Saturday, February 17, 2007

* * * Why Gender?

Why did God create gender?
Certainly there were other ways to do community. Plants, for example, exist in species and procreate in community (like humans); but don't have gender distinctions. With all the problems of qualitative judgmentalism and injustice between genders throughout the milennia, why would God create us in the divine image . . . as male and female? (2007/02/16)
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The many great thoughts up to this point seem to fall into either the idea of 1) expressing God's community image or 2) foreshadowing the relationship between Christ and His Bride - the redeemed community. I wonder if I could direct our focus toward the first idea - the notion of how God expresses His person through the two genders, as it says in Genesis 1:27, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

What do the two genders teach us about the person of God and His character? If God's image is best expressed in these two genders, then what are there two core characteristics of His person? I'd like to suggest the two core characteristics of LOVE and TRUTH, with the feminine gender representing LOVE and the masculine gender representing TRUTH. (2007/02/21)
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A quick word study will reveal reveal the Love/Truth couplet as a dominant theme in Scripture used to explain God. Even the first chapter of John's gospel introduces Jesus' incarnate glory as "full of grace (i.e. love) and truth".

I'm guessing some might react negatively to the masculine-truth / feminine-love suggestion, given how Western society has over-emphasized the mind and intellectual truth while under-emphasizing the heart and its function of love. But that qualitative judgment isn't found in Scripture. The Bible never puts Truth and Love in competition with each other. They are undivorcable, interdependent realities that apparently lie at the very essence of the Divine character.

So what does this mean for us practically?

Firstly, I think it helps us understand what "drives" God. God is compelled to be faithful to His character of Truth and Love. In fact, since we're talking about the nature of God before humanity, it's entirely justifiable to refer to the Divine as "They" instead of "He" for this conversation. "They" includes the notions of the Triune Community along with the communal character of Truth and Love. And while we're at it, we could knit this together even more tightly under the Master Plan of God by including Faith in the "They" as well.

Faith, Hope, and Love are repeatedly commissioned in the New Testament; but that beautiful triad isn't limited to simply the New Community if we understand real Hope as always rooted in real Truth. (Hang with me here.) The obedient action of Faith, the hope-producing Truth, and loyal Love are frequently listed together in the Old Testament as well - especially in the Psalms.

"You, O Lord, are a God ... abundant in lovingkindnes and truth. Oh grant Your strength (i.e. to exercise the obedient action of faith) to Your servant." (Psalm 87:15-16)

"Lovingkindness and truth go before You . . . For You are the glory of [our] strength (i.e. from faith)." (Psalm 89:14, 17).
Faith is more subtle than Love and Truth because it is the interaction with and application of Love and Truth. It is the catalyst of motion for Love and Truth. For example, God's Love and Truth isn't enough to save us, is it? What is also needed is our Choice... our action of Faith.

I see an amazing parallel between these three realities and the Triune person of God. The Father loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus, the Logos, the truth, so that we might be reborn spiritually through faith in and given by the Spirit.

Secondly, I think this understanding helps us understand, embrace, and celebrate gender identies and roles. Is the Father "greater" than the Son? No. Are men "greater" than women? No, again. Is the Father limited in truth or the Son limited in love? C'mon. Neither are men limited in love or women limited in knowledge? And the faith that catalyzes love and truth is embodied in the choice of relational action and mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) between husbands and wives, women and men.

So how does this strike you? (2007/02/23)
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11 comments:

Makeesha said...

I guess I would have to say that it is because it is what most accurately reflects God's image.

John Lynch said...

I believe that. But how?

Makeesha said...

how? you mean besides man and woman reflecting the different facets of God's "personality"?

or why God didn't just create Adam with all of God's characteristics? good question.

Luke said...

A great question John. I am curious to hear your answer. It's interesting to note that gender existed before Adam and Eve. Before Adam even. So the simple answer of reflecting God's image in humans cannot be fully sufficient. There is the relational aspect of reflection that humans have that animals do not, but that does not necessarily answer the question of why two genders.

It seems that They wanted to create relational beings that could experience oneness in a way that reflects the Trinity, thus needing more than one gender. Along with unity, gender reflects diversity, which is fully present in the Trinity. As to why God did not create 3 genders rather than 2, I'm all ears for any explanations.

David said...

One gender would mean I'd be like a plant and I've never seen a plant enjoy the company of another plant.
Three would be similiar to Mormonism (just with the extra gender of course) and no man can handle more than one partner (woman plus a threeman?), so I guess two is the magic number.

As for any spiritual reason, I have not idea. I wonder if it has something to do with the foreknowledge of God relating to us as the 'bride of Christ'.

But maybe that's too spiritual.
I'm gonna go hug a tree now - but that's a different subject.

John Lynch said...

Luke, I've never thought of the significance of gender existing before humans, before. Great observation that's worth exploring!

Mak, I'm interested in how you understand the two genders express the different facets of God's personality. Would you expand that a bit?

(This discussion is exciting for me and super-practical because it not only promises to help us understand God better, but also gender roles and relationships as well as issues of human identity.)

Adam Gonnerman said...

God must have a great sense of humor. Our being "male and female" and all the deep differences that entails really challenges us to develop community. It is not easy, and perhaps the differences are there to make us work at it, learn and have something truly worthwhile. Above all we learn the importance of love based on commitment and respect.

sernaferna said...

I agree with part of what David said in an earlier comment; I think the reason—or at least one of the reasons—that God created genders was to mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Although it's more related to "marriage" than "gender", I suppose. In the New Testament, the Church is called the "bride of Christ" and in the Old Testament, when the Israelites worshipped other gods, it was sometimes called "adultery".

It's not something I can explain properly, but I feel that I've been understanding my relationship with God better, since I got married. There's something about marriage that reflects our relationship with God very well. (There are, differences, naturally…)

And, of course, if/when I have children, I'm sure that my father/child relationship will help me understand my relationship with God even more. I mention that because I think the whole concept of children also comes into play, if we're going to talk about why God created genders.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

John Lynch said...

*** NOTE: ALL ABOVE COMMENTS WERE MADE BEFORE THE 2/21 POST ADDITION ***

John Lynch said...

*** NOTE: ALL ABOVE COMMENTS WERE MADE BEFORE THE 2/23 POST ADDITION ***

Al said...

I honestly don't get it myself. I mean, God could have created these different "male" or "female" characteristics in us even if we were genderless. The fact that we can't procreate without a community where each gender is represented, though, that's interesting. Did God set it up this way to force us to live in this mixed community and encourage us to figure one another out? Maybe this has less to do with gender differences and more to do with independence vs. dependence?