The Mystery of God by Robert Barron

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I have passed this little 20 minute video on to a good few people. This presentation is a synthesis of the teaching of one of my favorite living theologians: Bishop Robert Barron.

The gist of this video is that God is the transcendent cause of all being. As Creator of everything “ex nihilo”, out of nothing, everything rises from him, and is continued by his hand. This means that God is not a competitor with his creation like the pagan gods of old. Rather, God is the non-competitive cause of all things. We find our being in him. This means the closer God gets to us, the more alive we become! Hence, the incarnation breathes life into the world again through the hypostatic union of God and man.

Please take 20 minutes to watch this magnificent summary of Barron’s teaching:

On the Doctrine of Original Sin: Why we fell with Adam

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One of the more novel notions of Christian doctrine — at least from the world’s perspective — is this notion of original sin. Namely, that human beings are born apart from God. And, that they are born apart from God on the basis of an earlier act in which we weren’t present. 

Christian doctrine supposes that Adam, the first man, was brought into a covenant with God at the point of his creation; and that by coming into covenant with the triune God, Adam was given a share of divine life, becoming a son of God. Author Scott Hahn says that on the seventh day of creation, God made a “covenant with mankind. [And in doing so,] God took Adam and Eve into his own family. God made them his children” (Love Comes First, 55). And so God created mankind, but he did not simply create humanity: God transcended the Creator/creature relationship, and condescended into a Father/son relationship. And so Adam was elevated into God’s family by virtue of this covenant.

However, as is explicit in the Genesis text, Adam’s sonship was conditioned upon confirmed obedience to God. And as long as Adam was obedient, Hahn says, “the Father would raise up His son, Adam, to be a father himself, a father who would in turn raise up many children of God” (ibid, 56). In other words, as Adam confirmed himself in sonship, he would in turn generate progeny who, by virtue of Adam’s own sonship, would be divine sons. And thus, all of mankind would share in divine life as God’s family in Adam (cf. Rom 5:12-21).

However, we find that Adam did not continue and confirm himself in obedience, but instead “violated the covenant… [And] in breaking the covenant, he separated himself and all his offspring from God’s family… Adam chose instead to live outside the family as a slave” (ibid, 57).

As a result of sin, Adam broke this covenant with God, and tore himself from the divine sonship which he had. Thus, this participation that Adam had in God’s life was stolen from him — or better put, he ripped himself from that life, and from God’s family. And not just himself, but his entire progeny. Because of Adam, all of humanity — all of Adam’s descendants —  would be born apart from God’s life; would be born under covenant curses; would be born in brokenness and sinfulness.

This is why we may say that every person is born in original sin: in as much as we originate from Adam, we are left devoid of divine life and righteousness. We are a broken and marred species, for we are born apart from our divine destiny; apart from God himself. In other words, we have fallen from grace. And we are left lifeless and sinful, in the greater context of a broken covenant.

Karl Adams says this of mankind wholeness in original sin:

Adam, the first man, called to share by grace in the divine life, represented in God’s eyes the whole of mankind. Adam’s fall was the fall of mankind. Detached from its original supernatural goal, mankind then, like some planet detached from its sun, revolved only in crazy gyration round itself…

[M]ankind must not be regarded as a mass of homogeneous beings successively emerging and passing away, nor merely as a sum of men bound together by unity of generation, as being descendants of one original parent, but as one single man. So closely are men assimilated to one another in their natural being, in body and in mind, so profoundly are they interlocked in thinking, willing, feeling, and acting, so solitary is their life, their virtue and their sin, that they are considered in the divine plan of redemption only as a whole, only as a unity, only as one man. This one man is not the individual man, but the whole man, the totality of the innumerable expressions of that humanity which is reproduced in countless individuals.

In other words, mankind as one unit was torn — or rather tore himself — away from this divine elevation granted by God. And as a result, each individual as a part of the whole, is said to be born in sin, apart from God’s covenant friendship, and in need of salvation and restoration.

While this might seem unfair, what we must affirm is that mankind is one. We are a kind, a species, a creation, born together through progeny. And as the one goes, so goes the whole. This is the meaning behind original sin. We inherit our parents’ state — and thus we are in solidarity with them.

And consequently, this is the purpose behind the incarnation: In the incarnation, Christ was not simply visiting mankind. Rather, Christ was uniting fallen humanity and God back together again. This is the deepest meaning of Christ as the God-man. In himself, as the God-man, Jesus was becoming a new humanity; a new Adam in whom God and mankind were once again at-one (hence, the meaning of atonement: “at-one-ment”).

