Every month in 2022, I will be writing a blog post about anthropology, humanity, and sexuality. This series of blog posts will be used to foster discussion and to drive the reader back to Holy Scripture to learn about God’s grand design for men and women. I pray that these blog posts will offer greater clarity about God’s design for men and women. And I also pray that learning about God’s design for men and women will result in worship. This blog post builds off another blog post entitled Anthropology 101.
The Imago Dei
In a previous blog post on anthropology, I touched on what it means for man and woman to be made in God’s image, also known as the imago Dei. Tomes and dissertations have been written about the imago Dei. Unfortunately, space and time do not allow for an extensive treatment, but a few more words about this essential theological concept need to be stated.
Creature and Creator
Reformed theologian Anthony A. Hoekema develops the distinction between the creature and the Creator. God created man as a person and also a creature. A reason for drawing out the distinction is to acknowledge that God is sovereign over his creation/creature while at the same time not absolving man from personal responsibility. He states,
Keeping in mind the paradox that man is both a creature and a person will help us do full justice to both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.– Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 10.
The distinction between Creator and creature helps us remember man is not God but made in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26). Man made in the image of God comes with tremendous responsibility, but our responsibility is given by God and under the sovereign jurisdiction of God.
What is the imago Dei?
So what is a baseline definition of the image of God? Gerald Bray offers us a great place to start.
The image of God is the special status that all human beings have as those made to reflect our Creator’s character and commissioned to carry out his purposes in the world. The “image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26) describes the special status of the human race, male and female, as God’s representatives in the created order.– Gerald Bray, “The Image of God,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
The special responsibility of men and women includes making babies, subduing the earth, and having dominion over God’s created world. While other creatures reproduce, only men and women create other image-bears. There are other creatures that can subdue and have dominion, but God entrusts humanity to have ultimate power over the earth. In other words, the Creator has entrusted responsibilities to his image-bearing creatures.
God’s image-bearing creatures are further divided into two sexes, man and woman (Genesis 1:26-27).
All People are Made in God’s Image
I will draw out similarities and differences between men and women in a moment. The similarities and differences make a massive impact on how God’s responsibilities are meted out. Still, I want to pause to make a parenthetical statement about all people being made in the image of God. In a world full of division due to questions surrounding sexuality and gender, a theology of the imago Dei needs to shape the discussion.
I am not suggesting that Christians capitulate to the ideals propagated by the sexual revolution in Western Civilization.
On the contrary, Christians must remain resolute on what Holy Scripture condones and condemns. However, our approach matters. Instead of anger, may we be compassionate. Instead of pushing people away who are different, may the church welcome all kinds of people to hear about what God says regarding human flourishing through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because here is the bottom line. There will be pain and brokenness when a person is not pursuing God’s design for men and women. So the question on the table is this: Will the church have the courage to receive people who seek a Godward way forward? Will the church be ready to point to Genesis 1-2 to show God’s grand design for men and women? Are we prepared to show from Genesis 3 when and why the wheels fell off the bus? I hope so.
Parenthetical statement over. Let’s look at a few similarities and differences between men and women.
The Similarities Between Men and Women
It’s incredible to consider how men and women are similar. Men and women share many biological features—two eyes, two hands, and two legs. Men and women have been given the same purpose by God (Genesis 1:28). Men and women both have the capacity to share many of God’s communicable attributes. Men and women can create, love, extend mercy, and demonstrate grace. All the similarities make sense. There is a reason why Adam’s dog Fluffy was not fit to be his companion (Genesis 2:18). Fluffy is too dissimilar from Adam. God needed to create another human being that shared many of the same attributes as Adam. A woman needed to be of the same species as Adam. If I grabbed the whiteboard and washable marker and asked a room of 10-year-old children, what makes men and women the same? The whiteboard will be filled quickly because the similarities are apparent and for obvious reasons. God made a man and a woman with similarities and for each other.
The Differences Between Men and Women
While there are many similarities between men and women, there are also some fundamental differences. The differences are not to be ignored but celebrated.
