Christian Ethics 2022

How Did We Get Here? Christianity and Gender Identity

May 29, 2023 9:37:59 PM / by Denny Burk

This workshop session was presented on October 17, 2022 at the Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference in Cary, NC. For more information, visit




Alright, so, my name is Denny Burk, and I am from Louisville, Kentucky. I'm grateful to be here. My full-time job is teaching at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I'm also a pastor, one of the preaching pastors at Kenwood Baptist Church there. Additionally, I serve as the president of an organization called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Has anyone ever heard of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood? Okay, that's great. We are an organization that began in 1987 by Wayne Grudem, who is here, and John Piper. They started this group as a response to the growing influence of secular feminism within evangelicalism.


And they wanted to speak a faithful word about what the Bible says about manhood and womanhood, over and against what the secular culture was saying. That was 1987. Fast forward 30 years to 2017, and we reconvened, another group of people, say CBMW group, to make another statement and form another coalition on what was the pressing issue of our time. And between 1987 and 2017, you'll notice that it wasn't so much the roles of men and women that were contested, although they were still contested, but something more fundamental was contested: what is a man? What is a woman? We seem to have forgotten that. And if you live in the West right now, that knowledge is slipping away from us.


In 2017, we released a coalition statement called the Nashville Statement. The organization I work for, CBMW, exists to uphold the vision outlined in our original Danvers Statement from 1987, as well as the Nashville Statement. This week, I am here to discuss gender identity issues, approaching it from a biblical perspective during the plenary session later this afternoon. Today, in this breakout session, I want to explore how we arrived at this point. While it will relate to gender identities, my primary focus is on what it means to be a Christian in the aftermath of the sexual revolution. This encompasses various interconnected issues. So, that's the direction we're heading in this morning.


Now, it's not often that you come across a book that you could describe as an epic-making, foundational watershed book. However, I believe such a book was released in 2020. It's a book that many of you may have heard of: Carl Trueman's "The Rise and Fall of the Modern Self." I'm curious, how many of you have read this book? Not enough. Alright, you should definitely grab a copy if you haven't read it yet. It is incredibly insightful. Due to its extensive length, Crossway authorized a condensed version called "Strange New World," which many people have been reading. Has anyone seen or picked up this condensed version?


Okay, so some of you have read that one. If you prefer not to delve into the lengthy version, which delves deeply into historical details, you can opt for "Strange New World," which covers the same material by Carl Trueman. In this book, Trueman poses a question at the outset that I want to present to all of you as we begin this morning. He states, and I quote, "The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful." And here is the statement: "I am a woman trapped in a man's body." My grandfather passed away in 1994, less than 30 years ago. However, can you imagine if he had ever heard that sentence spoken in his presence? I have little doubt that he would have burst out laughing and considered it a nonsensical utterance. Yet, in today's society, that very sentence is regarded by many as not only meaningful but incredibly significant. To deny or question it in any way is often seen as an indication of being foolish, immoral, or afflicted by yet another irrational phobia.


Now, I'm not sure if that resonates with you, but it certainly strikes a chord with me. How did we reach the point where the sentence "I am a woman trapped in a man's body" even makes sense? In 2017, National Geographic magazine released a special issue that covered various LGBT issues. It featured a cover story specifically focused on this topic. Inside the magazine, there were glossy images that caught my attention. One particular image depicted a young boy holding a skateboard, shirtless. This individual was being profiled in the magazine. As I examined the picture more closely, I noticed two scars on their chest. It dawned on me that I wasn't looking at a young boy but rather a young girl who had recently undergone a double mastectomy. This minor, around 16 or 17 years old at the time, identified as Hunter Keith—a person assigned female at birth but who had felt themselves to be a boy since fifth grade, as stated in the caption.


