Bonus: The Elevation of the Proverbs 7 Woman
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For this post, I want to start with a comparison. The title of this post may seem provocative, but I believe that it is an accurate description of the way in which our society has now chosen to praise someone like Cardi B as a moral exemplar to be followed and imitated. The comparison that I want to draw is between her and Amy Coney Barrett:
One might assume that Amy Coney Barrett, as a very gifted and successful woman and most recent justice on the Supreme Court, would be a modern feminist icon, but one would be wrong. She had a firsthand look at the vitriol with which our society can attack someone they see as not only a political but also a moral threat. Her great crime? Her devout Catholicism. Her adherence to traditional values concerning family, marriage, and religion. Whereas the success of Cardi B and her raunchy song, "WAP," is being touted as a feminist anthem, Barrett's character was dragged through the mud. Her way of living even drew comparisons to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel in which fertile women are treated as sexual servants whose value is seen purely in terms of their production of children. So much for, you know, marital and covenantal love. I'm sure that her husband would approve of such a comparison.
Here's the thing: in our current cultural moment, the former decision, that of singing about the wetness of female genitalia, is considered good, whereas the latter is considered evil. Why is this? To put it simply, a false ideology calling itself feminism has infected our culture with a lie in line with Isaiah 5:20, which says (NASB):
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"
Let me be clear from the outset. I am not saying that every woman should get married and have children. I'm not saying that every married woman should be a stay-at-home mom or housewife (Amy Coney Barrett isn't!). I am also not saying that a woman's value is grounded in those things, such that a barren woman or a single woman has less value than one who fits this housemaking mold. The Bible says none of these things, so I don't either. But any ideology that affirms what happened on the Grammy's last Sunday has a stern warning against it in Isaiah 5:20. Let me explain.
The Scriptures have more to say than you might think concerning sexuality. Most people would probably assume that everything it has to say is negative, and, in all fairness, Christians haven't done a good job understanding this and teaching it correctly, in my estimation. Let's start at the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:18 contains an insight worth highlighting (NASB):
"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'"
At this point, Adam has been made, but he is alone. So God creates a counterpart to him, someone who is similar but whose differences (from the physical differences to the emotional and spiritual ones) complement him perfectly. Her name is Eve. Imagine the first moment that Adam saw Eve, naked in a world without sin or shame, where every air molecule shouts out the glory of God without any darkness to cloud it. We don't have to imagine Adam's response. He gives it in Genesis 2:23 (NASB):
"Then the man said, 'At last this is bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called "woman," Because she was taken out of man.'"
Stricken by the astounding beauty of this new creature, a counterpart to him and yet created in the same divine image, Adam can't help but to speak poetically. Feminists today often speak of the "male gaze" as if this is evil, but what they take for a gaze is nothing but self-serving lust. The gaze of Adam in that moment was a proper appreciation of God-given beauty.
But this God-given recognition for God-given beauty comes with a heavy price, if misused. In a sin-infested world, the appreciation of awesome beauty is turned into possession. What C.S. Lewis called "appreciative love" in his book, The Four Loves, becomes lust, this self-serving, flesh-gratifying look which devours the woman by ripping her body from her soul, as if the two could be divided. The beauty that men were created to uphold in awe is turned into some commodity to take and abuse. Feminism rightly sees this as problematic, but it is unequipped to diagnose the problem or provide a solution.
Yet, even in this, the Bible has plenty to say post-fall about the goodness of sexuality. God created it! The warnings of Proverbs 7 are balanced by the words of Proverbs 5:15-19 (NASB):
"Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs overflow into the street, Streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. Like a loving doe and a graceful mountain goat, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love."
(And just in case you think that the Bible focuses too heavily on the pleasure of the man, read the Song of Songs. The woman's voice is much louder in the greatest of love songs.)
