Archive | Genesis 3:16

Death by Snu-Snu: Football, Beyonce, and the Power of Sex

I’ve written a lot on this blog about the implications of an accurate understanding of Genesis 3:16 on women, Christianity, and culture (here and here). The Gospel-Centered Woman deals with it in depth. Sunday’s Super Bowl gave me a very large petri dish to observe the interactions between genders in a male dominated forum. I don’t mind that football is a male dominated sport by the way. I like men, and I like football. I am one of three girls, the daughter of a cotton farmer. We did our fair share of girly things growing up, but there wasn’t a line of demarcation between things girls did and things boys did in our family, probably because there weren’t any boys to compare ourselves too. I watched Sunday NFL football every week with my dad. To this day, the best Sunday afternoon naps I have are those with the sound of an NFL game in which I’m only marginally interested playing in the background. I tell my husband I’m going to take a football nap. Can’t beat them. But I digress.

No, I don’t mind that football is a male dominated sport. I do mind that the women they invite to have visible roles are clearly chosen as eye candy. The cheerleaders for sure. But even the sideline female commentators, except for maybe Michele Tafoya, seem designed to be eye candy rather than legitimate contributors of meaningful information. It will be a cold day in you-know-where before they have a female commentator sitting with Troy Aikman or Joe Buck in the booth (I love that pair). But I can’t say that I necessarily would enjoy a female commentator either (unless it was me). It’s not that she’d be female, but just that she wouldn’t be male. Change is hard.

The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of the NFL’s culturally acceptable middle class misogyny. And in the midst of this massive crowd willingly watching men tackling men while ogling women in skimpy outfits on the sidelines (and commercials), in walked a single, fierce woman who took control of the entire conversation. She took control visually. And she took control verbally. We’re not talking about John Harbaugh or Joe Flacco today. We’re talking about Beyonce.

One article called her performance a “defiant act of power, not sex.” Oh, it was powerful. But she most definitely used sex as the conduit for her power. Her performance reminded me of an episode of Futurama in which Fry and the gang are captured by Amazonian women who condemn them to death by snu-snu (i. e. sex). Fry is both excited and horrified. 50 Shades breaks records in sales for its portrayal of BDSM with a submissive female. Then Beyonce, cultural icon, gives a powerful, woman dominated performance in the middle of a male dominated sporting event. I was struck by the female guitarist – I guess that’s when I figured it out. Beyonce was making a statement. There was not a single man on the stage. Women kicked it on the drums and the fire spewing guitar. Oh, she made a statement all right. I wonder if the NFL even realizes it. There was a lot of fascinating sociology at play in that game.

Yet submissive or dominant, Beyonce’s performance still centered around sex. Was she incapable of making her powerful feminine statement without leaning heavily into sex? Could she have been modestly fierce? I doubt it. Oh, she could have dressed modestly, but sex was a large part of her power. In fact, I think it was the foundation of her power. She knows it, which is why she uses it. 

What you had Sunday was a battle of the sexes. I think Beyonce won. But the prizes are slim in that battle, which is why I believe God has called us to a third way which transcends both options. We can put off the 50 Shades submissive, probably the dream of a large portion of the men on Sunday ogling both the cheerleaders and Beyonce. And we can put off the Amazonian dominatrix, who uses sex for power. It’s not that our third way offers a different view of either gender or sex. No, it transcends gender and sex. What Christ offers is a different view of POWER.

The Bible definitely talks about power, and it talks about it specifically with women.

Proverbs 31:17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

But the Bible gives us a distinctly different avenue toward strength and power. And, furthermore, that power looks different when we wield it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I think it’s valuable to look a little deeper at the issues in these cultural moments. Simplistic, moralistic descriptions of the problem result in simplistic, moralistic answers to the problem. The issues are deeper than our knee-jerk reactions usually account for, and the answer in the gospel is profound. All of life resonates with these truths. Christ turned the world’s notion of power on its side, and the implications for both genders are life changing.

