Genesis 3 narrates the fall of humanity into sin. The terrible consequences of sin manifest themselves in a broken relationship with God, each other, and created order (3:16-24). Adam and Eve are kicked out of God’s presence in the Garden of Eden (3:24). Enmity and strife makes its way into their relationship (3:16). The world will no longer be easily fruitful but will bear thorns and thistles (3:17). Immediately, further relational breakdown is seen in Cain’s murdering of Abel (Gen. 4:8). What God had designed for the flourishing of the world was now broken.
A robust doctrine of sin provides much explanatory power to the many problems concerning sexuality and gender we now see manifested in contemporary culture as well. Where man and woman are both made in the image of God, there is now a degradation of both due to sin. While the image of God is never erased from human beings, most theologians see it as being significantly marred due to sin hence the need for the renewal of the image in Christ (Col 3:10).
The effects of sin on how men and women is wide-ranging and deeply hurtful. Men exploit women through sex trafficking, prostitution, and pornography. Women are discriminated against in employment and not given the proper pay for their work. Men are often abandoned by women, who initiate over 70 percent of divorces. Children are sexually abused. Where sexual intercourse is to be used to united a man and woman together in marriage and produce offspring, it used outside of the covenant of marriage. Disease, unplanned pregnancy, and the termination of children through abortion happens more than we would like to admit.
We live in a sick and dying world.
Specifically related to gender, there is also an effort in our culture to blur the lines between the differences between the sexes. Whereas men and women were created differently, contemporary culture argues against God’s design of a “gender binary” in favor of a spectrum of genders and gender fluidity. Moreover, many trans-activists encourage children to undergo drastic measures to alter their bodies to match their perceived gender-identity.
The decay of marriage, the use of sexuality, and the gender binary are the direct result of human sin. But these are not new issues. The Old Testament narrates stories about all kinds of sexual dysfunction from rape to abuse, divorce, and abandonment. The Old Testament also includes prohibitions against cross-dressing and other “gender transitioning” activities so such things must have been present back then as well, otherwise there would be no reason for God to allow it (more on that in another post).
We’re All Post-Fall Now
Scripture’s storyline begins with God’s good design for men and women: all people are made in His image, having inherent dignity, value, and worth (Gen 1:26-27). Biological sex—maleness and femaleness—is a pre-sin reality and therefore a good gift from the Lord (Gen 1:28). Humanity’s sin, however, brought far-reaching and disastrous results for all of human life (Gen 3:1-24). Sin has corrupted the whole world. People are now sinners by choice and by nature (Eph 2:1-3).
What must be kept in mind when thinking through issues of sex and gender is the reality of chosen sin versus the reality of being born into and living in a world corrupted by sin. Some people will actively choose to rebel against God’s design for us. For example, some people will have been born male or female, and then when they become adults, they may make the active choice to change their bodies to match their perceived gender identity. They will refuse to live into the good gift of biological sex that God arranged for them to have. They are making conscious choices to violate God’s standards.
Yet all people are born into a world corrupted by sin and therefore suffer the consequences of such a reality. For example, some people are born physically malformed from the womb, lacking limbs or having impaired mental capacities. Since sin affects everything, the question arises: can people also be spiritually malformed from the womb? The answer to have question obviously has to be “yes” since all people are alienated from God (the ultimate spiritual malformation) from the womb. But does this spiritual malformation lead people to specific temptations and specific predispositions? I believe it does.
Imprecise Speech Cost Us a Lot
American Christians have seen the orthodox Christian sex ethic (chastity before marriage, fidelity within marriage) be rejected in America. The debates of sex have also pushed themselves into gender identity formation. American culture has largely rejected the Christian understanding on that matter as well—that biological sex is a gift from God and should be embraced. One of the contributing factors that has led to this rejection I believe that been imprecise speech by many Christians, a faulty understanding of creation, and a deficient understanding of how our sin nature is passed down through the generations.
In an attempt to make their children feel special and validated, some Christians have told their children repeatedly, “God made you special. He made you that you.” This language first began being used, it seems to me, mostly by parents of children who had physical disability or mental handicaps. The intent was (rightly) to honor the dignity, value, and worth of these children. Just because someone has a physical handicap does not make them any less valuable than anyone else. And what better to affirm such value than by asserting that God had made them that way and they are special just the way they are.
Such affirmations, however, moved from issues of physical disability to areas of sex and gender. Gay men and lesbians began claiming they were “born this way” or that “God made me this way.” And if everything God created is good—their argument goes—then their homosexuality must be good too. The logic of affirmation has been pushed further (and now also largely secularized) into issue of gender transition where people claim “This is who I really am.” And how can we now argue against that? Unwittingly, Christians opened this door of argument.
To counteract such claims, we must situation the creation of humanity in the Bible’s storyline. So yes, God’s original creation of man and woman was good. But it is now corrupted by sin. All people enter the world alienated from God. All people are corrupted by sin. Sometimes their bodies are even affected. And our souls definitely ARE affected. God did not make us like this (however you define this). We are not yet what we should be because we live in a post-fall world.
On the other hand, it should not be surprising, then, to see people broken and damaged by the effects of sin from the womb. Some people are born as intersex which means their genitalia doesn’t fit “with typical definitions of male or female.” Christians must be compassionate and recognize that some people didn’t “choose” to be a certain way. Sometimes people are affected by being born into a sinful world. They deserve intense compassion.
Activists vs. Children
Yet others do not deserve such compassion. There are activists who are pushing their gender ideology and trying to push it on children. Those kinds of people must be resisted. And especially, we must guard against them gaining a foothold in the church. Adults should know better. And unfortunately, children are often caught in the crosshairs of these debates. The tricky thing about the “gender issue” today is that it involves children.
Some children may come to us in the church with feelings of “gender dysphoria” or same-sex attraction because they are confused. Someone may have subtly planted such confusing thoughts in their head. It seems possible to me, however, due to the all-encompassing affects of sin, that some children may not have chosen to have feelings of “gender dysphoria” or even chosen to be attracted to people of the same-sex, but they are actually having those feelings anyways. That’s reality of living in a broken world.
Showing compassion to children, however, does not mean blanket affirmation. We should not encourage them to engage in sinful behaviors, desires, or to pursue life-altering medical procedures. Instead, showing compassion looks like not freaking out on when a child claims to experience gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction. We want children to feel safe enough in the church to tell us anything. And I mean, anything. Because if the church cannot be a place where the most difficult issues are brought to light, our children will just hide them from us and seek affirmation and counsel elsewhere. And probably elsewhere it won’t be biblical.