Hopefully, it has been clearly established in the reader’s mind that the so-called scientific evidence underpinning the sociological drive to embrace transgenderism is overwhelmingly lacking. The research to conclusively support both this new notion of the malleability of gender and the psychomedical approach to encourage questioning individual to ‘transition’, and its related benefits, simply does not exist.
Now, and I must again stress this emphatically, that the related diagnosis of gender dysphoria does need to legitimately recognised and needs to be treated. However, as Christians who claim Scripture as our authority and the interpretive lens in how we view the world, then understanding and caring for these individuals needs to happen in a way which is consistent with Scripture. Subsequently, this requires us to understand gender as it is fully informed and fleshed out in the Bible’s pages, so that we can get a better idea as to how we can understand and approach this issue.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first place we need to start out is at the very start of the Bible. In the creation account, In the Genesis 1:27, we read: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them: male and female he created them.” This is the first place, where we read of the normalcy of a duo of genders. Some would leave it at that, but we ought to really scrutinise the text to see what the context of this passage is.
In the Beginning…
As we are aware, Genesis 1 and 2 both provide an account on the creation of humanity. We see that God, the sovereign ruler over all creation, in his infinite wisdom, created the world – and it was ‘good’; and when man was made, in both ‘kinds’, as in ‘male’ and ‘female’, and added, creation was deemed ‘very good’.
We, therefore, see that it is not only the creation of man, but the the division of ‘mankind’ into both ‘male’ and ‘female’, which is considered as ‘very good’. This understanding that it is this complementarity of gender binary that is good, also fits in with the understanding of Genesis 2:18, wherein God states: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” ‘woman’ was created for ‘man’, as ‘man’ should not be alone. Nor is ‘woman’ created as a replacement of ‘man’, rather it is a dimorphic dynamic which through the complementarity of the two is deemed as ‘good’. This cannot be understated. In fact, the importance of this binary, and the relationship between them is clearly articulated with the mere mention of them being created as both ‘male’ and ‘female’.
As mankind is the only being described as having been created in two kinds. Fish, birds, and animals are described as being created, and it is undoubtedly implied that they are sexually dimorphic – however, it is only mankind which has this stated explicitly. Demonstrating the importance of this fact.
However, the creation account does not stop with just the creation of mankind, but rather it also describes a differentiation between the sexes. Of course, we see from Genesis 2:18 that there is an intentional difference in design – man was to tend to the work bestowed by the Lord; woman was to complement man in doing such work. However, in Genesis 2:23, we read Adam state this: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” Followed, in verse 24, by the narration that a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife becoming “one flesh”. Adam notes that Eve, whilst different, is also part of himself – and the narration continues this tangent by outlining, by implication, that they can become “one flesh”.
This bringing together of two to become one, which does have sexual connotations, can only be fulfilled by this bringing together of opposites. It is almost like a puzzle, which the pieces must match to be complete; or, to be cliched, if you’ve ever see the heart pendant necklaces, where both partners receive one part each – and it is only when both heart pendants are together that it makes the perfect shape of a heart. The grooves in the pendant are different, but they create one unified whole. This is something that many of us know is supported from a biological perspective – it just cannot be simply dismissed that the vagina and penis, whilst being so different, are perfectly designed for one another.
The creation account speaks volumes about the fact that God made humanity for unity, compatibility, and complementarity of these two similar but distinctly different beings. ‘Marriage’, in which is described in verse 24, talks about the harmonising of differences through the bringing together of man and woman to become one. So it is from the very onset, that we see a gendered framework which evidences that we are designed for gendered relationships of unity and complementarity. This is something which can only be found in the ‘binary’ of gender that God has put forth, and described as being ‘very good’.
However, it is not only here, in the very beginning, which see this framework proffered; this framework, which consists of much more than just a differentiation of anatomy, is something we see throughout the developments of scripture. Indeed, scripture actually is quite careful in making differentiations between man and woman, both in role, but also in general kind –preserving the binary that God has instigated – and attempting to demonstrate that the binary difference is not something to be bridged. Particular examples of this include Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. The former of which states: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.”
