Whereas Christians once rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution because it seemed to present a seismic challenge to the creation account, such is no longer the case. “Most Christian denominations now accept that God creates through natural processes” (Jesus and Women, p. 5). This understanding has become known as “evolutionary creationism.”
Discerning how human beings evolved is essential to understanding gender inequality in the Bible, as well as God’s original design for harmony between the sexes. By diving into the evolution of patriarchy, we can uncover how sexual selection and the Fall of humanity work together to produce a lack of equality and the prevalence of sexual coercion in the Bible and today.
Patriarchy Wasn’t God’s Original Plan
It is no secret that patriarchy was present in the Bible and, in some ways, still exists today. The systemic belief and acceptance of men holding the power and women being largely excluded from it–even abused and taken advantage of by it–is highlighted in the past through the double standards presented in the Bible and the present by the #MeToo movement.
The question is, where did patriarchy come from because it wasn’t God’s original design? We must look into the evolution or development of male dominance over women to answer this. Most evolutionary biologists and psychologists accept that “the evolution of patriarchy was driven mainly by sexual rather than natural selection… the former results specifically from the differential abilities of individuals to acquire mates” (Jesus and Women, p. 5).
However, “due to their primary role in caring for offspring, females must generally have chosen males who were not merely attractive, but also capable of defending and supporting them. The most attractive males would have evolved to be both attractive and hard-working, combining the effects of both natural and sexual selection” (Jesus and Women, p. 6).
The process of this sexual selection, Darwin argues, has a peaceful, charming, and beautiful side–like the courtship of birds and how the males perform dances, sing songs, and show vibrant colors to attract a female. However, it is evident that today, and in Biblical times, a more aggressive sexual selection process seems to occur. So, what happened?
The Fall of Humanity and Evolutionary Biology
In his writings, Darwin suggested that our earliest human ancestors were a gentler and more affectionate species because reason and foresight were new traits. He believed that, at that time, men would have been guided more by affectionate instincts than reason. In comparison to the hunter-gatherer tribes that Darwin observed, there would have been no licentiousness, mistreatment of wives, or infanticide.
Darwin was not aware that his ideas were similar to an updated version of the Biblical story of the Fall and its impact on human nature. However, “now that evolution is accepted in mainstream Christianity, the findings of evolutionary biology and psychology on the impact of selection on human nature enable much greater understanding of what, in Christian terms, is described as sin. The spiritual misdemeanour of the first humans would have impacted on the course of evolution” (Jesus and Women, p. 7).
From an evolutionary perspective, many behaviors considered sinful by Christians can be attributed to the development of patriarchy, which resulted from the aggressive form of selection being more dominant than the peaceful and charming type.
While the gentle and beautiful type of sexual selection still exists, it is not as widespread as it could have been, although it can be highly advanced at the individual level. At the group and species level, however, the power-seeking, aggressive type dominates. It is interesting to note that the #MeToo movement brought attention to this phenomenon to an unprecedented extent, although it was also a reality in Biblical times and throughout history.
The Evolution of Patriarchy Is Not the End of the Story
What I’ve shared here is the beginning of a larger conversation about the role of evolutionary biology and gender inequality. To gain deeper insights into the evolution of patriarchal cultures, it’s essential to consider male aggression and female choice, the role of male parental investment, and the issue of sexual coercion and the impact sexual selection has on the female sex.
I unpack these topics and more in my book, Jesus and Women, where I explore the role of women in the Bible and the impact of patriarchy on their representation. I look at how women were treated and portrayed in the Bible and how cultural and societal factors, including the evolution of patriarchy, shaped their status and roles.
Most importantly, I examine the life and teachings of Jesus and how they offer a different perspective on women and their place in society. I also show how they hold the potential to greatly enrich our understanding of His divinity. Through an exploration of evolutionary biology and feminist theory, “Jesus and Women” provides a thought-provoking analysis of the Bible and the ways in which it has influenced our understanding of gender and power dynamics. I encourage you to read it today.