Tolerance is a belief in nothing. When we preach tolerance without declaring truth, we have set ourselves up to never set a boundary. We also will give an account for not being true to our calling.
-Patrick Schatzline, “The Problem of Being Relevant”
Truth is always relevant, whether it’s popular or reviled. So as stewards of truth, Christians stay relevant when we express God’s heart and mind on whatever topics the world is discussing. We’re mandated to do so, but also mandated to be, as Paul said:
“…gentle to all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves if, God peradventure will give them repentance according to the acknowledging of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:24-25)
“Apt to teach” means we’re both able and ready to address controversial topics from a Biblical world-view. When we avoid hot-topics just because they’re hot, we’re guilty of irrelevance. When we address them without grace, we’re guilty of being Pharisees. But if we address them timidly, watering down Biblical truths for fear of “losing people”, then we’re guilty of being faithless. Avoidance, self-righteousness, or faithlessness – none of them are acceptable.
There must be a Curtain Number 4, a more redemptive choice. To that end, let’s look today at another reason a clear stand from today’s church is called for regarding the transgender controversy: the Value of Gender Binaries.
Separate but Very Equal
The concept of only two sexes – each unique, invaluable, unchangeable – is now viewed with contempt as a throwback to gender binaries. The term, though technically neutral, is often used to imply an ignorant, oppressive way of looking at the sexes, limiting them to only two categories, and enforcing stereotypes about each.
Indeed, the actions of many trans people is to encourage contempt for those of us still believing in a simple male/female binary. Enlightened people, they say, have moved beyond this either/or approach by recognizing there are many genders, all of them changeable, so the idea of blue for boys and pink for girls is a dinosaur we should retire.
This poses a challenge to Christians, since the Bible takes an unapologetically binary approach (search in vain for verses claiming there are more than two sexes) leaving us faced with two questions:
- Was God unaware there were more than two sexes when He inspired the Bible’s authors, leaving us to discover this important fact later in human history?
- Even if there are only two sexes, does it really matter, or is this a secondary issue we can “agree to disagree on” without consequence?
Did God Get It RIght?
The question may sound sarcastic, but it’s not. Proponents of multiple gender-identifications, much like proponents of a pro-gay approach to the Bible, insist that the authors of the Old and New Testaments didn’t know what we know today about genes, psychology, sociology, or sexuality. Therefore they wrote from a limited viewpoint, prohibiting things God’s really OK with, unaware of new truths we’ve recently stumbled onto.
Accordingly, since Paul had limited understanding of homosexuality, he condemned it only because he didn’t know as much about it as we now do. Likewise, if only he, Moses, and other Bible writers had our modern understanding of gender identity, they’d have approved of defining your own sex regardless of your genitals, changing from one to the other, or adopting a variety of gender identities at your discretion.
All of which could make sense if you viewed the Bible as a collection of writings from ancient men with ancient understanding. (Although I’d still argue that Paul’s understanding of human sexuality, as both a learned Roman and a well-schooled Hebrew, was probably up to date, since Greek and Roman concepts of sexual orientation at that time weren’t all that different from our own.)
But if God inspired the authors of scripture as Paul declared He did (II Timothy 3:16) then it becomes impossible to believe that humanity’s all-knowing Creator didn’t fully understand these important details about His own creation.
So if He fully understood them, then what He led Biblical authors to write about them was, in fact, both informed and relevant to this day.
Which leads to the second question: Is the concept of gender binaries a primary Biblical issue worth taking an unmovable stand on?
Doctrinally, it seems primary to me, first because the male/female distinctive is so clearly defined in the Creation account (Genesis 1:27) and the union of the two sexes is also described as the answer to humanity’s primary need for partnering. (Genesis 2:18) The gender binary, a limitation to two categories and a recognition of the uniqueness of each, is necessary for the kind of partnering God created and commended.
Secondly, the male female union is used throughout scripture to symbolize God’s union with His people (Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 3:14, Jeremiah 31:31-33, Ephesians 5:25-27) The “God as Husband; Israel as Wife” or “Christ as Husband; Church as Wife” concepts in both testaments are binary concepts, leaving no room for added options.
So if the image of God is represented in the union of two specific, clearly defined categories – male and female – and if the only partnership commended throughout scripture is likewise binary – one man; one woman – and if the sex we’re born with is a divine assignment (see, for example, Jeremiah 1:5; Psalms 139:13–16) then gender binaries aren’t secondary, adjustable window dressing to the human experience. They’re foundational to it, accounting for its ability to replicate and to maintain familial and social stability.
For these reasons, among believers this should be a no-brainer. We worship the One who made humanity male or female. Thereby, tampering with His ordination by adding new categories, or by trying to alter the sex He assigned us, are both serious violations of created intent. I see no other way a serious Bible believing Christian can view this.
Reasoning with the World
But to the culture, what the Bible says is of less importance, so speaking to the world requires reasons beyond chapter and verse.
