Understanding GenderJanuary 1, 2016
What did God have in mind when he made each of us a man or a woman? Professors Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger take us all the way back to the book of Genesis to discover God's original intent for men and women.
What did God have in mind when he made each of us a man or a woman? Professors Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger take us all the way back to the book of Genesis to discover God's original intent for men and women.
Bob: Genesis 1 says that God created us male and female. Andreas Köstenberger says that verse from Genesis 1 is pretty significant for all of us.
Andreas: What it means to be a man and a woman is central to our identity. Unfortunately, it’s not just the culture that has infirmed it. It’s the church as well because the culture has invaded the church. So, we feel like—if there is to be greater unity again in the church, it’s only going to be around the teaching of Scripture.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll explore what the Bible has to say about God’s design for manhood and womanhood today and see just how central it is to how He has made us. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You think there’s any controversy around what we’re talking about this week?
Dennis: Oh my goodness! You know—
Bob: I mean, even in the church—
Dennis: Well, think about it, Bob—what is the major sexual revolution that is occurring in our world today? It’s around gender, gender identity, and the responsibilities of husbands and wives in a marriage relationship. Even people, who are followers of Christ, go through a lot of biblical gymnastics to twist the Bible to make it fit what the world’s teaching. Unfortunately, that’s really not a solution.
I know that our guests today on our broadcast have written a book called God’s Design for Man and Woman.
Bob: They jumped right into the deep end of the pool on this; didn’t they?
Dennis: They sure did, and this is not a light read.
This is a very thoughtful, biblically-based book for anyone who wants to understand what the Bible teaches around gender issues.
And joining us on the broadcast are Margaret and Andreas Köstenberger. Welcome back to the broadcast.
Andreas: Thanks for having us.
Margaret: Thank you.
Dennis: Margaret is a mom first—well, not first and foremost; I guess follower of Christ, first and foremost—
Dennis: —wife, mom, and also, an adjunct professor of Women’s Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Her husband Andreas, who is also a senior research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern, also, teaches there; and you guys joined together to collaborate to write this book. Did the book cause any arguments? Barbara and I have written some, and I’ve got to tell you—[Laughter]
Bob: That’s why you asked the question; right?
Dennis: That’s why I asked the question. [Laughter]
Margaret: Well, to tell you the truth—
—a lot of people have asked that question. I think the way we went about writing the book was in such a way that it really didn’t create a lot of arguments.
Dennis: My question’s really not a fair question because your book can’t be summarized easily; but if you had to explain to someone what this book is about, how would you do it?
Andreas: God’s Design for Man and Woman in four stages—it’s established at creation, it’s distorted at the Fall, it’s restored in Christ, and it’s consummated in heaven. Of course, we live in the stage, right now, where we still have our sinful nature. So, there’s still distortion; but we are being restored in Christ—if in fact, we are Christians / we have the Holy Spirit. So, it is a biblical, theological survey of everything the Bible teaches, from Genesis through Revelation, on God’s design for man and woman.
Dennis: You two have two sons/two daughters.
Dennis: I’m going to put these questions to both of you—
—both can comment on it. What would you say to your son if he came to you, Marny, and he said to you: “Mom, what does it mean to be a boy or a man and not a woman?” How would you answer him?
Margaret: I think I might take him back to Genesis and tell him how God created man and woman distinct with unique roles and that they are to complement each other. I would say that men are—a boy—a man is different in biology as well as assigned role and responsibility by God. That would be where I’d start.
Bob: And what would be the distinct roles and responsibilities? In other words,—
Bob: —what’s he supposed to do that a woman is, maybe, not supposed to do?
Margaret: Okay. So, as he would grow in his manhood—that he would understand he is to be a leader in the home—
—that’ he’d be developing these skills and these attitudes—and prayerfully, maturing in these ways to become a leader in his home.
Dennis: Andreas, what would you say?
Andreas: Yes, I think I would impress on him that being a man and a woman—knowing God’s plan is not just a tradition. I would want him to be seeing, from Scripture himself, that God created us. He has a purpose for us, as men and women, that is distinct.