By seventh grade, Hunter had confided in his friends, and by eighth grade, he had shared his feelings with his parents. Two weeks before the photo in question was taken, Hunter underwent a mastectomy to remove his breasts. Now, Hunter takes pleasure in skateboarding shirtless in his Michigan neighborhood. It's crucial to reflect on this situation. How did it come to be that a young girl's parents would give consent for their child's healthy organs to be destroyed, and then showcase her unclothed body in the pages of National Geographic magazine for all to see? If we could share this with our grandfathers, I don't believe they would respond with laughter; rather, they would weep. And we should too. The focus of my talk this morning is the erosion of human dignity. Specifically, we will explore the question: How did we arrive at this point? Apologies for the confusion earlier; the actual title of my talk is "How did we get here?"


There is indeed a decay of human dignity, and the pressing question remains: How did we arrive at this point? What led us to a place where a minor child, following a mutilating surgery, is portrayed in National Geographic, expecting society to view it as normal? And if we dare to express our concerns, we are labeled as bigots or immoral. How did we reach this juncture? This is the question we are seeking to address and answer. Additionally, we must also inquire and respond to another crucial question: How can we faithfully minister the Gospel to those who have been affected by the fallout of the sexual revolution, who are in many ways like refugees in need of our compassionate outreach?


Because, guess what, when all is said and done, and the dust settles, there will be many individuals on the other side who are deeply wounded. One can resist the natural order for only so long before their feet become bloodied. Who will be there to provide ministry and support to those who have endured the physical and emotional consequences of this turmoil? We are currently navigating the aftermath of the sexual revolution, particularly within the American context, which is increasingly post-Christian. How did we reach a point where health authorities, public school systems, and government agencies would endorse the notion that suppressing puberty in an adolescent girl or even amputating healthy organs would be deemed beneficial for her?


And if you dare to oppose such interventions, you are immediately labeled as bigoted or hateful. Numerous Christians in churches across the country find themselves overwhelmed and disoriented by these developments. Many of our children, within our churches, are being inundated with a deluge of LGBT propaganda. Some are even subjected to this ideology in their schools, where they silently succumb to its destructive influence, unaware that it is leading them away from Jesus rather than towards Him. How can we effectively communicate to them that the air they have grown accustomed to breathing is not the fresh, clean air they perceive it to be, but rather a poisonous toxin that erodes the soul?


My aim this morning is simply to provide a brief explanation of how we arrived at this point. The concise answer is that we have sown to the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind. In many ways, including within the church and the broader evangelical movement, we have yielded to the pressures of the sexual revolution. Consequently, we are now witnessing the detrimental consequences of denying and destroying the human body. However, the comprehensive answer to this question necessitates contemplation of how our culture has transitioned from biblical foundations regarding sexuality to post-Christian assumptions, even veering towards a return to pagan beliefs.


The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." This morning, I want to draw your attention to four specific speculations that have been raised against the knowledge of God. I aim to contrast these speculations with what God's Word actually says.


There are four specific areas of our human experience that have faced challenges from secular and unbiblical speculations. These areas include identity, sex, marriage, and gender. For each of these, I will present the secular speculation and then contrast it with the biblical reality. This will be our focus for the remainder of our time together. Let's begin with the first area, which is identity. The secular view posits that human identity is self-determined rather than God-determined. While this idea is not new, it permeates our cultural atmosphere to such an extent that we often fail to recognize its influence. Nevertheless, it is subtly shaping our understanding of ourselves and what it means to be human.


If you are interested in understanding the ideological origins and development of this viewpoint, I encourage you to read Carl Truman's book. He provides a comprehensive exploration of the history of ideas from the Enlightenment era to the present day. The notion that human identity is self-determined, rather than God-determined, has been labeled by sociologists as "expressive individualism." Even if you only retain one concept from my talk this morning, I urge you to remember the term "expressive individualism." It encapsulates a significant aspect of the prevailing worldview we are addressing.


In his book "The Fractured Republic," Yuval Levin provides a description of expressive individualism. He suggests that this term encompasses not only the pursuit of one's own path but also a longing for fulfillment through the definition and expression of one's identity. It represents a dual desire to embrace and enhance one's existing attributes while also asserting one's identity within society. Remarkably, the ability of individuals to define the terms of their own existence and personal identities is increasingly equated with liberty and fundamental rights. Expressive individualism has taken a prominent position in shaping our self-understanding. Levin asserts that this philosophy of expressive individualism finds unique expression in our society.


