What is the difference between men and women? Dr. Kevin DeYoung sorts through conflicting cultural messages about gender and explains how men and women are part of God’s creational plan.
We all recognize, if we have our eyes open or pull up the internet on our phones, that we live in a day where there is great confusion about men and women—confusion down to the very foundations. Is there such a thing as a man and a woman? And you’ve probably seen the clips that get passed around. High ranking, very intelligent people don’t know how—or at least they pretend not to know how—to answer the question, “What is a woman?” And as Christians, we have the Bible and we have what the world needs to hear, whether it wants to hear it or not. And we, of course, want to present it in a way that is most robust in truth, and also so that people can hear and can listen. But it’s really important that we’re clear about “What are men and women?”
What are Men and Women?
I mean, the etymology actually helps us in English. And in Hebrew, it’s ishah, for she comes out of ish. Even there in the Hebrew, the two words are connected. And it’s like that in English: A “womb man,” that a woman, biologically, is the person of God’s design in creation who—if all of the the plumbing, shall we say, is working correctly—gives birth to human life. That’s the latent possibility. Of course, we know that some people are are called to singleness and sometimes our bodies, because of the fall, don’t work in the ways that we would like. But there are those latent possibilities, that a woman is that person whom God has designed to incubate, to nurture, to nourish, and to give birth to life. And that’s where we need to start.
Roles of Men and Women
Everything about God’s design in this world must keep in mind this sexual differentiation between men and women.Often we talk about men and women, and we could go down into, “Well, what are the roles?” And that’s important. And maybe the conversation seems sort of pedantic, and there’s a few things that women can’t do that men can do. And certainly we ought to affirm from the Bible that men—qualified men—are called to be office-bearers in the church and men have a leadership role in the home. But we also want to emphasize that there are things women do that men don’t do, namely that as they are given opportunity in marriage, they give birth to life. What more exalted calling can there be?
Back to the Beginning
And so as Christians, we need to go back to the very beginning and we need to help people see—our children, our churches—we need to help people see not just the right conclusions. That’s good, but I fear that often we’re giving people the right conclusions about men and women, and we’re not backing up and showing them all of the premises that lead to these conclusions. That from the very beginning—think about it: God could have made just Adam. He could have made Adam to reproduce in some other way. Like, you know, I’m dating myself here, but the the movie Gremlins—and they just get water and they start popping out little things—he could have done that. Or when he said that the man was alone, he could have just made a literal man cave for Adam and created some buddies for them to hang out, or given him a gaggle of golden retrievers or something. But he created a woman. Because of course, only the man and the woman together can fulfill that creational design. Only man and woman together in chapter two can obey the creation mandate in chapter one, which has at the heart of it to be fruitful and to multiply. So you see perfectly laid out in Genesis that the woman is both unlike the man—God didn’t create another man, he created a woman—and yet she’s taken from the man. So there is a likeness and yet a fundamental difference and distinction. And everything about God’s design in this world must keep in mind this sexual differentiation between men and women, which is not an accident of creation, but from the very beginning, was God’s good, glorious plan.