Did Kirk Cameron say that husbands have authority over the life of their wives?

I was browsing Netflix a couple weeks ago, looking for something to watch while I did bookwork, when I noticed Kirk Cameron’s 2013 film, “Unstoppable,” in which he addresses the problem of pain and suffering and how you can reconcile that with the idea of a loving and good God.  Out of curiosity, I hit play.

I’m not writing this post to critique the movie, but I do want to address Kirk Cameron’s comments about husbands and wives as he is sharing the Creation story.  I find his remarks problematic, and I would like to do my part to make sure there is something on the internet pointing this out.

Kirk sets up the movie with a heart-wrenching story about friends of his who lost their ten year old son to cancer after years of pain and grueling treatments.  A couple weeks before he died, the young boy asked his dad if he could fix him.  Holy cow, I’m crying again just thinking about this poor family.  I can’t bear it.

So Kirk asks the question, Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?  And he begins to answer this question by going to the beginning of pain and suffering (the Fall), first describing the creation of Adam and Eve and the perfection of their life in the Garden.  Here is a short video in which Kirk explains why he goes back to the Garden of Eden in this film:

Around twelve minutes into “Unstoppable”, he is describing how God created man from dust and then he says,

Adam, he’s made of the earth (that’s what Adam means, it means dirt), and he’s not like any of the other creatures.  Not only is he made in the image of God, he is given authority to rule over every other creature.  He’s given privilege and authority to name every other living creature.  When you have authority to name something, that means you have authority over their life. 

After God makes Eve, Kirk goes on to say,

So now, man is no longer alone.  He has his woman, and the two of them are beautifully, perfectly designed to compliment one another.  They have become one flesh.  Adam says, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called woman.”  He names her.
 

And then God gives them The Assignment, The Great Mission.  And that is, to be fruitful, multiply, have lots and lots of babies, fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule it, take dominion over all of God’s creation.

Adam had one job, and it was to tend and keep the Garden.  In other words, to cultivate and guard.  To beautify and  protect.  Well, if I said that to you, “Guard this.  Protect what has been entrusted to you,” the obvious question is, “From what?”  And this is the worst part of the story up to this point.

Adam is in the Garden, with his wife, the most precious thing in the Garden.  He is to be protecting her, beautifying her, doing his job.  And a serpent enters the Garden.  This is exactly what Adam should have been watching for.  He should have smelled him a mile away and ran to him and crushed his head the second he saw him.  Especially after he saw what he was doing to his wife!  This is the ultimate breakdown of a man’s responsibility.  This is a story of a man throwing his wife under the bus and using her as a guinea pig in the human experiment.  Remember, God had said to Adam, “the day you eat of this fruit, you will surely die.” (emphasis mine)

First of all, Kirk is not “shooting from the hip.”  The script has been carefully crafted and he is performing it, even though the effect is to seem off-handed and natural.  So when he gives special attention to clarify that naming something is in effect having authority over their life, and then breezes past the statement, “Adam named Eve,” the message is very loud and clear that Adam had authority over Eve’s life.

Did he?  Really?

Kirk Cameron is clearly understanding the Creation narrative through a complementarian/patriarchal lens, and is reading inherent roles into the text that simply aren’t there.  He believes there is an implicit authority given to men to rule over animals and women that is signified through the act of naming.  However, as Kirk states after Eve’s creation, God gives them both authority over the animals, although Eve was not there for their naming.  And the truth is, God named both the man and the woman Adam (human-being in Hebrew), and never told Adam to name his wife.

When God created mankind, he created them in the likeness of God.  He created them male and female and blessed them.  And he named them “Mankind” [adam] when they were created.  Gen. 5:1b-2.

God did not create a hierarchy of authority at Creation.  Adam and Eve are both given the same directive from God: “And that is, to be fruitful, multiply, have lots and lots of babies, fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule it, take dominion over all of God’s creation” (Kirk’s paraphrase of Genesis 1:28).  Kirk describes Adam’s “responsibilities” as “one job…to tend and keep the Garden.  In other words, to cultivate and guard.  To beautify and  protect.”  And then he extends those descriptions to Adam’s responsibility to Eve, “He is to be protecting her, beautifying her, doing his job.”  But that isn’t coming from the Bible.  That is coming from a complementarian patriarchal reading-into of the text.  God created Eve as Adam’s ezer-kenegdo (“strength-corresponding to” rather than the traditional mistranslation of “helper suitable to”) and gave both of them the authority to rule over creation, sans gender-specific roles.

In Marg Mowzcko’s article, A Suitable Helper, she says,

The whole purpose of the Creation of Eve narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 is to emphasise the equality of husband and wife.  To read it any other way is to miss the point and distort its meaning! . . . When Adam looked at his new partner he exclaimed that she was “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”!  A profound expression of equality.  There is no hierarchy here! But to further emphasise the point, verse 24 says that when a husband and wife join in marriage they become one flesh – a point which Jesus also highlighted (Matthew 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-7).  Men and women together are made in God’s image.  God’s ideal at creation was that the husband and wife be completely equal and rule over nature together (Genesis 1:26-28).  Complete gender equality is the Godly ideal we should be aiming for.

I could say so much more from watching Kirk’s film, but the concept of Adam having inherent authority over the animals and Eve because of naming them was a striking error that needed correction.

Blessings to you as you have dominion over Creation today! – and I would hope you do that by making the world a better place, reconciling things to the beauty and perfection of God’s original design.  Carry on, warriors!


