Who would have imagined that we’d see the day when society cannot recognize the difference between male and female? And given our inability to recognize the difference between male and female, we have no category at all for recognizing difference in relationships between them. But this is the issue – a given in earlier days – to which Christians must now speak. And we must speak with informed, biblical clarity.
Yet it seems that although many of us understand gender differences rather intuitively, we have not given great effort to understanding them biblically. Just how did these differences come about? Are they merely culturally imposed? Or does it have something to do with the way God created us? And if the latter, then why? What was God saying about us – and himself – when he made us male and female in his “image”? What are the necessary ramifications? How does it reflect the gospel?
Reformed Presbyterian Pastor Sam Andreades has considerable experience addressing these kinds of questions, and his new Engendered: God’s Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship provides a biblical perspective of the various issues and questions involved. The book “builds a theology of gender in six propositions through addressing gender questions about close relationships one chapter at a time. Each chapter begins with questions we typically hear on people’s lips today, representing problems the chapter then addresses.”
Throughout his treatment of the subject is both informed and pastorally sensitive. He offers a robust affirmation of the ontological equality of the sexes. His identification of the divine “image” as inclusive of both male and female is especially strong. And of particular value is explaining gender significance particularly in terms of relationship.
So it should not surprise us that the places where the Bible brings up gender are in instructions for relationship with the mysterious other. This is where gender particularly matters. Indeed, it is hard to find New Testament instruction to, or description of, one gender without instruction to, and description of, the other. We cannot find commands to men as men without finding commands to women nearby. There is a reciprocal character to the Bible’s gender lessons…. In other words, gender is defined in relationship. (pp.53-54).
“Gender is a gift, a specialty, for developing another person in relationship. In a passage like Ephesians 5:22–33, the major marriage address in the New Testament, this is certainly the case. The husband takes on his masculinity in order to beautify his wife with attention and likewise the wife takes on her femininity in order to empower the husband with honor…. This explains why Christians find less agreement on what “makes a man” or “makes a woman” than on what they should be doing for one another. Their Bible does not say, “A man is this” and “A woman is that,” but rather “Man, do this for her.” “Woman, do that for him.” It is clearer on action than on essence” (p. 56).
I’m not a man, and you’re not a woman, because we split up at the movies and you see Pride and Prejudice while I watch The Terminator. Movie preference is not what makes me a man. Gender is a matter of missing ribs. As Paul puts it, “in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman” (1 Cor. 11:11–12). Our English versions frame it as “dependence.” Literally, verse 11 says, “Woman is not apart from man. Man is not apart from woman.” Manhood is defined in relation to woman and womanliness in relation to man. Adam could not really know himself without
Andreades has conducted years of research that he shares throughout the book, not just interviews with couples, simply, but also interviews with former homosexuals who now enjoy a married, heterosexual relationship. The responses are often revealing and illustrative of biblical teaching.
A positive, helpful, sensitive, faithful, engaging, and timely book.
Table of Contents
The Way through the Thicket:
Who We Are and Where Relationships Come From
1. We Have Lost the Trail of Relational Love
“I am a lesbian. Does Jesus accept me ‘Just as I Am’?”
2. The God of Closeness Has Shown Himself
“What does God have to do with my love life?”
3. Gender Is Hard to Talk About for Good Reason
“Why do I feel embarrassed saying women are different from men?”
4. They Are Equal in Power and Glory
“Doesn’t the Bible denigrate women?”
5. Gender Matters in Relationship
“Jesus never talks about homosexuality, does He?”
6. Sex Differences Form the Platform of God’s Gift
“I thought boys were better at math, but then why is my wife a nuclear physicist?”
The Trail Markers:
Embracing Asymmetry for the Other
7. The Grand Asymmetries of Gender Give Us Specialties
“Where is my job description as a husband in this marriage thing?”
8. The Asymmetry of Origin: The Man of the Solid Ground and the Woman of the Resting Rib
“What do you want me to do, stay home and bake cookies?”
9. The Asymmetry of Order (Part 1): The Firstborn
“Can’t I find a woman who is not so high-maintenance?”
10. The Asymmetry of Order (Part 2): The Promoter
“If we’re equal, why should he be in charge?”
11. The Asymmetry of Intent: The Commissioned and the Empowerer
“Why can’t she get off my back about reading to the kids? I don’t feel like it.”
12. Gender Specialties: Banishing Independence
“What’s wrong with cross-dressing?”
13. Culture: The Clothes of Gender
“Should I be worried that my friend Peggy spends all her spare time on football?”
The Inner Wood:
The Dynamics of Getting Close
14. The Purpose of the Genders: A Gift to Foster Intimacy
“It isn’t possible for a homosexual man to enjoy sex with a woman . . . is it?”
15. Deeper Still: Dynamics of Intergendered Intimacy
“How could depending on her make me more me?”
16. Sex: Respecting the Platform of Distinction
“Why would God keep my gay friend from experiencing true love in a monogamous lifelong relationship?”
17. Continuum of Closeness: When Gender Does and Doesn’t Matter
“Should I refuse my company’s offer of CEO because I am a woman?”
18. The Immense Invitation
“How close can we get?”
Appendix 1: A Theology of Gender
Appendix 2: The Structure of Judges: We Need a King
See our Summary of this book here.
Fred G. Zaspel