What’s “Biblical” About It?

Whenever I see the word “Biblical” in front of a title or a statement I pause as anyone should who cares about what the Bible really does or does not say.

Recently this word caught my eye:  a local Evangelical church, a church of great size, advertised a Biblical Masculinity and Femininity Conference.  I thought this rather odd since the Bible does not tell men how to behave as men or women how to behave as women.  Stereotyping?  Why?

Regarding male and female behavior I’ve come to the conclusion that masculinity and femininity are social contrivances or social regulators which help us navigate our relationships.  Again, the Bible does not tell men how to behave like a man or a woman how to behave like a woman.  The Bible does tell us in very simple general statements how we as men and women are to relate to the opposite sex and to each other.  The Bible also provides us with examples of what men find attractive in a woman (e.g., the Shulammite woman of The Song of Solomon & the industrious woman in Proverbs 31) and what women find attractive in men (the Ruth/Boaz story). Masculine or feminine qualities, if there are such things, are worked out between each man and woman in the give and take of relationship. They certainly are not the rubber stamping of contrived gender roles promoted by such “Let’s-Get-This~Nailed-Down” Conferences.

Without a whole lot of fanfare the Bible commands men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. Beyond this the Bible only gives us some storied examples of men and women in action. Masculinity and femininity if Biblically revealed at all is the plain and simple romantic dance of the male and female psyches within the narrative of relationship.  As mentioned above we can see this dance in the lives of the Bible’s men and women.  Another example:  the love story of Jacob and Rachel.

So, the impetus of this post is to hopefully negate the misinformation doled out by those who feel the need to conform everyone to certain gender defined roles and who also seek to make others abide by the same gender templates, templates created extra-Biblically and more decidedly culturally derived. Hopefully, I can set the record straight.  You decide.

First-things:  raised in a Baptist/Evangelical church I understand that the word “Biblical” connotes a God-given standard that you are expected to honor, to follow and to conform to. Over the years, though, I have had to disentangle my understanding of what the Bible really says from the “Biblical” fishing nets tossed out by commercializing fishers-of-men who believe they have captured what the Bible says and then can sell it back to you in the market place of ideas as truth.

Let’s look at one of their “marketable Biblical items”.  A common passage of Scripture used to define Biblical Womanhood is Proverbs 31.

In this passage the writer Lemuel or Anonymous describes the attributes he likes in a woman.  Proverbs 31 is the writer’s description of what he thinks is noble character for a woman.  Now, if women want to aspire to these same traits they may find similar recognition. The word “Biblical”, though, as in “Proverbs 31 is an example of Biblical Womanhood” often implies a kind of warrant of a personal guarantee of outcome (if a, then b follows). If you do these same things then you are Biblically feminine.  But is that true?

The industrious “woman” in Proverbs 31 works to fulfill the needs of her family as do men.  But, as you know, men and women do different things to maintain the household and will often overlap in the household duties required.  Does the example of this woman’s qualities and behavior mean Biblical femininity? If you as a woman do not do all the things listed in Proverbs 31 are you less feminine? Or, if a man did the same things is he being feminine? Or worse, are you being less Biblical if you are not matching up to these same traits?  I hope you can see where this type of “Biblical womanhood” typecasting leads.

In the Song of Solomon, a lyric poem in dialogue form, King Solomon describes marked physical attributes of the woman he loves. Is what he describing Biblical femininity? Or, is what he describing what he likes about the woman he loves, the Shulammite?

Now most Christian scholars, most trusted Christian scholars, would tell you that the biblical canon is closed ~ there is no further written revelation from God. Yet, we are told that there is Biblical Masculinity and Biblical Femininity – a continuum of a more codified and concise version of the Bible which informs us as to how a twenty-first century man or woman behaves. To me, though, this extra-biblical and apocryphal “decoded” addition of Scripture’s text sounds a lot more like a Pharisee’s laundry list of dos and don’ts than the Bible’s simple and direct statements:  “Husband love your wives. Wives see to it that you respect your husbands.”

The church conference I am referring to was directed at the youth – junior and senior high school kids.  I have no doubt that the parents are concerned about what the LGBT community is doing to pervert gender relationship “norms” in the local public schools.  To be sure the LGBT community is misguided and has no concern whatsoever about seeking the Kingdom of God.  I, like these parents, am concerned about the LGBT lies and the nonsense being promulgated in our schools as normative and, in effect, morally OK. At the same time I do not want the church to overreact to the same degree by narrowly defining gender into masculine and feminine stereotypes, supplying false “Biblical” alternatives to the LGBT community’s errors. The church, like the members of the LGBT community, wants to take control of the “masculine” and “feminine” in order to achieve codification of certain behavior in our society

Homosexuals take what God has pronounced “Good” – males and females created for intimate relationship with each other ~ and pervert that relationship into an evil substitute.  I do not call it evil.  Scripture calls it evil. And, it is no secret that the LGBT community despises the Christian community for wanting to maintain what God created.  Homosexuality, the flagstone of the LGBT community, is the ego’s defiance of God. Hence, defiance, anger and “Pride” exist wherever the LGBT community is. For most people, though, gender confusion does not exist apart from the false narratives promoted by the LGBT community. Gender dysphoria, does exist in some individuals and is not homosexuality.