Fifty Shades of the Curse

This is not a lecture against 50 Shades of Grey per se. I haven’t read it personally, but I have regretfully stumbled across other books in the genre over the years. Honestly, I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading it. No one’s reading it because they think it is a morally good thing to do. Those types of books sell 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 50 Shades of Grey. Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction. There is a bottom line element of both series. Good Girls in love with Bad Boys. These particular series have been in the news recently because the individual books 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 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. And there you have it! 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. I may get some negative comments. 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. Though some people will not like that I say this, I’m frankly 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 50 in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation. After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, there remain millions of women who’d run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light. 

Here’s a trailer for the documentary Missrepresentation, which discusses how media portrays women and how women contribute. (Warning: the trailer contains some disturbing sexual images and one use of profanity.) The makers of the film document the problem well. One only has to take a cursory look at Hollywood to have every affirmation you need of the fact that men exploit women and women participate. The coping mechanism that Missrepresentation supports is better portrayals of women in media. And that’s a good idea, but it won’t change anyone’s heart either.

There is something much better than a coping mechanism that is helpful in some ways and detrimental in others. Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this sounds 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. He gave me a husband who has loved me sacrificially, and He helped me to see myself created in His image, though I still desire of my husband at times things only God can fulfill in me.

The only thing I want to say about Fifty Shades of Grey is that while it is in many ways just like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than the male counterpart toward pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book 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.

A (Somewhat) Scholarly Analysis of Genesis 3:16

After last week’s book review of God’s Design, I decided to research the issue of various interpretations of the curse for women in Genesis 3:16 since it seems foundational to conservative approaches on women’s issues in Scripture over the last 20 years or so. Here is what I found in my research.

Most important in my view, the interpretation of Gen. 3:16 by some complementarians that the woman will desire against her husband to dominate him is a very recent development in church history. I am certainly open to correction on this, but as best as I can tell, Susan Foh in 1975 was the first to formalize the idea in the Westminster Theological Journal in a response to, you guessed it, feminism.

“THE current issue of feminism in the church has provoked the reexamination of the scriptural passages that deal with the relationship of the man and the woman. A proper understanding of Genesis 3:16 is crucial to this reconsideration of the Biblical view of the woman.” Susan Foh, The Westminster Theological Journal 37 (1974/75) 376-83

According to Foh, none of the historical views of Genesis 3:16 at the time of her writing involved interpreting the desire of the woman as a desire to control or dominate her husband. Matthew Henry coasts over the phrase in his commentary with no mention of “desire” at all. John Calvin says this part of the curse is simply subjection, that all of the woman’s desires will be subject to her husband who rules over her.

“For this form of speech, “Thy desire shall be unto thy husband,” is of the same force as if he had said that she should not be free and at her own command, but subject to the authority of her husband and dependent upon his will; or as if he had said, ‘Thou shalt desire nothing but what thy husband wishes.’ As it is declared afterwards, Unto thee shall be his desire, (Genesis 4:7.) Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.ix.i.html

The same Hebrew word for desire is used two other times in the Old Testament.

Genesis 4:7 … And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Song of Solomon 7:10  “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.

Some have interpreted the Hebrew word for desire to mean sexual desire. It may include that, but it’s use in Genesis 4:7 seems to contradict that. Foh interprets it as a desire to contend with her husband for leadership in their relationship. I believe it means an idolatrous longing for something from the man that she was created to receive from God alone. My view was prevalent at the time Foh put forth hers, which she acknowledges in her work.

“the desire that makes her the willing slave of man.” It is that “immense, clinging, psychological dependence on man.” Seeing no reason to limit the scope of “desire” to sexual appetite, Clarence J. Vos would not exclude from it the woman’s desire for the man’s protection. Keil and Delitzsch see “desire” as a morbid yearning; the woman “. . . was punished with a desire bordering upon disease (hqvwt from qvw to run, to have a violent craving for a thing) . . .”

Conservative translations read the Hebrew similarly. Only the KJV seems to continue along John Calvin’s vein, that the actual desires of the woman will be subservient to her husband.