And so, in the incarnation, Jesus united this broken humanity to back God. Karl Adams explains,

The whole man came once more into being, permanently united with God, and so effectively united that for mankind as a whole the grace of redemption can no more be lost, although the individual man can withdraw himself from this whole. Therefore Christ, as the God-man, is the new humanity, the new beginning, the whole man in the full meaning of the phrase.

Whence it follows clearly that the Church was already, in the mystery of the Incarnation, established as an organic community. The “many,” the sum total of all who are redeemed in Christ, are in their inner relationship to one another, in their interrelation and correlation, in their organic communion, objectively and finally the Body of Christ, for this Body is redeemed humanity, the “reconciled world”.

In other words, the church is a new mankind in Christ. Why? Because Christ took upon himself this fallen humanity, died in its place — thus taking the covenant curses — and raised it back to glory (view this post for more info on atonement/resurrection). And so, in Christ, we are dead to sin, and raised to a new state of being — back to divine sonship.  

Adam’s Test: Sacrificial Love

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Nearly every theologian agrees that Adam’s first state in the garden was never meant to be his final. Adam (though he was created in innocence) was created in a state of testing. He was created in a state of probation. It was a state that was meant to be confirmed through obedience.

How do we know this? Well, we can see this from the fact that God placed Adam in the garden with the choice of obedience or disobedience. In other words, Adam could have obeyed God, or rejected God. And, should Adam obey, he would be confirmed in eternal life. Should he disobey, God told him he would “surely die” (Gn 2:17).

What this indicates is Adam’s actions were meant to confirm him in a state of life or death. In a state of condemnation or eternal reward. This tells us that God was testing Adam. That he was putting him on trial, as it were. And that his final state rode on the outcome of this test.

Now, most of us know that God’s testing of Adam involved him permitting Satan to enter the garden and threaten the safety of him and his wife. We cannot overstate the threat that Satan posed to the couple. We cannot overstate the deadly desires that Satan had for this small family.

One might question, why all this testing? Why the probation? Why the threatening presence of Satan? What exactly was God’s purpose in it all?

Scott Hahn, in his excellent A Father Who Keeps His Promises, proposes a grand purpose for this testing. Hahn suggests that God tested Adam’s safety and security to see just how far his obedience would go. In other words, God confronted Adam with a trial, to see if he would love and obey his Father, even at the threat of violence and death.

Hahn says,

The Father who called Adam to life first confronted him with death as a test of sacrificial obedience, a trial by ordeal. If Adam had given consent to death in this situation, by cooperating with God’s indwelling grace, he would have realized and perfected faith, hope and love. The earthly gift of grace would have been transformed into heavenly glory. (pg 74)

In other words, Hahn proposes that God allowed Adam to be left vulnerable in the face of the devil, in order to see how he might react. Would he love God even if it meant that he martyr himself (hypothetically)? Would he trust in God’s strength? Would he protect his bride even if it mean confronting the face of evil? Would Adam, ultimately, give of himself in love for his bride to the Father?

Of course, we know that Adam did none of this. In fact, as the serpent entered the garden, he approached Eve and not Adam; and rather than stepping in and confronting the serpent, Adam stood by doing nothing. Adam was entirely passive, choosing comfort rather than martyrdom; choosing the wide road to destruction rather than the narrow to life.

And so what Adam failed was a test of sacrificial love and obedience. He failed to love God even unto death. He failed to risk his comfort, even his life, for his beloved. Ultimately, we see that Adam’s “fall from grace” was not outright rebellion, but cowardice and passivity.

Hahn, commenting on Adam’s sin, says:

Ultimately, we should chalk up Adam’s sin to a failure of nerve. By not deciding he really decided; since once Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam had already failed, even before eating it himself. He should have never allowed things to go that far. If he had intervened from the outset, the entire exchange could have been prevented… (pg 71-72)

And so, Adam failed by refusing to risk his neck and fight the serpent in sacrificial love. Adam failed by loving his own comfort rather than loving God above all else. Adam failed by protecting himself rather than protecting his bride.

God had tested Adam by calling him to imitate Divine self-giving love; the same love communicated in the Trinity. And rather than confirming his love for God, and ascending into glory, he chose to love himself. And for that, humanity fell into a state of sin and cursedness.

