The tagline for this blog says it all: Apologetics and Polemics for 21st Century Christianity. Moreover, the need underlying this blog requires me to expound briefly the terms in the tagline.
Apologetics: this is the practice of defending the truth claims of religious or philosophical convictions; in this case, the Christian faith. Entire websites, books, and ministries are devoted to this project as it touches every nook and cranny of the truth claims of Christianity. This blog, however, is focused on a specific area of the truth claims of the Bible and the Christian faith, viz. its “gender theology.” See below for a discussion of the term “gender” in this connection.
This blog will set forth defenses and applications of Biblical, orthodox gender theology under the following broad sub-topics: Biblical patriarchy, complementarianism, traditional roles for the sexes in their various relationships to God, other humans, and the world; the notion of gender as it is accurately applied to God Himself; and, finally, exposition, defense, and application of the five aspects model of masculinity and femininity as it emerges from the whole counsel of God.
Polemics: this is the practice of refuting truth claims opposed to one’s own philosophical or religious convictions; in this case, the Christian faith. Christians of all sorts today are far, far less engaged in polemics than apologetics. The spirit of the age is simply against strategic attacks upon false ideas, as such activity insults the relativistic sensibilities inculcated in our public education system.
Christians have imbibed this spirit deeply, and so have retreated not only from lodging cogent criticisms of false ideas, but also from defending the truth claims of their own faith. For this reason, the content of this blog will almost certainly offend many Christians – not because of what it claims is true, but because of what it argues is false and harmful. It’s not nice to do such a thing, and Christians, as we all are told, must Always Be Nice. Sorry, folks, this blog is not going to be that kind of nice. On the other hand, I hope that those who want to get up to orthodox speed in this area will find an abundance of stimulating help and information here.
21st Century Christianity: Both apologetics and polemics depend on historical context for their content and significance. The point was made most pointedly by Martin Luther when he insisted that the man who defends the gospel, except at the very place where it is being attacked by the world, is not defending the gospel at all.
Where is the gospel being attacked today? At several places, of course. But, there is one place where the attack on the gospel not only goes unanswered by Christian leaders, the attackers are often embraced as colleagues. That place of attack is the Bible’s teaching on the nature and relationship of the sexes. The Biblical teaching is opposed, contradicted, scorned, and condemned by Christian leaders who suppose they gain a hearing from the world by conforming their message to its sensibilities. But, the world’s sensibilities here are so profoundly opposed to the Bible that to embrace the world in this area leads directly to a repudiation of the Bible’s teaching on the nature of God, the incarnation, and finally the economy of salvation.
Gender: I wish to acknowledge my sympathy for those who oppose the use of this term as a substitute for the word “sex.” They deem this use to be weasely, a tool of those who undermine and resist the created and Biblical notions of sexuality, those who seek to canonize the idea that there are a whole variety of “gender orientations,” such as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, and so on.
I candidly acknowledge the criticism of my friends here, that this co-opting of a term that formerly had a merely grammatical purview is an obvious effort by perverse thinkers to advance their sexual agenda by redefining the terms of reference. Their Gnostic notion (that biological sex is socially irrelevant while “gender” is both socially constructed and malleable) is encouraged by speaking of sexual matters in terms that avoid the inconvenient polarity of biological sex.
And yet …
Those who have stretched the term “gender” to accomplish their ends have opened a door and have legitimized an issue that traditionalists can – indeed, they must – exploit. We are, after all, bifurcated beings on several levels – we are male and female (biologically) and masculine and feminine in our social/spiritual/psychological selves. Sex marks our being; but, sex also marks our behavior. Sex is something to be, and sex is something to do.
When I say that “sex is something to do,” I am not speaking primarily of coitus. “To do” in this case encompasses any and all behavior that may be prescribed or proscribed for men and women because of their sex. The pansexualists press their case that all forms of sexual behavior is morally legitimate. By their initiative this issue is raised: that what we thought formerly ought not to be done should no longer be judged morally derelict. And, the boundaries between “what ought not to be done” and “what is wholesome to do” have continually blurred since the emergence of feminism in the West in the past 50 years.
The point: by expanding the meaning of “gender,” the pansexualists invite debate concerning the moral dimensions of sexuality. I am, therefore, satisfied to take their term and turn it back on them.
The term “gender” has another usefulness for those defending traditional notions of sexual roles and behaviors. It serves to name that category of non-biological features of our sexuality. C. S. Lewis is one who highlighted this idea in his novel Perelandra.
“Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and others feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender animaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than. sex.
Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive function, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity. All this Ransom saw, as it were, with his own eyes. The two white creatures were sexless. But he of Malacandra was masculine (not male); she of Perelandra was feminine (not female).
Lewis here is deploying the word “gender” in a way that runs parallel to how the pansexualists use it today. He expanded its meaning beyond the grammatical several decades before the pansexualists conscripted the term for their agenda. I agree with Lewis that gender (in the sense he was using the term) is a reality far more fundamental than biological sex, that masculinity is a term properly applied to angels, for example, or to God, where “male” in the biological sense of that term, is not applicable. If my friends who oppose the pansexualists’ use of the term “gender” can acknowledge that Lewis’ earlier use of the term is fair and accurate, if they nevertheless still object to the term “gender,” I wish they would provide me an alternative term that still serves Lewis’ purpose. I’ve pressed many to come up with such a term, and I’m still waiting to hear what they will say. Meanwhile, I beg their indulgence to read with fairness my uses of the term gender, and not to impute to me a capitulation to points of view which I am, in fact, opposing with all the strength I can muster.