The first in a series of short essays for a course on Ethics.
Explain and demonstrate from Scripture a Christian understanding of gender (sex – male/female) and discuss the implications of this on our culture’s current “gender debate”.
Gender is established in God’s sovereign act of creating man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 21-23). In this a male/female distinction is established. Genesis 1:27 is a fundamental text because of the closeness of association between God creating man in his own image, and His creating them male and female. The creating of man at the start of the verse need not be understood as being synonymous with male (i.e. it would not be right to translate it as “God created males in his own image”). Rather, it is the collective humanity that God creates in His own image. This collective humanity is created male and female. The use of the word translated “them” means that man is neither androgynous nor hermaphrodite. Rather, it is right to think that God creates human beings and that whether male or female, they bear His image. There is no scope within the creation account to suggest non-binary gender distinctions. As Kevin de Young has written “The Bible knows no other gender categories besides male and female. While men and women in Scripture may express their masculinity and femininity in a wonderful diversity of ways, Scripture still operates with the binary categories of men and women. You are one or the other.” Jesus Himself affirms the origin of maleness and femaleness in God’s creative design (Matthew 19:4).
The fall of man into sin has obviously had a significant impact on creation in that through it, it is subject to futility (Romans 8:20). Again, Kevin de Young asserts “The anomaly of intersex individuals does not undermine the creational design, but rather gives another example of creational “groaning” and the “not the way they are supposed to be” realities of a fallen world.” Though this is the case, and it must be taken into account, there is nothing in the biblical record that supports gender fluidity or non-binary gender distinctions. Granted, although Paul distinguishes a naturalness from an unnaturalness when it comes to the use of one’s body and human sexuality, there is nothing to suggest that naturalness/unnaturalness gives rise to a substantial change in the biological realities of binary gender.
de Young is not so naïve as to suggest that there are not individuals who struggle at a profound level with the issues of whether what they think and feel accords with the biological gender assigned to them at birth. Rather, he asserts “The question is whether the is of our emotional or mental state equals the ought of God’s design”. In other words, he does not allow the existential or situational perspective to confuse the normative perspective on issues of gender.
de Young concludes his article by saying “I have not begun to answer all the important questions about pastoral care, counsel, and compassion for the hurting and confused.” In this, he acknowledges that though we stand on a solid foundation of God’s truth concerning gender, we have obligation to approach the issues is raises with Christ-like compassion, especially when acknowledging the hurt and confusion from which gender confusion can arise as well as result in.