A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 1): What does it mean to be “biblical”?

Conversations about sex and gender have always been part of human society since such issues are at the heart of human existence. Every culture asks such questions as, “What does it mean to be a man?” and “What does it mean to be a woman?” And how the reality of our biological sex expresses himself in society. Issues of sexuality, especially gender, have come to the forefront of American cultural conversations, highlighted by the recent gender transition Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner and the continuing debates over bathrooms laws around the country.

In the face of such circumstances, Christians should ask, “What does the Bible say about these issues?” Before we can delve into what the Bible says about these things, we must first grapple with another, more basic, question: “What does it mean to be ‘biblical’?” Most Christians professes a desire to be “biblical”—to have their theology or worldview line up with what the Bible actually teaches. But how can we know that our theology actually is in line with the Bible?

Theologian Stephen Wellum lays out two broad, and largely uncontroversial, principles for being “biblical”: First, we need to take seriously what Scripture claims to be. Second, we must interpret Scripture on its own terms.[1] In other words, we first need to accept Scripture as God’s Word. There’s no use in trying to understand Scripture if it merely the word of men in cultural accommodated packaging. If the Bible is merely the literary construction of human beings, it has no more relevance to us than a Babylonian myth.

So we must first approach the Bible in faith, trusting that its claims about itself are true. But merely accepting the divine authorship of the Bible is not enough: How we interpret the Bible is crucial. Wellum writes, “It is crucial that we read Scripture in such a way that we do justice to the Bible’s unfolding story line…We must, in other words, let Scripture speak for itself in its own structure and categories, i.e., on its own terms.”[2] To do justice the Bible means reading each smaller passage in light of the bigger story of Scripture. Jesus Himself read the Bible that way, and saw how all Scriptures pointed to Himself (Luke 24:25-27, 44; John 5:39). Therefore, whenever we tackle a certain doctrine or subject in Scripture, we need to trace it along the unfolding drama of Scripture.

Although the Bible contains many different genres of literature and many different small, self-contained stories, it also tells a much larger story in which God is redeeming his people from the effects of sin. The Bible’s big story unfolds most naturally develops through covenants God makes with his creation. The Bible uses six major covenants ot advance the story: a covenant with creation, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the new covenant. By tracing issues of gender and sexuality through the covenantal progression of the Bible’s storyline, we will receive a much more accurate and coherent retelling of Scripture’s message and how it impacts these issues.

All Posts in this Series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part SixPart Seven

[1] Stephen Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 83.

[2] Ibid., 91.

6 thoughts on “A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 1): What does it mean to be “biblical”?

  1. Pingback: A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 2): The Covenant with Creation and Imago Dei – Raising Lazarus

  2. Pingback: A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 3): The Fall of Humanity into Sin – Raising Lazarus

  3. Pingback: A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 4): Covenant with Israel – Raising Lazarus

  4. Pingback: A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 5): The New Covenant in Christ – Raising Lazarus

  5. Pingback: A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 6): The New Covenant and the Church – Raising Lazarus

  6. Pingback: A Theology of Sex and Gender (Part 7): The New Covenant Fully Filfilled – Raising Lazarus

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