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Is God anti-women?

Many skeptics and critics of Christianity allege that God is anti-women; that he is guilty of sexism, which means that God is prejudicial and discriminatory towards women based on their sex. They contend that this supposed loving, righteous, and just God of the Bible is actually nothing more than a man-favouring chauvinist and a woman-hating misogynist. They conclude, therefore, that such a morally faulty God couldn’t possibly exist or if he does, how could we ever follow, love, trust, and obey such a being? They claim that the evidence for such a position and understanding of God is overwhelming and undeniable. All one needs to do is read through the Bible or study the history of Judaism and Christianity.

For example, critics reference Genesis 2 and the fact that God created Adam first, and then Eve second. What about how in Genesis 2:18 the Bible reveals that God created Eve to be a ‘helper’ to Adam? Surely this shows that God placed Eve, and by extension all women, in an inferior and subservient position to men. What about how God, in the wake of Adam and Eve’s sin and rebellion, curses Eve with pain in childbirth and states that her husband will rule over her (Genesis 3:16)?. What about how all throughout the Old Testament, the laws and customs of the ancient Israelites - God’s chosen people and messengers to the world - clearly demonstrate a disdaining view of women as inferior to men? For example, an adult woman was considered a minor by law and lived under the authority of her nearest male relative; a husband could divorce his wife and take another, but the wife could not divorce her husband (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 21:15-17); and, a woman could inherit her father’s land only if there were no male heirs, and only if she married within her ancestral tribe (Numbers 27:1-11). Furthermore, critics nearly always contend that even the New Testament promotes the oppression of wives and women. For example, in Ephesians 5:22 we see God through the words of the apostle Paul telling wives that they must submit to their husbands.

As Christians - who believe God created and loves men and women equally - how best do we respond to these difficult objections? A comprehensive and exhaustive answer to this question is beyond the scope of this article, however let us at least answer the specific contentions outlined above and examine in more detail what the Bible actually teaches about how God views men and women.

Contention #1: God is anti-women because He created Eve second

On a literal interpretation of Genesis it’s clear that the Bible teaches that Adam was made first and Eve second. However, that in no way should be understood as meaning that women were an afterthought to God or that He created women as inferior to men. Genesis 1:26-27 states, “God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…’ male and female he created them.” God’s intention and plan is clear from the beginning. Women are made in the same image and likeness of God as men. Man has not been given more and women less; men and women equally share God’s image. Men and women equally share the same value and dignity as human beings created by God in his likeness.

Contention #2: God is anti-women because He made women to be ‘helpers’

Genesis 2:18 states, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” This verse is not to be understood as meaning that God created women to be nothing more than servants or assistants to men. The Hebrew word translated ‘helper’ in this verse is ‘ezer.’ It is used many times throughout the Bible, and it by no means denotes a lowly servant role. Rather, it is a lofty role to bring help to one who needs it. In Genesis 49:25 we see Jacob using this word of God himself when he said, “May the God of your father help you.” In Exodus 18:4 we see that Moses used this word when he declares, “The God of my ancestors was my helper.” The psalmist David used this word repeatedly in passages like Psalm 33:20 which states, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.” On this point, Christian apologist Sean McDowell notes that, “When God created a female as a godlike equal to help the male, it was a highly esteemed role, not one of inferiority or servitude.”

Contention #3: God is anti-women because He unfairly punished Eve

It is important to remember that Adam and Eve’s sin and rebellion against God had dire and far-reaching consequences for all of humanity. When Adam and Eve decided to reject God; the very source of life, love, truth, beauty, justice, and goodness, the result was naturally the introduction into the created order of all things not of God; spiritual and physical death, mental and physical disease, relational disorder, and all the various corruptions and perversions we witness today. God did not unfairly punish Eve, nor has He ever unfairly punished anybody in history, male or female. Rather, pain in childbirth and dysfunctional marriages/relationships, as mentioned in Genesis 3:16, are but two specific examples of the negative consequences of sin upon humanity.

Contention #4: God is anti-women because of Old Testament laws

When examining the Old Testament, and the laws and customs of the ancient Israelites, it’s of vital importance to remember the historical and biblical context. Unlike what many skeptics and critics of Christianity would have you believe, the laws and customs of the ancient Israelites are not God’s ultimate ideals for humanity. God’s ideal for humanity and all of creation, is clearly seen in Genesis 1-2. However, humanity abused the freedom God has graciously gifted to us and rebelled against His perfect plans and created order. This rebellion meant that human sin fractured and corrupted humanity and all of creation. We stopped loving and trusting in God as we were meant to. Instead, we turned inward and started loving and trusting ourselves.

The hearts and minds of every human being have been perverted. This has led to a myriad of negative consequences. We’re all slaves to selfishness, pride, envy, lust, greed, anger, bitterness, resentment, the desire for power, and the desire to control and dominate others, This was especially true in the ancient world. Humanity’s understanding of God, his nature, his plans and purposes, and His ideals, was extremely limited. These were primitive times. when society as a whole was extremely dysfunctional and unjust, and the hearts and minds of human beings were hardened in rebellion against God. But God did not leave us to suffer the negative consequences of our rebellion. God is a good and loving God. He is working a masterful and merciful redemption plan for humanity. He is looking to rescue us and lead us back into communion and right relationship with Him. But because of humanity’s wickedness and foolishness this plan had to start small, be gradual in process, involving incremental steps towards the ideal, which was eventually exemplified by God himself in the life of our saviour, Jesus. God chose the nation of Israel to be his messengers to the world. He met them where they were and gave them the mosaic law. This was a set of laws and customs that the ancient Israelites could understand and follow. But the mosaic law was inferior and provisional. It was a type of starting point, on a better path towards greater understanding and revelations about God, His nature, His plans and purposes, and His ideals for humanity and all of creation. It is incorrect and unfair to contend that God is anti-women because of the inferior and provisional laws and customs He had to give to the ancient Israelites as a starting point to help lead humanity out of the darkness of our own ignorance and wickedness and into the fullness of truth and understanding.

Contention #5: God is anti-women because of New Testament teachings

Opponents of Christianity love to quote Ephesians 5:22 where the Apostle Paul instructs that wives are to submit to their husbands. They contend that one need not look any further than this verse to witness the oppressive, anti-women nature of God, the Bible, and Christianity in general. However, such an argument is made of straw, and relies upon a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible actually teaches. When this verse is properly understood, within its historical and biblical context, it’s clear it doesn’t at all advocate or allow for the oppression or subjugation of women. Firstly, in the preceding verse, Ephesians 5:21, the Apostle Paul instructs that all Christians are to love, serve, and submit to one another. Secondly, a few verses later, He instructs with far greater emphasis the importance for husbands to love their wives, just as they love and care for themselves, and more importantly just as Christ loves the Church. He writes in 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...” Ultimately, husbands are called to love their wives to the point where they would lay down their lives for them. After reading Ephesians 5, its clear that the Apostle Paul is instructing husbands and wives to love and respect one another; to faithfully and selflessly serve one another; while also honouring and enjoying the different roles that God has given to husbands and wives respectively. The apostle Paul is not at all advocating for the inferior-treatment or servitude of wives and women.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to check out the accompanying eBooklet.

Further reading recommendations

'Is God a moral monster?' by Paul Copan

'Confronting Christianity' by Rebecca McLaughlin

'God behaving badly' by David Lamb

'Why trust the Bible?' by Amy Orr-ewing

'How not to read the Bible' by Dan Kimball

'Jesus through the eyes of women' by Rebecca McLaughlin


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