Amplified Bible – Yet your desire and craving will be for your husband,

ESV – Your desire shall be for your husband,

NASB – Yet your desire will be for your husband,

KJV – thy desire shall be to thy husband,

Genesis 4:7 reflects the wording of Genesis 3:16 more closely than SoS 7:10. Gen. 3:16 and 4:7 use a different Hebrew word for the preposition “for” than SoS 7:10. In defending her new view, Foh primarily uses Genesis 4:7 to come to her conclusions about Genesis 3:16.

“In Genesis 4:7 sin’s desire is to enslave Cain — to possess or control him, but the Lord commands, urges Cain to overpower sin, to master it.”

Therefore, according to Foh, it follows that the woman wants to enslave her husband, to possess or control him, but he must rule over her.

There are several problems with her analysis of Genesis 4:7. Primarily there is an issue of gender – the suffix of desire in 4:7 is masculine, but the word for sin is feminine. Because of the discrepancy in gender, does desire in Gen. 4:7 even reflect on sin? According to Foh, John Calvin had a different view of Genesis 4:7, that the desire wasn’t sin’s but Abel’s.

“Calvin (p. 203-4) explains the desire of Abel for Cain as that of an inferior for the superior, in this case the first born Cain. “Moreover, this form of speech is common [?] among the Hebrews, that the desire of the inferior should be towards him to whose will he is subject; thus Moses speaks of the woman (iii.16) that her desire should be to her husband.”

Also, as I noted when I first started studying this 2 years ago, Genesis 4:7 is a personification of something that doesn’t actually have desires.  Sin is not a person or entity with feelings or emotions. Genesis 4:7 is figurative while 3:16 is literal.

“Hermeneutically, one should proceed from the literal usage to the figurative usage if one’s exegesis is to have validity.” http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Busenitz-Gen3-GTJ.htm

The problems with Gen. 4:7 make using it to translate Gen. 3:16 a weird choice. You don’t use the figurative to interpret the literal, and you don’t use the obscure to interpret the clear. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of hermeneutics is you always use the clear to interpret the obscure. In light of that, though the wording of SoS 7:10 is a little different than the other two, the meaning of the Hebrew for desire is clear there.

If you use the clear meaning of SoS 7:10 to give clarity to the obscure ones in Genesis, it makes sense. As Strong’s simply defines the Hebrew for desire, it just means desire, longing, or craving. This would fit Genesis 4:7 (if you ignore the gender differences and assume sin is the antecedent). Foh projects onto 4:7 the idea of domination or control, but the verse doesn’t actually say that sin wants to dominate Cain any more than Genesis 3:16 says it about women.  Domination and control are neither explicitly stated or subtly implied in either text.  Sin just wants Cain, according to this verse, in a big way.  And Cain needs to master it.

Some argue that the word for in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 could be translated against. However, no Bible translation anywhere (that I could find) says her desire is against her husband.  They all say her desire is for her husband.  Apparently, no translation team thought against was the best meaning of that term.  It doesn’t make sense to say desire against.  The problem with our desires is always that they are either FOR the wrong thing or FOR the right thing but out of proportion to what is appropriate.

The Septuagint uses a word that could mean turning away for Gen. 3:16 and 4:7. However, as this article points out, that doesn’t fit Genesis 4:7, which makes no sense if sin is turning away from Cain. In noun form, the difference in the meanings turning away and turning toward in the Greek (the Septuagint is an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) become virtually nonexistent. All that to say, the arguments that the prepositions of Gen. 3:16 and 4:7 mean a desire against to dominate are unconvincing linguistically.

In Conclusion

According to Foh herself, her presentation in 1975 that first introduced the currently accepted complementarian interpretation of Genesis 3:16’s “your desire will be for your husband” as a “desire against your husband to dominate him” is a RE-examination and RE-consideration of the Biblical view of women. I am Reformed and generally hang with Reformed conservatives. It strikes me as odd that such a new view keeps popping up in modern writing among those who are known for loving their church fathers and church history.