Now, what is interesting here, is that what Adam feared in disobedience (death and pain), he reaped as a result of disobedience (death and pain). We see this in God’s curse of Adam and his progeny. God sentenced Adam to spiritual and physical death; to toil and pain. And so, in attempting to protect himself, Adam lost his life. And not just his own, but the life of his descendants was lost as well. All humans born, are born devoid of righteousness, in sin, apart from God; all because Adam chose to love and protect himself.

With this testing in mind, Scott Hahn explains God’s purpose in the curse of humanity: He says,

Willingness to give ourselves out of love, even if it entails suffering, is what makes us fruitful. When we refuse to love to this extent, we sterilize ourselves. Our Father still wants us to be fruitful; that is why he imposed the curse of suffering, in order to keep alive our potential to become supernaturally fruitful. (pg 74)

What is so fascinating about this text by Hahn, is that he is saying that God imposed on us what would not willingly do ourselves. Since Adam would not willingly die, God cursed us with death. But he did not do this to avenge himself: as Hahn says, he did this that we might become fruitful. God imposed death on us, that we might learn to what extent love goes. Hahn says, God cursed us with death to “to teach us love”.

Ultimately, of course, this test comes to fulness in Christ. Hahn ends his chapter on Adam by saying,

This (the background of Adam’s failure and the curse) gives us the key for unlocking the redemptive power of Christ’s suffering and death. As the new Adam, Jesus was tested in the garden, where “his sweat became like great drops of blood” (Lk 22:44). Jesus then had a “crown of thorns” placed on his head (Mt 27:29), before he was taken to the “tree” (Gal 3:13), where was stripped naked (Mt 27:31). Then he fell into the deep sleep of death, so that from his side would come forth the New Eve. Christ dealt with sin; he took it out at its source… Christ undid Adam’s deed by doing what he should have done (pg 75)

So we see Christ as the new Adam, who in love, went to the point of death. He confirmed his obedience in love, even to the point of death, that we, his church, might come from his rib as his protected bride. And ultimately, as ones redeemed by a death of love, we are now called to suffer “even to the point of death” (Rev 2:10) for the world.

In Christ, then, God’s curse is teaching us how to love as Adam failed to do!

The Holy Spirit, the Virgin Birth, and the “Genesis” of Jesus Christ

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One of the most common passages thought of during the Christmas season is Matthew 1:18-25. This passage describes the birth of Jesus, and centers on his miraculous conception in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.

While the virgin conception by the Holy Spirit is by credal standards a “non-negotiable”, for quite some time I could not think of the significance of the virgin birth, or the role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s conception. While we must affirm that the church from its beginning believed and held to the birth of Christ by the Spirit, what is so central about this part of Jesus’ birth?

On the one hand, one could argue that Jesus’ conception by the Spirit preserves or establishes his divine origin. Or, one could argue that the Spirit’s conception preserves Jesus from original sin. Some theologians hold that the sin nature is passed down through the father.

While these could be legitimate theological arguments (and I believe the first is), I think that, paying attention to the text, Matthew gives us a point of his own. In explaining the birth of the Christ, and the miraculous events therein, Matthew describes Christ’s birth as a “genesis”. Literally in the Greek, in verse 18, Matthew calls Jesus’ birth “the genesis of Jesus Christ”.

Now this is a very interesting phrase to use, especially considering the fact that Matthew brings in the Holy Spirit as God’s power or hand in Christ’s “genesis”.

The reason the Holy Spirit is so important in all of this is because the last “genesis” God accomplished was also by the power of the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Holy Spirit was God’s power in the creation. What’s even more striking is that in Colossians 1, Paul tells us that God the Son, Jesus, was the person through whom God created the world.

In Matthew 1:18, we see both the Spirit and the Son involved another type of “genesis”. Do you think that it is any coincidence that Matthew makes all these connections? I really don’t think so. I think what Matthew is saying in this passage is that God is making a new creation. And he’s doing it the same way as the old: through Christ, by the Spirit.

In other words, what Matthew is saying in verse 18, is that in God the Son, by God the Spirit, God the Father is making a new creation. He is restoring this fallen world from the grips of sin, and doing it in his regular Trinitarian fashion.

And so in the virgin birth, we find God making a new creation through the birth of Christ. God the Father declares that a new humanity (in Mary) should be created through Jesusand by the Holy Spirit.

