Not all cupcakes are created equal. I have discovered cupcakes that are heaven in dessert form – dense, moist, sweet, covered in a thick layer of frosting that tastes as if it were created from cream cheese. But it’s not a cream cheese frosting, which makes the frosting even more fascinating and delicious. These cupcakes are the most amazing cupcakes that I have ever encountered. I have discovered the best cupcake shop around, and my only hint is that it is not in Davis. The most disappointing cupcakes I have ever eaten came from a shop in Davis. They are probably based on a sponge cake because – surprise, surprise – it felt like I was eating a sponge. At least this shop with a yucky recipe creates fascinating flavors like cantaloupe or beer flavored cupcakes! Admittedly, those are pretty cool flavors. But the recipe is so horrible, it is still vying for the bottom rung of cupcakedom with the boxed cupcake. Wait, no, I think there are some boxed cupcakes that taste better than that shop’s…
If each person is a cupcake, then Jesus would have to be the most amazing cupcake ever from the undisclosed magical shop that produces those dense, moist, quasi-cream cheese frosted cupcakes. He is it. And we are all the inferior cupcakes. The sponge-cake cupcake. The boxed cupcake. That’s what we are. Our ranking pales in comparison to who Jesus is. But, thankfully, God is not like me. He actually loves all the cupcakes he created.
Anyway, the hierarchy of cupcakes with their varying recipes and absolute inequality is a metaphor for the inequalities among humans. I am about to talk about egalitarianism, but I mention cupcakes partially as a response to a dare, and partially because I do want to admit that on a certain level, I do not think that everyone is absolutely equal. I have heard some people mocking egalitarianism, pointing out that equality does not exist. And I know there are people out there who want to insist on not just differences but inequalities between men and women. The verdict from sociology and psychology might still be undecided regarding the battle of the sexes and which is the superior sex, but turning to scripture, egalitarianism seeks to root sexism out of the church. At the end of the day, even if sociology and psychology discover (which they have not) that all men are boxed cupcakes and all women are the spongecake cupcakes, the emphasis of egalitarianism is that we are all cupcakes. And our new identity in Christ, whether male or female, is that we are the most dense, moist, quasi-cream cheese frosted cupcake you can imagine. And it is our new identity in Christ that should regulate our interactions with one another in both the church and family.
I will say it now: I’m totally an egalitarian. I did not list this under my “Essential Beliefs,” but it is true. I define “egalitarian” as “one who believes that God’s original design and our ultimate destiny is equality between the sexes.” 1 Equality does not mean that men and women are exactly alike. But it does mean there should be equality of power between one another and before God. The marriage relationship between male and female is a unification that should be a relationship of love and mutual honoring of one another. Both male and female were created to be in direct relationship with God. Male and female were created in the image of God: this image is seen in the marriage relationship, in all our relationships with one another, and in the individual human, both male and female. I will write more about these ideas later, particularly in the coming book review of Beyond Sex Roles. I think Belizikian does a good job arguing for original equality.
Despite creation’s original equality and harmony (which yes, are distinct), sin disrupts everything. We tend to define sin as disobeying the will of God. But I think our definition of sin is tainted with our warped ideas about power. God is love. God is good. God is self-sacrificing. God is a creator. And God created beings (us!) to join the eternal community of the triune God. God created us (willed us) to be loving, good, self-sacrificing, and creating. He created us to be like God. Sin is a deviation from being all that we were created to be. Sin reverts us away from our true life source, God. It decays us into the original compounds. (Yeah, the cupcake analogy is totally fallen apart now – I could talk about our ingredients becoming a soggy mess, but perhaps it is better to just ignore cupcakes for now.)
God created man from the soil and intended man to care for it (Genesis 2:15). 2 Arguably, man was even intended to rule over the soil, except that Genesis 1:28-29 only mentions ruling animals, and both male and female are told to rule over them. The soil was given to the man and woman for their sustenance. Even though God clearly did not intend man to be ruled by the soil, sin destroys the intended relationship. Sin brings man back to his original source to be ruled by the soil in hard labor, driven to toil by a desire for food but finding thistles instead, and eventually overpowered by the soil in death.
