There is so much more to gender than what is covered in most discussions. The subject is as rich and deep as we are. There’s nothing definitive in what follows but I hope it helps us to catch something of the breadth of the topic.
1. God created man as male and female.
There’s nothing difficult to understand about the Scripture’s presentation in this area—God made us as male and female. There is no continuum, fluidity, or anything like that. In saying this, I’m not denying the reality of gender dysphoria or the struggles of those affected by it—I’m simply making the point that with the rare exception of those born with an intersex condition, we exist biologically as male or female.
1. Gender is based on God’s nature.
Genesis 1:27 says:
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God created us after His nature. He created us male and female. Therefore, gender is based on His nature. There is both masculine and feminine in God.
2. Gender is a fundamental part of bearing His image.
If gender is based on His nature, then it is a fundamental part of bearing His nature.
3. Gender is challenging to understand beyond a certain point because God is challenging to understand.
Sam Andreades said something to that effect, and I found it to be helpful in providing balance. There are some very simple things about gender that we don’t want to overly complicate (God creating man as male or female). At the same time, when discussing gender characteristics and traits, we definitely need to avoid making generalizations absolutes because we can create anxiety in people who don’t fit the generalization.
4. Existing as male and female is something more than sexual differentiation.
Animals exists as male and female—but they don’t bear the image of God. Therefore, there’s something more to being male and female. I’ll refer to that as masculinity and femininity.
5. In regard to gender, we can be anarchists, minimalists, depreciating, or appreciative.
The anarchists tell us that gender is whatever we want it to be—regardless of the way we were created. They are psychological at the expense of the biological—even to the point of implementing biological solutions to psychological problems. There is a growing pushback from the medical and psychological establishments in regard to viewing transitioning (hormone treatment and surgery) as the proper treatment for gender dysphoria.
The minimalist holds that gender (aside from its reproductive necessity), represents a mostly negative aspect of our humanity since, by their view, it inevitably ends up being about politics and power disparities. Therefore, we should just get rid of any kind of gender distinction and put women on the front lines, football teams, and let men choose colors. Critical to this view is the idea that if men and women are functionally different in any way, then by their definition, they are not equal. “Identical” and “equal” are interchangeable terms.
The depreciating represents many people who are intimidated by the aggressiveness and sometimes militancy of the some of those holding the anarchist or minimalist view. Or they’re turned off by the shrillness and/or superficiality of some who hold to the thinking that men and women are different and have different roles (appreciation view). For the most part, they don’t understand what the big fuss is about. They see gender (more or less), as incidental—something they acknowledge and recognize can be socially problematic at times, but there’s not much more to it than that. Others see gender as accidental—the product of the evolutionary process that got them here and nothing more. We could just as well have been androgynous.
Finally, there is the perspective of gender appreciation. This view holds men and women to be equal, but not identical. In fact, it celebrates the differences because it believes them to be neither incidental or accidental but a result of God’s creative design and when properly understood, not a threat to the equality of the genders. Men glorify God by being men, and women glorify God by being women.
1. There are those that are defining of gender and absolute.
These are anatomical differences—men have testicles, penises, and prostate glands, while women have ovaries, vaginas, and breasts. Then there are significant hormonal differences in terms of testosterone and estrogen. There are many more biological differences like these that are not open to debate. They are part of what makes men, men and women, women.
2. There are those that are typical and must be handled with care.
Then there are things that are generally true: men are larger, have greater upper body strength, while women do colors better, are more nurturing, etc. But these things are not always true. And the fact that a woman might be larger than a man or do colors poorly, doesn’t make her any less of a woman. Nor does a man who has a cooking show on HG make him any less of a man. So, gender traits can be a slippery slope if we don’t distinguish between the absolute and typical. We have to be very careful with this because if the typical are passed off as absolutes, it can cause someone to have questions about their gender when there shouldn’t be any.
3. Gender traits have considerable range and can overlap.
Scripture bears witness to this in Jacob and Esau. Esau was a rugged, hairy, hunter and outdoorsman, while Jacob was more of an indoor person who liked to cook and wasn’t hairy. Neither was more of a man than the other. So, it shouldn’t surprise us when Paul speaks of himself, Silas and Timothy practicing the gentleness of a nursing mother among the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Many, if not most men, can do this just as women are capable of doing the “encouraging, comforting and urging” that he associates with fathers in v. 11-12.