Consequently no man was involved in Christ’s conception, because only God has the power create. And only God has the power to recreate his fallen creation. And so God the Father speaks, and it is done through Christ by the Spirit. And because of it, we find a new world unfolding in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus!

Frederick Dale Bruner, from his excellent commentary on Matthew, says this on verse 18:

The genesis of Jesus (and of faith in Jesus) inside any human life, the apostolic witness almost unanimously teaches, is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Creator Spiritus, who began the world’s creation (“the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters,” Gen 1:2), and who now begins the world’s new creation and it’s definitive salvation. The permanent value of the credal doctrine of the Spirit’s conception of Jesus in Mary is this; it is the Holy Spirit and not human initiative that brings Jesus into personal life (then Mary’s, now ours). When Jesus comes to anyone in history, even in his Advent coming to Mary, it is always the work of the Spirit, not of human preparation or enterprise. Every conversion is a virgin birth… The Holy Spirit, in other words, is the miraculous how of New Life. Mary’s virginal conception by the power of the Holy Spirit teaches this thrilling doctrine of the Holy Spirit pictorially.

What an interesting observation that Bruner makes here, “every conversion is a virgin birth”. Indeed, when we are saved, God speaks, and initiates a new creation by his Spirit through Christ. This recreation was started at Christ’s birth, and is finished in our miraculous new birth in Christ. 

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17).

Horatius Bonar on the Purpose of God In Creation

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Reformed theology has always posited that God’s purpose in creating the universe was not out of necessity. What I mean is that God never had to create the universe. There wasn’t something missing within him that necessitated a creation. Paul affirms this in Acts 17:4, that “God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything“. Within his own being then, God is completely free and independent.

So then, the question that has plagued many: why then did God create the universe? Horatius Bonar answers this question rightly I believe. He explains God’s purpose as revelatory, or expressive. Namely, that God created all things for the display of his own glory. God, in an overflow of his triune being, desired to create a world in which he could express the fullness of his attributes.

Bonar explains this concept further. He says,

God’s purpose…is self-manifestation, or self-revelation. It is to bear testimony to His own character. Creation in every form, animate or inanimate, is God’s witness; the utterance of His mind and heart. His design is not merely to make known that He is, but what he is; to exhibit Himself the I AM, the Being of beings, in whom all being is wrapped up, and from whom all forms of being spring; to unbosom and reveal Himself fully and perfectly; not partially and in glimpses, but completely and abidingly; by bringing forth into view and making visible all that is glorious, as well as all that is gracious, in the infinite and invisible Godhead. God does not create a world simply because he can do so, and wishes to put forth his power, but because he desires to bring out to view those riches of his own being and character which had otherwise been hidden. Again, God did not create this earth of ours a fair and happy world at first simply because he loved to see a fair world inhabited by happy creatures, but because, in that beauty and blessedness, his own character was most fully revealed, and his own glory most brightly reflected.

… This earth… is [God’s special place of self-manifestation]. It is here that this process is going on just now, and it is here that preparations are making for larger and brighter scenes of self-manifestation than eye hath yet seen or ear hath heard… The work is still advancing; the plan is not yet consummated; but the rudiments of it lie all before us; the stones of the fabric lie scattered around; and prophecy unfolds to us much regarding the coming consummation, and presents to us in no faint colors the picture of the glorious reality which from the beginning God has had in view, and which shall, before long, be given to the gaze of the universe, as God’s own perfect representation of himself.

… The purpose of self-manifestation develops itself chiefly in connexion with two great events, the first and second advents of Christ. Round these two points all other events cluster. From these two foci all light is radiating, and round them all events revolve. It is only by keeping our eye on these that we can understand the mighty scheme, and enter into the mind of God respecting it, giving to each event its proper place, order, connexion, and value.

Wow. I love this quote. God’s purpose is self-manifestation. It is the demonstration of his glory, or his attributes. Bonar goes on in this third chapter from Prophetical Landmarks to focus on the two advents, and how all of God’s attributes are demonstrated through Jesus’ death/resurrection and second coming. I agree with him, and think Paul does too. God’s purpose is for “the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:6), which is “set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:9b-10).

Why Christians Need the Old Testament

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I mentioned in my preceding post that Christians need the scriptures for encouragement, growth, and spiritual fruit, because of the very fact that the scriptures reveal God’s saving purposes for mankind. Martin Luther went so far to say that the Word of God is itself a lengthened telling of the gospel.

In this post, I want to consider just exactly how the Old Testament tells this gospel-story.

