An Interview on God’s Design for Man and Woman
At the occasion of a visit and public event, we had the privilege to share about our book God’s Design for Man and Woman with Pastor Pete Schemm and the wonderful people of Cave Spring Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA. Here’s a transcript of our interview with Pete.
Pete Schemm: Thanks to both of you for ministering at our church this weekend. I’ve been grateful to be able to refer people to your book God’s Design for Man and Woman and to use it one of the main textbooks for a course I’m currently teaching on the subject. Tell us: Why did you write God’s Design for Man and Woman together?
Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: We wrote our book to equip a new generation to live out God’s design for man and woman. We wanted to provide young men and women with a winsome and helpful resources on a vital but often neglected topic. We’re both wholeheartedly committed to mentoring, so this book is really an outflow of our ministry. We look at the book as a sequel to God, Marriage, and Family, a book Andreas (assisted by David Jones) wrote on marriage and family-related topics such as parenting, singleness, divorce, and remarriage. In the book, we show that there is a dual pattern of male leadership and male-female partnership from Genesis to Revelation. To the extent that we only focus on one or the other, an imbalance results.
Primarily, we wrote our book to equip the next generation. It’s been our experience that, sadly, many young people, in particular, have been turned off by the polemic, acrimony, petty back-and-forth, and point-by-point rebuttals that have characterized previous interchanges on this topic. We had a positive purpose and wanted this book to present the biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood in a way that is winsome and constructive. We certainly didn’t write this book for other scholars! We’ve done that elsewhere (e.g., Women in the Church, co-edited by Andreas and Tom Schreiner, now in its 3rd edition), but in this book, we decided to focus on the beauty, wisdom, and goodness of God’s design.
Pete Schemm: How do you see the main contribution of your book?
Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: As mentioned, this volume was a shared burden for us. We have four children and were writing this book as a married couple, as parents, and as both having done a certain amount of scholarly work on the subject. More commonly, in our experience, books such as these are written either by a man or a woman individually, and typically the scope is either biblical manhood or womanhood. By contrast, we wanted to produce a resource that addresses both biblical manhood and womanhood in proper balance and in relation to each other, because we believe that these topics belong together and cannot be adequately discussed in isolation from each other.
In writing our book, we deliberately aimed to move beyond labels such as “complementarian” or “egalitarian.” We think of God’s Design for Man & Woman as simply an exploration of what the Bible, rightly interpreted, teaches on this very important subject. To convey the nature of our book, it may be helpful to understand, as the subtitle suggests, that our book is a biblical-theological survey. That is, we’re primarily concerned with the big picture. In fact, our book is one of the few biblical theologies on this topic available on the market, and while footnotes are used sparingly, our work is backed up throughout by solid scholarship, both by ourselves and those of others.
Pete Schemm: Every book has a unique story behind it. What is the story behind your book?
Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: After I (Margaret) had taught women about biblical roles and found that their husbands or boyfriends were unfamiliar with the biblical teaching, I wanted to extend this class to both men and women. So, I invited Andreas to be the lead teacher and supported him. I brought feminine insight to the class and taught on feminist influences on the church. Preparing for the class, we quickly realized that there was no suitable textbook for teaching the full sweep of Scripture’s theology on this subject but mostly books arguing specific points on individual passages of Scriptures. We took the best arguments and put them together into an overall positive presentation.
In effect, therefore, our book started out as a transcript of classroom lectures. In the class we taught, Andreas started out with a survey of principles of biblical interpretation, while I gave an overview of feminist history, showing how feminism takes its point of departure from experience and fails to do justice to the proper interpretation of Scripture. On the last day of class, we went around the room and asked students to share what they had learned that week. We were amazed and overwhelmed by their responses. Time and again, students shared how compelling and life-changing it had been for them to see how the Old and New Testament teachings cohered and how the Bible’s teaching on manhood and womanhood was so remarkably consistent.
Pete Schemm: On the “Purpose of the Book,” you say God’s design for man and woman matters “for the true expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our world” (pp. 14–15). Tell us more about why you believe this is a gospel matter.
Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: God’s design for man and woman is essential to our being in this world, to our identity as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. It is foundational to God’s creation of us as male and female. We really can’t compartmentalize into first, second, and third-order issues. We think it is problematic to engage in reductionism and to conceive of what the gospel is in terms of a bare-bones minimum of what it takes to be saved. Rather, as Christians we should embrace the full-orbed message of how God made us and how we are to live. In fact, we experience the relevance of God’s design every single day as we interact with each other, our children, and others.
Pete Schemm: Why is this so important for the church in particular?
Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: We passionately believe that there is a vital link between church life and family life. In a recent commentary on Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, Andreas has written eloquently about the household of God motif in those letters. Paul viewed the church as analogous to the natural family, as a set of relationships between spiritual fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters! God created us for community, not in isolation. And he made us male and female, to enjoy each other, to partner with each other, and to complement each other.
How beautiful! And yet, somehow, we’ve managed to enmesh male-female relationships and roles in controversy and to pit male against female, just as the wily serpent did at the Fall. The Christian life and our sanctification is lived out in community. First and foremost, for those of us who are married, this means our marriages and families; for those who are single, it means the church. We grow in Christian virtues in relationship. How do you practice love, or patience, in isolation? The Holy Spirit works in and through us in relationship.
Pete Schemm: Andreas and Margaret, thank you so much for your ministry here among us this week. We’re grateful for your continued commitment and passion for biblical manhood and womanhood and pray that God will continue to use you to equip the next generation to know and to embrace God’s design for man and woman.
Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: Thank you very much for inviting us, Pete. It was our privilege. Please keep up your fine work here at Cave Spring Baptist Church, and God bless!