Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Try Reading It First

From the department of “Let’s actually open our Bibles and read before we start preaching”, here’s Matt Chandler on Adam and Eve:

“What happens is the Serpent deceives Eve with Adam standing right there. Eve takes the apple, believing the lie of the Serpent, takes a bite of the fruit, and then hands it to her passive idiot husband, who also takes a bite.

Do you know who God blames for sin introducing itself into the cosmos? Adam. Because he had the role of spiritual headship, of covering and protection. He didn’t step up. He did the spiritual equivalency of, ‘Go check it out, baby.’ ”

This is so … NOT what actually happened.

Please allow me to attempt to dismantle this:

 The “passive idiot husband standing right there”

The Bible absolutely does not say Adam was “standing right there” when the serpent had his discussion with Eve. It doesn’t. Go look. Chandler sure wants him there, since if Adam was not present during the dialogue between Eve and the serpent, nothing else Chandler says about men and women is going to make the slightest bit of sense.

But we have no reason to assume Adam was there and every reason not to. The line is “[the serpent] said to the woman”, not “[the serpent] said to the woman and the man”. Had Adam been present, the serpent would almost surely have addressed him instead, since to do otherwise would have made Satan’s attempt to subvert God’s order obvious.

Further, Adam does not blame the serpent. He doesn’t even mention him. He blames Eve. He even indirectly blames God:

“The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Not a word of blame there for the obvious culprit. The logical conclusion is that Adam never met him.

Even less do we have any hint in the text that Adam was the one who suggested Eve take the fruit, either passively or directly. There is no “Go, check it out, baby” to be found in Genesis.

What we are told is that Eve and the serpent had a conversation. We are also told Adam was with Eve when she finally took the fruit and ate. We are not told how much time elapsed between those events. It may have been minutes and it may have been years, but there is no reason to imagine it was instant. What is evident is that she spent some time contemplating the tree before taking its fruit. Having allowed the serpent opportunity to introduce the possibility of disobedience into her mind, and having begun to indulge it, Eve now saw things about the tree that she hadn’t previously noticed:

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

There is a reasoning process described here that is far from instantaneous. So there’s just no reason to believe Chandler’s retelling of the story. There are two separate temptations described in Genesis and elsewhere in scripture: Eve’s deception by the serpent and Adam’s temptation through Eve.

Adam may well have been a “passive idiot husband” (though it sounds like Chandler is just playing to half his audience with that kind of characterization), but it was not because he was present when Eve had her conversation with Satan.

 Headship = Covering and protection?

Chandler’s view of biblical headship is flawed. He grasps that covering and protection are involved, but avoids terms like “leadership” and “submission” since these are red flags to the Christian feminists he’s courting.

Responsibility / Authority

And you cannot talk about biblical headship in the absence of a husband’s (loving) leadership and a wife’s (voluntary) submission. It’s a non sequitur. Responsibility and authority are two aspects of the same God-given role. You can’t have one without the other, as the centurion’s statement, tacitly affirmed by the Lord Jesus, well illustrates:

“ ‘For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, “Go,” and he goes, and to another, “Come,” and he comes, and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.’ ”

The ability to direct those for whom you are responsible originates in being “under authority”. The centurion rightly recognized in Jesus a man under the authority of heaven, and thus empowered to do whatever his Father commanded.

The Head of Christ is God

Further, when we talk about biblical headship we must consider the other relationships to which the wife/husband relationship is compared. We need to examine the entire Christian authority structure, not just the tail end of it:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

The Christian husband is the head of his wife, just as God is the head of Christ. Paul does not say, “The head of Christ WAS God”, referring to while he was on earth, but “The head of Christ IS God”, affirming that these roles are the normal state of affairs within the Godhead.

As others have well said, this is a clear indication that headship does not carry with it any suggestion of inferiority. Christ is in no way inferior to God, for “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”. In essence, character and worth Christ is every bit God’s equal. But the Son has volunteered to adopt a role in relationship to the Father that involves submission and service, even abdicating the exercise of an independent will, while the Father both directs and later glorifies the Son.

That’s how the Godhead works, and that’s how husbands and wives were designed to work too. “Covering and protection” is a wholly inadequate description of biblical headship. Does the glorified Christ require “covering and protection”, seated as he is at the right hand of God? Clearly not.

