From the March/April 2023 Discern issue of Discern Magazine

What Does the Bible Say About Gender Identity?

There was a time when sex and gender were synonymous. Things have changed—but have they changed for the better? What does the Designer say about gender?

In today’s society there is certainly no shortage of discussion about gender and what it means to be a man or a woman.

The two words sex and gender used to be synonymous. But many today no longer think that’s the case.

Activists and other cultural voices have succeeded in decoupling these two terms. This change in definition is due in part to the feminist theories of Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler and others and their impact on current progressivist thinking.

Thus, sex is now the term that refers to the biological classification of a person as male or female, and gender is now defined as an identity—a personal, internal perception of oneself that is based on socially constructed roles, behaviors and customs. In other words, gender is now based on how someone feels.

This feeling definition of gender has opened the door to increasing numbers of people (particularly young people) who are identifying as something other than their biological sex.

But what does God’s Word have to say about gender?

What does the Bible say about gender?

As the Creator, God is quite clear in the book of Genesis about His intent for His created order—particularly human beings.

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

The account continues, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (verse 27).

It is significant that God created humanity in His image. He further states that He chose to express this most important part of His creation as male and female. It is clear from the Word of God that His purpose was to fashion mankind biologically and physiologically as male and female.

In the next chapter of Genesis God comments on the relationship between male and female—between husband and wife:

“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (Genesis 2:18).

The word comparable in verse 18 is translated from a Hebrew term that also means suitable, complementary and counterpart. This distinction is important, as it shows God’s intent to provide a partner, a mate of the opposite gender to help. Marriage was designed to be a complementary, supportive and interdependent relationship between two different genders of people to fulfill God’s purpose for humans.

“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

“And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:21-24).

As the designer of human life, God intended for a man and woman to commit to each other, come together in that commitment, have a complementary relationship (recognizing the unique strengths and abilities of each other), become one flesh and produce a family.

God’s design was straightforward and clear.

Contrary to God’s created order

Confusing genders is something God says is wrong and is contrary to His created order. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.”

God knows the negative results of this path, and while He loves those caught up in this tangled web, He hates the results.This law was designed to maintain a clear distinction between the two genders God created.

Cross-dressing and other examples of gender fluidity and transgender transitioning today are evidence of growing confusion, but ultimately, they reflect society’s rejection of God and His instructions and plan.

God knows the negative results of this path, and while He loves those caught up in this tangled web, He hates the results. Twisting His pure creation and polluting His purpose (as humanity has done in so many ways) is simply wrong in the eyes of God. The Hebrew term translated as “abomination” is toebah—something that is disgusting or wrong. It is not what our loving Designer intended.

From God’s perspective, when men and women embrace other-gendered expressions of identity, it is a shame or dishonor (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). While God clearly has allowed humanity to choose its own morality since the Garden of Eden, His intention is that we should glorify Him with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), which includes the manner in which He created human beings in His image—as male and female.

The increasing confusion about human identity (and thus the identity of the only beings made in the Creator’s image) has led to God’s purpose for humanity being fundamentally deconstructed. The long-term consequences for society and the human family are far-reaching.

However, the real tragedy is the impact this chaos in defining sex, gender and the human family has on those individuals whose personal lives have been devastated in the process.

Human beings are complex. And without having the direction and guidance of the One who created them, they will remain in a state of turmoil and confusion, having departed from the traditional purpose and role that men and women were created to enjoy.

Transcending gender confusion

Andrew T. Walker’s book God and the Transgender Debate provides some helpful thoughts:

In this confused world, which has departed from God and His instructions, every human being experiences the results of sin. Because of this, sometimes Christians have “to say ‘no’ to what they think they want or how they feel” (2017, p. 136). Instead, they choose to believe God knows what He is talking about.

Mr. Walker’s comments hit at the core of the issue. Those who believe the Bible come to the realization that not everything we want or feel is necessarily right or good. And given the track record of humanity—it generally isn’t.

Though we should show compassion to those who are confused and have a distorted perspective on gender, discerning Christians should lean on the unchanging design of our Creator when it comes to these basic issues of life instead of relying on the ever-changing views and definitions of the world around us.

For related reading, see “Questions About Sex Answered by the Bible” and “The Divine Design of Family.”

About the Author

Doug Horchak

Doug Horchak is the operation manager of Ministerial Services for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He and his wife, Tanya, live in the Dallas, Texas, area.

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