The following is one of the forewords for the book Male & Female: A Biblical Look at Gender, edited by Renée Webb Sproles.
Henny-Penny, we are told in various versions of the story, was a chick hit upon the head by a single falling acorn. She concludes the “sky is falling” and precipitates mass hysteria among her fowl colleagues. It is clear to us and to the crafters of this tale that Henny-Penny reached an unfounded conclusion based upon a one-off experience.
But, you know, sometimes the “sky is falling.” The city of Memphis, where I live and work, did experience a celestial collapse upon its citizens, its commerce, and its very future as a city. It was the late 1870s, and a Yellow Fever crisis spread through the lower Mississippi Valley. In 1878 alone, there were over 5,000 deaths in Memphis. The city was de-charted by the State of Tennessee and all citizens urged to leave. Clergy and physicians came from other states to assist the city; many of these also fell to the Yellow Fever, whose cause and cures were still unknown.
Bodies had to be simply tossed out into major streets so wagons could pick them up and bury them, unmarked, in pit graves in Elmwood Cemetery. Those caring men and women who placed the bodies in the street one day were sometimes placed in the same street a few days later. So, was “the sky falling” on Memphis during those years? Absolutely!
Only those plagued with abysmal ignorance of Scripture and church history could ignore the places where the early church’s devotion “to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) was later ignored. Not unlike the rapid and unmitigated speed of the Yellow Fever by mosquitoes in late nineteenth-century Memphis, false teachings that spring up to interfere with God’s mission in the world have often “spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:17).
“False teachings that spring up to interfere with God’s mission in the world have often ‘spread like gangrene.'”
In our times, an important element of God’s truth to provide his blessing to humanity has come under attack, and that is the eternal, two-fold truth imbedded in God’s creation. These two truths are God’s goodness in creation and God’s order in creation.
While some pagan religions in apostolic times promoted self-harm (e.g., cutting), it was the apostle Paul who argued that “asceticism and severity to the body” had no place within believers’ efforts to become more spiritual and closer to Christ (Colossians 2:23). Our bodies are good and aren’t available to abuse and misuse as ways to recapture Eden. It was Paul, again, who argued that those who deny the goodness of sexual expression within marriage have abandoned the faith (1 Timothy 4:1–5) and rejected the divine creation of the two becoming one in sexual expression.
Due to adverse cultural influences on the churches of Paul’s time, he also addressed more than once the importance of congregations following God’s order in creation in addressing the roles of men and women in Christian ministry and leadership (1 Corinthians 11:2–16; 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:8–15).
These matters of faith and lifestyle that required apostolic attention and Paul’s use of the creation theology are not strangers to us modern believers, especially in the West. In some places in the West the “sky has fallen” on creation theology and the related topic of gender. Additionally, further disregard for the inspiration of all Scripture and its use as “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) has hastened the arrival of a plethora of harmful teachings.
“Due to adverse cultural influences on the churches of Paul’s time, he also addressed more than once the importance of congregations following God’s order in creation in addressing the roles of men and women in Christian ministry and leadership.”
This helpful book, Male and Female: A Biblical Look at Gender, attempts to address these many recurring false teachings that stem from churches’ neglect or denial of clear apostolic teaching on God’s creation. Renée Webb Sproles’s style is intentionally popular and no one should be distracted from appreciating her work due to expecting a lot of academic jargon and hard-to-follow arguments.
Check out the book HERE.
This work contains sixteen sections with a summary and conclusion by Bobby Harrington and Sproles with autobiographical accounts of their spiritual journeys and very challenging guidelines about what it means to be a Christlike husband in headship and Christlike wife in submissiveness. In addition to the sections written by Harrington and Sproles, there are several guests writers who bring important information to the conversation.
The real value of this work is its attempt to have a serious and informed advocacy of a biblical theology of God’s design and order of creation and gender relationships. In addition to teachings about a twenty-first century practice of Ephesians 5, it engages topics such as “women elders,” the “LGBTQ+” movements, the “Transgender Debate,” the recurring topic of women preachers, and a critique of the impoverished alternatives offered by “Modern Western Culture.”
“The real value of this work is its attempt to have a serious and informed advocacy of a biblical theology of God’s design and order of creation and gender relationships.”
To my knowledge not a single contributor to this important work would defend the practices of earlier generations of believers who, in the name of God, mistreated sexual minorities, supported ungodly interpretations of the roles of men and women, and shut out women from ministry gifts given to them by God. The various contributors do, however, think that on these issues the “sky has fallen” in some places, and that it is not hysteria to point out the obvious and attempt to avert it happening repeatedly.