In recent months, three media articles caught my attention. The first is an editorial from the McGill Daily student newspaper, which argues that Movember, the annual campaign to raise awareness of men’s health issues, is an act of “microaggression” against women, minorities, or the transgendered, who might feel excluded if they are unable to grow as full a beard as a Caucasian man. The second is about MillsCollege in California, where the all-woman student body is abandoning “binary” gender identity (male and female) and choosing their own preferred personal gender pronouns: “he,” “she,” “they,” or even “ze.” The third is about a lawsuit by a New York animal-rights group seeking to have a chimpanzee recognized as a legal person, so he can be “liberated” from his owner and sent to a sanctuary resembling his natural habitat. This lawsuit failed last December, but they are expected to appeal it.
These stories – I could point to many similar ones – blur the distinction between man and woman, or man and beast, or attempt to destroy it outright. This confusion repudiates biblical categories established at creation.
When God created humanity in the beginning, “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God created a woman for Adam because nothing else was a suitable mate (Gen. 2:20). Man and woman coming together in marriage to produce offspring was the design from the beginning. “[A] man shall . . . hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Male and female – not male and male nor female and female – are natural counterparts. Jesus Christ’s teaching on divorce (Matthew 9:1-12) appeals to these same two passages (Gen. 1:27, 2:24) to reaffirm that God’s original intent was a lifelong, exclusive bond between husband and wife. We are often informed that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, but really he did – because his strong affirmation of heterosexual marital fidelity excludes the lawfulness of same-sex unions. He affirms the male/female “binary” as natural and right.
Of course, in the Christian church, we also have a greater, theological reason to affirm the goodness of traditional marriage. It is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. We often hear this Scripture read at weddings: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Paul is making a practical point about how Christian husbands and wives should relate to each other. It is based on a spiritual reality: the marriage covenant symbolizes the covenant between Christ and his people. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loves the church.
Paul never confuses his categories. Christ is the husband and the church is the wife. Christ does not love Christ and give himself up for himself. The church is not the head of the church. They are not interchangeable; you can’t substitute one for the other in the relationship, then claim that the new relationship is the same thing as the old. Christ and the church are fundamentally different. So are men and women.
Nor did God blur the male-female categories by creating a wide spectrum of sexualities in between. Social-science academics often draw a distinction between sex(determined by biology) and gender (a social construct). This theory was popularized in the 1950s by a sexologist named John Money. It was tested in the 1960s, after a baby boy named Bruce Reimer had his genitals mutilated in a botched surgery. Money recommended that Bruce be surgically reassigned as female and raised by his parents as a girl. If they did so, he would accept his gender identity. So they did, and renamed him “Brenda.” Money declared the sex reassignment a success, and it became the standard procedure for similar cases.
However, Money had covered up the truth. Brenda Reimer never accepted being a girl, though she had not known she was born a boy. At 15, Brenda took the name David and became male again. Sadly, after being bullied, a lifetime of depression, and a failed marriage, David Reimer committed suicide in his 30s. Though Money’s gender theories were discredited, the nature-vs.-nurture debate continues. The line between male and female just isn’t as blurred as the gender-studies mavens would have us believe.
Just as God created man distinct from woman, he also created humankind distinct from the animals. He finished his creation with man, on the sixth day. “[I]n the image of God he created him” (Gen. 1:27). This above all separates man from the rest of creation: nothing else is made in the image of God.
A major implication of Darwinism, if it is true, is that the difference between humans and animals is merely one of degree. However, there is no moral difference. As Ingrid Newkirk of PETA once remarked, “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”
Of course, the animal-rights people don’t really believe that. PETA objects to people eating fish (which they call “sea kittens”). They don’t campaign against bears eating fish. In 2009, a pet chimpanzee named Travis attacked a woman, tearing off and eating her face and hands. We can imagine the outrage from PETA (and everyone else) if the woman had become angry and eaten the chimpanzee’s face. Why? Because we know there is a difference. We treat other creatures humanely because we’re human. We can expect no such promise from the bears and chimps. Declaring an animal a person with rights doesn’t elevate the animal; it only debases man.
Original sin is responsible for these blurred lines. Paul describes the universal human condition in Romans 1. Idolatry is one symptom of mankind’s rebellion against the authority of God: they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). A sculpted beast cannot adequately represent the living God. Mankind alone bears God’s image. Trying to represent God with an animal erodes the distinction between man and God, and man and beast.
Paul also writes, “their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men” (Rom. 1:26-27). Humanity has rebelled against God again by overthrowing natural sexual relations for unnatural. Men and women have become interchangeable objects of desire.
A clash of worldviews is at work here. Our supposedly secular culture now idolizes both unlawful sexuality and animals, without shame. It blurs the lines that God established in the beginning, calling them antiquated and hateful. However, the Bible affirms that what God made was very good (Gen. 1:31). When we declare the whole counsel of God against its secular critics, we need also to reaffirm the good “binaries” between man and woman or human and animal.