Changing culture and changing definitions of manhood and womanhood
It seems that recent tweets I made about biblical manhood, womanhood and marriage have gained attention in the UK. Several national newspapers picked up these tweets and there was reaction from both Christians and non-Christians. Some people were very upset; others were very encouraged.
Indeed this is a sensitive issue today, like never before. Definitions of what it is to be a man or a woman and definitions of marriage are changing in society. But they have not changed in the Bible. I am a Christian and a pastor of Calvary Grace Church of Calgary
and we believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which is sufficient for all things. We also hold to a “complementarian” view of the Scriptures when it comes to sexuality. Complementarity is the view that God has assigned different and complementary roles to men and women within marriage and the church. In this view, men bear a unique authority and responsibility before God for leadership.
It is a sad thing that a changing culture thinks it can determine what God has decreed from the beginning of time and the creation of man: namely, that marriage is a gift from God; that it is the joining of a man and a woman in a covenant relationship; that sex should be enjoyed only within the marriage relationship, so that all sexual activity outside of it transgresses God’s Word; and that it is ultimately given by God for the husband and wife to display God’s faithful relationship with his people by their different roles.
Marriage between man and woman is a beautiful thing created by God for our good and for his glory. Both men and women are of equal value in the sight of God. So the difference in roles is never a question of competency, it’s always a question of God’s design. Biblical manhood and womanhood is good.
However there is a common misunderstanding many people hold (even within the church) that equality means sameness. Well it’s clear that men and women are not the same physically for a start. And just because a wife follows her husband’s lead and respects his God given authority it doesn’t make her any less of a human being. In the home the parents should be the authority over the children, with the husband taking the primary lead in instruction and discipline. So it’s also clear that roles are not the same.
A husband is called to be a Christlike leader to his wife. He must provide for and protect her spiritually and physically. This is called headship in the Bible. It reflects Christ’s sacrificial love for his Bride, the Church. He took the initiative to die for her. What man who hears the sound of a window smashing downstairs in the middle of the night would send his wife to investigate? Is it not written on a man’s soul to protect and provide for her? And yet such are the distortions of masculinity and femininity in our time that we send our women to fight on the frontline in war, all in the name of equality.
Equally, a wife is called to respond to this leadership by her respect for and voluntary affirmation of his leadership. This is called submission in the Bible. She comes alongside him as his helper in the marriage. She respects his position as head of the home and uses her gifts to encourage her husband as they partner together in what the Bible calls “a one flesh union”. Jesus submits to his Father's authority, so it is equally divine to submit as it is to lead.
Authority is the issue
And here we come to the issue behind the issue. It is a question of submission to authority. There is a natural suspicion of authority in society, yet authority is a good thing designed by the one true authority, God. We must look to his Word to define our society and us. If there is not an objective authority to which everyone must submit then you are left with anarchy. Everyone just does what is right in their own eyes. They do what they feel like and they justify it in the name of love. Truth becomes subjective and relative. And we spiral down into moral declension.
So in education there are no unalterable truths. Novelty, relativity and expediency is enthroned over conservative, absolute, moral truth. This lack of absolute authority spills over into the moral realm of society. Pop music, TV shows, magazines and whatever else is out there begins to promote what they see fit. After all who is to say whether they are wrong or not?
Sexual confusion reigns
And so we have confusion reigning in sexuality. Categories of male and female have been blurred. People have no idea what it is to be a man and not a woman or vice versa. Husbands are not leading wives well. Parents are not leading children, who are consequently not being taught or lovingly disciplined in the homes. They are the decision makers, rather than the ones being led.
Sexual fidelity and permanence within marriage is hardly on the radar. It is morally acceptable to live a homosexual, bisexual lifestyle. Marriage is being redefined according to cultural preferences and cultural changing truths. So in many places marriage is not husband and wife, but wife and wife or husband and husband. Rather than holy matrimony it is now unholy pursuit of what seems right to the individual. In the UK, homosexual “marriage” is now legal and constitutional. Marriage has been redefined with a changing law. Yet marriage is something God defines and creates not humans.
And the problem lies first within the church, which, in many quarters in the UK has lost its trust in the Word of God and has been shaped by culture instead. There is a great need for preachers to actually preach God’s word with sensitivity, yes. But also without fear of what people will say. I believe this will be a key dividing line over the next, few years which will determine who is Christian or not. The church must stand firm on this.
Many Christian women who support a biblical view of masculinity and femininity came out in public support of my comments yesterday. They are not oppressed. They are free to be who they were created to be. They will tell you that biblical submission is not weak but strong. They will tell you that biblical leadership is not harsh but loving. In my church I serve in leadership as a pastor alongside humble men who love and lead their wives, and who love God and our people too much not to teach them his Word for manhood and womanhood. We have seen marriages blossom as men have stepped up to the challenge to lovingly lead their wives, and women have gladly respected and submitted to that leadership. Women are flourishing as strong, intelligent wives who joyfully affirm their husband’s leadership. Single men and women are obeying God’s pattern for sex and sexuality and growing as people of integrity. And in our marriage through 25 years my wife Amanda and I have tried to embrace this biblical pattern because it brings God glory and it does us good.
Abuse of authority is unacceptable. Slavery is deplorable. But a husband leading his wife as Christ leads the church is not slavery by any means. True, there have been abuses of male authority with the chauvinistic flavor of the 50’s and 60’s. Rape and sexual mistreatment of women is evil. But this is not the biblical picture, not God’s design. There have and always will be abuses of authority. But abuse doesn’t mean disuse of right authority.
Jesus Christ is the answer
Look around you. See the sin and suffering, the sexual and relational dysfunction, the rebellion against any authority. See it in the home, schools, workplace and society at large. And recognize that this stems from a natural rebellion against the authority of God’s Word in all of us. When we disobey God, carnage ensues. Recognize that you need forgiveness of your sins and that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came as a man to live a perfect life of obedience to God that no-one can live and died on a cross to take the consequence of sin for those who will place their trust in him and have their guilt removed. That’s the good news of God’s love. Recognize he has risen from the dead and will come again. Life is short. What are you living for and where are you going? How do you know what’s right or wrong? The main issue is not marriage or manhood or womanhood. The main issue is that people need to get right with a holy God and find their identity in Jesus. He is the only way to God, salvation and personal happiness. With the main focus right, the rest of life can be lived in accordance to his Word, because what he says is good for us. It gives purpose and meaning to everything.
The key verses in the Bible that support the view of marriage I am speaking of are: Gen. 1: 26-27; 2: 18-24; 1 Cor. 11: 2- 3; Ephesians 5: 22-33; Colossians 3: 18-19; 1 Peter 3: 1-7.
See the response of Owen Strachan President of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood