05 Dec A fresh look at God’s design for women
EP author Dr. Sharon James was recently interviewed by Ben Virgo of London Heritage for their podcast during a book launch event. Dr. James was asked why she wrote a new edition of her book, God’s Design for Women and why she chose a new title. We are pleased to share a summary of her answer.
We’re often told today that the Bible is outdated, biblical morality is oppressive, and Christians are on the wrong side of history. Even within the churches, many people doubt the wisdom and truth of what God says about men and women.
I wrote the first edition of God’s Design for Women back in 2002, as I was convinced that God’s Word is good news for women (and men!). Since then our culture has shifted. Young girls are growing up in an ever more sexualised society. And our culture has rejected the idea that there are any significant differences between the sexes. ‘Binary is bad!’ we are told. ‘Gender is fluid!’ Gender ideology denies the biological reality of what being a woman is. It rips away our identity and our dignity.
So I rewrote the book to take account of these developments, and to show that in this culture of confusion the glory of the Christian world view shines out even more brightly. Hence the new title – God‘s Design for Women in an Age of Gender Confusion.
It is only the biblical world view that provides a secure basis for human dignity. We are not just products of chance. Every human being has been created in the image of God.
And it is the Biblical world view that provides a secure basis for the dignity of men as men, and women as women. God has created us different by design and his design is glorious. Manhood and womanhood are signposts to eternal and beautiful truths about God’s own love.
After a chapter giving an overview of how Christians through history have worked to promote the dignity of women, I turn to examine the feminist movement. The first stage of feminism aimed to secure equal opportunities for women. But from the middle of the twentieth century, ‘radical’ feminists demanded ‘equal outcomes’. And they viewed the married family as the principal roadblock to complete equality. Radical feminism was inextricably bound up with the demand for complete sexual freedom. But while it promised freedom, in practice the ‘sexual revolution’ betrayed the real interests of both women and men, and especially children. I briefly describe the trajectory of ‘third wave’ and ‘fourth wave’ feminism right up to the #metoo movement. The tragedy is that while there is understandably, and rightly, a collective ‘shout out’ against sexual abuse, there has been a failure to acknowledge that demands for unlimited sexual freedom have only fuelled endemic sexual violence.
We then turn to God’s glorious design. We only really respect women (and men) when we understand both our equal dignity and our significant difference. The complementary differences between the sexes involve a divinely ordained synergy. Together we are stronger than apart (whether in family, community or church). And that synergy works for the blessing of future generations (whether in the birth of biological children, or in a church context in the making of disciples).
I show that as Christian women, whatever our life situation, we are called on to reflect the glory and beauty of our Triune God.
If we are called to singleness, we can gloriously reflect God’s expansive love. Freedom from family responsibility may afford freedom to serve the Lord and others with even more wholehearted devotion.
If we are called to marriage, we can gloriously reflect God’s faithful and exclusive love for his people. We are not to love anyone else as we love our husband.
If we are called to motherhood we can wonderfully reflect God’s fruitful love, and as Christian women we can all reflect that fruitful love in a broad sense as we step up and look out for others as spiritual mothers.
In our workplace as well as our homes we can reflect God’s creative love. And then as we engage in evangelism and ministries of comfort we can reflect God’s restoring love.
So I rewrote this book because I believe we can be confident in an age of confusion. We can be confident that God’s Word is good, his creation design is good, and his purposes for us as women and men are good. Our daughters, our granddaughters, the girls in our youth groups need to be taught, and need to see as we live out our lives, that it is a wonderful thing to be a woman!
Sharon works for The Christian Institute, is the author of a number of books, and has spoken at conferences in many parts of the world. She studied History at Cambridge University, Theology at Toronto Baptist Seminary, and has a doctorate from the University of Wales.
Read a review of God‘s Design for Women in an Age of Gender Confusion by Elinor Magowan for The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.