Feb. 11, 2022
Earlier this week, Missouri state representative Suzie Pollock introduced HB 2649, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. If passed, this legislation would prohibit puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and so-called gender reassignment surgeries for minors. The bill also prohibits the public funding, insurance coverage, and referral of such procedures for minors. Arkansas became the first state to pass a SAFE Act last year.
There are many reasons for Christians to support the SAFE Act. These include protecting children from experimental procedures linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and sterility. Studies have also shown that 85 percent of children experiencing feelings of distress as a result of a perceived incongruity between their psychological, self-perceived “gender identity” and their biological sex eventually come to accept their sex around or after puberty. Puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries do not help children grow out of their gender distress. Moreover, there are risks, complications, and concerns associated with gender reassignment surgery for both males and females, as the procedures involve the alteration or removal of biologically normal and functional body parts.
In addition to practical, medical, and ethical reasons to support the SAFE Act, there are also theological reasons for Christians to support the legislation. If law is inherently pedagogical, Christians should support the passage of laws that tell the truth about the human body. And the truth about our bodies is that God made two distinct yet complementary sexes, male and female. Thus, although the SAFE Act focuses on protecting minor children for physiological reasons, there are theological reasons for Christians to support the underlying principles affirmed in this bill, namely, that one’s maleness or femaleness is inextricably tied to biological sex and integral to one’s personhood.
First, the most fundamental distinction between men and women relates to biology. Genetically, men have XY chromosomes; women have XX chromosomes. Thus, when a male asserts that he is a female, he asserts an objective falsehood in terms of biology and genetics. The reality of biological sex cannot be changed by so-called gender transition or reassignment surgery. Surgeries cannot change a person’s genetic blueprint, and while genital surgery may sterilize an individual, it cannot bestow the reproductive capacity of the opposite sex. In other words, a person remains in their biological sex regardless of the gender with which they choose to identify.
This difference between the sexes is taught in Scripture. Moreover, the nature of the difference (i.e., biology) is also affirmed. Genesis 1:26-27 explains God’s original design for the sexes:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
In verse 26, the focus is on what the man and the woman have in common (i.e., they’re both made in God’s image and tasked with exercising dominion over the created world), but verse 27 highlights the difference (i.e., humanity’s creation as male and female). And this difference is crucial. According to the Bible, God did not create androgynous beings; He created two distinct yet complementary individuals. In other words, the creation of male and female is not accidental or incidental but central to God’s design of human beings created in His image.
Arising from the Bible’s teaching in Genesis 1:27 is the question of what constitutes the difference between the man and the woman. In other words, what is the nature of the difference? Although increasingly disputed, most people agree that there is something different between male and female. However, it is the nature of this difference that is fiercely contested. Transgender ideology suggests that one’s self-perception determines maleness or femaleness; one’s reproductive structures are inconsequential to the discussion. According to this logic, one’s self-understanding would determine one’s so-called gender identity, but reproductive anatomy would not. But the context of Genesis 1 shows that biology cannot be divorced from maleness or femaleness; in fact, biology is the ultimate determiner of sex and gender.
The fact that biology determines sex is seen in Genesis 1:28 which says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” A key component of obeying God’s direction to Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply”—often known as the creation mandate—is procreation which is only possible with two biologically and genetically sexed individuals. Neither the man nor woman could fulfill God’s charge to fill the earth alone. In context, “male and female” in Genesis 1:27 must refer to the differing ways that human bodies are organized for sexual reproduction.
The implication of this teaching is clear. Even if someone feels strongly that they are “male,” they are wrong if their perception of their sex is not in line with their biological makeup. In a fallen world where the consequences of humanity’s initial sin affect our minds as well as our bodies, what we think about ourselves can be mistaken.
In other words, if someone is struggling with gender-confused feelings, a pastor, on the authority of God’s Word, can (and should) kindly tell them that their body isn’t lying to them. A person’s maleness or femaleness isn’t socially constructed. Rather, sex is something that is revealed by God in his special design of male and female bodies.
Second, there is a social dimension to the distinction between male and female. This dimension is touched on in Genesis 2:18, 21-25 which says,
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” . . .. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
This at last is 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 his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This passage shows that complementarity between the sexes is embedded in God’s good creation. In verse 18, the word “helper” designates a social role for Eve within her marriage to Adam—a role that is inextricably linked to her biological sex. Adam’s creation before Eve and his charge from God designates a social role within his marriage to Eve—a role that is likewise inextricably linked to his biological sex. He is to be the leader, protector, and provider within this marriage covenant.
As ethicist Denny Burk has argued, the implication of this teaching is that God has so made the world that there is a normative connection between biological sex and the social dimension of maleness and femaleness. The social roles of the first man and woman in Genesis 2 are inextricably connected to their biological sex. The New Testament reveals that these roles are not merely descriptive of the first marriage but as normative for every subsequent marriage (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:21-33).
Additionally, the social order of the first family presumes a normative connection between biological sex and social roles designed for that sex. It also presumes that a man understands himself to be a man and that a woman understands herself to be a woman. Self-identity and bodily identity match one another.
Finally, the Bible teaches that the difference between male and female is good. Consider Paul’s reflection on the Genesis creation account in 1 Timothy 4:4-5: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
Where does Paul get the idea that everything created by God is “good”? Paul is simply reading Genesis 1, which says that God looked at what he had made throughout the six days of creation and said that it was “good.” And when God made the first male and female bodies, he said it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Paul affirms that what was true about male and female design before the Fall is still true after the Fall. This means that even though God’s good design in creation may be marred by the Fall and by sin, God’s good design is not erased by the Fall and by sin.
The Bible is clear that the distinction between male and female is biological and social. In the biblical worldview, the differences between male and female are also “good” because God declared them good. The responsibility of Christians is to understand and believe these truths. Pastors especially must understand the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and disciple their congregations to think faithfully about them.
The logic of the transgender movement has become so ingrained in many places around our country that even some doctors—those who have pledged to “do no harm”—are willing to perform irreversible procedures that remove perfectly healthy organs on children experiencing gender confusion.
Our cultural moment provides an opportunity for the church to speak into this confusion. And while we pray for revival, we also need to see that barring a move of God in our nation, the culture is only going to get worse and that as the Overton Window shifts on how society thinks about sexuality, it’ll only get harder and harder to pass good legislation.
In short, the urgency of the moment and the weightiness of the subject matter (protecting children) is why legislators should take advantage of the opportunities we have to pass legislation like the SAFE Act. It is also why Christians everywhere should study God’s Word on what it means to be male and female and why we should teach these truths in our churches, Christian schools, and homes.