Teaching by Obfuscation
In an article by Jason Allen, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood decries what they see as a lack of masculinity – “biblical masculinity,” that is – in today’s churches.
Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like.
Allen argues that the only way to correct this deficit is through radical spiritual reform. He calls it “sanctified testosterone.” He’s serious:
Through this, the church needs to recover biblical manhood, Christian masculinity—what we might think of as sanctified testosterone.
Aimee Byrd handily addressed the many problems with Allen’s arguments, quoting his points one by one and responding with thoughtful and incisive analysis. (Full disclosure – Aimee Byrd is a friend of mine.) One example is her response to the first excerpt I quoted:
“Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like.”
As to the first part of the sentence, that is a sweeping claim. Maybe it’s true? It isn’t my experience in my church. But I’ll take him at his word. As to the second part, I agree. But this article may be a reason for that.
I go one step further and suggest that tepid phrases like “biblical manhood” and shock value phrases like “sanctified testosterone” are examples of the befogged obfuscation inherent in the positions taken by Allen and CBMW.
First off, there is nothing in the Bible that even remotely supports a cockamamie concept like “sanctified testosterone.” It’s a fancy sounding phrase (Aimee labels it propaganda) that has a value of less than zero. Second, the Bible does not call us to “biblical manhood and womanhood.” It calls people – women and men without distinction between the sexes – to be more like Christ.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:28-29.)
What woman and men were really made for
The beauty in this call to Christlikeness is that it is solidly based on the way we were created in the first place. As Aimee points out in response to Allen’s insistence that every man in a church has a leadership role over every woman in that church:
“There is a defined role of leadership, authority, and protection men in the church must play.”
Is there? Please show me where this definition is. Again, is every man a head to every woman in the church?
Aimee goes on to answer those questions in her next paragraph:
And just as a side note, the word ezer, used to describe Eve in Gen. 2:18, is the same word used to describe God as an ezer to Israel throughout the Old Testament. And when you look at these verses, we see this word used to communicate great strength. I particularly find Psalm 89:17 interesting, “For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Here we have the word ezer, usually translated helper, translated strength. These verses are also saturated in military language as they describe God as Israel’s ezer. The root for this word is used one hundred, twenty-eight times in Scripture, meaning to rescue and save. It is used referring to God’s rescue in thirty cases, which we see mostly in the Psalms. So, although I completely acknowledge men do have greater physical strength than women, and should use that for anyone’s protection whenever someone may be in need, women also have strengths that are vital to the church. Women are also called to be protectors, leaders even.
I would add that when the woman is called the man’s ezer in Genesis 2, the modifier kenegdo is absolutely necessary in order to make sure the Bible is not placing the woman in a position superior to the man.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper [ezer] suitable [kenegdo] for him.”
… So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:18, 21-22.)
If Genesis 2:18 merely used the word ezer, the original readers might have thought the woman to be a superior helper since (as Aimee points out in the excerpt on ezer above) the word was used to refer to God and his strength as the rescuer of Israel, often in passages with militaristic language. When the word is applied to God as helper or strength, we know he’s being described as a powerful helper of unstoppable strength.
By adding the modifier kenegdo (meaning suitable or of the same kind), Genesis 2 is clear that the woman is not to be considered a superior created being who condescends to help the man as God reaches down to help his people, but is instead a helper at the same level as the man. In other words, if the woman had been described with the word ezer alone, it might suggest she is superior to the man. The full phrase ezer kenegdo thus shows that men and women are of equal strength in God’s kingdom.
There is nothing whatsoever in the expression ezer kenegdo that implies a subordination of women. Instead, it has the meanings of strength and similarity. Each of the creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 5, highlight the similarity, unity and equality of men and women, and tell us that their joint task involves being God’s regents of the world he created … . (Marg Mowczko, Kenegdo: Is the woman subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?)
How is this joint task performed? As Aimee said, “Women are also called to be protectors, leaders even.”
Note her word choice there: “also.” Men can lead and women can lead. Women can protect and men can protect. This is the way it’s been from the beginning. It’s what we were made for. Let’s have no more befogged obfuscation with talk of “sanctified testosterone” and “biblical manhood and womanhood” as if those phrases meant anything. They don’t.
Ezer kenegdo – now there’s a phrase that means something.