He Made Them Male and Female

The problem that continues to raise its pesky head is the problem of essential attributes.

So we take the general observation that men are stronger than women and then we make it an essential attribute of maleness. In other words, when men are physically weak, they are no longer men. Do you see the problem? If these assertions are correct, what are we to make of a man who become physically restrained – through age, infirmity, or accident? Are they then no longer male?

 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Gen 1:27 KJV)

I recently unwittingly created a kerfluffle. You can read about it here:

Rather than continue debating it on Facebook, I decided that I would answer one question here, since it seems to be the heart of the debate.

The question is this: “Are there any differences at all between the two sexes – male and female.”

The question is an important one. One the one hand, we reject the homogenization of the sexes, because God created male and female. Obviously there is a difference. The most obvious difference is a biological one. Males have certain body parts; females have certain body parts. God created them that way and called it “very good”.

But the conservative movement seems to have fallen off the other side of the horse.  In the video that I took issue with, Phil Johnson links weakness, softness, emotional hurts and pastel colors with the feminine sex, and courage, strength, godliness and manly love with the masculine sex.

Apart from the fact that I have no idea what manly love is, and how it differs from the love that God calls all Christians to, these characterizations perplex me.

As you can see in the discussion, it ended with a question – other than physical characterizations, are there any inherent differences between men and women?

At the risk of boring my readers, perhaps it would be helpful to put this into precise terms. The question concerns attributes. An attribute is that thing which answers the question “what is it”. I am a human, a Christian, married, a father, grandfather, with grey hair, and I was born a Powell. These all answer the question, “What is it?”

But it will not do to stop there, for if one of those attributes were taken away, I would still be me. If my wife passed, I would no longer be a husband, but I would still be me.

So now we must distinguish between essential and accidental attributes. An essential attribute is that without which the thing is no longer the thing. And accidental attribute is that which describes the thing, but does not define the essence of the thing.

How’s that for making a subject dense?

In the list of my attributes, all of them are accidental except one: I am a human. Any one of the other attributes you could take away, and I would still be me.

So lets apply this to maleness and femaleness. When the question is asked, “Are there feminine and masculine traits other than physical traits?” I must ask what you mean. Are you speaking of essential or accidental attributes?

My granddaughter is four. You can give her any two objects – tools, trucks, stuffed animals, or paper drawings – and the big one will be a mommy and the little one will be the baby. Others report similar phenomenon in other girls.

Is it then valid to take this observation, abstract it and give it a name – say, nurturing – and call it an essential attribute of femininity? I think not.

The same can be said of playing with dolls, building playhouses, emotional bonding and so on. Are these essential attributes of being a female? If you say yes, you are opening the door to much abuse, as we see today. The horrible word “sissy” is merely one example.

A boy who plays with dolls, is sensitive, emotionally bonds with those around him, talks about his feelings and likes pastel colors is labeled a “sissy” – a biological male with feminine traits, as if there were any such thing.

For where is this in the scripture? Where does the One who created them male and female give us warrant to call a male a sissy and a female a tomboy? If we as the people of God are confused is it any wonder that the world around us is confused? When we speak of the church becoming feminized (or worse, sissified), the only possible outcome is a world left very confused by gender roles, gender assignments, and what it means to be a boy or girl.

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