“A biblical understanding of human equality should begin with Genesis 1:26-28, where women and men together without distinction are declared to be created in God’s image and are given authority over all creation. In both their being (the divine image) and their calling (authority and dominion) men and women are CREATIONALLY EQUAL” (“Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy,” by Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, pages 305-306).
Rebecca Merrill Groothuis believes that Genesis 1:26-28 serves as the foundation for a discussion on men and women in the church; and I think so as well. I mean, the only way to know what Christ desires of His church is to know what He desired of men and women in the beginning. This way, men and women would be living out the primary reason for which they were created.
Let’s reprint the text of Genesis 1 so that everyone can read the above-mentioned
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will
rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them MALE and FEMALE. God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and SUBDUE it. RULE the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth’” (Gen. 1:26-28, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
When God decided to create man, He said, “THEY [referring to male and female, both genders] will RULE the fish of the sea…” The Greek word for “they will rule” in the Septuagint (LXX) is “arxetosan.” This word is not a future verb, but instead, a subjunctive verb—which means that the action is voluntary on the part of God. A more accurate translation would be, “LET THEM rule…” Translating it this way shows that God WILLED man to have dominion; He wasn’t forced to give dominion to mankind. God gave it to both man and woman, though, because it SEEMED GOOD TO HIM to do so.
Look at verse 27. God made both male and female and gave them His image. Woman is equal to man solely on the basis that she was CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, just as much as the man was!!
In verse 28, God tells man to “subdue” the earth. The Greek word for “subdue” in the Septuagint is “katakurieusate,” which is an imperative meaning, “BE LORD OVER.” So God blessed the man AND the woman, and then told them both to be lord over the earth. The most fascinating thing about these instructions from God is that, by so doing, by telling Adam and Eve to “be lord over” the earth, He was telling them to act upon their SIMILARLITY to Himself!! God is the LORD of everything, whether in heaven, on earth, or beneath the earth; and yet, man was made “lord” over the earth. Man was given a benefit, a privilege, BY VIRTUE OF being made in God’s image.
And it is here that I have to talk about God’s actions: when He makes man and decides to give him rule over the earth, He doesn’t just affirm their likeness to Himself IN THEORY—He actually gives them something to do or act upon because they bear the image of the Divine.
Complementarians, then, are outside the line of orthodoxy when they spend all their time on the biological differences of men and women.
Tell me, what would have happen to us if God considered our “likeness” to Him to be something in which we did NOTHING like Him (which includes ruling over and watching over the earth)? As I mentioned above, God WILLED man to have rule over the earth (He wasn’t forced to let man rule). However, He did it because He wanted to, but He could have done it differently because He was GOD—and man, although LIKE HIM in many ways, would never BE HIM COMPLETELY!! So the first chapter of Genesis, in stark contrast to the argument of the complementarian, affirms not only man and woman as being equally made in the image of God (and hence, their equality), but also the SIMILARLITY of mankind to his (and her) Creator! Not even God emphasizes mankind’s DIFFERENCES from Him; no—He focuses on the SIMILARITIES that man would have to Himself. It is in the spirit of similarities that the Lord allows mankind to “rule” the earth.
I think Genesis 1:26-28, however, shows us something more. Not only are we LIKE God, but we receive blessings FROM God (dominion over the earth) because we are like Him. Our being LIKE Him, yet DIFFERENT FROM Him, are not used to restrict man’s ability, or mistreat him, or to throw God’s weight around. And by virtue of being humans, “Christ-bearers” (bearers of the imago Dei), we are given power and authority and a “kingdom” in which to rule. This doesn’t match the complementarian view, which STRESSES the DIFFERENCES and DIMINISHES the SIMILARITIES!
Complementarians have a problem when they assert that a woman’s biological differences make her LESS than the man—not even God made that pronouncement in the Garden…
I’ll discuss more of the implications of Groothuis’s quote above in my next post.