Men and Women and the Creation Order, Part 1
Introduction and the Definition of the Creation Order
Editor’s Note: Does the creation order for men and women only apply to the spheres of family and church, or does it apply to all of life — including the civil realm? This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series entitled “Men and Women and the Creation Order” that Pastor William Einwechter has penned to address this critical question. In Part 1, he introduces his subject in view of the recent candidacy of Gov. Sarah Palin for the Vice Presidency and then defines the “Creation Order.” In Part 2 and Part 3, he further develops this theme.
The discussion and debate in the church over the relationship between men and women and their roles in family, church, and society was renewed and reenergized in the 2008 presidential campaign when Sen. John McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin, a married woman and mother of five children, to be his running mate and candidate for the office of vice president of the United States. This surprising choice was praised, by and large, by evangelical leaders who saw in her a strong conservative politician who would defend and promote the social values and political issues most important to evangelical Christians.
But there was something amiss in the enthusiastic conservative evangelical support of Mrs. Palin. The world saw it; feminists saw it; Christian egalitarians saw it; a few conservative Christians saw it; but, apparently, many conservative evangelicals who were known for promoting the traditional family, for speaking out against feminism, and for teaching that men and women have separate and distinct roles by divine design did not see it.
In regard to this evangelical support of Gov. Palin, three questions need to be asked. First, how is it that these leaders who have said that they believe that homemaking and motherhood are high callings from God and should have priority for wives and mothers, could give their support to a wife and mother of five (one being a baby) who makes the pursuit of high political office her priority? Second, how is it that these leaders who have stood against the feminist movement and its destructive influence on the family, the church, and society, could give enthusiastic support to a woman who embodied the goals, demeanor, and life-style promoted by feminism? Third, how is it that these leaders who have said that they believe that male headship is part of the creation order and have taught that a woman is under the authority of her husband in the home and is not permitted to teach or rule in the church, could say that a wife and mother is permitted and qualified to rule over men and nations in the political sphere?
The inconsistency of the conservative Christian support of Sarah Palin was pointed out by various writers and columnists, both non-Christian and Christian. In the face of this criticism, how did conservative evangelicals justify their endorsement of a wife and a mother of five for vice president of the United States, and rebuff the charge of inconsistency?
First, they argued that while the New Testament teaches that the husband is the head of his wife and that women are not to serve as leaders in the church, the New Testament is silent on the issue of women civil rulers. Therefore, they concluded that women civil rulers must be okay.
Second, they argued that the Bible limits the complementarian relationship between men and women to only two spheres of life: family and church. But, in the civil and social spheres, they infer that egalitarianism is the standard. And so, in their view, women ruling over men in the state is biblically acceptable.
Before moving on to their third argument, it is important that we define complementarianism and egalitarianism and explain the perspective of the complementarianism of the evangelicals who supported a woman for the vice president of the United States. “Complementarianism” is the view that God has granted man authority (headship) over the woman, and men and women have separate and distinct roles to fulfill by divine calling. In carrying out their God-given roles and responsibilities, men and women complement one another. “Egalitarianism” is the view that affirms the equality of men and women in terms of leadership potential and role fulfillment. Thus, this view denies that God has granted man authority over the woman, and it denies that there are separate and distinct God-given roles for men and women (the distinctions seen in the Bible are merely cultural).
There is wide agreement among conservative Christians that the Bible establishes three spheres of government: family, church, and state. But the complementarians who supported (or at least did not oppose) Sarah Palin only apply their complementarianism to two of these spheres: family and church. This is why they could support a woman for vice president; because in the civil sphere, egalitarianism is the divine order. Wayne Grudem calls this position “two-point complementarianism.” His intent is to contrast his own two-point complementarianism with “one-point complementarianism” (i.e., a complementarianism that applies only to the family). But there is another position that Grudem overlooks—the historic position of the Reformed church that teaches a complementarianism that applies to all three governments established by God. Using Grudem’s designations as a model, we should call this historic view “three-point complementarianism.” It is essential to understand that those who limit the complementarian relationship of men and women to the family advance a semi-complementarian view of men and women. In terms of three spheres of life, family, church, and society, such are two-point complementarians and one-point egalitarians.
Third, they denied, at least by implication, that the creation order of male headship applies to the social sphere and to civil government. They believe, so it seems, that the creation order is limited in its application to the spheres of church and family. In other words, their position is essentially this: the creation order does not apply to all of creation. Evangelical egalitarians are rigorously consistent in the application of their view of men and women to all spheres of life, and there are no internal contradictions in their system. They believe that the creation order establishes full equality (essential, functional, and positional) between men and women in every area of life and every sphere of government. In contradiction to the egalitarians, semi-complementarians believe that the creation order establishes the headship of man over the woman. But semi-complementarians are not consistent in the application of their view because they deny that the complementarian order applies to all spheres of government. This inconsistency leads to internal contradictions in their system and to some manifest absurdities; e.g., God approves of a woman being the president of the United States and ruling over all the men of the nation in the civil sphere (including all the pastors and husbands of that nation), but God does not permit her to lead her own household or govern in a local church.
