Thursday, November 22, 2012

Illustrated Summary of Different by Design by John MacArthur (on Men and Women)

"The fact that men and women are different by design is no surprise to those who are committed to reality or familiar with the Bible. It is a great surprise, however, to many who, over several decades, have engineered, vigorously endorsed, or passively succumbed to the social experiments that deny or attempt to alter that design." So begins this book by Pastor John MacArthur that I had the privilege of editing shortly before my first child was born. It helped me think through what I wanted to emphasize to my children about their masculinity or femininity. Some of these introductory illustrations on the relevance of the topic are a couple decades old, but just as timely as ever:

An Always Timely Topic

Item: "Many scientists rely on elaborately complex and costly equipment to probe the mysteries confronting humankind. Not Melissa Hines. The UCLA behavioral scientist is hoping to solve one of life's oldest riddles with a toybox full of police cars, Lincoln Logs, and Barbie dolls....Hines and her colleagues have tried to determine the origins of gender differences by capturing on videotape the squeals of delight, furrows of concentration and myriad decisions that children from 2 1/2 to 8 make while playing. Although both sexes play with all the toys available in Hines' laboratory, her work confirms what most parents (and more than a few aunts, uncles and nursery-school teachers) already know. As a group, the boys favor sports cars, fire trucks, and Lincoln Logs, while the girls are drawn more often to dolls and kitchen toys.... During the feminist revolution of the 1970s, talk of inborn differences in the behavior of men and women was distinctly unfashionable, even taboo....Once sexism was abolished, so the argument ran, the world would become a perfectly equitable, androgynous place, aside from a few anatomical details. but biology has a funny way of confounding expectations. Rather than disappear, the evidence for innate sexual differences only began to mount....Another generation of parents discovered that, despite their best efforts to give baseballs to their daughters and sewing kits to their sons, girls still flocked to dollhouses while boys clambered into tree forts" (Time magazine cover story, "Sizing Up the Sexes," Christine Gorman, 20 January 1992).  

Item: A book on brain physiology, provocatively titled, Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, details the empirical evidence for innate differences between the sexes. Anne Moir acquired her interest in the topic as a student at Oxford University working for her doctorate in genetics amid the radical feminist atmosphere of the '70s. She noticed that some scientists seemed afraid of their discoveries about male/female differences, downplaying their significance over concern about political correctness. But Dr. Moir followed the mounting evidence through the years and shared her findings with reporter David Jessel. The book that emerged from their joint effort has this electrifying introduction: "Men are different from women....To maintain that they are the same in aptitude, skill or behaviour is to build a society based on a biological and scientific lie. The sexes are different because their brains are different. The brain, the chief administrative and emotional organ of life, is differently constructed in men and in women; it processes information in a different way, which results in different perceptions, priorities and behaviour....Doctors, scientists, psychologists and sociologists, working apart, have produced a body of findings which, taken together, paints a remarkably consistent picture. And the picture is one of startling sexual asymmetry....It is time to explode the social myth that men and women are virtually interchangeable, all things being equal. All things are not equal" (Dell, 1991). 

Item: Dr. Deborah Tannen, a linguist, wrote a book with one chapter out of ten on gender differences, but 90 percent of the requests she received for interviews, articles, and lectures were from people wanting to know more about communication variations between men and women. She decided she wanted to learn more so she wrote an entire book on the subject that remained on bestseller lists for years, saying, "I am joining the growing dialogue on gender and language because the risk of ignoring differences is greater than the danger of naming them. Sweeping something big under the rug doesn't make it go away; it trips you up and sends you sprawling....Pretending that women and men are the same hurts women, because the ways they are treated are based on the norms for men. It also hurts men who, with good intentions, speak to women as they would to men, and are nonplussed when their words don't work as they expected, or even spark resentment and anger....If we recognize and understand the differences between us, we can take them into account, adjust to, and learn from each others' styles" (Ballantine, 1991).

Item: One young single mother wrote a book asserting that the feminist movement has, first of all, failed women and childrenwith men not far behind. She points out that "riffling through the pages of your daughters' school books, what you won't a single image celebrating the work women do as wives and mothers. That carefully and systematically expunged from the official cultural record. Sexual equality is our culture's rationale for denying the existence of specifically female contributions, an excuse for withdrawing social approval and protection when women refuse to behave just like men.... When a culture begins to promote false conceptions of sex, gender, and family, the reverberations are felt immediately, penetrating deep into the least public and most intimate realms of our daily lives" (Maggie Gallagher, Enemies of Eros [Chicago: Bonus, 1989]). An article in The Atlantic Monthly described those reverberations in chilling detail. Its conclusion? That "over the past two and a half decades Americans have been conducting what is tantamount to a vast natural experiment in family life....This is the first generation in the nation's history to do worse psychologically, socially, and economically than its parents" (Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, "Dan Quayle Was Right" [April 1993]).

