Gender Ideology: “What is a Woman?”

January 9, 2023

Situation: the rise of trans people, especially among children (e.g., adolescent girls)

In 2007, there was only one pediatric gender clinic in the US; now, there are 300+ gender clinics (plus some services, like Planned Parenthood, dispense testosterone, depending on state laws, to minors without parental permission or a therapist note). Britain has seen a 4400%+ rise in incidences of gender dysphoria among adolescent girls (mostly teens) since 2014. This is called “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD, teen girls with no prior history of gender dysphoria).

Gender Dysphoria: Severe discomfort with one’s biological sex.

  1. Classic/Typical Dysphoria:  appears in 1 in 10,000 (0.01%), overwhelmingly in males, begins in early childhood (2-4 years), persistent insistence on possessing the “wrong body,” and most experience same-(birth)-sex orientation. Typically, 75% become comfortable with their sex (most identify as Gay), while others transition to their desired sex (socially and/or medically).
  2. Social Contagion: “Trans Kids” (recently, they are mostly adolescent girls who have a long history of sharing their pain through self-harm, eating disorders, and anxiety about their bodies that is exacerbated by affirmation from authorities and social media influencers). In 2018, 2% of High Schoolers identified as transgender. Transition follows this form (not all fully complete it): (a) Self-identification and social transition (changing names, pronouns, gender expressions); (b) Puberty Blockers (when they have not yet gone through puberty); (c) Cross-Sex Hormones (androgens/antiestorgens; estrogens/antiandrogens); (d) Medical Transition (top surgeries; bottom surgeries).
  3. Activists: reshapes culture through the lens of gender ideology so that trans people are not only legally protected from harm but culturally affirmed and given space to flourish (e.g. sports, etc.).

Recommended Printed Resources

Abigail Favale (Roman Catholic), The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory.

Helen Joyce (atheist), Trans: Gender Identity and the New Battle for Women’s Rights.

Abigail Shrier (Jewish), Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.

Mark Yarhouse (evangelical), Understanding Gender Dysphoria.

Debra Soh (atheist), The End of Gender: Debunking Myths about Sex and Identity in Our Society.

Preston Sprinkle (evangelical), Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has To Say

Recommended YouTube Lectures/Podcasts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWbxIFC0Q2o Abigail Shrier lecture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSKQfATa-1I Abigail Shrier and Jordan Peterson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xUrtNW6Fzo Helen Joyce

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqZmx265N80 Helen Joyce

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WejfXjzFaMI Helen Joyce

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UubVmdppBY Helen Joyce and Abigail Favale

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-al2JOnxCM&t=3275s Abigale Favale and Preston Sprinkle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkas5PkJzMs Abigale Favale

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-_b9eqrFZQ&t=342s Abigale Favale

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB6mgJkhBEU Mark Yarhouse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzDrJT_X2M8 Lisa Littman (Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu8amCC4_wk Debra Soh

Question:  What is “gender”? How is it related to biological sex?

  • a social construct that varies from culture to culture;

therefore, gender is a fluid state without objective boundaries.

  • a matter of self-identification based on a sense of self;

therefore, gender is grounded in a subjective sense of self (even “innate”).

  • a fixed biological reality;

therefore, gender is grounded in and tethered to one’s biological sex.

Gender Definition

Gender is a comprehensive word that includes (a) social elements (which are culturally fluid in so many ways) and (b) struggles to identify (as some wrestle with their discomfort with their bodies and their self-image), but (c) ought to include biology as its objective ground and basis.

Much of current discussion excludes the body from such grounding or collapses the body into social construction or self-identity (e.g., male brain in a female body). Yet, binary biology is part of the ground of gender, and social constructs mimic this to one degree or another across cultures.

Lovingly, we may care for and accompany adolescents who are caught up in this “social contagion” (just like female adolescents have been caught in other contagions exacerbated by social media, like cutting [self-harm] and eating disorders) in ways that compassionately and sympathetically address gender dysphoria. While there are genuine experiences of gender dysphoria (the classic cases), there is also such a thing as “social contagion” that rests on social constructions for gender fluidity and encourages adolescents who are uncomfortable with their bodies to reject their body’s sex and identity as another gender (nonbinary, trans, etc.).

