Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – Why did God create two sexes? Can men and women be equal and yet have different roles?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In Chapter 22, Wayne Grudem reviews the concept of God making man as male and female. He describes how the creation of man displays God’s image in three ways: harmonious interpersonal relationships, equality in personhood and importance, and difference in role and authority. Grudem also discusses the concept of male headship in the family, an admittedly culturally difficult idea.  

Personal Relationships

God did not create people to be isolated persons. God created people to be related within societal structures, especially in marriage. In the beginning, God said “therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). This was the first and primary human relationship God ordained.

God made man in his image as male and female. This fact suggests there’s a measure of similarity between God and man. For man (singular) was made as male and female (plural) and seems to reflect God (singular) in his three-persons (plural). Someone may object, “what about the third person in man?” In this way, children can be seen to be coming forth from a man and woman just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. This collection of man, woman, and children would complete a parallel, if inexact, picture of the Trinity.

Equality in Personhood and Importance

Although the man and woman may have different roles, they are nevertheless equal in personhood and importance. Though some may feel more superior or inferior to the other sex, this is not a Scripturally-justified position. For instance, a man may feel better than a woman, but there are several ways in which woman is granted an honor in Scripture, alongside man.

  • A good wife is more precious than jewels (Proverbs 31:10).
  • Peter instructs husbands to show “honor to the woman” (1 Peter 3:7).
  • Both women and men will prophesy and have the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18).
  • We are all one in Christ whether male or female (Galatians 3:28)  

In other words, there should be no room for boasting that a male is better than a female or that a female is better than a male. All of us, whether male or female are equal in personhood and importance in the eyes of God and among ourselves. 

Differences in Roles

Man and woman may be equal, but they do not fulfill the same roles. The man is the head of the family among equal partners. There are several biblical reasons to affirm male headship in the marriage relationship. 

  1. Adam was created first, then Eve (Genesis 2:7,18-23).
  2. Even was created as a helper for Adam (Genesis 2:18).
  3. Adam named Eve (Genesis 2:23).
  4. God named the human race “man”, not “woman” ( Genesis 5:2).
  5. The serpent came to Eve first thus subverting God’s order (Genesis 3:1).
  6. God spoke to Adam first after the Fall (Genesis 3:9).
  7. Adam, not Eve, represented the human race (1 Corinthians 15:22). 

Application: Two Abuses of Male Headship in Marriage  

Though the male component of man is the head of the family, there is a temptation for the male to be domineering or passive. On being overly aggressive, part of the curse of the Fall implied that the man would “rule over” the woman with an element of a dictatorial government (Genesis 3:16). 

On the other hand, man can also be passive or a “wimp”. After all, Adam was with Eve when she fell into sin (Genesis 3:6). The first man did not take up the mantle of proper leadership at the Fall.  So as the male rules, he must reject being dictatorial or passive and always in the context of love for his wife (Ephesians 5:25).

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:18-19)

Special Terms

  • difference in role
  • equality in personhood
  • mutual submission
  • primogeniture

Resources: Wayne Grudem

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