Also according to Foh, she presented her new view of Genesis 3:16 as a response to feminism. It’s important to note that the term feminism does not represent a monolithic movement. Carolyn McCulley has some helpful information of the various waves of feminism in her book, Radical Womanhood. If you examine the history of feminism, Foh wasn’t reacting against the broad, general idea of feminism though she uses the broad term. Frankly, I’m grateful for the 1st wave of feminism in particular, and you should be too, for it helped women get the right to vote, the right to inherit land, the ability to go to college, property rights, and so forth. It was God’s common grace at work. In her article, Foh was reacting specifically to the 2nd wave of feminism (the 3rd wave of feminism is thought to have begun in the 90’s, so it wasn’t an issue yet). So 3 millennia after Genesis 3:16 was written, there appears on the blip of human history a movement for women’s rights in the 1960’s that seems to justify a new interpretation of the curse. Really, folks, changing our interpretation of Scripture for a reason that surfaced in the last 0.08% of human history should trouble conservative theologians.

What if we read Genesis 3:16 in the straightforward way translators write it—her desire (strong craving/longing) will be for her husband—a way that was among the common views of it, according to Foh, before she put out her new view in reaction to the 2nd wave of feminism?

Clarence J. Vos would not exclude from it the woman’s desire for the man’s protection.5 Keil and Delitzsch see “desire” as a morbid yearning . . .”

A straightforward reading such as Vos’, Keil’s, and Delitzsch’s, requires no theological backflips. The woman’s root problem is that, even though child birth is painful and the man rules her, she still has a morbid craving for him, looking to him in completely unhealthy ways that do not reflect her status as image bearer of God. The woman wants something from the man that he was never intended to provide her, that he even on his best day is not equipped to provide. He becomes her idol.

2nd and 3rd wave feminism aren’t the problem on gender. They are at worst ineffective, Christless coping mechanisms that involve a different sin to address an old one. But I also know Christian feminists who have no desire to take over control of their church or home. They just want to contribute to social justice issues—ending female mutilation and sexual slavery, securing voting rights, and so forth—in 3rd world nations. Whatever form it takes in various cultures among various women, it is a mistake to set up feminism as a monolithic system of thought and then combat it as the source of all ills on gender issues.

No, feminism isn’t the ultimate problem. The problem didn’t start as women wanting control over the men in their lives. Women set up men as idols and looked to them to provide emotionally, spiritually, physically what only God can provide. Apart from Christ, men oppressed them in return, hence the modern coping mechanisms of independence, self-sufficiency, and control (often ineffective) for dealing with that oppression. The curse read at face value reflects the real issue, and the gospel is the clear answer. The gospel gives the woman sufficiency in Him that allows her to stay engaged as a helper after God’s own example. And when a man oppresses her to the point of abusing her or her children, that same gospel equips her to stand strong and remove herself and her children, for she is no longer so needy of the man that she has to subject her children to his sin. No, God, not her husband, is her Savior.

This older interpretation of Genesis 3:16 which I embrace certainly does not undermine a complementarian understanding of Scripture. It does gives clarity on why authoritarian views that mask themselves as complementarian are so prevalent. That’s the curse playing out. But views (that are correct in my opinion) on husbands as heads of homes, wives helping their husbands, and male eldership in churches will be well served by putting off Foh’s new interpretation. Authoritarian pastors unchecked by their peers and accountability structures who hold to Foh’s views have contributed to feminism in the church as much as anything.  Holding on to Foh’s views on Genesis 3:16 sets a tone of suspicion of women when we talk about gender issues in the church, and that tone is not helpful.

Finally, note that even as God handed down the curse in Genesis 3, He alludes to the breaking of that same curse.

Genesis 3 NASB 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

The curse for all of us is reality, but it is the very reality that Christ came to redeem. His kingdom is at hand, and we will see it in fullness and perfection one day soon.  Oh, I look forward to that day.

Resources:

Grace Theological Journal article from 1986.

Westminster Theological Journal article by Susan Foh.