I would call him to courage—to lead, to take initiative, to understand that women have a different role that is just as vital / that they are to respond to his leadership—and that there’s also an overlap between the roles—that both are to follow Christ, to make disciples of the nations, and they are to partner together.
I think it is a delicate balance there between being corresponding to—or congenial to—so there is a sense of equality: “…bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” But at the same time, there is this dimension of helper. The man is leader and the woman is to come alongside the man to help him in the sense that the man is not to come alongside the woman to help her. I think that would be important for my son to understand.
Dennis: One of the things you are very careful to do throughout your book is—you really challenge those of us, who are men and women, who are raising our sons and daughters, to not take on the traditional view of masculinity or of femininity but let the Bible speak. The way you do that is—
—you say: “Let the contrast be between the responsibilities of when a man becomes a husband and when a woman becomes a wife. Let those be contrasted with one another because the Bible is clear that these two creatures—male and female created in God’s image—have different responsibilities.”
Andreas: That’s right. It’s not so much, as you might find in the world, some sort of a surface/external set of characteristics: “Who washes the dishes?” or “…does the laundry?” or “…does the shopping?” There are some deeper realities that God built into us and that Scripture testifies to.
I think, in the book, we are looking at all of Scripture. We find certain patterns there that are pervasive—so the ideas of male leadership and of male/female partnership are undeniable. Anybody who would contest that that is what Scripture teaches—I think would have an uphill battle because it just doesn’t depend on any one passage—
—whether it’s 1 Timothy 2:12 or Genesis 2:18 and 20 / the references to a suitable helper—you see it all the way through Scripture that men are supposed to be the leaders and women are supposed to partner with the men in subduing creation and so forth.
Bob: So, let me flip the question, now. Marny, I’ll come back to you. If you are sitting down with your daughters and saying, “Here is what it means to be feminine,” what are you going to say to them?
Margaret: I think I would respond by saying: “God created you a woman. You are to complement, eventually, a man that you are likely going to marry because most people are meant to be married. They are few and far between that are called to be celibate. So, you can basically plan on that unless God is leading you otherwise.”
We would explore the idea: “What does it mean to be a woman?” and “How can you be prepared to be that partner for that man?”
We’d talk about bearing children, raising children, being ready to make your home the center of your life—not that you couldn’t ever do anything outside or work within it beyond some of the things that God has called to as women in supporting our husbands.
I mean, as I brought up our / as we brought up our children, a lot of those things—we covered a lot of those things as we discussed over dinner and practiced different practical things.
Dennis: Women are, in essence—and I think the Apostle Paul points this out when he calls women to respect their husbands—
Dennis: —they are life-givers. They, not only bring life into the world by bearing children, and then, nurturing and caring for them, but they are also life-giving in the marriage relationship, as they come alongside their husbands. How have you brought life to Andreas?
Andreas, I’m going to give you a chance to think about the answer to that question while Marny answers it first. But how have you brought life to him, as a man?
Margaret: Well, I guess, as his helpmeet / as his partner, I just try to come alongside whatever God has called him to do and to give input in the ways that God has gifted me to see. So, if I see that he needs help in certain ways, I help him. He does a lot of writing and theology. I’ve studied a little bit. Sometimes, I have a feminine perspective or a different view that I can add; and I give that to him. That would be one way. There are probably other ways too. Andreas, maybe, you can pick up on that?
Andreas: I really would not be where I’m at today—not even close—without Marny. I think I especially appreciate—I, sometimes, call her my holy spirit—you know?—in the sense that—
Dennis: God speaks through your wife; right? [Laughter]
Andreas: Right. She has saved me from countless mistakes.
Also, as a parent, I think Marny’s, really, a life-giver. I think, for her, parenting—she engages our children 24 / 7. You know, I think for me, there are times when I’m immersed in my work; and I briefly emerge just to make sure that everybody has what they need. Then, I go back to my writing project; but for Marny, she is a parent all the time.
Bob: One of the things that I appreciate a lot about your book is that you see some of the mischaracterizations, or some of the abuses, that exist among those with whom you would generally agree but where you think they push things too far. If you are sitting down with conservative evangelicals, who say: “Yes, there is a distinction between men and women in the Bible,” and “In marriage, there are distinct roles,”—
—if you were going to give them any words of caution or any pitfalls to avoid—
Bob: —what would be the major pitfalls you’d say, “Here is what we need to be careful we’re not saying or that we are saying clearly,”?
