Updated: Jul 5, 2022
A Biblical Framework for Understanding Gender:
A Christian Worldview.
Recently, our Church, along with two other sister Churches in our area, put on a one-night conference to address parenting in the midst of a gender revolution. The conference (which you can watch here) was a success overall, and everyone seemed to come away with the understanding that there is still more work to be done.
To give the discussion some structure, those of us presenting decided to follow the biblical-theological framework of:
These four words, which describe the major movements of the Bible, provide a framework for Christians through which we can understand the modern gender problem.
These general categories do not provide immediate answers for every single issue and question that might arise, but they do situate us firmly within the biblical context, and give us direction. As I noted at the beginning of the night, we aren’t looking to exhaust every single issue and question as much as we are looking to lay a foundation for a biblical worldview on the subject.
Once the foundation is laid, we can move on the smaller issues of particular questions and scenarios.
So, I wanted to reproduce an overview of the categories for the blog. There’s much more to workout, but I hope this serves as an overview of the foundation for the conversation…
1 - Creation.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So begins the most glorious book ever written. The eternal, infinite, infallible Word of God.
What is Biblical Creation? To put it very simply, in a biblical worldview, we understand that God created the world and everything in it. He created the universe. The full extent of existence comes from God, and Genesis 1-2 tells us that God made His creation very good.
These opening chapters of the Bible provide a short, compact, yet powerful and theologically foundational. Creation was conceived in the mind of God and created by the power of God. The Created world is God’s world, and He made it by His will, for His pleasure.
Several things follow from this…
God owns everything. He is the maker of all things, and He upholds all things by the Word of His power.
God made everything with and for a purpose.
Of all things in the created realm, Mankind stands as the pinnacle, bearing the likeness of God, created male and female, in the image of God.
Creation, therefore, matters in the normal understanding of the human body. Creation teaches us how we are to view and use our bodies, how we experience God, and that we will be held accountable before God in our stewardship of His world, including ourselves.
In thinking about applying the doctrine of Creation to our understanding of Gender, here are some practical applications.
In Matthew 19:3-6, the Pharisees are asking Jesus about an issue of divorce. In providing His answer, Jesus references God’s creative design, before the Fall and entrance of sin, in order to establish an authoritative pattern. In other words, Jesus is saying, “the way God made it in the beginning is how it is supposed to be. Any deviation from God’s created design is sin.”
1 - God is the Sovereign King over His Creation. He made it. He owns it. He defines it.
2 - When thinking through the purpose and use of Gender, our only answer is “God’s creative design in the beginning.”
3 - The doctrine of Creation helps us to understand our responsibility in stewarding the good gift of fixed gender.
4 - This doctrine helps us to see that, in making humanity, God gave us only two genders. They are distinct, yet complementary; and they serve a distinct purpose, and each carry worth and dignity.
2 - Fall.
In Genesis 3, we learn about the entry of sin into the world, and the initial effects of sin which enter the world. The biblical story tells us that sin enters the world through the rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The effects of that rebellion are untold in the world. Pain, brokenness, suffering, lack, natural disasters, and more. The creation groans, longing to be restored. The entrance of sin broke the world.
But, we can see some specifics in the Genesis 3 account that are important for our present discussion:
We see right off the bat that man loses his sense of innocence. In chapter 2, the man and his wife are naked and unashamed. They are at perfect peace with their mind and body. I like the way Lutheran theologian, John Kleinig, states it saying, “They were quite at ease with their appearance, because they both are what they appear.” They are aware of their nakedness, but they have no reason to be ashamed. They are at peace with God, with themselves, and with each other.
But when sin enters the picture, the man and his wife become aware of their nakedness in a profoundly negative way. Their relationship with God is distorted and broken (they hide from Him); they are immediately in conflict with one another (they blame-shift); and they are in conflict with their bodies (they attempt to cover themselves with leaves).
Therefore, it is important to see that sin not only breaks our relationship with God, placing us under His righteous wrath and judgment. Sin also has a profound effect upon our relationship with our own bodies. We no longer appear as we truly are. We feel the need to cover ourselves. We wear clothes, hats, makeup, etc.
Sin has broken our bodies, emotionally and physically. Our bodies get old, decay, and break down. Hair turns gray, or turns loose. Sickness sets in, and sometimes takes vitality, or life itself. Emotions malfunction; we feel things we ought not feel, and don’t feel things we should.
And something even further; more deeply felt. We suffer a broken relationship with our bodies themselves. Many of us struggle with the way our bodies look and feel. We see others around us that we admire; and secretly, we wish our bodies would look like theirs (at least, how we perceive them to look).
Some people even feel trapped in their bodies, or that their bodies have let them down in a particular way. Some struggle with same-sex attraction, some struggle with feeling like their internal gender disagrees with their physical body. All of these things come from the brokenness that sin brings.
The doctrine of the Fall helps us to understand that sin has broken humanity in two fundamental ways:
Sin has broken our relationship with God.
Sin has broken our relationship with ourselves.
3 - Redemption.