The searching for where you fit in as male or female comes and goes naturally during youth.  Confusion usually comes from culture or misguided parents.  Beyond this Scripture has nothing to say about maleness or femaleness even though people create sermons and seminars about it.  Scripture records history as it happened.

During the child’s gender adapting process we as parents need to know what the LGBT community is saying about gender’s relationships ~ relationships to themselves and to others – and then be able to discount any of LGBT’s false notions along with false “Biblical” ones. A child will eventually define him or herself by their sexed body and will respond according to what those around them are telling them about their gender.

The parents who are very concerned about the LGBT community’s activism should be careful to not define masculine and feminine as having “Biblical” attributes.  Masculine and feminine are culturally defined ‘romantic notions’ of male and female attributes. The Bible has only a few things to say specifically about a man’s or woman’s ‘behavior’ and, starting in Genesis, it is in the context of relationships.

“In the beginning…” God saw that it was not good for man to be alone so God created woman and human relationship began.  It was obvious from the start that male and female bodies looked different ~ diverse.  Within that relationship God let men and women work out their masculine and feminine qualities. God did not prescribe what masculinity and femininity meant before or after the fall.  God only mentioned pragmatic matters:  what men and women will do as a result of their Garden disobedience and what relationships they should absolutely have no part in.

As a result of Adam and Eve’s fall God said that men would work hard to make a living from the earth and that women will labor hard to give birth to a child.  And later, in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, God provided some practical laws or boundaries regarding men and women and their physical relationships.  These Levitical issues in particular dealt with the exchange of bodily fluids (do not commit incest or homosexuality or bestiality, avoid sex during a woman’s menstrual flow, etc.).  In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, in a strongly worded letter to the members of the church in Corinth, told them to “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…”  What defiles (and confuses) your personhood and the context for working out “masculinity” or “femininity” are the sinful relationships which the Holy Spirit will have no part in..

Now can one boy be more masculine than another?  No.  (Now, you may think that a boy who hangs around with his mother is more feminine than a boy who hangs around with his father.  In reality, each boy is sharing things they enjoy in common with the respective parent. Should it be demanded of the boy to act more like his father? Your anxiety might demand it but Scripture doesn’t. The answer, I believe, is “No.”) I have little doubt that shaming a child into submitting to a certain gender stereotype can be part of the personality pathology of homosexuality.

A boy is more masculine than a girl, of course. Just as in the Garden of Eden before Eve came along, masculine and feminine were meaningless terms (The conference gods may strike me down, now.) They were meaningless until Eve stood in contrast to Eve as a separate gender.    Masculinity and femininity basically are the features in the opposite sex that we are attracted to.  This sounds rather unspiritual, too down to earth, but is what God had intended – the simple elemental attraction of opposites.

Parents certainly are desirous to shoehorn their kids into society’s norms and into their own ideation of gender.  They do so because they do not want their child to be an outcast of society.  They want their child to be accepted.  In doing so they may restrict a child to a certain prescribed behavior and manner of presentation.  This need to conform their child to a certain delineation of a gender role may lead to post traumatic stress disorder in the child. (See this recent article:  Gender nonconformity linked to child abuse:  Uncomfortable adults often compel strict role presentation)

I realize that backing off on gender stereotyping may sound more like fuzzy math, more like the probability nature of quantum physics and not at all like rock-solid classical Newtonian physics that people more readily grasp but the facts proves otherwise.  An example would be my parents.

My parents had been married for 64 years (My father died recently). To my knowledge there has never been any talk between my mother and father about who was the masculine and who was the feminine counterpart.  They simply followed Christ and let gender find its way within in the context of their relationship to each other and to Christ.  They attended no seminars about “Biblical Masculinity or Biblical Femininity.”

Healthy males and females are drawn to the other gender.  You are attracted to gender-derived differences, to those features that are reciprocal (the roller-skates-and-key principle, if you will).

Now regarding binary gender, the analogy may apply:  men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  As two distinct sexes we relate to each other differently, the differences being derived from basic biology (physical sexed body and hormones) and cultural adaptations. Beyond this, there are no such things as the True Masculine or the True Feminine.

In fact, when we elevate certain aspects or attributes of men or women that we perceive to be quality masculine or feminine specimens to the position of the “True Masculine” or the True Feminine” we make idols of man~made aspirations (and, perhaps, of Freudian psychology).  The church mentioned above, as shown by the conference ad, wanted to package masculinity and femininity and resell certain accepted features of it as “Biblical”.  They would even super~size the issue with book sales, heated sermons and biopic posts giving us what they see as the jot and tittle of masculine and feminine as viewed through their myopic lens of socially normative “Biblical truth.”

Concerning this topic, the book Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf was of special interest to me, especially the chapter titled Gender Identity. The primary focus of the chapter as I read it was to rightly describe the basis of gender identity and to show how the ideas about masculinity and femininity, described in “essence” forms, are often used to exclude rather than to embrace the other.

