The most feminine woman might very well be that one slouched at the table, slurping up soup wearing muddy hunting boots and camo vest. The most masculine man might be that one running down the street, fretting about being late for his manicure.
That is according to Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist best known for bringing spiritual direction into his many books and seminars. His most popular title, Inside Out, taught that real change in Christ begins with digging into our own internal muck. Now, in Fully Alive: A Biblical Vision of Gender That Frees Men and Women to Live Beyond Stereotypes (Baker, 2013), Crabb contends it's time for Christians to look at what Scripture really says about masculinity and femininity and what it means to be made male and female in God's image.
Crabb, a scholar in residence at Colorado Christian University in Denver, spoke recently with Her.meneutics writer Caryn Rivadeneira about gender beyond looks and "roles."
Everyone from Mark Driscoll to Rachel Held Evans is weighing in on gender these days. Why did you jump into the fray? What have both complementarians and egalitarians missed in their understanding of masculinity and femininity?
There's something beneath the issues that Christians fuss about that needs to be addressed. I don't think we understand the question of why God made us male and female beyond the central position of marriage and procreation. Scripture makes it clear (Gen. 1:27) that when God made us, he made us as male and female.
So rather than getting into the egalitarian and complementarian fray and asking what it means to get women who've been put down by society up where they belong, and to get guys who are too bossy and authoritative a bit more humble and more respectful to women, I thought it would be wiser to give some thought to what God had in mind when he made a woman feminine and when he made a man masculine. Both of those questions have been relatively unaddressed.
So how should we define them?
The question needs a bit of theological context: If God made us in his image, then we need to understand who God is and ask, "How do women reflect something about God, and how do men reflect something about God?"
Theologians talk about the immanent Trinity—how God gets along within himself. They make two points. One, God the Father moves toward and into the Son, and gives all that he is to the Son (Heb. 1). Two, the Son invites and receives all that the Father gives him. Then the Son moves this right back to the Father. So I see a Trinitarian dynamic of moving into and inviting.
I don't think either one of those things is a gendered issue. I don't think Jesus in that sense is either masculine or feminine. But I do believe that God made us male and female so males can reflect one side of that dynamic, and females can reveal the other side.
This is supported by the words for male and female in Genesis 1. Neqebah (female) means one who is open to receive, has an invitational style of relating. And zakar (male) means one who remembers something important and then does it.
Femininity is a relational style—an invitational way of relating to other people that says, "I invite you to come to me. I'm not here to control you. If you move toward me in godly movement, you'll find an inviting and nourishing and supportive, wise woman who's going to be there with you in all the godly movement that you make."