Tag Archives: ezer

Saeed Abedini bares his misogyny for all to see

Early this morning (around 3 a.m.), Pastor Saeed Abedini posted an anti-Hillary rant on Facebook that centered around his personal views on male headship and women’s submission to that authority.

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Those were the pictures I took around 10:30 this morning.  Since then, Saeed has edited the second-to-last paragraph to emphasize the point of his message:

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Not surprisingly, this post has incited some lively discussion.  In the past 22 hours, there have been 182 reactions, 154 comments and 44 shares. And just now, as I am typing this, I tried to look at the post again and see this:

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Evidently, I’ve been blocked!

There were some really lovely comments made by egalitarians in response to Saeed’s post, and now I wish I had captured more screenshots.  Marg Mowzcko, the scholar behind the egalitarian exposition of Scripture at newlife.id.au, left several powerful comments.  This was my favorite:

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The Chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

And Debbie Folthorp made an important observation:

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AG – The Role of Women in Ministry

I replied to a couple comments and left one of my own:

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I am hopeful that others are also responding to Pastor Saeed’s incorrect and damaging views on women in leadership.  It is important that examples of blatant cherry-picking of Scripture and patriarchal interpretation be publicly refuted and challenged so that those who may not otherwise hear another view may perhaps question these teachings.

If you are unfamiliar with Pastor Saeed Abedini beyond his 3.5 years of imprisonment in Iran and the powerful movement among Evangelicals to have him freed, Spiritual Sounding Board and A Cry for Justice have many excellent posts and links to articles explaining his history of marital abuse and questionable character.  We also posted about The Courageous and Wise Naghmeh Abedini and abuse in marriage, which is important for the Church at large to be educated on, as victims of abuse are almost always further victimized in the process of protecting the celebrity figures and reputation of the organization at large.

May we continue to pray for healing in the Abedini family.


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Was Jesus Really a Complementarian???

In an article published today on The Gospel Coalition, Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in Michigan, writes that Jesus was simultaneously pro-woman and complementarian¹.  He shares a long and beautiful list of interactions that Jesus had with women throughout his life and ministry, and then points to Jesus’ 12 male disciples as the proof that although women were of equal value to Jesus, he reserved leadership for men and was therefore complementarian (i.e. traditional, hierarchical, or patriarchal).  TGC is almost synonymous with complementarianism, posting regularly on God’s design for gender roles, even positioning gender roles as a critical part of the Gospel – generally understood to be the Good News that Jesus came to restore his creation and redeem us to right relationship with God…and to our gender roles for all eternity?   

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I certainly agree with DeYoung that Jesus’ interactions with women were revolutionary.  It is often these same interactions that plant a seed of doubt in the mind of complementarians who come around to an egalitarian² theology.  If this is how Jesus treated women at a time when Jewish men daily were thanking God that he did not make them women, why do our churches treat them any differently?

In “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus”, DeYoung says,

Out of a cultural background that minimized the dignity of women and even depersonalized them, Jesus boldly affirmed their worth and gladly benefited from their vital ministry. He made the unusual practice of speaking freely to women, and in public no less (John 4:27; 8:10–11; Luke 7:12–13). He also frequently ministered to the needs of hurting women, like Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30–31), the woman bent over for 18 years (Luke 13:10–17), the bleeding woman (Matt. 9:20–22), and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24–30).

Jesus not only ministered to women, he allowed women to minister to him. Women anointed Jesus and he warmly received their service (Matt. 26:6–13; Luke 7:36–50). Some women helped Jesus’s ministry financially (Luke 8:2–3), while others offered hospitality (Luke 10:40; John 12:2). A number of women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, Mary and Martha—are mentioned by name in the Gospels, indicating their important place in Jesus’s ministry. Many women were among Jesus’s band of disciples. And perhaps most significantly, women were the first witnesses to the resurrection (Matt. 28:5–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:2–9; John 20:1–2).

DeYoung could elaborate on his mention of John 4 – the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, who Jesus ministered to despite cultural taboos (and even contradictory to the much-followed complementarian “Billy Graham Rule” of never being alone with a woman), who then went into her city as the first missionary, converting many.

He could mention that Jesus submitted, at somewhere around 30 years old, to his mother’s wish that he turn water into wine at the wedding at Cana, his first miracle.

love that women were the financial backers of Jesus’ ministry.  There is no mention in the Bible of any men doing so.  Complementarians generally assign finances to the role of males, as a source of power and authority that transcends the domestic duties of women.

At a time when women were not eligible to give witness in a court of law because of their lowly status and questionable ability in the eyes of the patriarchal culture, Jesus first appeared to women at his resurrection.  Let that sink in.  If women are not to teach men, as complementarians believe that teaching is a form of authority, and women are not to have authority over men, should they have gone back to the 12 grown men and told them, or held the Good News under their hat until Jesus spoke directly to the men who could then spread the Good News to others?