An Ounce of Prevention

In Matt Chandler’s world, Adam was fully responsible to anticipate and prevent Eve’s deception by Satan. But not only is this a complete distortion of what the Genesis account tells us actually happened, it is an impossibility in real life.

Every married man in the world has a wife or a daughter. Some of us have a bunch of them. Each of these is an independent agent with a free will, exposed to temptation every time she goes into the world and sometimes within her own home, just as men are. Is it remotely credible that fathers and husbands should be expected to anticipate and prevent all female ventures into the ungodly that occur on their watch? Does God behave this way with us?

People complain that the apostle Paul’s teaching on Christian gender roles leads to a degraded view of women, but it sounds to me like Matt Chandler’s is the view that is truly demeaning: in emphasizing a husband’s responsibility, he (perhaps inadvertently) strips the wife of her moral agency.

Further, doesn’t that make God indirectly responsible for not “covering” and “protecting” Adam from sin? After all, Christ is the head of man, and God is the head of Christ.

Chandler puts Adam in the picture solely to make him fully responsible for Eve’s sin. Further, he stacks the deck by making the feminist assumption that Headship = Covering and Protection and nothing more.

 Why is Adam to blame for sin’s introduction into the human experience?

Chandler is correct that Adam bears the blame for sin being introduced into the human experience (we don’t know anything about sin and the “cosmos”). But he’s got the reason entirely wrong.

To Serve and Protect

He says it’s because Adam had the God-given responsibility to anticipate and prevent Eve’s choice (though to do this he would have to be a smoother talker than Satan since he would have had to prevent Eve’s choice through persuasion alone, without giving Eve orders; after all, Chandler’s view of headship involves no actual authority). So he condemns Adam for standing by passively and enabling Eve: “He didn’t step up. He did the spiritual equivalency of, ‘Go check it out, baby.’ ”

Again, this is not what scripture teaches. Adam was certainly responsible to protect Eve, but not by anticipating her deception by the serpent and talking her out of it. In the Genesis account, when Eve finally took the fruit, Adam was “with her”, though we are not told he was present at any point prior to that.

Adam knew exactly what the tree was; he had God’s command concerning the tree, which had been directed to him personally. Unless he had planned to watch Eve every moment for the rest of her life, he couldn’t possibly stop Eve from taking the forbidden fruit. After all, she thought she was doing a good thing. Paul tells Timothy, “The woman was deceived”.

But Adam was not.

If You Walk Away, I Will Follow

Adam’s sin was a failure of headship, but not because he failed to protect Eve from the lies of the serpent. It was because he failed to lead AFTER Eve sinned, and followed Eve into transgression willingly instead, despite fully knowing the wickedness of his act. Unlike Eve, he didn’t rationalize his sin as some kind of “good”, he simply rebelled against God.

This is precisely what the Genesis account says, if Mr. Chandler could be bothered to read the rest of the chapter:

“And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.’ ”

Adam’s sin was that he followed his wife rather than following the command of God.

In the Alternative

Picture this: Eve takes the fruit and eats it, and she offers some to Adam. Adam, instead of listening to her, cries out to God to intervene and solve a problem he can’t solve himself.

What would have happened?

(I mean, other than it not being a very romantic thing to do. Loving, for sure, but not romantic in a My Wife’s Happiness Trumps Everything sort of sense.)

But in reaching out to God rather than reaching for the fruit, Adam would have demonstrated real headship. That was Adam’s failure. That was Adam’s sin. That’s why the Bible attributes the Fall of Mankind to Adam rather than Eve. Eve sinned as an individual. But Adam turned her personal act into the rebellion of a species. He stamped her disobedience with the authority not just of his headship of Eve, but his federal headship of the entire human race.

But that’s another story.

Matt Chandler has entirely misread this one.


  1. Tom, thank you for this. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone speak of Adam's failure in quite that way, but when I read your last couple of paragraphs, the proverbial light-bulb went off as you put into words what I think has always been percolating in the back of my mind.

    We may never meet this side of glory, but I want to thank you for the work you and IC do (I think I have before) and may God continue to bless your ministry...because that's exactly what you guys are doing.