What God intended at Creation – ruler or ruled?

January 10, 2012 — 24 Comments

Ruler or ruled? Women in Ministry blog by Cheryl Schatz

What did God intend at creation?

It seems that everywhere we look these days, complementarian men are quoting the act of creation as God’s intention to put the women underneath the rule of the man.  They are also quick to note that there are two different kinds of rulership of the male. The first kind of male rule is that of an autocrat, tyrant or despot who rules in spite of the woman’s own will or intention.  This kind of rule, they say, is not what is taught by Christian men. The second kind of rulership is described by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as headship and this is defined as “two spiritually equal human beings, man and woman, the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction.” (pg 95 Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood a Response to Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem).  The difference between the two rulerships is that one allows the man to rule the woman for his own benefit and the other rulership has the man ruling the woman for the benefit of God as a God-ordained spiritual leader.

Let’s unpack this down to the presuppositions that are required to form the foundation of the God-ordained male rule. This post will consider the first two claims of male-only rule: 

1. The male rules for the benefit of God because the male is somehow more like God than the female is.

The claim is that God is male and that only the male was made directly in God’s image. The implication is that because God is a “male” and because He rules the universe, males are more like God and have been given a God-ordained rule within their male nature. At the same time, these God-ordained male rulers believe that God withholds from women the ability to be “like” Him in rulership, because of their God-ordained nature as a “helper”, thus the male alone rules for God and the female alone submits.


First of all, it is important to note that God is not male. God has no male sexual organs and He has no testosterone. God also does not have a body, so it is impossible for Him to be structurally or hormonally male. In His essence, God is neither male nor female and because He is neither, God is free to describe Himself in female terms just as He is free to describe Himself in male terms.  God describes himself as a nursing mother in Numbers 11:12 and Isaiah 49:15, yet we know that God as pure Spirit has no sexual parts that could make God female. Those who claim that God is female are just as wrong as those who claim that He is male for God is neither.

Secondly, within the expression of God, we find Him as a Divine ruler and a Divine helper so being like God would involve both ruling and functioning as a helper.  If a Christian man refuses to be a helper because he believes this is a woman’s “role”, then he is failing to live out the image of God. God is Himself called our helper in Scripture.

In Genesis 1, God laid out the function of His image-bearers here on earth. Both of God’s image bearers were to rule the earth and the animals. God gave no indication that the male is anymore “like” God in His image than the female is “like” God for God has chosen to give His image to male and female alike.

2. The male rules for the benefit of God because the male was created first.

God created the man first (2:7) and stationed him in the Garden of Eden to develop it and to guard it (2:15) (pg 100 Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)


God did not say that He would create Adam first so that the male alone would have a unique right to rule the earth. To claim that being created first is a Divine stamp of approval over and against the second one who was created is an arrogant stand against God’s own testimony from Genesis 1:26, 27.  God initiated His plan by His own spoken Word and He brought the plan into existence by creating both the man and the woman in His image. Both had His stamp and both had the mandate to rule.

While ancient culture gave priority to the first born male child, God deliberately by-passed that cultural priority at times by choosing His servants from outside the rank of the first born. On the other hand,  it is important to note that Adam and Eve were not in a competition of “first born” son’s rights since they were not created as siblings, but created to be united as husband and wife.

The last point is that Adam’s privileges given to him before Eve was created from his body, cannot be a sign of male supremacy unless it can be proven that Adam was given something that was withheld from Eve because she was a female.  No such God-ordained withholding of privileges is present in the Scriptures, so complementarians are left with a “beginning of creation” male supremacy through sheer wishful thinking alone.



24 responses to What God intended at Creation – ruler or ruled?

  1. On point 2:

    first-ology – sounds like an appropriately silly term for the first created crowd.

    The idea that the first born (or created) has some higher position over those that follow is an entirely cultural creation. It is never taught as a biblical principal. God Himself defeats such a notion on a number of occasions in Scripture, with Joseph and David being the prime examples. And Jesus completely obliterates the idea in his teaching on first and last.

    On point 1:

    “The claim is that God is male and that only the male was made directly in God’s image.”

    Do they really make such a blatantly erroneous claim? Certainly the people behind CBMW are smart men. They don’t really ascribe gender to God, do they? I have always thought that they relied solely on the design argument – men were better designed to lead and women better designed to help. If they really promote a “God is male” argument then they are dumber than I thought.

  2. Hi, Cheryl,
    It’s good to see you back posting!

    It’s shocking to me how many believers do think that God is male. I asked a Master’s degree level seminary class I was teaching if that were so and about half of them said yes. But then with so many “experts” saying it’s so, what else would they think?

