Last night we concluded our look at ideas about orientation and human make-up in scripture by reexamining gender, this time from a basic level, to find the Bible’s answer to the question: Why do we even have Gender? Here are the notes:
A Beginning Discussion on Gender: Mulling Over Truths that Should Guide our Thinking
Intro: Getting into the crucial questions.
The Culture says: How I feel inside determines who I am. Not my body.
The Christian says: No, our bodies tell us what we are. We’re men if we have men’s bodies.
And some in the church may say: Maybe we were wrong. Maybe it’s not our bodies, but our feelings that tell us if we are a man or a woman.
When you think about these things, you realize that we can’t determine what our bodies tell us about ourselves until we think through why we even have bodies at all. Why are we part of the material universe, and not bodiless like angels? And then you realize that we can’t understand why we’re part of the material universe until you think through why there’s a material universe at all. Why did God even create this stuff we call “matter”? Then we can have a shot at thinking about what our bodies are for, and then we can begin to think about why our bodies are gendered bodies, that is, why there are two different kinds of humans, and not just one.
Why Did God Create Matter?
To create a home and a theater for us. (Genesis 2:8-9a)
To communicate to us certain Invisible truths. (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1)
To provide a way to bring into visible and material expression spiritual truths. (James 2:14-24)
Conclusion: The material creation is God’s design, and He created it for His purposes, on our behalf. Matter is a reality God made for us to both yield to and learn from, as well as to live in and to interact with.
Why Did God Give Us Bodies?
To be the connecting point between God and His material creation. We are both physical and spiritual. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Phil 1:20)
To visibly express God’s attributes (Genesis 1:26-27)
Part of our being in the image of God is our body…so, like all material creation, our bodies are God’s way of giving us both a home and theater for our spiritual existence, and a way for us to visibly, materially reflect God’s invisible attributes. This is especially true of us, as being made expressly in the image of God.
Conclusion: Bodies are given by God to be used as visible expressions of his Glory. How they are made expresses His glory, and the way we use them is to “cultivate” them by His direction to complete His image and fulfill our highest end.
Why Gender? Why distinction in human bodies? Why not just human? Why male and female?
Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7-8,18 – To enable them to fulfill their purpose of exercising dominion.
How will they fill and cultivate the earth? By a union of two that differ. God wanted us to need each other in order to fulfill his larger purpose. This is true in many areas, and is highlighted here in the aspect of “multiplying.” Man and woman need each other in order to cultivate the earth. Distinction thus produces a glue that holds us together and causes humility, as we acknowledge that, unlike God, we cannot do things alone.
So here, distinction in our bodies produces a situation where we glorify God by recognizing and submitting to our dependence on each other.
Beyond the physical, we see that distinction creates the need for relationships. We are at our core relational beings, and God designed gender distinction to create the context and the need for relationship. Here we may see glimpses of the fact that God is relational Himself, in the Trinity. We reflect God’s glory to the fullest when we exist in relation to each other. It is God-like to be in relationship.
Thinking about some common objections to this way of seeing things:
- Those who can’t fulfill all these things? This doesn’t mean that if you do not get married (for any reason), or you are not able to reproduce, you are not fulfilling your purpose and are not made in the image of God. Reproducing is not the only way we “fill the earth and subdue it.” This includes many activities (including in the New Testament, preaching the gospel). It also includes many ways of being which have nothing to do with reproducing in marriage. So non-fertile or non-married people carry the image of God in themselves, and may participate in the human family’s purpose on God’s earth by heeding his commands and fulfilling their individual calling according to the ability and gifting he grants them.
- Intersexuality? (including individuals commonly called hermaphrodites) The fact that some people come into the world with genetically or anatomically ambiguous sex characteristics does not negate the larger revelation of scripture, especially as it agrees with the vast majority of human experience. Intersex individuals may need to seek God and rely on him in special ways to help them through a confusing situation. This is a result of living in a fallen world where all kinds of brokenness comes out in our bodies. But God knows who they are and will help them live in ways that fulfill his purpose in their unique situation. (This leads to another question: Is Gender physical or mental/emotional? Inner or outer? I think…It is both. We are both. We are enfleshed spirits, and you don’t have full humanity without both. So we can’t ignore either one and get a full answer to the question. In our day we’re being asked to ignore the body and follow the inner feelings. But we know from scripture inner feelings are not a reliable guide apart from God. So we must include the body in any consideration of these things. His word indicates, even assumes, that we’ll use our body as the primary guide to gender identification.) The question is, does intersexuality mean that there is no such thing as male and female? No more than Siamese twins mean that there’s no such thing as individuals defined by a single body, or that people who are born unable to work means that we can’t know that humans are supposed to be active, or that someone who never knew who their family was means we must redefine our concept of family. We don’t read God’s purpose for us from physical or mental manifestations of brokenness, but from Scripture, which is our sure guide to interpreting the reality we see around us.
- Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s point here is that everyone can have equal access to God and righteousness in Christ—not that once we come to Christ we cease to be what we were and there are no more distinctions in church life or daily life. His other writings explain how each individual may live in co-equal unity that includes differing relationships within the various spheres of life.
Ephesians 5:22-32 God wants the physical union to take place in a context of covenant. Paul’s quotation of Genesis 2:24 in 5:31 shows us that He sees the original story as referring to marriage, and through marriage, to Christ and the church. (as did Jesus, see Mark 10:2-9)
Which means that the original creation of two distinct sexes (genders) was meant by God to create the reality of covenant marriage so that in creation we’d have a picture of Christ and the church.
In other words, the point of Gender distinction is ultimately to show the distinction between Christ and the church, and between God and man. And it is to show not just distinction, but the way Christ loves the church. It is to preach the gospel.
Since we can’t blur the line between Christ and the church without losing the gospel story, we see that the gender distinctions are part of a larger matrix of distinctions in God’s world.
We must see how radically different the current worldview is, when the Bible upholds distinctions of all kinds as “very good” and leading to our blessing, and our whole culture is embarking on a project to tear down all distinctions in every facet of life.
God created distinction so that there would be unity that consisted in harmony and not monotony, and in diversity, and not uniformity.