Biblical Identity Meets Gender

Josh

Klein

Josh Klein

|

November 12, 2021

Everyone wants to be special, set apart and significant.  One of the ways this manifests itself in our culture is through the concept of gender identity.  This is a real issue that many people struggle with in our society and should be taken seriously. However, it has also become a social trend. For instance, a recent research study found that nearly 40% of Generation Z identify as members of the LGBT+ community, which is about four times the norm:

The pollster who worked on the new study, George Barna, attributes the unusually high number he found to social and news media coverage that makes it “safe and cool” for young Americans to identify as LGBTQ… “It’s a subset of a larger issue, that this is a generation where three out of four are searching for meaning.  This is a group that doesn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Barna says. “Therefore, the LGBTQ identity gives them comfort.”[1]

The amount of social media posts by parents’ virtue signaling their own “transgender children” has skyrocketed as well. A cursory glance through TikTok will prove as much. People do not post these videos in hopes of staying anonymous. They wish to go viral and earn accolades for their perceived wokeness. This video is not about the young boy, it is about the mother’s desire to use him to gain attention and fame for how cool and woke she is. Of note: she lets the boy determine his gender but not his age.

The question of gender identity is serious, real, and must be confronted by the church on a cultural level.  But we struggle to do so. One of the reasons the church struggles to address this issue is because we struggle to look at the root cause behind many societal issues.  The clamoring for unmitigated empathy and compassion for those struggling with these issues has made talking about the subject anathema for those that do not agree (see: Of Truth and Empathy). No one wants to be shouted down or called a bigot because of their beliefs, especially Christians. But if the statistics are any indication, refusing to talk about this subject for fear of offending people will not impart truth and hope to the next generation.

God created male and female with specific functions and roles, this has been the Christian view of gender since the beginning.  There is a scientific element as well, also from God.  Girls have two X chromosomes and boys have XY chromosomes.  There are also obvious physical features.  Beyond the obvious difference in genitals, boys and girls have differences in hips, muscle mass, and breasts.

All of this was accepted as fact up until the last decade. Many in our culture now claim there is a difference between biologically “assigned” sex at birth and the concept of gender.  In fact, there are now multiple types of genders not reliant on any sort of physiological trait.  You can be nonbinary, gender-fluid, bigender, and the list goes on.[2]

What then, is the biblical truth concerning gender identity and how do we extend truth-based-compassion to a community struggling deeply with this issue?

We could go over the book of nature and clearly delineate the lines of gender and sex scientifically, many others have,[3] but I want to focus on the special revelation of God’s word for a moment.

Genesis 1:27-28 says that “God created them in HIS image, male and female he created them” and told them to be fruitful and multiply.

Before sin entered the world, we find that the original design for creation was male and female.  And yet, there are people that will say “Well… did God really say there were only two genders?”

There is a TikTok where the assertion is made that there is ambiguity with the Hebrew word “and” in the creation account.  The Human Rights Campaign echoes this theological sentiment.[4]  The argument goes that God created on a “spectrum” because he did not detail all the nuances of his creation (day and night but nothing about dusk and dawn for instance) and thus, gender can be understood as a spectrum from the days of creation much like the day is its own spectrum of light and darkness.  In my opinion this is eisegesis (reading into the text).  There is no nuance in how God created man and woman, the purpose for which he created them, and the roles he gave them.  The Hebrew word “and” leaves no ambiguity, in fact, there is no word for “and” in Hebrew at all, it is a prefix (the Vav) attached to another Hebrew word that means exactly what we think it would mean.  Male and female.  There is no implication of nuance. Even with understanding that God left out dusk and dawn we find that the nuance is not real.  Night and day are separate entities and dusk and dawn are part of night and day.  The analogy would be much better regarding differing personalities (ie. More effeminate men or more masculine women) within a gender binary than to say this leaves room for genderfluidity.[5]

Jesus affirms this binary in Mark 10:6 when he reestablishes the marital covenant between a man and woman.

But what makes a man and a woman?  Could a man be trapped in a woman’s body?

For this we consider Romans 1:24-27.

One of the consequences of the fall was a fallen sexual ethos (See: Confronting Homosexuality).  If a man feels that he is a woman and is considered such but is still attracted to biological women this is a great example of the consequences in this passage.  Likewise, if a man feels that he is a woman, and is then attracted to men, this also is a violation of the original sexual ethos of creation.  Finally, if a man violates the role that he is born with genetically by seeking to become the opposite gender (or any other myriad of genders), he violates the very nature of his creation. In other words, he has exchanged the truth of God for a lie and has embraced unnatural relations instead of that which is natural (by natural we mean within the realm of the pre-fall created framework).  This is a product of rebellion.

I want to be clear that I do understand that there are people that struggle with gender dysphoria, and I want to take these struggles very seriously.

These struggles are real, painful, and not arbitrary in any sense. What then, do we do about it? We must meet people with compassion, but we must ground this in the truth established in the pages of scripture as we address the culture.

What makes a man and what makes a woman?  Scripturally speaking it is in the way we reproduce and our relationship to our offspring.  A man has XY chromosomes, has a penis, and woman has two X chromosomes and has a vagina. Both are necessary for procreation and God calls them male and female. There is not another delineation between the sexes. It really is as simple and true as this.  A woman cannot be a man and a man cannot be a woman just because they want to behave like one another, dress like one another, and be interested in supposed opposite gendered things.