In the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion, made a statement that resonates with the idea of expressive individualism. He wrote, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Reflect on that for a moment—the notion that liberty encompasses the right for each individual to define human nature. This concept has been simmering and influencing our culture long before discussions of gay marriage or transgender issues emerged. We have been undergoing a cultural shift in the Western world, where people began to perceive human identity as malleable, akin to wax noses that can be molded and reshaped into any desired form.


Almost every Disney movie made prior to the emergence of discussions on gay marriage or transgenderism reflected a similar theme. They portrayed individuals who felt somewhat out of place, forging their own identities and eventually compelling others to accept and adapt to those identities as they navigated the world. At the core of this philosophy is the belief that the purpose of life is to uncover one's truest self, express it to the world, and actively shape that identity. Regardless of the conflicts that may arise, even conflicts that may challenge familial, societal, traditional, or religious expectations, this philosophy asserts that your identity, and even the meaning of life itself, is determined and expressed solely by you as an individual. It is not something bestowed upon you by God or any external authority. The individual becomes the sole architect of their own destiny—a self-defining and self-forging entity.


The description provided aptly captures the essence of our current era. However, it is important to note that this perspective is relatively recent in the history of the Western world. One of the ideas inherited from Christianity within Western civilization is the belief that our identity, and indeed the meaning of life itself, is not self-determined but rather determined by God. The secular speculation, which contrasts with the biblical reality, is that human identity is God-determined, not self-determined. In other words, if one believes in the existence of a Creator God who fashioned everything, including humanity, then His intentional design in creation imparts meaning and purpose to our lives. Regardless of our personal feelings or self-perceptions, disregarding this divine design leads to a path that ultimately brings pain and disorder in the long run.


I typically illustrate this concept using the analogy of a hammer. We all know that a hammer is designed for a specific purpose, which is to drive nails into objects. However, it is possible to use a hammer for tasks it was not intended for. For instance, if you find yourself locked out of your car, you could use a hammer to try and gain access. It might work, but it would likely cause damage to your car and be far less effective than using your keys or a key fob. Similarly, if someone is blocking your view while watching television, you could use a hammer to try and move them out of the way. However, this would bring pain and destruction to the person and potentially escalate the situation. While you may achieve some short-term benefit by misusing the hammer, it would ultimately lead to negative consequences.


Indeed, misusing a hammer not only brings pain and disorder into someone else's life but also causes harm and disruption to our own lives. Throughout history, Christians have generally held the belief that God's design in creation is intended for our well-being, guiding us towards the fullest expression of human flourishing and wholeness. When we disregard this design in order to prioritize our individual will and desires, as expressive individualism suggests, we may experience temporary satisfaction or achieve certain short-term goals. However, when our personal will and design conflict with God's will and design, the long-term consequences undermine true human happiness and flourishing. The long term effect eventually undermines human happiness and flourishing and it's like taking a hammer to our lives and nobody's gonna like where that ends up.


The Psalmist beautifully expresses this truth in Psalm 100:3, declaring that the Lord Himself is God, and it is He who has made us, not ourselves. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Reflect on the profound implications of this statement. Who is the Creator? God is the Creator. Do we create ourselves? No, we do not. Do we determine human nature? No, we do not. Do we fashion our own identities? Or are they bestowed upon us by the Lord? Our identities are not self-constructed at their core; rather, they are God-constructed. Of the four aspects of human experience, identity holds significant importance. While expressive individualism may be the prevailing view of identity today, the biblical reality presents a different understanding. We believe that God has bestowed upon us our identity, and it is shaped and formed by Him. We have the choice to either align ourselves with that divine design or to rebel against it and contradict it.