DeYoung goes on to say,

Underlying Jesus’s ministry was the radical assumption that women have enormous value and purpose. The clearest example is his mother Mary, who’s called highly favored in Luke 1:28. Moreover, Jesus used women as illustrations in his teaching, mentioning the queen of the south (Matt. 12:42), the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26), women at the second coming (Matt. 24:41), and the woman in search of her lost coin (Luke 15:8–10). He held up the persistent widow as an example of prayerfulness (Luke 18:1–5), and the poor widow’s offering as an example of generosity (Luke 21:1–4).

Jesus addressed women tenderly as “daughters of Abraham,” placing them on the same spiritual plane as men (Luke 13:16). His teaching on divorce treated women as persons, not mere property (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), and his instruction about lust protected women from being treated as nothing more than objects of sexual desire (Matt. 5:28). And in a time where female learning was suspect, Jesus made a point to teach women on numerous occasions (Luke 10:38–4223:27–31; John 11:20ff).

I would elaborate on the story of Martha and Mary from Luke 10, in which Jesus insisted that Mary sit at his feet alongside his male disciples, learning from him rather than serving them in her subordinate female station–which was inconsistent with what DeYoung calls “God’s original design for role distinctions”.  If it was better for Mary to sit at the feet of her teacher, in the posture of a disciple, is it not better for women today to pursue their callings in the Kingdom of God than it is to remain in supportive roles, always deferring to and serving the men?

DeYoung was doing well until this point in his article.  While acknowledging that Jesus’ treatment of women was revolutionary in his patriarchal culture, he veers off course with his assertion that Jesus’ selection of an “all-male apostolic leadership” points to complimentarianism.

First of all, if Jesus is being consistent with God’s original design for male and female roles, it is important to point out that gender roles as expressed by complementarian theology were not present in humanity before the Fall.

Complementarians say that because God made Adam first, he intended that Adam would be the leader.  But Adam was not made first.  The animals were!

When God went to make an ezer kenegdo for Adam, which is often translated “suitable helper”, he was making an equal partner to yoke with Adam.  A truer translation renders ezer kenegdo “corresponding strength.”  It is not preferable to be unequally yoked in marriage, with one spouse carrying a greater load than the other.  In most appearances of the word ezer  in the OT, it is referring to God or to a warrior in battle.  Certainly not an image of domestic servitude!

When God fashioned Eve out of Adam, he declared that she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, meaning she was the same.  None of this “weaker sex” talk here.  Women are made of tough stuff!

And God did not give Adam alone authority over creation.  The mandate to be fruitful and multiply and rule the earth was given to both Adam and Eve.  We do not see a brokenness in male and female equality and partnership until sin entered the picture.

Second of all, pointing to the fact that the twelve disciples were male does not prove that Jesus would have withheld positions of authority from women for all time.  Jesus also chose only Jewish, middle-aged men.  Are Gentiles, slaves, and elderly or young people also excluded from church leadership?

There was symbolism behind Jesus choosing his original twelve disciples, pointing to the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel and the coming of their long-awaited Messiah.  These twelve were then titled apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven, but others were also later called apostles, including Paul and a woman named Junia.  The prophesied Messiah had come, and another prophecy from Joel 2:28 was also fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and landed on all who were gathered together waiting – both men and women – and they all began to prophecy.  With God’s Spirit in each of us, there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female (Galations 3:28).  We are all one in Christ and equally equipped to serve God’s Kingdom.

How is complementarian theology practiced in most churches?  When looking for leaders, half of the church is immediately disqualified because of their genitalia.  From there leaders are chosen.  It boggles the mind to see spiritually mature and qualified women barred from using their gifts for the Kingdom of God, while our culture has progressed to a place where women are able to lead in secular organizations to the great benefit of all!

God became flesh in a patriarchal world where leadership was not accessible to women.  But in the early days of the Church women played pivotal roles as leaders.  Christianity can be credited with progressing the equality of women throughout culture at large.  And so it is ironic and sad that hierarchical Christianity today is a leading force in subjugating women.  Complementarianism may seem benign to many who have not examined their life-long assumptions about gender roles, but to those of us who have been exposed to the plight of abused and marginalized women around the world and in our own backyards, we are horrified that the Church is not stepping up to honor women in the same revolutionary way that Jesus did in his day.


¹Wikipedia: “Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere…For some Christians whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the Church.  Complementarianism assigns primary leadership roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages from a Complementarian perspective. One of its precepts is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.”

