Are Virtues Gender Specific?



My biggest problem with the “complementarian” doctrine is that church leaders are subtly encouraging sinful attitudes and behaviors in both genders. They are also discouraging virtues.

How are they doing this? By teaching men and women that if a behavior occurs more frequently in one gender than the other it must be virtuous because it’s natural.

I strongly disagree with the feminist dogma that men and women are identical. Yes, there is a female brain that differs from a male brain. My brain is a woman’s brain. Science shows I have a woman’s heart, liver, and kidneys. Every strand of my DNA contains the XX chromosomes so I am not a man. God made me a woman–in His image. My femaleness reflects His glory in way that a man’s cannot. A Christian brother’s maleness reflects His glory as mine cannot.

The mistake is not in thinking that men are prone to certain behaviors and women to others. It’s thinking that just because these attitudes and behaviors are “natural” they should be actively encouraged.

This is a fallen world. Evangelical complementarian preachers frequently talk about our fallen sinful nature. Defending a vice or calling it a virtue simply because it comes “naturally” doesn’t follow.

Loving your enemy is not natural after all.

Men have high testosterone levels. This makes them more vulnerable to the sins of arrogance, violence, and active cruelty.*  Yet Jesus–a normal, healthy man in His prime–chose humility, patience, gentleness and kindness. Not at all the “Prize Fighter Jesus,” a certain mega-church pop evangelist visualizes.

Moodiness and whiny self  pity come naturally to many women. But the “feminine” vices the complementarians call virtues are those that actively promote the “manly virtues” of arrogance and sensuality. (While complementarian pastors wink at physical brutality in husbands they seldom come out and say it’s excusable.)

They encourage foolishness, cowardice, and that form of pride called vanity as well. These are vices that come easily to women after all. That makes them natural and therefore virtues.

There is nothing wrong with saying people of different genders are prone to different behaviors. People of different families are as well. My extended family is full of alcohol abusers–so I chose the teetotaler lifestyle before 21. Would drunkenness be righteous behavior since it occurs “naturally” in my family tree?

What we need to do is teach young women to cultivate the virtues that come harder for them: courage, moral strength, wisdom while fighting “feminine” vices such as manipulation, foolishness, flattery and preening for hours in front of the bathroom mirror. Likewise a young man can be taught to grow patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control while crucifying the “manly” vices of violence, arrogance, selfishness, sensuality, and lording it over everyone he can.

I worked in the educational system for a few years. Some children have learning disabilities. All are better at some fields than others. But no teacher would ever say, “Johnny, you have dyslexia. Not only do you not have to try to improve your reading skills, I’m keeping all reading materials away from you and telling your parents to do so. Illiteracy comes naturally to you, so go out and play soccer. Try to forget everything you have read.”

Instead he would be taught techniques others with dyslexia have found useful such as covering one eye while reading. He would devote extra time to the discipline of reading.

A student who did poorly at math would stay after school for tutoring in the subject rather than being encouraged to avoid numbers since they didn’t come naturally.

Note that Paul does not give two lists of the Fruit of the Spirit–one for men and one for women. Maybe this helps explain what he meant when he said, “We are neither male nor female in Christ Jesus.”

Christianity is about rising above what comes naturally in this twisted, sin-tainted world. Not only have we been redeemed by the blood of Christ, we have been spiritually transformed. God has further empowered us by sending His Spirit to give us power not only over our fallen naures but the forces of Hell themselves. While sin may entice us it cannot overpower us. Unlike our pagan neighbors we have total control over our actions.

Fellow Christians, “But it’s natural!” is no excuse at all.




Are Virtues Gender Specific?