Male and Female He Created Them
Written by Cornelis Van Dam
PDF Print E-mail
Reformed Practice - Male/Female Roles

 Our culture is in a severe moral crisis. At the centre of much of it lies a deep-seated and sinful confusion about what makes a man and what makes a woman. Because the God-given design and place of each is rejected by many in our society, our current culture too often lacks basic, elementary insight into gender related issues. This lack impacts on our society in many different ways. What used to be considered abnormal a few years ago is now portrayed as okay. The family unit has been legally redefined. Marriage in Canada is no longer restricted toaunionofamanandawoman,butcan include two men or two women. Confusion on sexual identity also impacts on what is to be taught in the schools. Court battles have been waged to ensure that gay lifestyles and lesbian households are to be seen as normal and acceptable to children as young as grade one age. Repulsive though this is, such is the state of our society where to condemn a sinful gay lifestyle is labelled as being intolerant. Small wonder that children, young people, and even adults get confused as to what is normal for being a male or female. In some cases, the confusion leads to doubts about whether one’s gender identification really matches the sex one is born with.

The point of this editorial, however is not to bemoan the present moral wasteland which our society finds itself in, but to ask ourselves whether we as Reformed Christians are always as aware of the ungodly trends and as sensitive to the dangers involved as we should be. The world view that lies behind the gay movement is diametrically opposed to the biblical one. Indeed our days are in many respects like those of Sodom and Gomorrah of which Scripture warns us.

Gender Blending

Since our society more and more gets rid of any Christian influences that have benefited our country and adopts neo-pagan ways, the confusion about sexuality should surprise no one. After all, pagan societies have been known to blur the boundaries of male and female and extol androgyny, the obscuring or reversing of male and female identities and roles.

Already in biblical times, pagan religions obscured the distinctions between the genders. They did this, for example, when men dressed as women and women as men in order to sacrifice to a particular god(dess). This typically led to immoral behaviour. Indeed, this example and other pagan transvestite practices1 help us to understand why the Lord condemned cross-dressing. God instructed Israel that “a woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut 22:5 RSV). This commandment needs to be understood in the context of pagan religious customs. The fact that cross-dressing is described as an abomination to God also points in this direction. In other words, this prohibition does not simply refer to clothing fashion. This command goes far deeper. It is directed against a pagan manner of worship.

At the same time, the principle that is set out here needs to be maintained, namely that there should be clear distinctions between the clothing of males and females. The Lord considers that important. Without becoming legalistic on matters of dress, we do therefore need to recognize that the Lord wants us to maintain obvious gender demarcations. While current fashion trends may be bent on gender blending, Christians should take the lead in emphasizing gender distinctive clothing.

All of this is especially important for our children who need to see the clear differences between male and female in a time when they themselves are learning to understand their own identity and identify with their gender. Children and adolescents will also seek role models outside the home. In the world, rock stars and movie stars are often looked up to and imitated. These often promote androgyny. The gender- ambiguous dress and makeup of the likes of Michael Jackson sends a message that sexual ambiguity is in. Unisex clothing styles send the same message. The wearing of necklaces and earrings by men can do the same. As parents seeking to write the will of God on the hearts of our children (cf. Deut 6:6-9), our words need to be reinforced by how we ourselves dress and carry ourselves in today’s society.

It is surely not by chance that precisely in our culture it is becoming more common for a boy to be given a name traditionally reserved for a girl, and vice versa. Indeed, Christians may do the same in all innocence, but are we spiritually discerning when we do that? Should we of all people not make sure that we maintain clear gender distinctions also in the names we give our children and so show that we are different from an unbelieving world and holy to God?

Male-female role reversals are also becoming more common in our society. For example, a husband stays home to care for the children, do the housework, and prepare the meals while the wife is the one making a living for the family. There can be circumstances where such an arrangement is both necessary and beneficial, also for a Christian home. But it is not the normal way and we should never lose sight of this. As much as possible we must strive not to conform to the culture of gender blending.