The second area of our human experience is sex, and the secular speculation surrounding it is that sex is primarily for pleasure rather than for God. This perspective is likely familiar to you. It can be encapsulated by what I refer to as the "Sheryl Crow philosophy" on sexuality. As expressed in her song, "If It Makes You Happy," the worldview affirms the pursuit of sexual pleasure as long as all parties involved consent and no harm is inflicted. These have become the primary boundaries for sexual morality in our current culture. If it feels good and doesn't harm anyone, it is deemed acceptable. The sky seems to be the limit, allowing for a mindset where changing sexual partners is as frequent as changing socks or the possibility of committing to one person and seeking love for an extended period of time.


In our current cultural landscape, the association between love and sex has become more fluid, with the two not necessarily being intertwined. Likewise, marriage and sex are no longer seen as inherently connected. Furthermore, modern forms of birth control have profoundly impacted our society by alleviating concerns about the consequences of fertility. This change is difficult to overstate. Prior to the advent of birth control methods, every generation recognized the inherent connection between sex and the potential for procreation. However, in the modern era, particularly among younger generations, sex is often viewed as a recreational activity that can be associated with love, separate from its reproductive implications.


Modern forms of birth control have indeed contributed to a significant shift in how sex is perceived in relation to marriage, family, and procreation. The availability of effective contraception methods has detached the idea of sex from the inherent connection to bearing children. Consequently, for many individuals, thoughts about sex may not extend much beyond the pursuit of pleasure with someone they deeply care for. The prospect of marriage and having children may be seen as optional, an additional aspect that could potentially be pursued at a later stage in life. Sex is often regarded as a self-contained experience to be enjoyed for its own sake, especially within the context of expressive individualism, where one's sexual feelings are considered an integral part of their personal identity.


According to this perspective, one's sexual feelings and expressions are perceived as integral to their core identity. Denying individuals the freedom to express and fulfill their sexual desires is considered harmful and repressive. In this view, the ability to engage in sexual activities becomes essential for personal well-being and flourishing, and therefore is seen as a fundamental human right. This aligns with the beliefs of expressive individualism, which places a strong emphasis on sexual freedom.


The societal consequences of prioritizing sex for pleasure over a God-centered perspective are significant. One notable consequence is the transformation of the traditional markers of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Sociologists Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker have identified five elements that typically characterize this transition: achieving economic independence, moving out of the parents' home, completing education and starting work, getting married. And then having children.


Young people are moving through those markers at a much slower pace than they did two generations ago. And for some of them adulthood really no longer even includes all five of those elements. In 1960, 65% of men and 77% of women had reached those markers by the time they reached age 39. However, in 2011, only 31% of men and 46% of women had reached those markers by the time they were 30. This represents a significant change in social trends. While young people today are delaying adulthood, particularly marriage and childbearing, they are not necessarily delaying sexual activity. In 1970, the median age for first marriage was 21 for women and 23 for men. By 2021, the median age for first marriage had increased to 29 for women and 30 for men. These statistics indicate a notable shift in the timing of marriage, with individuals choosing to marry at later stages in life.


The shifting patterns in marriage and family formation have led demographers to identify a new life stage known as prolonged adolescence or pre-adulthood. During this stage, young people in their 20s are delaying marriage while actively engaging in sexual relationships. They often move from one partner to another over the course of nearly a decade before deciding to settle down, get married, and start a family.


New York Times columnist David Brooks vividly describes this phenomenon as a social frontier for young people. He notes that while individuals typically enter puberty around the age of 13, many now delay marriage until they are past 30. This extended period encompasses a range of experiences, including casual relationships, hookups, and exploring different partnership possibilities. What was once considered a transitional phase has now expanded into a sprawling life stage characterized by significant relationship exploration and decision-making.


And nobody knows the rules. So they're delaying marriage through the period of their life in which they are most fertile, the most ready to enjoy the gift of sex and the consequences of that and procreation, but least willing to deal with the consequences of their own fertility children. And so this is producing a really untenable and unnatural expectation for childbearing. This dynamic, as observed by sociologist Mark Regnerus, leads to a situation where Americans are disregarding their fertility during their 20s, only to later express a desire to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.

