The Asymmetry God Built Into Man and Woman

“Then 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.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:26–31

Unfortunately, in an egalitarian age such as ours only complete symmetry between men and women is considered equality. Our cultural ideals set up as the highest good for a woman to be interchangeable with a man, as if the greatest thing for a woman to do is to attain to “manhood.” This is idolatry. This is a dishonoring of our being. Moreover, if we stop and think about it, this is simplistic and narrow. In light of the complexity and intricacies of human life and the world around us, this “ideal” takes away depth, uniqueness, and honor from a woman.

I have a picture of creation in which man was created on two axes simultaneously. On one axis man was created in the image and likeness of God—the Triune God. One another axis man was created as two distinct natures—male and female.

On one axis we see the symmetry between man and woman:

  • Created in the image of the Triune God
  • Created in the likeness of the Triune God
  • Equal in dignity as humankind
  • Equal in honor as humankind
  • Man qua man is set apart from the animals and given the cultural mandate equally

On the other axis we see an asymmetry built-in (not socially constructed) between man and woman:

  • Man created in two distinct natures—male and female
  • The man was created before the woman (Genesis 2:7–25)
  • Man and woman are fitted for each other and are not interchangeable or expendable
  • Women can bear children and men cannot

Interestingly, the asymmetry of God’s decretive will toward the male and female in Genesis develops more after the Fall. Men and women are different in their fallen nature, hence the distinct curses:

  • The woman’s curse is relationally bound and tied to her unique ability to bear children (“in pain/toil you shall bring forth children”)
  • The man’s curse directly affects his work, the outward aspects of the cultural mandate (“in pain/toil you shall eat of it” i.e. the ground)

Other than in the area of submission and Ephesians 5 discussions, I would like to find a development of the role of the trinity in the creation of man. There are many questions we should be asking and answering: When God says “after our likeness” he is referring to the trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How is man qua man like the triune God? How is man as male like the triune God? How is man as female like the triune God? We can ask these questions and more to better understand how each sex is to image the triune God in this world.

Although when I was younger I had fallen to the idolatry of wanting to become like a man, contentment in my identity in Christ has lead me to contentment in being a woman. I like to encourage us not to fear the areas of asymmetry between men and women. We can glory in it, study it, and use it to better serve the God who built it into the uniqueness and beauty of his creation.

On the other hand, there is an existential state in which man and woman are completely and wholly equal. That is, at some core of our being, there is complete symmetry. Again, it is God who created this symmetry. This also we can glory in, seek to understand, and use to serve him.

When we reason in this way, we can break down those idols, and we see that the highest good/value for woman as woman is not to become as man. The highest good/value for woman is in actuality the same as it is for man: It is to be conformed to the image of Christ; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, with all the uniqueness and beauty she was given at creation. In this ultimate metaphysical sense, she is man’s complete equal.

Question: Does anyone know of a book that relates the trinity to the distinctness of our created nature? (I would appreciate any suggestions in the comment section)

5 thoughts on “The Asymmetry God Built Into Man and Woman

  1. In terms of how the trinity relates to the distinctness of our created nature, what comes to mind for me is the triune aspect of our soul in terms of thought, feeling, and will and how one tends to be dominant in personality in terms of intellect, emotion, and action. I think that the dominant aspect can be both our strength and weakness and comes out in persons who are more concerned with the philosophical, psychological, or practical areas of life. Not only do individual persons divide along these lines, but so do entire congregations and branches of Christianity; perhaps this can be seen when Paul address division along the lines of himself, Apollos, and Cephas. I think this triune aspect also comes out in the 3-fold offices of prophet (intellect), priest (emotion), and king (action).

    In God I believe there is, rather than a vertical hierarchy between the persons of the trinity, a perfect horizontal order, such the Father sends the Son (and depending on ye old view of the filioque) the Son (and the Father) send the Spirit; the three persons have distinct roles, yet even in their distinct roles they are “equal in power and glory”. In Christ we see all three aspects of prophet, priest, and king as a unity.

    Also, the temptation of sin to Adam and his wife come to mind: “The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom”. I think that we are tempted according to these three aspects of our being: “the tree was good for food” seems to appeal to the practical, “pleasing to the eye” seems to appeal to the psychological/emotion, and “desirable for gaining wisdom” seems to appeal to the intellectual/philosophical. Scripture also talks about the best, the harlot, and the false prophet which oppose the kingdom of God in various ways which I think relate to the triune aspect in man.

    -m

  2. This is great. A group of us were also thinking through the different roles of Jesus as prophet, priest and king, and how that plays into the gender stereotypes — that masculinity is often associated with the kingly functions and femininity is often associated with the priestly functions. How that plays into the different roles is also an interesting take.

  3. I dont think that a stereotype that men are kingly and women are prophetic is accurate – for one thing, there would be no gender for the prophetic type out there. :) I think that just as in each person, these three aspects are present and one is dominant in terms of thinking, feeling, and acting, so within each gender these three aspects occur, with any one of the three being dominant, whether male or female.

    As for gender roles and marriage in general (quite a delicate topic these days)…I think that the principal, creation is revelation, that what is seen is revelation of God who is (unseen) permeates Scripture. The visible reveals the invisible and this principal allows for deeper meaning to the dual human genders. I think the two genders and the covenant marriage relationship between them is a revelation and visible representation of the covenant relationship between God and human beings which was established in Genesis ch. 2.

    I think that God, in His infinite wisdom formed human beings as a species with two genders (He could easily have created the man with the ability to reproduce by himself as He has done with other species on earth), to help us understand our relationship with and role in relation to Him. I think this is why God’s Word speaks of turning away from God to idols is analogous to infidelity to our spouse and why Scripture does speak about husband and wife having different roles.

    The marriage relationship as ordained by God and all that is bound up in that is a beautiful revelation of God’s relationship to human beings and should help us know and love honor Him in a greater and deeper way, but if marriage is separated from its purpose to reveal God’s relationship to us, marriage loses meaning.

    Ultimately, God created all things by the Logos, in perfect wisdom, to reveal His glory to beings created with the light to see and understand this revelation and have life everlasting in knowing Him, including the tri-une aspect of our being and the two genders of our species.

    -m

    PS, sorry about the length. There is just depth in God’s revelation that its hard to be brief. :)

  4. This book might interest you:
    First Comes Love: Finding Your Family in the Church and the Trinity, by Scott Hahn. It is short and written in a very light style but contains some interesting reflections on how man and woman relate to one another in the image of the Triune God.

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