How Does Christianity Affect Gender Roles?

How Does Christianity Affect Gender Roles? December 26, 2016

Does Christianity affect gender roles at all?

Created in God’s Image

In the beginning, after the creation account of the heavens and the earth, as well as all lifeforms, God created something that would be radically different from the rest of the creatures He created. For example, cattle were made after their own kind, and so were the rest of the animal life (Gen 1:24-25), but there was something special about mankind. When God completed His creation, His last creative act (for now), was where God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26). So mankind was like God in the sense of having dominion over every living thing. This doesn’t mean we should be domineering or tyrannical, which has been the case, but to have dominion means to have rule or authority over, so “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Each one of us were made after our own kind and are either male or female, and only by God creating male and female in His own image could He tell them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). The creation, including all the creatures, were deemed “very good” to God (Gen 1:31).

Not Inheriting the Kingdom

Christians cannot focus on one type of sin and condemn non-believers over it, whatever it is, including gender roles. In the first place, if we cast stones, it would first have to be at ourselves, since none are without sin. We know we have no perfection in this life and we are certainly not sinless, although we should be sinning, less, but for us to cast stones about one particular sin above another is to place ourselves in the judgment seat of God; and by the way, it is a one-seater. Yes, some sins are more serious than others, but we are not called to judge unbelievers in this world. God’s Spirit is the One Who Jesus said would come into the world, and He would convict them of their sins, not us (John 16:8-15). We can state what the Bible says is sin, and that sin is the transgression of the law of God (1st John 3:4), but we cannot arbitrarily condemn others. Just because there is a list of sins of those who won’t inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:4-6) doesn’t mean we go out looking for such people. We should be looking for all people so that they might be saved, but for us, we must start and stay in front of the mirror and in the house of God as far as judging is concerned. Only when serious sin, like sexual immorality comes up, should a brother or sister get involved (Matt 18:15-18), but that’s within the church, not out in the world. Besides, who knows whether or not that person might come to saving faith later in their life? If there is any judgment, it starts with the house of God (1st Pet 4:17), not with people in the world. We know what the Bible teaches and we know that others who reject Christ are only suppressing the knowledge of God in their hearts (Rom 1:18) and they are like we once were, without excuse (Rom 1:20), and that they presently have the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36b; Rom 2) unless the repent and believe (Mark 1:15), however, God desires all to be saved (1st Tim 2:4), and that should be our desire too. Jesus said He came into the world to save the world, not to condemn the world (John 3:17). If someone asks you whether something is sin or not, you can defer to what the Bible says and agree with it (as I do), so it’s not a matter of personal opinion but what God’s Word declares. That settles it for me, but I don’t settle it for others.

God-created-man-in-his

Gender Roles

Jesus’ treatment of women in the New Testament is radically different from the way the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans (indeed, nearly all societies) treated women. Women couldn’t be a witness in a court or sit on any council or be seen in public apart from the will of her husband. In short, they treated their wives as so many cattle. A wife could be easily gained and easily disposed of, but this was not so from the beginning. A man and a woman were to leave and to cleave to one another, till death parted them. It’s still like that, but only with a small minority of couples who are staying together until death parts them. In many of the world’s religions, women are suppressed and not even allowed to speak or appear in public without the husband’s permission. For those that do, the ramifications can be deadly, but Christianity has elevated the status of women because there is no distinction or respect between the free and slaves, Jew and Greek, women and men, because “you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This doesn’t mean we are suddenly free and slaves, Jew and Greek, and male and female. That’s not what the Apostle Paul is saying. We are not all of these things; all of these things are one in Christ. The status of a godly woman is the same as a godly man before God. They are one in Christ. In the kingdom, there will be no male or female hierarchy at all…just one, under Christ. The Christian woman’s “respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1st Tim 2:9) does not define her; God does. The true beauty of a man and a woman’s character is not on the outside, because is the most precious and most beautiful thing is that of their inward character. That beauty will survive long after the outward beauty has faded.

Christian Effects on Gender Roles

For certain, Christianity has acted as a damper in inhibiting sexual promiscuity in society. It used to be a scandal years ago to have a teacher who lived with an unmarried man, especially in a small town. If the local school board found out about it, they’d be fired. There was also far less pornographic material available, and now, there’s an avalanche on the Internet and other media. Many Christian Society organizations have taken up the fight to keep X-rated stores (so-called “adult stores”) out of their neighborhoods and strip bars away from school zones. Our “free sex” or so-called “make love, not war” philosophy of the 1960’s was anything but free. It escalated sexual immorality in society and teen pregnancy exploded, abortions increased, sexually transmitted diseases spiked, and pornographic addictions surged because of an avalanche of pornographic material that was now available. The Internet created a veritable tsunami of smut that can find its way into any home, through any electronic device. And it is being protected in the name of “free speech.” Today it seems that Christianity has no affect at all on the gender roles in society because these roles have been established for so long now that it’s as if it’s reached a point of no return. The socially-constructed gender roles of women and men in their relationships with one another is radically different from that of a century ago, and something that has not changed very little over the last 2,000 years.