Few would disagree that sexuality is a powerful thing. It has the potential both to create life and to destroy it. There are few things more beautiful than the birth of a child, yet few things more tragic than the rape of a woman. Sexuality presents great potential for joy in life, yet it can ruin one's life as well. It is this dynamic nature of sexuality, something powerful and good that is so easily corrupted in a sin-infested world, that is repeatedly emphasized in the Bible.
Here is where Proverbs 7 comes in. The main part of the chapter concerns a story told about "a young man lacking sense" (verse 7), who just so happens to be on the side of town where he knows the prostitutes stay. This man is "taking a shortcut" through the red-light district. There, he is seized by a woman who proceeds to seduce him, and he falls for it. As he follows her to her place, verses 22-23 are graphic in their depiction of the danger of this sexual encounter:
"Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one walks in ankle bracelets to the discipline of a fool, Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hurries to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life."
(Again, if one is tempted to think of the Bible as one-sided here, blaming all sexual waywardness on the wayward woman, consider the flesh-gratifying lust of David with Bathsheba or his son's rape of his own half-sister.)
This woman had used her sexuality as a snare to trap the foolish young man. Perhaps she did it for power or her own pleasure. It doesn't matter. The result is the same. Marred by sin, what God had made good has been used for evil, and the result is always destruction.
This brief survey of the Bible's treatment of sexuality can be boiled down into four main points:
Women bear God's image and an undeniable mark of transcendent beauty.
Sexuality is from God and is good.
In a sin-infested world, sexuality can be exceptionally dangerous.
Yet, even in a sin-infested world, there is hope for the experience of the joy of sexuality as expressed within God-given boundaries.
I want to focus especially on the first of these main points. What is it that distinguishes the appreciative recognition of the transcendent beauty of the woman from mere self-serving lust? It's not very easy to give a precise answer here. It seems to me that it is a difference better illustrated than defined. How does one define in precise terms the difference between the lover's treatment of the beloved in the Song of Songs and David's treatment of Bathsheba? Let me highlight two aspects of lust as opposed to the recognition of God-given beauty: the reductive aspect and the possessive aspect. The reductive aspect demeans and dehumanizes the woman by reducing her to merely a body for the enjoyment of some other person. This is the aspect that looks upon her in a way that is divorced from her personhood. The possessive aspect is directly derived from the fact that the Greek word for "lust" in Matthew 5:27-30 (ἐπιθυμέω) is the same word for "covet." To covet something is to desire that which is not yours. Today's feminism thinks of marriage as the possession of a woman as property, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, the Bible recognizes the self-sacrificial nature of marital love in the Song of Songs 4:16 (NASB):
"'Awake, north wind, And come, wind of the south; Make my garden breathe out fragrance, May its balsam oils flow. May my beloved come into his garden And eat its delicious fruits!'"
This is the bride speaking, inviting the groom into his garden (i.e., her body). Within the God-given covenant of marriage, they give of themselves to each other. This is a mutual relationship, as the bride says in the Song of Songs 2:16 (NASB):
"'My beloved is mine, and I am his.'"
There is, then, a sense of mutual possession in marriage, but it is not taken. Rather, each gives of himself or herself to the other voluntarily and out of love for the other. In other words, sexuality, enjoyed within its proper God-given guidelines, is for the other rather than for the self. Lust, on the other hand, is entirely self-serving in taking from the other what is not yours to take. Whereas lust in its reductive aspect divorces body from soul, the appreciative aspect of God-given sexuality sees that a woman's physical beauty points beyond itself to who God is and how He has made her. There is, then, also a worshipful aspect to proper sexuality, since it sees in the transcendent beauty of the woman its transcendent source.
Let's apply all of what we've discussed to the elevation of Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and "WAP" at the height of our culture's art. Feminism typically conceives of "liberation" as the expression of one's desires as a woman apart from the constraints of a dominant patriarchy (where "patriarchy" is the male-dominated societal hierarchy). There are two presuppositions hidden in this understanding of feminism:
Traditional values concerning gender and sexuality are social constructs of a dominant patriarchy.