Andreas: Well, there are several. I think, maybe, to start out with one that is really important to us—which is not to avoid the subject of what it means to be a man and a woman according to God’s design. We’re really concerned that / what we often find is—that churches are afraid that this is a divisive issue. As a result, they are saying, “Well, we’re just going to focus on the gospel.”
The way we see it—right, at the very beginning, you have God creating the man and the woman and assigning them distinct roles. We look at it as instilling the courage in people and the confidence that who we are, as a man and woman, is too central to our existence to ignore. So, let’s not avoid that topic.
Dennis: It’s not a side issue.
Dennis: I mean, I do think it is interesting today that so many are silent when it comes to speaking about gender issues. And if they don’t speak out, how are young couples, who start out their marriage together—how are they going to know how you craft this thing called marriage?
Bob: But there are folks, who say: “Well, wait! We’ve got differences about how we view baptism, or spiritual gifts, or all kinds of things.”
Bob: “Can’t this just be an area in the church where we agree to disagree and hold onto different views?”
Margaret: Well, I was going to say that we noticed, that over the last 20 or 30 years, it has been quite silent in the churches on this topic and further reason for avoiding divisiveness. Some people think that was a good thing because churches maintained somewhat of a unity, but what we’ve seen in the culture has been a great downfall and at a rapid pace. It’s affecting the church significantly, too, because we haven’t been giving people the foundation.
For me, for helping women—and Andreas / we’re trying to do our best—but it just seems like the church isn’t prepared for what we are seeing right now.
Dennis: And both of you are teaching young people today / young adults who are starting out life together. What are you seeing in terms of their ability to understand what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, their anticipation of being a husband/a wife—a father/a mother? Are they clear? Are they confused? Are they lost?
Andreas: You’re right. That’s really our heart—to equip the next generation. And we never cease to be amazed, even in churches / in Bible-believing churches the amount of ignorance and obliviousness there is to what the Bible teaches on the subject. I think we must not assume that our young people know what the Bible teaches on what it means to be a man and a woman.
Dennis: Moms and dads, who are listening to this broadcast—
—you are the primary givers of the model of what God has in mind for being a man / being a woman under the authority of Jesus Christ in your children’s lives. You can’t take them to church and expect Sunday school to do. You can’t take them to youth group—you can’t take them to a Christian school / a Christian college—and hope they’ll get it there. They must have it taught at home and have it modeled at home—explain what it means to be a man in this culture / what it means to be a woman and feel comfortable in that gender identity.
Bob: Okay: “Don’t shy away from addressing this / we’ve got to tackle this.”
Is this something that can be a preferential issue? Can we just agree to disagree with our brothers and sisters in Christ on this one?
Andreas: Well, we think that Scripture is, actually, quite clear. I think what we see is there is unnecessary confusion on this issue.
We would urge people to search the Scriptures for themselves—to read our book with the Scriptures in hand. We’re basically just trying to be a witness to God’s design.
And I think the church is to be salt and light on what it means to be a man and a woman—our sexual identity. You know, if we didn’t realize that until recently, I think we should now, in light of recent developments in our culture.
Dennis: Yes. A lot of our listeners, Andreas, who are hearing us today, are saying: “You know what? I’m not teaching a class—I’m raising the next generation of boys and girls who are going to take our place. And some of the things our sons and daughters are running into at school, in the marketplace, on football teams and cheerleading practice, etc., are getting pretty bizarre.”
You tell a story in your book about a little boy by the name of Alex.
I want you to tell the story of what happened with him, but I think what’s needed here is—just coach parents on how they are going to handle a number of conflicting messages that are going to come at them and their children and how we are compassionate and gracious as we confront these distortions of what God created.
Andreas: Actually, I got this from a New York Times editorial. So, this is a real true-life story. Little Alex identified as a girl and would wear dresses occasionally at home. The parents, for a while, just told him to keep those urges under control and that he was a boy. But at some point, they had kind of a change of heart—they realized: “As parents, would our role not be to just discover who Alex really is in his heart of hearts?”
