Famed atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Dawkins 2008, 51). It was as painful for me to write the previous text as it was for you to read it if you are a believer. There are many things that could be addressed in Dawkins’ wordy diatribe. For this article, we shall examine the term “misogynistic.” A misogynist is one who holds a hatred for women. Is this true of the God of the Bible? Does God hate women?
Women are Made Imagio Dei
To answer the question of God’s viewpoint of women, one only needs to examine the creation account. In Genesis, one reads, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Did you notice that males and females were created in the image of God? Some have postulated that only the man bears the image of God. However, think about this for a moment. Biologically, every person is born from a woman. If the woman did not bear the image of God, how could future males? Theoretically, this would create a degradation of the image until nothing would be left. If Adam bore the image of God and Eve did not, then Seth (Cain and Abel out of the picture now) would have born half the image of God. Then Seth’s son would have born a quarter of the image of God…and so on and so forth. Each generation would bear less of the image of God than the previous generation. But, this is logically and theologically absurd. The Scripture shows that both male and female bear the image of God.
Women were Appointed for Specific Tasks in the Old Testament
This article will not deal with the controversial issues surrounding women in pastoral ministry. The intent and purpose of this article is to present God’s view of women as presented in the Bible. With such a motive in mind, let the reader consider the fact that God used multiple women in the pages of the Bible for spectacular tasks.
In Exodus, one may learn of the prophet Miram. “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing” (Exodus 15:20). Miriam led other women in giving praise to God.
Deborah was not only a prophet, but a judge. “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands” (Judges 4:4-7). In the next verse the book of Judges records that Barak would not go into battle without Deborah by his side. If God did not trust women, God would not have called such a woman like Deborah.
Other female prophets
Consider the multiple other female prophets in the Bible. 2 Kings tells of the prophet Huldah, “Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter” (2 Kings 22:14). Also consider Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3)…(wow 2 prophets in the same family!!!), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9). Hmm…something tells me that Dawkins didn’t read that far in the Bible.
Let us not forget that the first person that Jesus chose to visit after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene. John writes, “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her” (John 20:16-18). The fact that a woman was the first to see Jesus, and that this was reported by early Christians in a society that did not view women favorably, holds HUGE historical significance as the appearance to a woman would be an unlikely product of fiction.
Jesus’ Treatment of Women Compared to other Religious Leaders
How does Jesus’ treatment of women compare to other religious leaders? Of Siddhartha Gautama (aka. “The Buddha”), Fincher writes, “At age 29, (Gautama) awoke among his harem and realized that his concubines no longer lured him with their beauty…He left them, made one final trip to look at his wife of 12 years, Yasodhara, and their newborn son, and then abandoned everyone (harem, wife, and son) to find enlightenment” (Fincher 2009, 224).
What about Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism? Fincher writes, “In 1843, Joseph Smith betrayed his wife, Emma, by secretly marrying twelve women, two already married to other men. One wife, Lucy Walker, wrote an autobiographical sketch and revealed how this practice horrified her” (Fincher 2009, 224). This does not even consider the polygamy that Smith endorsed, along with some of the women being well under-aged.
What about Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Fincher writes, “Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) married Maria Frances Ackley with an agreement that their union was a marriage of celibacy for the sake of partnering in their ministry…In their divorce proceedings, Maria testified to witnessing a sexual relationship between her husband and their foster child, Rose Ball, a teenager at the time who worked as Russell’s correspondence secretary” (Fincher 2009, 224). This “relationship” involved molestation.
Jesus was unique in more than one way. Jesus of Nazareth elevated women to a high status. Jesus never was accused of any illicit behavior. As a matter of fact, those who knew Him best wrote of Jesus, “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) and “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Those kinds of things would not be written of Smith, Russell, and the like. Take, for instance, Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well. “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24). Fincher writes, “Which religious founder would you trust with your mother, your sister, or your wife” (Fincher 2009, 227)? Josh and Sean McDowell remind us, “(Jesus) affirmed Mary as she sat at his feet as his disciple. He gave great praise to the women who anointed him before his death…” (McDowell and McDowell 2012, 69).
The Importance of Women in the Church
Women were elevated to a new status in Christianity. Paul writes, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). It seems that this new freedom brought forth some of the more misunderstood teachings in Paul’s writings concerning women. In Christ Jesus, everyone becomes special. It matters not what nationality one claims. It matters not what color of skin one possesses. It matters not what socio-economic status one holds. Tall or short, skinny or plump, black or white, rich or poor, and male or female makes no difference in the kingdom of God. All individuals hold worth in the eyes of God through Christ Jesus. (Note: anyone who has worked in ministry knows that women have and always will be an integral part of ministry. If it were not for the women in church…let’s be honest…nothing would get accomplished.)
Is God a sexist? If one can still ask that question after reading this article, then one needs to go back and read it over. Every person holds worth in the eyes of God whether that person be male or female. This does not mean that God tolerates sin. The sin problem is what led to the salvation solution. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no greater love in the entire world than the love that God has for each individual. Do you know the love of God? If not, check out our link “How to Know Jesus.”
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Mariner, 2008.
McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. 77 FAQs About God and the Bible: Your Toughest Questions Answered. Eugene: Harvest House, 2012.
Fincher, Jonalyn Grace. “Defending Femininity: Why Jesus is Good News for Women.” In Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblically and Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking about God. Edited by Sean McDowell. Eugene: Harvest House, 2009.