Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Seminary president: Genesis text is not about ‘male and female’ but instead ‘human isolation’

covnetlogoEditor’s note: The Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC), the publisher of The Layman and The Layman Online, does not support same-sex marriage. Instead, the PLC “believes with Scripture that God ordained the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman in the very order of creation and that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, blessed and sanctified this relationship. The article here was posted as a news story about the Covenant Network’s 2013 conference on “Marriage Matters.”

 

CHICAGO, Ill. — McCormick Theological Seminary President Frank Yamada said that the “take-away” from Genesis 2:18-25 is not about “a man and woman, but that God has figured out a way to take away isolation from human beings.

Yamada’s sermon, “Becoming one flesh, one body,” was given during Thursday night’s worship service at the Covenant Network’s 2013 conference, “Marriage Matters.”

The Scripture text read:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Yamada said that at the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Big Tent event held Aug. 1-3, in Louisville, Ky., he gave a sermon on the event’s theme, “Putting God’s first things first.” As a sermon illustration, he told a story about how his dog gets very focused when he gets gummy bears. Following the service, a member of the audience came to him, asking him about feeding his dog gummy bears.

“That was this guy’s take-away,” said Yamada, adding that as a preacher he is often struck by what a person’s take-away is from one of his sermons.

“When I read Genesis 2, and I hear what others take-away from this text, I scratch my head,” he said. When someone reads this “beautiful, moving text,” and the take-away is “man and woman,” Yamada said he wonders, “What text are you reading? Is that all you got from this text — man and woman?”

yamada2

PHOTO BY THE LAYMAN
McCormick Theological Seminary President Frank Yamada speaks during a worship service at the Covenant Network’s “Marriage Matters” conference in Chicago, Ill.

So, starting in Genesis 1, Yamada summarized the story: God created all things good and the first time that something was “not quite right in creation” is in Genesis 2 — not Genesis 3 with the fall.

“It starts with Genesis 2:18 when the Lord says it is not good that the human should be alone. Read this text sometime, because right after this, after the perfection of the beautiful world around him  … one thing is wrong. Man is alone, so the first thing God created is animals. God’s first solution is the animals but that doesn’t satisfy him, so God puts Adam to sleep and pulls the rib.”

When Adam was presented with the woman he said, “Indeed this is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.” So Yamada concluded that the “take-away” is that God removed human isolation.

“Isn’t there a longing, a threat of being alone in the world? … Doesn’t Genesis 2 seem to address this dilemma? It is not good for the human being to be alone. It seems to be that is the much greater take-away that speaks to the human condition …  indeed in these life-giving partnerships with those who we recognize as flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, from our side, by our side … I recognize a companion, a partner, an ezer, a help mate.”

Yamada continued that that the take-away doesn’t just apply to individuals, but to groups as well. People may feel different, he said, whether it is racism, sexism or heterosexism, … the truth of Genesis 2 echoes clearly that it isn’t about a man and a woman but that it is not good for human beings to be alone.

The Lord gave a helper to Adam because of human isolation, he said, but it’s not “the gender of the partner but to have someone beside you … the grace from this text is the holiness of human relationships … the helper to help overcome the threat of living life alone … Life can be very good with an ezer who is very much like you.”

Yamada said that “God in Jesus Christ proclaims to a broken humanity that it is not good for the broken to be alone.” This is what Paul means in Galatians 3:38: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“The good news is that when we gather at tables like this we practice the divine witness,” he said. “That indeed human beings are never intended to be and never will be alone … and thank God we have these relationships that teach us about God among us, God with us.”

Yamada is a Presbyterian minister and has been a member of the McCormick faculty since 2008. His doctrinal studies included Hebrew Bible with an emphasis in hermeneutics, feminist theory and culturally-contextual Biblical interpretation.

The Covenant Network’s 2013 Covenant Conference  — Marriage Matters — was held Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Ill.

About the author: Paula R. Kincaid

Paula R. Kincaid is the editor of The Layman and The Layman Online. She has been employed by the Presbyterian Lay Committee since March 3, 1998. She lives in Hudson, N.C.

19 comments

  1. Glenn Wehe says:

    Where did Yamda get is doctorate? From a box of Cracker Jacks, that’s where. Is it any wonder the PCUSA is falling apart?

  2. David W. Hagen says:

    “It is not good for man to be left alone,” said God. “And since I know what’s going to happen, I will create a mate for him, that can propagate society” so He created a spouse, a potential mother, a woman. And Adam’s first words when he awoke were “Wow, thank you God.”
    Would this paraphrase, if we must, be better. Instead you have inferred that God almost made a mistake (which is not Scriptural) by almost leaving Adam alone, instead God designed the perfect helpmate from Adams own oneness (his rib) to be a continuing part of the two have become one. God’s plan all along. God didn’t need our input on the matter, then or certainly not now.

