Archive | Genesis 3:16

Toward a Better Reading: Reflections on the Permanent Changes to the Text of Genesis 3:16 in the ESV Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2, we recounted a story of Wendy interacting with her dad’s doctor when he mistakenly prescribed ibuprofen despite the fact that he was currently taking the blood thinner, Coumadin. The doctor heard Wendy’s concerns because they shared a commitment to the health of her father, her concerns were based on the published research of other respected doctors, and she had intimate knowledge of her father’s health. These reflections are offered in the same spirit.

Wendy Alsup and Hannah Anderson

In this final post, we’ll highlight the potential harm that could come from rendering Genesis 3:16 as “your desire shall be contrary to your husband.” If the Scripture brings life and health, we must also acknowledge that perversions of Scripture bring turmoil and pain. If the recent change to Genesis 3:16 does not accurately represent the text of Scripture, this is not a neutral choice.

In saying this, we recognize that translation is a work in progress. As scholarship grows, so will our ability to understand the original text; as language changes, so will the need to update and revise translations. Our concern is not how the limitations of scholarship and linguistics have affected the translation of Genesis 3:16 but how commentary has. And if it has, then this rendering has the potential to harm men and women the same way any extra-biblical teaching does.

Our reflections in this final post come from our experience of discipling women both privately and publicly for years. Just as Wendy had intimate knowledge of her dad’s health, we have intimate knowledge of how Genesis 3:16 affects women’s spiritual formation. At the same time, we quickly grant that a working knowledge of women’s discipleship does not outweigh Biblical authority or the need for scholarship. In matters of textual criticism, we happily defer to those with more lexical and linguistic knowledge. But our experiences with women do give us knowledge of the implications of this rendering as well as a keen awareness of how high the stakes are.

Broader Context

First, we want to establish the Scriptural context in which this change occurs. Genesis 3:16 is set in the middle of God’s descriptions of a post-Fall world. Instead of a place of flourishing, the world will now be marred by suffering, toil, and futility. (We read God’s words as descriptive of the current state of affairs, not prescriptive.)

But to understand the brokenness, you must first understand Creation’s original state. In Genesis 1, God creates woman and man in His image so that they may reflect and represent Him on the earth. He commands them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2 illuminates this account by telling us that God created the man first, but that the man was not sufficient to the task of ruling over the earth on his own. He could not tend and cultivate this new Creation without a partner equal to him as an image bearer. And so God created woman as an ezer/helper to fulfill the call to steward creation. Made in the image of her Creator, the woman was to emulate God Himself as the model ezer/helper to the man.

But while equal, these two image bearers are not the same. By creating them as male and female, God invested their bodies with strengths and weaknesses that would bind them together in mutual dependence as they fulfilled the Creation Mandate. The woman’s body would allow her to cultivate new image bearers, but this would also make her more vulnerable. The man’s body would be unable to bear life, but his physical strength would allow him to protect and provide for the new image bearers. The differences between them were not an end in themselves; they were a means to an end. They were the means by which they would together cultivate the good bounty of the earth and their own bodies. Together they would rule and reign over the new creation as King and Queen.

In Genesis 3, however, we see the image bearers fail. Instead of exercising dominion over the beasts of the field, we see the serpent leading and guiding them. Instead of submitting to the Creator, we see the image bearers submitting to the creation and ultimately denying their own identities. As a result, the entire creation is plunged into brokenness and disarray.

It’s not surprising, then, that when God describes life after the Fall, He does so in terms of the Creation Mandate. The beast of the field is returned to a place of subjection, and the man and woman’s work becomes difficult. The desire to fulfill the Creation Mandate—to be fruitful and multiply and to exercise dominion over the earth—is still present because this is an essential part of what it means to be human in the image of God. What is affected is the man and woman’s ability to accomplish this work.

We believe the most natural reading of Genesis 3:16 honors the parallel (and interdependent) callings of the man and woman. As we noted in Part 2,

Just as the man’s desire to produce fruit from the ground is rewarded with sweat and pain, a woman’s desire to produce children from her own body is rewarded with sweat and pain. Just as the man turns his attention to the earth looking for fruitful relationship, a woman turns toward (not away from) a man seeking fruitful relationship.

The woman’s desire in 3:16 can be understood in terms of her larger calling to bring forth life. Colloquially, we talk about this life-bearing instinct as a woman’s “biological clock.” Not all women are called to bear children, but as a category, a woman’s body has been made to do something different than a man’s body. And her body will naturally move her toward this end. In a broken world, however, this natural and good impulse will be met with frustration, pain, and disappointment. The woman’s desire will be directed toward the man as one means of fulfilling the Creation Mandate, but the man will respond with control and rule.

Some may be uncomfortable with this reading because it seems prejudicial to the man, positing him as a selfish oaf who will only ever abuse his relationship with the woman. Remember that this is describing the state of the world under sin. It is not describing the nature of either the man or woman, but the broken context in which their distinct callings play out. Remember as well that this section of text is directed to the woman to explain how the entrance of sin will make her work more difficult. And it’s all preceded by the foretelling of our rescue through the birth of Jesus.

Uncomfortable or not, in our fallen world, the inherent physiological differences between the sexes result in men ruling over women.* The statement “he shall rule over you” is neither judgment nor command; it is a simple statement of fact about the post-Fall world. Because women are the physically “weaker vessel,” women as a category cannot rule over men as a category. This does not mean that women are not equally sinful to men or try to harm them. It simply means that they do not have the physical capacity to impose their will on men as a general category. Remember Genesis 3:16 is addressed to the woman, explaining to her the challenges she will face. Because of her physical weakness and her desire to bear children, she will become subject to the control of unregenerate men.

*It’s important to distinguish between the concept of headship and rule. In the beginning, God made human beings to rule over the Creation, not each other. We understand headship to be the responsibility to provide and protect for the more vulnerable member of a relationship. Headship includes the authority necessary to fulfill this responsibility, but headship itself should not be understood solely as hierarchical rule. (see Thomas Jefferson and Headship for a longer explanation.)