²Wikipedia: “Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God’s sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status. This view does not just apply to gender, but to religion, skin colour and any other differences between individuals. It does not imply that all have equal skills, abilities, interests, or physiological or genetic traits. Christian egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ; have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.”


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The Search for Identity: Healing Our Image of God and Of Ourselves

We primarily associate the search for identity with a phase of life occurring during the teen years.  Young people are expected to be “finding themselves,” questioning the messages they receive from authority figures, pushing boundaries, etc.  My experience is showing me that the search for identity continues beyond adolescence and may be a life-long process.

We are all asking the same existential questions:

What are we about?
Why are we here?
Where are we going?

And to answer these questions, we invest our energy in these things:

We are what we do.
We are what others say about us.
We are what we have.

As long as we are experiencing success and people are saying good things about us, or we are living comfortably and enjoying good relationships, we can feel OK.  But when we face failures, when others’ disapprove of us, when we lose people and things that are dear to us, then we may experience an existential crisis.

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My earth-shattering existential crisis occurred when I was 30 years old (four years ago…in case you were wondering!:).  There have been small bumps and jolts along my journey that have caused me to question things before, but at thirty I faced a tidal-wave of paradigm-shifting crap heaped up on my life that turned everything upside down and left me at ground zero.  My greatest discovery as I rebuilt my life was that I was finding my identity apart from God.  I was finding my identity in what I did, what others said about me, and what I had.  All my life, I have loved God and His Church.  But for the first time in my life, I am now living as one beloved by God.  And I am finally experiencing fullness of life and freedom in Christ!

All humans are created imago dei (in the image of God) and only in finding our identity in God can we experience life in all its fullness.  We need to recover the image of God in our lives by finding our ultimate identity in reflecting and representing God on earth – as His beloved children.

Living imago dei means finding your identity “from Him and to Him and through Him” (Romans 11:36).

To understand what it means to live imago dei, let’s first look at the Creation account in Genesis 1.  Verse 27 says,

So God created humankind in His own image, in the image
of
God He created them; male and female He created them.

Conservative scholars agree that the author of the book of Genesis was Moses, writing around 3,500 years ago.  This was during a time when emperors placed statues of themselves throughout their kingdoms, signifying who was in charge.  These statues would loom over town centers and were often made of precious metals and stones.

When my brother and I were backpacking through Europe, we visited a museum of communist and Nazi statues from the mid-20th century.  These huge statues had been formidable, oppressive symbols for the people who lived with them in their midst.  When Sadam Hussein’s regime fell, I have vivid memories of watching newscasts of people tearing down his statues, with tremendous effort and emotion.

Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square after the US invasion

Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square after the US invasion

When we think of these images of emperors being a normal aspect of life during the time of Moses, the beauty of God placing humankind as His image on earth is astounding.  We were created to represent God’s glory and diety on earth.  In heaven, it is clear who is in charge as God sits on His throne and is worshipped in a non-stop chorus of hosannas.  On earth, God has given us the choice to worship Him or not.  And He has given authority to humankind to rule and steward His creation.  And yet, unlike the emperors’ statues, who were made from precious metals and stones, we were made from the dust of the earth.

It is important to recognize two things about humanity from the Creation account:

1.  We are made for DIGNITY – to represent God’s glory and diety on earth
2.  We are HUMBLE creations – made from dust, not diety ourselves

Whether or not we are living our lives in devotion to God, every human being has dignity and value as image bearers of God.  This is common grace for all.  To live fully imago dei, however, goes beyond our creation as God’s image bearers.  It also means finding our identity as image bearers, living “from Him..to Him…[and] through Him.

Living imago dei means finding our source, purpose and meaning in God

There are three aspects to finding our identity as image bearers of God:

1.  Live in communion with God
2.  Live in community with others
3.  Steward creation the way God does

In struggling with our identity, we tend to start in the opposite order:

Do something…
Then ask for help from others…
Then, in a last ditch effort, quiet yourself and spend time with God.

So the first step towards living imago dei requires knowing God.

In healing our image of God, we heal our image of ourselves.

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“We have seen His glory, the glory of an only Son, filled with enduring love.” (John 1:14)

“May Christ grow in your heart by faith, and may love grow…that you will be able to grasp how wide, how long, how high and how deep is God’s love which is beyond all knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:7-9)

God is love — and you are God’s beloved!

In healing our image of God, Jesus frees us from fear of the Father and dislike of ourselves.  If not, you still have not accepted the total sufficiency of His redeeming work.

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The problem: our image of God (how we see God) reflects more of our experience with humankind.

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In this short video, Greg Boyd explains why it is that many of us picture God as angry and vindictive, and how any conception of God that is other than what we find in Christ is a mischaracterization:

http://view.vzaar.com/1971665/flashplayer

(Or see it here: http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/making-god-in-our-own-image).