    Second thought: it is inherently illogical to claim that men and women are “spiritually equal human beings” as you quote CBMW, and follow that with the teaching that the woman has to be ruled spiritually by the man. How can equal spiritually before God translate into always subordinate spiritually to men?

    I also think it would be interesting to unpack the benefits to men for holding on to this view. They make a lot of unstated assumptions as you are explaining. They also gain a lot of unstated power and privileges (which mostly I think they deny and try to hide).

  3. Gengwall,

    It’s in there, the claim that God is male. You have to dig a bit to find it–and I couldn’t stomach the hunt this morning–but it’s there. You would think they know better. But then, you would also think they know that grammatical gender in Greek does not equal biological gender in English, a mistake they make. And you would think that they know that Jesus is equal to the Father, not eternally subordinate.

    It just goes to show how important (male) power is to them. Sigh.

  4. Lamb,
    It is good to be back. My resolution this new year is to be far more active on my blog and to make it more of a priority even while I am still researching and writing my new script.

    My post isn’t just about CBMW, but about complementarians which do very somewhat from each other. However the typical comp response that I have been getting from comps is that God is male. Where do they get this from?

    CBMW says things like:

    Biblical, masculine language for God is not culture-dependent, but rather is God’s chosen self-revelation of his identity.

    Thus CBMW can speak out of both sides of their mouth. They can deny in places that God is male, yet out of the other side of their mouth they affirm that He is masculine. His identity, they say, is masculine. What does masculine mean? What does identity mean?

    identity: condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is
    male: pertaining to or characteristic of a male person; masculine
    masculine: pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men

    CBMW writes:

    Therefore, the masculine language for God in the Bible is not due to what Israel or the early church thought about God, primarily, but, ultimately, this way of speaking of God comes from God himself. Because the Bible is God’s own chosen self-revelation, we must take seriously the language God chose to use to communicate to us what he is like. This revelation, by God’s choice, includes all the masculine God-language of the Bible, and therefore it cannot be dismissed as merely the by-product of a patriarchal cultural. To dismiss the masculine language for God in the Bible is to dismiss how God has spoken of himself, and this is a serious matter. http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-13-No-2/How-Shall-We-Speak-of-God-Seven-Reasons-Why-We-Cannot-Call-God-Mother

  5. gengwall,
    Under point 1, the claim that only the male is created directly in God’s image is the teaching of Bruce Ware of CBMW and his quotes are in my DVD set.

  6. Second thought: it is inherently illogical to claim that men and women are “spiritually equal human beings” as you quote CBMW, and follow that with the teaching that the woman has to be ruled spiritually by the man.

    I actualy heard a comp say that it is not illogical. Though I never got to hear how they reasoned out that the man is the spiritual leader of the woman as ordained by God and yet the man and woman are spiritualy equal. I just couldn’t believe that I heard someone say that. How can the two ideas not contradict eachother? How can one not oppose the other? Anyone know?

  7. Thus CBMW can speak out of both sides of their mouth. They can deny in places that God is male, yet out of the other side of their mouth they affirm that He is masculine.

    It’s craziness I tell ya.

  8. Hi Cheryl,
    As I read your post, and the subsequent comments I was disappointed to find that no one mentioned the scripture in Genesis that speaks directly to Father God/Jehovah’s gender/lack there of. Genesis 1:26-28 “Let us make man (gender neutral) in our image and in our likeness….Male and female created he them.” God is not male nor is He female, He is both. further testimony to this is in Genesis 2:18-22 When God created Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. Adam was complete male and female together in one body. God did not create woman out of the dust of the ground, but he fashioned her from one of Adam’s ribs. In all reality God created male and female at the same time. They were together in one body. Adam even made the declaration that she “should be called woman because she was TAKEN OUT OF man. Adam and Eve were never two separate entities, they were one. Even after woman was taken out of man God still referred to them as one. See Genesis 5:1.
    God created male and female equal. In the New Testament we learn that God doesn’t even see gender, only the heart of man (gender neutral) mankind has seen fit to separate and classify the roles of male and female. Not God. God is ever seeking male and female to submit to Him, serve Him, honor Him, worship Him, love Him. If we as human beings could shift our focus to that alone, then we would see much less bickering over what role this or that person should carry out.
    I have fought the fight of women in ministry since 1995 when I was called to preach. It took many years of running, frustration, and a near death experience for me to come to the understanding that I was God’s minister and I would preach to whom ever he sent me to. If you are a woman and you know in your heart you have been called to preach and even pastor then rely solely on God for direction. Surround yourself with Godly men and women, study, prepare, and allow God to move you as He wills. You will face opposition, attack, slander, and a host of other things that I will not list here. Even in this day and age it is not easy to be a woman called of God to minister (except to children). Know this. If God has called you, the He knows that you can handle the pressure. He knows that you will not buckle under the demands of modern day thinking, and He knows that He can trust you with the calling that He has placed on your life.
    May God richly bless each and every one of you!
    Stay strong! Keep the faith! Never back up, back down or give in!