It’s appropriate to frame this verse in context, that it is not so much talking about whether women should wear pants, but rather, this regulation, along with others, was given to the Israelites as they were poised to enter the Promised Land. God was calling them to be a distinct and holy nation, and not to adopt practices of the Canaanites. One such being, which is addressed in this verse, the wearing of clothing of the opposite sex. It was a Canaanite practice for some men to dress and act as women, specifically for religious reasons. A practice that understand as Transvestitism. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 6:9, we see it said: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men.” Now, the NIV doesn’t translate this well, in my opinion, but where you read “men who have sex with men”, this is actually using two different Greek words which are distinct in meaning. It has ‘arsenokoites’ which means those who practice homosexuality; However, it also has the Greek word ‘malakoi’ which means effeminate, a soft, delicate, person. It means, in the context of this word and also this verse, a man who acts as a woman, particularly in regards to engaging in same-sex intercourse. As we can see there is a clear articulation that this binary is something to be preserved; as it is part of God’s perfect created order – it is not something to be treated haphazardly or disdain.
It is also this natural order that which is confirmed by Christ. Many have argued that Jesus never spoke against homosexuality, however in Matthew 19:4, Jesus affirms that a relationship is between a ‘male’ and ‘female’, by quoting Genesis 1, wherein he states, through a response to the Pharisees that: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” This is the legitimate form of a relationship per Christ, as this is what God has instituted. This is what God has joined together.
So too, Paul continues this framework by talking about what marriage is – by stating in 1 Corinthians 7:1-4: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Note, that Paul here isn’t saying that Man and Woman shouldn’t be married at all. Rather, he is, in the context of 1 Corinthians 7, articulating that he would rather people dedicate themselves entirely to the Kingdom, through being single, like he is. However, he recognizes that note everyone has this ability or gift of singleness. Therefore, he states that a man should have his own wife, particularly if he lacks self-control, and likewise a woman should have her own husband. This again not only limits the idea of marriage between this gendered binary, but also, by extension, defines the binary as existing, and being prevalent, in the first place.
Therefore, we can see that scripture is entirely clear then that gender binary is a God-given institution, which is a creational construct defined as ‘very good’, and it is something to be upheld by Christians, as it is affirmed by Christ and Paul. Gender and the differences between them, are not social constructions, but form part of a structure that God created, in his manifold wisdom, for humanity to prosper – through the serving, honouring and worshipping of Him. I would go further to argue that this intrinsic duality, or twoness, of gender is imperative to the understanding of the Gospel. For when we approach scripture, both old and new, it is evident that God refers to this gender distinctiveness metaphorically to describe the covenantal relationship between Himself (or Christ) as groom and the ‘other’, engaged in the covenant, as bride. (I.e. Yahweh and Israel in Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:7, and Joel 1:8 c.f. Ezekiel 16:8-14; Christ and the church in Ephesians 5:25-33, Mark 2:19-20, 2 Corinthians 11:2, and Revelation 19:7-9) Thus, we can see that gender distinctiveness is something that God uses to represent the bringing together of “opposites” – which is effectively the crux of the Christian message.
As it is through the efforts of Christ, a true human who knew no sin, on the cross, that sinful man is brought into reconciliation with God. For it is through the covenantal marriage between Christ and the church, whereby His righteousness is imputed upon its members, and that we, who believe, are reconciled to God. This utilisation of binary gender then shows that it is through the bringing together of opposites (creator-creature; Christ-sinner) that one prospers. To simply dismiss this binary distinction that is embedded throughout the pages of the Bible is to underscore that God’s creational order is no either longer relevant or necessary. Any attempt to utilise Galatians 3:28 to this effect is just a poor hermeneutic which fails to take into consideration the overarching motifs of scripture.
Yet, if gender is not fluid, despite the insistence by the advocates of this deconstruction, then how do we tackle the issue of transgenderism? How are we to walk with those who struggle with variants of gender dysphoria? This will be focus of the next, and final, part of this series.
Written for and published in Evangelical Action.