“Man, the glory of God” means what? Part One

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 02:41 Written by Father Bill Tuesday, 15 November 2011 02:41

If anything in Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 sticks in the modern religious craw it is his statement in verse 7 of that chapter: “Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” Most religious feminists choke at “man, the glory of God” exactly because it is juxtaposed and constrasted with “woman, the glory of man”

First of all, to avoid saying – nay, to deny – that woman is the glory of God is to insult every feminist sensability you can think of. Whatever Paul means by “man, the glory of God,” it necessarily follows that woman is not the glory of God in the same sense that the man is. Of course, it is also true that whatever Paul means by saying that woman is the glory of man, it necessarily follows that man the male not the glory of man in the way that the woman is. For that matter, the man is also also is not the glory of woman! Again, leaving aside precisely what Paul means by these concepts, they are not reciprocal. They are strictly hierachical (cf. 1 Corinthians 1 11:3)

“Glory of God” and “glory of man” are ideas that identify male and female and which distinguish each from the other. And, this can be known for certain from Paul’s exposition even if we do not understand what either of these phrases mean! Throughout the entirety of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, males and females are distinguished from one another. Their natures, their behaviors (both what they do, what they should do, what they should not do), they relationship to one another – all these are distinguished from one another over and over again.

“Man, the glory of God,” then, is an idea Paul predicates of males, not females. And, “woman, the glory of man” is an idea Paul predicates of females, not males. Before we delve into what Paul means by either phrase, we must acknowledge this: the phrases are not synonymous in any sense though they are formally identical. And, we know they are not synonymous in any sense because they are used by Paul to distinguish the man from the woman and vice versa.

To see this, examine the following text of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 in which the words man and woman are rendered in a color different from the surrounding text. Just glance over the passage and you will see – in a visual rather than a semantic way – how Paul distingthishes man from woman and woman from man throughout the entire passage:

 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man , and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man . 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man . 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Again, this little exercise establishes that in Paul’s writings, this passage is undoubtedly teaching us about men (i.e. males) and women, and that it distinguishes them from one another at every point. The core distinction between men and women is contained in those phrases man, the glory of God and woman, the glory of man.

We have not yet engaged the meaning of these phrases (that’s coming in subsequent blogs).  But, even without a handle on the meanings of these phrases, we may confidently affirm the following:

  • Men and women differ from one another as glory bearers.  Man is God’s glory (whatever that means), and woman is not.  Woman is man’s glory (whatever that means), and man is not.
  • Paul’s purpose in this passage is to urge upon the Corinthians a specific practice: the covering of women and the absence of covering of men.  In just what context this practice is to be followed is the subject of another blog.  All Christians who comply with Paul’s prescription do so within some sort of context, even those Christians who, for example, have their women with some sort of covering on their heads in all settings, public and private.  Men, for example, will cover their heads because of the weather, but will uncover in settings deemed appropriate for compliance with Paul’s directive in 1 Corinthians 11.
  • There are three glories specified in this passage: man (who is God’s glory), woman (who is man’s glory), and the woman’s hair (which is her own glory).  Keeping these three glories in mind is critical to understanding the meaning of Paul’s prescription.  Specifically, the woman’s hair is given to her both as a covering and as a glory (both are mentioned in verse 15. Consequently, the covering Paul mandates in verse 10 covers two glories: the woman’s glory (her hair) and the woman’s head (for she is man’s glory).  Only the man (God’s glory) is uncovered.

Before fully elucidating Paul’s teaching here, there remain several interpretive points to illumine, and these are the subject of subsequent blogs.  Watch for more.


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Are Women Natural Leaders?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 9 November 2011 02:28 Written by Father Bill Wednesday, 9 November 2011 02:28

flikr: LiLauraLu

People don’t seem to think so.

This is old news (from the summer of 2011), but I stumbled across it last week and tossed it in the blog-on-this file. And, after a week in which “the days are just packed” (Calvin’s way of putting it), I’m pulling it out before unpacking today’s suitcase.

First, the report

A new meta-analysis (an integration of a large number of studies addressing the same question) shows that “even today leadership continues to be viewed as culturally masculine. The research was done at Northwestern University.” As you might expect, this report put some folks in high dudgeon indeed .

But, here’s what everyone seems to have missed: in the quote above (found in most of the stories accessible on the internet on this report) there is this two-word phrase “even today …”

That little phrase “even today” is where the real news lies.

What the Northwestern University meta-analysis shows is not news. People have – so far as I can tell – never thought that women were natural leaders. To think such a thing says absolutely nothing about this or that woman’s capacity or talents for leadership, of course. To say that “men are taller than women” is completely compatible with the well-known fact that there are women who are taller than most men, and that there are men who are shorter than most women. So, if people don’t think women are natural leaders (something “people” have always believed, it would seem), why is it news that such an opinion is so wide spread “even today” that one may attach this opinion to “people today?”

The answer is expressed most pointedly by Walter R. Newell in his book What is a Man? Published in 2000, the introduction to Newell’s work has this to say about why “even today” something ought to be different than the meta-study reveals:

 … the last three decades [have] witnessed one of the most remarkable efforts at social engineering in human history — a state-sponsored campaign, organized throughout the education system and in all major public institutions, to eradicate the psychological and emotional differences between men and women. Two generations have been brought up as the products of this vast experiment. From the moment they enter kindergarten to their final courses in university, they are required to subscribe to a new doctrine of human relations without precedent in known experience: that there are no inherent differences in character between men and women.