In this chapter Miroslav Volf says regarding his argument about gender identity:  “I have claimed that (1) the content of gender identity is rooted in the sexed body and negotiated in the social exchange between men and women within a given cultural context, and that (2) the portrayals of God in no way provide models of what it means to be male or female. I suggested, instead, that the relations between the Trinitarian persons serve as a model for how the content of “masculinity” and “femininity” ought to be negotiated in the social process.” (emphasis mine)

He further states neutrally:

“The content of gender identity is left unspecified; anything seems to go.”

Also:

“Biblical “woman” and “manhood” ~ if there are such things at all, given the diversity of male and female characters and roles that we encounter in the Bible – are not divinely sanctioned models but culturally situated examples.” (emphasis mine)

And:

“If neither models of God nor the explicit statements of the Bible about femininity and masculinity are normative for the content of gender identities, what is?  Does anything really go?  My proposal is that we locate the normativity in the formal features of identity and the character of relations of divine person. Instead of setting up ideals of femininity and masculinity, we should root each in the sexed body and let the social construction of gender play itself out guided by the vision of the identity of and relations between divine persons. What is normative is not some ‘essence” of femininity and masculinity, but the procedures, modeled on the life of the triune God, through which women and men in specific cultural settings should negotiate.” (emphasis mine)

Further thoughts from the chapter:

  •  Father figure imagery has become sacrosanct in Christian circles.
  •  Psychology attempts to use the father figure imagery to decipher…
  •  Freud: we create god as a need for a father figure or oedipal complex
  •  Man’s projection of a father figure into the heavens due to an oedipal complex

If you as a man or you as a woman want to be all that you can be (to borrow an advertising phrase from the Army) then be in relationship with Christ.  Period. Don’t fashion your life around the drivel described as “Biblical” masculinity and femininity.  Put on Christ and walk in the Spirit instead. (I realize that many people want self-help books, tweets and conferences to tell them what to think.  Forget these things. Put on Christ and get walking.)

Now, you can always parse or stretch Scripture to make it mean what you want to say regarding masculine and feminine attributes.  Instead, it would be better to not focus on these things, on whether you or someone else is more or less masculine or feminine. The Evil One will always stir up comparisons.  Just look at the media and you can, hopefully, see that the Evil One’s world view is one of comparing yourself to celebs, to physical attributes, to images of macho men and sexy babes, to myriads of false idols. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fill up the flesh with its pretense of the masculine or feminine.

And by far the best antidote to the confused and de-humanizing misogyny and misandria issues that the LGBT community brings with it is the solid mutually beneficial relationship of a man and a woman.  The spectrums, the God designed “diversity,” of masculine and feminine can be fully explored within a committed marriage relationship. In such a relationship there should be no threat to your perceived masculinity or femininity.  These ‘things’ just are.  And as such, the two will become one with no thought or time given to someone’s canonized version of “Biblical Masculinity or Femininity.”

From N.T. Wright’s commentary on the book of Romans, Paul For Everyone, Chapter 4:18-25 Abraham’s Faith – and Ours:

“This is how it (faith) works.  Humans ignored God, the creator (1:20, 25); Abraham believed in God as creator and life-giver (4:17).  Humans knew about God’s power, and trusted him to use it (4:21). Human beings did not give God the glory he was due (1:21); Abraham gave God the glory (4:20). Human beings dishonored their own bodies by worshiping beings that were not divine (1:24); Abraham, through worshipping  the God who gives new life, found that his own body regained its power even though he was long past the age of fathering children.

The result in each case is telling. Humans dishonor their bodies by females and males turning away from one another into same-sex relationships (1:26-27); Abraham and Sarah, through their trust in God’s promises, are given power to conceive a child (4:19).  Deep within the heart of God’s covenant promise lies the fulfillment of the basic command which goes with the creation of male and female in God’s image:  be fruitful and multiply.  As Romans 4 comes towards its end, we realize that Paul is saying that Paul is saying, on a large-scale, that the ancient Jewish dream has been fulfilled.  God called Abraham to undo the sin of the human race, and this is how it happened. God is the God of new hope, of new fruitfulness, because he is the God of new starts, of fresh creation.”

Now for some context:  Do you think that those Kingdom Venturers imprisoned for Christ around the world are concerned about “Biblical Masculinity or Femininity?”

The Church and Gender

   From my perspective the Christian Church has helped fuel gender confusion by placing added emphasis or burdens on others regarding the masculine and the feminine. 

 Recall the early Christian Churches of Jerusalem and Galatia which demanded that new Christians follow the strict tradition “soaked” Law along with the teachings of Jesus?  Today’s church in similar fashion, is seeking to subjugate men and women to “Biblically” masculine or feminine stereotypes, demanding that their romantic notions of what they consider masculine and feminine become de facto behavior for all Christians.

 As a former student of Moody Bible Institute and during the course of a lifetime I have read through the Bible several times and many, many passages several times over.    I have to say that I have never, ever found any description of Biblical manhood or womanhood.  What is written are what characteristics a man likes about a woman (see Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31) and what a woman likes about a man (see Song of Solomon).  None of these “characteristics” ~ physical and pragmatic – carry the moral weight of the Ten Commandments or of the New Commandment that Jesus gave us to “Love one another.” These “characteristics” should never be used to propagate more sons and daughters of the “Biblically masculine and feminine.”

