Gender, sexuality, and the Biden Administration

January 22, 2021

On Tuesday of this week it was announced that Dr. Rachel Levine would be nominated by the Biden administration to serve as assistant secretary of health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The announcement immediately garnered attention because Dr. Levine, the current secretary of health for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.” And following the inauguration on Wednesday, it was also announced that President Biden had signed an executive order “on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” 

News of this sort was unsettling to many evangelicals. The progressive policies favored by the new administration concerning human sexuality are distressing to us. And they should be. As Christians we believe that God, at creation, established a pattern for human life. That pattern is clear and easily discerned. He made us male and female, which is to say that he made each person male or female (Gen. 1:27). For Christians, the Bible’s anthropology correlates directly with our lived experience in the world in terms of sex and gender. Sex is tied to biology; gender is tied to sex. And none of these things are fungible.

Even so, it is apparent that the world is changing around us. Christians can no longer take for granted the fact that our neighbors (and our culture) share our beliefs about human sexuality. And in a sense this isn’t shocking at all. In the moments after the Obergefell decision was handed down in June of 2015, ERLC President Russell Moore said, “We need to be the people who know how to articulate a Christian vision of sexuality that will be increasingly counter-cultural from this point on.” This is even more true today. Over the next several years, and potentially decades, the Christian vision of human sexuality will stand in even starker contrast from the ever-shifting view of sexuality in our culture—and now promulgated by our government.

A Christian response

But how should Christians respond to this? The first answer is to remember our mission. Jesus has called his people to live as missionaries in a world that is lost in darkness. Some of these conversations are still shocking to us, confusion about basic elements of biology and identity, but if anything they remind us that this world is under a curse. Admittedly the sexual revolution has brought us further and faster than I once believed it would, but even these developments give us an incredible opportunity to talk about why the Christian church holds the views we hold on the goodness of sex and gender as creation categories. 

There is no need to feel afraid. It’s not only still true that Jesus is King and sovereign over everything that happens in our lives and in our world. It is also the case that he has equipped the church with everything it needs to meet the challenges of this moment. It would be a mistake for Christians to respond, for instance, to the announcement of Dr. Levine’s nomination out of fear or revulsion. Yes, transgenderism is deeply discordant with the pattern of God’s design. And while we are right to lament the idea that such is being normalized in our culture—and likely doing further harm to others struggling with their sexual identities—the appropriate response is to speak words of truth and compassion instead of words marked by anger or fear or cruelty.

More than that, with the world embracing false beliefs about what it means to be male or female, it is all the more critical for Christians to heed Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5. In that passage, Christians are instructed to pay careful attention to the conduct and sins within the church itself, rather than the outside world. Paul’s point, of course, is not that the world will not be judged for its sins (it will), but that it is God who judges the world. As Christians, we must hold fast to sound teaching about sex and gender and pass these things along to our children and the generations that follow them. We may not, at this time, be able to reverse the world’s thinking about the goodness of God’s design. But we must still bear witness to these things, demonstrating the joys and benefits of living according to this creational paradigm, and be prepared to minister to those who are left reeling as the sexual revolution fails to keep its promises.

Serious policy concerns

At the same time, none of this means that we simply acquiesce to these changes in our world, even if they seem inevitable. The concerns Christians and others have raised about the inequity of biological men competing in women’s sports are no less valid today than they were the day before President Biden signed that executive order. Neither are the very serious concerns previously raised about personal privacy and safety in restrooms and changing facilities. These Day-1 efforts to erase the distinctions between males and females through an executive order are critical errors. Such missteps will only be further exacerbated if the administration throws its support behind the so-called Equality Act, which would not only codify these errors into law but threaten the religious and conscience freedom of those who dissent. Whatever laudable actions the administration may take on any number of other issues, Christians should have the courage to say that these efforts concerning gender and sexuality are wrong, and that executive orders cannot countermand biological realities. 

Politics is increasingly driven by outrage. But as Christians we need not engage in that game. As we consider these issues, we should remember that the men and women, especially the young boys and girls, who are struggling with issues related to sex and gender are suffering. The shockingly high suicide rate among transgender youth should be both alarming and devastating to us. And rather than judgment, we must offer compassion to those experiencing gender dysphoria and related issues. But that will never happen if the main thing a watching world sees from Christians is outrage or disgust. If anything, thinking through our response to these issues should remind us of Jesus who intentionally spent his time ministering to those most frequently marginalized by society.

Do not despair. Neither Dr. Levine’s nomination nor the administration’s actions on issues of sex and gender portend the end of our republic, and certainly not the church (Matt 16:18). But they do provide further evidence that Christians can no longer assume the world agrees with us about sexual ethics. As frustrating as any of this may be, we should actually recognize this as a call back to our mission field. And instead of acting as cultural critics screaming into the void of social media, we should see ourselves as missionaries, with a people to love and a gospel to share.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. 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