Specific Ramifications

Our first concern about the latest rendering of Genesis 3:16 is that it does not fit the larger rhetorical frame of the passage. It implies a sinful motivation for the woman’s desire rather than describing the broken context in which she finds herself. It also disrupts the parallelism of the text. God speaks to the woman about how the Fall affects her. He then speaks to the man about how the Fall affects him. Rendering 3:16 as “your desire shall be contrary to your husband” injects a statement about the woman’s nature when there is no corresponding statement about the man’s nature in terms of his work. We believe there is no parallel statement because Genesis 3:16 should not be read as an indictment of the woman’s desire.

As we discussed in Part 2, you can only arrive at a negative reading of the woman’s desire if you read negativity back into the passage from Genesis 4:7-8. But such a reading is highly prejudicial because it implies that the woman’s desires by their very existence are contrary to her husband. Because the rest of the passage is read as a statement of fact about this post-Fall world, the sentence “your desires shall be contrary to your husband” will also be read as a statement of fact. The rhetorical affect is to create suspicion around every desire that a woman has.

What if a woman wants red curtains but her husband wants blue? Is this “contrary” opinion a result of the Fall and her sinful inclination to resist her husband? Should she give up her desire for red curtains? Based on the current rendering of Genesis 3:16, yes, she should. She should give up her contrary desire because to hold it would be to participate in the brokenness of the Fall. This may seem like a ridiculous illustration, but the logic is intact.

A regenerate woman seeking to live beyond her fallen state will relinquish all desires that run contrary to her husband because this rendering teaches her that it is her sinfulness that puts her in opposition to her husband. Not her expertise in design, not the validity of her own preferences, but her sinfulness. And such a paradigm cuts to the heart of a woman’s imago Dei identity.

Agency

Part of being made in God’s image is the capacity to think, to choose, to desire. It is true that our human desires have been corrupted by sin—the heart is desperately wicked, after all. But the corruption is not horizontal; it is vertical. We are not in sin because our desires are contrary to another human being’s. We are in sin when they run contrary to God’s; or we assume God’s place and force our desires upon another human being.

For a woman to have a different, or contrary, opinion to her husband is not sin. In fact, sometimes it would be sin for her NOT to have a difference of opinion, especially if he himself is in sin (consider Abigail and Sapphira). But rendering Genesis 3:16 as “your desires shall be contrary to your husband” places a woman’s desires in context of the Fall and positions them forever as suspect.

Practically speaking, this paralyzes women. We have seen this in our own lives as well as the lives of the women we disciple. When women are told that their very desires are sinful in a way that men’s desires are not, godly women end up doubting everything they think or do or say. Rather than risk the possibility of imposing her “contrary” desires on to her husband or the men around her, she will stop desiring entirely.

Ironically, this does not fulfill the Biblical concept of submission; it actually undermines it. When a woman abandons her own opinions, she is not submitting. She is abdicating her imago Dei identity. Submission only happens when two conflicting desires meet and one defers. A woman can only submit when she holds an opinion in the first place and then chooses to defer out of her own agency. She does not defer because her desires are corrupt, but because she loves her husband and the Scripture. Anything less is co-dependency.

Further, the ESV’s current rendering can lead a woman to doubt the work of God in her heart. When the Holy Spirit moves her to take action, she will question whether it is truly God or the deceitfulness of her own contrary desires. Having lost a category for goodness of her desires, she will freeze and become subject to the control of those around her. She will be led by the desires of her husband, her children, her friends, and her community. Rather than being led by the Spirit, she will be led by other human beings.

Finally, this rendering will cause men to mistrust women. Not only will women doubt their own opinions and the Holy Spirit’s leading, men will begin to doubt the validity of women’s voices. If women’s desires are de facto “contrary,” when a woman speaks up or offers an alternative view, men will naturally be suspicious. Is she simply trying to undermine the men around her? What’s her hidden agenda? And when she rightly challenges evil men for evil behavior, her words will be neutralized entirely. Because after all, the woman’s “desire shall be contrary.” She’s unsubmissive and not to be trusted.

This is how women become trapped in abusive relationships even within the church. One of the criticisms of complementarianism is that it can lead to the physical and spiritual abuse of women. We do not believe that all streams of complementarian thought lead to abuse. But we are concerned that this rendering of Genesis 3:16 would. At the very least, it puts a woman constantly on the defensive, forcing her to justify the validity of her complaints, concerns, or mere different desires.

Conclusion

When William Tyndale translated the English New Testament, he did so, in part, to break the power of spiritual abuse. He wanted to give the most vulnerable members of the Church the power to defend themselves through truth. We believe the straightforward translation of Genesis 3:16 as “your desire shall be for your husband” honors both the original Hebrew text, as well as the larger context of Genesis 1-3. Such a reading helps pastors, lay leaders, and women themselves to understand the larger context in which women find themselves in this broken world. This in turn, aids in promoting the spiritual growth that is necessary to break the bonds of emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse. In many cases, only when a woman grows in her understanding of her God-given agency and identity as an image bearer can she finally step away from such abuse. As well, only when the godly men around her have a healthy understanding of her God-given agency and identity can they help free her from abuse.

For some reading this, it may feel like we are suggesting a major paradigm shift. We are simply suggesting that you consider the natural, straightforward reading of Genesis 1-3 as it relates to this text. We are asking you to listen to women who have been actively engaged in the work of discipleship; if you do, we hope you hear, not simply our voices, but the Scripture itself. And ultimately, we hope that these posts will aid you in discerning the root issues underlying a woman’s struggles in a post-Fall world. She may choose sinful responses to the challenges—she may choose either abdication or manipulation—but she does not do so because her desires are inherently “contrary.”

After Wendy’s conversation with the doctor, he prescribed a pain killer for her dad that didn’t interfere with Coumadin. It was a similar pain killer but just different enough to relieve the pain of the pinched nerve without causing new complications. Just as Wendy and the doctor mutually cared for her dad, we hope that the ESV translators will hear our concerns about this change to Genesis 3:16 and consider reversing their decision so that no further harm comes to either women or men.

Together we wait and hope for the day when all God’s image bearers—both male and female—are restored to His likeness through Christ.

