestyle.Â She shouldn’t be attempting to win him by preaching the right thing to him, but by living the right thing before him.Â She’ll probably suffer for it, and that’s the assumption of the 1 Peter context, but the continuation of that chaste lifestyle has the best opportunity of his being won.
Later in verseÂ sixÂ of 1 Peter 3, we get the example of Sara obeying Abraham.Â It does use the Word “obey.”Â However, the command of 1 Peter 3:1 and 5 is “be in subjection,” a different word than “obey.”Â The responsibility of a wife to her husband is to be in subjection to him (cf. Eph. 5:24).Â Obeying her husband is a good way to respect him and honor his authority, even as Sara did with Abraham.Â However, she is commanded to place herself underneath her husband’s authority.Â This does not demand carte blanche obedience.
You might be thinking of Titus 2:5 where the young women are to be taught to be “obedient to their own husbands.”Â “Obedient” there is the same Greek word as “be in subjection” in Ephesians and 1 Peter.Â Â It is not the standard word for “obey” like we see with the child in Ephesians 6:1.Â Children obey their parents.Â Wives submit themselves to their husbands.Â Â She respects and places herself under his authority.Â The word “obey” is primarily an action reserved for God.Â Many times men are called upon to obey God.Â Women are called upon to be in subjection to their husbands.Â That will often require obedienceÂ from her.Â However, she isn’t required to obey him when that means disobeying God.
God’s Word is absolutely consistent.Â God will not deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).Â Â God’s nature is perfect in every way.Â Men will contradict their own positions, but God will not.Â A woman has a hierarchical relationship with her husband as it relates to the authority Divinely imparted to him.Â However, the man has an authority over him, Who is God.Â God is the higher authority, so when the husband and God contradict, the wife obeys God.
What will often occur when a wife obeys God instead of her husband?Â She will suffer for it.Â The husband often won’t likeÂ herÂ disobedienceÂ and will give his wife a difficult time.Â She should keep obeying God.
Of course, this doesn’t assume that she is right to disobey her husband in areas that are either Scriptural areas or even non-Scriptural ones.Â Her general pattern is obedience within the sphere of subjection.Â She does what her husband says.Â This pattern will hold true until he uses his authority to require disobedience to God.Â Â This saved woman will sanctify the home, implying her children, by being an example to them of obedience to God.Â This will allow them to see the difference between the obedient wife and the disobedient husband, whichÂ will bringÂ the sanctifying effect to their souls.
If a father desires for his daughter to obey God with her life, he shouldn’t give her to an unsaved man as a wife.Â He should decree in his heart and keep his virgin daughter (1 Corinthians 7:36, 37).Â InÂ this proper use of his authority,Â the father will have done well.Â Â However, for any woman who finds herself in the unseemly predicament of marriage to an unbeliever, she still should remain loyal to God in all things, even when her husband would have it another way.
“Scorched-earth” is a military strategy of devastating all land and buildings in the course of advancing or retreating troops so as to leave nothing salvageable to the enemy. The strategy transfers to other types of endeavors, including legal defense, the goal being to discredit the prosecution and its investigation in every way possible so as to create reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury. This scheme was used by the O. J. Simpson lawyers to win that infamous murder case. As they say, he got away with murder. Scorched-earth is very often also what pants-on-women proponents use to defend their position. I found a proof-text for their methodology.
And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
They don’t have to offer a single explanation themselves for Deuteronomy 22:5 or 1 Corinthians 11, but they must cause enough doubt in the teachings of these texts to allow whatever kind of dress they want to have. They present seventeen kwabillion different other possibilities that the passages could say. They find almost everyone that offers a different meaning than what a majority historically have said. The scorched-earther is looking to cause reasonable doubt.
After the scorched-earthers are done inducing the doubt, then, “you know, it really is not something clearly taught in Scripture, so we need to give latitude to disagreeing Christians, look for unity, try to avoid dissension among the brethren, prunes are good for you, the gravitational force of the earth, and what about dem Cubs?” And on top of that, “snicker, snicker,” and “ROFL” (where’d they pick up how to scoff?). And “do you really believe that?” When they face God? Well, they’re saved already, and a lot of people believe just like them, and how could God expect me to practice something that is so unclear?
