Sexual Madness and the Image of God

May 31, 2016

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule … over all the earth” … God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

The Hebrew for “image” (tselem) comes from a “root meaning to shade; a phantom, i.e. (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence, a representative figure.” It is used in several Old Testament passages for idols (e.g., I Samuel 6:5). This point is emphasized by Robert Luginbill, professor of classics at the University of Louisville, who argues against any effort to eisegete the term: It “means ‘image’ in a fairly concrete sense; the word is often used for statues of pagan idols which, after all, are meant to be exact replicas of the god in question.”

“Likeness” (demût) means pretty much what it does in English – like something, but not the thing itself. As the theologian Gordon Wenham notes in his commentary on Genesis, the terms are used interchangeably in the Bible’s first book (for an example, see Genesis 5:3). John Piper summarizes, demût “is used uniformly in connection with a tangible or visual reproduction of something else. So again, as with tselem, the usage of demût urges us very strongly in the direction of a physical likeness.”

Just as a statue is not the thing it represents but is identifiable as an artifact resembling the real and original being, so are human beings as image bearers of the living God. We are not God but, in some ways, resemble Him. We are capable of having intimate relationships, of articulate speech, of intricate intellection, and so forth. We carry in our persons elements of His being.

The Satanic deception in the Garden (“you will be like God,” having the moral knowledge of and become a peer with Him) is an attack on both the sovereignty of God (as Satan himself had sought to dethrone God) and an attempt to soil human dignity (through Adam and Eve’s acceptance of the lie that they would not bear God’s image if they ate the fruit; they would become Him).

God created us male and female, each fully human and fully bearing God’s image, yet each distinct. The Genesis account says that God created Eve, a woman, because Adam needed a partner who “suited” him. The Hebrew term implies a being who corresponds to him, or “fits” him. The two are complementary, both image-bearers of God yet with unique characteristics as well (contemporary science supports the argument that these distinctions are discernable and permanent). As theologian Bruce Ware writes, “while God did intend to create male and female as equal in their essential nature as human, he also intended to make them different expressions of that essential nature, as male and female reflect different ways, as it were, of being human.”

This complementarity is the foundation of male-female relationship in marriage: Sexual and emotional, perceptual and experiential, biological and neurological.

This understanding of human personhood – male and female, equal yet distinct, created in only two sexes – is now being derided by many culture-shapers as antiquated, naïve, inadequate. Instead of receiving help, the sexually troubled are affirmed. Same-sex attraction and transgenderism are celebrated by popular culture and their normality is asserted as confidently as ancient claims that the world is flat.

“Diversity of gender is a normal part of the human experience, across cultures and throughout history,” claims the website GenderSpectrum.org. “Non-binary gender diversity exists all over the world, documented by countless historians and anthropologists. Examples of individuals living comfortably outside of typical male/female expectations and/or identities are found in every region of the globe.”

Yes, persons attracted to the same sex or who wish to wear the other gender’s clothing exist and always have. But although they are universally present, their numbers are rather miniscule and often not apparent visibly, and thus to claim them as “a normal part of the human experience,” as if an obvious male dressed as a woman is “normal,” is to demand a shrug when a furrowed brow is more natural.

The new insistence on sexual self-definition means public showers and restrooms have become forums of heated political debate instead of, respectively, cleanliness and intimate hygiene. Failure to participate in same-sex weddings places wedding vendors who affirm their faiths’ traditional beliefs about human sexuality are called haters, bigots, and so forth.

When in May President Obama’s Justice Department threatened states and localities with the loss of federal education aid unless they opened their restroom and shower facilities to people identifying as transgender, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest issued this statement:

North Carolina will not stand by and let our locker rooms and high school showers be used for social experimentation at the expense of the privacy and protection of our young boys and girls. I do not think it is appropriate for teenage boys and girls to share the same bathroom. I don’t think it appropriate for teenage boys and girls to shower next to each other. I don’t think it is appropriate for male coaches and male teachers to have access to girls’ locker rooms and showers while the young girls are naked and exposed.

For this wholly reasonable statement, Forest has been called names too crude and/or ridiculous to publish here. Non-sequitur insults are the activist Left’s first rhetorical resort to counter arguments they cannot defeat and, concurrently, wish to silence. Their frequency, accompanied by threats of economic retaliation, coarsen public life and intimidate the cowardly (of whom there are, regrettably, too many, perhaps most especially in the corporate community).

Ultimately, the elevation of radical human sexual autonomy as one of the chief gods of the age is grounded in the delusion that each individual has both the right and the capacity for complete self-reinvention. We assert our godhood, inarticulately but with defiant persistence.

This has led to situations that are flabbergasting to the rational. As Dr. Peter Jones wrote earlier this year:

An employee of a Catholic university (Loyola Marymount) committed cultural blasphemy by stating that there are only two genders (a view entirely compatible with Catholicism). The university, however, has suspended her and is currently investigating her for a “hate crime.” It gets more manifestly insane. Students at my alma mater, Cardiff University, and in other UK schools, are demanding the installation of women’s sanitary bins in male toilets “for men who menstruate.” This is logical lunacy. The inevitable demand for urinals in women’s restrooms will surely follow.

