Like so many kids, I never liked math as a subject. I didn't get it. I couldn't understand it. I failed to see the value in it. Math and I weren't friends.

In spite of my stubborn reluctance to imbibe in the beauty of raw numbers, I learned enough to know that one plus one equals two. Yet, when we look at the math of biblical marriage, we are reminded over and over again that one plus one equals one. One man. One woman. One life. (see Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:31)

The oneness of the marital union is based upon the two individuals brought together by covenant. They are unique. They bring various gifts, strengths, and weaknesses to their marriage. That is just as God intended.

As Genesis 1:27 tells us, God created humanity in His image. That image is displayed mysteriously and marvelously in the two genders: male and female. Seeing that God created both genders and both possess His image, we must acknowledge two powerful facts. First, the genders and their associated distinctions are part of God's glorious plan for humanity and our sexuality. Two, both genders are of equal value as both reflect God's glory in His image.

Likewise, Genesis 2:18 illustrates the fact that both genders have unique roles. God created Eve as the "suitable helper," the perfect helpmeet, the right complement for Adam. As everyone knows from anecdotal evidence, men and women are different. The sexes display differing natures, emotions, and abilities. Yet, together the two make one whole.

My wife and I are living proof of this principle. She's tender-hearted and quick to share her emotions. I'm more stoic and reluctant to share my feelings. I'm decisive. She's contemplative. She's mellow. I'm wired. These contrasting traits don't cause friction. They bring harmony as they bring balance to our familial universe.

Now, every man doesn't possess the same traits nor does every woman. We've all been fearfully and wonderfully made according to God's plan for our lives. Yet, in spite of the prevalence of and the imperfections caused by sin, certain characteristics mark the two genders in remarkable ways that still reflect God's intent all those years ago.

We must admit, though, theologically-speaking things are not as they were intended to be. We can see shadows and hints of God's original prototypes. But, the world we live in is far from perfect. This applies to people and to relationships. Some things just aren't supposed to be this way.

In the Garden, when Adam and Eve sinned and fell, we see the broken paradigm of sinful humanity and the impact of their decision on all later male/female relationships. Whereas God created man first and then woman and both were to exercise dominion over the creation, in Genesis 3 we see all ontological and gender roles reversed.

The created order, the serpent, is telling Eve what to do. Eve is telling Adam what do. Neither human balks at this reversal. Neither screamed, "Time out! This isn't what God wanted." Instead, everything was backwards and no one seemed to care. Adam and Eve fall because things weren't as they were supposed to be. In the process, they fell and they dragged us down with them.

The punishments issued to the three involved parties in the Garden echo this inverted order. The serpent is cursed first. Then Eve is told that her failure would now cause her greater pain in childbirth and increased difficulties in her relationship with man. Adam is told that his dominion over the creation would now be all the more difficult.

Into that world and those skewed relationships we have been born. We now bear the brunt of those curses. The world is a dangerous place. Women die in childbirth. Husbands exert forceful authority over their spouses and fruitless dominion over the creation. Clearly things aren't the way they're supposed to be.

This, too, is resolved in Christ's sacrificial death. In His death, God was reconciling all things to Himself (Colossians 1:19) Among the many things implied, we can see in the Bible that the atonement provides for those who believe a restoration in relationships. Sinners will be restored to God. Marriages should be restored to their intended pattern.

Christian marriages should not look like the world. God's salvific plan and the resultant new heart given to believers impact every area of our lives. In salvation, everything the curse is reversed. Our marriages should look like the first family before the Fall. Following the biblical pattern for marriage and gender roles established in Genesis. Husband and wife should be one, one in purpose and one in passion - both spiritual and physical - for the two shall become one just as God had intended (Ephesians 5:31).

November 17, 2009


Peter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5)