 Now, when a Church or group puts the word “Biblical” in front of its messaging it is inferring that this is what a Christian must do or be. These “characteristics” should never be taught as Biblical mandates for manhood or womanhood. 

 As the Apostle Paul noted about food offered to idols (I Cor. 8), there are some who can eat such food and have no issue with their conscience.  Others must refuse because of their conscience. He voiced concern about those with maturity and freedom being a stumbling block to the weak in their eating of food offered to idols.  But I believe that it is the Church with regard to its “genderization of males and females” that has become a stumbling block for the weak.  Throughout history the Christian church has sought to enforce its will onto Christians.  This was certainly true before the reformation and it is still true with the “free” church’s Libertarian Paternalism that nudges people into making decisions the church feels are best for them, including gender roles.  But the church does not decide what our Spirit-led conscience tells us to do.  Paul learned that lesson the hard way.  We as Christians have the freedom to decide our masculinity and femininity before God as the Spirit speaks to our conscience.

 The closest we come to a description of “Biblical manhood and womanhood” in the Bible is within the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 5). It is there that he instructs Christians as to how married men and women should relate to each other. 

 Regarding these relational or family matters he bids husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands.  Biblical manhood and womanhood as seen here is relating to the ‘other’ ~ wife or husband ~ with love and respect. Biblical manhood and womanhood are as relational as simply loving your neighbor as you love yourself.  Why create extra yokes called “Biblical Masculine and feminine” to be placed on people’s necks?

 Now it is common knowledge that people do not like ambiguity. We demand black and white.  We demand inerrancy.  We demand “Biblically masculine and feminine” males and females.  Our minds are wired to alert us to any differences to a norm.  We seek to reconcile things as quickly as possible.  Ambiguity comes off as a potential threat to our understanding of how life should be. As related to gender we tend to overemphasize male and female “roles” in order to reduce our anxiety over ambiguity.  I believe that some of this fear has grown out the Christian Fundamentalist movement that was raised up in the early twentieth century against the threat of Liberal theologian’s textual infractions.  The Conservative Christian world sought to tighten its reins on what is and isn’t “Biblical.”  But it has also put a noose around each gender. 

 Yet, there is no gender typecasting in Scripture.  And, more importantly, the message of the Gospel offers everyone freedom from fear.  This includes freedom from the fear of the ambiguous and the unknown, the fear of the future and the fear of the not being able to follow the letter of the Law and therefore deserving punishment.

 In the past I have attended para-church seminars based on gender “issues.”  There seminar leaders urged attendees to pray asking God for the “True masculine and the “True Feminine.”  These prayers, of course, will not be answered because there is no such thing. The best a man or woman can ever become is to be Spirit-filled.  And the best how-to books to become Spirit-filled are the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Forget the OTC self-help books and seminars on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  You would be wasting your time and money.  Worse, you would most likely seek to adapt to someone else’s notion of what it is to be a man or a woman. Run from this nonsense.

 The current falderal about gender~- “Biblical manhood and womanhood”~- are gooey romantic notions mandated as Biblical “righteousness.” Let’s not go there.  Let’s be free to be men and women without the yoke of the man-made gender laws placed on our necks. And then, perhaps, homosexuals will then feel free to come home.

 I have written about this before:  What is Biblical About it?

 ******

I ask the homosexual community:  What happened to friendship between one man and another?  And, between one woman and another?  And, why take something good like friendship and debase and pervert it into something unnatural and sexualized? And why create an emotional codependency when a good friendship creates a safe environment for sharing life’s joys and hardships?

A ‘Naturalized’ Woman

Transgender. The word sounds surreal, mysterious and out-of-the-comfort-zone scary. Transylvania, transubstantiation and transmogrification have similar unsettling effects on the hearer.

In a less frightening usage, “trans”, the Latin prefix “across”, evokes thoughts of crossing a border or a change from one type to another. Consider the words “translate”, “transition”, “transportation”, “transposition” and “transformer.”

The chemical usage of “trans” in describing food may also promote consumer acceptance or rejection based on whether or not a product contains “Trans Fat.”

In personal use I do not use the word “transgender” to describe myself. I find it reproachful and slighting, in fact, due to its connection to the LGBT community and the connotations that this community has engendered for the word.

I realize that there are many in the LGBT community who use the word “Trans” to describe themselves:  “I am happy to be a Trannie.” But this was never true for me.

To begin with I am not associated with the LGBT community whatsoever. There are reasons why I am not involved in the LGBT community and I have written about those reasons elsewhere in previous posts. But to mention it briefly my choice not to be involved in that community has to do with the fact that I am a Christian. Because I follow Jesus Christ I do not encourage or promote homosexual or bisexual behavior of any kind. Beyond this I certainly do not base my life or center my life around sexuality as do the members of the LGBT community.

In conversations with others I have often found that if a person says that someone is living a “lifestyle” they are in fact seeking to buttonhole that person into a predefined category. And certainly there are some people who want to be buttonholed.  You have probably seen the tee-shirt that says “Out and Proud”. But someone using the word “lifestyle” to define who I am and what I am about would be demeaning to me.