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Toward a Better Reading: Reflections on the Permanent Changes to the Text of Genesis 3:16 in the ESV Part 2

This is Part 2 of a three part series on the ESV changes to Genesis 3:16.  You can read Part 1 here, where we emphasized our shared commitment to the essentially literal, word-for-word translation philosophy of the ESV translation team.   

–Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup 

In 1525, William Tyndale finished the first translation of the New Testament into English. Despite severe persecution and eventual martyrdom, Tyndale devoted his life to ensuring that common people had access to the Scripture in their native tongue. Tyndale’s passion to translate was fueled both by a desire to see the Scripture take root in common people’s hearts, as well as a desire to break the monopoly that the clerical class held over them.  
 
Because the Word of God is powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, it was essential that lay people have access to the Scripture to defend themselves in situations where leaders misused and abused their spiritual authority. In this sense, careful translation work was a way to protect the most vulnerable members of the church. Once when confronted by Church authorities, Tyndale famously replied, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives the plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” 

During the Reformation, new translations and the advent of the printing press led to increased Biblical literacy across Europe. Today, five hundred years later, advances in scholarship and the advent of the internet have led to even more Biblical engagement. Not only can the plough boy read the Bible, the milk maid also has access to online helps that allow her to engage it in the original languages. The accessibility of scholarship does not negate the need for scholars any more than Wendy’s accessing a study from the Mayo Clinic negated her father’s need for a doctor (recounted in Part 1). But online technology does offer us the ability to work cooperatively with scholars for the good of the church. It allows the laity to be informed–to access lexicons, scholarly articles, historical documents, academic journals, and even professors and researchers personally. We live in a time when a translation change like that of Genesis 3:16 can be easily examined and compared to historic precedent by, yes, even the plough boy and milk maid.  

Toward vs. Contrary  

In this post, we want to focus on the most significant change in the ESV: rendering the Hebrew preposition ‘el in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 as “contrary to” when it had been previously rendered as “for.” Discussions of Genesis 3:16 often focus on the meaning of “desire” (teshuquah) which is found in only two other places in Scripture (Genesis 4:7 and Song of Solomon 7:10); regardless of the contextual meaning and the positive or negative nature of the desire, the word itself is reasonably clear and so ESV translators have rendered it as “desire,” with which we agree. What has been altered in the ESV is the preposition (‘el) that is connected to the woman’s desire. 

The ESV originally translated this passage as desire “forthe man.  Some argued that the preposition may also be rendered “against” and was noted in a footnote.  In the latest (and permanent) edition, the ESV had translated it to be desire “contrary to” the man.  At first, this might seem a reasonable progression in English (see Denny Burk’s article), but we want to emphasize that while the progression from againstto contrary to” may be reasonable in English, it is not at all reasonable in Hebrew.  

The Hebrew preposition in question tells us something about the direction or focus of the woman’s desire. Historically, English translations have translated it in Genesis 3:16 as “to” or “toward.” Consider this brief survey  and you discover that most English translations since the 1500’s support the ESV’s original translation of “Your desire shall be for your husband…”*  

But more than simply offering a historical accounting of Genesis 3:16, access to online and digital lexicons  also offers clarity into how this Hebrew preposition is translated across the body of Scripture. While ‘el can be translated a variety of ways, we could not find evidence that it has ever been translated “contrary to” in any previous version of the ESV, any other English translation, or in any of the over 5000 other times that it is used in the Old Testament. We believe that there is no other example of ‘el being translated as “contrary to” for the simple fact that it does not mean “contrary to” the way we use it in English.  

As mentioned, the Hebrew preposition ‘el consistently communicates some variation of terminal direction; it shows the direction something is pointed or headed. You talk TO someone. You direct something TOWARD someone. You are heading FOR the door. In Genesis 3:16, a woman’s desire is directed toward the man. In Genesis 4:7, sin’s desire seems directed toward Cain. (** See note for discussion of gender problems between sin and desire in 4:7). While ‘el tells us where the desire is directed, it alone cannot tell us the quality or nature of the desire.  It simply points to which object is being desired. 
 
Unlike the Hebrew ‘el, the English word “contrary”—the word chosen by the ESV translation committee—inherently implies a movement away from or opposite to something. We understand this in the colloquial sense when we describe a child as “contrary.” He or she has a disposition to move in the opposite direction of what is expected of him or her. ‘El, on the other hand, specifically indicates the direction of movement toward someone or something.  
 
Even when ‘el is translated as “against,” it still retains the idea of being directed toward someone or something. Consider how we can use “against” in English to show direction. We say, “The rake is lying against the tree” to describe the physical relationship of the rake toward the tree. Or to give an example of negative usage, Genesis 4:8 records that Cain “rose up against” Abel. Here the use of ‘el has a negative connotation because it is attached to the Hebrew verb quwm for “rise up,” but the direction of the movement is unchanged. Cain is not moving away from Abel; he is moving toward him, albeit in violence. By changing Genesis 3:16 to read “contrary to”, the ESV fundamentally changes the direction of the woman’s desire and the meaning of ‘el itself.
 
What’s Going On  

So what happened? How did desire “for” the man become desire “contrary to” the man?  To extend the metaphor from Part 1, why was ibuprofen prescribed when it is contraindicated when taking Coumadin? 

At this point, we must note the difference between translating the words of a passage and interpreting the significance of a passage. The work of translators who share the ESV philosophy is to give the literal sense of the Hebrew or Greek in as approximate English as possible. This work will include understanding idiomatic expressions, original audience, and cultural context; but the goal is to give the most accurate translation of the words themselves, not to invest those words with certain significance. While translation work does include the work of weighing texts against other texts, searching for the thread that illuminates a difficult word, and tracking down lexical clues, it should not be confused with commentary. The goal of translation, particularly the philosophy espoused by the ESV translation team, is to preserve an intact text so that believers can read and interpret in community.  
 
The easiest explanation for why translators changed the “for” to “contrary”  is that they moved from translation to commentary, projecting the negative meaning of Genesis 4:7-8 back into Genesis 3:16. To be fair, the two passages have lexical similarities, but the question we must answer is “What are the similarities?”   
 
