16 quick takes on gender and sexuality

Learning to honor God’s Word and love our neighbors

January 3, 2020

Recently, our church hosted an event called “Truth Talks,” covering the issues of gender and sexuality and led by Dan Darling and Josh Wester. Our purpose for the event was to help students and parents navigate these important topics from a biblical, Christ-centered perspective and to provide context for ongoing conversations between parents and children and within our congregation. We believe making disciples of Jesus and loving our neighbors well means helping Christians walk with people who share various views and live diverse lifestyles.

The statements included here are my takeaways from the event. I’m not sure which are direct quotes from Darling and Wester and which are my own summary statements. So let’s concede that the profound ones are theirs and the other ones are mine. I trust they will all be helpful.

  1. God created humans distinctly male and female by design and for a purpose, and we each, therefore, possess profound dignity and worth. No one’s background or behavior diminishes their value as human beings.
  2. As Christians, we believe the Bible and yield to its teachings even when those teachings make us uncomfortable. We can expect the Bible to challenge us, but our sensibilities do not lord over the Scriptures. Instead, we submit to the Bible as an act of faith in the God of the Bible.
  3. Sex is powerful. It’s very good when experienced in the context of biblical marriage between a man and a woman. It’s extremely harmful when experienced in any other context. In the sex act, we give a part of ourselves away. Within a covenant marriage relationship, that is a wonderful thing. Outside of biblical marriage, sex creates pain, insecurity, and brokenness.
  4. In the Gospels, Jesus affirmed gender distinctions in the marriage relationship as described in the Old Testament account of God’s creation of man and woman. As the Apostle Paul described the nature of Jesus’ relationship with the Church in his letter to the Ephesians, he affirmed the wonder and mystery of biblical marriage between a man and woman. So marriage is not an archaic notion, but an institution established and affirmed throughout Scripture and practiced for thousands of years. 
  5. We cannot claim to follow Jesus and ignore what he said about marriage and sexuality. Whether the issue is an unbiblical divorce, sinful heterosexual behavior, or a homosexual lifestyle, for example, following Jesus necessarily means honoring the commands of Jesus and, by grace, following them in every area of our lives.
  6. Not every natural desire (e.g., sexual initmacy) should be pursued or fulfilled. We do not determine what glorifies God or even what is best for us. God does that, and he has preserved and given us the Bible to show us the way.
  7. When we turn to Jesus, place our faith in him, and become a Christian, Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin, but we are still being saved from the power of sin. Sexual temptation, and the struggle with other temptations for that matter, are a natural part of the human experience, generally, and of walking with Jesus, specifically.
  8. We affirm biblical manhood and womanhood, yet many cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are not biblical at all. So when boys or girls struggle to fit into those stereotypes, we direct them back to the Bible. We affirm them, their unique bent and interests, and show them that God knit them in their mother’s womb, and that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139).
  9. Feeling uncomfortable in the body we were born with is not completely uncommon or unreasonable. We are fallen creatures, marred with a sin nature. Discomfort is part of our story, but it is not beyond Jesus’ redeeming work.
  10. Children and adolescents will often struggle with their identity. The overwhelming number of children who struggle with gender identity work through it and find peace with themselves as they grow into the late teenage and young adult years. So show patience with them. We love and encourage them. We pour God’s Word into them and show grace and kindness as they learn how God has designed them.
  11. People who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, as well as those fully involved in a homosexual lifestyle, are people, fellow human beings whom God stamped with his image. They possess dignity, and they are worthy of respect.
  12. Speaking the truth is not bigoted or unloving. Being bigoted is bigoted, and being unloving is unloving. As Jesus’ followers, we look to Jesus as our example, and Jesus was never a jerk. Faithful Christians treat all people with compassion because loving people is not a compromise. It’s a command.
  13. People may think a biblical worldview of marriage, gender, and sexuality is weird and freakish. That’s because it is weird and freakish. That’s okay. Many things Christians believe are outside the cultural mainstream. For example, we believe that God in Christ robed himself in flesh and came to earth as a baby born of a virgin named Mary. It was miraculous and outside of the norm, but we believe it. And not only do we believe it, but as odd as it may be, we orient our entire lives around that belief. 
  14. Expect hardship and even rejection for your faithfulness to Jesus and his Word. The opposition of other people does not invalidate sound theology or undermine historic Christianity. Jesus said to expect persecution, and he promised to be with us every step of the way. So believers deny ourselves and stay the course as we invite people to experience new life in Jesus and to follow him with us.
  15. Many people who have adopted an alternate lifestyle are broken, hurting, and lonely. They, along with others, are skeptical of God and of Christians. They aren’t sure anyone will ever truly love them. So when we show kindness and respect, pray for them, and pursue genuine friendship, we offer them a more complete and compelling picture of the gospel. Loving our neighbors cracks the door open in a way that lets Jesus shine in and allows the Holy Spirit to do his work to redeem and restore.
  16. No sexual sin or brokenness (heterosexual or homosexual) is beyond God’s willingness or ability to redeem through the person and work of Jesus. So we faithfully show and share the gospel, inviting every person to come to Jesus.

Whether we are baking a cake, playing on a sports team, operating a school, running for public office, serving a church, or telling a story on the big screen, questions around gender and sexuality now dominate many everyday conversations. We care about these questions, we advocate for just laws and policies that protect religious freedom, and we speak the truth in love in the public square. 

But followers of Jesus care most about people, not just issues. We do not withhold love for individuals, for example, based on a person’s gender, sexual preference, or sexual history. Instead, we understand that sin mars the image of God in all of us, but it does not make any of us subhuman. 

Our theology tells us that God loves people and has provided redemption from sin through his Son Jesus for anyone who turns to him. That Good News not only tells us that God’s grace is greater than all of our sin, but it also gives us freedom to love other people in the same way God has loved us. 

So as we pass on the faith to the next generation, we pass on a clear and compelling word from God. We stand firmly rooted on millenia of biblical orthodoxy related to marriage and sexuality. Husbands and wives reflect the beauty of the gospel and the glory of God in marriage. By honoring marriage, we honor the Lord. And by honoring our God-given design, we honor one another. We then live out our faith with confidence by loving our neighbors, whoever they are and whatever choices they have made, trusting Christ in us to bear witness of his own redeeming grace. 

Daryl Crouch

Following 28 years in pastoral ministry, Daryl Crouch now leads Everyone’s Wilson, a community transformation initiative that helps churches bring the whole community around every school so that every student, educator, and family can live whole. He’s married to Deborah, and they have four children. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24