Gender Study Follow Up

On Wednesday, October 27th, CCO had the third of our BASICS Series. The topic was Gender. After the first two sessions established the theological and philosophical foundation for the series, it was time to address specific issues from a Biblical Worldview.

We began BASICS when some new members had questions revealing a lack of understanding of fundamental Bible truths. As the culture went increasingly secular, many had no church or religious background. They wonder what they ought to believe about the things the world is talking about.

Our initial remarks made clear as we address gender, we are not engaging in a political debate. Our goal is to come at the subject from a Biblical Worldview perspective. Our central focus and authority are God’s Word.

It is challenging to handle a topic like this due to how the broader culture frames the issue. So we begin this article here.

In our attempt to give a Biblical perspective on Gender, we must differentiate the LGBTQ+ movement with its radical political and cultural agenda from co-opting the discussion. We instead want to see what the Bible says about Gender generally, then what The Gospel speaks to those who struggle with personal issues. We want to differentiate between the aggressive LBGTQ+ Movement and those who identify with it and those individuals who struggle with personal issues of gender and identity.

It seems in seeking to do that last part carefully, some who heard the study assumed we were seeking to accommodate those advocating for the acceptance of transsexuality in the church. They misunderstood our emphasis on first seeing people come to saving faith in Jesus, then being ushered into a life of progressive sanctification as compromising the Bible’s call to “repent and believe.” We want to clear that up.

The following aims to make clear a Biblical Worldview position on Gender. It is meant to be a widely accessible treatment rather than a theologically exhaustive tome.

Identity as Human Males & Females

Genesis 1:27 • So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Nothing else in all creation, spiritual and material, is declared to be in God’s image. To be human means to be unique by virtue of bearing His image. So, under its origin, identity isn’t self-invented; it’s assigned. God defines what it means to be human. That is not something we can alter or edit. And being human means being male or female. Gender is attached to the unalterable nature of what it means to be human. Just as our identity as humans is fixed, so is our gender. This runs counter to the current fashion of “gender fluidity” that divorces gender from biology.

It isn’t within the scope of our purpose here to dive into human nature and what it means to bear God’s image. What is, is to note how that image is revealed IN the genders of male and female. It makes sense, then, that gender would be a particular target of the adversary. His earliest assault on humanity involved a distortion of our understanding of God. A Biblical perspective on what God intends a man to be and a woman to be would bring a better grasp on Who God is since it yields a clearer picture of God’s image in human beings. The devil doesn’t want us to know what God is really like because God is so gloriously attractive; it would draw us to Him. So it has ever been the devil’s plan to distort our understanding of God. If he can twist gender into something other than what God intends, he’s advanced his goal.

This is why the Law of Moses forbade the blurring of gender distinctives.

Deuteronomy 22:5 • “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.

The principle behind that is repeated in the New Testament when in 1 Corinthians 11:4-16, the Apostle Paul gives instructions on head coverings. Using a custom specific to the culture of First Century Corinth, Paul makes clear that men and women ought to use culturally relevant idioms denoting their gender. In other words, followers of Jesus ought not to adopt fashions that would confuse an observer on what gender they were. Men ought to dress and behave in a manner consistent with being a male while women do likewise as females. That Paul uses the culturally-relevant custom of head coverings as a manifestation of gender-differentiation means being sensitive to how a given time and place identifies men and women. The more important principle is not to confuse genders. Men are to dress and act like men, women as women.

Caution !

Something needs to be added at this point. While all cultures and times have customs for differentiating men and women, we must acknowledge that some customs are unbiblical extremes. A little over a half-century ago in the United States, the manly-man was identified as a rough and tumble cowboy. He could start a fire with two sticks, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and whose diet was beans, bacon, and a pot of coffee from a blue porcelain-clad steel coffeepot. All eaten while squatting in front of his campfire, his horse standing loyally by. When he spoke, he said, “Howdy, pardner. Can I rustle you up some grub?”

The ladylike-woman had long hair, wore flamboyant hats and frilly dresses, and carried a parasol, which she could spin smartly. She spent her time cooking, making quilts, and talking about her children.

As exaggerated as those images are, they’re not far off the mark for how the culture of the time regarded what it meant to be a “real” man or woman. But those images didn’t mean the man who worked in an office in a city was less manly. Or that a woman who ran a business on Main Street was any less feminine. It only meant those who chose those stations took a route to who they were as men and women differently from the cultural archetype.

We mustn’t make mere cultural expressions of masculinity and femininity equivalent to Biblical norms for what God means by male and female. Again, the principle is to dress and behave so that observers aren’t left to wonder what gender someone is.

The Gospel Priority

With that as our base, let’s move to the power of The Gospel to save and how we honor that truth in a culture that has grown increasingly hostile toward Faith in God.

Because we hear so much from radical proponents of the LGBTQ+ Movement in their push to have their agenda normalized and approved, it’s easy to slip into an “Us versus Them” posture. Jesus’ interaction with tax-collectors and sinners cautions us against that. Jesus didn’t eat with ALL publicans, only those who would meet with Him. He didn’t invite Himself to every sinner’s house in Jericho, just Zacchaeus’. Jesus didn’t see groups. He saw individuals. In meeting them, He risked the judgment and wrath of self-appointed protectors of holiness, the Pharisees, who called Him “the friend of sinners.” [1] They called Him that because that’s what He seemed to be. Eating with someone was, for that culture, a sign of fellowship. When the Pharisees snarked about Jesus’ undignified behavior, His reply was, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31–32) He wasn’t saying the Pharisees were genuinely righteous. They weren’t. But they regarded themselves so while the sinners with whom Jesus met were attracted to Him precisely because they knew they needed mercy. In Him, they found truth wrapped in grace that promised a change they longed for.
The dilemma confronting the Evangelical Church today is how to oppose the destructive measures advocated by the LGBTQ+ Movement seeking to normalize life-destroying perversion while at the same time holding forth The Gospel in a winsome way to those struggling with their gender identity. How do we oppose public policies that institutionalize sin while at the same time not losing our voice in calling people into God’s love?

The solution is to acknowledge not everyone struggling with gender identity is an enemy. Whatever their current condition, God loves them and wants them to be saved. Frankly, their identifying as “trans” is just one of a whole inventory of sins God wants to deliver them from. It’s likely not even the worst. As significant as gender confusion seems, pride is a far more egregious error.

Acts 2 sets the pattern for the Bible's call that sinners repent and believe to be saved. What Peter called the crowd to repent of wasn’t sins in general. He called them to repent of what he had just charged them guilty of > Rejecting their Messiah. Salvation follows on turning from (repenting) unbelief to faith in Jesus. That first repentance then issues us into a life of ongoing and progressive repentance from thoughts, affections, and actions that fail to align with God.

In sharing The Gospel with sinners of all stripes, we need to clarify that what they are being saved from is sin and that walking with God means forsaking all that which dishonors Him. If someone balks at that, they aren’t in the right place to put genuine faith in Christ. The point here is this – Let’s not make a special case for the transgender we wouldn’t make for the flannel-shirted lumberjack who likes porn. Both need to understand giving themselves to Jesus means giving Him the right to call the shots on where they go on the internet and what gender they identify as.
   [1] Luke 7:34, cf Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:15-17