A Call for Courage on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
- Monday, December 11, 2006
The fault lines of controversy in contemporary Christianity range across a vast terrain of issues, but none seems quite so volatile as the question of gender. As Christians have been thinking and rethinking these issues in recent years, a clear pattern of divergence has appeared. At stake in this debate is something more important than the question of gender, for this controversy reaches the deepest questions of Christian identity and biblical authority.
For too long, those who hold to traditional understandings of manhood and womanhood, deeply rooted in both Scripture and tradition, have allowed themselves to be pushed into a defensive posture. Given the prevailing spirit of the age and the enormous cultural pressure toward conformity, traditionalists are now accused of being woefully out of step and hopelessly out of date. Now is a good time to reconsider the issues basic to this debate and to reassert the arguments for biblical manhood and womanhood.
The most basic question in this controversy comes down to this: Has God created human beings as male and female with a revealed intention for how we are to relate to each other? The secular world is now deeply committed to confusion on these matters. Denying the Creator, the secular worldview understands gender to be nothing more than the accidental byproduct of blind evolutionary process. Therefore, gender is reducible to nothing more than biology and, as the feminists famously argued, biology is not destiny.
This radical rebellion against a divinely-designed pattern of gender has now reached the outer limits of imagination. If gender is nothing more than a biological accident, and if human beings are therefore not morally bound to take gender as meaningful, then the radical gender theorists and homosexual rights advocates are correct after all. For, if gender is merely incidental to our basic humanity, then we must be free to make whatever adjustments, alterations, or transformations in gender relationships any generation might desire or demand.
The postmodern worldview embraces the notion of gender as a social construct. That is, postmodernists argue that our notions of what it means to be male and female are entirely due to what society has constructed as its theories of masculinity and femininity. Of course, the social construction of all truth is central to the postmodern mind, but when the issue is gender, the arguments become more volatile. The feminist argument is reducible to the claim that patriarchal forces in society have defined men and women so that all the differences ascribed to women represent efforts by men to protect their position of privilege.
Of course, the pervasiveness of this theory explains why radical feminism must necessarily be joined to the homosexual agenda. For, if gender is socially constructed, and therefore differences between men and women are nothing more than social convention, then heterosexuality becomes nothing more than a culturally-privileged form of sexuality.
The utopia envisioned by ideological feminists would be a world free from any concern for gender--a world where masculinity and femininity are erased as antiquated notions, and an age in which the categories of male and female are malleable and negotiable. In the postmodern view, all structures are plastic and all principles are liquid. The influence of previous ages has molded us to believe that men and women are distinct in significant ways, but our newly liberated age will promise to free us from such misconceptions and point us toward a new world of transformed gender consciousness.
As Elizabeth Elliot once reflected: "Throughout the millennia of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted that the differences between men and women were so obvious as to need no comment. They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused, we have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabor to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant."
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