What Does the Bible Say About Men and Women?

That is the crucial question John MacArthur answers in Different by Design, later retitled, Divine Design (order information is at the end of this post). He explains simply and directly the key biblical passages describing what it means to be a man or woman from God's perspective, and the grand design and fulfillment that await those who embrace the truth. Any examination of the role of men and women in God's design must begin with Genesis 1-3.

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:27-28 states, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" Notice that God created both man and woman in His image (that is, possessing intellect, emotions, and will) to serve as co-regents over the earth and its creatures.

Genesis 2:7 describes the creation of man in greater detail: "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." After placing man in the Garden of Eden, commanding him to cultivate it and not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him" (2:18). So He created Eve to assist Adam in ruling an undefiled world: "The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man" (2:21-22). Upon meeting his wife, awestruck Adam declared, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (2:23). Since man was created first, he was given headship over his wife and creation. The fact that Adam named Eve manifested his authority over herfrom ancient times naming has been a privilege bestowed on those with authoritybut their original relationship was so pure and perfect that his headship over her was a manifestation of his consuming love for her, and her submission to him a manifestation of her consuming love for him. Each lived for the other in perfect fulfillment of their created purpose under God's perfect provision and care.

But something terrible happened to God's beautiful design. Genesis 3 describes the first sin on earth. Bypassing the leadership of the man, the fallen angel Satan, in the form of a serpent, went after the woman. He succeeded in enticing her to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She in turn persuaded Adam to commit the same sin. Eve sinned not only in disobeying God's specific command but also in acting independently of her husband by failing to consult him about the serpent's temptation. Adam sinned not only by disobeying God's command but also by succumbing to Eve's usurpation of his leadership, thus failing to exercise his God-given authority. Both the man and the woman twisted God's plan for their relationship, reversing their roles, and brought into the world death, pain in childbearing, strenuous work, and strife between the sexesbetween men and women in general.

The Redeemer Will Crush the Serpent
With this Fall of mankind came the distortion of woman's proper submissiveness and of man's proper authority. Women have a sinful inclination to usurp their man's authority and men have a sinful inclination to put women under their feet. The unredeemed nature of both men and women is self-preoccupied and self serving, characteristics that can only destroy rather than support harmonious relationships. But in Genesis 3 God also tells of a Redeemer to come who will reverse the cursed effects of the Fall. That Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Redeemer to the Rescue
The New Testament declares that "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3). If Christ, the Son of God or God the Son, had not submitted to the will of God the Father, redemption for mankind would have been impossible, and we would be lost forever. If individuals do not submit to Christ as Savior and Lord, they will be doomed for rejecting God's gracious provision. And if a wife does not submit to her husband, the family and society as a whole will be harmed. Whether on a divine or human scale, submission and authority are indispensable elements in God's order and design. Notice the word imbedded in Authority: let it remind you that God is the Author of all creation so He naturally has the Author or Sovereign's right to determine how His creation best operates.

Before instructing believers in Christ on how authority and submission should characterize their specific relationships, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the general attitude: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). That translates a military term meaning "to arrange" or "rank under." The Apostle Peter says similarly, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution" (1 Peter 2:13). A nation cannot function without rulers, soldiers, police and others in leadership. That's not to say they're inherently superior to other citizens, but leaders are necessary for maintaining law and order to prevent the nation from falling into a state of anarchy. In the home, the smallest unit of human society, the same principle applies. Even a small household cannot function if each member fully demands and expresses his or her own will. The system of authority God has ordained for the family is the headship of husbands over wives and of parents over children.

Relationships Set Right

Here's the divine mandate: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church, His Body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,  so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of His Body.  'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  'Honor your father and mother' (this is the first Commandment with a promise),  'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 5:226:4).

The majority of this crucial text addresses husbands, who are to treat their wives as equals, willingly fulfilling their God-given responsibilities of caring, protecting, and providing for them. Likewise wives fulfill their God-given responsibility when they submit willingly to their own husbands. That reflects not only the depth of intimacy and vitality in their relationship, but also the sense of ownership a wife has for her husband. As Paul says elsewhere, "Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Corinthians 7:2-4). The reason a wife is to submit to her husband is "the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church" (Ephesians 5:23). The head gives the orders, the body doesn't. When a physical body responds appropriately to the mind, it is well coordinated. A wife who responds willingly and lovingly honors God, her husband, her family, her church, and herself. Additionally, she becomes a beautiful testimony of the Lord before the watching world.

