We tend to chronocentrism, believing that we in our generation are the final repository of all wisdom. In previous times, they believed that old stuff. But now we know so much more. After all, we have robotic vacuum cleaners. We have much greater insight into the human condition because we have PhD’s in cognitive science.
So, when it comes to describing gender, we might think that we are in new territory. We might suppose that in trying to understand the Bible on gender, we face novel difficulty, brought on by our advanced studies and enlightened actualization. Even bringing up the topic now raises resistance, from chattering media to church. They didn’t have to deal with that back then. You know, back then.
We might think that, I say, until we note something about the apostle Paul’s addresses on the same subjects. Take what are arguably two of Paul’s most gender intense passages, one in which he has some hard things to say to the ladies of the church of Corinth. The first is about wearing your marriage head relationship publicly in the culturally expected fashion, the second about how to genderly order your service of the church, the family of God. It is curious, is it not, that the apostle concludes these passages with these lines:
“If anyone is inclined to be contentious . . .” –1 Corinthians 11:16
“Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? –1 Corinthians 14:36
differentiation. Both anticipate opposition. In other words, Paul expected controversy in his teaching about women, in marriage and church, even back then. Both times.
The trail stretches back through time. The struggle with the Bible’s gender instruction goes way back even to before this, to Genesis. 4:7.
The great step forward comes in realizing how intimacy lies on the other side of accepting God’s way. Even in Paul’s other extended gender in marriage discourse, Ephesians 5, Paul anticipates that his audience will not be able to fully get it or do it. At the end of passage, the apostle predicts that this may be beyond us: “This mystery is profound,” he says (Ephesians 5:32). Great intimacy is not simple or easy. In fact, our inability to follow these towering commands might crush us. Is entering this wood a pathway to our doom? Or is the grueling hike worth it?
The Bible’s answer is: yes, it is.