One shocker after another from Carolyn Custis James...
This post is the contribution of two men from ClearNote Church of Bloomington, Jake Mentzel and Josh Congrove. Recently, Josh successfully defended his dissertation for a doctorate in Classics here at Indiana University, and Jake is the campus pastor of ClearNote Campus Fellowship. We're grateful for their work. (TB)
* * *
Carolyn Custis James recently wrote a blog post slandering the Early Church father, Augustine. Here are her claims:
Last week, in a well-known Christian college, a Bible professor stated unequivocally to his class that "Men are created in the image of God, but women are created in the image of man." His assertion is a flat denial of what is stated plainly on page one of the Bible, but unfortunately (his claim) has long roots that can be traced back to early church fathers, including the revered St. Augustine, and has done enormous damage. I remember the first time I heard anyone say, "God created both women and men in his image." I was in my twenties, had grown up in the church, and this was news to me.
It's hard to imagine the professor in question presenting the matter as Mrs. James reports it here. Surely he misspoke, was misunderstood, or misquoted? Where is Mrs. James' source?
Moving past the anonymous report, it's even harder to conceive that woman being created in the Image of God was news to Mrs. James when she first heard it. In her twenties? Seriously? What a sheltered existence she must have had!
We grew up in conservative Baptist circles and heard this basic truth of Scripture all the time...Not that we needed to hear it: by Mrs. James's own admission, all we had to do was read "what is stated plainly on page one of the Bible."
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Perhaps Mrs. James grew up in a church where the Bible was never read? Then again, perhaps Mrs. James is lying for rhetorical impact?
Thus far we're called to trust Mrs. James' incredible report about some anonymous professor and the teaching and preaching of her own childhood home and church. Then Mrs. James abuses Augustine, claiming him as the source of this statement: "Men are created in the image of God, but women are created in the image of man."
The context is Augustine's discussion of how the image of the Trinity does and does not relate to the image of God as found in man. In interpreting Genesis and 1Corinthians 10, Augustine's actual argument is that woman qua homo (i.e., as pertains to her human nature) is created in the image of God, but that woman qua woman (or more precisely, in her "quality" as help-meet), is not. The man, by contrast, is created in the image of God both qua homo and qua vir (i.e., as man alone). See the relevant passage below.
Augustine actually affirms woman's creation in the image of God: her nature, he says, "does not separate the woman from the image of God." Women are not "alien from this fellowship," but are "fellow-heirs of grace."
Even unbelieving scholars point to Augustine as a defender of women.
In pursuit of her own fame and glory, Mrs. James twists the Word of God and Augustine. Why, then, would anyone believe her report of the words of some anonymous professor?
Augustine, On the Trinity (De Trinitate) (emphases mine)
Chapter 7.— How Man is the Image of God. Whether the Woman is Not Also the Image of God. How the Saying of the Apostle, that the Man is the Image of God, But the Woman is the Glory of the Man, is to Be Understood Figuratively and Mystically.
9. We ought not therefore so to understand that man is made in the image of the supreme Trinity, that is, in the image of God, as that the same image should be understood to be in three human beings; especially when the apostle says that the man is the image of God, and on that account removes the covering from his head, which he warns the woman to use, speaking thus: For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. What then shall we say to this? If the woman fills up the image of the trinity after the measure of her own person, why is the man still called that image after she has been taken out of his side? Or if even one person of a human being out of three can be called the image of God, as each person also is God in the supreme Trinity itself, why is the woman also not the image of God? For she is instructed for this very reason to cover her head, which he is forbidden to do because he is the image of God.
10. But we must notice how that which the apostle says, that not the woman but the man is the image of God, is not contrary to that which is written in Genesis, God created man: in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them: and He blessed them. For this text says that human nature itself, which is complete [only] in both sexes, was made in the image of God; and it does not separate the woman from the image of God which it signifies. For after saying that God made man in the image of God, He created him, it says, male and female: or at any rate, punctuating the words otherwise, male and female created He them. How then did the apostle tell us that the man is the image of God, and therefore he is forbidden to cover his head; but that the woman is not so, and therefore is commanded to cover hers? Unless, forsooth, according to that which I have said already, when I was treating of the nature of the human mind, that the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one. . . .
12. For, as not only most true reason but also the authority of the apostle himself declares, man was not made in the image of God according to the shape of his body, but according to his rational mind. For the thought is a debased and empty one, which holds God to be circumscribed and limited by the lineaments of bodily members. But further, does not the same blessed apostle say, Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which is created after God; and in another place more clearly, Putting off the old man, he says, with his deeds; put on the new man, which is renewed to the knowledge of God after the image of Him that created him? If, then, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and he is the new man who is renewed to the knowledge of God after the image of Him that created him; no one can doubt, that man was made after the image of Him that created him, not according to the body, nor indiscriminately according to any part of the mind, but according to the rational mind, wherein the knowledge of God can exist. And it is according to this renewal, also, that we are made sons of God by the baptism of Christ; and putting on the new man, certainly put on Christ through faith. Who is there, then, who will hold women to be alien from this fellowship, whereas they are fellow-heirs of grace with us; and whereas in another place the same apostle says, For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; for as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ: there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus? Pray, have faithful women then lost their bodily sex? But because they are there renewed after the image of God, where there is no sex; man is there made after the image of God, where there is no sex, that is, in the spirit of his mind. Why, then, is the man on that account not bound to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, while the woman is bound to do so, because she is the glory of the man; as though the woman were not renewed in the spirit of her mind, which spirit is renewed to the knowledge of God after the image of Him who created him? But because she differs from the man in bodily sex, it was possible rightly to represent under her bodily covering that part of thereason which is diverted to the government of temporal things; so that the image of God may remain on that side of the mind of man on which it cleaves to the beholding or the consulting of the eternal reasons of things; and this, it is clear, not men only, but also women have.
Augustine, On the Trinity 12.7: 9–12, trans. Hadden, PNF 3 (Buffalo, NY)