In the height of the battle against feminism in the 1970s, Susan Foh  proposed that the similarity between 3:16 and 4:7 was that a woman’s desire toward a man was similar to sin’s desire to destroy Cain. It was, dare we say, contrary to him. This connection is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the language of Genesis 4:7 is unclear and may actually refer to Abel’s good desire toward Cain.**

Worse, from an interpretive standpoint, Foh used the confusing and obscure text of Genesis 4 to project something back onto the clearer Hebrew in Genesis 3. In contrast, a straightforward chronological reading of Genesis 1-4 actually affirms the lexical definition of the preposition ‘el as “for” or “toward.”  In terms of the fall, the woman’s desire for children, her desire for her husband, and the man’s efforts at cultivating the ground are all good things to be pursued in fulfillment of the Creation Mandate; but post-Fall, these good desires are thwarted with painful consequences. Just as the man’s desire to produce fruit from the ground is rewarded with sweat and pain, a woman’s desire to produce children from her own body is rewarded with sweat and pain. Just as the man turns to his attention to the earth looking for fruitful relationship, a woman turns toward (not away from) a man seeking fruitful relationship. (We will explore this more in Part 3.)   
 
The only way translators can justify rendering ‘el as “contrary” is to assume something negative about the womans desire based on the use of desire in Genesis 4:7-8. But such a novel change relies solely on commentary, not on accepted definitions to the Hebrew ‘elIn fact, Denny Burk, current president of The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood concedes this in his article on the changes. Instead of arguing that the new changes fit the ESV’s essentially literal, word-for-word philosophy, he argues why it is OK that they do not. It’s worth noting that Denny also says that he does not prefer the new translation and wished that they had stuck with the original, more literal translation.
 
Conclusion 

The problem we present is more than a technicality. When non-academics come across this change in the ESV—a pastor or Sunday School teacher or woman’s Bible teacher—they may notice the difference but they won’t understand the significance because in English the word “against” acts as a bridge across the gulf of meaning. In their previous version, the verse had a footnote indicating the word “for” can also be translated “against.” In the updated version, the text has changed to “contrary to”—not much of a leap from “against,” right?

 match-and-match 
If “for” can mean “against”  
And “against” can mean “contrary,”  
then “for” can be replaced by “contrary.”  
 
Again, the problem is that “against” in English can have two different shades of meanings—both inclined toward and opposed to; ‘el in Hebrew does not. Unfortunately, those of us who don’t read the Scripture in Hebrew (the majority of ESV users) would have little way of knowing that the translation has shifted so dramatically.  They won’t understand that the meanings of ‘el that allowed it to be translated “against” in Gen. 4:8 are the very ones that make “contrary to” completely inappropriate.  

William Tyndale, the scholar who was martyred for translating the Bible in the language of the common man, said this: “I call God to record against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus Christ to give a reckoning of our doings, that I never altered one syllable of God’s word against my conscience.” We make no claims to be a William Tyndale or even to have credentials equal to those of the ESV translation committee. We do, however, have access to online scholarship, peer review, and (we hope) the ability to form a rational argument. Our desire is that those with more education than we have will give pause and consider the potential risk of these changes risk to women, yes, but more importantly, the risk to very Scripture itself. Instead of revealing and preserving the text of Scripture for the common man, this translation change corrupts with commentary a critical text dealing with theological anthropology. 

In part 3, we will look at the ramifications of these changes in light of the larger creation narrative of Genesis 1-3 and the potential affect on women’s discipleship. 

_______________

*The only Bible translation that translates Gen. 3:16 remotely close to the new rendering of “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband…” is the New Living Translation, whose translation philosophy is much broader than the ESV, functioning in places as an interpretive paraphrase.  Using the NLT to support the new rendering of Genesis 3:16 would simply confirm our concern that the ESV has strayed from its original translation philosophy.

**It’s important to note that scholars throughout Church history have strongly disagreed as to whether the pronoun attached to “desire” in Gen. 4:7 refers to sin or to Abel. The pronoun itself is masculine while the Hebrew word for sin is feminine. It’s possible that this phrase refers to Abel’s desire for Cain and Cain’s corresponding ruling over him (John Calvin interpreted it this way), not sin’s desire for Cain. This is a more natural parallel to the language of Genesis 3:16. Abel’s desire is toward his brother, but Cain seeks to master him, actually rising up against him physically in the next verse. Regardless, the preposition ‘el still signals movement toward an object, not away from it. 

 

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Toward a Better Reading: Reflections on the Permanent Changes to the Text of Genesis 3:16 in the ESV

Over the next week, we are posting a three-part series reflecting on the recent changes to the rendering of Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 in the English Standard Version of the Bible. The most recent changes have only appeared after this latest round of revisions although the ESV has undergone two significant revisions over its fifteen year lifespan. The changes to Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 are made permanent by the decision of the translation committee to forego any further revision cycles.

Wendy Alsup and Hannah Anderson

PART I

A few months ago, Wendy took her dad to the doctor after he began experiencing pain from a pinched nerve in his neck.  When the doctor recommended ibuprofen to ease the pain, Wendy almost immediately questioned his choice and even had the gall to suggest a different pain reliever entirely. But instead of becoming angry with her for challenging his medical degree and decades of experience, the doctor welcomed her input and ultimately agreed with her.

Why? Why would a man with professional standing in the medical field acquiesce to a woman who had none?  As you’ve probably already guessed, there is more to the story than we’ve shared. In fact, there are three mitigating factors that explain why the doctor changed his mind at Wendy’s suggestion.

1. Both Wendy and the doctor had her father’s best interest at heart. The doctor was able to receive Wendy’s feedback (as she did his) because they viewed each other as allies in the cause of her dad’s good health. Instead of reading her question as a threat to his authority, he received it as constructive feedback, both because of how she offered it and because his main objective was the same as hers—her dad’s well being.

2. Wendy had access to scholarship about how ibuprofen would affect her dad’s overall health. When she questioned the doctor’s initial prescription, she did not do so from her own scientific education (limited to a handful of undergraduate science courses from 25 years ago); she relied on information from established sources like the Mayo Clinic—information she had been able to access because of the digital age. She questioned the doctor based on the educated opinions of other doctors. In other words, she acted as a proxy consultant, offering the doctor access to a second opinion from his peers without either of them having to leave the examining room.