Newell’s observation echoes from the abyss of understatement. By today (2011) it is more like three generations of North Americans (not to mention Europeans), have been reared and educated in this novel doctrine, so that to find living people who have a living memory of when relations between men and women were different, one must go to the earliest of the Boomers. But, of course, it is the Boomers who in North America enlisted in the feminist vanguard that swept over America beginning in the mid-Fifties, achieving cultural, economic, and political supremacy by the mid-Seventies, and consolidating its sovereignty ever since.

flikr: MissSpite

So why has this vast state-sponsored campaign failed? That would seem to be the obvious import of this meta-study at Northwestern (not, of course, that this is what they sought to deiscover!). With so much political, economic, and cultural power focused on teaching men and women how and why they are interchangeable in all but the most elementary biological enterprises, why do most people think that women are not natural leaders?

It would be too easy an answer (though, possibly, a sufficient answer) to say that 20th Century theories and methods of education are ineffective. The default materialist metaphysics of modernism encourages us to believe that if you apply the right technique with sufficient intensity for sufficient length of time, you will get the desired result. From this perspective, it may take another few generations to beat the old patriarchalism out of the human psyche.

The Christian faith, however, tells us that what the feminist educators seek is nothing less than the abolition of man, because the intrinsic nature of men and women is that they are not interchangeable, that one of the sexes was designed by God expressly for the sake of the other sex, that there is an ordered relationship between them and the society composed of them. And, if the Christian faith is true, then it would follow that “even today” people (both men and women) would find women not to be natural leaders, particularly of men.

Where women do, indeed, function productively as leaders of men, this happens because either the men or the women (or both) are less than who they are created to be as gendered creatures. If people (even today!) think that women are not natural leaders, then the women who function as leaders will be perceived as unnatural ones.

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Why A Male Messiah?

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 October 2011 08:00 Written by Father Bill Saturday, 29 October 2011 08:00

It’s almost blasé these days to find depictions of Christ as a woman. The saucy edginess of such a thing fomented frisson in feminist hearts 40 years ago, but one can now purchase artsy-fartsy greeting cards depicting female nudes affixed to a cross, complete with crown of thorns on their heads. I decline to give you links to them, though.

Still, is the sex of the Messiah as incidental to the Incarnation as the color of his eyes or the shape of his ears? If he would be no less the Messiah if he were an inch taller or an inch shorter, why could he not have been the daughter instead of the son of Mary? All these depictions of the Messiah as a woman, dying for the sins of the world, bluntly insist it might have been this way.

There are two answers to the sex of the Messiah arising out of the Bible, one factual, the other theological.

The Old Testament and a Male Messiah

The first mention of a savior of the world is found in the curse on the Serpent in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

About the only thing one can learn about this promised serpent-crusher is that he is a human (seed of the woman) and a male (hence, he will crush …).

Without following all the references here, all additional prophecies of the Messiah reveal him to be male. To name one such prophecy, he is the male heir of King David (2 Samuel 7 and dozens of Psalms).

So, when it comes time to delineate the Messiah’s genealogy, he is “the son of ..” and “the son of …” and so forth (Luke 3; Matthew 1). From the factual forecasts of the Old Testament, Messiah could not be a female.

The Theology of Incarnation

The face of God in the Old Testament is fully and unambiguously masculine. No, God is not male in the Old Testament. For such a statement to be true would require God to have a whole raft of characteristics that constitute biological male sex. However, one could truthfully say “God is masculine.” Indeed, one would more or less be forced to say such a thing from His own revelation of Himself. Let God be true, and every man a liar.

After the Incarnation, however, one must say – in some sense – that God is male, meaning by this “humanly male” or “biologically male” as human males are male.

Jesus is male, not female. He is, obviously, masculine, not feminine (yeah, yeah, I know he’s supposed to be feminine via chickenness; but …sheesh!). He is the Bridegroom, never the Bride. He is our Brother, never our sister.

He is the King, never the queen. He is Lord of Lords, never lady of anything. He is the eternal and – since the Incarnation – human Son, never the Daughter.

And,He remains male and masculine, according to the Apostles’ reports in the Gospels, according to John’s visions on Patmos, according to author of Hebrews, according to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. Orthodox Christianity has always, without reservation, confessed, taught, and defended Jesus’ eternal human maleness.

And, Jesus is God, too. Right?

A wise friend, whom I will not identify here, in a letter to me said it this way:

If we call what God is from eternity masculine, his Incarnation must be male. What we are focusing on [in this correspondence] is the nature of the event of Incarnation, which in one sense is something new and in another sense something old. God took maleness into himself at the Incarnation, but this maleness was a created expression of the eternal masculinity … from which it arose. If something arises as a wholly derivative expression of something prior, it may be called new, but in a qualified way. It is “taken up” into the Greater, but only as something that is, as its expression in another medium, already wholly its own.

Whether you approach the question from the standpoint of Old Testament prophecy or from the standpoint of Biblical theology, you arrive at the same place: the Messiah must be male.

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