The Bible is Sexist… and Why We Shouldn’t Care

A Word to Non-Christians

As a Christian, I don’t believe I am better than or morally superior to anyone else. The Bible teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. We could never have gotten to God so God came to us––clothed in human flesh and wrapped in a manger. I am a Christian because of what Christ has done for me, not because of any good that I have done. I was lost and dead in my sins, blind to the truth about God and his glorious gospel, but God reached out and rescued me, not because of anything I did to earn his attention or his help, but simply because of His grace and mercy. In our fallen nature, we all attempt to come to God on our own terms, judging what is right and wrong by our own standards––thinking “this is my life. I’ll live in the way that seems best to me.” But because Jesus suffered and died for me, I now belong to Him. Because He conquered death through His resurrection, I now desire to live for Him. This means I mustn’t attempt any longer to determine right and wrong for myself, but rather submit to God’s standards. 

When Jesus walked on earth, He affirmed that the Scriptures of the older Testament were His own authoritative words, and he also gave authority to his apostles and prophets to write the words of what is known as the New Testament. So as a Christian, I submit to Jesus by submitting to His words recorded in the Bible. We Christians (most certainly including myself) fail often at living in obedience to Jesus and His commands; we are a work in progress, daily in need of His help. But by His grace, we seek to live more fully each day in joyful submission to God’s authority. Recognizing that Christ has freed us from the illusion of autonomy and self-determination, we believe and confess that the Word of God is our ultimate authority and standard of truth––in and over every sphere of life. Oh, that you would trust in Him today, and in His atoning death for your sins. Oh, that you would surrender all to His lordship. In the day of judgment, every knee will bow before Him. Will you bow your knee in submission to Him today while there’s still time?

To You Who Claim to Believe in the Bible as the Infallible and Authoritative Word of God: A Brotherly Appeal

As your brother in Christ, I will now turn to you, beloved sons of the Father, do you agree with the brief gospel message which I laid out in the previous paragraph? Are you wondering what it has to do with the provocative title of this piece? Yes, I admit with a clear conscience that I’m trying to be provocative. That is, in the sense of stirring things up; inciting you to action. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24). My concern for many of you (and for the unbelievers that you will mislead) is that you have unwittingly embraced the “sin” categories of the world, over and against the authority of Scripture. Please hear me out on this, dear brother. Please prayerfully consider these things, dear sister.  

Ultimate Authority and New Definitions of Sin

In the moment that an unbeliever asserts that our precious Bible is full of sexism, how are you inclined to respond? Do you begin by seeking to prove that the Bible is in fact not sexist? If so, you have assumed the legitimacy of a “sin” category that is nowhere found in Scripture. You have begun to allow the world to define right and wrong according to their own terms. Both parties would be better served if we were to respond (like Jesus often did) with a question. Something like: “By what standard do you determine that sexism is wrong?” or “How do you know that your definition of sexism is correct?” Remembering that the goal is not to win an argument but to honor God and win a sinner to Christ, we can graciously push the non-Christian’s beliefs back to their logical foundations (or lack thereof). When this is done, it should be clear that ultimately only two options exist: either we act as our own gods and goddesses, determining morality for ourselves based on our limited perspectives, finite reasoning, and subjective experiences, or we submit to our Creator through faith in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what it ultimately comes down to––man’s authority or God’s authority, man’s words or God’s Word, man’s definitions or God’s definitions?

This is why we shouldn’t care about the Bible being labeled as sexist, or even homophobic because these terms are man-made, secular humanist inventions. What we should care about is the fact that unbelievers are usurping the place of God and defining morality for themselves. We should passionately care about the fact that if they continue in their rejection of Jesus and the ultimate reality of His lordship, they will most certainly perish in their sins and come under the righteous judgment of God. We are too often on the defensive due to the fear of man rather than being on the offensive, propelled forward by the fear of Yahweh. This is not to deny the need for a winsome and gracious spirit in the way we interact with unbelievers, but embracing their fabricated definitions of morality, will often only solidify their rebellious ignorance of the truth. When I interact with individuals who have embraced lifestyles of sexual perversion, I treat them with just as much kindness and common courtesy as anyone else, not because I am concerned with being labeled as homophobic, but because my Lord calls me to love my neighbor as myself, and the gospel reminds me that apart from the grace of God, I would be just as lost.  

The Disambiguation of “Sexism”

So am I saying that sexism is fine? I can’t give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to that question. Some things included under that label are indeed sinful and manifestly condemned by Scripture. Treating women as morally inferior to men is certainly wrong. If I were to do so, I would not be loving my neighbor as myself and I would not be honoring the image of God in women (Genesis 1:27), and therefore I would be in grievous rebellion to the commands of my God and King. So, yes, some things under the “sexism” umbrella are wicked and worthy of vehement opposition. But the definition of “sexism” continues to expand to include many more things that are in no way condemned by Scripture. Indeed, to promote the goodness and exclusivity of the biblical vision for marriage and sexuality in itself is certainly now considered an act of sexism. 