 

Edited August 2017 to reflect where I’ve landed after further research.  Quote from Is the Bible Good for Women?  Seeking Clarity and Confidence through a Jesus-centered Understanding of Scripture:

In the 1970s, some first suggested that this desire referred to a woman’s longing to dominate her husband. Although that use of the word might fit Genesis 4:7, it does not fit Song of Solomon 7:10. The standard definition of this word in Hebrew lexicons and concordances is “longing” or “craving,” which, again, fits all three of the instances in the Old Testament. Viewed in this light, the phrase in Genesis 3:16 reflects a desire for the man that now results in frustration and even abuse. Just as the man was created to work the ground but is now frustrated in his attempts, the woman was created to help the man but is frustrated in her attempts. How do both men and women respond apart from Christ to such frustration? For women, this desire can turn into an inappropriate craving bordering on idolatry for something from the man that only God can now provide her. The issue may be best understood by making the simple substitution of God for her husband. Her desire must be for her God. She should turn toward Him in her need. Instead, her longings are frustrated as she turns toward one who cannot satisfy the needs of her soul that resulted from the fall of man.

Alsup, Wendy. Is the Bible Good for Women?: Seeking Clarity and Confidence Through a Jesus-Centered Understanding of Scripture (pp. 65-66).

Complementarians, the Curse, and a Book Review

Easter season has reminded us of God’s solution. But to what problem? I read a book last week that helped solidify in my mind that when we mistakenly interpret the problem, we miss the beauty of the gospel’s answer. I think many conservative evangelicals have sorely misdiagnosed the root problem on gender issues. That has clouded our presentations on the subject, and frankly, no wonder people resist our teaching. So this is both a book review and a call to re-examine an important issue for women in the church that colors how we approach topics involving egalitarian, complementarian, and feminist thinking.

God’s Good Design: What the Bible Really Says about Men and Women examines a number of controversial passages from the Old and New Testament on the roles of men and women in the church and home. Claire Smith, the author, has a PhD in New Testament from Moore College in Sydney, Australia. D. A. Carson wrote a glowing recommendation for the book, and that got my attention. I have enjoyed Carson on this topic – especially here and here. I appreciate his exposition of Scripture and generally resonate with his tone. However, despite my appreciation for him, I was very disappointed in this book. As an author, I am sensitive to criticism of my own books and therefore try to be sensitive in my criticism of the work of others. Dr. Smith is obviously well studied and brings much personal passion to this topic. But there are broad issues in the way she discusses this topic that I think need to be addressed for the health of the larger Body of Christ.

On the topic of gender in Scripture, I have long been interested in a book that simply examines and exposits Scripture on gender issues, minus defensiveness or pejorative analysis of the opposition. From the description, I thought that’s what this book would be. Instead, this book is more an argument against egalitarian interpretations of Scripture than a simple exposition of Scripture on the topic. From beginning to end, the author addresses issues raised by Christian feminists. Earlier, the author rightly said, “None of us reads the Bible as a neutral reader. We are influenced by personal factors and we are influenced by our fallenness ….” (p. 218) When I read the last chapter concerning the author’s personal life history, I understood the personal factors that strongly influenced her tone.

“I am old enough to have been raised in the heady heyday of the women’s liberation movement. Its impact on my home, my school and broader society was profound—all the more so because I spent half my school years in an exclusive all-girls school, and from my mid-teenage years lived in an all female household (even the pets were female!). 

I was raised to think that a woman could do anything a man can do (and she could do it better)… that the world would be a better place if women ran it. I recall I had very little respect for men.” (p. 219-220)

Apparently, the vast majority of gender issues in the author’s context center around Christian feminism. In contrast, I come from a background rarely dominated by feminist discussion. But even in my current context of the progressive Pacific Northwest, in a state with both a female governor and two female senators, I wouldn’t say feminism is the dominating issue for women. Sexual abuse, domestic violence, and a generally sexualized culture that projects onto the youngest of girls that they are most valuable when they are sexually provocative—these are the things with which women, including Christian women, still most struggle in my zip code, just as they have for 1000’s of years. Even in Dr. Smith’s 1st world, apparently feminist dominated context of Australia, she cites statistics that around 17% of women there have been violently abused in a current or previous relationship. I wonder what the statistics would be for the far more heavily populated 2nd and 3rd world nations (with far less gender equality) of China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan? In my experience, THAT statistic much more than views on feminism most affects the average woman’s attitude on gender issues.