However, it's important to acknowledge that not everyone is able to achieve their desired outcomes in this context. The idea that sex is solely for pleasure and not for God has significant social consequences. This worldview is reinforced by technologies that facilitate such behavior, resulting in increased sexual activity. However, it has not necessarily led to better sexual experiences, particularly those that foster enduring marriages, the raising of children, and growing old with a lifelong partner.


Instead, many young people find themselves navigating through a challenging and unforgiving hookup culture, spending years in a wilderness of transient encounters. The Christian perspective on sexuality stands in stark contrast to this. It recognizes that our sexuality is an integral part of our Creator’s design for the world.


The biblical reality is that sex is not merely for pleasure alone, but for God. God, in His wisdom, designed sex to be pleasurable. However, problems arise when pleasure becomes the sole focus or ultimate end, divorced from the Creator's intended design. In nature and Scripture, we can discern four aspects of God's revelation regarding His design for sexuality. I will briefly touch on these points, but for a more in-depth exploration, I recommend reading my book, "What is the Meaning of Sex?"


The sexual act is designed to be the consummating act of a marriage covenant. A lot of students that I teach are very surprised to find this. But when I tell them you can't have a completed marriage covenant without sexual consummation, that's a surprise to them. They think marriage is basically promises that you make to each other and has nothing necessarily to do with sexual union. It's not a part of the potatoes. That's just the gravy, okay? It's not the cake, it's the icing. They don't see it as an essential part of it, which is why so many of them are open to the idea of gay marriage, to be quite frankly, frank with you.


But in the West, people don't necessarily think of these things. They think you can have marriages without sex. But we believe as Christians that this is actually the consummating act of a marriage covenant. Sex completes the initiation of a marriage covenant. Every sexual act after the initial consummation is an ongoing affirmation of the husband and wife's unique union. Obviously, one of the reasons God designed the sexual union is for procreation within the covenant of marriage. This goes back to Genesis 1: "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over every living thing that moves on the earth." How are human beings to rule over the earth? How are they to spread God's glory over the face of the earth, like the waters cover the sea? You've got these little image bearers who are reflecting God uniquely on the planet, and they're able to multiply.


That's how God's glory spreads over the Earth. That was the original design, to spread God's glory by multiplying these image bearers who are ruling on His behalf. So procreation was a part of that. The marital act is the ongoing expression of marital love. If we had time, I would go through some texts on this.


Pleasure. The fourth purpose of sex is pleasure, which serves as a powerful inducement to fulfill the other purposes of sex. If I had time, I would provide some texts on that. But with only 12 minutes remaining, I must quickly move on. So God intended all of this. He designed the sexual union for all of these purposes to be held together. You can't just pick out pleasure and neglect the others. He designed them all to be interconnected. I would also add that growing old with somebody and committing to a lifelong relationship most often happens when all four of these purposes are embraced and treated as sacred. Okay, so we've covered identity, sex, and marriage.


The secular speculation is that marriage is a cultural construct and not a universal institution. In other words, it is believed that marriage is a product of human culture rather than having a divine origin. Those who hold this view often dismiss the idea of divine revelation in understanding the nature of marriage. Without God in the equation, individuals are free to embrace expressive individualism when it comes to marriage. They can redefine and reshape marriage according to their own desires and preferences. If someone wants to be married to one person for a while and then decides they prefer someone else, they should be able to leave their current marriage and pursue another person. Divorce is seen as a solution for those who prioritize their own desires over their marriage vows. When one's pursuit of personal sexual feelings conflicts with their commitment to their marriage, it is often the marriage vows that are compromised.


What's considered more important for the expressive individualist is their sexual feelings rather than their marriage vows. The definition of marriage itself is seen as flexible and subject to personal interpretation. If someone experiences same-sex attraction, those feelings should be acknowledged, expressed, and celebrated. Denying these feelings would be viewed as denying one's own identity and meaning since sexual feelings are seen as fundamental to who we are. If opposite-sex couples are granted certain privileges and benefits through marriage, then same-sex couples should also have access to those privileges. Marriage is believed to have no inherent or objective nature; it can be molded and adapted to accommodate the diverse sexual experiences and orientations of couples in various configurations.


