As, therefore, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, it follows that we cannot be wise in the sight of God, unless we are fools in the view of the world.
—John Calvin 
What does it mean to be human? What sets us apart from the rest of creation? Philosophers and theologians have debated the answers to these questions for generations. When we study nature, we can point to clear differences between people and animals. We speak, reason, express emotions, and display creativity in distinctly human ways. But it’s in Scripture that we learn what makes humanity unique. As Genesis 1:26–27 explains:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Scripture tells us that God—who is eternal, without beginning or end—is the Creator of all things. We are his creation, and we were created to worship him. While God created everything, every plant and animal, we alone have been made in God’s image. As I wrote in Beyond Authority and Submission:
In our very nature, men and women are equally made in the image of God. This is who we are. There is a profound unity in humanity. You and I, and everyone else, come from the first man, Adam. Even Eve was created from Adam. We have the same human nature, no matter what country we’re from or what our bodies look like on the outside. That unity is what Adam emphasized when he first saw Eve: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). 
There is considerable diversity within humanity, but we are all made in his image. We are all human beings descended from Adam. Having the same human nature, though, doesn’t mean that all humans are exactly the same.
For example, we can see from the world around us that men and women are different, but how are we different? Our bodies have obvious differences, but what about our personalities and interests? Some suggest that women and men have different natures, that there is a female nature and a male nature. They say that men and women have gendered characteristics and traits rooted in these distinct natures. 
Anyone who has spent time with children can tell you that boys and girls tend to play and interact in particular ways. From comparing notes with friends, I can confirm that raising a household of boys is not the same as raising a household of girls. From our observations, we can make generalizations about men and women, boys and girls. Men tend to be physically bigger and stronger. Women tend to be smaller and physically vulnerable. Boys may prefer playing with cars and tend to turn any household object into a weapon. Girls may like playing with baby dolls and pretending to be a mommy.
While we acknowledge such generalizations and even certain cultural expectations for men and women, we must be careful how we apply them to our beliefs about gender. For instance, cultural guidelines differ over time and from culture to culture. What was appropriate for a fifth-century Chinese woman is not necessarily the same for a twenty-first-century American woman.
Size and strength also vary among men and women—so do our preferences, personalities, and interests. These generalizations and expectations are not essential to our being or our nature as men and women. A muscular woman is still a woman. A man who is shorter than his wife is still a man. A girl who plays with cars and stick swords is still a girl. And a boy who plays with dolls pretending to be a daddy is still a boy.
It’s also important to recognize the limitations of what we can learn from the world around us. We live in a fallen world that bears the scars of sin and death. The world is often harsh and cruel, where the strong dominate the weak and where self-preservation and self-advancement are the status quo. As Tennyson wrote, “Nature red in tooth and claw.” 
Throughout history, people have often sought to enslave and subjugate others based on a belief in inherent differences in their natures. Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that some people were by nature slaves: “From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.”  By the end of the Age of Exploration, many Europeans viewed African peoples as “natural slaves” destined to servitude. Even professing Christians defended slavery and later racial segregation, based on these beliefs about the supposed natural inferiority of certain people.
As we can see, we must be careful about attempts to interpret the natural world apart from Scripture. Our ability to understand and apply what the natural world teaches us is limited, even where it displays the glory of God and his creation. Not only is the world fallen, but so are we. Our bodies, our minds, our ability to reason all are affected by sin. As Paul writes in Romans 1:18–25, all humanity sees the evidence of God in the things that are made and the call to worship him, and yet all reject him and worship creation instead. Our foolish hearts are darkened. And we would have remained in our darkness, if not for his merciful intervention in our lives.
Thankfully, he has not left us in our sin and darkness. He has redeemed us by the blood of his Son and opened our eyes and hearts through the work of his Spirit. He has also given us his word in the Scriptures so we can understand who he is, who we are, how we are saved, and how we are to worship him and serve one another. All of our observations from the natural world have to be read through the lens of Scripture.
Because we are all descended from Adam, we have all inherited Adam’s fallen, sinful human nature. When Jesus was born, he took on our human nature in his incarnation. Jesus has both a human nature and a divine nature. As the confessions and catechisms teach, he had to be both God and man to be our Mediator and Savior. 
That’s why we must acknowledge that all people have the same human nature. All humanity is united in Adam, and all believers (male and female) are united in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22). There is great danger in believing that some people are naturally inferior to others. From generations of slavery in the United States to the Holocaust, we can see the devastating results of treating other humans as fundamentally unequal.
In the same way, there are serious consequences of asserting that men and women have different natures. If men and women don’t have the same human nature, then did Christ die as a human or as a male? If he died only as a male, then how are women saved?  As Gregory of Nazianzus summarized, what is not assumed by Christ in his incarnation (in this discussion, a female nature) can’t be redeemed by his life, death, and resurrection. 
Scripture makes a distinction between God and man, between divine and human nature. It distinguishes between sinful human nature (according to the flesh) and redeemed human nature (according to the Spirit). But it does not divide human nature into a master nature and a slave nature or a male nature and a female nature.
The world around us may show us that we are different, but Scripture teaches us who and what we are: men and women made in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We are the body of Christ, called to pursue Christian virtues: the fruit of the Spirit and the armor of God. We must serve God and one another—not as the world would have us do, but out of brotherly love:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3–4)
We, women and men, are more alike than we are different. While we celebrate the beauty of those differences, we should remember what unites us.
Part of this article was originally published on the Modern Reformation website on June 8, 2020, and may be found at https://modernreformation.org/resource-library/web-exclusive-articles/the-mod-more-alike-than-different/.
Rachel Green Miller is the author of Beyond Authority and Submission (P&R, 2019). She is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a popular blogger at https://rachelgreenmiller.com/.
2. Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2019), 37.
3. See Glenn Stanton, “Is There a Universal Male and Female Nature?,” https://www.focusonthefamily.com/manhood/is-there-a-universal-male-and-female-nature/; Steven Wedgeworth, “Man and Woman: A Biblical Systematic Anthropology,” https://calvinistinternational.com/2020/05/17/man-and-woman-biblical-systematic-anthropology/; and Alastair Roberts, “Male and Female,” https://alastairadversaria.com/2005/11/27/male-and-female/.
4. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H” (1850).
5. Aristotle, Politics I.5, 1254a21–22, trans. Benjamin Jowett, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.1.one.html.
6. See the Westminster Larger Catechism, questions 37-42, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 8.
7. This question is brought up forcibly by Rosemary Radford Reuther’s now-famous question, “Can a male savior save women?” in her To Change the World: Christology and Cultural Criticism (New York: Cross-road, 1981), ch. 4.
8. Gregory of Nazianzus, Letters, “To Cledonius the Priest against Apollinaris,” https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3103a.html.