Friday, 24 May 2013

Thoughts On "A (Somewhat) Scholarly Analysis of Genesis 3:16"

I recently purchased Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology as a little gift for myself. Because it's been on my mind a lot lately, one of the first parts I dipped into was Chapter 22: Man As Male and Female. This is basically Grudem's overview of complementarianism and many parts of it were very good. A quote I especially loved was, "In practical terms, we must never think that there are any second-class citizens in the church. Whether someone is a man or woman, employer or employee, Jew or Gentile, black or white, rich or poor, healthy or ill, strong or weak, attractive or unattractive, extremely intelligent or slow to learn, all are equally valuable to God and should be equally valuable to one another as well. This equality is an amazing and wonderful element of the Christian faith and sets Christianity apart from almost all religions and societies and cultures." Praise God!

However. In the course of his breakdown of how pre-Fall Scripture already teaches different roles for men and women, Grudem footnotes Susan T. Foh's article in the Westminster Theological Journal in 1975, which argues that Genesis 3:16 should be re-examined in light of feminism (meaning second-wave feminism) and that "her desire shall be for her husband" should be interpreted that the woman's desire will be to conquer her husband. This is quite a leap from the ordinary meaning of desire, and a new idea theologically-- I would like to refer you to this article by Wendy Horger Alsup on Practical Theology for Women which breaks down this argument hermeneutically and discusses what Reformed theologians have historically thought on the subject, and, I think, makes a good case that what is actually meant here is a straightforward reading of "desire" as we usually read it: longing or craving.

Wendy writes: "What if we read Genesis 3:16 in the straightforward way translators write it—her desire (strong craving/longing) will be for her husband—a way that was among the common views of it, according to Foh, before she put out her new view in reaction to the 2nd wave of feminism?... A straightforward reading such as Vos', Keil's, and Delitzsch's, requires no theological backflips. The woman's root problem is that, even though child birth is painful and the man rules her, she still has a morbid craving for him, looking to him in completely unhealthy ways that do not reflect her status as image bearer of God." 

I do strongly encourage you to read the whole article; it's really fabulous. In closing, one more quote which uses this straightforward reading of the Genesis 3:16 curse to draw some conclusions about the current state of gender relationships: "No, feminism isn't the ultimate problem. The problem didn't start as women wanting control over the men in their lives. Women set up men as idols and looked to them to provide emotionally, spiritually, physically what only God can provide. Apart from Christ, men oppressed them in return, hence the modern coping mechanisms of independence, self-sufficiency, and control (often ineffective) for dealing with that oppression. The curse read at face value reflects the real issue, and the gospel is the clear answer."

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