Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Excerpt: God's Image Seen In Gender

For a while now I've been working on writing a book for young men. I feel that this is a subject that has not been given nearly enough attention and I felt led to do my part to make up for the deficit. Basically, I want to write the book that I wish had existed when I was fourteen. I've (finally) finished the first draft and have begun the editing process.

This is an excerpt from my chapter on
Imago Dei. Specifically, I want to explore how our being the Image of God provides us with the basis for sexual identity. I would love to get your feedback on this pivotal section.


Right from the get-go, being created in the Image of God was tied to the genders. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) The only thing called “not good” in God’s creation was the fact that Adam was alone. Without a mate he was lacking something. So God created Woman from Man.

One can hardly have a discussion about gender role without going to the starting point. Genesis 2 is the ground zero of this whole debate. It is this passage that both Jesus and Paul would go to in order to defend their positions on marriage and the roles of men and women (Matthew 19:4-5, I Timothy 2:12-14). And this idea of distinct genders makes perfect sense, seeing that God was making a creature in His own Image.

For what does the Image of God look like? Well, it looks like its Maker – One God eternally existent in Three Persons. The Triune God exists as both singular and plural. And within the Trinity there is structure and unity, submission and love, authority and equality. Therefore, the Image of God is also singular and plural, structured and unified, submissive and loving, authoritative and equal.

This is important because it seems that human being naturally use their view of God as blueprint for their interaction between the genders. For example, the Islamic conception of God is distant and authoritarian and thus many Muslim husbands tend to be distant and authoritarian toward their wives. Modalist denominations teach both that the Father, Son and Spirit are interchangeable and also that the roles of men and women are interchangeable. Likewise, I think it’s no coincidence that the fathers of Mormonism, a henotheist/polytheist religion, practiced patriarchal polygamy. I could give examples all day. Our theology proper directly effects our view of the marriage and the sexes. Christianity is the only faith that provides a balance of equality and authority, form and freedom, unity and diversity.

Just as God exists as one being in multiple persons, so do two human persons become a single organism (“one flesh”). In the Trinity 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 and in marriage 1 + 1 = 1. This is mysterious math of relationships modeled after the Relationship. And just as the divine persons came together to create a creature in Their image, so do man and woman come together to procreate a creature in their image. The other Trinitarian reflections appear in how God designed the genders to relate to one another. Within the Triune Jehovah there is order and others-centeredness but we see the idea of submission within the Godhead very clearly throughout the Scriptures.

God the Son readily confesses His submission to the Father in John 5:19: “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.’” In fact, Christ submitted to the point of death, crying, “Not My will but Thine.” (Luke 22:42 KJV)

Likewise, the Spirit obeyed of both Father and Son. Jesus said, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16). Of the Spirit, Christ says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak.” (John 16:13 ESV) On the flipside, Jesus was led by the Spirit while he was on earth (Luke 4:1).

But, we mustn’t get the idea that the Trinity is some dictatorial regime where the Father beats the Son and Spirit into submission and forces them to do His bidding. The Trinity doesn’t contain bullies that push around the other members. To the contrary, the persons of the thrice-holy God relentlessly seek to exalt one another. Look at how the Father treats the submissive Son: “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9) He exalted His name above every single name. It goes on to say that every living thing will bow the knee and confess Jesus as Lord. This is how the Holy Trinity works: some members lead, others submit, all exalt one another.

Likewise, the Trinity is the Trinity in Unity. The fundamental Old Testament confession is, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The individual persons of the Triune God are not independent beings with their own autonomy and agenda. Rather, they are singular in essence and will. There is One God eternally existent in Three Persons.

This is a very basic summary of how our beautiful God functions as triune, but I hope that it gives you a picture of why gender is such a big part of being created in God’s Image . Just like God, some members in creation lead, others submit but we all exalt one another. At creation, God determined that man would lead and woman would submit, as a reflection of His divine nature. But the headship of the man wasn’t about ruling with an iron fist. It was about loving and honoring and exalting the woman. And within that structured marital relationship, the man and woman are be one flesh (Ephesians 5:28-30), just as the divine persons are One God.

Some people seem to have the idea that God created men and women then arbitrarily assigned roles to them. In actuality, the roles came first, springing out of the divine nature, and then God created two distinct genders to embody those roles. Masculinity existed before male-ness and Femininity proceeded female-ness. What an awesome thing that we can reflect the breathtaking beauty of the Triune Jehovah!

That’s why I find it so disheartening when I see so many men and women attempt to downplay their sexual identity in the name of “personhood” and “equality”. It’s almost as if people are ashamed of their masculinity or femininity. Nowadays, men and women act the same, dress the same, behave the same and can even marry the same person if they wanted to. Gender has become a trivial technicality that is (at best) minimized and (at worst) obliterated. What a slap in the face to a God who made two distinct and magnificent genders for His glory!

John Piper hit the nail on the head in saying, “Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood is epidemic. The consequence of this confusion is not a happy and free harmony among gender-free persons relating on the basis of abstract competencies. The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that come with the loss of God-given identity.”[1]

A God-given identity obtained by gazing at God Himself.


[1] John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible,” in John Piper and Wayne Grudem (ed.), Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books, 1992), p. 33


  1. This was an incredible read. Fantastic job, Josh. I especially liked how you pointed out the equality between men and women and how it ties in with the Trinity, yet how we are meant to fit into our genders, and not try and be the other. It irritates me when I see all of those comments and status updates on Twitter and Facebook about "Women Are Better" or "Woman Are Stronger" and vice versa. So many times women are upheld as stronger than they actually are, with many people slapped with the label 'feminists' advocating this. While women should be treated equally, we must remember that God designed us to be the weaker vessels under a man's strength (1 Peter 3:7).

    Even though I am a female and your book is for men, I found this really interesting. You should write something from a man's perspective for young women concerning this subject! Nice job!

  2. Thanks, Jessica. It's nice to have some thought from a woman's perspective. My signifigant other and I have actually tossed around the idea of doing a parallel book for women.

  3. Excellent thoughts, Josh. Especially the relation of theology proper to views on gender. I hadn't thought that through before, but it makes a lot of sense. Mankind has always had a desire to be "like God" (in both right and wrong ways), so naturally your understanding of how God relates to us will affect how you relate to others.

  4. Oh, and when this is published and you're a celebrated author, don't forget your friends who run a bookstore! ;)

  5. Thanks Joe. When I'm a celebrated author you have the look me up in the nursing home ;-).

  6. Congratulations for getting this far. The book is a real need. Hopefully, Grandpa will translate it into Spanish for our Peruvian men that need it so badly.

  7. very good, Joshua!

  8. I was finally able to read this :) Great job, Josh!