3. Wendy had intimate, daily experience with caring for her father. Because of this, she remembered something that the doctor—who saw dozens of patients a day—had forgotten. What had slipped the doctor’s mind was that Wendy’s dad takes Coumadin, a blood thinner. When ibuprofen is taken with a blood thinner such as Coumadin, it can put a patient at risk of serious bleeding. The doctor may have been an expert in medicine, but Wendy was the expert in her dad.

Ultimately, Wendy chose to speak up because of what she had learned from other professionals about the danger of combining Coumadin and ibuprofen and her desire to care for her dad. The doctor heard Wendy’s concerns because he shared Wendy’s desire to care for her dad and respected the opinions of his peers that came to him through her. If either had not responded the way they had, Wendy’s father would have used ibuprofen as originally prescribed and put himself at risk for potentially life-threatening bleeding.

This vignette illustrates some of what we hope to accomplish with this 3 part series. Wendy spoke up for her dad to mitigate risk. The doctor listened to mitigate risk. And we are speaking now in this series about the ESV’s changes to Genesis 3:16 and 4:7, in part, to mitigate risk toward women, but more importantly, to mitigate risk to the authority of Scripture which is the foundation of our life and practice as Christians. As we enter this conversation, we do so from a place of shared commitment to the authority of Scripture, access to scholarship of others well versed in Hebrew translation and a daily, intimate knowledge of how misreading Scripture can affect the lives of the women we disciple.

The Wrong Prescription for a Pinched Nerve

Crossway Publishers recently announced permanent changes to the English Standard Version’s translation of Genesis 3:16.  Since its release in 2001,  the ESV has consistently rendered this text as

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”

The ESV also included a footnote indicating that “for” can also be possibly translated as “against” because the Hebrew word, el, designates the direction in which an object is moving or directed, called terminal direction. For example, in English, we say “The rake is leaning against the tree” when we want to convey that the direction the rake leans terminates at the tree.

In the latest and permanent rendering, however, Genesis 3:16 now reads

“Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

Interestingly, the translators still include a note at the bottom of the page explaining that the word “contrary” can also be rendered “shall be toward.” This note is neither clarifying nor helpful as it offers readers an entirely contradictory translation of the Hebrew text.  The official translation gives the understanding that the woman’s desire is moving in the opposite direction to the man but this note indicates that it is moving toward him. So which is it?

But more than simply creating confusion, the change to Genesis 3:16 is significant because it touches the pinched nerve that is gendered relationships in the evangelical church. While all of Scripture is necessary to life and godliness, Genesis 3:16 has particular bearing on the gender conversation because it helps to frame our understanding of the difficulties that men and women face after the Fall. And how we understand the brokenness of the world drives the solutions that we try to reach. This is not simply a matter of differing opinions about the proper translation of an isolated passage of Scripture. Set in the middle of the account of the Fall, Genesis 3:16 identifies and thus guides the nature and challenges to women’s spiritual formation in a post-Fall world. Translating this passage accurately has both academic and pastoral implications.

Shared Commitment

Before we analyze the difficulties with the most recent rendering, we want to emphasize our shared commitment to the stated goal of the ESV translation committee. Both of us have used the ESV as the primary translation in our previous books, in part, because “the ESV Bible is an essentially literal translation of the Bible in contemporary English, emphasizing ‘word-for-word’ accuracy, literary excellence, and depth of meaning.” We are concerned that this new rendering of Genesis 3:16 shifts away from this shared commitment. More specifically, we’re concerned that this new rendering repeats the very mistakes that led to the formation of the ESV in the first place.

According to a report in World magazine, one of the initial driving forces behind the ESV was a desire to offer an alternative to the increasingly gender-inclusive language of other translations, including the NIV.   The exact degree to which the gender debate drove the decision to begin work on ESV is unclear (and likely varied from committee member to committee member); but what is clear is that several principal parties who advocated for the ESV have also consistently expressed concerns with the translation philosophy of the NIV and TNIV.

To be specific, the concerns were that the translators go beyond a literal “word-for-word” rendering of gendered passages. While president of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Wayne Grudem helped negotiate the initial rights to use the 1971 Revised Standard Version as the basis of the ESV and eventually acted as lead editor of the ESV Study Bible. Other members of CBMW leadership have contributed to the work of the ESV over the years, while simultaneously tracking and highlighting perceived problems with gender-inclusive translations. (Officially, Grudem has minimized any connection between the work of CBMW and his work with the ESV.)

The point here is not to expose some secret cabal or suggest nefarious motives on the part of the initial translators. The point is to highlight our shared commitment to the careful translation of potentially controversial passages. As users of the ESV, we have always known that the translation of the ESV occurred in context of concerns about gendered language. We understood the concern as such: Because Bible translators can read meaning into gendered words based on current sociological agendas, we want to be constrained by the actual words of the text even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, the ESV’s permanent change to Genesis 3:16 seems to move away from this shared commitment. Instead, it favors an interpretative reading that elevates a specific interpretation of a gendered passage–one that is not shared across the spectrum of conservative thought.  Even worse, this change also has the potential to undermine the very conservatism it ostensibly seeks to protect.

Just as Coumadin interacts with ibuprofen to put a patient at risk, a shift in translation philosophy necessarily interacts with gender philosophy. We can only reach and sustain a conservative reading of gender through a conservative approach to translation. If the Scripture is not carefully guarded from sociological constructs (both conservative and liberal), we risk losing the very authority on which we base our understanding of gender.  How can we call the Church and the world to reflect the Scriptural teaching on gender if we lose the Scripture itself? Without the Scripture, liberalism devolves into androgyny and conservatism into misogyny.

But with the Scripture as our guide, we have the potential to regain the beauty of gendered relationship. With the Scripture as our guide, we have the potential to be restored to the likeness of the God in whose image we are made as male and female. But to reach this place, we must have the Scripture. This is why careful, precise translation—the approach ostensibly adopted by the committee of the ESV—is essential.