Furthermore, according to the current cultural definitions, which are only becoming more extreme by the day, many of the things I have said in this article are “sinful” expressions of sexism. For example, I have referred to God as Father, but have appallingly made no reference to God as Mother. I even mentioned “sons of the Father” intentionally ignoring the more neutral term “children of God.” Not that I have a problem with that term––at times Scripture does use more specific and inclusive language such as “sons and daughters”––but the inspired authors frequently use masculine nouns and pronouns to describe both men and women. Since our loving God seems to have no problem with this, we shouldn’t have a problem with it either.

Cultural Bias in Scripture?

Now some object that the presence of masculine gender-specific language and of “patriarchal” customs in Scripture is simply God allowing the cultural biases of the authors to remain, and that he is not endorsing these “sexist” practices. In other words, Scripture may talk about a father “giving his daughter away in marriage” but that is simply descriptive of what people did in those days and nothing more. There are numerous serious problems with this objection. For example, God himself is often “caught” using this kind of language or prescribing these practices. Look at Jeremiah 29:4-6, for example, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” Notice how God is the one speaking here and He is telling fathers to “give their daughters in marriage.” That is total sexism! Now, this is just one of many examples, not to mention the plain New Testament teaching that a wife is to submit to her own husband and that a husband is the head of his wife. That is to say, the husband is to lead by sacrificially laying down his own interests for the sake of his wife and family, following Christ’s loving example (Eph 5:25). Can these passages be abused and misapplied to justify sinful behavior? Of course, but so can any command from God. The presence of abuse only shows the sinfulness of men who twist God’s Word to satisfy their own lusts. It should be clear that Scripture contains numerous specific prescriptive and doctrinal statements that the world would label as “sexist.” Now, it is also true that Scripture does contain many portions that are primarily descriptive and not directly prescriptive, but with passages like those referred to above, there’s no applying the “cultural bias” argument unless one is willing to start playing Thomas Jefferson with the Bible. 

Another significant issue is that sexist gender-specific language is built into the very theology of Scripture. In Galatians 4, we see that all Christians are collectively “sons of God,” in the sense that we have the privilege and position that would be given to the oldest male in a family. This is unapologetically masculine, and some Bible translations (e.g. NIV, NLT) have essentially removed the gender specificity from that text. Interestingly, there is another sense in which all Christians collectively are the Bride of Christ. This is unapologetically feminine, and I’m fine with that. But the fact that no translations have messed with the gender-specific word “Bride” (e.g. turning it into “the Church is the significant other of Christ”) is one of many obvious indications that feminism has infiltrated Christian Scholarship. Although, as the illogical transgender movement careens up and down the feminist highways, such an attempted revision might not be far off. 

Do You See What’s Happening?

In summary, the world wants us to hear “sexism is bad!” “sexism is bad!” so many times that we no longer question it. Sexist people are on the wrong side of history! This mantra becomes an undisputed fact in our world. Then the world––under satanic influence––begins to load the term with more and more concepts that Christians would have cringed at in the beginning, and soon these Christians are faced with the dilemma of defending a term that now requires the approval of sexual perversions condemned by Scripture. Sadly, many are tempted to now modify Scripture to fit their cultural understanding of right and wrong, when the exact opposite is what we should be doing.

Dear Christian, can you see what is happening? The world is constantly trying to disciple us into its way of thinking; to love what it loves and approve what it approves. Our God is the King of the universe, His gospel is mighty to tear down strongholds and transform hearts. We don’t need the approval of men in order to reach men with the gospel (and yes, just like the Bible, I’m using the term “men” to refer to both men and women). I don’t think that should be insulting to women. After all, the God who made women in His image and fashioned them in His likeness with glory and splendor, uses that kind of language in the Scriptures He inspired. He is the God who loved women so much that He sent His Son to die for them and He now brings them into His eternal kingdom as coheirs with Christ––I am not ashamed of speaking like that God. If the world labels Him a sexist, then let them label me one as well. I reject that man-made “sin” category, it has no ultimate authority. I am happy to be identified with the God of the Bible. I want to speak how He speaks, love what He loves, hate what He hates, and love others as He has loved me so that both men and women would see His truth and glory on display and turn to the Father through faith in His beloved Son.

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Ephesians 4:17-24

Published by Nathan Cedarland

Child of God. Servant of Messiah. Husband of Julissa. Father of seven. Preacher and teacher. Lover of reading and writing. Amateur filmmaker. Blogs in Spanish at teologiapublica.com

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