Courage, and Tactics, in the Gender Debate

Reclaiming apologetic preaching and teaching around fundamental philosophical categories of personhood prepares Christians for a smart and effective witness concerning gender issues.

Key to the gender debate is what makes a person, and how one’s gender is integral (or not) to that personhood. Christian theology gives us what we need to navigate this evolving cultural frontier. The Old and New Testaments are the foundation on which much of the Western tradition bases its ideas of a person: divinely created, made in the divine image, marred by sin, redeemable by faith in the Lord Jesus, and charged to share his love in word and deed.

 

In the movie Aladdin, the lead character serenades his love interest with now-classic words:

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us “No!” or where to go
Or say we’re only dreaming.

These lyrics could also describe our culture’s efforts to redefine gender. And these efforts definitely aren’t dreams: legislatures are already passing speech codes for personal pronoun use, making school dress codes gender-less, and adding multiple categories for gender on government documents. And if a Christian disagrees? The reaction is more than mere social pressure; at times, political violence has erupted as one group’s vision for humanity overrides others in the name of “rights.”

Sadly, many in the church are knowingly and unknowingly adopting this brave new worldview.  They don’t recognize how they’re being manipulated to embrace new categories of humanity in the name of compassion. As scholar Peter Jones notes, “The pressure comes from two directions: from hardhearted ideologues determined to silence the Christian understanding of identity, and from kindhearted Christians fearful of placing demands on suffering people and making the gospel appear heartless.”

To confront this crisis, church leaders must pivot toward apologetics. By regularly contrasting pagan anthropologies with the biblical witness, we can show the shortcomings of the new prevailing worldview—and the soundness of Christian theology.

Philosophical Categories

Reclaiming apologetic preaching and teaching around fundamental philosophical categories of personhood prepares Christians for a smart and effective witness concerning gender issues.

Key to the gender debate is what makes a person, and how one’s gender is integral (or not) to that personhood. Christian theology gives us what we need to navigate this evolving cultural frontier. The Old and New Testaments are the foundation on which much of the Western tradition bases its ideas of a person: divinely created, made in the divine image, marred by sin, redeemable by faith in the Lord Jesus, and charged to share his love in word and deed. This understanding of personhood in turn undergirds the West’s global gifts of human rights, democracy, private property, contractual arrangements, and free enterprise.

Without this framework, many values that our culture holds dear will collapse. If a person isn’t created in the divine image, by what authority do humans possess dignity that deserves respect? If gender is fluid, why aren’t other categories too? If humans aren’t redeemable, what’s the point of restorative justice? If there is no objective moral framework, why is it wrong for people to hoard material goods and power for themselves?

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