Is the significance complementarians attach to men being here first compatible with creationism?
Note: I know, I said I am working on a three-part refutation of Grudem’s 10 reasons for seeing hierarchy before the fall. I will, DV, get back to that soon.
The belief in a literal, 6 x 24 hours, creation is common among conservative believers: first the earth, then division between light and dark, then plants, then the sun and moon, then birds and fish, and after that land animals and people.
Some of those same people also believe that it is very significant that the male was made first: From this, they conclude that men are supposed to have authority over women.
On face value, those two ideas seem very compatible: The first affirms that the order in which things were made in Genesis 1 is not only literally true, but also significant. The second affirms that the order in which things were made in Genesis 2 is not only literally true, but also significant. Sounds good and Bible-respecting, doesn’t it?
But there are at least two problems with that.
The first is that the two orders of creation differ, and thus cannot both be literally true. It is either so that humans were made last (Gen. 1), or that the male was made before the garden (Gen. 2). God either made a wet earth, with dry land appearing only later (Gen. 1), or a dry one, with rain only appearing later (Gen. 2). The stories also differ in other ways: Did God create by speaking (Gen. 1), or was God actively molding and forming (Gen 2)? Did it happen in stages (days, Gen. 1), or not? It is thus not logical to get literal creationism from Genesis 1, including the order in which events happen, and female subordination from the order in Genesis 2.
The second is that the significance is theologically attached in two opposite ways. In Genesis 1, the common theological view is that it pictures humanity, which came last, as the epitome of creation. We were the best thing God made, we were made to rule, the earth was not yet “very good” without us – and that is the reason we came last. With Genesis 2, their theological view is that it pictures the male, which came before the female, as the one made to rule the female. Her being made last means, by this view, that she was made to assist, and the man to rule. Is being made last a sign of leading (Genesis 1), or following (Genesis 2)? Both cannot be true.
A third problem, which you may or may not see as a contradiction, is whether the mandate to rule was given to both sexes. In Genesis 1, God calls people to rule the earth:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number;fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” – Gen 1:28
By their understanding of Genesis 2 (and other texts), women are not supposed to do any ruling. Women submit. Men rule. Or women could “rule”, but only after they found ways which simultaneously agree with (a) God and (b) men.
This third possible point is possible to overcome from a logic standpoint: A stand-in manager in a store that is part of a chain of similar stores is allowed to “rule” the workers in the absence of the real manager, while following the rules of both the chain store owners and the manager of the local store. But I disagree with the view I just proposed. Very few people would call a stand-in store manager a “ruler”. As such, if God made male and female to rule, and it was so important that He placed it in one of the first statements about humanity in the very first chapter of the Bible, I do not believe he wants half of humanity to rule and the other half to be ruled.
So, judge for yourself: Could you actually get creationism from a literal understanding of Genesis 1, while using Genesis 2 to support female subordination? I would think it is a comptradiction.2
1 Some theologians believe that the first person was a gender-neutral human, with the femaleness “taken from this person’s side” so it became divided into a male and a female. If so, the first male and the first female would have started to exist at the same time.
2 Spelling error deliberate.