As we continue our reflections in Part II and Part III later this week, we will rely on the knowledge of experts on Hebrew translation and historical evidence from previous translations. Then, we will conclude with the practical ramifications of misreading and mistranslating this passage. Again, we offer these reflections from a place of shared commitment to the authority and sufficiency of the word of God. At the end of the day, our man-made constructs, whether conservative or progressive, cannot protect more than God’s own words can. We may find safety in them for a time, but only God’s word stands for ever. And so it is to these words, we commit ourselves.

Here is Part 2 and Part 3.

Hannah Anderson is author of the excellent Made for More and upcoming (and equally excellent) Humble Roots.  She offers wise commentary on life and faith through twitter.  Follow her @sometimesalight.

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On Nude Selfies

Kim Kardashian broke the internet last week with her nude selfie. She previously posted a nude selfie when pregnant with her son with a general explanation that it was to quiet the body shamers who regularly criticized her body. Last week’s nude selfie made her feel “empowered.”

She said …

“I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”    www.kimkardashianwest.com

Shame and power. Most of us are familiar with the tug and pull of these dynamics, particularly around women’s issues. But for Kim, these dynamics play primarily in the space starting right below her neck and ending slightly below her buttocks. At some point in her life—and from my understanding of the rest of her family, it was fairly early in life—Kim learned that particular area of her external body was her currency. It held her power. So when she flaunts her power, she is clear that such power is fueled by her sexuality.

That part of her body also held her shame. She has clearly been shamed over the part of her body between her neck and rear end. She’s too fat, too curvy, too whatever. She’s been criticized publicly on the Internet. But I imagine she has been criticized privately by her family as well. With this nude selfie, she perceives herself as taking back the power that others have had over her by way of shaming that part of her body.

It reminds me of something Zack Eswine said in Sensing Jesus about Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees and the sinful woman who washes His feet with her hair in Luke 7.

… the pastors (with Jesus) only saw the “sort of woman” she was. All they saw was her body and her sexual ability in life. In this, they were no different from the men she had slept with. They too, though they were not pastors, saw only her body and her sexual ability. I should say, rather, that most of her body went unnoticed by either kind of man. 

The religious men and the irreligious men had this in common: they looked at the woman, but they did not see her. Edenic eyes gave way again, poked out amid the haze. The religious denounced her. The irreligious desired her. Both were blind.

It isn’t just the men around Kardashian who seem not to see past her sexuality but Kim herself. She’s bought into others’ narrative about her, and she’s playing in their system. Many Christians will turn in disgust from Kardashian over this. “Put some clothes on!” “Have you no shame?” And to that second question, Kim would likely answer, “No, I don’t have any shame. That’s the whole point of this!”

But really she does. Which is why she posted the picture.

Kim operates in a power system run on the currency of big breasts, small waists, and sexy butt. She runs in a power system in which her primary power is her sexuality. She said she feels “empowered by her sexuality.” Though she has money, owns a business, and is famous, those don’t make her feel empowered in whatever power structure she perceives herself. The secondary powers of money or fame are based on the one thing that fuels her power, her sexuality. She does not bank alone in this power system. Many women do similarly though with lesser currency and lesser power. Kardashian and Beyonce are two of the most savvy women in our world at exploiting this currency for their own benefit.

The problem in this system is that women didn’t create this currency. They have, however, learned how to build their bank account and spend their earnings in it. If a dictator takes over your world and changes the form of money from euros to won, eventually the savvy are going to start operating in won if they want power or influence under the dictator. Satan changed the currency between men and women at the fall. Men oppress women, and women still desire men to the point that they sell their soul (or their body on the internet) to trade in their currency.

Hannah Anderson explains it this way:

“Rather than dismantling male power structures, (nude selfies) are an attempt to gain power through them. They ARE a form of female empowerment but only because they buy into the established system. Feminine beauty is valuable because the people who want it the most (men) hold biological and sociological power. In other words, feminine sexuality is a commodity that can be leveraged to gain power because of the demand that already exists. 

In a fallen world, men hold power, and sinful men hold onto it for their own benefit; women need to gain power both to protect themselves as well as desiring it out of their own sinfulness. The result? Women use the one thing they have that men want to shift power away from those men. The problem, though, is that it ends up harming other women. It becomes a form of competition for the limited resource of male attention, which is the means of gaining power.”

An obvious disclaimer is needed – not ALL men operate in the currency of sex and not ALL women exploit it for their benefit. But a lot of them do (including the grand example of the likely Republican presidential nominee), and it is helpful to understand the spiritual and sociological dynamics going on when they do. I say it again and again that we can not address a problem until we actually understand the spiritual root issue. I am amazed how often some new pop controversy around Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, or Kim Kardashian clearly reflects back on Genesis 3:16’s prediction of male oppression and exploitation along with a woman’s turning toward the man despite it.

But there is gospel hope in the middle of this. Whether Kardashian will come to a redeemed view of her whole person is up to God, but many of us will have a chance to speak into the lives of women young and old struggling with the same dynamic.

Hannah also says

“… Christian theology doesn’t have a place of clambering or holding onto power. That’s the whole point of Philippians 2 and the ENTIRETY OF THE GOSPEL.”

There is such freedom in Christ around this issue, for both women and men. In Christ, women don’t have to clamor for power in this fallen sexual dynamic between the genders. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised according to Proverbs 31. And …

I Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adornment be outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

While men around us (and women affected by them) may operate on a sexual currency, God does not, and He instructs His children to plow a counter culture, to operate in a new currency. A gentle (strength under control), quiet (peaceful, settled) spirit of a woman in Christ is beautiful and precious (highly valuable like gold or diamonds) in God’s currency. We have a spiritual inheritance in Christ that allows us to lift our heads as female image-bearers of God. While we steward our bodies, we are not slaves to others’ perceptions of them. They are not our source of power or currency. We have a spiritual inheritance in Christ as daughters of the King of King that fuels our self-identity and interactions with others. May we every day in every way disciple women in this truth.

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When Submission Becomes Sinful

In this guest post, Rachael Starke works through Scripture on submission to show us the limits of submission according to the Bible. We undermine the value of submission in the home as the Bible teaches it if we don’t also embrace its Biblical limits. 