Marg Mowzcko just posted this excellent article yesterday, relating directly to this issue of gender roles as understood from the Creation narrative: Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?

I would also highly recommend this article by Bob Edwards: Must women keep silent?  1 Corinthians 14 – The Apostle Paul and the traditions of men.  He discusses how proponents of male-authority point to the pre-Fall Genesis account to support their views.

Don’t forget to “Like” our FB page if you haven’t done so already!  We post lots of articles pertinent to empowering women to find their callings as ezer-kenegdos alongside their brothers in Christ, and to raise awareness of areas where redemption work is needed.

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12 responses to “Did Kirk Cameron say that husbands have authority over the life of their wives?

  1. I love everything about this post. Thank you for giving me a different view on women and men in Genesis.
    Have you ever read Created to Be His Helpmeet? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that too.

    • Thanks, Alexandra! I did read a different book by Debi Pearl once, called “Me? Help him?” that was quite horrible. I did some digging around to learn about the Pearls after reading it and I was very upset to learn about their popularity. I will have to write a post about them sometime. I believe the message they teach about absolute submission (even to the point of death) is obviously dangerous, and their “Train Up a Child” teachings are abusive! Thanks for asking, I think I’ll work on something for the blog soon. 🙂

      • I agree with you Ruth and I would like to visit your blog. Please some see my article too on The Mystery of Divine Intimacy under the tab God’s Love Story. It gives, in my opinion, a more biblical view of what God’s Word intends, but unfortunately, men have not realized their proper role and therefore have not given women their proper place beside them in the created order. Please come and comment. Thanks

    • Alexandra, visit my blog and read Divine Intimacy under God’s Love Story. I don’t think I’ve read, Created to be His Helpmeet? Who wrote it. I will be updating my blog with more on that topic…but it may be helpful for you to know that the Ezer Kenegdo means the one who goes face to face, the counterpart. Woman was created as the Helper of man and the term Ezer is used of one who is greater in power to one who needs assistance. I have one possibility (among others) that God knew the test was coming and he created her perfectly for that test but the enemy deceived her and Adam threw her under the bus with God and the rest is our unfortunate history. God’s love story will be about the pattern in genesis 1 that God set about how he loves and how spiritual men are created to love and woman can be all God created her to be in that environment and pattern of love. Watch it over the next few months and please, please, comment. I want the feedback of others..honest feedback.

  2. Whenever one starts with a preconceived position, then all Scripture is seen through that lens. It does not matter that the general course of Biblical interpretation varies from that notion. The “colored glasses” through which the author sees cannot be bothered with objectivity. When a person’s premise is wrong but maintained regardless of that fact then everything else is tarnished by that premise. If the foundation is faulty the building will eventually be unstable and, given time, will fall.

    • JN,
      I already posted to this blog and it’s author. Please come visit my blog on The Mystery of Divine Intimacy under the tab God’s Love Story. I will be updating it over the next few months and would love an honest commenter like yourself. Thanks

  3. Please come see my blog, I have a piece called The Mystery of Divine Intimacy under God’s Love Story: the Ish and Isha. It is exactly where you are coming from in I Corinthians. I think you would enjoy it. I agree with your commenters. When we start with preconceived ideas then we will deliver what started the conception. God did not intend man to have authority over his woman, but responsibility for her perfection. He would receive that instruction from his source of life and give to the woman and the woman would receive life form the man and in return give back and multiply more…Please read the article. It’s really good and gives a scriptural perspective that stays truer to the actual interpretation without the ignorance nor arrogance some men in the “church ” have propogated.

  4. What he said is beautiful. He takes responsibility, as a man, for Eves fall. How transcendent and utterly respectful of Eve and women in general.

    • I agree with Kirk. You need to read Love and Respect. There are many verses in the Bible which the book Love and Respect point out in which the man will be questioned for his wife’s sins. Don’t post things and steer people wrong until you have fully understood the word and studied the topic back and front before you post.

      • Thank you for your comment and book recommendation, Rosa. I actually just returned Love and Respect after borrowing it for awhile from a counselor. Beside that I have read dozens of marriage resources as something of an information addict. I don’t have my opinions from thin air, they come from study and relationships and experiences. Something I like to do with books is read the negative reviews to see why someone may object to a resource, which I would recommend doing with Love and Respect on Amazon. Of course, you have come to your own opinions through study, relationships and experience and I respect that. Thank you again for visitingour blog!

  5. Thank you for visiting us and leaving a comment, ErinAlexandra. I definitely disagree with you, though. Eve’s fall? They were standing there together. God had told Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit before Eve was created, so she was more vulnerable, but the Serpent’s comments to Eve are actually plural (“you” as in “you all”) and after Eve ate, she handed the fruit to Adam, further signifying that Adam was standing there the whole time. This was not Eve’s fall, but a mutual, equal fall and both were equally responsible for their own mistake. I feel transcendent and respected by the Creation account and what God has made me to be: equally created in the image of God to display His glory and share in dominion on earth. I do not feel transcendent and respected by hierarchical, patriarchal theology that subjugates half of humankind under the authority of another half purely in regards to gender.

  6. Oh, ErinAlexandra, I really enjoyed this post on what Genesis 1-3 really says about women: http://jasonpbutler.tumblr.com/post/97247821966/what-genesis-1-3-really-has-to-say-about-women

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