They’ve got their bases covered. Will it fool God? Of course not, but that’s not the point with traditions and vain philosophies anyway. They’re to supply credible replacements for obedience and enough built-in excuses to make them look orthodox.
Problem: we can spend decades obliterating what a passage says to do, but we’re still required to obey it, because man shall live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4). And by the time we pass our fraudulent beliefs and practices down to our children, they’ll still be responsible to obey what God said too, even though we’ve made it exceedingly more difficult for them with our massive cover-up.
The Position of the Scorched-Earthers (like they say it)
- Deuteronomy 22:5 is ceremonial law, something we don’t keep today, any more than we refrain from wearing “a garment of. . . . woolen and linen together” (v. 11). Big smiles and periodic mad scientist laugh.
- The “thing that pertaineth unto a man” is armor and “man” is a “soldier.” I’m against women wearing military stuff! (Not actually in real life because we’ve got two enlisted women on our prayer list that have different shaped and sized camoflauge.)
- You’re a fundamentalist, aren’t you?!?! (“Um, n..) Thought so!! Well, well, you’re like that!! (“Like w…”) Legalistic!!
- The passage is like telling us that men and women are to look different. I, chuckle, don’t think, chuckle, that you would say that, bigger chuckle, my wife and I, giggle, look like each other, repeated giggles, when we both wear pants.
- Women wear hats and socks!!
- Scottish men wear kilts!!
- Barry Bonds wears an earring! I dare you to tell him he looks like a woman!!! (Long, loud hyena laughter)
- It’s not saying that! (“Saying what?”) Whatever it is that you are saying that it’s saying? (“I haven’t said yet.”) It doesn’t matter; it isn’t.
- Both men and women wore robes in Bible times, so as long as she has on women’s pants, then she’s all set. (“How do you know they’re women’s pants?”) They have a different size and cut. (“You mean they’re tighter?”) No, just cut different in the hips, you know, because women have different hips than men. (“Fascinating. And so what if a woman put on a pair of loose fitting men’s pants, does that violate the verse?”) Well. I guess it would, so she probably shouldn’t do that. (“And that’s what an abomination to God is?”). But they both wore robes. That’s my point.
- Men who teach women-wear-pants have treated women badly.
- Women started wearing pants during World War 1 when they worked in the factories. They were more comfortable.
- Everyone wears underwear!
- You’re not going to say that John MacArthur, John Piper, Bob Jones, Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Mark Dever, Larry Oats, and Tim Jordan are, well, all an abomination to God are you?
- The Caananites utilized transvetitism in their worship and God was forbidding Canaanite worship by saying this.
- Moses and Paul both were chauvenists!
- This is forbidding homosexual-type cross-dressing.
- You’re making a major issue out of something that is minor. That’s only in the Bible one time!
- You just want to keep women bare-foot and pregant!
- Men who believe like you do have called women “whores!”
- A lot of women’s skirts are much more immodest than pants!
- Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart!
- My grandmother wears pants and she’s the most Godly woman I know!
- You use the King James!
For a number of reasons, men who take a position on this like I do often are stereotyped as people who don’t look closely at Scripture. My experience in this debate has been that the women-wear-pants men refuse to look at the actual text to get their position. On these passages, they are shallow and self-serving.
I covered Deuteronomy 22:5 like I do all others and when I did, the words of the verse strongly contradicted my former position, which was that pants were permissible for women, if not the best. What I saw in the text was that “the thing that pertaineth,” was something of distinct design. The assumption was that it was designed within a Godly culture, such as God intended Israel. That thing designed for men alone was not to be worn by women.
The idea within Deuteronomy 22:5 wasn’t that men and women were to look out into the culture and find out what it wore as a guide, so that if the society changed in its practice to something Scripturally indefensible, believers were free to change with it, because this was intended only as a cultural issue. The articles designed for men were not to be worn by women, and vice-versa. The articles had a design. That didn’t mean that you could take the male article, dye it pink, and that then it would be female, or that you could make it more form-fitting and that then it would be female. Of course, when women started wearing pants, they weren’t designing a new article for women. Women were simply taking the male article and wearing it. At first Christians argued against that, and finally they just capitulated. Now they argue for the unisex apparrel.