  9. Hi Patricia and welcome to my blog!

    I am always encouraged when I read the testimony of a woman who hung in their with her calling and did not let men try to steal her blessing from the Lord. Way to go!

    Now as far as God being male and female and that God made Adam both male and female in the beginning, I have heard these arguments before, and I am sorry to say that I cringe when I hear them.

    First of all if God is not male because He is pure Spirit and has no testosterone and no male parts, then He cannot be female either as He does not have estrogen nor does He have any body parts so He cannot be female. But I do believe it is safe to say that in His character He has shown the characteristics that we commonly claim for male and the ones we commonly assume to be female. The feminine nature is part of the entire human nature and we are all in the image of God.

    More in the next comment.

  10. Patricia,
    You said:

    Genesis 1:26-28 “Let us make man (gender neutral) in our image

    There is no neuter in the Hebrew. While I agree that God is talking about the human race (thus not just the male), “man” is in the masculine (since the masculine is the traditional use for generic people)

    More in the next comment.

  11. Although the “rib” is in the feminine, this does not make it female. It is part of the Hebrew grammar that makes things that are without life but which resemble organic things are in the feminine gender. See the Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar under syntax of the noun. (see below a screen print)


    More in the next comment.

  12. Did God say that He took a female out of Adam? I know that many think this, but it isn’t supported by the text.

    Genesis 2:22 (NASB95)
    22The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

    Notice that God fashioned the woman from the rib. He doesn’t say that he took out a female and fashioned a female from it. The female wasn’t in existence until God fashioned her after the rib was removed from Adam.

    This doesn’t diminish the value of the woman, but I believe it gives the woman full identity of her own. She was not inside the man as a woman within a male/female body, but a complete identity of her own as fashioned by God outside the body of the male. This made them both individuals, but with the same original DNA structure. One human race, but separate male and female. Her identity, according to the text, was not removed from Adam, but was created by God Himself outside of Adam, from a part that came from His DNA.

    I did a post back in 2009 that talks about the myths that have been presented about God being female as well as male and that God took a female out of the body of a male. I know that this is a very romantic idea, but I would rather have the truth and know that we are truly God’s creation as fully female and in His image rather than holding to old time myths that distract us from the truth. Here is the old post. http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2009/02/02/adam-and-his-ms-organ/ I welcome any comments, questions or differing views, if anyone thinks that I am the one who has it wrong.

  13. Know this. If God has called you, the He knows that you can handle the pressure.

    Bam! Nuff said! Encouraging words! 😀

  14. Has anybody ever asked a Comp what it is that a woman can and can’t do. Like do they have a list? How long is that list and how specific is it? Is it official across the board or can any patriarch just change the rules at a whim?

    Isn’t it degrading to children to allow “stupid and easily deceived” women to teach them some of the most basic Christian lessons? What if one of the women folk forget an important scripture? Or just does a bad job at teaching? Things like this anger me. It’s obviously masochism flimsily disguised as Biblical truth. When really it is nothing but tradition. An establishment that needs to be toppled.

    I think the reason God took a rib from Adam is very simple. He wanted the two to become one anyway, right? Two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly. Or perhaps Lego pieces… I think God intended for the relationship between Man and Woman to be that close and that intimate. But Comps take that and warp it to mean dominance. But I think God is saying that men and women are a part of each other. Do I make any sort of sense?

  15. LOL – I was asking this very question over and over again in a day dreamed argument with an unidentified comp. The answer kept coming back “well, there isn’t a list per se, it just depends”. “On what?” “The situation, the couple, the culture” etc. etc. blah blah blah. All the same arguments I hear over and over. So in my imagination I proposed this challenge: “ok, forget the list. Just name me one thing that the bible says the husband has universal and unilateral authority over. Oh, and make sure you point to the scripture that supports your answer.” I have never had that challenge successfully answered.

