From the March/April 2023 Discern issue of Discern Magazine

Why Sex Matters: The Architect’s Design

How should human sexuality work? Consider the old adage: If you want to know how something should work, make sure you read the instructions.

Did you ever hear that advice? Whether you’re using a new kitchen appliance or taking medicine for an illness, following the instructions of the manufacturer can make all the difference! If instructions are ignored when cooking with a new appliance, your food may not taste good or even be edible, and the wrong use of a medication may cause serious complications.

People are no different. In fact, human beings are finely tuned and designed to function well only when they understand and live according to the maker’s design and instructions.

However, many believe human beings are not designed, but are merely the result of evolutionary blind chance. No designer, no creator—just random mutations over time. This leads them to believe that we human beings must figure out for ourselves how we work—the right way to live, function and relate to one another.

Yet nothing could be more dangerous and further from the truth.

And these days, there is no domain of humanity that seems to be more confused and broken than that of human identity itself.

The way increasing numbers of people see themselves and define the role of gender and family is undergoing a seismic shift in our culture.

Much of the cause of society’s confusion about human sexuality and family lies at the door of people’s declining belief in a Creator. The only real antidote to this chaos is a return to a belief in God—in fact, a belief in the Creator. It is the Creator who has revealed His purpose for human life on earth and how human beings are to relate, live and thrive.

A belief in God

The belief that life itself was designed and created demands a belief in a Creator. Unfortunately, many in our world today simply don’t believe that. The idea of an all-knowing and all-powerful God who has created the universe and human life is deemed preposterous by many academics and a growing number of people in society.

The Pew Research Center’s most recent assessment indicates about 50 percent of Americans claim to believe in God. Its research shows that the wealthier a society is, the less important God seems to be in its people’s belief system. After polling people in 34 countries, Pew Research noted, “In the eight Western European publics surveyed, a median of just 22% say belief in God is necessary to be moral” (“The Global God Divide,” July 2020).

Accepting the premise that a Creator God exists is key. Believing that God designed man is essential to fully understanding how men and women are to interact and relate to each other. And as Designer and Creator, God revealed this from the beginning.

Reading the instructions

Gender confusion and sexual disorientation are extant in our world today.

But the bigger question should be, “Is this good?” Many assume that people are born this way, but is that true?

The American Psychological Association admits that no such evidence exists. Addressing the question of sexual orientation and homosexuality, its website states, “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”

That’s a pretty remarkable admission from the APA despite the assumptions in media and society in general that people are born homosexual, or people are born in the wrong body or with the wrong gender.

On the other hand, the book of Genesis lays out a beautifully structured description of the created order and God’s design for both male and female.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

God created humanity in His image. He chose to express that creation as male and female. His intent was to fashion mankind biologically and physiologically as male and female.

The foundation of family

God details the family relationship and its purpose in Genesis 1:28:

“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

Here, God instructs us in His design for the procreation of human life by explaining that man and woman should unite as a family and produce offspring. The record of human history confirms that this model has been the foundation of human societies.

In the following chapter we find more commentary from God on the relationship between male and female—specifically, 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 Hebrew term translated “comparable” is also translated in other versions as “suitable,” “complementary” and “his counterpart.” The point is that God’s intent was for man to have a partner, a mate, someone to help. It was designed to be a complementary relationship between two people to fulfill God’s purpose for humans.

God’s original design for human life and relationships has stood the test of time.In the verses that follow we see that God’s act of creating a woman from the DNA of the first male is evidence of the unique nature of humans, and the relationship between the two genders (male and female) expresses the image of God.

God took one of Adam’s ribs and made it into a woman. Then God brought Eve to Adam.

“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 2:23-24).

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

It is that simple, yet profound.

So important is the role and relationship of a man and woman in marriage that God enshrined it as foundational in the 10 Commandments.

God instructed mankind to “honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). These instructions of God point to the unique and special roles of husband, wife and parents within a family.

The family relationship is so protected by God that He also forbade breaking the covenant between a husband and wife by any sexual relationship outside of that marriage (verse 14).

And yet history has shown that since creation, mankind has departed from God’s design and His instruction in so many ways, always with negative consequences.

The test of time

Despite that departure, God’s original design for human life and relationships has stood the test of time. Experience and history support the fact that children thrive when raised in a family with both biological parents tending to their nurture and care.

Mona Charen, a journalist researching family issues, wrote in her 2018 book Sex Matters, “Everyone who studies child well-being agrees that children who grow up with their married biological parents are racing ahead of their contemporaries who grow up in less stable situations” (p. xv).

Of course, the sad reality is that many, through no fault of their own, do not grow up in a traditional family situation. That doesn’t mean those who grow up in single-parent families are doomed to identity issues, but unstable families can cause confusion in some.

In 2021 The Economist editor Helen Joyce, in her bestseller questioning the rush to transgender identities in society, stated, “The categories of man and woman underpin those of father and mother, and the relationship of each to their children. If such categories are to become a matter of self-declaration, then those ties must be dissolved. Families become meaningless and individuals create themselves” (Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, p. 119).

A world in confusion

The sad tale of history shows that in the generations that followed Adam and Eve, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

These words defined the world that came to be when humans chose to reject their Creator and His instructions for life.