Conclusion

Whatever affect Christianity has had with gender roles in society may be long gone in the near future, but for those who God brings to repentance, it will be of supreme importance. They know that God has a role for each of them, male and female, with marriage, and within the Christian community, the Body of Christ. Jesus, as the Head of the church, governs the many individual members, but members are not superior or inferior to one another. They are co-equal and co-heirs with Christ. That’s why being a Jew or Greek, employer or employee, or male or female doesn’t matter to God. We’re all one in Christ anyway.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • “Christians cannot focus on one type of sin and condemn non-believers over it, whatever it is, including gender roles.”

    Are you suggesting that non-compliance with a Christian’s gender role as a Christian is the equivalent of being sinful? I thought sins were things like lying, theft, gluttony, jealousy (covet), etc. What you did wrong – not being wrong as a person as God doesn’t make anyone wrong.

    “In many of the world’s religions, women are suppressed and not even
    allowed to speak or appear in public without the husband’s permission.”

    Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. – 1 Cor. 14:34;
    A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.- 1 Timothy 2:11-12

    If women obey their Biblical gender role, then they are ordered to be silent and to submit – it’s no different than other world religions. In fact, I’ve read accounts of women who searched far and wide for churches where they weren’t allowed to speak so that they could more fully obey the Bible. That’s why there’s a resurgence in 1 Corinthians 11’s head-coverings. If women fail to be silent in the churches, they are not obeying their gender role and are therefore sinning – or so your argument could be construed to say.

    Look; it can’t be had both ways, that the gender roles are a response to Roman/Jewish/Greek cultural norms and that they’re to remain unchanged even when our cultures have changed. If the principle is that gender roles are to glorify God by bringing him honor (again, we’re not an honor/shame society, so their rules don’t exactly apply to us in the same way,) by making him look good to outsiders and attractive – then requiring 2,000 year old gender roles would be a step backwards. Why sign up for a religion where being born with a particular set of chromosomes means that you’re not allowed to speak and you can learn but can’t teach certain others? Or you’ll be shoe-horned into a leadership position you don’t care to lead? Either gender roles were a response to the existing Roman/Greek/Jewish cultures or they are a permanent built-in addition to Christianity just because God prefers men over women in certain roles – men as leaders and women as their subordinates for all time, the world over, regardless of culture.

    • DaisyFlower

      Oh wow, no. Those are your particular interpretations of what you think the Bible says about women, not what God actually thinks about women or women’s “roles”.
      The fact is, there are conservative Christians out there who interpret the Bible in such a way that it can clearly be seen to say yes, women are equals in marriage, may preach in churches, etc.
      You may want to check out sites such as these for more information:
      Christians for Biblical Equality
      Junia Project
      Identity Mapping and the Bible

      • Many conservatives do say “yes” women are equals in marriage, however, they are to submit to their head (1 Corinthians 11:3, if I’m not mistaken) – their husband (if married), their father (if single), or church leaders/elders (if single and her father has died). It’s the gender role of men to lead their families and their churches, it’s the gender role of women to follow the lead of their husbands and pastors. The whole teaching of gender roles represents a spectrum of beliefs, from restrictive to emancipative; but the current emphasis on complementarianism is far closer to the former than the latter (which is akin to egalitarianism). The thing is, it’s men who usually interpret Scripture, and as surely as senators and representatives vote to increase their own pay, the men who speak the word often vote to increase their own rule, their own power at the expense of taking away from the agency of women.

        • P. McCoy

          It’s PEOPLE who don’t question why an all knowing all powerful “God”, who knew that their would be a 21st century or at least the FUTURE, would demand that people would live exactly like they did in the Bronze Age?

      • Andrew

        Men and women have different roles. Men cannot get pregnant for example. Mary, the mother of Jesus, exemplifies the role of women in the Church well. She was not a preacher but is a mother to all Christians who recognise her as a saint.