Throughout this book, Dr. Smith discusses eternal truths from Scripture on gender in this very limited context, one with a relatively short history. With almost each examination of controversial words on gender, she mentions “getting our feminist hackles up” or offending our “feminist sensibilities.” It left me wondering (though I feel personally convicted of the answer) if Scripture’s instructions and admonitions address gender issues in areas where women wear burqas without the right to show their face, let alone to vote, in, say, the Middle East? We KNOW they do, but this text only peripherally deals with those applications. 

The author is consistent with herself though. This disconnect is accounted for by the author’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16’s curse that the woman’s desire will be for her husband. Dr. Smith says, “Eve’s desire is a desire to dominate or manipulate or control her husband,” and says the created order and harmony of Genesis 2 have been “replaced by woman’s constant desire to control her husband.” (p. 178) In light of this, the author IS keeping a personally consistent tone as she interprets each Scripture, a tone reflecting her belief that women universally despite culture or socio-economic status are going to naturally resist these passages out of a desire to dominate men. The problem is that this interpretation of Genesis 3:16 does not keep the straightforward method of reading the text for which she advocated with I Timothy 2’s and I Corinthians 14’s controversial words to women. Genesis 3:16 says simply that the woman has a desire (the word indicates a strong craving or longing) for her husband. I gave a longer analysis in this post.  Please read it if you are unconvinced of my straightforward reading of Genesis 3:16.

Genesis 3:16’s curse is not that all women want to dominate men and ultimately be in control. Good grief, NO! It’s that apart from Christ, we are predisposed to look to men to fulfill in us things that only God Himself can fill. It’s that we are idolators. By misinterpreting Genesis 3:16, Dr. Smith fails to address the root issues of worship and idolatry with which women struggle in every culture regardless of background. Subsequently she fails to address the root answer to the gender wars particularly for women, which I believe is the climax of Christ’s death on the cross – the tearing of the veil that stood as the barrier between God and us. In Christ, I am now invited to boldly and confidently enter God’s presence to find grace and mercy for every need—to have my desires and needs met in Him. As the Psalmist says in Psalms 73, “Whom have I in heaven but You and there is none on earth that I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance) forever.” This is the right answer to the woman’s misdirected desire of Genesis 3. It’s the gospel!

Dr. Smith is certainly not the only complementarian to interpret Genesis 3:16 this way. In fact, I think it’s the number one problem that undermines complementarian presentations. It’s hard to convince people to take other controversial words to women in a straightforward way when leaders interpret the initial curse and root problem for women in such a convoluted way. Plus, it colors the tone of our presentations. When a speaker or author thinks a woman’s number 1 problem is that they want to take over the world from men, then normal questions, concerns, or push back become evidences of a nagging, manipulative, or dominating spirit. You can’t have a conversation with such a spirit of suspicion. I really hope more complementarian pastors and authors will start leading differently on this issue.

Despite these differences between myself and the book, I was caused to think about a number of passages of Scripture in greater depth as I worked through the book. In particular, I was reminded that with Paul’s controversial words on gender in his epistles, he repeatedly calls men and women back to reflect what God created us to be in perfection, despite the ways the fall has caused all of our relationships to struggle. God set up very good things in Genesis 1 and 2, and the cross of Christ that we celebrate particularly in this season makes a way for us to reclaim all that was lost in the fall. Creation, not curse, now defines us as His image bearers.

Bottom Line: This book is strongly influenced by the author’s particular background (then again, few books are not). You’ll likely find the study of various passages in this book helpful if you are already convinced of a complementarian perspective, but I don’t suggest this book as a tool for convincing someone else to your position.