Equal but different in Christ

Equal but different in Christ

Dr Mark Dickson, GWC Principal, Biblical Hebrew, Philosophy
BSc (Major: Physics)(UCT), Dip Th (BISA), MA (NWU)


The Bible is made up of 66 books but is the single inspired Word of God written over many centuries by many authors. The universe has millions of created parts, but only one creator and only one saviour. Unity and diversity permeate the Christian faith, making it so simple and yet so complex. ‘O how deep are God’s riches, and wisdom, and knowledge! How unfathomable are his decisions and unexplainable are his ways! Romans 1133

So what of men and women? God made man and woman neither at the same time, nor in the same way. Adam he made from dust and Eve from his rib. Adam came first, and then Eve. Do we have a joint role under God as one creation that is brought forth from another, or are we distinct in our roles as well as form? I would argue that the same God who made men and women differently, has spoken to us about men and women and these differences in his Word. How can God have embodied such differences in masculine and feminine and NOT have enjoined roles to each of them? Surely if gender is creational and not a social construct, then gender differences imply differences in roles.

Such gender difference was the topic of Paul Costa’s study in 2001, reported in the peer reviewed Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. His study of gender differences across 26 societies reached a surprising conclusion. In his words; “Contrary to predictions from the social role model, gender differences were most pronounced in European and American Cultures in which traditional sex roles are minimised.” Egalitarian societies had the most pronounced gender differences. In Sweden where the social landscape tries to make men and women as equal as possible, it is there that you find gender differences between men and women becoming the most accentuated.

This implies that men and women are biologically predisposed to take on certain roles in life and to orientate towards certain careers. It would seem right that we take seriously any hint from God in his revelation to us that he has assigned some roles to men and some to women. Made equal, but different.

You can’t make marriage work properly by ignoring the differences. You can’t make family work by ignoring them either.  And you can’t make church work properly by ignoring them, or trying to flatten them out. Leadership in God’s church ought to reflect gender roles built into creation by God.

Galatians 3 28 says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” What is this oneness it speaks of? Surely it speaks to their equal value in Christ. ‘One in Christ’ cannot be read as egalitarian when put together with 1 Corinthians 11 8 , 9 where Paul argues from Genesis “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.’ The One-ness in Christ does not erase the differences God has created between men and women. The gender differences built into creation that we see in Genesis, do not change now that Christ has come.

Where does this leave us in the Church? The creation story of the Bible shows God intended different roles for men and women. My point here is not to define these roles, which must be left for another discussion. I wish simply to highlight that we should treat our colleagues, family members – both at home and at church – with humility and respect, being sure in the knowledge that men and women have different functions to play each with equal value in God’ eyes.