Equal, but not the same

Some people teach women's equality with men should qualify women to assume any office or authoritative role generally and traditionally held by men. I would like to examine this ideology from a biblical, logical and Spirit of Prophecy perspective.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:26, 27)

Within the three co-equal Persons of the Godhead we see submission without diminishing equality; Jesus the Son of God was plainly submissive to the will of the Father, and the Holy Spirit works at the behest of both the Father and the Son, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). Likewise, we see submission in God's image, man and woman, without diminishing equality. Let us pursue this line of reasoning through the inspired word:

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.  And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Genesis 2:18, 21-23)

God Himself gave Adam a companion. He provided ‘an help meet for him’—a helper corresponding to him—one who was fitted to be his companion, and who could be one with him in love and sympathy. Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him. A part of man, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, she was his second self; showing the close union and the affectionate attachment that should exist in this relation. (Adventist Home 25)

From the beginning, Eve had a submissive role, yet was equal to her husband. Adam was created larger and stronger than Eve, “Eve was somewhat less in stature; yet her form was noble, and full of beauty” (PP 45). Adam was to be the provider and protector for Eve and their children. He was, like Abraham generations later, to command his household after him, to be the head and priest of his family. 

The problem seen in the understanding of many is equating equality with sameness. Eve was created as an equal to her husband, yet she was of a slighter build, of different proportions, with special organs designed for childbearing and nurturing. She could only conceive and bear a child as she submitted to the dominant role of Adam in fathering the child. Here we see clearly headship and submission within the equality of Adam and Eve in the united act of procreation.

The term "helpmeet" is also indicative of a submissive role, even though equal. The woman is not inferior for accepting her role of submission, and the man is not superior for assuming his role of headship. The woman does not have to be able to father a child in order to be equal with her husband any more than a man has to be able to give birth to a child in order to be equal with his wife.

In the secular arena, a woman is deemed equal with man when she can fill any role man can fill. Should that reasoning find validation within the church? Is it biblical reasoning? Does this not indicate a denial of the equality with which women have already been endowed by our Creator? Is it not to covet that which God has ordained for someone else? A case in point:

And Miriam the prophetess, and Aaron spake against Moses..., Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it... And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed.  And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: ...And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again. (Ex. 15:20; Numbers 12:1-15)

Even though Miriam was a prophetess, she was strongly rebuked by the Lord for coveting a role for which she was not ordained. Neither was she ever called to be a priestess along with her brother the High Priest and her nephews the priests.

Some more thought questions: Is not the push to ordain women essentially a denial of their equality with men and God's role for them, insinuating that their role is somehow less important than the role God has established for man? Therefore, to accept women as equals we must accept them into the role of men in addition to their role as women? Are men likewise to campaign for the right to fulfill the role and function ordained for women in the interest of equality?

Patriarchy was established in the Garden of Eden by our Creator in a perfect world He designed and desired to last forever. It was carried forward after the fall of man throughout both the Old and New Testament ages, through the birthright system, through the sacrificial system, through the sons of Jacob and the tribes of Israel, through the Levitical priesthood, in the family with many obligations specified for the males only, through the kings of Israel, through the apostles of the New Testament, through the offices of bishop and elder and deacon who were all to be the husbands of one wife, not the spouse of one spouse. In the New Jerusalem, we see the 12 foundation stones named after the apostles, and the 12 gates of the city named after the tribes of Israel, the sons of Jacob.

There are many ways in which women of our day are called to minister for the advancement of the cause of God, some of which they are even more qualified than men. Notice from Ellen G. White this overlooked counsel in the article quoted by David Gemmell in the March 2015 issue of Adventist World:

There is a wide field in which our sisters may do good service for the Master in the various branches of the work connected with his cause. Through missionary labor they can reach a class that our ministers cannot… Christian women are called for… There are so many kinds of work too laborious for women, which our brethren are called to engage in, that many branches of missionary work are neglected.  Many things…undone, the women, if properly instructed, could attend to…  There are many other offices connected with the cause of God which our sisters are better qualified to fill than our brethren…” (RH 12/19/1878)

Should men feel less than equal with women over such statements by the pen of inspiration? No, of course not. These statements tend to bear out equality apart from sameness. God's order was clearly established and maintained in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The issue of patriarchy, priesthood, and headship is not an issue of equality and inequality, but rather an issue of God's established order for His own faultless reasons.