A Theology of Sex and Gender–Pt. 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. What does it mean to be a “man” or a “woman” or even a “human”? Issues of sexuality, especially gender, have come to the forefront of American cultural conversations due to the transitioning of Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner and the continuing debates over bathrooms laws around the country.

As a Christian, a natural question to ask would be, “What does the Bible say about these issues?” Before we can delve into what the Bible says about these things, however, 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. It has no more relevance to us, then, than a Babylonian myth.

How we interpret the Bible is crucial too, however. 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.

Various proposals of how Christians should understand Scripture as a drama, or story, have been put forth. Probably the most viable is NT Wright’s “five-act” play schema.[3] The five major “acts” are Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church. Modifying Wright’s work, Kevin Vanhoozer construes the flow of the drama this way: Creation and fall, election of Israel, Christ, Pentecost and church, and Consummation.[4] Vanhoozer’s adaption of Wright’s model is helpful because it incorporates the return of Christ and new creation (Consummation) as a distinct and climactic “chapter” in the biblical story.

We are now ready to begin tracing the themes of sexuality and gender through the biblical storyline as set forth by Vanhoozer…Part 2 coming soon!

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

[2] Ibid., 91.

[3] NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Vol I in Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 141-43.

[4] For a easy to read article quoting Vanhoozer, see Derek Rishmawy, “Kevin Vanhoozer Corrects NT Wright’s ‘5-Act’ Hermeneutic’ https://derekzrishmawy.com/2014/03/07/kevin-vanhoozer-corrects-n-t-wrights-5-act-hermeneutic/

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