  3. Hugh P. Taylor says:

    This gives the gays and lesbiens the loophoe the Presbyterian Church has been looking for!!

  4. Dianna Kinkead says:

    Following his reasoning I guess the second generation of Mankind would just not have come into being. Throw the good professor a gummy worm and lets all sing “kumbaya.”

  5. Bruce Becker says:

    And MOBY DICK was about the whale oil industry, THE GREAT GATSBY about Long Island real estate and HAMLET about the pressing need for constitutional governance in 13th Century Denmark.

    • Paul says:

      Right, but nobody got any of that. People are so simple. I had an uncle that used to say, “We see what we want to see.” I guess that applies to reading the Bible too.

  6. Terrible in my view! The solution for “human isolation” was for God to give man a woman… You cannot ignore the solution! Would it be just anyone why would God specify a “woman”? I don’t want to erect a strawman here, but why not building another Adam from Adam’s hip to be Adam’s companion? Our today’s problems would be indeed solved, right? But no, God specifically, out of the secret council of His own will, created a female, a woman… Same sex relationship reasoning will resort to any “red-herring” to cloud what the Bible is really saying.
    It is both speculation and red-herring!

  7. Frank says:

    Yamada should stick to gummy bears.

  8. Myron Crockett says:

    Wow. So much nonsense, so little time! One of the many ridiculous things about Mr. Yamada’s interpretation is that he fails to understand the importance of what’s happening in Gen. 2:19-20. As God is bringing the animals to the man so that he would name them, the man is beginning to understand what God has already contemplated: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” How does the man arrive at this? I believe (along with many other commentators) that God brings the animals to the man in matched pairs (two-by-two). So as the man is naming the animals he starts to realize that every living creature has a mate except him. This explains the narrator’s statement, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (2:20). This verses only makes sense if the man’s interactions with the animals has made him realize that he is alone. Moreover, none of the animals is a suitable helper the man. God’s creation of the woman is the answer to this dilemma. It’s not just that she is a human. The woman is female, a complement to the man’s maleness. If she is not the man’s complement (over and against all other potential companions/helpers), then why did God create a complementary helper? Was it just because Adam was a heterosexual?

  9. Gordon says:

    President Yamada says “I recognize a companion, a partner, an ezer, a help mate.” We could think of Adam as a tool, say a hammer. If God wanted to provide simply “a companion, a partner” then he would have made another hammer. But God wanted to provide “an ezer, a help mate” so he created a pair of pliers.

  10. Glen Hallead says:

    My oh my. what would a Hermeneutics professor think to hear that “I will make a helper fit for him” and woman being created didn’t mean that woman was created as the helper fit for man??? The old Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve analogy… To make it out to be nothing more that a simple allegorical reflection on loneliness is to rob the passage of its inherent power. There are very simple exegetical exercises missed in the squandering and irresponsible exegesis of this passage that preclude Yamada coming to any sort of responsible conclusion. To think he is President of a Seminary is embarrassing.

  11. Pat says:

    To think that people actually took time from their relaxed Sunday morning to drive down to this church and listen to this pile of dung.

  12. charles says:

    the speaker has started with a conclusion and then tries to work backwards from there in an attempt to justify the conclusion he started with……to dignify it with a reasonable response gives it a legitimacy it doesnt deserve…..best to let those that pervert the gospel in this way proceed on their way…..since they have started with a conclusion, they will refuse to see anything that runs contrary to it…….Bible believing presbyterians should just move on and waive goodbye to those that wish to be the new pharisees…

  13. In Matthew 19, Jesus makes the importance of male and female in the Genesis narrative and its implications for marriage very explicit: ‘“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’”

    Does President Yamada think that Christ was “missing the point” in his interpretation?

    • Lance Douglas says:

      Yes, it is very true that human isolation was addressed when Eve was created. I think we all get that. So why not make another male? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply make another male? Of course it would. Males have more in common with each other. There must have been some reason for God to make the second human slightly different than the first. Hmm…..what in the world could that reason be? If he wanted to create more humans, he could do it the same way he created Eve. I just can’t imagine what God would be thinking when he made such a distinct change in the design and creation of the second human.

      Yes I can! And so does every true believer!

      President Yamada should be fired and shamed for his blasphemy. Yet, he will likely gain popularity and fame for his loving and affirming sermon. God have mercy on his soul. James 3:1

    • Gordon says:

      A clue might have been the “For this reason”

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