And what I want to propose is that the Old Testament is just as much about the gospel than the New. And because of this, the entire biblical narrative is concerned and centered on Jesus — and, as I said in my last post, this is why we need the scriptures, Old Testament too!

So then, how does the Old Testament bear witness to the gospel?

If read carefully, and in context, it should become clear that the Old Testament is concerned with the gospel as much as the New; it just communicates it in different ways. Vaughan Roberts says (source),

[Many] have debated for years whether or not it is possible to point to a unifying theme that binds the whole Bible together…Any unifying theme that is used to help us to see how the Bible fits together must arise from scripture itself…and it must be broad enough to allow each part to make its own distinct contribution. The theme of the kingdom of God satisfies both requirements…

[God’s kingdom can be defined as] “God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule” …[Scripture throughout presents] God longing  for human beings to enjoy an intimate relationship with him in his presence. As he is a perfect, holy God, that is possible only as we submit to his loving rule and do not sin.

What Roberts wants to communicate here is that the Old Testament may not mention the word “gospel”, but the concepts of the gospel are there. Roberts proposes that it’s easier to present “kingdom” as a unifying principle that presents the same gospel-truths, both across the Old and New Testament. I agree with him. I think that the beginning chapters of Genesis present God’s people under his rule and blessing, submitting in humility to him — they present God’s kingdom in perfect form. And Revelation 21, at the very end of the Bible, presents it that way too: God’s people under God’s rule and blessing. This is God’s goal a presented throughout the entire Bible, from beginning to end. However, we find that Adam’s sin (and ours too) corrupted and ruined this kingdom relationship. And for that, all have fallen short and deserve God’s condemnation (Rom 3:23).

God’s response, however, was not to destroy us, but to provide a means for humanity to be in blessed fellowship with him once more. Roberts says well, “[God] is certainly not defeated by the fall”; because in Genesis 3:15, we are told that God promises to restore his kingdom relationship through a Seed (a child) who would come from Eve and undue the effects of our sin, ultimately restoring creation to its original state. How will this happen? Through Jesus. This Seed is Christ, and God will use him to restore his fallen creation. Even in the first few chapters of the Bible, Jesus comes into the picture.

And this is the theme of the Old Testament, which finds fulfillment in the New: God will provide someone who will rescue humanity from their sin. The Old Testament presents God’s preparation for this great rescue.

God begins this rescue-plan by calling Abraham from his land, and giving him a promise. God promises to Abraham that through his Seed (recall Genesis 3:15?) he will bless the world. Roberts rightly says, “the covenant with Abraham is a promise of the kingdom of God…It is a promise to reverse the effects of the fall”. Paul would eventually explain that although Isaac was Abraham’s immediate “seed”, Christ is the final Seed who would bless the nations (Gal 3:16).

Then, after God established this promise, he created a nation called Israel whereby he would reveal this Seed, and set a context for redemption. Many may ask exactly why God dealt with this nation Israel before Christ’s coming? John Piper aptly answers this (source):

Israel’s history is not just about Israel. It’s about “every mouth” and “the whole world.” This was not a 2,000-year detour. God was writing a lesson book for the nations. It’s not an accident that our Bible has the Old Testament in it…Because in God’s wisdom he knew that the nations of the world would grasp the nature of Christ and his work better against the backdrop of Israel’s 2,000 year history of law and grace, faith and failure, sacrifice and atonement, wisdom and prophecy, mercy and judgment.

What Piper here is explaining is that God established Israel’s kingdom in order to teach both Israel, and the observing nations about their need for redemption. God wanted to communicate to all peoples that they could not save themselves. And God needed years of history in order to accomplish this. Paul tells us that the sacrifices, the Law, the priesthood, the temple, everything, was given in order to be a tutor to explain our state in sin, and our need forgiveness and holiness. Paul says that the Mosaic Law “was added because of transgressions…until the Seed would come to whom the promise had been made…The [Law] has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal 3:19-22). So, God used Israel and the Mosaic Law as a training station to teach the nations how one is to be saved; namely through an atoning Savior who would die for the sins of others.

In this way, the Old Testament presented the promise of a Savior, and also presented our need for him. And in the New Testament, Christ became the embodiment and fulfillment of that promised. As Paul says, the Old Testament was “a mere shadow of what was to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:17). God is a great strategist, and this is how he accomplished this great redemption.