If we do not know God, then we cannot live fully imago dei.

Not only do we believe lies about who God is – but we believe lies about who we are and where we “should” be finding our identity.  These lies come from our society at large, the media, our families, our faith communities, etc.

Stop Shoulding Yourself

Lies make us feel as though we are less than, unworthy, freaks, frauds and failures.  While God loves us as we are and not as we should be, we get a different message from society.  We “should” find our worth in our accomplishments, appearance, education, gender, feminity or masculinity, occupation, race, sexuality, social networks, spirituality, wealth, etc.

The reason these lies are so ingrained in our psyches:  SOCIALIZATION.

We are socialized to believe certain lies about our identities through three processes:

1. Modeling (how we observe others behaving)
2. Overt Instruction (how we were instructed to behave)
3. Reinforcement (positive or negative responses to our behavior)

Our socialization results in cognitive lenses through which we understand the world and ourselves.

Socialization is POWERFUL.  Through our cognitive lenses, we learn to associate or assign meaning to words in a process that occurs in one-seventh-of-a-millionth second.

For example: when we hear “woman” we may associate that (in less than one- seventh-of-a-millionth second!) with “helper.”  This association comes from the most common translation of ezer from the Creation account.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable (ezer kenegdo) for him.'” Genesis 2:18

Early translators viewed the Bible from a cognitive lens of gender hierarchy as God’s design (through the influence of St. Augustine’s writings, who describes Plato–a philosopher who saw educated, wealthy men as the pinnacle of society who ought to govern over the women, slaves and children–as the lens through which he understood the Bible).  So although other instances of ezer throughout the Old Testament show God swooping in as a warrior in battle to “help” turn the tide towards victory, the translation chosen denotes subjection and male authority.  A truer translation of ezer kenegdo would be “corresponding strength,” with Eve as co-warrior alongside Adam.  As women, we have valuable strength to contribute to our churches, families, and communities.

These are helpful questions to begin to peel away the onion-layers of lies that have influenced our identity formation:

What are my cultural lenses?
What has my role modeling been?
What has my instruction been?
What has my reinforcement been?
How has my socialization impacted my search for identity – the purpose, meaning and goal of my life?

Christian women in Western society have been socialized to believe that a feminine, nurturing and submissive homemaker is the ideal Christian woman.  Rather than finding our identity in God and living boldly and freely as ezer-warriors in authority over Creation, we are socialized to live small, inhibited lives, so as not to rock the boat or make waves.

Kathy Escobar shared these lists on her blog, comparing Good Christian Women to Ex-Good Christian Women.  Which list do you identify with more?

i know these are generalizations, but in my experience a lot of “good-christian-women”:

  • rarely engage in conflict
  • are terrible at saying “no” because it feels selfish
  • know how to say the right things, do the right things, to keep the peace
  • continually strive–and i do mean strive–to be a better wife, better mother, better christian
  • live with a feeling that God is disappointed with us somehow
  • feel a lot of shame for who we are and who we aren’t (but rarely say it out loud)
  • doubt our leadership, feelings, gifts, dreams
  • dwell on the things we should be doing differently or better 
  • view anger as sin
  • always seek permission 

here are some characteristics of those of us with the “ex” added.  “ex-good-christian-women”:

  • are learning to show up in relationship instead of hiding
  • engage in conflict instead of avoid it
  • say “no” with less-and-less guilt and say “yes” more freely, more honestly
  • tell the truth
  • respect anger
  • are honest about shame
  • live in the present 
  • are beginning to believe we are “enough”–here, now
  • open ourselves up to dreams & passions & living out what God is stirring up in us
  • lead & love & live in all kinds of new ways, with or without permission
  • are discovering that God is much bigger than we were ever taught & loves us more than we ever knew

Our sisters, both locally and globally, need us to step into our calling as ezer-warriors, living fully and abundantly as beloved and equal daughters of God, creating a ripple effect that erodes the lies from our neighborhoods and the world at large.

Living imago dei means finding your identity
“from Him and to Him and through Him.” 

God loves you as you are, not as you should be.
We all need to learn to live for an audience of One,
and “stop shoulding on ourselves.”

The best summary I can come up with is this Love letter from Jesus:

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With much love,

                   Jesus


This post is adapted from a talk I did at a women’s retreat earlier this month.  I shared the books, sermons and articles I referenced in this post, Imago Dei Resources.

On the retreat, it was much more of a conversation with dialogue about lies that we struggle with.  Please feel free to join that conversation in our Comments section!  What lies have you been trying to peel away, that keep you from living fully imago dei?

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