  16. Dejablue,
    Welcome to my blog!

    I don’t think that complementarians have an official full list, although a partial list has been published by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. CBMW regularly receives questions regarding what a woman can or cannot do and they provide their wisdom to the commoners who haven’t been able to find the proper restrictions in the Bible. Apparently only CBMW is privy to the master list-maker and they mediate each new minute restriction to comp pastors who pass the restrictions onto their own faithful followers. Can CBMW can the rules at whim? I think they can and do as long as the rules get more restrictive rather than less.

    I agree with you that what God intended by woman’s creation from the man, is twisted beyond recognition with these folks. What you have stated makes full sense to me.

  17. gengwall,
    One does not need a scripture when you have a magisterium. But that is a great question that I will have to remember! It may cause those who respect the Bible to see that their authority has set aside the Bible to allow a group of men the right and authority to decide what God meant but didn’t write down.

  18. Shalom Cheryl!! So glad you sent me the link to this awesome website! Never realized what I was missing.. Just a short comment for now,on the subject of Adam being “male and female”.. This is a belief and teaching of Jewish people,in which the first human being is called ” androgynous”. It is a strong argument to say the least,but,however Scripture teaches us in Matthew 19:4,also Mark 10:6 that God created “them” male and female..the androgynous is an interesting theory and Jewish thought,but comparing Scripture with Scripture,we see that they,Adam and Eve were created separately as individuals..male and female.
    I had never heard of CBMW,until now,but watching your videos,Cheryl,I now understand that my previous church was under this influence of philosophy. My present church maybe also,but do not hear it as much as I did previously,yet I see it with my eyes..I am thrilled to be a part of this blog,and pray we can all learn from one another..I so admire you Ms.Cheryl for what you have accomplished and husband,ecspecially concerning the hardship and trials yaw have had to get thru to get to where yaw are at today..The Lord bless you and keep you..

  19. Clyde,
    Welcome to my blog! I am sure that many others will be blessed to meet you here too.

    I am aware of the Jewish myth about the androgynous creation and you gave a good response to that. I am also aware that the Jew had a few other myths that went beyond the Scriptures (one comes to mind about Adam’s first wife Lilith). It is a good reminder that we need to test all things and to hold fast to what is good and true.

    Thank you so much for your kind words about my work! It has been a tough road and we have faced much opposition from those who are afraid that my work is too persuasive and will take people away from their complementarian camp. My response is that the work, in fact anyone’s work, needs to be tested by the Scriptures. If it aligns with the Scriptures in context then the message should be embraced and the women that God has called into service should be released to go as their Lord and Master has called them.

    I am working on another post for this blog in between working on our newsletter and fighting a bad cold so I may not be as fast as I would like, but this blog has my heart especially for the great people who show up here and comment.

  20. it is my understanding that the word ezer, which is often in translations of Genesis 2:18 translated as “helper” is a Hebrew word which does not suggest a subordinate role but rather could be translated as an indispensible part of the whole or one who can do something for a person that they are unable to do themselves i.e. an indispensible companion. Source: Net Bible footnotes for Genesis 2:18 quoting M.L.Rosenzweig “A Helper Equal to Him” pp.277-80(www. bible.org)

  21. It’s odd to me that Adam, the traitor and rebel with a fallen nature, would rule over Eve, who’s nature was perfect. And isn’t that what masculine christianity is really all about?
    The imperfect and fallen ruling the perfect – what a strange thought. Apes ruling people, demons ruling angels, children ruling parents – those kinds of things are completely out of order.

  22. Is the flesh suppose to rule over the Spirit? Are men because they are men suppose to rule over women’s ministries? Is Christianity suppose to be masculine? Can the Spiritual be likened with the natural or physical? Are babies born from dirt?

  23. (lost my comment to moderation cause I missed one number in my mail address) I’ll repeat it:
    Is the flesh suppose to rule over the Spirit?! Are men because they are men suppose to take over women’s ministries? Are babies born from dirt?
    Masculine Christianity <—– What is that?! Is it like a unicorn? lol

  24. Angelique Joy Buchanan March 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Hi, I am attending a Bible Institute in Alaska and the official policy is that women are not to hold positions of authority over men. I am attempting to put together a well researched presentation to the Board (which contrary to their written and otherwise practiced policy has two women serving on it) on why the policy should be changed. The issue I am running into is I am a first year student and havent learned to do the in depth analysis of scriptures in light of the original language use and cultural context. It looks like you have already done these types of studies and was wondering if there is already something in existence I could refer to when I am presenting? Something available online would be awesome as there are only two weeks left in this semester and it would take longer than that to get a book or DVD sent through the mail to Alaska.

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