The woman wearing the male garment is an abomination to God. She rebels against God’s design. The man that wears the female garment also is an abomination to God for the same reason. This conforms to the teaching in Romans 1. At the root of man’s rebellion is his trouble with God as Creator. For that reason, men take on characteristics of women and women of men. They suppress truth in the most basic fashion, worshiping and serving themselves (they’re own comforts, leisure, recreation, fads, purposes) rather than God’s.
The Point of the Symbol
At the root of a refusal of the symbols is a rejection of God’s goodness. God made us and it was good. He made male and female and it was good. We should subject to and trust in that goodness. God knows what is good for us better than what we do. What we think is comfort ultimately will not be if it is in violation of God’s good will.
Families break down when the roles break down. The dress issue is a role issue. God knows that boys and girls grow up learning their roles by what they see. When they don’t see clear support of what God has done, we get role confusion. We now see this chaos all over the United States and the rest of the world. We Christians, God’s salt and light, must let the world see our good works so that men might glorify God in heaven. If we are not willing to praise God’s design on earth, why would the world be interested in His heaven?
I’m happy that God commanded me, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26), because I would be incessantly angry over this issue if not. It’s not just the blatant disregard of historic doctrine and practice that I regularly hear on this, but also the disrespect, from the flippant comments to the grating sarcasm. I guess before I spend too much more time expressing how I feel, I should tell you the belief so disparaged and brushed off. I’m talking about the external symbolism of male headship that God requires in Scripture from His saints. Does it bother you that we first no longer have a symbol of male headship in our culture, and, second, that most have also given it up in churches?
For the entire history of the United States from the founding of the Jamestown colony in 1607 to the 20th century, men had a symbolism of their headship in our culture—that symbol: pants. Women wore skirts and dresses. Men wore pants. Pants represented male authority. All of the fashion historians say this. They also say that women took the male symbol out of disagreement with male headship. The change didn’t occur because a group of Godly men and women got together and decided this was the best way to honor God. And since the change, no male symbol, no distinct male garment, has replaced the pants, so that today men have no distinct item of clothing.
Studies show that children do not receive their gender only from their genes. They learn their gender by what they see. Sure children can normally distinguish between a man and woman. They, however, lose out on the connotative marks attributing the distinctive roles God intended them to inculcate. If you look at early elementary curriculum, they begin with shapes and colors. They begin deciphering meanings and drawing parallels. If they are the slightest mixed up at this point, they will be sent off in the wrong direction, potentially careening into an aberrant lifestyle. Role confusion has sped the growth of homosexuality all over the world. I don’t like this. God hates it worse than I do.
The LORD says it is an abomination to Him—to Him, not to us. We might be abominated too, like sometimes happens, but God says that He is uniquely offended with this.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
You might be fine with erasing gender distinction in appearance. After all, you can tell who’s a man and a woman. And as long as you can tell, well, everything’s probably just hunky-dory. I wish so much that you knew that whether you could tell the difference or not is so… not the issue. It is whether you are willing to honor God’s design in creation. God made us different. He liked it; said it was good. And He wants us to indicate that we think He did a good job too. We do that by maintaining distinctly male items of clothing. You say, “Where does Scripture say that?” In the verse you just read above. It doesn’t tell us to look different. It tells women literally not to put on the male item. And it tells men not to put on the female item. That means that we must have a visible, distinct male garment and a visible, distinct female article of clothing.
Paul spent half a chapter in 1 Corinthians (chapter 11) dealing with this. Women were subservient to men in Roman culture and Corinth was no different. Built into the Roman way of life was the head-covering for women to distinguish them from men and symbolize their submission to men. Women in some settings were treated as a mere possession. Christian women, however, knew their essential equality with men in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28). Due to this, Christian women discarded this cultural symbol of femininity, the head-covering, during church gatherings. Paul instructed the Christian women to keep their head covered when they assembled, even as it was a symbol of male headship over them (1 Corinthians 11:3-16). Through Paul, God confirmed His will for men and women to distinguish their roles by means of distinct items of clothing.
Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11 do not say men-dress-like-men and women-dress-like-women. The head-covering was a female item. Men weren’t to wear it and women weren’t to take it off.