        • That’s biology not a role. Not all women are biologically capable of getting pregnant and fulfilling that “role”, why should they be forbidden from preaching and teaching? Such women are often marginalized by the church. Is the Word of God so fragile that it would return void because the woman would deceive everyone whereas the exact same sermon delivered by a man would be perfectly acceptable just because he’s a man? The early church recognized that single women could take up the office of deaconess and ordained them for that purpose. They needed them because there were so many women that there weren’t enough men in their class to marry them off to, so they had to petition in order to get permission to marry off the women to men in different classes. Until then, groups like the Order of the Widows were a female leadership who ministered to those whom the men could not without causing scandal given the gender segregation of their society. Why does Christianity lack female leadership to complement the men’s leadership?

  • DaisyFlower

    You state: “They know that God has a role for each of them, male and female, with marriage, and within the Christian community, the Body of Christ.”

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at there, or what you mean to say.

    I’m in my 40s and have never been married, though I had wanted to be married.

    I may die never having married – I may die single. It does not follow that marriage is “God’s role” for all men and women. Not everyone who wants a spouse will get one. Some divorce, some are widowed and never manage to remarry.

    Apostle Paul wrote in the NT that it is preferable to stay single than to get married.

    A person’s gender is not dependent on marital status.

    • Jack Wellman

      true. I never did state that a person’s gender depends on their marital status but was addressing how gender roles were affected by Christianity. No one is suggesting that they marry. The question of a Christian staying single and what the Bible says about believers never marrying is often misunderstood. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 7:7-8: “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” Notice that he says some have the gift of singleness and some the gift of marriage. Although it seems that nearly everyone marries, it is not necessarily God’s will for everyone. Paul, for example, did not have to worry about the extra problems and stresses that come with marriage and/or family. He devoted his entire life to spreading the Word of God. He would not have been such a useful messenger if he had been married.

      • Then by all means, refer to them as MARITAL roles, not GENDER roles. You see, not all women (gender) are wives (married), not all men (gender) are husbands (married). And while you’re at it, don’t call it MALE headship, because not all men (gender) have headship over women (gender).

    • P. McCoy

      The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic had Monastic life as an honorable and honest role for singles. Despite the chastity requirements for Women given the high probability of death or disability inherent in child birth Women lived longer taking up the Monastic life.

  • pud

    A predestined role for everyone….oops…there goes free will. Omnipotent, all powerful, transcendent, timeless deities do not tinker…they are “needless” and “desireless” ..that is the very definition of omnipotence simple jack. “gods” want for nothing, need nothing, desire nothing let alone fumbling bumbling primates singing songs and bleating endless requests…time to grow up jack.

    • It’s worse – not just a predestined role, but basically a requirement for everyone to get married and all marriages to be hierarchical with men having authority over their wives and no check and balance on their power (i.e. wives not really allowed to say “no” but must comply with her husband’s demands no matter what they are unless it represents law-breaking; if a husband wants her to clean the dishes, then she has to stop reading her book like a kid who is doing something other than the chores she’s supposed to be doing – he comes first, always). When it comes to church, all leaders must be men and no women are allowed to challenge their decisions because that would be usurping authority they aren’t supposed to have. Perhaps they’ll go all the way and bring back head coverings and require women to cover their heads at church in submission to their husband’s authority – then the big three Abrahamic religions would have that in common, but most seem satisfied with following the spirit of the rule rather than the literal command.

      • pud

        It’s all about power and control. When we were small tribal bands roles were clear for a purpose. A pregnant female was helpless and committed to years of child rearing. The male had to be the provider and protector as she had no means to fend for herself or her offspring. When tribes became communities and governments formed they carried forward this patriarchal system even though it became less important for basic survival and reproduction. Religion when hand and glove with governance until the Age of Reason which explains why it persists within religious communities even as the rational secular world has long since abandoned it.

        • So the answer to “How does Christianity affect gender roles?” is “Very little, the basics remain the same, men have the authority to rule their households and women have the duty to submit; the main difference is that Christianity emphasizes that men should be nicer and to treat women slightly better than the ancient Greek/Roman/Jewish household codes did. However, traditional gender roles remain unchanged long after the ancient traditions passed away.”

          • pud

            It perpetuates stupid irrational traditions dictated by a ridiculous Bronze and Iron Age book. This is the 21st century, we can evaluate “roles” with science and reason now. Men and Women will always be different and never “equal” but that doesn’t mean they must assume the same roles in society as they did thousands of years ago. Part of the reason Europe is being given away to the psychotic muslims is because of female sensibilities and their propensity to make decisions based upon emotion rather than logic. Females have no tribal loyalty in that regard should not have a political voice in matters of national sovereignty. That however shouldn’t delegate them to submissive status on other matters. Women should be the anchor of family but should be able to decide how family finances are managed rather than deferring to their overlord husbands.Women should serve in decision making capacities but should be prohibited from certain roles and encouraged in others. The differences must be acknowledged and respected but the age we live in demands modification over ancient roles. Retarded religion cannot adapt and are mired in ancient moronic ritualistic ignorance thus inhibiting progress of our species as a whole

