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  • Writer's pictureRobert MacMillan

Hierarchy in the Garden


In a perfect environment, with perfect people, do we really need to demand that wives to submit to their husbands? The nature of the Fall and the federal headship of Adam say “yes!”

Hierarchy is a dirty word if you are an egalitarian, believing that women are the absolute equals of men and not to be restricted in the Church in either offices or gifts. Using Galatians 3:28 as their mantra, egalitarians believe that the hierarchy between men and women (or husbands and wives) was the result of the Fall and, in the words of William Webb, an egalitarian, in his otherwise excellent book, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, cries out that we “fight against the curse.” For the complementarian, who holds that women were created to serve or otherwise facilitate man’s tasks in life, hierarchy is a touchstone for all restrictions upon women. The more-severe restriction upon women in Genesis 3:16 was instituted to prevent women from worsening the situation through continuing in Eve’s rebellion.

Both sides of the argument, therefore, believe that the hierarchy between men and women is the result of the Fall. The egalitarian believes it was a restriction placed upon women as a result of stepping out from under the authority of her husband, and the complementarian considers it a hobble against the woman’s foundational sin of rebellion against authority. The complementarian is correct, but most complementarians do not know why they are right.

What actually happened in Genesis 3:16 is that God made what was once a delight (submission to her husband, her own husband and not to all men) a social rule to protect her from further harm. Fighting against the curse is a catchy battle cry but, until the sin nature is completely done away with, we will need our bits and bridles to help us through life.

As a young Christian, I was taught that all were “in Adam” when Adam sinned. Certainly that is true but it was taught in the context of seminal involvement (see Hebrews 7:9, 10). The author of Hebrews, however, was merely using an ad hominem argument in making his case. Our seminal involvement in Adam was not the reason we possess a sin nature. The reason goes to the federal headship of Adam, not to our DNA that existed in Adam. One thing is certain, if seminal involvement is the means of our failure, then Eve, not “being” in Adam did not receive Adam’s sin nature. Or even worse, if she gained her sin nature through her transgression, then there would have been one person who would never have had the option of salvation. In Romans 7:12-14, Christ died only for those who had received a sin nature through Adam, leaving Eve out.

Eve shared her husband’s sin nature because, although she was not seminally “in Adam,” he represented her as her federal head even before the Fall and his disobedience brought her ruin as well as his own and ours.

The egalitarian view misses this Edenic hierarchy and, as a result, makes numerous errors as they build their argument on a poorly constructed foundation. The complementarians are only partly correct. Yes, there was a hierarchy before the Fall, and, yes, the restriction of Genesis 3:16 was to be applied to ameliorate the on-going damage of Eve’s sin. But the complementarians have also made a big mistake in their foundational thinking. That’s for the next blog. Tune in tomorrow.

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