Proponents of the “battle of the sexes” often argue that that what ultimately divides and defines men and women is their physical bodies. These vessels that “house” our souls, our divine connection to God, have somehow distorted our visual acuity to see each other as “flesh of my flesh,” or having a common origin, the way that that Adam saw Eve in Gen. 2:23.
As a former anatomy major plowing her way toward becoming a medical doctor, I revel in the design and workings of the human body. However, in my four years of studying the structure and workings of the human body, I never identified any universal differences between men and women other than the reproductive organs and their corresponding hormones. It would seem that our bodies are much the same except for the reproductive parts.
The Genesis account of creation reveals that God created only one species of human. He said, “Let us make human,” and not “Let us make humans.” What essentially makes one a human then, is being created in God's image, in God's “likeness” (Gen.1:26-27). What defines us then is the ruah (Hebrew word for spirit) of God in our bodies (Gen.2:7).
God is a spirit. Therefore, when he said, “Let us make man in our own image,” he wasn't speaking of bodies, but of essence.
God created the human body out of dust, a decomposable substance, but what is really human—the soul—is indecomposable. This is the God-like property that dwells in humans. The body is really the “house” or “clothing” of the soul.
So if we are the same underneath the “clothing” of our bodies, in our souls, why are so many arguments for gender hierarchy based on that outer covering? Why should there even be a debate over the full equality of women? Why should it matter what “clothing” we wear if our essence—our souls— is the same underneath?
The answer is found in fallen humanity's perception of bodies.
Bodies have come to mean something other than what God intended them to mean. Bodies, for humans, have come to mean something created for human pleasure, rather than something created for divine pleasure, for God.
God originally created humans, souls housed in bodies, to represent him on earth. This is the primary purpose of the embodied souls known as humans.
The fall in Genesis 3 introduced a shift in focus from the primary purpose of these embodied souls to a focus on each other, which led to the battle for gender supremacy, or hierarchy based on what form (body) "houses" the soul.
Many have argued that the “house” (body) of the woman’s soul relegates her to an inferior position and therefore excludes her from God's original purpose of ruling the earth alongside the man. Yet, nowhere in the Genesis 3 account of the fall did God rescind his original purpose for either of the embodied souls he created.
One of the consequences of the fall was the introduction of hierarchy between men and women. But God never reneged on his original mandate and purpose for humanity.
Rather, something other than that which he created human beings for entered the equation. The result was strife between the two souls, and a distorted view of their purpose and bodies.
Of all the arguments that have been used against the full equality of the genders, none has been more destructive than the argument against the “housing” of the woman's soul because of its ability to provoke attraction in its male counterpart.
I don’t believe that this affinity or attraction is designed primarily for sex or romance. Rather, the affinity between man and woman is a response to the creator's original mandate to let them rule, together, united. The pronoun 'them’ implies unity, not strife or competition.
Our bodies were not made for sex. Our bodies were made to represent God, to embody his rule on earth. Therefore, the female body should not be regarded as an obstacle in fulfilling God’s divine mandate. What is in the body transcends the body.
We see this in God's perfect plan of redemption. God the Son receives a human body in order to fulfill divine justice and save humankind. Although the incarnate Son possesses a body, he never stops being God.
Just as God was in the body of the incarnate Son and never stopped being God, likewise, the imago Dei in humanity never stops being the imago Dei just because it is housed in a female body. What is in the body transcends the body.
Men and women should not be defined by differences in their reproductive organs, but rather by their worth as souls created in the image of God. Gender in no way affects the imago Dei, because God is neither male nor female. God dwells in both male and female and equips them equally to fulfill his divine mandate: to rule side by side.
The fall altered the way that men and women interact with each other, but the fact that our bodies fulfill sexual functions does not negate the fact that our bodies were not made primarily for sex. They were made to reflect God.
Therefore, how our bodies relate to each other in the sexual interplay of man and woman and husband and wife should not be the basis for depriving women of equal leadership roles.
A man taking a wife, or a woman marrying a husband (or not), does nothing to change the imago Dei in either him or her. God still occupies the bodies of men and women in equal measure.
Jesus alludes to this in Matthew 22:29-30:
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
God's primary purpose for creating bodies was so that they might house the souls that represent his rule on earth. A rule that was and is still the responsibility of both embodied souls, men and women. A rule, which despite the fall, never changed, because our bodies were never made exclusively for sex.