Statement on Human Dignity: A Way Forward? (Part 2)

Statement on Human Dignity: A Way Forward? (Part 2)

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In previous posts, I have argued that resolutions and adding more conditions to the instructions for ministers are not the best way to address the cultural challenges of the day. Instead, the Church of God Executive Committee should work with the doctrine and polity committee to formulate responses. Today, I offer the second part of a draft of what a statement might look like in response to the issue of transgenderism (see part 1 here).

Human Dignity and Sin

Every person participates in fallen existence, which is expressed in the way that human desires and emotions are fundamentally disordered and defective. The biblical expression, “lust of the flesh” points toward the way in which human passions and desires are no longer properly directed toward God as the only one who can satisfy. Instead, they are misdirected toward created things “exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man” (Rom. 1:23).

This lust or disordered desire leads individuals into covetousness, pride, envy, sexual immorality, hatred of their fellow man, and a host of other sinful passions. No one is innocent since “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This means that everyone exhibits the lust of the flesh in their own lives even if how this disordered desire manifests itself is not the same in all.

Out of the brokenness of depravity, humans act in ways that dishonor the moral law and the orders of creation God has established and thereby contribute to the self-destructive behavior that further enslaves, devalues, and deforms the human person. This means that every human person shares in the brokenness of sinful existence and contributes to that brokenness whenever they transgress the law of God.

Gender dysphoria is a condition resulting in an incongruence between a person’s biological sex and subjective experience or feelings associated with gender. These emotions and desires can lead to mistaken beliefs about oneself or one’s biology akin to those who suffer from anorexia nervosa and see themselves as overweight or obese when they are not. Jesus himself acknowledged the problems of those born with deformed sexual organs or without sexual organs when he said that there were those “born eunuchs” (Matt. 19:12). Most experiences of gender dysphoria resolve themselves as the child matures into adulthood while a small percentage struggle with these feelings beyond childhood.

Since humans are deeply relational, their understanding of what is means to be male or female stems from social relations. In a fallen world, what it means to be a man or a woman is distorted by the spirit of the age. While gender roles are often subject to cultural and social definitions, this does not mean that biological sex has no bearing or necessary relationship to a person’s gender identity (his or her subjective experience of oneself as male or female).

Regardless of how often dress, hair styles, and other social expressions change, scripture admonishes that men and women should reflect their biological sex in their actions. This principle resides behind Paul’s concern that women pray with their head covered (1 Cor. 11:2-16). Dress should reflect the givenness of male and female biological sex. To honor God with the body is to honor one’s biological sex.

Human Dignity and Transgenderism

Transgender has become an umbrella term to reinforce the view that biological sex is malleable and subject to alteration. Under this new perspective on the human person, the individual may choose from a variety of gender expressions such as nonbinary, non-gender, third gender, gender fluid, androgynous, gender nonconforming, etc.

This cultural shift in viewing gender identity as unrelated to biological sex has led to a gender ideology that now portrays transgender identities and transition as a heroic act. This new view of the human person denies the good of the body and thus the inherent bodily dignity of every human person. Of course, every human body is subject to the decay of fallen life, which is why Christians constantly pray that God heals our bodies. We do so in anticipation of the resurrection. We should differentiate gender dysphoria as a psychological condition akin to anorexia from the new view that denies the sexual binary of male and female as part of the goodness of the human body.

While individual freedom is part of the image of God and thus a good to be celebrated, it is not a license to reject God’s created order. Rather, freedom must be utilized in keeping with the orders of creation found in male and female. The effort to deny male and female as part of the truth of our biology is not in keeping with the biblical witness and denies the full personhood of women. As a result, the rights of biological women are jeopardized. We see this denial of the rights of biological women in the attempt to redefine a woman away from the biological so that being a woman no longer is rooted in the truth of the human body.

While same-sex attraction is a complex condition arising from behavioral and environmental factors, the desires and passions involved in sexual attraction for some of the same sex are fundamentally disordered. This does not mean that they are any less real nor are they transgressions in and of themselves. A transgression requires that one act on desire, not the mere presence of desire. Yet, Same-sex intercourse is unequivocally rejected in scripture as a distortion of the complementarity of male and female (Rom. 1:18-27). It is included among a number of sexual behaviors ruled morally impermissible by scripture as not conforming to the procreative and relational purpose of the sexual act in the context of marriage between one man and one woman.

Human Dignity, Scripture, and Neighbor Love

We must maintain a commitment to hold to the moral law of God written upon the heart, exemplified in the ten commandments, and found in the life and teachings of Jesus. We must live out the whole-Bible rightly divided with the New Testament as our only rule of faith. The orders of creation are given by God. This includes marriage between one man and one woman grounded in the biological sex of male and female. Scripture both affirms and extends the divine moral order for creation by calling all to purify their hearts and minds as well as their actions.

At the same time, we proclaim boldly the power of the gospel to heal, liberate, bring forgiveness, and reconcile unto salvation. Every individual struggles with passions and disordered desires for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Yet, the grace of God is made sufficient even in the midst of weakness. The Spirit enables us to wrestle against our passions and lusts and to lay them at the foot of the cross so that we may experience the full freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Should we fall into temptation, God’s forgiveness is always present through the blood of Christ that washes and cleanses.

Scripture also recognizes that all human persons continue to wrestle with living faithful lives that fully reflect the dignity to which God calls us. The Church of God commits itself to weep with those who weep and walk with those who struggle with all of the temptations and trials of fallen existence. Some individuals may be delivered while others may have to walk the road of suffering with Christ. Some may be called to marriage while others are called to singleness and celibacy. The task of faithful living is never easy, but Christ has called us to live out this task together as his body and to love one another in the midst of life’s failures and successes.

In keeping with its commitment to the whole person, the Church of God refuses to stigmatize anyone as though that person is not made in the image of God and the object of the eternal love of the Father who gave his only-begotten Son and sent his Spirit that he or she might become a new creation. We can never turn away from the least of these to whom Christ bids us go. We commit to a pastoral practice that extends the mercy and grace of Christ even as we together strive to live out the command to be holy in our souls and our bodies. We remain biblically rooted and authentically Pentecostal with our arms open wide to the world in service.

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