A Call for Courage on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
- Monday, December 11, 2006
In response to this, secular traditionalists argue that the historical experience of the human race affirms important distinctions between men and women and differing roles for the two sexes in both the family and in the larger society. The secular traditionalists have history on their side and their claim to authority is rooted in the accumulated wisdom of the ages. For evidence, these traditionalists would point to the consistent pattern of heterosexual marriage across cultures, and the undeniable historical reality that men have predominated in positions of leadership and that the roles of women have been largely defined around home, children, and family. Thus, these traditionalists warn that feminism poses a threat to social order and that the transformed gender consciousness that the feminists demand would lead to social anarchy.
Clearly, the traditionalists come to the debate with a strong argument. They do have history on their side and we must acknowledge that the historical experience of the human race is not insignificant. Some of the most honest feminist thinkers acknowledge that their very aim is to reverse this historical pattern and much of their scholarship is directed at identifying and excising this patriarchal pattern in the future. The problem with the secular traditionalist is that their argument is, in the end, essentially secular. Their argument is reducible to the claim that the inherited wisdom of human experience points to an oughtness and a moral imperative that should inform the present and the future. In the end, this argument, though powerful and seemingly meaningful, fails to persuade. Modern individuals have been trained from the cradle to believe that every generation makes itself anew and that the past is really past.
The modern ethic of liberation, now so deeply and thoroughly embedded in the modern mind, suggests that the traditions of the past may indeed be a prison from which the present generation should demand release. This is where biblical traditionalists must enter the debate with vigor. We do share much common ground of argument with the secular traditionalists. Biblical traditionalists affirm that the historical experience of mankind should be informative of the present. We also affirm that the enduring pattern of differing roles between men and women, combined with the centrality of the natural family, does present a compelling argument that should be understood as both descriptive and prescriptive. Nevertheless, the biblical traditionalist's most fundamental argument goes far beyond history.
In this age of rampant confusion, we must recapture the biblical concept of manhood and womanhood. Our authority must be nothing less than the revealed Word of God. In this light, the pattern of history affirms what the Bible unquestionably reveals--that God has made human beings in His image as male and female, and that the Creator has revealed His glory in both the sameness and the differences by which He establishes human beings as male and female.
Confronted by the biblical evidence, we must make a vitally important interpretive decision. We must choose between two unavoidable options: either the Bible is affirmed as the inerrant and infallible Word of God, and thus presents a comprehensive vision of true humanity in both unity and diversity, or we must claim that the Bible is, to one extent or another, compromised and warped by a patriarchal and male-dominated bias that must be overcome in the name of humanity.
For biblical traditionalists the choice is clear. We understand the Bible to present a beautiful portrait of complementarity between the sexes, with both men and women charged to reflect God's glory in a distinct way. Thus, there are very real distinctions that mark the difference between masculinity and femininity, male and female. Standing on biblical authority, we must critique both the present and the past when the biblical pattern has been compromised or denied. Likewise, we must point ourselves, our churches, and our children to the future, affirming that God's glory is at stake in our response of obedience or disobedience to His design.
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