I recognize that 1 Corinthians 11 is a controversial passage. So is Deuteronomy 22:5. Is there any wonder why? What I do know is that Christians believed and practiced these a certain way for centuries. Men wore pants. Women wore dresses. These were the passages that explained why. When the changes started occurring, the godly people protested. Godly people would have at least replaced pants with another equally distinctive symbol. But the point of women wearing pants was to eradicate the symbolism altogether, to do away with it once and for all, to efface God’s design in honor of the more acceptable belief in human evolution. In so doing, God doesn’t get credit for His perfect design, the good that He intended, demolished by rebellious mankind. And now by professing Christians too!
While summarizing the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s life, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:21 that Christians are to submit themselves one to another in the fear of God. On the surface, this appears to say that every Christian is equal to all other Christians and all should submit in the same way to each other. But the Bible continues to tell us how we are to submit to each other in the basic positions we find ourselves as Christians. Ephesians 6:1-4 addresses how fathers (parents) and children submit themselves to each other.Â Ephesians 6:5-9 tells us how masters (employers) and servants (employees) submit themselves to one another.Â But the first and most lengthy description of complementary submission is in Ephesians 5:22-33.Â Here, husbands and wives are told what submission to each other involves.Â Now, we must understand that these commands to us are necessary because we are naturally (read, in the flesh), opposed to working this way in our marriages.
In my short experience, I have found that we naturally do what our spouse is commanded to do, i.e. husbands respect and wives love. But in order to have a godly marriage we must obey the Bible’s commands to each spouse.Â These are explained in this passage and summarized in verse 33, which says,
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Here, the way a husband submits to his wife is by loving her.Â And put shortly, he loves her in all the ways Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.Â And I must include that Christ’s love was not unemotional.Â So the man must recognize that while he admires his wife, if he doesn’t love her as he does himself,Â he is disobeying theÂ Lord. Â We also see that the way a wife submits to her husband is by reverencing him.Â All the emotional, “loving” things a wife does for her man are worthless to the strength of their marriage if she does not respect and reverence her husband.Â Wives must do more than obey their husbands; they must reverence them.
Christian mother, if your children only obeyed your instructions outwardly, would you accept that as godly obedience?Â I think not!Â So it is with your relationship to your husband.Â The Bible demands more that strict obedience to your husband.
Christian husband, do you take care of yourself?Â Do you ever lack?Â Do you think often of what would make your life simpler and easier?Â “…no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it.”Â You must think and care for your wife at least this much.Â “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”Â The implication is that if you don’t love your wife in this way, you won’t get the benefits that you think taking care of yourself will give you.Â You see, this is related to the biblical principle of losing life.Â When we seek to preserve “our life,” we lose what we wanted to keep.Â When we give ourselves up, we gain what we thought we would not receive.
I once heard a sermon for couples titled, “Submission, submission.”Â The text was Epesians 5:21-33.Â The premise that I rememberÂ was that wives could get what they wanted from their husbands by showing some submission to them.Â I could have gotten the point of the message wrong, but if I didn’t, the message was in error.Â Now, if a wife’s desire is a godly marriage, then she’ll submit by reverencing her husband.Â A wife who submits to manipulate her husband has NO respect for him at all.
The world today has great fear of manly leadership, and rightly so.Â Man fell and is a supremely selfish being.Â When an ungodly man leads, the results are disastrous.Â But godly ladies should have no fear of godly male leadership.Â The Bible does not teach egalitarian or equal roles in Christian homes.Â Ephesians, particularly, tells us how husbands and wives complement each other.
Women couldn’t vote in the United States until 1920.Â Men were in charge.Â Things changed and it wasn’t from a group of Godly individuals getting together to search Scripture and pray about it.Â Â You won’t find anything in the Federalist and Anti-federalists papers about women’s suffrage.Â It wasn’tÂ even an issue.Â So that’s the way things were in general for hundreds of years ofÂ American colonial and U. S. History.Â Â The United States has gone a long ways away from an almost entirely patriarchal society.