We can lovingly process this dysphoria with people while, at the same time, affirming the biological grounding of gender in their embodied sex. It is a difficult decision to reject the reality of one’s body; I cannot imagine that struggle. I know it is terrifying for those who experience this struggle, and they want some peace about how to relate to their bodies. As people of peace, we listen, dialogue, and offer a vision of the gospel that heals wounds rather than creating them.

Theological Claim:  There are only two sexes (“male” and “female” per Genesis 1:27).

Biologically, male and female are binary because a body either has one type of gamete or another (sperm or egg). No known human being has ever produced fertility through both. This biological reality is affirmed in the Genesis identification of human beings as “male or female” as well as in the biology of creation itself. All mammals are either male or female. Intersexed persons (0.02% of the population) are not a third sex but variations within male and female sexes. There is no third sex. Some people (0.002%) are born with both ovaries and testicles, few are functional and never both.

Without biological grounding, “gender” (and even sex itself for some) becomes an internal sense that is expressed through social conventions or expressions. Consequently, not only gender but sex itself becomes a fluid category. As a result, there is no definition of male/female except one’s own internal sense of identification. Biological sex, then, is folded into gender such that “sex” is “assigned” at birth rather than a given, a gift from God.

People who transition, whether driven by classic dysphoria or by social contagion, sometimes detransition. Some who transition regret their decision; others happily embrace it. Whatever the case, the church may pursue a welcoming and healing strategy rather than exclusion, derision, and hate. The church must prepare for how it will help trans people and nurture them in the faith.


1 Timothy 2:11-12 – May Women Teach Men?

December 26, 2022

In January, 2021, Bammel Road Church of Christ in Houston, TX, asked me to share my understanding of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 with them. This is the ZOOM video for January 31, 2021.

This presentation suggests that Paul is addressing a confused situation in Ephesus where some deceived women were influencing the whole church, and consequently Paul encourages them to learn before they teach. These women had been deceived just as Eve had. This is not a universal prohibition against women teaching men. Rather, it is Paul’s response to a specific situation where Paul uses Eve as an analogy rather than as the basis for some kind of created order that ranks the authority of men and women in the church.

The Powerpoint slides are available here.

Another video on 1 Timothy 2:12 (“Three Problems with a Soft Complementarian Reading of 1 Timothy 2:12”) is available here.

For a summary of my perspective, see this essay.

For a more extended presentation of my understanding, see my book: Women Serving God.


1 Corinthians 11:2-16 – Women Have Authority (Right) to Pray and Prophesy in the Assembly

December 20, 2022

In January, 2021, Bammel Road Church of Christ in Houston, TX, asked me to share my understanding of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 with them. This is the ZOOM video for January 24, 2021.

This presentation affirms the principle of “headship” (which needs definition) and the interdependency of women and men “in the Lord.” In the assembly, both women and men are affirmed in the use of their gifts, and women have authority to participate visibly and audibly in the assembly of the gathered saints.

The Powerpoints are available here.

For a summary of my perspective, see this essay.

For a more extended presentation of my understanding, see my book: Women Serving God.


Broad Differences between Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic) Christian Traditions

December 6, 2022

I prepared this rudimentary video for one of my online classes at Lipscomb University. It introduces listeners to the broad differences between Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Christianity.

As an introduction, generalizations abound to which there are exceptions and often a continuum of sorts. Consequently, listen to this as a typology for the two positions rather than a box that confines them. The traditions are broader and deeper than I can possibly represent in a brief video for introductory students.

Powerpoints are available here.


Listening to the Spirit for Discernment

November 28, 2022

In response to a dear friend’s question about listening to the Spirit and discernment.

I wish listening to the Spirit was a mechanical process that always had a clear outcome. Unfortunately, we human beings are the ones who still do the “listening,” and our listening is complicated by our own interests, biases, and fears. Just as our sanctification is a process (as we grow more into the likeness of Christ) that never ends until we are glorified with Christ, the same is true of listening to the Spirit–it is a process of sanctification itself. And, often it is a process of communal sanctification.

Discernment comes through prayerful listening to God and each other, searching the Scriptures, and communal relationships in the bond of love. It is not easy, and it is complicated. Sanctification is never easy.

Ultimately, it seems to me, we make the best communal decision we can with the right heart and trust in God’s future for the community. We listen, and then we do the right thing as far as we are able to see (discern) it.