Often, the tag “lifestyle” will be used in a pejorative sense:  “Why are you living this lifestyle?”  The speaker presumes that he or she has a legitimate life and that in my case I, by cross purposes, have a faux or superfluous life, a life opposed to the “normal” conventions.  I find their point to be pointedly dismissive. Thankfully, though,  I am not thin-skinned. I don’t let their verbal barbs scratch the surface. And you can’t let others control the narrative of your life by giving them the chalk to draw a box on the ground for you to live in. Especially when you need to make the change that I and others have made, changes that were never as frivolous as a “lifestyle”.

I began living as woman several years ago. Since then I have written only a few posts regarding the topic of my change. To be honest, the whole “change” business bores me to death.  And yet there are times when I feel the need to dredge up the words and ‘splain myself to others. I do this because I have learned over the course of many years that people usually fear, dislike and even hate what they don’t understand.  So here goes.

Though not born with female body parts, I became woman through a naturalization process. I call the process “a naturalization process” because it is similar to becoming a naturalized US citizen: a person not born in this country can become a ‘naturalized’ citizen by acceptance of its Constitution, its language, its laws and so forth. You get the picture.

The naturalized citizen acquires all of the benefits and responsibilities of their new country. Likewise, as a naturalized woman I have acclimated to my new country: I go to work, I go to church, I go… as woman. If asked (and thankfully I never am), I would say that I am a “naturalized” woman as opposed to saying that I am “trans-gendered.”  In doing so I take the conversation out of the gutter to a whole new level.

As a person who was gender “stateless” before my naturalization process I felt I needed to find a place where I could live in one place without segregating the mind from the body. And having always believed in a God-given binary gender – male and female – I knew that I had to be one or the other. And though the out workings of so-called masculinity and femininity are  relative only to the opposite gender I could never see myself as an effeminate man or as a butch female. I had to be female and not a bastardized version of one or the other.

The genesis of my gender understanding and the psychological disconnect with my body was most likely genetic and pre-natal hormonal influences on my brain along with a good portion of mystery. It is not exactly clear as to why I desperately needed to make the change. But of course, along the way I have met those who see things “clearly”, who believe that you do not need to make the change. In their words, “”just bear your cross (gender).”

 Over the years I have been involved in para-church ministries where the gender dysphoria issue is lumped in with the main issue of homosexuality. These church ministries talk about “trans-genderism”  or gender confusion because of its guilt-by-association with homosexuality: the gender dysphoric participants practice homosexuality and they are looking for a way to stop.  

Now, every follower of Christ accepts that homosexuality is expressly forbidden by the Lord.  But gender dysphoria, on the other hand, is not talked about by the Lord and is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture (no matter how much hermeneutics parse or stretch the Scripture to fit a certain “Bible-ized” social ideology).

The leaders of these ministries will tell you that gender dysphoria comes from a broken place in the person. They will use the word “broken” (along with various psychological terminology ) in their spiritual diagnosis so as to make their underlying assertions: such a change would be morally wrong, a sin; it’s not “normal” because God doesn’t work like that; it doesn’t fit God’s redemptive purposes. But I disagree.

Over the years I have also had Christian psychologists tell me that if I wanted to become a woman that they could not help me with the change. And yet the very same Christian “professionals” told me that I should see a psychiatrist in their clinic to get a mind and mood altering drug prescription to help avoid depression. They were very willing to change the state of my mind but not the state of the rest of me.  Why? One remedy is seen as “Biblical, the other remedy is deemed not “Biblical.”   One can see where the true disconnect is and how much the subjective, inaccurate and unverifiable field of psychology influences Christian thinking! (I find it ironic to say the least that Christians will whole heartedly accept the unproven theories and conjectures of psychology to guide their lives in tandem with Scripture but they will not accept the  theory of evolution, a theory which has overwhelming evidence to support its claims.)

Now I would have to guess that Christian psychologists seek to alter your behavior via mind altering drugs and remedial counseling in order to be in keeping with Scripture’s own prescription:  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Translated this means that you change your way of thinking to be in line with what most people think and not your body, at least not in the mysterious gender dysphoria realm where the trollism of homosexuality may be lurking. “If you are obese or anorexic or addicted to mind altering drugs (see above) or whatever else then we will help you change your body.”

 At one point in his ministry Jesus spoke this practical polemic:  “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”  This is a direct and terse statement of transition from one physical state to another and clearly doesn’t come across as a metaphorical mind purging laxative. In this case His path to wholeness was to cut off that which causes you to sin (that which doesn’t make you whole or holy) and not deal with it anymore. He didn’t seek to medicate or to counsel the issue to some undefined conclusion.

J.B. Phillips once wrote a book called “Your God Is Too Small.”  I agree with the basic premise of the book that people’s conception of God is most readily based on a projection of their relationship with their parents, with male and female figures authority figures and so on. For Christian counselors, ministers, et al I would amend the title based on my experience with their counseling: “Your God is Too Much Like Sanitized Societal Norms.”

Those in the ministry who do not have gender dysphoria (and that would be most) think that it is something that can be dealt with or overridden with therapy, prayer and redemptive (bear the cross I am handing you) suffering. They will place a diagnostic label on you and curtly denounce you for living a “lifestyle.” This stereotyping happens over and over again in these ministries. 

