The Curse on Humanity and Woman’s Desire

Pastor Sam Powell (full disclosure:  my brother, in case you didn’t know already!) wrote an article taking issue with the translation that the ESV has adopted of Genesis 3:16 and the nature of the curse God pronounced on the woman.  I have a couple of issues with it, however.  Given that Sam is taking issue with a published position paper of the RCUS, his own denomination, I think an answer is warranted.  The issue he raises has multiple implications, and is one we need to be clear over.  My intention is not specifically to defend the ESV translation, which does perhaps do a bit more interpreting than we like a literal translation to do, but rather to ask some questions about the conclusions Sam reaches in his article.

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The Humility of God

I was thinking this morning about the paradox of Jesus coming to earth as the express image of God, God’s perfect representation as the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Word of God, but coming as a servant, in humility. But how does this humility and service teach us who God is, who is high and exalted above all?
And then this morning at breakfast I read this psalm:
 “Psalm 113:1 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD!  2 Blessed be the name of the LORD From this time forth and forevermore!  3 From the rising of the sun to its going down The LORD’S name is to be praised.  4 The LORD is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens.  5 Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high,  6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?  7 He raises the poor out of the dust, And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,  8 That He may seat him with princes– With the princes of His people.  9 He grants the barren woman a home, Like a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!”  (Psa 113:1-9 NKJ)
Look at that!  Our high and glorious God, above all heavens (verse 4) shows his even greater glory and greatness in that He, God, humbles Himself!  Speaking even before the Incarnation, apart from the humanity of Jesus, God condescends to notice and take up the cause of the poor and weak, the widow and the orphan.  He humbles Himself to serve us.  The error is not in thinking that God would serve us, the error is thinking that we can dictate to God how it is that He serves us.
And that means that it is when we humble ourselves and serve others, especially those lower than us in station, those we may view as unworthy of our time and attention, that we are most like God.  Not just most like Jesus in His incarnation, but like God in His divine eternity.
Of course that shows us what real humility looks like.  Not saying, “Oh poor, no-good, stupid me.”  Not in saying, I have nothing to offer so I’ll just stay at home by myself watching TV.  But in seeking the good of others, especially those viewed as lower in power, prestige, or status than ourselves.  Humility might not look “nice” the way we think of it.  Humility might look like smashing the idols of the heathen, destroying their empires, breaking their bow and their chariot, because doing so gets their boot off the neck of the poor and needy.
And of course Jesus in His incarnation is the fullest representation of what this really looks like.  He who dined with the despised, who healed the sick, who cleansed the lepers, but who resisted the proud, who rebuked the self-righteous, who kicked over the tables of the greedy- Jesus in His incarnation perfectly revealed to us the true nature not only of true and righteous man, but also revealed to us who God really is.

Valuing Femaleness

Some thoughts drawn from and related to my sermon yesterday:

It seems to me that one of the most pernicious byproducts of feminism today is to despise what women actually are, to despise real femaleness.  But I don’t think it’s a problem unique to today, but something built into the curse on sin itself.

Men’s gifts tend to be more obvious, more easy to understand.  Men are physically stronger, tend to be more dominant, more leadership-oriented.  They tend to be better at specializing in single tasks or fields, which I believe is why most of your world-class experts in given fields are usually men.  I am not sure men on average are better at science than women, for example, but since men are better at specializing, most of your leading experts will be men.

So if you resist any idea that men and women are better at different things, that any difference in abilities between men and women is the result of sexism or patriarchy or whatever, then the result is that you’ll end up focusing on all the ways that women are demonstrably inferior, since those are simpler and easier to see and describe, and we human beings tend to like simple stories.  And we men especially like stories that make us look better than others.

This idea helps me understand the real purpose of the Proverbs 31 woman, which I don’t think is really intended to beat up on all the ways women fail (though it’s often put to this use), or to say that all women need to be specifically doing these kinds of things (like the idea that all women need to have some kind of home-based business to contribute to the family’s income).  Rather, it’s a great demonstration of this principle.  If you’re just completely focused on women’s equality and their separate individual achievement, then the really simplistic story here is to say, “how come her husband gets to sit in the gates (a position of political or judicial leadership) while she’s slaving away at home?” But this woman is likely not as good at that job as he is.  If you try to put her there, she may fail, very few women being as suited to that task as the best men.  But with her doing the things she excels at, she enables him to do the thing he excels at.  Viewed as a team, whose gifts complement each other, now both can be valued and recognized.  He can sit in the gate and excel at government, because he can totally trust his wife to excel at managing the household.

So the real purpose of the Proverbs 31 woman is to get men to recognize all the ways their women help them behind the scenes, less than it’s about giving women a list of things they’re supposed to be doing.  Of course, by implication, the passage also encourages the woman reader to strive to be virtuous by using her gifts in creative ways to benefit the whole household.  But the passage is actually addressed to men, not women, so that’s secondary.

Another example that really resonates with me is the example of the combat troops of an army and its support and supply infrastructure.  In military science I’ve heard it said that amateurs talk about strategy while professionals talk about logistics.  It’s the troops and the battles that will make it into the history books, but without the often invisible cooks, wagon drivers, mechanics, nurses, and the like, the army will lose the war.  It doesn’t matter at all how brave or skilled the soldiers are if they are not physically where they need to be with the right equipment when the battle actually happens.  The supply lines are weaker, more vulnerable than the front-line troops, but that doesn’t mean they are unimportant or inferior.  Far from it.  They need to be carefully guarded because of how important and vulnerable they are.  Likewise men need to guard women as the weaker vessel, and one of the things men need to help protect the women from is the lies of the world and Satan that teach them to despise their femininity.

The Bible doesn’t give us some canonical list of all the character traits that men are better at or women are better at.  We should never generalize or legislate where the Bible doesn’t.  But one of the effects of the curse is that men and women both come to despise femininity, the woman often envying and resenting the man’s gifts, and the man having contempt for the woman for the obvious ways she is weaker than him without recognizing or valuing the ways she is stronger.  The Gospel of course is the cure for all of this, and the book of Proverbs is a huge help.

Race in America, and the Real Problem

We live in a cursed and fallen world.  That proposition shouldn’t require more evidence than looking around us.  There is no hope for this world outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the whole Old Testament and the history of Israel demonstrates that you cannot change people’s hearts by law.  The perfect law of God given through Moses did not change the hearts of the people.  The laws of America sure aren’t going to, either.  Neither will protests, riots, or elections.

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I didn’t say White Nationalism

In the previous article, I said I think nationalism is a good thing.  I find it important to note, however, that I did not say “white nationalism.”  That is important to note, not just for those who oppose nationalism who might be tempted to mischaracterize my argument, but also for various alt-right types who might be tempted to overcharacterize what I said.  I am in favor of nationalism.  I am not in favor of white nationalism.

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Abuse of Authority

Limits of Authority

The last two articles on this subject covered the issue of the Biblical basis and nature of authority, and how we see that modeled in the Trinity itself. In the first article, I promised to try to answer a very difficult question, and that is how we deal with the inevitable abuses of authority.

I say “try to answer” because it is indeed a very difficult question, dependent on many circumstances. Hopefully this will be helpful.

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Does the Son Submit to the Father from Eternity?

*updates below, including new quote from Warfield.

My last post  got me embroiled in a bit of a controversy that’s been brewing regarding the idea of authority and submission within the Trinity, though I was planning these articles on authority before I knew this was happening.  There are some that are asserting that such an idea is contrary to Trinitarian orthodoxy, but I just don’t see it.  So I thought I would share some quotes regarding this matter from several well-regarded theologians, followed by some Biblical passages and some analysis of my own.

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