Theological Sexuality: Gender, Part 1

Recent theological arguments in areas of sexuality have fallen flat in secular culture. But the church is the one place that the connection between theology and sexuality must be proclaimed the loudest! As one of my esteemed professors in seminary, Dr. Willem Van Gemeren said, the problem is not that we are failing to teach our teenagers about sex. The problem is we are not teaching them wisdom! We give them laws without explaining how those laws flow from the nature of God. My goal in this next series of posts is to address what exactly we should teaching about theology so that those in the church understand how theology connects to sexuality, beginning first with the issue of gender.

The connection between theology and gender can be found in Genesis 1:26-27. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,…. 27So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It never ceases to amaze me that ‘in His own image God created mankind (singular), in the image of God He created them (plural). He created two in one. One species, two genders. It would make logical sense for the one God to create one species with only one gender, like the all-female whiptail lizards. Instead, the God who is one created a species that is two!

Compare this also with Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will have a helper suitable for him.” Notice that God does create for man another man. Instead, he creates a woman, “suitable for him,” literally “fit for him.” Again, we see the God of creation emphasizing a plurality and distinctness within the human species. After Eve is brought to Adam, in Genesis 2:28, Adam recognizes her ‘sameness.’ “This is now bone of my bone flesh of my flesh.” But Adam also recognizes her differentness. “She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.” There is both a similarity and a disparity. Both human but different genders.

And human sexuality continues to emphasize this difference. In Genesis 2:29 we read “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Distinctness: man and wife, but becoming same: “one flesh.” Sexuality is an act which emphasizes unity in diversity, of the ‘fitness’ between the two genders. And we are told, all the way at the beginning, in Genesis 1:26-27, that this was so that they could be made in God’s image. Genesis 1:26-27 make it explicit that this singularity in diversity was found in the nature of God, which is odd, considering God always refers to Himself usually masculine terminology. Paul even says in Ephesians 3 that all fathers/families in heaven and on earth get such a name from God the Father. So why did a God who identifies Himself with masculine terminology choose to create a species with a female gender rather than all males?

Again, the answer lies in Genesis 1:26. “God said let us make man in our image.” God did not say “my image” but our image. Who was God talking with to be able to say “our”? The answer is progressively revealed throughout the rest of Scripture. God is Himself unity in diversity, which he reveals to us as He reveals His Triune nature. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), three distinct persons, equal in power, might, and glory, but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). Scripture continually emphasizes the plurality and differentness of the persons of the Godhead. And yet, likewise, Scripture emphasizes the unity and sameness of the divinity of the Godhead. Three persons, One God. A true mystery.

Yet, while it is certainly a mystery, we have a reflection of the image of the Trinity within our own species as we see two genders. On the one hand, men and women are separately made in the image of God so that any one person can claim to be an image bearer of God. On the other hand, men and women are not made in such a way that they are exclusively made in the image of God. Rather, they are both made in the image of God. Men and Women are made in the image of God but are also together the image of God as a species.In a very real way, men and women are incomplete as a species without each other. If all the men in the world died so that only women were left, the image of God in the human race would not be complete. We would most likely be unable to point to exactly what is missing other than to say that the plurality of our species is gone, and with it the reflection of the Triune God. Both genders, individually bearing the image of God, are needed to truly bear the complete image of God.

As Dr. Jonathan Lunde at Biola put it, the existence of gender is itself a ‘living parable,’ pointing to the image of God. Sex too, as he explained it from Genesis 1 and 2, is also a ‘living parable.” The distinctness of our gender is self-evident. In human sexuality, though, we have a reminder and picture of our unity, that men and women were made fit for each other as they come together to reflect the image of our Triune God.

Gender and theology cannot be separated. To deny the importance of gender in sexuality is to deny the nature of God, who is Himself a being of unity in plurality.

Then why not make three genders? For that we turn to Gender, part 2.