The problem with the secular account, from a Christian perspective, is that it fails to recognize the fallen nature of humanity. Christians believe that we live in a broken world and that we ourselves are fallen individuals. We are descendants of Adam and are deeply flawed. As a result, our feelings and desires can lead us astray. We may experience natural inclinations and longings that are in conflict with God's design. The Bible teaches us that what is natural for us is not determined by our subjective feelings, but by God's revealed truth in His original design. Reality cannot be measured solely by our feelings. While this may be clear to us as adults, it is important to teach our children this truth.


The upcoming generation may not recognize the extent to which expressive individualism shapes their worldview. If we deny their self-perceived reality, they may perceive it as harmful and repressive. However, the biblical perspective offers a stark contrast. It asserts that marriage is universal rather than merely a product of culture. According to the Bible, marriage was designed and established by God Himself, not by human society. The Scriptures contain numerous accounts of sexual and marital challenges that we can explore. When we examine the Bible's teachings on the essential meaning of marriage, we can refer to the words of Jesus in the Gospels or the writings of Paul in his letters. Jesus and Paul consistently emphasize the profound significance of marriage. And where do they draw their understanding of the norm and definition of marriage? They turn to the accounts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. These passages provide the foundation for comprehending the essence of marriage as designed by God.


What's that foundation? It's the foundation. And there was something happening there that wasn't happening in any other era. So they never go back to the polygamist kings like David and Solomon, they're not the pattern. They don't go back to the polygamous patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. They always go back to Adam and Eve, one man, one woman in a marriage covenant at the very beginning. The reason they go back to that is because that's when there was no sin in the world. You're still in Eden, nothing's broken. Nothing is imperfect. Everything is perfect. And you've got the perfect pristine marriage union. And what is it? It's one man, one woman in a covenant together. So a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh. Moses says as he comments on it. So they always go back to this uncorrupted, pristine paradigm for what marriage is. They don't look at the brokenness of the rest of the Bible, of the rest of the stories of broken people in the Bible. The Bible is not broken. But the stories in there of broken people, those aren't the patterns. They go back to that.


Okay, so I'm going to start, I'm going to go quickly to the fourth point for the sake of time here. If I had time, this is all in my book. You can go look at these, but this is what marriage is designed to be off the pass over them for the sake of time, okay, fourth thing is gender. Now, this will be the main topic of what we're talking about in the plenary session later, okay. But the secular view on gender is that gender is assigned, not revealed. The prevailing view in our culture today is that we are all assigned a gender identity at birth, either male or female. That assignment can be arbitrary and false because a child may grow up and feel themselves to be something different than what is otherwise indicated by their body, biological sex. So a person could feel themselves to be male, even though their body is saying female. That's the whole transgender experience. Many people believe that what a person feels or intuits about themselves is the bottom line of their gender identity. And we ought to, from this perspective, affirm whatever gender identity a person says they are most comfortable with. And again, expressive individualism means that what I feel about myself is what is real. It's what is essential, even if what I have happens to be in conflict with my own body.


So I'm concerned that many people have failed to think through the implications of the idea that one's psychological identity should somehow trump their biological identity when the two seem to be out of sync. Back in 2009, I read about this interview with a person named John. And he had been consumed with feelings of distress and dissatisfaction with his body for as long as he could remember. And I'm about to read something. It's gonna sound so strange, but I do not mean this is funny. It's not funny, okay, but it's off the wall. He says that ever since he was a child, he felt like a one-legged man trapped inside a two-legged man's body. He suffered psychological angst and distress his whole life because of his two legs. Even as an adult, after 47 years of marriage, he still hoped to have one of his legs amputated. He said, "When I see an amputee, when I imagine the amputee, there is this inner pull that says, 'Why can't I be like that?'"