A theologian at this point may say that such a change is working at cross purposes with God, that  the ‘naturalized’ person is not getting their understanding from Scripture (though the New Testament writers desire that people be trans-formed and put on Christ). The theologian may also say that they have ‘bastardized’ what God has created. A Christian psychologist may go further and say that they suffer a neurosis.  Others may say things like “God doesn’t make mistakes (implying that they know the mind of God because they have reason on their side.)” I have heard it all.

Now you should know that my gender understanding and change are both coupled with my understanding of God’s grace – God’s elbow room for sinners like me. But, at this point, let me make something clear: I don’t practice homosexuality. I am celibate. I have been given the grace to make the change and to be celibate. This has been a wonderful healing/direction for my life.

Grace and elbow room. Do divorced people receive God’s grace? If you listen to Christian talk radio the answer is yes.

Divorce, not a feature of Adam and Eve’s garden relationship came about because of the hardness of men’s hearts since the garden. Today we have Christian radio personalities who are divorced. Did God, who sanctifies marriage, allow divorce – the One becoming Two? Does God’s grace allow you to divorce your husband because he looked at pornography? Does grace (both God’s and yours) allow and enable you to stay with your sinner of a husband as a salient witness for Christ in the marriage? What’s the appropriate use and measure of grace? Is grace the wherewithal to transition from a broken state into a temple for the Holy Spirit? Is grace the transmogrification of a person’s point of view? (see Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Temple of the Holy Ghost. )? Is it all of the above? I think so.

God hates divorce but he allows it to take place. His grace works with man’s brokenness. Should I be judged or weighed differently than a divorced person? But let’s not think about the subject of my change in relativistic terms. I don’t. I think about my change in terms of grace, in terms of unction, in terms of personhood, set apart not for sin and the world but for God.

There was no doubt that I was divided or split about my gender since my earliest remembrance. To resolve the matter I spoke to all manner of counselors. And, as mentioned above, psychologists will often use the word “neurotic” to describe someone who is ‘severely’ divided in their thinking. But I have since learned not to accept the unproven ‘science’ of psychology and its “naming” conventions as truth. And since I am not Woody Allen-esque enough to need regurgitation of emo and hypochondria three times a week or even once a week I stay away from counseling. Counseling, for me, has been nothing more than the ebb and flow of mindless goo.

Beyond all this, there will always be people who want to nail down the morality of my change as something bad. Some will seek to nail me down to their own cross but I’m not going there. I have my own cross to bear.

Wholeness, I have understood and accepted, could be achieved through a “naturalization” process where mind and body could coexist in a stable peaceful state – the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ in my life. I can live within God’s grace and with God’s blessing. And, I can now concentrate on God’s Kingdom.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” And, it was James, the brother of my Lord, who said, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And, it was Carol King who sang, “You make me feel like a natural woman.”

Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

It was me who said, “Amen.”

What’s “Biblical” About It?

Whenever I see the word “Biblical” in front of a title or a statement I pause as anyone should who cares about what the Bible really does or does not say. 

Recently this word caught my eye:  a local Evangelical church, a church of great size, advertised a Biblical Masculinity and Femininity Conference.  I thought this rather odd since the Bible does not tell men how to behave as men or women how to behave as women.  I thought that stereotyping had gone out with analogical thinking (if a, then b follows).

 Regarding male and female behavior I’ve come to the conclusion that masculinity and femininity are social contrivances or social regulators which help us navigate our relationships.  Again, the Bible does not tell men how to behave like a man or a woman how to behave like a woman.  The Bible does tell us in very simple general statements how we as men and women are to relate to the opposite sex and to each other.  The Bible also provides us with examples of what men find attractive in a woman (e.g., the Shulammite woman of The Song of Solomon & the industrious woman in Proverbs 31) and what women find attractive in men (the Ruth/Boaz story). Masculine or feminine qualities, if there are such things, are worked out between each man and woman in the give and take of relationship. They certainly are not the rubber stamping of contrived gender roles promoted by such Conferences.

 Without a whole lot of fanfare the Bible commands men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. Beyond this the Bible only gives us some storied examples of men and women in action. Masculinity and femininity if Biblically revealed at all is the plain and simple romantic dance of the male and female psyches within the narrative of relationship.  As mentioned above we can see this dance in the lives of the Bible’s men and women.  Another example:  the love story of Jacob and Rachel.

 So, the impetus of this post is to hopefully negate the misinformation doled out by those who feel the need to conform everyone to certain gender defined roles and who also seek to make others abide by the same gender templates, templates created extra-Biblically and more decidedly culturally derived. Hopefully, I can set the record straight.  You decide.

 Raised in a Baptist/Evangelical church I understand that the word “Biblical” connotes a God-given standard that you are expected to honor, to follow and to conform to. Over the years, though, I have had to disentangle my understanding of what the Bible really says from the “Biblical” fishing nets tossed out by commercial fishers-of-men who believe they have captured what the Bible says and then can sell it back to you in the market place of ideas as truth.