So, they talked to the teacher; and they talked to some of the parents. Then, they allowed the boy, Alex, to wear a pink and purple dress to school one day.
The way the New York Times told that story was as a story of liberation—that the parents were liberated to understand that it’s okay. They don’t always have to suppress those urges but to allow the child to express them freely and just to be sensitive to the other parents and children in the class.
Dennis: So, how are you equipping your children to handle these issues?
Margaret: Well, I do have to say that we’ve homeschooled our children for the most part. So, we are equipping our children in our own home every day. Not everybody home schools—
—and they [her children] don’t have to face the kind of conflicts / that Alex might be in the classroom with them. So, you could home school—[Laughter]—that would be one answer. But Andreas, you have some—
Andreas: Well, there’s a lot to be said for equipping our children—thoroughly grounding them in Scripture—for the time when they will be in high school / in college—when they have to know who they are and just to embrace the fact that God created them a certain way—as part of their faith commitment—and to understand that the culture, that does not believe in God, simply—within their own way of thinking—has to attribute gender to within the humanistic framework.
You know, I became a Christian when I was 23, at the end of college. So, I can still remember thinking as a non-Christian.
Andreas: So, it’s not hard for me, personally, to put myself in the position of someone who doesn’t believe in God and think, “Okay; obviously, if I were them, I would think about gender probably similar to the way they do.” Then, as a Christian, engage them—helping them understand that ultimately this is a lordship issue / this is an authority issue, even for Christians.
We’ve seen too many Christians—who are following what Scripture teaches in most other areas of life—but when it comes to this area, they go by their preferences. Some of the choices they make are lifestyle choices that are based on who has the higher paying job or other decisions like that.
Dennis: I would just add to what you shared there—I think our kids need a biblical worldview / they need to think from the Scripture, not to the Scripture, and make sure that’s dictating what they are thinking about other people.
As soon as you look at the Bible, you are going to learn we are all broken. I’m broken / you’re broken—the kids you go to school with are broken. They are going to express that brokenness in various ways. Some, because of the culture we’re in, are going to express it through sexual identity—a crisis of sorts—and maybe, do some strange things.
What our children need to know how to do is—is how to respond with compassion, with love, with grace—which is how our Savior dealt with people who were broken / who were sinners. Then, share with them the real need of their soul, which is a relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the One who can heal. He’s the One who can redeem, and give purpose, and help people find their true identity as God created it.
And I just say—we’ve had a lot of guests, here on FamilyLife Today, over the years, Bob—a lot of books we’ve recommended. I do not remember a book that has been more thoroughly biblical than this book that Andreas and Marny have written.
It’s called God’s Design for Man and Woman. If you are looking for a source book to know how to handle some of these tough issues, and to know where they are found in Scripture, and how to go about addressing them—this book would be great for singles, marrieds, parents, grandparents alike.
Bob: We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. So, our listeners can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the book. Because it’s a holiday, our phones are not being answered live today. So, that’s probably the best way for you to get in touch with us—is to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You’ll see information there about how you can order the book from us, online. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com—the title of the book: God’s Design for Man and Woman: Equipping a New Generation to Live Out God’s Design.
And as we wrap up our first program of 2016, we just want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who made a yearend contribution in support of the ministry. We still don’t have the final word yet on the matching-gift challenge that was presented to us, but we’ll let you know as soon as we can how we did in regard to that matching gift. But thank you for your support of FamilyLife Today, here at the end of 2015, and throughout the year.
We are grateful for your partnership with us, and we want to make sure we continue to be good stewards of the money that you’ve entrusted to us as we seek to wisely use it so that we can most effectively develop godly marriages and families—the kind of marriages and families that really do change the world, one home at a time. We’re very grateful for your support of the ministry, and we look forward to 2016 and a great year together with you.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to begin a week-long conversation about how we live as followers of Christ in a culture that increasingly is moving away from Christian beliefs and Christian values. Larry Osborne is going to join us in the first half of the week / Russell Moore will be with us for the second half of the week. And we’ll explore that subject. Hope you can be here all week long.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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