There was a time when my wife and I were lifting weights together. At one point, I came down with a cold and stayed away from the gym for several weeks. My wife remained diligent. She faithfully went to the gym while I lay on the couch watching Star Wars. After feeling better, we attended the gym together and decided to try the flat bench. Feeling good from consistent workouts, she put several weights on the long bar. But it was not long before she realized she did not have the upper body strength to lift as much as she hoped. She hopped off the bench, and I put on several 45-pound weights. I picked up where I left off after being absent for several weeks. My story highlights a biological fact. Men have greater upper body strength. Stating the fact is not an attempt to undermine a women’s upper body strength but, to be honest about the differences.
Here is another story. When my youngest daughter asked me what a woman can do that a man can’t do, I quickly said, “Give birth.” Men do not have a uterus and all the other organs needed to give birth. With more skill, John Paul II says,
[A] woman’s constitution differs from that of man; in fact, we know today that it is different even in the deepest bio-physiological determinants. The difference is shown only in a limited measure on the outside, in the build and form of her body. Motherhood shows this constitution from within, as a particular power of the feminine organism, which serves with creative specificity for the conception and generation of human beings with the concurrence of the man.– Paul, J., & Waldstein, M. (2006). Man and woman he created them: A theology of the body. Pauline Books & Media.
There are several biological differences. We should not let our eyes deceive us. Young children quickly figure out the similarities and the differences between mom and dad. They might not know all the details, but the distinctions are apparent.
I can further my point. There is also a critical difference in the DNA of a man and a woman. Male DNA has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Female DNA contains two X chromosomes. The Y chromosome of males contains around 200 working genes, while the X chromosome of females contains around 1000 working genes (Wizemann TM, Pardue ML, editors. Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter? Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 2, Every Cell Has a Sex.)
So, even as we drill down to the molecular level of men and women we can see a difference. Biblically speaking, the chromosomes of each person has been assigned by God before the foundation of the world. We read in Psalm 139,
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.– Psalm 139:15–16
The Prophet Jeremiah knew God had the details of his sex (and gender) in mind before he was born. The Lord said to the prophet,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”– Jeremiah 1:5
So, men and women are different, and it is God who assigns each chromosome of every person born into this world. God has not made a mistake in his creatures, because God is perfect. God did not create a flaw but what God creates is always good.
For Christians, we must celebrate that our sovereign God of the universe has intentionally assigned the chromosomes of every person. God made a man a man and a woman, a woman. The gender and sex of men and women are not malleable. They do not change. If you are born with two X chromosomes you are a biological male. If you are born with XY chromosomes you are a biological female. God is not confused, nor should we be confused.
Because God made men and women different, we will see in future blogs the effects and results. Men and women were created for specific roles. Again, these roles are to be celebrated and not ignored or disregarded. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Why All The Confusion?
So what is up with all the confusion? The confusion between men and women extends back to the fall of humanity. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Satan took what God made good and began to twist and deconstruct God’s good design. Therefore, we should not be surprised by what we see in the culture. The sexual revolution will churn forward. However, Christians do not need to fear holding to God’s design for men and women but rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).
A Reason for Hope
There are plenty of reasons to hope that God is still at work even though we live in a fallen world. Just as the sexual revolution churns forward, God’s plan of restoration and redemption churns forward.
I want to allow Hoekema to leave us with the final word.
Because of his fall into sin, man has in one sense lost the image of God (some theologians call this the narrower or functional sense). Instead of serving and obeying God, man is now turned away from God; he is “man in revolt.” In the work of redemption, God graciously restores his image in man, making him once again like God in his love, faithfulness, and willingness to serve others. Because human beings are creatures, God must restore them to his image—this is a work of sovereign grace.– Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 10.
A person can experience God’s work of redemption and restoration through faith in Jesus Christ. When faith breaths life on a heart dead to God, the sovereign grace of God spings the heart to life. Because of Christ, there is hope for humanity to flourish by living out God’s grand design for men and women.
Several Questions to Consider
- What does it mean for every person to be created in God’s image? How does the imago Dei impact how you treat other people?
- List out several similarities between men and women and then list out several differences between men and women.
- What are several arguments against God’s design for men and women? How do you respond to the objections?
- Take a moment to celebrate and talk about how and why God created the opposite sex.
- In the context of marriage we read in Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31 “that the two shall become one flesh.” Discuss this statement and its significance with a man and woman in marriage.