Friday, September 22, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Not Going to Nashville [Part 3]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

The Nashville Statement is a significant evangelical document. It’s an attempt by big names such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Russell Moore, James Dobson and others to formulate a written response to Western culture’s post-Christian “massive revision of what it means to be a human being”, especially as that revision relates to sexuality and marriage.

Significant though it may be, in our next few installments we’ll be discussing why, here at ComingUntrue, we’re Not Going to Nashville.

Tom: You pointed out last time around, IC, that Articles 5 through 7 of the Nashville Statement are related, so I thought we’d consider them together.

Article 5: Biological Sex and Self-Conception

WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.

WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.
So basically distinguishing between “gender” and “sex” are out of court for Christians. I agree, actually, but I wish they had pointed to some specifics.

Article 6: Physical Disorders and Fruitful Living

WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.

WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.
And here’s the last of this triad:

Article 7: Self-Conception Should Follow Biology and Theology

WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.

WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.
Immanuel Can: I actually think this Article 5 was designed to cover two things.

Psychological and Physiological

Firstly, they speak of “psychological conditions”, the liberal objection that says that people cannot decide to whom they will be attracted, and thus that genitalia cannot be indicators of rightful sexual preference — here they are warming up for Article 7. Secondly, what they call “physiological anomalies”, meaning the protestation that there are extraordinary circumstances, like those in which, through birth defect or trauma, people’s sexual organs are undeveloped, mangled through sex-reassignment surgery, or destroyed by some accident — and in this they are rolling into Article 6.

Tom: Right. Now, this is a relatively new thing, and we shouldn’t miss it. I didn’t initially grasp it because it’s so bizarre. But the contention of progressives today is that gender and sex are different things. In their view you can be born physically male (your “sex”) but think of yourself as female, or male, or gender-fluid, or a baby unicorn, or whatever (your “gender”).

Do you want to explain where that comes from? In the English language, gender” and “sex” were once essentially synonymous. Or we used “gender” to label French nouns …

Biological Sex and Genesis

Immanuel Can: I can’t say who started it or when. But I can see why. The normal solution to questions of sex-attraction is that males are attracted to females, and females to males. (There are other constraints as well, of course, such as age and relationship, but those are basic norms, biologically and historically). By denying these norms, the sexual-deviant set are attempting to say that we can no longer use biological sex to tell us about normalcy or sin, about right and wrong sexual development and activity. Instead, we are left in a vacuum, wherein simply being attracted to someone or something is treated as normalizing in itself.

Tom: Now, Genesis plainly states that “Male and female he created them,” and that this condition of things was literally “blessed”. The Lord Jesus reinforces this in Matthew. But that’s not simply a statement about different reproductive structures, is it? God was not merely enthusing about externals when he blesses his creations and calls them “Man”. It is the entirety of maleness and femaleness that God is blessing, and that includes the psychological and emotional and spiritual components, not just the physical.

You Complete Me …

IC: Absolutely. And something else was built into that: namely, that men and women should not be self-sufficient and intrinsically complete. Instead, that they should become who they ought to be by learning to give up their instinctive biases and predispositions as a sex, and to take on the obligation of learning to live in an understanding way with counterpart human beings compatible — but not too compatible — with them. That is one divine discipline that we are all refusing today.

One of the follies of our age is to imagine that men are made complete by being nothing but themselves and pleasing nothing but themselves … or worse, by catering to each other; and that women are complete without men, whether for meaning, or caring, or procreation or any other function of the feminine that is stressed by learning to live with a man. As Gloria Steinem famously put it, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Tom: Agreed. Male and female are complementary parts of the divine design, and our failure to recognize the necessity for both perspectives speaks poorly of us as a culture.

What Happens to the Exceptions?

But it now becomes necessary to consider the exceptions, because there ARE exceptions. Taking into account all the various possibilities — ambiguous genitalia, hermaphroditism, etc. — we’re talking about 1 in 100 live births. But only one or two of these in 1,000 actually receive reassignment surgery; the reason being that rarely are doctors dealing with two sets of fully-developed genitalia. Further, even with a search engine, finding a single documented example of a hermaphrodite with two fully-functioning sets of genitalia is next to impossible. Some speculate they don’t exist. The maleness or femaleness of most babies with ambiguities or extras is sufficiently obvious that no real sexual confusion would usually exist — that is, until our society elected to actively promote it.

Thus physical anomalies seriously impact somewhere between one tenth of one percent and one fifth of one percent of the population. That’s not a big number, but it’s not nothing. Do you think the Nashville Statement treats these folk biblically and respectfully, IC? They have been genuinely “born this way”, no argument.

IC: Well, I think genetics help us out there. Literally every cell in a woman’s body is female by chromosome pairs. And literally every cell in a man’s body is likewise male … with the notable exception of a few of his sperm. So we can always tell what a person really is biologically — and that’s why the opposition has shifted ground and started to claim that gender and sex aren’t the same: genetics are against them.

Tom: Awkward.

IC: But I have nothing but sympathy for those born with a physiological abnormality. The biggest kindness we can do to them is to identify their basic genetic structure for them, so that they have a solid starting point for discovering their identity. To deny their basic genetic nature and thus confuse them about their “real” gender would be one of the unkindest things a person could do to them.

Psychological Abnormalities

Tom: Absolutely. Now, the Statement also deals with psychological conditions. You and I would agree with them, I think, that true, God-given identity follows biology regardless of what a person’s head is telling him at the moment. As to the scriptural teaching on that; it seems self-evidently part of the male-or-female set of options designed in by God at the beginning. Deuteronomy also teaches that women should dress like women and men like men; anything else is abominable. And Paul teaches that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, and he includes among these those who are malakos, meaning “soft” or “effeminate”. The same term was used by the Greeks to describe submissive homosexuals.

So however human beings may think of themselves when they’re not thinking right, it’s evident we’re not to act on whatever mistaken “identity” we may have conceived for ourselves. That means for the Christian the word “gender” can go back to being used to describe pronouns again. But it helps to know how progressives are distorting the language.

IC: Yes, it’s just propaganda. Next?

Dignity and Worth Redux

Tom: I notice in Article 6 that they felt compelled to work that “dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers” business in again, which merits the same comment on the word “equal” that we noted last week: it’s just not there in the word of God. It’s pure conjecture.

Did you have any comment on Article 7’s “creation and redemption” language? I think we’ve exhausted the first two.

IC: Honestly, I didn’t understand what they were going for there. It could be the Amillennial “Redemption of Culture” doctrine they have in mind. It could be the Christ-and-the-Church idiom insufficiently explained. I really cannot tell.

Tom: It’s the same problem we keep encountering with this Statement. If its purpose is to educate liberal Christians, it can hardly accomplish it without reference to scripture itself.

Let’s take this up again next time.

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