In the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting and the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, many Christian leaders doubled down on sermons and blog posts referencing Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Resisting arrest or even questioning the way a state polices its citizens was tantamount to resisting the authority of God. But just last month, many in that same community responded with horror at a report in the New York Times that the U.S. military in Afghanistan was systematically turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of boys by Afghan militia leaders. Soldiers were instructed to view the abuse they witnessed as within the bounds of local Afghan law, and those who tried to speak up or intervene were disciplined or discharged. Far from restraining evil, particularly evil committed against children, the U.S. Military was actively complicit in it, punishing as wrongdoers those who attempted to do good to prevent it. Suddenly, the danger of making a human institutional authority absolute was all too clear.

There has been a similar round of conversation lately about submission as it relates to gender. Instead of submission being attached to the specific context of marriage, submission is being attached to womanhood as a defining characteristic, as leadership is to men. In that view, a woman’s submission to her husband is absolute, so as to reflect the church’s submission to Christ. And in life, that view teaches that a woman is to avoid vocations, actions or even words that will in any way guide or correct a man, or in some way dilute his inherent ability and masculine need to lead her. God’s work through women who lead, and even lead in rebellion, such as the midwives of Egypt, or Deborah or, my personal favorite, Jael, is dismissed as a collection of anomalies from the Old Covenant era. But it’s a New Testament story of God’s punishment of a woman’s submission which exposes clearly the wrong teaching that submission is some kind of definitive aspect of general godly womanhood.

Acts 4 and 5 describes the joyful generosity of the early church as they sold what they had to share with those in need. In an act that was far more about sinful pride than avarice, one man in the church named Ananias sells some property just as others have done, keeping some of the profit but behaving as if he was giving all to God. Many presume that Ananias’ wife, Sapphira, was complicit in the decision to keep back some of the profit. But the text makes no such presumption. The decision to sell the property was Ananias’ and Sapphira’s together. But the decision to keep back some of the profit was his, albeit a decision Sapphira knew he had made. Ananias chose his course, and Sapphira submitted to his choice.

Had Peter viewed Sapphira as simply a woman under her husband’s authority, he may not have felt it even necessary to ask after her involvement in her husband’s decision. But instead, in an interesting moment of pastoral acuity, after Ananias’ duplicity has been exposed, Peter actively inquires after Sapphira’s role in the matter. When Sapphira hides behind her husband’s lie, she discovers that, rather than being covered by her husband, she has become complicit with him. Speaking out would have honored God, even as it exposed her husband as having acted dishonorably. But in hiding behind her husband’s lie, Sapphira revealed that she was looking to her husband as a higher authority than God. Sapphira’s submission to her husband was sinful, and God demonstrated His ultimate authority by taking her life for it.

This story should serve as a strong exhortation to women struggling for discernment in the midst of their husband’s sin against them or others, whether through consumption of pornography or abuse of alcohol or physical or sexual assault, and especially against their children. Just as Sapphira was called to heed Proverbs 19:9, women are called to heed Psalm 82:3-4, even when the wicked hand or voice raised in anger at their child belongs to their husband. When those charged with serving and protecting abandon that call and look away from evil, or actively participate in it, we are called not to submit, but to stand up, especially for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. In those moments, it is not submissive silence, but strong words rooted in a love for justice and mercy, that true womanhood is most eloquently expressed.

Psalm 82
<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-15237H" data-link="(H)”>Give justice to <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-15237I" data-link="(I)”>the weak and the fatherless;
    <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-15237J" data-link="(J)”>maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-15238K" data-link="(K)”>Rescue the weak and the needy;
    <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-15238L" data-link="(L)”>deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

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Fifty Shades of Genesis 3:16

Well, Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Valentine’s Day.  Oh, what a warped view of love we have. I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading the book or going to the movie. I can’t imagine anyone is going because they think it is a morally good thing to do. It will be a blockbuster hit because there is a deeper issue in our hearts, and it is that deeper issue that I prefer to address.

The Twilight Series was a lighter version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction. But the bottom line of both series is the same — Good Girls fall in love with Bad Boys. These particular series made the news because the individual books and movies reached a mass market audience, but “romance” novels involving the “hero” treating the girl badly and the girl wanting him anyway (with the hope of reforming him) have been hugely successful among women for hundreds of years.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3. The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic “romance” novels have flourished over the years. When Christ is removed from our relationships, that is what is left – men oppressing women and women lapping it up, even if it’s just in fiction. I imagine men will not appreciate that characterization any more than women will. Yet, apart from Christ and God’s common grace among unbelievers, this is where both sexes default in my humble opinion, and I think history affirms my view.

This is not to say that, apart from Christ, we don’t have countless societal coping mechanisms for dealing with this phenomenon. I see feminism as the major coping mechanism. I’m thankful for aspects of feminism, particularly the first wave of feminism. I see it as a great manifestation of God’s common grace. Feminism didn’t change anyone’s heart, but the movement did help to restrain sinful oppression of women in many countries and in many different walks of life. But for every educated, take charge feminist woman you know, there remain hundreds in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation. After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, millions of women would still run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light.

As for Fifty Shades of Grey, while it is in many ways like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than a man’s for pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book/movie can be a powerful tool to pointing them back to the gospel’s answer for the dark longings in their heart. To that end, I hope this analysis is helpful.

For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this may sound completely foreign. If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not MY husband or MY history,” then praise God! Perhaps as a child you were raised to know Christ and His Word. You recognized early on your creation in His image and your worth as His honored son or daughter. For the most part, that’s our family, though occasionally I get glimpses into my tendencies apart from redemption. I would have lapped up the Twilight Series hook, line, and sinker during my teenage years. I thank God regularly that He kept me from the kind of guys I would have been willing to date when I was too naïve and immature to recognize this in myself.

There is something much better than secular coping mechanisms that are helpful in some ways and detrimental in others though. Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. In Christ, women have the rescuer we need. We have a need to submit, and we need one who dominates our life.  But only One, Christ Himself, can fill those needs in a way that invites light, not shadow. I’m reminded in all this that we will offer our best solutions spiritually when we best understand the root issue.

My heart aches for women longing for their Christian Grey. That is not his real form, and he morphs into something dark and disturbing when you least expect it.  In Christ, we can recognize this dark fantasy for what it is and then move away from the dark towards the light to live in the real relationships God has given us.

