Calvin, Clement of Alexandria, and the Apostle Paul on "effeminacy"...

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Under the two posts dealing with Wheaton College's announced change of policy concerning homosexuality (here and here) there's been discussion of the Greek word 'malakoi' God inspired in the text of 1Corinthians 6:9,10. It's been noted that the English Standard Version's editors refused to allow this word to be translated into their revision of the RSV. Predictably, the King James Version and New American Standard Bible stand resolute in their political incorrectness, rendering the Greek 'malakoi' "effeminate" in English.

We have all been trained by feminists and homosexualists to replace "sex" with "gender," and part of their politicization of sexual identity has been a very intense campaign to deny that sexual identity is good and to be affirmed in its physicality, beauty, and permanence. Biology is, in fact, destiny; God made us this way and it is good.

The feminists, though, hate it with a perfect hatred. Thus over my lifetime I've watched as the word 'effeminate' has been killed. The word was a constant in all previous generations of Reformed church fathers, but try to find one today who's willing to use it. Pfffft—it's gone. Not just from their language and writing, but from their ESV.

Why such a sea-change among Reformed men today?

Because whether knowingly or unknowingly, we have become the dupes of feminists and homosexualists intent on rendering all discussions of the hard-wired bifurcation at the core of our being put there by God and formerly spoken of as "sexuality" with that degradation that renders the glorious diversity of sexuality a mere social construct by speaking of it as "gender"...

"Gender" is is a social construct. Gender is learned rather than given by God. Gender is infinitely plastic or malleable. Gender is alterable by means of the surgeon's scalpel and hormone pills. Gender is not bifurcated; it is a continuum with an infinite number of places one is free to stop and place oneself, and one such place one may choose to stand is "gay," "queer," or "homosexual."

Bring "effeminacy" into our brave new "gender" world and grenades and minefields begin to explode. The man who speaks of sex as "sex" rather than "gender" is a "sexist." And the man who rebukes another man for being "effeminate" is a monster.

Thus the ESV men tipped their hats to the new constitution, made their bows to the new revolution and removed effeminacy from the sins of 1Corinthians 6.

God bifurcated man, making each of us either male or female, and this foundational diversity of sexuality He pronounced “good." This is the reason for these Biblical commands:

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.[2]

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man.… Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.[3]

In his exposition of the Seventh Commandment, John Calvin speaks of the immodesty of women who clothe themselves as warriors:

This decree also commends modesty in general, and in it God anticipates the danger, lest women should harden themselves into forgetfulness of modesty, or men should degenerate into effeminacy unworthy of their nature. Garments are not in themselves of so much importance; but as it is disgraceful for men to become effeminate, and also for women to affect manliness in their dress and gestures, propriety and modesty are prescribed, not only for decency’s sake, but lest one kind of liberty should at length lead to something worse. The words of the heathen poet (Juvenal) are very true: “What shame can she, who wears a helmet, show, Her sex deserting?” [4]

Similarly, Clement of Alexandria:

What reason is there in the law’s prohibiting a man from “wearing woman’s clothing?” Is it not that it would have us to be manly, and not to be effeminate neither in person and actions, nor in thought and word? For it would have the man, that devotes himself to the truth, to be masculine both in acts of endurance and patience, in life, conduct, word, and discipline by night and by day; even if the necessity were to occur, of witnessing by the shedding of his blood. Again, it is said, “If any one who has newly built a house, and has not previously inhabited it; or cultivated a newly-planted vine, and not yet partaken of the fruit; or betrothed a virgin, and not yet married her;” — such the humane law orders to be relieved from military service: from military reasons in the first place, lest, bent on their desires, they turn out sluggish in war….[5]

Deuteronomy 22:5 declares that God abhors woman camouflaging herself as a man (and vice versa). Man and woman are not to exchange clothing because to do so is an attack upon the glory God has attached to sexuality.[6] Thus it is that the Church has condemned women warriors. [7] For example, Luther comments on this text:

A woman shall not bear the weapons of a man, nor shall a man wear female clothing.…for it is shameful for a man to be clothed like a woman, and it is improper for a woman to bear the arms of a man. Through this law (God) seems to reproach any nation in which this custom is observed.[8]

If men and women exchanging clothing is condemned because such actions explicitly deny one’s sexuality,  is it any surprise that womanly armies are loathsome and pathetic? So, for instance:

In that day the Egyptians will become like women, and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He is going to wave over them (Isaiah 19:16).

Behold, your people are women in your midst! The gates of your land are opened wide to your enemies; fire consumes your gate bars (Nahum 3:13).

A sword against their horses and against their chariots and against all the foreigners who are in the midst of her, and they will become women! A sword against her treasures, and they will be plundered (Jeremiah 50:37).

The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, they stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming [like] women; their dwelling places are set on fire, the bars of her [gates] are broken (Jeremiah 51:30).

One can understand, then, why golden-tongued Chrysostom whose preaching was used by God in the conversion of Augustine would express himself in this manner concerning women’s roles:

Woman was not made for this, O man, to be prostituted as common. O ye subverters of all decency, who use men, as if they were women, and lead out women to war, as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to subvert and confound all things, to overleap the boundaries that have been appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God has set to nature. For God assigned to woman the care of the house only, to man the conduct of public affairs. But you reduce the head to the feet, and raise the feet to the head. You suffer women to bear arms, and are not ashamed.[9]




[1] Genesis 1:26-31; 2:18-25.

[2] Deuteronomy 22:5.

[3] 1 Corinthians 11:8,14-15.

[4] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, tr. Charles Bingham, 22 vols., (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, repr. 1996), 3:110.

[5] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book 2, Chapter 18.

[6] The word (kli) used to reflect “what pertains to a man” in Deuteronomy 22:5 indicates more than apparel. In Genesis 27:3, this same root is used for “weapons,” and in his Annotations on the Pentateuch, 1639, Ainsworth writes, “The Hebrew kli is a general word for all instruments, vessels, ornaments, whatsoever; and here for all apparel and whatsoever a man putteth on him, in time of peace or of war, and so the Chaldee translateth it armour or weapons, which is also forbidden a woman to wear. And this precept concerneth natural honesty and seemliness which hath perpetual equity (1 Corinthians 11)….(Thus) men should not change their nature.” C. M. Carmichael writes, “‘No woman shall put on the gear of a warrior (kli-geber),’ is an accurate translation.” Cf. C.M. Carmichael, Law and Narrative in the Bible: The Evidence of the Deuteronomic Laws and the Decalogue, p. 162.

[7] “Two years ago, John Knox in a private conversation, asked my opinion respecting female government. I frankly answered that because it was a deviation from the primitive and established order of nature, it ought to be held as a judgment on man for his dereliction of his rights just like slavery—that nevertheless certain women had sometimes been so gifted that the singular blessing of God was conspicuous in them, and made it manifest that they had been raised up by the providence of God, either because He willed by such examples to condemn the supineness of men, or thus show more distinctly His own glory. I here instanced Huldah and Deborah.” John Calvin, “Letter DXXXVIII to William Cecil” in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, ed. Henry Beveridge & Jules Bonnet, vol. 7, (Philadelphia, 1860), p. 46.

[8] Luther's Works, vol. XIV, p. 700-01. Similar translation and comment is found in Calvin, J. Ridderbos, S. Driver, Peter Craigie, J. Maxwell, E. Kalland, The Targum Onkelos, etc.

[9] Chrysostom, Homily on Titus 2:14.

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PS: Yes, the Bodon ad is April Fools.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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