Fair enough. We can have a discussion with the world about this because it can be argued, apart from Biblical quotes, that gender binaries enhance stability, while gender variations decrease it.
The distinctions between men and women are intact cross culturally, as Dr. Anne Moore and David Jessel pointed out in their book Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women:
“Yet the truth is that virtually every professional scientist and researcher into the subject has concluded that the brains of men and women are different. There has seldom been a greater divide between what intelligent, enlightened opinion presumes – that men and women have the same brain – and what science knows – that they do not.”
Sexual differences should not, though, be confused with sexual stereotypes. Not every man is meant to be John Wayne, nor every woman June Cleaver, and nothing in scripture or common sense tells us otherwise. King David himself, who was nothing if not a man’s man, was also a gifted poet and musician who contributed some of the most exquisitely sensitive material in the Bible.
Strong women and sensitive men retain their sex without conforming to a cliché, so gender binaries don’t enslave us to a certain personality type. Rather, they reinforce the established fact that we are one of two – male or female – and attempts to add multiple categories are invitations to societal chaos.
That’s not a futuristic scenario, by the way. Facebook now offers a choice of 56 gender categories to choose from, including “Agender/Neutrois” (no gender at all), “Androgyne/Androgynous” (both genders combined, making them a third gender), “Bigender” (switches between male and female at different times), and “Two-spirit” (a Native American concept of male and female spirits dwelling in the same body).
New York City residents can likewise choose from 31 different gender identities. Refusal of businesses to properly accommodate the chosen identity can incur six-figure fines under rules implemented by the city’s Commission on Human Rights.
If that sounds like madness, consider a the recent “EcoSexual Sextravaganza” led by a professor at Santa Monica College who took students on a field trip to marry the ocean, after which they were encouraged to “consummate” the marriage and “make love” to the water.
Other multi-gender trends include identifying as an animal rather than a human, thus becoming not transgender, but transpecies ; transitioning from a female into a dragon ; or rejecting traditional maleness in favor of becoming a puppy.
Weird Isn’t Funny
The temptation to laugh at this insanity (when weeping is really called for) can distract us from its ramifications. When extremes are displayed (and admittedly, most transgender people seem to have no interest in the craziness cited above) they numb us to less bizarre but equally serious behaviors.
For instance, have you noticed that same-sex marriage, the former hot topic, now seems awfully tame compared to girls being coerced into showering with guys, multiple gender categories, or college professors orchestrating sexual trysts between students and the ocean?
Yet the trend to subjectively redefine what you are in lieu of what you feel is the real culprit here, not the crazy directions it can go. Because each time someone says, “I’m now something else”, all the people connected to him/her have to adjust their expectations and, in fact, the very way they relateto that person. Businesses can be sued if they don’t, and families can expect to be torn apart if they don’t comply with a loved one’s new chosen identity.
Mind you, the choice of changing gender identity has no numerical limit, so one can, per current trends, change any number of times, coercing others to change along with him, raising a practical concern: stability.
Any system depends on its parts remaining intact and functional, being what they’re meant to be, harmonious with the parts attached to them. The entire system has to readjust when a part changes its shape and, depending on the severity of the change, the system may shut down entirely.
So do any of us really expect family units – our most important systems that are endangered species already – to thrive when at whim Dad can become Mom and Jane can become Jake? And if gender, marriage, and parenting roles are randomly morphed when one party chooses a new way to self-identify, what are the survival chances of social stability? As Madame DeFarge famously quipped in Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities: “Can such things last? Bah! I mock you.”
Calling Big Brother
Confusion breeds dependency; dependency invites government to take over where family roles have faltered. Some shudder at that, while others hope for it, seeing the traditional family as a restrictive hindrance to social progress.
Martha Fineman, a gender legal theorist, admits this in her 2004 book The Autonomy Myth when she argues for the abolition of state-recognized marriage because it allows for family privacy, which is something she deems a problem.
“Once the institutional protection (the family) is removed, behavior would be judged by standards established to regulate interactions among all members of society.”
Which led conservative activist Peter Spriggs to note:
“The long-term goals of many LGBT activists are actually not just access to the restrooms of their preferred gender identity, but actually destroying the concept of gender or the separation of the genders altogether.”
The sex we were born with is the sex a loving Creator assigned us, an immutable gift crippled but essentially unchanged even when subjected to surgeries and drugs. It is one of two gifts, male or female, not one of many, and it represents half of the human poetry God set in motion when He authored the human drama.
Gender binaries, then represent not a problem to be solved, but a state to be explored, enhanced, and celebrated. As CS Lewis noted:
“The place for which He designs human beings in His scheme of things is the place they are made for. When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy.”
Please Note: We Need to Talk About This!
This Saturday, November 18, at 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time my friend Linda Seiler and I will be co-hosting
a live teaching webinar titled Gender Identity and the Church.
Join us to become better equipped to understand and discuss the transgender topic with believes and non-believers alike.
RESERVE YOUR SPOT.