 Let’s look at one of their “marketable Biblical items”.  A common passage of Scripture used to define Biblical Womanhood is Proverbs 31

In this passage the writer Lemuel or Anonymous describes the attributes he likes in a woman.  Proverbs 31 is the writer’s description of what he thinks is noble character for a woman.  Now, if women want to aspire to these same traits they may find similar recognition. The word “Biblical”, though, as in “Proverbs 31 is an example of Biblical Womanhood” often implies a kind of warrant of a personal guarantee of outcome (if a, then b follows). If you do these same things then you are Biblically feminine.  But is that true?

 The industrious “woman” in Proverbs 31 works to fulfill the needs of her family as do men.  But, as you know, men and women do different things to maintain the household and will often overlap in the household duties required.  Does the example of this woman’s qualities and behavior mean Biblical femininity? If you as a woman do not do all the things listed in Proverbs 31 are you less feminine? Or, if a man did the same things is he being feminine? Or worse, are you being less Biblical if you are not matching up to these same traits?  I hope you can see where this type of “Biblical womanhood” typecasting leads.

 In the Song of Solomon, a lyric poem in dialogue form, King Solomon describes marked physical attributes of the woman he loves. Is what he describing Biblical femininity? Or, is what he describing what he likes about the woman he loves, the Shulammite?

 Now most Christian scholars, most trusted Christian scholars, would tell you that the biblical canon is closed – there is no further written revelation from God. Yet, we are told that there is Biblical Masculinity and Biblical Femininity – a continuum of a more codified and concise version of the Bible which informs us as to how a twenty-first century man or woman behaves. To me, though, this extra-biblical and apocryphal “decoded” addition of Scripture’s text sounds a lot more like a Pharisee’s laundry list of dos and don’ts than the Bible’s simple and direct statements:  “Husband love your wives. Wives see to it that you respect your husbands.”

 The church conference I am talking about was directed at the youth – junior and senior high school kids.  I have no doubt that the parents are concerned about what the LGBT community is doing to affect gender “norms” in the local public schools.  To be sure the LGBT community is misguided and has no concern whatsoever about what God says.  I, like these parents, am concerned about the LGBT lies and the nonsense being promulgated in our schools as normative. At the same time I do not want the church to overreact to the same degree by narrowly defining gender into masculine and feminine stereotypes, supplying false “Biblical” alternatives to the LGBT community’s errors.

 Gender confusion has become an issue recently because of the LGB community.  It is the members of the LGB community who want to take control of masculinity and femininity in order to receivec acceptance and codification of their behavior. They seek to use homosexuality as a subsitute for what God had created as good – a male and female relationship.  The LGB community depises the Christian community for wanting to maintain what God created.  Homosexuality, the centerpiece of the LGB community then is the ego’s defiance of God and stands in direct contrast to what God created and said was good – a male and female relationship. Hence, gender confusion, anger and pride exists wherever the LGB community is. For most people, though, gender confusion does not exist apart from the false narratives promoted by the LGB community.

Gender dysphoria, though,  does exist in some individuals and should be met with differently than the individual simple searching for culturally accepted masculinity or femininity.

 For most people gender confusion is not an issue.  The searching for where you fit in comes and goes naturally during youth.  The rub usually comes from culture.  Scripture has nothing to say about it even though people create sermons and seminars about it.  During this adapting process  we as parents need to know what the LGBT community is saying about gender and then discount any of their false notions about gender along with false “Biblical” ones. The individual will eventually define him or herself by their sexed body and will respond according to what those around them are telling them about their gender.

The parents who are very concerned about the LGBT community’s activism should be careful to not define masculine and feminine as having “Biblical” attributes and as exsiting apart from relationship with the opposite gender.  Masculine and feminine are culturally defined romantic notions of male and female attributes within relationship. The Bible has only a few things to say specifically about man’s behavior or a woman’s behavior and it is in the context of relationships.

In the beginning God saw that it was not good for man to be alone so God created woman and human relationship.  Within that relationship God let men and women work out their masculine and feminine qualities. God did not prescribe what masculinity and femininity meant before or after the fall.  God only mentioned pragmatic matters:  what men and women will do as a result of their fall and what relationships they should absolutely stay away from.

As a result of Adam and Eve’s fall God said that men would work hard to make a living from the earth and that women will labor hard to give birth to a child.  And later, in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, God provided some practical laws or boundaries regarding men and women and their physical relationships.  These Levitical issues in particular dealt with the exchange of bodily fluids (do not commit incest or homosexuality or bestiality, avoid sex during a woman’s menstrual flow, etc.).  In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, in a strongly worded letter to the members of the church in Corinth, told them to “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…”  What defiles (and confuses) your personhood and the context for working out “masculinity” or “femininity”  are sinful relationships which quench the Spirit.

Now can one boy be more masculine than another?  No.  (Now, you may think that a boy who hangs around with his mother is more feminine than a boy who hangs around with his father.  In reality, each boy is sharing things they enjoy in common with the respective parent. Should it be demanded of the boy to act more like his father? Culture might demand it but Scripture doesn’t. The answer is No.) I would have little doubt that shaming a child into submitting to a gender stereotype is part of the personality pathology of homosexuality. 