          • Why should women have had tribal loyalty? In the ancient world, they could be traded out of their father’s household and into their husband’s; or their husband could cast them out and marry someone new – sent out to fend for herself in a society where the only way women could do that was as prostitutes. Women were culturally conditioned to have flexible loyalties whereas men were never not part of their father’s tribe.That said, in the age of reason, why shouldn’t women have the vote now that we have surpassed such ancient thinking? If we can transcend gender roles, then so too tribal loyalty must be transcended as our tribes expand from family units, to whole countries, to being citizens of our shared world; just as we can’t always operate as tribes, or countries – perhaps a great many women in leadership are looking forward when the world is united as one and are overlooking those who aren’t on the same page as them yet.

          • pud

            It’s all mostly a biological function. Females nurse their young and have to make them a priority. If that means joining a tribe with more resources then that’s what they are biologically programmed to do. Religion never understood biology so they had no respect for female biological needs instead they made them property using religious dogma to support and enforce their ignorant perceptions. In the age of reason women should have a voice but with the understanding of their biological natures and the risk those natures play in matters of state security. The world will never be united as one…google “bell curve”…so long as there are large disparities between races in intelligence…and so long as there are masses of ignorant people who subscribe to religions instead of science…we will never be one human tribe. If females have voice in matters of security you get Germany where the passive feminist population opened the gates to the religious barbarians of Islam. You get a 1st world nation diluted to a 3d world nation through sympathetic immigration policy.

          • America is a nation built on immigration – our Statue of Liberty is synonymous with this poem:

            “”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

            With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

            Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

            The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

            Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

            I lift my lamp beside the golden door!””

            And we’re all the better for all the populations that have come to our shores. And like with the various waves of immigration, they were usually met with fear and suspicion – as is happening now. We used to refer to the 10/40 window as the most closed societies, impervious to western influence – now they’re coming to our very doors where both populations cannot remain isolated. The less isolated societies become, the more integrated they will be. This takes time – sometimes generations, but it’s not the end of the world.

          • pud

            We were a nation built mostly on white European immigration not sub Saharan or Australian Aborigine immigration. What you fail to understand is this….Send the population of Israel to Sudan and you raise the entire IQ of the nation….Send the population of the Sudan to Israel and you lower the IQ of the entire nation. Substitute Japan or most Asian nations for this example if you like. There is nothing good to come from dumbing down a nation through importation of non civilized barbaric low IQ peoples. There is a reason why Africa and the muslim nations are still at the level of advancement they were 1000 years ago and a reason why Western Civilization has sent probes into the cosmos.

          • Are you suggesting that white people have higher IQs just because they’re white and black or Asian people have lower IQs just because they’re not white? The difference isn’t skin color, but in education and opportunity. Wherever there is education and opportunity, a nation does better than where there isn’t education or opportunity, regardless of the skin color of it’s citizens. America doesn’t rank all that highly in terms of education, other societies have pulled ahead of us in that regard and our confidence in opportunity has taken quite a blow over the last few decades.

          • pud

            I am stating a demonstrable fact that different races and cultures have different IQs. This is a fact. The highest IQs belong to ethnic Jews and Asians followed by European whites…North African, and Latinos are lower with Sub Saharan and Australian Aborigines bringing up the rear. This isn’t about education, fairness, sensibility or anything else it is a fact of nature. In the case of muslims it has a great deal to do with inbreeding…the marriage of cousins which shaves 15 points off of IQ. This has nothing to do with opportunity or education it is biological and a product of religion and culture which has retarded whole populations. Asian nations don’t welcome immigrants and maintain the highest overall IQ amongst nations. You don’t have to like it but it is a fact.

          • All humans, all races, all cultures share common elements, the differences in intelligence have so many mitigating factors that it’s not just that simple. For example, some areas of the states have lead contamination, which affects intelligence – so there are not only cultural but environmental influences to consider. I’ve have to see reputable researchers who spent decades in the field accounting for every variable before I’d accept such a statement as fact. History tells us that marrying relatives was common in Europe, marrying one’s cousin was acceptable well into the 19th century and is legal even today in certain states. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were fifth cousins. You’d have to produce statistics on how much marrying relatives happened in the states compared to elsewhere and figure out to what degree it affects each population – you might find that it’s not that big of an influence as you make it out to be and that genetic diversity isn’t harmful to it’s society.