So when we read the Old Testament, we are reading God’s promises. God is “getting ready” to present Christ. And he is doing it by revealing through Israel what he will look like, and accomplish.

In this way, the Old Testament is just as much about the gospel than the New. For this reason, we should read, treasure, enjoy, and consume God’s Word on every page.

Why I’m a Complementarian Part 1: The Biblical Narrative

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I’m doing a series on why I am complementarian. My first post will offer proof from the biblical narrative.

For those who do not know what “complementarian” means, it is the thought that biblically, men and women are created to complement one another in marriage. They have differing roles that fit and function well together. The man was created as the leader of the relationship, while the woman was created as the support and bolster of the relationship.

Some Christians espouse “egalitarianism” which supposes that male and female were created with equality, and therefore no one is the leader or supporter, and either can operate within those roles.

Common arguments for egalitarianism include the citation of Genesis 1:27, which says that all mankind was created in God’s image, both male and female. The thought is that we therefore should be equal. Others cite Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

My common response here is that I don’t argue about equality in regard to value and worth. No intelligent Christian will say that men somehow have a better standing before God than women. Rather, men have a different role than women. What Paul is saying in Galatians 3 is that in Christ, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Greek…all have equal worth and value before God. All are justified by Christ in his sight, no matter who you are. The same with Genesis 1:27; both men and women are made in God’s image — but this doesn’t mean that they must therefore function the same

If we are to logically look at it: just because both Jew and Gentile are equal in Christ, this does not mean they lose their ethnic distinction. So likewise, although men and women are both equally righteous in Christ, they still have differing roles. And, those roles have important purposes!

Now, let’s go on to the biblical narrative for evidence toward complementarity among men and women. It is so easy to look at the narrative of creation from Genesis 1:26-27, and assume a lot about gender roles. Both are made in the image of God yes; but, we must not miss the context of the next chapters. Genesis 2 gives a rehashing of the same creation account, but with more detail.

And Genesis 2:15 tells us that God created Adam first, and gave him a command to work the garden and be fruitful and multiply. This command was given to Adam, not Eve. Eve was not created until Genesis 2:18 when God said to Adam, “it is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper for him“. Now what this does not mean is that Eve has no involvement in God’s command to work the ground and multiply — rather, it is that Eve has a different role in that same mission. Eve is to be Adam’s helper. She is to come along side Adam and help him accomplish his God-given mission. This cannot be missed. This was the purpose of marriage from the beginning: that Adam would hold the responsibility of leading, and that Eve would help and bolster that God-given mission; both equal in God’s sight, but with differing roles.

It is not until the fall that we see gender roles within marriage being distorted. And it is interesting to see exactly how they are distorted. Genesis 3:16 says that after the fall, the woman’s “desire will be for [her] husband”. This word “desire” gives the connotation of wanting rule and authority over something (cf. Gen 4:7). In other words, Eve in her sin will desire to thwart Adam’s leadership by becoming her own leader. What this means is that the fall created in woman a natural aversion toward being a helper, and a sinful desire to be in authority. More than that, Adam’s role was distorted in that rather than being a loving leader, he would instead “rule over [her]” (Gen 3:16b). What this means is that after the fall, man has a sinful desire to overreach his authority as husband and domineer rather than lovingly lead.

What we must affirm here is that gender distinctions are not part of the fall. Rather, gender distinctions are distorted by the fall. This cannot be overlooked. Many today decry the thought that men should lead. The feminist movement calls for female equality. But what we should be decrying is the harsh and domineering rule that is a result of the fall.

This is why we need a new and perfect leader who can restore us not only to right relationship with God, but to one another! And Christ does this by becoming the ultimate husband to his bride. Paul picks this motif up in Ephesians 5 by giving an ethic for marriage that revolves around Christ as head over the church. Paul says to the women, “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Eph 5:24). Likewise, Paul says to men, “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph 5:25).

By his death and resurrection, Christ gives us not a new model of gender roles, but a redeemed model. Just as Christ sacrificially loved and gave himself for the church, so husbands should lovingly lead and die for their wives. And, just as believers submit to and bolster Christ’s redemptive vision and mission, so wives are to model that for their husbands. As Tim Keller says, “the gospel of Jesus and marriage explain one another” (Meaning of Marriage, p 47)

The biblical narrative therefore makes it clear that in marriage, while man and woman are equal in God’s sight, they are differing in their respective roles.

In my next post, I will consider the Trinity as a proof for gender complementarity.