I realize full well that some of these examples may be controversial. That’s fine, for the point of this editorial is to try to stimulate critical self-examination as to whether we are always sensitive and spiritually alert enough to see that we are in a culture which is at war with God’s creational norms. Are we as Reformed Christians positioning ourselves in this struggle in clear confrontation over against world views and practices or are we as compromising as possible? This is an important question, for the true way of liberty and life joy is to follow God’s plan for creation. He knew what He was doing when He designed and made humankind, male and female, in both the physical and psychological aspects. The more closely our lives are in tune with the Lord’s design the more we will realize the joy and zest for living that comes with living in harmony with the Creator and Redeemer of the world.

God’s Beautiful Design

When God created man in his own image, then “male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27; 5:2). The difference in gender is rooted in creation and is at the very core of one’s identity. Therefore one’s sexuality needs to be protected and cherished. Gender is not something added on later. It is part and parcel of what makes one the person he or she is. Whether male or female, we have been created in God’s image. Whether male or female, we have been endowed with the gifts needed to fulfil the task God gives us. After relating how God made man male and female, Scripture continues by informing us that “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Male and female are addressed together. Together they are blessed and together they are given a double mandate: to produce offspring and to subdue and so rule creation. This mandate is given within the context of a blessing. It is designed to bring joy.

It is therefore a tremendous event when the Lord brings a man and a woman together in holy marriage. Together they may, if it pleases the Lord, receive children. Together they may do their part in claiming their world and culture for Christ. It starts in a Christian home. And what a blessing such a home is! Because God’s creational gender roles are honoured, the wife does not experience the pressure of having to go out of the house for a career in order to find fulfilment. When the Lord gives children, she can find her fulfilment in being a stay- at-home mother, nurturing and raising the children and being a support for her husband. Although there can be situations in which a mother is justified in seeking employment outside the home, this should be an exception. It is normal that the husband, as head of the household, knows and exercises his primary responsibility of supporting the family. Children who grow up with clearly differentiated parental roles are blessed children. They are being equipped to function as Christians in a culture that seeks to break down God’s design for male and female.

Also those who are not married can rest assured that the Lord gives them a specific identity as male or female. It is something to be proud of, to protect, and to cherish. It is a gift of God, which may be used for His service. The Lord our God wants His people, married or not, to be distinctive, separate and holy from a world and culture lost in sin. Yes, He insists on it, for His people are to be his instruments to shed the light of redemption in Christ on today’s culture and so to seek to renew it.

In Conclusion

We are in the middle of a culture war and Christians have been on the losing end. But every defeat for biblical morals and principles has devastating effects for our society both now and for the future. The stunning successes of the gay lobby in the courts is only the latest chapter of this ongoing conflict. Homosexual sin has become a glorified human right, although homosexual practices are a severe health risk, and children reared in same sex marriages are likely to experience dysfunctions, especially in gender identity. Besides the virtual collapse of sexual morals, our narcissistic and hedonistic society also practices a culture of death. After all, a culture that often considers children a nuisance and has no desire to protect even the unborn’s right to life is a culture set against procreation and therefore has no future. When society is in rebellion against God and His design for creation, divine judgment follows.

Let us be sensitive to the fact that there is a real culture war going on. One manifestation of that battle is the gender blurring. The evil one does not rest. We need to recognize this and be aggressive in combatting the evil of our times. But it starts in the basic and relatively simple foundational elements, like a Christian home, a Christian walk and talk, and a Christian dress and culture. We should also get more directly involved in seeking to stem the tide of gender confusion in our country by becoming more politically active. We owe it to our country. And above all, since God’s honour is involved, we can do no less.

Dr. C. Van Dam is the  emeritus professor of Old Testament at the Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches in Hamilton, Ontario. This article was published as a guest editorial in the FRC Messenger and is republished with permission. 

ENDNOTES

1 See Peter Jones, “Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43 (2000) 449-450 and note 32; H. A. Hoffner, “Symbols for Masculinity and Femininity”, Journal of Biblical Literature 85 (1966) 326-334.