Parent’s desirous of fitting their kids into society’s norms and into their own idealization of gender will restrict a child to a certain prescribed behavior and manner of presentation.  This need to conform their child to a certain delineation of a gender role may lead to post traumatic stress disorder in the child. (See this recent article:  Gender nonconformity linked to child abuse:  Uncomfortable adults often compel strict role presentation)

 A boy is more masculine than a girl,  of course. Just as in the garden of Eden before Eve came along, masculine and feminine were meaningless terms (The conference gods will strike me down, now.) They were meaningless until Eve stood in contrast to Eve as a separate gender.    Masculinity and femininity basically are the features in the opposite sex that we are attracted to.  This sounds rather unspiritual, too down to earth, but is what God had intended  – the simple elemental attraction of opposites.

 Within a male and female relationship you are drawn to the other gender.  You are attracted to gender-derived differences, to those features that are reciprocal (the roller-skate-and-key principle, if you will).  I realize that this may sound more like fuzzy math, more like the probability nature of quantum physics and not at all like rock-solid classical Newtonian physics that people more readily grasp but solid marriages prove the point.  An example would be my parents.

My parents have been married for over 60 years.  To my knowledge there has never been any talk between my mother and father about who was masculine and who was feminine.  They simply followed Christ and let gender find its way within in the context of their relationship to each other and to Christ.  They attended no seminars about “Biblical Masculinity or Biblical Femininity.”

Now regarding binary gender, the analogy may apply:  men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  As two distinct sexes we relate to each other differently, the differences being derived from basic biology (physical sexed body and hormonal) and cultural adaptations. Beyond this, there are no such things as the True Masculine or the True Feminine

 In fact, when we elevate certain aspects or attributes of men or women that we perceive to be quality masculine or feminine specimens to the position of the “True Masculine” or the True Feminine” we make idols of man-made aspirations (and, perhaps,  of Freudian psychology).  The church, as shown by the conference ad, wants to package masculinity and femininity and resell certain accepted features of it as “Biblical”.  They will even supersize the issue with book sales, heated sermons and biopic posts giving us what they see as the jot and tittle of masculine and feminine as viewed through their myopic lense of socially acceptable Biblical “truth.”

Concerning this topic, the book Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf was of special interest to me, especially the chapter titled Gender Identity. The primary focus of the chapter as I read it was to rightly describe the basis of gender identity and to show how the ideas about masculinity and femininity, described in “essence” forms, are often used to exclusion rather than embrace of the other.

 In this chapter Miroslav Volf says regarding his argument about gender identity:  “I have claimed that (1) the content of gender identity is rooted in the sexed body and negotiated in the social exchange between men and women within a given cultural context, and that (2) the portrayals of God in no way provide models of what it means to be male or female. I suggested, instead, that the relations between the Trinitarian persons serve as a model for how the content of “masculinity” and “femininity” ought to be negotiated in the social process.” (emphasis mine)

 He further states neutrally:

 “The content of gender identity is left unspecified; anything seems to go.”

 Also:

 “Biblical “woman” and “manhood” – if there are such things at all, given the diversity of male and female characters and roles that we encounter in the Bible – are not divinely sanctioned models but culturally situated examples.” (emphasis mine)

 And:

 “If neither models of God nor the explicit statements of the Bible about femininity and masculinity are normative for the content of gender identities, what is?  Does anything really go?  My proposal is that we locate the normativity in the formal features of identity and the character of relations of divine person. Instead of setting up ideals of femininity and masculinity, we should root each in the sexed body and let the social construction of gender play itself out guided by the vision of the identity of and relations between divine persons. What is normative is not some ‘essence” of femininity and masculinity, but the procedures, modeled on the life of the triune God, through which women and men in specific cultural settings should negotiate.” (emphasis mine)

 Further thoughts from the chapter:

  •  Father figure imagery has become sacrosanct in Christian circles.
  •  Psychology attempts to use the father figure imagery to decipher…
  •  Freud: we create god as a need for a father figure or oedipal complex
  •  Man’s projection of a father figure into the heavens due to an oedipal complex

If you as a man or you as a woman want to be all that you can be (to borrow an advertising phrase from the Army) then be in relationship with Christ.  Period. Don’t fashion your life around the drivel described as “Biblical” masculinity and femininity.  Put on Christ and walk in the Spirit instead. (I realize that many people want self-help books, tweets and conferences to tell them what to think.  Forget these things. Put on Christ and get walking.)

Now, you can always parse or stretch Scripture to make it mean what you want to say regarding masculine and feminine attributes.  Instead,  it would be better to not focus on these things, on whether you or someone else is more or less masculine or feminine. The Evil One will always stir up comparisons.  Just look at the media and you can, hopefully, see that the Evil One’s world view is one of comparing yourself to celebs, to physical attributes, to images of macho men and sexy babes,  to myriads of false idols. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fill up the flesh with a pretense of the masculine or feminine.

 And by far the best antidote to the cloying gender confusion issue that the LGB community brings with it is the solid mutually beneficial relationship of a man and a woman.  The spectrums of masculine and feminine can be fully explored within a committed relationship. In such a relationship there should be no threat to your perceived masculinity or femininity.  These things just co-exist.  And as such, the two will become one with no thought or time given to someone’s canonized version of “Biblical Masculinity or Femininity.”