Feminism has no doubt made its inroads from society at large to churches.Â We have controversy about the woman’s role in the home and church.Â If we have it there,Â then we will see exponentially more conflictÂ when we talk about men and women in general.Â Â The theological liberal says no distinct role for either gender.Â The emergentÂ sees it as unclear.Â Charismatics are all over the map on roles.Â Â Evangelicals divide on the issue, complementarian or egalitarian, and most choose to see it as a secondary issue.Â Many professing fundamentalists see it just like the evangelicals, but mainly they say that the man heads the home and the church.(1)Â Very few any more say that the man heads the woman—period—everywhere:Â church, home, work, government, society.Â If they do, they’re, you know, “chauvinists.”
We look at around at our world and we see a woman in charge of men in the workplace, including the military, the police force, the fire department, and the school system.Â We might see her as the next president of the United States.Â She’s at least already the Secretary of State, a United States Senator, and Supreme Court Justice.Â Â She’s already run for Vice-President.Â Â Should women be in charge of men?Â Are we OK with all that?
I’m not.Â And of course, you know why.Â I’m sexist.Â That has to be it, doesn’t it?Â But really, I can be fine with women leading.Â Just ask my wife (smiling).Â I get tired of doing it myself.Â I wish that I could just go along for the ride sometimes.Â But I don’t.Â It isn’t because I don’t think men and women are equal.Â I think they are.Â Why?Â The Bible says men and women are equal.Â They are equal in value or in essence.Â That is the point of Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Men and women are of equal value or worth to God.Â So we don’t get our value or worth from our role, butÂ from theÂ essence of who we are.Â Both male and female are made in the image of God, even as Genesis 1:27 says:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Man and woman, both created in God’s image, are equal in essence.Â A good comparison is the relationship of the Son to the Father.Â Â Â They’re equal, and yet the Father is in authority over the Son.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Even though the Son submits to the Father as His superior in authority, He is equal in essence with the Father, even as Philippians 2:6 says:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.
Many fundamentalists and evangelicals will argue for complementarianism in the home and church—masculine headship at home and male pastoral leadership.Â Â They treat the rest of society differently.Â Is that the Scriptural position?
What Scripture SaysÂ about Universal Male Authority
Part of the conflict in the church at Corinth related to the fulfillment of the role of the man and woman.Â Roman society of which Corinth was a part practiced the authority of the man.Â Some believers in the church at Corinth knew of their equality before God, just like Paul taught in Galatians 3:28.Â However, equal in essence did not mean equal in role.Â Just like the Corinth church saw rolesÂ operational in the culture of Rome, the man was the head of the woman.Â Â He reminds them of the proper order in 1 Corinthians 11:3 when he says that “the head of the woman is the man.”Â The Father is the head of the Son.Â The Son is the head of the man.Â The man is the head of the woman.
When this verse says thatÂ “the man is the head of the woman,” is it saying thatÂ God’s divine order is men in authority over women in general?Â I say, yes.Â Â Certain practices within the church regarding the roles of men and women areÂ ordained inÂ 1 Corinthians 11, but they areÂ not bound in cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation.Â Â Christ is the head of the man—not just husbands or just men in the church, but ofÂ man generically.Â “The man” isÂ a generic singular noun, speaking of no man in particular, but of man as an entity.Â With that established, the man is generally in authority overÂ (“head of”)Â woman.Â Since Paul appeals to the relationÂ between members of the Trinity, he is not viewing relations here as only cultural norÂ merely the result of the fall.
Other passages corroborate with 1 Corinthians 11:3, looking to something more than just marriage and the church.Â 1 Timothy 2 is within the context of the church.Â Within this context, women have a subservient role to men (vv. 11, 12).Â Why? Verses 13-14 bring two reasons that are not related to culture or situation, but to God’s design of men and women.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
The woman is assigned a role submissive to men in the church, the more restricted setting, because of theÂ larger, universalÂ context:Â all of God’s design in creation.Â God had a purpose in creating man first, which manifests itself in Genesis.Â He expected the man to take charge, to embrace the role of authority.Â The woman would function as man’s suitable helper.Â Divine order will be reflectedÂ by man’s conforming to theÂ design of God.Â Women are to behave in fitting with God’s purpose for the woman.Â Â The woman was created for the man, from the man, and theÂ man named the woman.Â Â Women aren’t to usurp authority over man in the church because they aren’t to supercede man’s role in general.
