As Christians we view God through a completely different set of lenses than atheists, non-Christians, and the cultures of the world. But as you may know, God has been portrayed in many distorted ways. For example, he is said to be misogynic (woman-hating), chauvinistic, patriarchal, and sexist—along with having many other derogatory characteristics—by modern-day atheists and many others. Atheist Richard Dawkins has stated in his book The God Delusion that:
“the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” 11
How is it that some can say God is sexist, racist, vindictive, genocidal, and so on? To get these distorted views of him, one has to take Scripture completely out of context. Take the accusation of sexism, for example. How can a person consider God a sexist?
Well, it is said that God created Adam first and then created Eve as a second-class citizen thereby showing his lesser view of women. Then after Adam and Eve sinned, God told Eve that her husband “will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Again, this is said to show his disdaining view of women as inferior, in that he said they would be in a submissive, servant role to men. Then some people say one can see all throughout the Old Testament how the children of Israel’s customs and laws reflected women’s inferior position to men.
For example, an adult woman was considered a minor by law and lived under the authority of her nearest male relative. Her vows to God could even be nullified by her father or husband (Numbers 30:3-16). A husband could divorce his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) and take another wife (Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Yet the wife could not divorce her husband. A woman could inherit her father’s land only if there were no male heirs, and only if she married within her ancestral tribe (Numbers 27:1-11; 36:1-13). All these points are again said to show that God viewed women as inferior and without the same rights as men.
How God Actually Views Men and Women
The truth is that despite these assertions, God is not a sexist. This is not to say that historically the church has not treated women as inferior or that some Christian men have not in fact been sexists. It’s clear sexist behavior has plagued us for centuries. Yet God is not so and does not consider women inferior to men.
“God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). The woman was made in the same image and likeness of God as the man (in fact, men were made from dust but women from a human being!). Men were not given a more superior image of God, with the Creator somehow making women in a lesser image. Men and women equally share God’s image.
The Bible says God made woman as man’s “helper.” Some have said this proves women are to serve. Yet God was not creating the female as a servant or assistant to the male. The Hebrew word translated “helper” is ezer. It denotes one who surrounds, protects, or aids. It is this same word that Jacob used of God when he said, “May the God of your father help you” (Genesis 49:25). Moses used it when he said, “The God of my ancestors was my helper” (Exodus 18:4). The psalmist David used it repeatedly in passages like, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20). God is primarily portrayed by the Old Testament writers as the ezer—the one who surrounds us and helps us.
This by no means is a lowly servant role. Rather, it is a lofty role to bring help to one who needs it. And I (Sean) can personally attest to the reality that this male—me—needs the aid and help of not only God, but the expert aid and help of a woman named Stephanie. When God created female as a godlike equal to help the male, it was a highly esteemed role, not one of inferiority or servitude. When he decided that the man was in need of woman, it didn’t mean Adam was inferior either. And women are not inferior for being a counterpart or companion to men.
The consequences of sin upon Eve are another purported example of God being a sexist. Yet the negative consequences of sin had a far-reaching effect upon all humanity and beyond. They include spiritual and physical death for all humans, women’s physical pain in childbearing, husbands ruling over wives, and the cursed ground affecting plant life, making it hard for humans to grow crops (see Genesis 3:14-19). But these negative consequences were not meant to be accepted as norms. God himself put a plan in motion even before he created humans to reverse these consequences. He planned to send his Son to not only offer eternal life to humans who were dead in their sin, but to eventually reverse the effects of sin on the entire planet and animal life (see Isaiah 25:7-8 and 65:17).
Think about this: Are we as God’s creation to sit still and not assist him in his redemption and restoration plan? Are we not to discover new and improved ways to farm the land and increase crop productivity? Are we to accept pain in childbearing and not find medical means to reduce it? We of course use modern farm technology to grow better and healthier crops. We take advantage of modern medical discoveries to ease the pain of the birthing process. We don’t accept these negative consequences of sin and live with them. And neither should we accept the negative consequences of husbands that rule over their wives. This was not God’s intention from the beginning, and it is clear he doesn’t want that kind of distorted relationship in marriage now.
While the New Testament does say that wives are to submit to their husbands, this is by no means oppressive. In fact, Scripture commands that we all submit to one another (see Ephesians 5:21). Jesus made the truth clear that both men and women are to serve one another in Mark 10:42-44, a statement that included him also: “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Just because husbands and wives serve in different roles doesn’t mean women are considered inferior. It is true that sin has brought negative consequences to our relationships, but God doesn’t want that to continue. He wants both husbands and wives to respect and love one another as he demonstrated to us through Christ.
And finally, throughout Scripture we see that God elevated women to places of authority and godly leadership. A sexist would not do that. In fact, Genesis is the only creation story of the ancient Near East that even mentions women. And it climaxes with the creation of woman. Clearly, God has valued women since the beginning.
Making a Comparison
But there is more. In the nation of Israel, women were to be present at the reading of Scripture (Deuteronomy 31:9-13), which was highly honored. Women served at the entrance of the Tabernacle (Exodus 38:8), which was an honorable duty, and they offered sacrifices (Leviticus 12:1-8), which demonstrated God’s recognition of the right of women to worship. He appointed Miriam, Moses’ sister, as a prophet (Exodus 15:20-21). Deborah was both a prophet and a judge. She spoke and judged publicly in the name of God (Judges 4:4-7). And Huldah equally was a prophet of God. She too spoke on his behalf (2 Kings 22:14-20). It is clear he did not regard women as inferior and unable to lead and speak for him.
Further, although critics falsely claim that God is sexist, many of these same critics fail to point out that leaders of other major religions were clearly so. In the book Apologetics for a New Generation,  author and Christian leader Jonalyn Grace Fincher offers insights about this. In chapter 16 she points out that Muhammad, founder of Islam, had a disparaging view of women. She points out that the Qur’an says, “Wives are fields to seed as you please,” “(Wives) are prisoners with you (husbands), having no control of their person,” and “Put women in an inferior position since God has done so.” 12
Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, abandoned his wife, son, and concubines to find “enlightenment.” Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, reportedly molested his foster child, Rose Ball. When Russell’s wife filed for divorce the courts judged his behavior toward his wife as “insulting,” “domineering,” and “improper.” 13
In contrast, Jesus, the Son of God, affirmed the rights of women when he spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42). He affirmed Mary as she sat at his feet as his disciple. He gave great praise to the women who anointed him before his death (Mark 14:3-9). To Jesus, women were equals in God’s eyes. Relationally God sees no human status difference between male and female. As we stated, husbands and wives may serve in different roles, but this does not make one more superior or inferior to the other. The apostle Paul made it clear that God did not engage in favoritism when he said,
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).
This chapter originally appeared in 77 FAQs About God and the Bible by Sean McDowell and Josh McDowell (2012). Used by permission from Harvest House Publishers.