The Genesis account shows that both Eve and Adam ultimately disobeyed God. They chose to walk the enticing path that the serpent offered of self-determination—of deciding morality for themselves. They chose to eat from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus, God banished the first man and woman from the Garden of Eden—and from access to the tree of life (see the online post “Cut Off From the Tree of Life”).

The result of that decision has led to the confusion we find today.

The Word of God often addresses the human condition (both good and bad) in terms of outcomes—the results of the choices that man has made.

In the first century, the apostle Paul described the Greco-Roman culture within which the Church began. It was an apt portrayal of what mankind has done since the beginning:

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:24-27).

This is a sobering description of what results when people depart from a belief in the Creator God.

Paul described a profound deconstruction of sex and gender that has continued unfolding throughout our society. When the Creator’s purpose is dismantled, the consequences for society are far-reaching. It produces a world where many people suffer from a lack of wholesome relationships of meaning, often from very early in their lives. Sadly, what some experience early in life as “normal” is actually dysfunctional.

A psychiatrist’s view of gender dysphoria

Despite the many voices that promote this new definition of human sexuality and gender, there are some that see it differently.

Gender dysphoria is a condition being diagnosed by therapists today. Encyclopedia Britannica defines it this way: “Gender dysphoria (GD) [is the] formal diagnosis given by mental health professionals to people who experience distress because of a significant incongruence between the gender with which they personally identify and the gender with which they were born.”

Paul McHugh, a university distinguished service professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, stated, “In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it” (“Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme,” The Public Discourse, June 10, 2015).

Need for compassion

Over the past few years, we have seen our postmodern world rush to judgment of any voice that disagrees with this new morality defining human sexuality. If someone suggests any hint of disapproval of the LGBTQ+ lifestyles and values, those comments can be immediately tagged as hate speech.

But what would Christ expect of those who see such values as dangerous and believe they strike at the very core of God’s true destiny for mankind?

Answer: We should speak the truth—but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

As was the case when the first man and woman were challenged in the Garden of Eden, Satan the devil is at work fomenting the division and confusion in society. He has successfully conned the majority of mankind to accept as truth what God’s Word says is actually a lie.

That is serious business.

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that moral values would change so much that man would define right and wrong in the exact opposite way God would.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

That’s a sobering description of where we are today.

Despite these chaotic conditions, God expects His people to present the true gospel message in such a way that it ultimately gives hope to a darkened world. It’s a message (and approach) that draws a clear distinction between the Word of God and the wanton confusion that defines our world today.

While the causal factors involved in the lives of people who are immersed in these dysfunctional lifestyles can be complex, the Word of God (coupled with the powerful impact of godly repentance) gives a person hope for clarity and order in his or her life.

When Paul was addressing the brethren in the congregation at Corinth, citing a litany of sinful lifestyles and destructive choices that people had made, he noted that some of them had come out of such sexual sins. But he finished that thought with hope—reminding God’s people of His redemptive work in our lives:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthian 6:11).

The point is—human beings can change.

The family of God

The devil has corrupted humanity’s understanding of ourselves and our destiny. Paul stated it well: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

When the Bible and its message are fully understood, there is no conclusion one can come to other than the fact that God is building His own family.

That’s right—God is a family. His entire plan is centered on the family. The Scripture is clear that His wonderful plan is firmly predicated upon the human relationships of marriage between a man and a woman and upon procreation (Ephesians 5:22-32; 3:14-15; John 3:3-8; Hebrews 2:9-11; Revelation 19:6-9; read our online article “Future of Humanity: Celebrating Our Destiny”).

So, we see that, indeed, sex really does matter.


Sidebar: Gender Dysphoria and Young People

Britain’s National Health Service is now taking a more cautious approach to gender dysphoria in young people than it has in the past, noting that for most it is a transient phase. The NHS website says, “In many cases gender variant behavior or feelings disappear as children reach puberty.”

It also warns, “Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria . . . It is not known what the psychological effects may be. It’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones.”

Public concerns about the previous approach “were raised by a notable case involving Keira Bell, a teenage girl who transitioned, deeply regretted it, and then de-transitioned. ‘After a series of superficial conversations with social workers, I was put on puberty blockers at age 16. A year later, I was receiving testosterone shots. When 20, I had a double mastectomy,’ Bell wrote in a blog post.

“‘But the further my transition went, the more I realized that I wasn’t a man, and never would be. . . As I matured, I recognized that gender dysphoria was a symptom of my overall misery, not its cause . . . The consequences of what happened to me have been profound: possible infertility, loss of my breasts and inability to breastfeed, atrophied genitals, a permanently changed voice, facial hair. When I was seen at the Tavistock clinic, I had so many issues that it was comforting to think I really had only one that needed solving: I was a male in a female body,’ Bell wrote.

“Bell eventually sued Tavistock, and initially won the case on the basis that minors could not give informed consent concerning puberty blockers. However, last year the decision was appealed and overturned.

“There has been a spike in gender dysphoria referrals in the last decade growing from under 250 in 2011 to over 5,000 last year” (“NHS Warns Most Trans-Identifying Children Going Through ‘Transient Phase,’” National Review, Oct. 24, 2022).

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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