The story of Redemption is the story of Jesus Christ; the most wonderful story in the Bible. In fact, the story of Redemption is THE story of the whole Bible. The Person and work of Jesus Christ the Bible’s centerpiece.
While the story of the Fall, and the entrance of sin is told in Genesis 3, the story of God’s plan for redemption begins there too. In Genesis 3:15, God promises that one day, through the line of Eve’s children, a Redeemer would come. And that Redeemer is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.
When we use the word Redemption, we need to understand it as a “total package” word. It includes several things. The brokenness brought about by our sin is taken up by the long-promised Savior, Jesus Christ.
On the cross, Jesus offers Himself as a wrath-removing sacrifice, and all who trust in His death, burial, and resurrection through faith find forgiveness and new life in Him.
God’s work of Redemption — and it is His work in us — includes a list of things like calling, regenerating our hearts, justifying us in His sight, and beginning the process of sanctification.
But, we want to think about how the doctrine of Redemption helps us with understanding the gender issues of our day. How does this doctrine help us develop a Christian worldview? Here are some application points…
1 - The Gospel is the only means of seeing dead sinners made into living saints.
The gospel is God’s work of spiritual life in the hearts of dead men and women. We are all slaves to sin, the world, our passions, until Jesus regenerates our hearts with faith. This means that our primary job, as it has always been, is to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world.
The gospel is the only hope for heterosexual, homosexual, and transexual sin. Sexual sin, like the book you’ve received will tell you, is not the unforgivable sin. It’s a serious sin, but the gospel of grace is bigger than our sin.
2 - This doctrine helps us to see that our primary desire is not behavioral or bodily change, but Heart Change.
A Biblical understanding of Redemption helps us to see this: Our goal is to see dead sinners saved. And this happens as sinners come to a knowledge of the truth about Jesus. Sometimes, as parents, we can react too strongly against certain behaviors because we are scared, embarrassed, or a combination thereof. But we aren’t trying to teach our kids to earn their way into heaven through good behavior. We want to put the full grace of God in Jesus Christ on display. We seek heart change…
3 - Heart change leads to behavioral and bodily change, and that takes time.
We are seeking biblical faithfulness over the long-haul. And this means that parents and churches ought not see cultural gender conformity as its primary goal. We don’t want to become Pharisees. As the gospel takes hold in a person’s life, the mind and the heart are renewed by truth (Rm. 12:1-2). Always in that order. So that, week-by-week, year-by-year, we become more like Jesus and less like the world.
4 - Gender confusion is primarily an issue of the heart, but the heart leads to the body.
Our focus as Christians/parents must be on reaching the heart with truth. But, truth will also lead us to rightly respect and value the body. We are embodied souls, which means our physical bodies have tremendous meaning and value. The body is a stewardship from God; it is of great value to God. And the body is directly affected by the gender revolution. The body has been cheapened.
So, while our primary aim is always the heart, the body cannot be ignored.
5 - Biblical Redemption involves being among the People of God.
Being involved in a healthy local church will be paramount. Parents, we must be in a community that prioritizes the gospel; we must ground our families in a community that values the gospel, and we must seek to draw others into a community that values the gospel.
We need healthy spiritual oversight from qualified Elders and faithful brothers and sisters; we need biblical discipleship, right preaching of the Word of God, and more. And God has placed these things in His Church where His manifold wisdom is on display.
4 - Restoration.
One of the most glorious and compelling truths of the Christian worldview is that Heaven looms so very large. This world is not our home; this world is not our end. The Lord Jesus has promised that He will return and gather His Own, and take us to Heaven to be with Him forever.
That great promise shows up in several places throughout the New Testament (1 Thess. 4-5), but nowhere more clearly and beautifully than in Revelation 21. I’ll quote the passage…
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 21:1-6)
This passage notes many wonderful promises to come: First, and primarily, being with God Himself; then, our sins will be wiped away, the pain and suffering of sin will be no more, and we will dwell with God eternally. Notice also the bodily language. There will be no more tears, no mourning, no pain, and no death. The brokenness of the body will be reversed in heaven. Whereas now, we live in broken bodies, through Christ, heaven holds the hope of a fully restored, fully redeemed body.
This is what Paul says in Philippians 3:20-21 - “But citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body…”
But, before we get there, before we get to that glorious eternity with God, the Christian worldview must reckon with a few other things along the way…
First, the letter of Revelation tells us that, right now, we live, not in heaven, but in Babylon. Babylon is the city of the harlot; the city of sin. And yet, while we live in the city of sin on this side of heaven, we are called out of it. Literally, to take no part in its deeds of unrighteousness.
This is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:11, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
So, to conclude...
The Christian worldview understands ALL of this. The Christian worldview processes all of this in order to understand the world and its brokenness. We live in a world that God created good; sin broke the world, and broke even the fundamental essence of the world. Things are not as they should be, and not as they will be. But, we also know that Jesus Christ has conquered the grave, and being raised to life, He offers the hope of redemption for all who trust in Him by faith. And while we live in the city of sin now, we walk in holiness while longing for the sure hope of heaven.
There's a lot more to the conversation and we will process it all together. Stay tuned...