Human Gender: Fixed or Fluid?

Are human genders fixed or are they fluid?  Is the distinction between male and female something essential to human beings or is the distinction a product of culture or personal choice?  In the United States – and other Western cultures – there has been a movement to erase gender distinctions.  From gender neutral housing on college campuses, to new gender free pronouns, to TV and movie screens, to new terms like “pansexual” and “metrosexual,” our culture is quickly moving to get rid of gender distinctions.  On this topic, I appreciate Daniel Heimbach’s essay called, “The Unchangeable Difference: Eternally Fixed Sexual Identity for an Age of Plastic Sexuality” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood.

Heimbach argues that “today the ‘essential’ or ‘fixed’ nature of human sexual identity is under fire mainly because it stands in the way of the social and moral deconstructionism that underlies hardline feminism and homosexual militancy.”  The ‘essentialist’ or ‘fixed’ view of human sexual identity is the historic Christian position that God made male and female different and distinct.  “While men and women share a common humanity, there is something fundamental about human sexual identity that is not the same when men as men are compared to women as women.”  Part of the Bible’s fabric is that God made man and women distinct and different – both are made in his image, yet men and women have unchangeable differences.

A recent view of sexuality is called the ‘constructionist’ view, and it says “that human sexual identity is something conditioned entirely by the social and cultural history of a people and by personal choice.  Constructionists claim there are no fixed features that define or restrict who we are as sexual beings, and so of course there can be no moral boundaries that depend on thinking sexual differences are actually real.”  This is also called ‘plastic’ sexuality – it is malleable and moldable like soft plastic.  This view believes you can choose whatever gender you want – even make up a new one if it suits your fancy!

Heimbach later explains the biblical view that gender distinctions will not even be erased in the new creation – they are fixed eternally.  First, God created Adam and Eve as man and woman, physical and spiritual beings with distinct and different sexual identities.   Second, when God created Adam and Eve, he demonstrated the fact that human sexual identity was distinct even before sin entered the world.  Because there was a gender distinction before sin entered the world, it is reasonable to believe there will be gender distinction in the new creation, where there is no sin.  Third, in the resurrection ‘we will be changed’ (1 Cor 15).  ‘We’ will be changed – the subject remains the subject.  There will be continuity of personal identity.  Like Augustine said, ‘He, then, who created both sexes, will restore both.’  Fourth, when Jesus addressed the Sadducees about marriage after the resurrection (Mt. 22), he did not say the question was irrelevant because there will be no distinction in the resurrection; rather, he said there is no marriage after the resurrection.  The Bible doesn’t hint that God’s people will be genderless in heaven.

Heimbach says more in this essay; the above is just a summary.  I have to admit I can’t believe people today seriously deny gender distinctions, but since they do, and since our culture is moving that way, it’s good for Christians to have a biblical mindset and response to this movement.  Heimbach’s essay is a good place to start!

Daniel Heimbach, “The Unchangeable Difference: Eternally Fixed Sexual Identity for an Age of Plastic Sexuality” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood.

shane lems


One comment on “Human Gender: Fixed or Fluid?

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