Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is Gender Only Physical?

I remember the phrase "the battle of the sexes" from when I was young. I am glad that that saying has pretty much been retired, though the idea is alive and well. I do not think that we should take the side of our own gender, only the side of the one who is right in any situation.

Anyway, the society and the church are arguing about gender. A blog post I recently read said, "To get manliness right is a fool’s game anyway. Our life in the family of God is not supposed to be focused on a long pursuit of biblical manhood or womanhood. Our lives are to be focused on Jesus, God the Son." The author was making the point that cultural expressions of masculinity or femininity may not be helping us in our walk with the Lord, but may actually take away from it. But his point also was that what is considered 'masculine' or 'feminine' is nothing but a social construct. (He said, or implied, this later.) He noted that Jesus, a man, wept contrary to some notions of masculinity.

Now I agree that many of our cultural expressions of masculinity and femininity can be silly, or even harmful. They create stereotypes that are simply not true of everyone of that gender. I remember a guest speaker in our old church who said that he never met a woman who did not like to shop. I wanted to introduce him to my wife so that he could never say that again.

It is easy to mock stereotypes and note that masculinity and femininity have different expressions in different cultures. There are even some things which may be considered 'male' in one culture and 'female' in another. I think it is rash, however, to jump to the conclusion that masculinity and femininity are simply cultural constructs and that the only God-made differences between male and female are biological/anatomical.

Are souls gender-neutral? This is a difficult question that could be answered in different ways depending, for one thing, how the soul should be defined. I have a hard time accepting the notion that the only differences between male and female are physical. For one thing, it would mean that a person would lose his gender when he/she died and went to heaven. They would not be in a physical body then, would they? How about after the resurrection? Would they become male or female again or are resurrected bodies without gender?

Once again, I think that maleness and femaleness is something that God gives to us, in our souls as a gift, though I am not dogmatic about it. Consider the scripture: "God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) Now it seems to me that when the Bible says that we are made in the image of God that it is not referring to the physical body, it is referring to the soul and spirit.

I suppose it is possible to read the above scripture in such a way that we could draw that conclusion that the 'male and female' part of the verse refers to their bodies and the 'image of God' part refers to the soul and spirit. I do not think that is the best reading though.

I just am convinced (is it my cultural blindness?) that maleness and femaleness, both made in the image of God, are not just physical realities, but soulish realities as well. IMHO.

I invite your response especially on this one.

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