God made the woman different in order to fulfill her distinct role.Â However, innate to this role for the woman is a God-given vulnerability.Â She is the nurturing sex.Â The next verse, v. 15, reminds us of her special relationship to children.Â Verse 14 is stated as a reason for the woman’s role in the church.Â Adam wasn’t deceived; Eve was.Â God made the woman especially susceptible to deceit.Â For that reason, she needed Adam to fulfill his role, that is, headship.
The woman’s God-ordained vulnerabilityÂ is not to say that sometimes certain women won’t have more discernment than certain men.Â It is to say that God created the man in partÂ to protect the woman from deceit.Â A woman’s submission to the man can nuture his ability to lead as God intended.Â This is the way GodÂ created it to be.Â If you don’t think that women are in general more naturally subject to deceit, then look at the votingÂ statistics in the last six or seven presidential elections.Â Â But even if the women could do a better job, this doesn’t excuse women from what God wants for them.
When women do rule men, Scripture sees this as a curse to society.Â When it happens, as it sometimes does, it isn’t good or to be admired, but Isaiah 3:12 says that it is a shameful reality:
As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
God didn’t intend for women to rule men or even effeminate men, men who act like women,Â to have authority over men.Â This violates God’sÂ intentions revealedÂ in the Garden of Eden.
The Historical UnderstandingÂ of Christians onÂ the Woman’s Role (2)
John Gill wrote:
Now inasmuch as the serpent did not attack Adam, he being the stronger and more knowing person, and less capable of being managed and seduced; but made his attempt on Eve, in which he succeeded; and since not Adam, but Eve, was deceived, it appears that the man is the more proper person to bear rule and authority, as in civil and domestic, so in ecclesiastic affairs.
Matthew Henry wrote:
And as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of the whole human kind, so the man is the head of the two sexes: not indeed with such dominion as Christ has over the kind or God has over the man Christ Jesus; but a superiority and headship he has, and the woman should be in subjection and not assume or usurp the manâ€™s place. This is the situation in which God has placed her; and for that reason she should have a mind suited to her rank, and not do any thing that looks like an affectation of changing places.
How Does This Apply?
Women should have no authority over men.Â God made men to lead and women to submit to male authority.Â The fall of man is the classic example of what happens when men abdicate their God-given role.Â In order to obey God and His Word:
Women should hold no office in civil government. (3)
Women should stop directing, bossing, superintending, administrating, or managing men in the workplace.
Women should cease leading churches.
Women should discontinue preaching to men.
Women should no longer challenge or moderate men in blogs and online forums.
If the Apostle Paul directed us to God’s creation to express the will of the Lord on the roles of men and women, then we know that this is what God intended for everyone that He created, not just the church.Â There was no church setting in Genesis.Â Â We are responsible to support the design of Almighty God everywhere in society as the salt of the earth.Â Â This is better for men and women.
Women will still have plenty to do of eternal benefit in which God will be honored by their fulfilling His design.Â They can preach to women and children.Â They can function within the home as an entrepreneur of sorts, like the Proverbs 31 woman.Â They can ask and encourage men to lead.Â Â They can work under the authority of men.Â Like most men, they can learn.Â They can fulfill God’s role for women.
Men and women stand as equals before God, both bearing the image of God Himself but notÂ making one inferior to the other. God calls upon both men and women to fulfill roles and responsibilities designed specially for them in certain situations. In fulfilling those God-given roles taught in Holy Scripture, women are not limited. They are reaching their fullest potential because they are following the plan of their own Creator and Designer.
[(1) John Piper supports the above view of the world in an extremely cautious way in the first chapter of the mammoth volume, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In this thread over at SharperIron, when this issue arose, I found that professing fundamentalists were less biblical than Piper in their thinking on the woman’s role in general.]
[(2) John Knox wrote aÂ 72 page essay on this subject, supporting the point of view of this author.]
[(3) Here’s an article that agrees with this in general, making Scriptural arguments.]
No doubt many view the hymn In the Garden fondly, and therefore it is with care that we approach this subject. Perhaps in a time of intense devotion, you have felt the presence of Christ in a very real way, and perhaps at that moment this song began to play in your head. The idea of a close and very real personal relationship with God certainly deserves merit, and it is not the intention of this article to mock the walk which many have or long for.