We might also remember that the Spirit works slowly with some and more quickly with others due to any number of factors, and it is not expected everyone will be on the same page all along the process. Sanctification is not automatic, and it is often slow (like years of integrating churches and ending slavery) and always hard.

I trust God is gracious with the process even I as I don’t think we are promised uniformity or even consensus when thinking through difficult and complicated questions that are deeply embedded in our historic cultural practices.


Did Women “Preach” in the New Testament?

November 25, 2022

I was invited to visit the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, but due to COVID I could not. I was diagnosed the day I was supposed to get on the plane to fly to Dallas. Consequently, I addressed the church through Zoom on the topic while experiencing some of the effects of COVID.

I suggest that prophecy in Israel and the church parallel the function of “preaching” in the contemporary church.

This video was part of a series by multiple speakers at the Highland Oaks Church of Christ. All the videos are available here.


Why Might We Follow the Christian Calendar?

November 21, 2022

This lesson was delivered at the Bammel Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, on November 20, 2022. The lesson begins at minute 51 through minute 77 (1:17). The lesson follows the reading of Psalm 66


Oral History of Churches of Christ: James Gorman Interviews John Mark Hicks

November 17, 2022

James Gorman, an historian of the Restoration Movement (Stone-Campbell Movement) and Professor at Johnson University near Knoxville, Tennessee, is conducting a series of oral histories about the churches of Christ in the 21st century. These oral histories are available on the ACU website.

Jamey asked me a series of questions about my biography and life among churches of Christ as well as my theological development and perspectives. The interview is available here.

It covers a range of topics, including my own shifts in theology, the value of studying restoration history, sectarianism, current challenges to the church, and the problem of evangelicalism’s influence upon churches of Christ.

I hope you enjoy listening.


Jesus Wept (John 11:35)

November 14, 2022

Sermon at the Cedar Lane Church of Christ in Tullahoma, TN, on November 13, 2022 based on John 11:32-37. The sermon begins at the 35 minute mark.



Human Identity and Vocation

October 11, 2022

Days 5-8 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days

Text: Genesis 1:26-28

Who are we as human beings? What is our identity, and what is our responsibility and function on this earth?

The long history of spirituality, which is evident in today’s Western culture, has included a search for the authentic self. It seems we are constantly on a quest to discover our true selves and thereby embrace, if we can, our authentic identity as persons.

The story of God provided in Scripture identifies human beings as imagers of God. While the history of theology has often debated the particulars of this description, the general meaning is that human beings represent God within the creation as imitators of God. We are equipped to be Godlike and to work with God. There is not only a deep relational connection between God and humanity that is unique within the cosmos but human beings are partners (co-rulers, co-workers), junior partners to be sure, with God within the cosmos.

Our identity is a gift; it is a grace. We ought to receive it and welcome this dignity with which God has graced us. To resist this identity is to create dissonance with the creation, generate chaos within the God-human relationship, and break the bonds of community between ourselves and others, including the creation.

With our identity comes tremendous responsibility. Our vocation is summarized in some brief but rich language.

  • Fill the earth with other imagers who are the glory of God—the God who enjoys enriching the earth with more authentic representatives.
  • Subdue the earth, which is to continue the process of overcoming the remaining chaos within the creation and thus co-participate in God’s continual ordering of the world.
  • Rule the earth with God as co-rulers, which invites us in the task of caring for God’s good creation like shepherds who care for their flocks.

Representing God, humanity partners with God in filling, subduing, and ruling. This is our human vocation; it is the task God has given to us and for which our identity qualifies us. In fact, some suggest that our vocation is our identity, that is, it is the image of God or how we image God.

Our vocation is the touchstone for thinking about how we pass our days upon the earth. Who are we? What are we invited to do? What does it mean to participate in the mission of God? What career should I pursue? How does my career participate in the mission of God and express my identity and vocation?

These are the sorts of identity and vocational questions human beings ask. It seems to me, at least in my own experience, we discover meaning and significance in life when we locate ourselves in the story of God. When we welcome the identity God has given us, pursue the life into which God has invited us, and embrace the vocation with which the story of God tasks us, we find our authentic selves. We find ourselves in the presence of God’s grace, mission, and community.