Friday, January 30, 2009

Elaine Storkey on the Bible and Gender

Storkey’s fascinating and well written book on the gender debate Origins of Difference ends with a useful summary of how the Bible deals with issues of gender. Her main point is that the Bible does not offer a simple one-dimensional response, in the terms of the debate it is not ‘essentialist’. Instead the Bible can be seen to present four dimension to the issue, Storkey calls them paradigms however since they are not opposing options it seems more appropriate to speak of dimensions.

The first dimension is that of difference, this is seen in the different creation accounts of Adam, from the dust, and Eve, from Adams rib. It is also apparent in their different confrontation with temptation and the different curse that they receive for their disobedience. This ties in with the different gender roles that men and women find themselves involved with in different cultural contexts, though Storkey notes that these roles are not fixed.

The second is that the Bible also incorporates the idea of sameness or similarity. Both are made in the image of God, Adam recognises the women as “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. They are both given the cultural mandate with its authority and responsibility for God’s creation; both receive the curse and look towards the promise of redemption. Paul even goes so far as to say that there is neither “male” nor “female” in Christ suggesting at least that the difference should not be divisive or decisive.

Thirdly the Bible points to the complementarity of women and men, they fit together designed as co-helpers. Just as women came from man so now man comes from women (1 Corinthians 11:11).

Lastly the Bible shows that men and women were made for union. No other creature was suitable for Adam and the gospel of reconciliation draws all together in the unity of the body of Christ as his church.

Storkey also points to the occasions where Jesus challenged traditional gender roles and prejudices in the way he acted towards women, such as his interaction with the Samaritan woman (John 4), the woman who suffered from bleeding (Luke 8:43-48), and the episode with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-41). Her conclusions seem to be that (1) men and women, being different, will tend towards some differences in roles, but that these can change over time, there is no fixed ahistorical framework, (2) These differing and changing roles should be judged according to the norms set out in the Bible for loving relationships such as the fruits of the spirit (e.g. Galatians 5:16-26, Colossians 3, Romans 12:9-21). In this way Storkey finds a way out of the sterile debates about “created or constructed”, our creaturely sex/gender nature is both given with creational order and called to faithful cultural response.

1 comment:

Owlb said...

Rudi - Thanks for this summary, and the splendid thinking of Elaine Storkey on this matter.

- Owlb, refWrite