However, we would do well to think seriously about the value of the song itself. In the Garden sounds pretty, and certainly stirs the emotions. If that were the standard, In the Garden would stand as one of our greatest hymns of the faith. But sounding pretty and stirring emotions is not the goal, nor is it the standard.
Consider the theological value of In the Garden.
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear,
Falling on my ear,
My lovely wife discloses.
And she walks with me, and she talks with me,
And she tells me I am her own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
Interesting. Note that we need not change more than three to four words along with the masculine pronouns to make this a simple love song. A smarmy, gooey love song at that, the kind Kinkyadites would swoon over. Though I doubt it would top the charts, unless of course the Young Fundamentalists did the voting.
I once offended a good friend of mine. He happened also to be a pastor. The offense? I called In the Garden effeminate, and made some off-handed remark about the harp being too manly an instrument to accompany the words. Big mistake. He happened to love that song. He happened to think that song was highly spiritual and moving. I replied that it moves alright! it flits, it floats, it flies. It moves like ballet dancers in pink tights and teeny-tiny slippers. It moves like smoke wafting from scented candles. It moves like swans on a pond, like Love Comes Softly, like Ron Hamilton in a coffee shop. It moves like syrup running down pancakes. And it creates a sticky mess.
She speaks, and the sound of her voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody
That she gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
And she walks with me, and she talks with me,
And she tells me I am her own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
You can almost hear the crooner crooning, his voice husky, his lips almost touching the microphone, his hot breath in your ear. Now he sings, now he breathes, now he speaks the words. Yeah, it moves alright. It sways back and forth like the guy singing it. It swoons the women and single young men.
It moves me too. It moves me to sing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, or something equally manly. It moves me to hit the skip button, or simply to stop it already.
I’d stay in the garden with her
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But she bids me go;
Thru the voice of woe,
Her voice to me is calling.
And she walks with me, and she talks with me,
And she tells me I am her own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
In the Garden, Christ found thorns and dragons. It was bloody there, in that garden alone. In the heat of battle, Christ sweat as it were great drops of blood. In the Garden, Christ met temptation; faced it head on, without sin. In the Garden, the disciples slept, while our Lord the King wept and sorrowed and suffered and begged. Was The Garden a sentimental place? But we want it to be sentimental. We’d rather not take up our cross and follow Christ. No, we prefer to sit on our couch and swoon over him.
In the Garden is nothing more than CCM without the beat. It uses a lot of words to say absolutely nothing. It speaks of The Garden as if it were a light thing. In the Garden treats the vicarious suffering of Christ as if it were a thing to sniff at.
I’d stay in my garden with her,
But the weeds around me are growing;
And the Weed-Be-Gone
That I’ve used so long,
Somehow, has stopped its working.
She still walks with me, and she talks with me,
And she tells me I am her own,
While I sing my song and the weeds grow long,
Longer than they’ve ever grown.
Wow! What content! What depth! Why, it must be at least fifty miles wide, though it amazingly never gets more than a half inch deep!
No wonder we decorate our auditoriums in lace. No wonder our bookstores double as Kinkaid galleries. No wonder we have so many palm trees on our platforms. No wonder the women flock to our churches, while the men mysteriously get sick every Sunday morning.
I prefer my garden to work,
I’m so lazy the ants try to eat me.
And I’m sweet you know,
So whene’er it snows,
The birds all think I’m ice cream.
And she walks on me, and she talks o’er me,
And she tells me I am her own,
And if ever I give her a little too much lip,
She smacks me upside the head.
Who is the hero of In the Garden? Do we sing that song to God? Do we really? Because I get this vague feeling that we sound sorta like this: God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess…
Whatever happened to the manly hymns of our faith? Whatever happened to the warrior harpist? Whatever happened to Psalm-singing? I understand that it is hard to sing Psalm 109 to a Ron Hamilton tune, or Psalm 18 to a tune from The Wilds. But once upon a time, churches sang of crushing heads and of Og. That was back when we were like a mighty army. That was before they got out those powder blue berets.
If you come to the garden alone, the dew will be still. Just don’t touch anything. Besides, who wants that dew jiggling?