The highest good for a woman to achieve is to escape those constraints, no matter what she decides to do.
This understanding of feminism and so-called "sexual liberation" is a product of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. As the Study Breaks Magazine article, linked above about "WAP" as a feminist anthem, states, that so-called liberation is good even "if that means those women want to have sex with many guys and celebrate their 'WAP.'" Have you ever wondered why today's feminists want to normalize and even celebrate an industry like sex work, which is profoundly harmful to women? It is because, as long as it is that woman's choice to sell herself, then her decision is good.
It's not hard to see why this view is deeply incompatible with the Christian worldview. First, according to the Christian perspective, at least some values concerning gender and sexuality are God-given. A woman who decides on her own to flout these values is living inconsistently with reality, not rebelling against some dominant patriarchy. Second, what she decides to do may indeed be profoundly sinful and, therefore, profoundly harmful to her and others. There is an objective difference between Cardi B and Amy Coney Barrett. One made better decisions that contribute to a life of greater joy and flourishing. You may want to deny that there is such a difference between the two, but you are fighting against reality, not some patriarchy.
It is difficult to conceive of the harm that will result from a culture that elevates Proverbs 7 over Proverbs 31 (i.e., the proverb of the faithful and industrious woman). As I've written several times before, the necessary result of sin is destruction and death. If little girls are taught to imitate Cardi B, they will find themselves exploited all the more by lustful men, and the outrageous lie is that, by choosing to give themselves away for free, they are told that they're doing something liberating and good. This elevation of a pornographic view of sexuality will do nothing but endlessly perpetuate both the reductiveness and possessiveness of lust, continuing to tear people soul from body as they become commodities for the gratification of other people. The ingenuity of this lie is that it convinces women to do it to themselves for the sake of a (what they think) is a higher cause. Hollow and deceptive philosophy has consequences and victims.
As opposed to this hollow and deceptive philosophy, Scripture is clear in affirming that women are more than their genitalia. They are God's good creation, distinct from men and yet a perfect counterpart to them, image-bearers with an undeniable mark of transcendent beauty. Sexuality is good within God-given boundaries, and it is only within those boundaries that both men and women can experience the joy of sexuality as God intended it. To live in rebellion against God's framework will merely result in greater pain. Therefore, find a man who will love all of you and recognize in that undeniable mark his responsibilities before the holy and just God who made you with it. Refuse to accept the lust of the world.
My hope is that, whether or not you are a follower of Christ, you will come away from this post with a clearer picture of the Bible's great respect for and admiration of women and its loud proclamation of the inherent goodness of God-given sexuality within God-given boundaries. My goal was to set the Bible's perspective against the perspective of modern-day feminism and to show that the latter is a lie in line with Isaiah 5:20 and that Scripture says what it says not to hold women back but to give them (and all people) the framework in which they can live a life of greater joy and flourishing. Feminism may promise a framework, but it cannot deliver. "WAP" is a clear example why.
This post is also a characteristic example of the goal of this blog to provide an apologetic both for the head and heart. We all long for a life of flourishing and joy. We all long for love that sees and knows us fully. The sad thing about Cardi B is that she is deceived enough to think that she has found a life of flourishing and joy. My claim is not merely that the Bible is true on this account. My claim is also that it delivers exactly what we long for. If you desire a life of flourishing and joy, then you must read the words of Scripture and apply and obey them. Therefore, the Christian view of sexuality is not merely the right view; it's the best view.
Thank you for reading this shorter post on biblical sexuality. If you find this content interesting, subscribe for notifications whenever I post something new. If you want to reach out, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me by email or on Facebook. And if you believe that this content would be good for others to read, please feel free to share it and get the word out! My prayer is that the content will be edifying and that God will use it to bolster and advance His Kingdom. Again, thanks for reading!