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.
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.
This is kind of a part II on the subject of authority (part I). Specifically, we have a perfect model for us in our understanding of authority within the Trinity itself.
Christian thinkers since the very early church have asserted the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One in Three and Three in One. He is One in a sense and Three in a different sense. We cannot understand this, in the sense of getting our heads all the way around it. But we can assert what the Scriptures assert. God is One in the sense of His essence or being. There is but one God. But this one God eternally subsists in three Persons, three centers of consciousness. We know that the Son is aware that He is not the Father, and the Father knows that He is not the Son. They are distinct. They are all equally God, equally in possession of the single divine Essence. They are all equally powerful, knowledgeable, everywhere present and perfect in every sense.
But there is distinction of the Persons. They are aware of one another and that they are not each other. And there is also distinctions among them as to their works and acts. The Trinity always does what it does as a perfect Unity, but the Persons of the Trinity engage in the work of God in distinct ways.
Teaching recently on Genesis 3, I was impacted by an aspect of the story I hadn’t really thought about before. When the fall happens, we see that Adam and Eve are immediately plunged into shame at their nakedness, and that nakedness alienates them not only from God, but also from each other. Both of them hid themselves separately, alienated from each other as well as from God. And then when God confronts them, there is the well-known blameshifting that happens.
But God makes the promise of the gospel to them. And he kills animals and covers their nakedness, covers their shame. The killing of animals in the context of the promise of the gospel is a clear pointer to Christ. So covering them with the promise of the gospel not only allows them to dwell in fellowship with God, but also with each other.
As I reflected on this, I realized how much marriage depends on this very thing. Being married to someone, you get to know their sin very well. And people don’t sin against each other in random ways. It’s the same old patterns, day after day, year after year. And if we constantly pick at each other’s faults and sins, then the marriage will be miserable. It is in covering each other’s shame with the blood of Christ that two people can really dwell with each other in love. That’s not true only of marriage, but really of any relationship. It’s certainly true in the church as well- see how much Paul talks in the New Testament about forgiving each other. But it’s in marriage very often where you are confronted with another person’s sin most directly and most repeatedly. Certainly my wife sees my sin more clearly than anyone else, and has had to forgive me more than anyone else, and that forgiveness is always going to be the bond of any successful marriage.
The good news is, most marriages are salvageable. This is when you are talking about believers, of course. When it is unbelievers, then things get harder. But if we’re talking about believers, then the power of the gospel is sufficient, more than sufficient, to save even the most difficult of marriages with the most intractable, dug-in problems. And in fact, marriage is a wonderful opportunity for this to occur, because marriage is an environment that makes it hard to accommodate your own selfishness. It forces you to face it.
The bad news is, we’re all sinners. That’s why the first point is such good news. But for the good news to be the good news, the bad news has to be understood well. We have to face squarely the way our own sin distorts the way we look at marriage problems, in our own personal life and as church leaders.
Dr. Stephen Baskerville makes the case that the current push for gay marriage is really just the result of a long push against families that started in the past, especially with no-fault divorce, as that fundamentally altered and degraded the role of fathers in society, and expanded the power of the state as a result.
G. K. Chesterton once suggested that the family was the main check on state power and that weakening it would destroy freedom. Chesterton was writing about divorce, and here another critical difference emerges between today’s debates and the way the issue was framed by Dawson and Zimmerman and theorists they cite. While homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other cultural issues on today’s family-values agenda do appear in their writings, they are not central. The recurring issue throughout Western history that seems to be the most direct cause of marriage and family breakdown is divorce.
Given that 80 percent of divorces are unilateral, divorce today seldom involves two people simply parting ways. Under “no-fault” rules divorce often becomes a power grab by one spouse, assisted by people who profit from the ensuing litigation: judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, counselors, mediators, and social workers.
The most serious consequences involve children. The first action in a divorce is typically to separate the children from one parent, usually the father. Even if he is innocent of any legal wrongdoing and did not agree to the divorce, the state seizes his children with no burden of proof to justify its action. The burden of proof (and the financial burden) to demonstrate that they should be returned falls on him.
The reason for this is that intact families, and especially fathers that are present in the lives of the children, are one of the greatest checks on the power of the state.
Genesis 1:27 says, “male and female created He them.” The male-female dichotomy is part of the creative order from the beginning, and that dichotomy was there by God in the initial plan and intention for humanity. Humankind was to glorify God and represent God’s likeness and image, and humankind does this as “male and female”.
That refutes any possible normalization of homosexuality, polygamy, or transgenderism. It refutes the contempt, oppression, and abuse that men have so often directed toward women throughout history, but also refutes the rejection of gender distinctions and roles that is such a feature of our current age.
God made women to be female, to be distinct from men. You cannot claim to be pro-woman if you are not pro-femininity. This fact remains true both more men who hold women in contempt and women who hold their own femaleness, as God created it, in contempt.
More here, from Sunday’s sermon.