          • pud

            I don’t write bullshit that I haven’t researched and that can’t be backed up. Google “bell curve” that will get you started. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are…the fact remains and to consider all people equal is to totally disregard the facts that there are high and low IQ cultures, nations, races and peoples.

          • I did – and the bell curve is only one theory, but it’s not the only one and it’s not agreed upon by everyone. It has been criticized as scientific racism. The book it was based on was released in 1994 with a little follow up in 1998. What I learned in school is that all true science is continually repeated and the data is compared, variables are accounted for and the theory is refined. It just doesn’t have enough evidence to support it’s assertions.

          • pud

            It is where you should start….there is much more evidence.

          • P. McCoy

            You need to re start high school; Charles Murray has been disproven.

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            Life is not a role-playing game. You do damage to education in proliferating this “just-so story” type of thinking no different than believers in whatever “supernatural” and “toxins” are supposed to mean. Education will go a lot farther than condemning people based on accidents of birth.

          • pud

            In addition it is also a FACT that the religious demonstrate markedly lower IQs than the non religious

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            Bull! Even if quantifiably supported (show any studies that don’t have methodical flaws that have been pointed out to death), you should well know correlation does not equal causation. My intelligence didn’t change between being a freewill baptist to not having any beliefs about the existence of a “God” and the “supernatural”.

          • pud

            The more stupid a person is the more likely they will be indoctrinated into a religious cult….the more intelligent a person is the less likely they will be. One has to be stupid, irrational, incapable of critical thought to subscribe to superstitious nonsense

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            Will you take a read of ‘Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)’? It discusses dissonance theory and how human memory works. If nothing else, it is also entertaining for all the bizarre trivia.

          • P. McCoy

            Black Atlantic Slave labor, by mining gold, diamonds and raising sugar cane (made into table sugar, rum and molasses-all for rich people!) , tobacco, rice, indigo, cacao ,(for chocolate another food for the rich!) and much later- cotton and coffee freeing up Indians to mine for silver with the other minerals, fueled the engine that changed Western European economies from feudalism to Capitalism. If not for that the 21st century might be just starting to benefit from the age of the Industrial rather than Digital revolution!

            Whites did NONE of that labor- the myth of Irish slavery
            gave way to the reality of White Indentured Servitude. Whites fished and caught furs in Canada, but it didn’t create that Capitalist engine. It didn’t fill the coffers of the Western European dynasties, nor built and embellish the blood soaked Protestant and Catholic churches in Latin America while funding new ones in Europe.

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            This doesn’t make any sense. For one, intelligence quotients are bull. It is teaching and having a home life that meets emotional and bodily needs and fosters education that most determines how well people utilize education. Improving the lives of people will go a lot better toward improving societies in general than dwelling on qualities people had no choice in having.

          • NickRepublic

            Nowhere in the Constitution can this collection of words be found.

          • I didn’t say that they were – but they do show the spirit associated with immigration – after all, one in three of us is descendant from someone who arrived on America’s shores through Ellis Island. For us to hate immigration means that we must hold our ancestors in contempt for being disloyal to their homelands. Precious few of us had ancestors who already lived in the New World when the pilgrims stepped off of the Mayflower.

          • NickRepublic

            Now you’re attributing motives to me that do not exist. Immigration until 1965 was tightly and rightly highly controlled. Immigrants had to be healthy, they had to have sponsorship and jobs. Furthermore, for the vast number, they supported the ideals of America in particular and Western civilization in general (there are exceptions).

          • P. McCoy

            They had to be WHITE too. Would you like to adopt the Australia’s defunct”Whites Only”, Policy in the United States?

            Don’t forget that within that policy, there was discrimination against Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese and Christian Lebanese (all called Wogs)- because the English in particular didn’t view these people as White. Just as in Brexit England, the Poles aren’t seen as White yet they’re dumb enough in Poland to have Sieg Heil rallies braying about their “White Supremacists’
            “credentials!

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            There was also a lot of racist and sexist crap that went into determining if one could immigrate or not all to serve the pseudoscience of eugenics.

  • candide

    Women tend to be more credulous than men but less hypocritical. Take your pick. Religion is bad for all genders.

  • Simon Beverley

    this writer is like a politician, he (am i allowed to call him he?) says alot without saying anything! the straight up answer is gender IS determined by sex in God’s eyes! don’t mess with it!

  • The bible was written over about 1000 years, from approx. between about 900 BCE to 100 CE. It is thoroughly seeped in the patriarchal culture of the Israelites. It’s patriarchal culture is NOT inspired by any god, but is the product of work written by ancient savages.

    The patriarchal interpretation of the bible is of no value in the modern world. It just leads to continued oppression of women, where it is believed by a significant proportion of the population.