It helps a lot if you understand Genesis 3:16.

This is a reworked version of a post I first wrote in 2012.

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Feminism: Neither the Problem or the Solution

Feminism. It’s a polarizing word. Some equate it negatively with abortion rights. Others believe positively that it is THE moral issue of the 21st century. “Women’s rights are human rights” – that’s the mantra, at least. In reality, feminism is a very broad term for the basic movement toward women’s rights. In some circles, it leads to the promotion of very troubling things, like abortion. And in other arenas it promotes very good things, like ending forced female slavery or genital mutilation. Somehow feminism has become the big bad guy (girl?) among conservative leaders when it comes to gender issues, and I’m curious how that happened. Feminism is not a monolithic movement, and it does not have uniform, anti-Bible results worldwide. At the risk of all kinds of unsubscription notices to this blog (possibly even more than when I talked about whales), I think it’s worth discussing feminism for a bit, and not from a position of condemnation of the movement.

I’ve noted over the last few years that many conservative complementarian Christians mock or dismiss what they call biblical feminism. Some say the words biblical and feminist are antithetical, that they are mutually exclusive. The idea is that people claiming to be biblical feminists are really just compromising the Bible because the very nature of feminism is anti-Christian. I feel compelled to say that I strongly disagree with such statements. And I disagree with it based on my convictions from Scripture that are based on a straightforward reading of the Word of God that values its clarity. In other words, I embrace facets of feminism based on my conservative evangelical reading of the Word, the same hermeneutic that is espoused by many people who trumpet the idea that feminism is inherently anti-Bible. I believe that not only can you love and obey Scripture and also embrace feminism, but that there are movements under the umbrella of feminism that Scripture COMPELS us to embrace. 

Among those that believe you have to hate feminism to be a good Christian who loves the Bible, feminism is equated with a liberal, unorthodox view of Christianity and the Bible at best or a downright atheistic/agnostic view of Christianity at worst. But is that true? Is a straightforward reading of Scripture that values the perspicuity of the Bible at complete odds with feminism? I don’t think so. Certainly not all things that fall under the umbrella of feminism fit Scripture. But much does. And much under the umbrella of feminism that fits Scripture would not be championed in society if not for the movement called feminism.

Feminism is a big word with different definitions for different people. For this discussion, we are best served to go back to the basic definition of a feminist as given in the Oxford English Dictionary: “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”. Then, based on that definition, a Biblical feminist would be an advocate/supporter of rights/equality for women with Scripture as her/his basis. According to that definition, I am a Biblical feminist – I am an advocate and supporter of the rights and equality of women within the constraints of Scripture, and I embrace that BECAUSE of the instructions of Scripture, particularly those on the woman as an image bearer of God. I must in strongest terms disagree with the conclusion, at least based on that definition, that the very nature of Christianity is antithetical to advocacy for the rights of women.

This super suspicious view of feminism has its foundation in Susan Foh’s interpretation in the 1970’s that Genesis 3:16 predicts women will sinfully desire to control their husbands. See this post for an in depth look at this. If that is your foundational view of the problem the fall of man brought into the world for women, then of course, feminism is the uber-manifestation of it. Susan Foh is quite clear in her paper presenting this new interpretation of Genesis 3:16 that her interpretation came about because her concerns about feminism caused her to reexamine this Scripture.

So, feminism was concerning. Foh reevaluated Genesis 3:16 and concluded that the woman would have a sinful tendency to dominate and try to control the man, which then explained feminism as a result of the fall. Then those holding that view dismiss feminism as simply a movement for the rights of women and label it instead a movement of women wanting to take control over men. Feminism then becomes evil by its very foundations, the curse playing out among women.

However, what Genesis 3:16 actually says, in my opinion, is that women will have pain in childbirth and be ruled oppressively by the man, yet still have some kind of strong desire for him. In fact, what Genesis 3:16 is describing is the very real problem that feminism rose up to address – oppression of women. The problem with feminism is that it is an inadequate solution to a soul deep problem. Feminism won’t rescue women. Only Christ and the good news of His life, death, and resurrection can rescue either men or women from all the pain and suffering the fall of man brought into the world. Feminism is just a coping mechanism, an imperfect one at that. It is not the root of the problem between the genders, nor is it the solution.

Furthermore, sometimes the methods trumpeted to bring equality to women that fall under the movement of feminism actually profoundly harm women, abortion being the primary one. Consider the fact that in China there were 19,000,000 more boys than girls under the age of fifteen in the last census due to sex selective abortions.  A new documentary highlights how internationally the words, “It’s a girl,” are some of the deadliest words that can be said about a pregnancy or newborn babe.  It’s ironic in a disturbing way that the late stage methods of birth control that some (and note I said SOME, not ALL) feminists espouse worldwide tend to disproportionately harm female children.

But do you know why I can vote in my country against those very same policies? Because women during the first wave of feminism banded together to win that right. The reason Chinese women are gaining a voice in the media against forced abortion is in part because the feminist movement has raised the world’s awareness of their right to be heard. The general movement called feminism has raised awareness and caused societal shift on the issues of sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation of women in media, and the subjugation of women in 3rd world nations. THIS IS GOD’S COMMON GRACE TO NOT JUST WOMEN BUT ALL OF HUMANITY. Also, we should note that the notion that feminism is equated to a disdain of children is not universally true. In my little pocket of the feminist pacific northwest, I would say it is exactly NOT true. The feminists I know here love and value children, often putting me to shame with the thoughtful way they raise their children or engage for the good of children in our community.

When conservatives make feminism itself the big bad enemy and write off all the good that’s been accomplished under its name, we defeat ourselves. Instead, those who love the Bible will be well served to stop worrying about the term feminism. The term is not the issue, and God’s kingdom is ill-served when we make the movement for equal human rights for women our target instead of the true sins the movement rose up to address. The issue is the range of sins against women (and children) that cultures have accepted over the years. We who love the Bible can engage on those topics. That is good and right. And if we stay in the conversation, we have a voice of influence when some choose coping mechanisms that actually hurt humanity rather than help.

If you would like to read a survey of what the Bible does say about social justice, I highly recommend Tim Keller’s Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just.

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