He’s right. Stories abound concerning the accelerating foolishness of our culture’s driven commitment to redefine human sexuality and its outworkings in American public life.

Dr. Jones continues:

Clear-headed theology reveals what is happening in our Left-leaning, progressive world. We are witnessing the reappearance of an old heresy, Gnosticism … Interestingly, the ancient Gnostics also rejected creational sexuality and sought the higher form of “androgyny,” the experience of being both male and female—which is the same rejection of the male/female gender binary that we observe today.

The dissolution of sexual difference (perceived and practiced, although itself intrinsically immutable as a matter of biology) will lead to the social chaos we are now beginning to experience. This may well lead eventually to the emergence of a fascist-type leader who will promise order and probably bring it, but with it will also bring an iron fist beneath which liberty is crushed.

Writing in The Public Discourse, Jason Wilson explains the liberal conceit that sex is merely a physical transaction between consenting persons:

Liberalism posits radical autonomy and then attempts to mediate those individual autonomies through contracts (“consent”). By contrast, sex draws two people into the most intimate form of community, forming a new relationship based on a shared totality of existence. Where liberalism deals in a world of unjoinable, antagonistic atoms, human sexuality strives to bring two atoms together in order to make an entirely different molecule.

Radical sexual autonomy bridles at such a molecular proposition. That’s why concerted efforts are being made by Left-leaning politicians, activists, journalists, and entertainers to fuse manhood and womanhood. They claim, confidently and persistently, that human sexuality is “fluid,” in the sense that one can lapse from one kind of sexual attraction to another with almost spontaneously.

This is a self-contradictory argument: If one’s sexual attraction lurches from one direction to another, how can it be immutable? The latter claim is made by those who analogize race with sexual identity, saying they are both fixed characteristics. If one’s sexual identity is immutable – if it cannot be changed – how can it be fluid?

University of Maryland social psychologist Dylan Selterman (who would not identify as a conservative) writes that “perhaps political liberals want to believe that sexuality is stable across the lifespan, thus giving credence to the idea that since people cannot change or control their sexual preferences (they are simply ‘born that way’), it would be a rallying cry for equitable treatment (equal rights) based on gender and sexual orientation.”

Selterman contends that “people’s sexual responses are not set in stone, and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation they’re in. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but then finds themself (sic) in an environment with only people of the same gender, they might feel increased sexual/romantic attraction to those same-gender partners.”

That’s a big “might,” but is probably true of a relative handful of persons. That’s very different, however, from suggesting that human sexuality is a matter of arbitrary fluctuation or, at the opposite extreme, that same-sex attraction or opposite-sex identification cannot change.

“In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian, and wrote about it,” says Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio. “In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him, and together we’ve raised two amazing kids. I’m reminded every day how lucky I am to have met my soulmate.”

Good for her. But this acknowledgement gives lie to the contention that sexual attraction is always immutable. For the overwhelming majority of us, it is: All but a small percentage of men are attracted exclusively to women, and vice-versa. But for those who are sexually attracted to members of the same gender, the possibility of change is evident from many testimonies like McCray’s.

No one should claim that sexual attraction can be turned on and off like a light switch. Personal friends who have been active gays and lesbians but who now embrace heterosexuality will admit freely that same-sex attraction will always be an issue in the background of their inner lives. However, in so affirming they are only acknowledging what those with any broken habit, good or bad, will say: A long-time, engrained pattern of behavior will always threaten to again grasp those who have discarded it. The grooves of the mind remain deeply cut.

New habits build slowly. For Christians, they all are based on identity in Christ, in the new creations each of us is in Him. The revolutionary transformation of character, heart, and mind that begins at the moment of our coming to Christ builds over time if we are purposeful about it. Habituation of virtue through deliberate and conscious effort based on Scripture’s norms and through the enablement of the Holy Spirit can happen. It is real. Not moral perfection, but the regulation of the inner life and of outer conduct and speech such that they reflect consistently the character of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossian 1:15; see also Romans 8:29, II Corinthians 4:4, Hebrews 1:3). He manifested, in His humanity, the glory and power of the Triune God. As God in the flesh, He demonstrated what the fullness of humanity could be.

In eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had a complete relationship of love and joy. In one another, so did the pre-Fall Adam and Eve. In Christian marriage, despite our moral failures and short-sighted mistakes, men and women can find a fulfillment only a being capable of comprehensive intimacy can experience. A being made in the image and likeness of the Creator and Redeemer of all.

Rob Schwarzwalder

Rob Schwarzwalder is a senior lecturer at Regent University.  His op-eds have been published in numerous national publications, ranging from TIME and U.S. News and World Report to Christianity Today, The Federalist, and The Public Discourse, as well as scores of newspapers and opinion journals. Read More

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