Similarly, the woman came from the man. Being the same substance as man, she also reverts to the soil and suffers in her toil and eventually dies, but she also reverts to the man. God created woman from the man and intended woman to care for the man. This care is not indicative of hierarchy. 3 By analogy with the soil, you could deduce woman was created to rule man and/or that the man was given to her for sustenance. The word used to describe the woman as “helper” in Genesis is the same word used in other parts of scripture to describe God helping Israel. Check out some of these verses: Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:20; Psalm 70:5; Ezekiel 12:14; and Hosea 13:9. 4 There are about eleven more references in addition to these verses. And most praise God as being the active defender and helper of Israel. The women is the protector of the man! Craziness. But nothing is said in Genesis 1-2 regarding power of woman over man or vice-versa. 5 Male dominance enters the world with sin. Sin brings the woman back to the man, to be ruled by the man in hard labor (childbirth), driven by desire for him yet eventually overpowered by the man in subjugation which is a fate almost worse than death.
If you take a look at Genesis 3, you will see the punishment and results of sin described by God. And you can see that to the serpent, the woman, and the man, God metes out three parallel statements. To each one he describes an amplification of current status, a disruption of relationship, and a death sentence. The serpent receives an outright curse while the man and woman receive descriptions of the suffering and death they will encounter.
To the serpent:
- Crawl in the dust (Amplification)
- Enmity between seed of woman and the serpent’s (Disruption of relationship)
- The seed will crush the serpent’s head (Death)
To the woman:
- Increased pain in child-birth (Amplification)
- Desire will be for husband (Disruption of relationship)
- “He will rule over you” (Death)
To the man:
- Increased pain in labor (Amplification)
- Thistles from the ground (Disruption of relationship)
- Return to the dust (Death)
These parallel statements dole out the result of living apart from God. Each created being will suffer and die apart from the living God. Humanity is not intended to return to the ground in death. Women are not intended to be ruled by men. The ancient serpent is a whole other can of worms. The concept of being doomed for destruction is far beyond today’s scope – whether for the serpent or the whole story of salvation. God’s intent for the ancient serpent remains a mystery. But I suspect God desired life and honor for the ancient serpent (Isaiah 14:12-13).
With the introduction of sin, the relationships God designed are thwarted. God does not want us to remain in death or subjugation. Jesus came that we might have life and life to the fullest. Jesus conquered sin for humanity. He demonstrated his power over sin by rising from the dead. He also indicated his power over sin by reversing the role of women. The very first thing recorded regarding his resurrection is that he appeared to multiple women. And then he told those women to tell the men (Matthew 28:1-10). If Jesus rose from the dead to restore a hierarchy of men ruling over women, then it would have made more sense for him to disclose his resurrection to the men before the women. But I think (and others over the centuries have noted this, too) that appearing to the women first was a sign that the effects of sin were about to pass away now that he has risen.
This all said, the end is not yet here. We still are dying. We still have the battle of the sexes. We have corrupted governments, not the kingdom of God. And we still do terrible things to one another. The New Testament teaches a strange, foreign approach to all this sin and vying for power and domination. It teaches us to submit to these corrupted governing authorities (Romans 13:1). It teaches us to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21-6:9). (More about ancient authority and family structures later.) It teaches us to submit to every institution of power. It also teaches us to be willing to suffer and die for the sake of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8). That’s weird. Anyway, we are are still hoping for the final end when the wolves and leopards will become vegetarians. Lambs and goats will live peacefully with those old predators, and the old hierarchy will be gone – even a child could lead (Isaiah 11:6). And as Revelation 22:5 says, we shall reign with God forever, together.
Praise to Jesus, the most delicious cupcake, ever. Except for the Father and Holy Ghost.
- This is my definition. The following material is very likely an infusion of influences, but with the exception of references of ezer, these are my own reflections. Most wonderfully, other authors have come to the same conclusion. ↩
- The story of the creation and fall in Genesis 1-3 is pivotal. If you are a Christian-evolutionist who believes God created the world through evolution – fine. Some days I’m with you. But whether you believe there was an actual Adam and Eve or not, to me this story makes more sense when interpreted as a historical event. I will leave it to you to sort out allegorical details and how God created everything, at what point there could have been a couple named Adam and Eve, just what exactly does it mean for the man to have been created from the dirt, and for the woman to have been created from the man’s side while he was sleeping. For now, let’s just say Genesis 1-3 is true. ↩
- Bilezikian also addresses woman’s role of being “helpmeet.” Again, in the book review I will go over his argument. ↩
- I have read this in multiple sources, most recently in Bilezikian’s Beyond Sex Roles and in this blog post randomly found called New Life, “A Suitable Helper,” http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/a-suitable-helper/. ↩
- This is another point of Belizikian’s book – more to come later. ↩