The 2008 election is now history, but the issues it raised in regard to the relationship between men and women and their roles in family, church, and state continue to confront evangelical and conservative Christians. Questions like the following call for answers: Does the Bible approve of women ruling over men in the civil sphere? Does the Bible limit the complementarian relationship between men and women to the family and the church? Does the Bible support an egalitarian approach to the social and civil sphere? Does the creation order for men and women only apply to the spheres of family and church, or does it apply to all of life? The purpose of this series of three articles on “Men and Women and the Creation Order” is to help answer these questions through a study of the biblical doctrine of the creation order for men and women. By studying the creation order for men and women, we lay the foundation for understanding all that Scripture says on the subject of male and female roles and of their relationship to one another. The creation order reveals God’s plan for His whole creation. The creation order for men and women reveals God’s plan for all mankind.
I. Definition of the Creation Order
What do we mean when we speak of “the creation order”? C. Stephen Evans defines the creation order as the “Lawlike structure or order that is rooted in God’s intentions at creation.” J. M. Spier explains that the lawlike structure of the whole creation is based in God’s sovereignty:
As the Creator, God is a Sovereign Ruler. All creation is absolutely dependent upon Him. He has placed it under law. . . . When we say that God has placed His entire creation under law, we include under the term “law,” all Divine ordinances and norms which have their origin in the Sovereign Will of the Creator and apply to all creation. The entire cosmos is subject to Divine law. All creation must obey its Maker. . . . Law is the expression of His will. He is the law-giver.
The creation order, then, is a comprehensive idea that indicates that all of the creation is determined by and subject to the sovereign will of God. All things have their origin in the mind of God and take their place in the cosmos according to the all-wise plan of God. Nothing is arbitrary, undetermined, or the expression of chaos. Instead, everything is meaningful, is expressive of divine purpose, and is perfectly coherent with all other aspects of creation. God determines the place, meaning, and purpose of everything. This means that there are no brute (or meaningless) facts in the universe, and each fact (thing) has meaning according to the plan of God. Therefore, if man is to know anything truly, he must submit himself to God’s interpretation of the facts of creation, and the Word of God gives God’s interpretation of these facts to man.
A term that is often used by theologians to express the notion that the creation order reflects the will of God and imposes obligation on mankind is the term “creation ordinance.” Walter Kaiser states that the creation ordinances “reflect the work of God in creation and depict ‘the constitution of things’ as they were intended to be from the Creator’s hand. They cover and regulate the whole gamut of life. . . .” The creation ordinances are revealed in Genesis 1 and 2, and these ordinances include man’s duty to take dominion over the earth, to care for it and rule over it and all the creatures therein, to find fulfillment in productive labor, to rest on the Sabbath, to obey the law of God, to join as husband and wife in marriage, and — in that relationship — to be fruitful and multiply. The creation ordinances establish the pattern for man’s life in the world: his submission to God and His Word, his dominion calling, his worship, his work, his rest, his differentiation as male and female in terms of headship and roles. The creation ordinances have never been repealed and bind all men in all places and in all aspects of life (the fall did not destroy these ordinances; it only destroyed man’s willing submission to them). The creation ordinances are based on the creation order and remain as the fundamental basis for human life as intended by the Creator.
How does the idea of the creation order apply to men and women? Men and women are part of the creation order. Hence, manhood and womanhood have their origin in the mind of God, and God has determined the place of each in the creation. Men and women also sustain a relationship to one another (marital and social) and to the rest of creation according to the sovereign and all-wise will of God. Their individual roles are expressive of the plan of God for them. Hence, man and woman, the male and female genders, are not brute facts, and mankind is not at liberty to interpret (assign meaning to) the fact that humanity exists in two distinct genders according to his own reason or on the basis of his experience. The only infallible standard for understanding the meaning, purpose, and roles of the man and the woman is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
The fundamental presupposition in regard to human knowledge that is derived from the doctrine that God created all things in the space of six days and all very good is that man cannot truly know anything unless he submits himself to God’s own interpretation of the creation given in His inerrant and infallible Word. Thus, the questions that we face in regard to the relationship of men and women to one another and their roles in family, church, and society can only be answered by a grammatical/historical interpretation of the Scriptures.
Parts 2 and 3 of this article series — which will address “Revelation of the Creation Order for Men and Women in Genesis” and “The Confirmation of the Creation Order for Men and Women” — will be published on this website over the next several weeks.