Thursday, October 18, 2007

What’s the Difference?

"Can you ask me that question again?"

That is what the theology professor asked his student. The professor had just finished a lecture on the pastorate; specifically who is qualified for the pastorate, and even more specifically that only men may be called by God to the pastorate. At the end of the lecture, this pastoral studies seminary student raised his hand and asked, "Now, what if you have a man who is lost, who gets a sex change operation and becomes a woman. Then "she" gets saved, and then "she's" called to preach. Can "she" serve as a pastor, or can "she", after "she" has had the reverse sex change operation and is now a man again; can he now serve as a pastor of a local church?"

"Can you ask me that question again?"

As King Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun, but no previous generation of Christians has ever had to answer that question! Solomon may have dealt with harlots arguing over maternity rights, but he never had to grapple with whether or not one of the harlots had, before the operation, fathered the child.

Think for a moment about the concerned student's question. After one works past the initial shock factor of the inquiry, and the obligatory nausea that accompanies such thoughts; there comes the realization that this student has assumed that a man can become a woman. Inherent to his question is an underlying assumption that a male can become a female and vice versa. This young man, who is preparing for the pastorate, has unwilling caved to a cultural consensus which states that the differences between male and female are strictly aesthetic.

This is no isolated incident, nor is this viewpoint restricted to secular opinion. Many who would identify themselves as Christian would hold to the same view. To be sure, many would be repulsed at the idea of a sex-change operation, and many would affirm that Paul was not off base when he wrote that women are not permitted to pastor (many – not all). Once past that, however, most Christians answer the question: "What's the difference between a man and a woman?" with the lame response of "plumbing and hormones". In this society, where plumbing can be re-arranged, hormones can be supplemented, and homosexuality is being normalized, that is a dangerous, confusing, inadequate, and unbiblical answer.

It is amazing that gender, the most basic aspect of humanity, has become such a confusing issue? A casual scan of the Drudge Report will include stories that use phrases such as: "transgender", "unisex", "gender transition", "gender expression", "gender dysphoria", "gender fluidity", and, the funny but politically incorrect "gender benders". Recently the South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran an article entitled "Transgender community works to gain protections in South Florida". Although this is not a laughing matter, one would be hard pressed to stifle a chuckle after reading the article's first sentence: "Transgender is quietly becoming a protected class in South Florida as cities vote to prohibit discrimination against a group that faces challenges fitting in." (Emphasis added)

It is a bit awkward when "Joe" goes on vacation and returns as "Josephine"!

That type of news story is becoming more and more prevalent, and they are found across a broad spectrum of media outlets. In the July 9 issue of Sports Illustrated, editorialist Rick Reilly wrote about running into former colleague Mike Penner who he did not, at first, recognize. That is perfectly understandable since Mike Penner is now Christine Daniels. Reilly goes on to wonder why he couldn't see it coming, and if he can deal with the fact that his old/new buddy is now a "decent-looking babe".

These references establish the fact that, in this culture, gender identity has become confused. This confusion is not restricted to gender identity; it also encompasses gender roles, and this confusion is not isolated to the culture but has infiltrated our churches. The purpose of this post is to serve the reader by asking and answering three questions:

  1. Are there functional or only physical differences between a man and a woman?
  2. If there are functional differences between a man and a woman, does that mean that men and women are not equal?
  3. Why does this matter to me and my church?

Be sure to return here tomorrow for the conclusion and the answers to the questions.

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