What is a man? What is a woman?

14 July 2020


FR D. LONGENECKER | This article first appeared in dwightlongenecker.com, 12th April 2018

I was reading Phyllis Zagano’s book about women’s ordination and came across a peculiar thought. Ms. Zagano argues that there is “ontological equality” between men and women because both are created in God’s image. That seems fair enough.

But then she goes on to say that this truth implies a “single nature anthropology”. I’m not quite sure what that means because I am not the academic theological bright spark that Ms. Zagano clearly is.

However, what I think it sounds like in ordinary people talk is, “Men and women are not only equal but they’re the same.” I don’t know how else to interpret the mysterious phrase “single nature anthropology”. But what does this mean? I can’t get my head around it because if there is a “single nature anthropology” then at some point outside of this life does that mean that our masculinity and femininity doesn’t matter or that it ceases to exist? Does that mean in heaven we are all androgynous ghostly beings? If this isn’t what it means, then I’m stumped.

Anyway. I got thinking further about this and asked myself, “Well, what IS a man anyway?” and for that matter “What IS a woman?”

How would you define a man or a woman?

So I came up with an answer: “A man is a father or a potential father. A woman is a mother or a potential mother.”

Think about it. Biologically a man is defined by his male genitalia and hormones. A woman is defined by her female reproductive system and her hormones, so these factors determine biologically what a man is and what a woman is, and these defining characteristics’ purpose is reproduction. In other words, to make the man a father and to make the woman a mother.

If you take “father” and “mother” out of the equation, then how do you define “man” and “woman”?

Try it. See? It’s tough. Try to define what it is to be a man without the concept of “Father”. Try to define what it is to be a woman without the concept of “mother”.

Then I remembered that after he created man and woman as equals, the Genesis story says God gave them the first commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, “Adam - you become a father. Eve - you become a mother. That’s what I created you for.”

So, if I am correct that a man is a man because he is a father or potential father, and a woman is a woman because she is a mother or a potential mother, no wonder our society is so confused about gender identity.

For the last fifty years we’ve been so busy trying to turn off the babies and NOT be mothers and fathers.  Because so much of society has decimated the role of mother and father for all sorts of reasons, a fallout from that is that people not only don’t know what mothers and fathers are they also don’t know what men and women are.

There’s more: why are we in this state? Because of a contraceptive culture. Because of artificial contraception and recreational sex and abortion as contraceptive, a whole generation have also lost the idea of what their reproductive organs are for.

That equipment is for being and fully becoming a man and a father and being and fully becoming a woman and a mother. But if those organs are used as pleasure toys, then we forget what they are really for and so we deny and block out being mothers and fathers and we therefore forget what it really means to be men and women.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming Phyllis Zagano for this bizarre state of affairs, and I don’t think her strange notion of a “single nature anthropology” is consciously connected, but it is philosophically connected. I think she’s jumped on the feminist bandwagon and is promoting (consciously or unconsciously) a trend toward a kind of neutered humanity in which there is no longer a distinction between men and women.

Perhaps I am overthinking it, and maybe I’ve got it completely wrong but there it is, for what its worth.

But just to be on the safe side, I’m going to keep my beard.

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