The wife's submission requires intelligent participation for her to be the ideal complement and helper to her mate. One godly wife, reflecting on her favorite biblical example of submission, wrote this: "The virgin Mary's answer hold no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans. It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: 'I am the Lord's servant....May it be to me as you have said' (Luke 1:38). This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity. It means surrender. Think of a bride. She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage....The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it 'of great worth in God's sight' (1 Peter 3:4), is the true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary" (Elisabeth Elliot, "The Essence of Femininity" in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper [Crossway, 1991]).

The Lord's pattern of love for His Church is the husband's pattern of love for his wife: a Sacrificial, Purifying, Caring, and Unbreakable Love. Love is a choice we make; it is an act of our will as well as our heart. Husbands, when you put your own likes, desires, opinions, preferences, and welfare aside to please your wife and meet her needs, then you are truly dying to self to live for your wife in a Christlike manner.

Christ loved the church sacrificially with this goal in mind: "That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,  so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:26-27). That is a purifying love, teaching us this basic truth: When you love someone, that person's purity is your goal. You can't love a person and at the same time want to defile him or her.

Similarly, when your body has needs, you meet them. Your wife also has needs, and you're to care for them just as diligently. When she needs strength, give her strength. When she needs encouragement, give her that. Whatever she needs, you are obligated to supply as best you can. Don't forget: You're her divinely ordained provider and protector, but should that responsibility ever overwhelm you, recall that God is your Provider and Protector. He will help you do all that He requires.

"A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh," says Paul in Ephesians 5, quoting Genesis 2 as an echo of Jesus, who concluded the matter by saying, "Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate" or divorce (Matthew 19:6). God's ideal for marriage is that it be indivisible. As Christ is one with His church, husbands are one with their wives. Your marriage is either a symbol or a denial of Christ and His Church.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

A special ministry of mature women in the Church  is to "encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the Word of God will not be dishonored" (Titus 2:4-5). God has designed women with a need for the protection that a godly husband and home provides. He ordains men to take the lead in providing a haven for their wives, who in turn  provide a haven for their husbands and children, and a place of hospitality for others.

No other passage of Scripture gives us the model of the worker at home better than Proverbs 31. Here we see a dynamic, intelligent woman hard at work:
 10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
 12 She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
 13 She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.
 14 She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.
 15 She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.
 16 She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 17 She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
 18 She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night.
 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.
 20 She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.
 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
 22 She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
 23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.
 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
 28 Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
 29 "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all."
 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
 31 Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

A godly homemaker serves as an economist, administrator, and business manager to analyze available products, exercise wisdom and foresight to make intelligent purchases, and assign tasks to her household labor force. At the same time she happily fulfills her responsibilities as a wife to her husband and provides tender, loving care to all her children and the needy. This noble work is not emphasized or appreciated to the degree it should be, but that will turn around when single and married men and women embrace instead of chafe against God's ideal of young women being "workers at home," joyfully making whatever sacrifices are necessary at the appropriate time in their lives, and encouraging others to do the same.

Men and Women in the Church

Scripture is timeless, thus it is contemporary. Just as God Himself never changes, neither does His Word. It is as active and living today as it was 2,000 years ago. As we move through these  instructions in 1 Timothy 2 to men and women in the Church, notice how they are a means of great blessing and not a declaration of second-class status:
 8 I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Jesus Commends the Learner
God intends for wise, elder men to lead when the Church meets for corporate worship. The prayers of those men will be effective when they are characterized by holy lives. Women who have committed themselves to pursuing godliness demonstrate that not only by sensitive choices regarding their appearance, but also by their kind, righteous deeds. They are not to be the public teachers when the Church assembles (yet that doesn't forbid them from teaching in other appropriate circumstances), but women are to be avid learners. When two sisters named Mary and Martha invited Jesus into their home, Mary "sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Word. But Martha was distracted with much serving so she said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.' But Jesus said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her'" (Luke 10:39-42).

A woman's subordinate role did not result after the Fall as a cultural, chauvinistic corruption of God's perfect design. Rather, God established her role as part of His original creation, making woman after man to be his suitable companion and helper. By nature Eve was not suited to assume the position of ultimate responsibility. Even though a woman bears the stigma of being the initial instrument who led the human race into sin, women may be preserved or freed from that stigma by raising a generation of godly children. This passage of Scripture is speaking in general terms; God does not want all women to be married, let alone bear children, but most women will. Because mothers have a unique bond and intimacy with their children, and spend far more time with them than do fathers, they have a far greater influence in their lives and thus a unique responsibility and opportunity to lead them out of sin to godliness. The godly appearance, demeanor, and behavior commanded of believing women in the Church is motivated by the promise of deliverance from any inferior status and the joy of raising godly children.

Men and women are different by God's design, and the ultimate purpose for that design displays the beauty and order in inherent in God's creation. To do anything less than maintain His order is to bring reproach on His name. May we who love Christ be "blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," among whom we appear as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15)!

How to Order the Latest Edition

No comments:

Post a Comment