Isaiah 45:9 and Romans 9:20 speak to the audacity of the creature to rebel against its created role. Psalm 139:13-14 speaks to the care with which human beings are created in utero. This does not mean there are not diseases or mental issues because of the fall, there are, but our genitals are not the problem, our minds are (Romans 12:1-2).

God created genetics and the genetics do not lie. Chromosomes do not lie. Recognizing this does not make one transphobic.  I am not irrationally afraid of transgender people, but I am rationally and spiritually opposed to the idea that a man can become a woman and vice versa. Both scripturally and scientifically.

But what about intersex?

There are many that will bring up this genetic condition to manipulate compassion and empathy through false correlation. They may not even know this is what they are doing, but it is. Introducing extreme exceptions to prove a broad generalization is a bad argument and the argument here is even worse as intersex people are not experiencing near the same mental issues that a transgendered person does.  I personally, refuse to even have the conversation in the same dialogue.  Intersex is not the same as gender-dysphoria.  They are separate conditions.

“Intersexuality is a biological phenomenon where an individual may have genital ambiguity or genetic variance. In human biology, however, anomalies do not nullify categories nor abolish boundaries.  Sense of self, at best, describes how we feel, not who we are.”

– Christopher Yuan [6] 

Most intersex people end up operating as a specific gender their entire lives.  And in many cases, it is readily apparent which gender they are, but ambiguity is part of the condition and is treatable in a variety of ways.[7]

Gender is not a social construct, it is a biblical one, and a natural one. It is inextricably linked to sex. However, many things we consider “gendered” simply are not.  Like the color pink or cars or the ballet or athletics. Many people struggle for meaning in this realm, they absolutely do, and we must respond with love and grace but that response cannot be based on a lie.

Especially since about 42% of transgender individuals will attempt suicide, and the rate remains the same regardless of whether the person has transitioned.[8]

The cultural lie that self-actualization is the only way to freedom in this arena has caused many to sustain irreversible damage[9] at too early an age.  We must enter the conversation in a way that loves people but does not do so by sacrificing what is true and right.

Christopher Yuan puts it this way, “Just as giving in to temptation is sin, giving in to fallen self-perception of gender is sinful. The fight is not.”[10]

As George Barna astutely points out, people are looking for fulfillment.  They want to feel accepted, loved, and normal, but also special. We have turned sexuality and gender identity into a savior. And statistics show that it is a horrible savior indeed!

In the end our identity is not about gender, sexual orientation, or anything other than either darkness or light. (Eph. 5:8)

True compassion is to point people to Jesus Christ and the truth for which He stands.  We cannot compromise the truth and believe that those we are speaking to will find hope. If we do so, they will only find despair. C.S. Lewis once said, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”[11]

After all, it is the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Kindness unlinked with truth will not lead to repentance but to enablement and ultimately despair.

So what should we do?

Here are some thoughts:

  1. In our public discourse we must not give an inch on the truth. We must unapologetically stand firm on the truth of scripture and the sexual ethos therein.
  2. In not giving an inch we must not be hostile. Jesus did not forsake the truth when he was moved by compassion, but he also extended a hand to those that did not yet embrace the truth.
  3. We must enter every conversation with grace and love people within their identity issues and offer hope in Christ before we attempt to address the issue personally.  If we force people to change before coming to the throne of grace, they will never make the journey. How could they?
  4. Embrace being a social outcast for the glory of God but do not seek it for applause of the church. I know exactly what I could say if I wanted worldly plaudits, and it is tempting (on either side), we all want to be liked.  Seek God’s glory and not our own.
  5. Remember that rejection of the truth is a rejection of Christ and not merely a rejection of you. Strive to mourn for the rejecting of Christ more than you mourn for the rejecting of yourself.

Finally, let us remember to pray for those that consider us their enemy, for they are loved by God as well and he desires them to be saved also (1 Tim. 2:3-4). In the end, salvation is more important than a culture war.

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/nearly-40-percent-us-gen-zs-30-percent-christians-identify-lgbtq-poll-shows-1641085

[2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/types-of-gender-identity#types-of-gender-identity

[3] https://www.heritage.org/gender/commentary/transgender-ideology-riddled-contradictions-here-are-the-big-ones

[4] https://www.hrc.org/resources/what-does-the-bible-say-about-transgender-people

[5] https://www.amazon.com/Embodied-Transgender-Identities-Church-Bible/dp/0830781226/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

[6] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/gender-identity-and-sexual-orientation/

[7] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001669.htm

[8] https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/4/e20174218

[9] https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/irreversible-damage-abigail-shrier/1133754701

[10] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/gender-identity-and-sexual-orientation/

[11] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/5054-if-you-look-for-truth-you-may-find-comfort-in

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About the Author

Josh

Klein

Josh Klein

Josh Klein is a Pastor from Omaha, Nebraska with over a decade of ministry experience. He graduated with an MDiv from Sioux Falls Seminary and spends his spare time reading and engaging with current and past theological and cultural issues. He has been married for 12 years to Sharalee Klein and they have three young children.

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