He never wanted to reveal his desire to amputate his leg to anybody. But he only shared this secret, this lifelong secret he had with his wife after they had been married for 42 years. And he says, as you can understand, my wife was not exactly pleased with finding out that I wanted to get a leg lopped off. She asked me and said, you know, you're a rational man, you should be able to deal with this. And what I answered is that most of the things we hold deep within us are not rational. So John had this perception about himself that was at odds with the biological reality that he has two healthy legs. The primary ethical question is whether a man in John's position would be right to amputate an otherwise healthy limb. Would it be right for a doctor to remove his leg so that John could feel whole again? If John feels himself to be a one-legged man inside a two-legged man's body, why not encourage him to have his leg amputated? Now, at a gut level, most people recoil at that suggestion. But you know what, this is the implication of the view that psychological identity trumps bodily identity. Psychiatrists have classified John's condition with a diagnosis. It's called Body Integrity Identity Disorder.


It's called a disorder. According to a 2012 study, the only known treatment that provides psychological relief for some of these people, because he's not the only person that has this. There's a number of people that have this. The only thing that provides relief is amputation. But doctors, guess what, they've resisted that treatment, they won't do it because they think that it violates their Hippocratic Oath. And so people suffering from this disorder can't find doctors to help them harm themselves if they have that particular disorder. And so, I've read about people who get desperate, I read about one guy who froze his leg in ice until it had to be amputated. Another guy shot himself in the leg with a shotgun so they could get their amputations. Now, most people hear those stories about John and those people who had their legs removed. Most people hear that and they conclude that their mind is at odds with the reality of God's design.


And that it would be immoral and wrong to destroy healthy body parts to accommodate their misperceptions about themselves. You don't even have to deny that those people had real mental distress over this. But what do we believe about that mental distress? Do we think that the way to help them is to remove their legs? Do we think the way to help their mental distress is to destroy their body to accommodate the mind? Or should you change the mind to match the Healthy Body effort when it comes to every other body part that a person feels uncomfortable with? Or any other kind of body image problem that a person has? We don't indulge those. We see them as wrong. Anorexia, bulimia, these women think that they're too fat in their skin and bones. Do we tell them, “Oh, what you feel about yourself is reality? Go ahead, keep starving.” We don't let people destroy themselves because we love them, right? Why is it when it comes to sexual body parts? It's a whole different thing.


If a person feels themselves to be something different than what their reproductive system is otherwise indicating, it will completely mar their reproductive system. That's what's going on right now. I'm going to talk more about this in the next hour. So I'll pause there on that, the biblical reality is that gender is revealed, not assigned. On this view, the way that we think about ourselves as male or female ought to correspond to what God has revealed through our bodies about male and female. Body, biological sex is a bodily reality, gender, as commonly defined, is a social reality. Sex refers to the body's organization for reproduction, gender is a social manifestation of biological sex. That's what's reflected in Scripture. That's what's reflected in Moses' creation account. That means if the body is saying male, but a brain is saying female, the brain's wrong. It means that our brains, because we live in a fallen world, can be out of sync with what God has otherwise revealed in his design of male and female bodies. And I'll develop that more in the next hour.


Okay, long before anybody had ever thought about gay marriage or gender identity, people in Western culture, including us, were slowly becoming expressive individualists in their outlook on reality, on what it means to be a human being. They were coming to believe that the essence of the good life and indeed, the essence of being a human being means shaping and determining our own self-identity. And that ability to forge your own identity has now become viewed as a fundamental human right, no matter what the consequences are for others or for ourselves. And if I feel myself to be a female trapped in a man's body, then my body has to change, but my mind doesn't, because I'm an expressive individualist. What I want you to consider is what if people have been wrong about all of this?


What if our self-identity isn't self-determined but God-determined? What if the meaning of our lives isn't something that we make up as we go along based on our sexual feelings? What if the meaning of our lives and our identity has been determined by God, quite apart from what our fallen feelings are? What if God, in love, has revealed to us what He intends for us and what our lives are supposed to be about? Because guess what, He has revealed that. Our burden as Christians is to come to terms with that revelation and to live in line with it. And I will save the rest of my comments for the next hour.

Topics: Christian Ethics, Sexuality, Gender Roles, Marriage & Family

Denny Burk

Written by Denny Burk

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