Book Review

How to talk to your children about gender

February 6, 2019

How do you talk to your children about sex, gender identity, gender dysphoria, and transgenderism? More importantly, how do you do so in a way that is age appropriate? That is the goal of Brian Seagraves and Hunter Leavine’s short book, Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors (The Good Book Co., 2018). In this brief overview of the topic, they seek to provide parents, pastors, and anyone working with children and youth a foundation for engaging with these questions.

Setting a foundation for later

The book is built around two major sections: Foundations and Toolbox. The first section is divided into three parts divided by age: 0-7 years, 7-11 years, and 12 years and older. In each of these sections, Seagraves and Leavine offer address topics specific to that age. These questions are grounded in the scriptures and build upon the ones before them. For example, the concept of God as a good and personal Creator, who designs each part of creation with a purpose (taught in the first section), is the beginning of the next step in the middle-age range where topics of distinct differences between men and women are discussed. Because God has designed every part of creation with a purpose, God has a purpose for the differences between men and women. In this way, Seagraves and Leavine build upon each foundation to create a framework drawn from the known to address the unknown or difficult.

The second major section is that of the Toolbox. In the final chapter, the authors provide answers to some of the more “hot-button” issues surrounding the topic of gender identity: What about bathroom usage? Which pronouns should I use? How do I talk about this topic with others? These issues and some common objections to a Christian perspective on the issue are answered briefly and provide a helpful form for parents seeking to lead their children as they go out into the world. The answers are not all encompassing, and there are areas where Christians may disagree. However, the truth of God’s good, created order of male and female as described in the Scripture is not one of those places.

The most important part of the book is that it is not just concerned with the issue of transgenderism. As the authors point out, this is but one issue, among many, that are the result of sin’s effects in the world. This is why the first foundation does not explicitly address gender at all. Fundamental to all other issues is instilling a foundation of a Christian worldview for children. Yes, we should answer questions that children have as they arise. Yes, we should do so in age-appropriate ways. More important than whether they can describe a male-sex binary however is whether they can tell us that God is good and has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ and speaks to us through his word.

An ongoing conversation

In an age that is confusing, children need to know that the adults in their lives are aware of the questions. If parents and pastors are unwilling to talk about these topics because they feel unsure or awkward, the world will shape their children. Rather than cede the discipling of children to a world that is not grounded in the truth of Scripture, adults must start the conversations. Parents should address topics before the surrounding culture to ensure that their children receive a biblical perspective. As the authors make clear: either you disciple your child or the world will do it for you.  As a Christian parent or leader, it is crucial that you shape the young minds under you and provide them with the wisdom and truth of Scripture before they are sent out to a world that may find them disagreeable.

Yet, even then, they are to be taught that a person is not a problem to be solved, but someone to be loved. The friend who experiences gender dysphoria is not a “them” who should be shunned. They are an image-bearer of God and deserve our full respect and love. In this, Seagraves and Leavine again point us to the truth that no matter the outward difference, the root of all the brokenness in the world is the pervasive effect of sin. Your children’s friend may disagree with the framework you provide, but they should know that your child sees them as a valued person worthy of dignity and respect.

The book is framed as a conversation guide (thus, the subtitle). It ends with age-appropriate questions and discussion topics. What does this mean? That parents and those who work with children and youth are not going to have one single conversation. This will be an ongoing series of talks and moments. Parents should welcome this.

The role of this book is to not answer every question, but to give parents the tools to start the conversation. The process of discipleship is not a moment, but a lifetime of learning and growing. In the same way, children are to be taught continually when they are sitting in the house, walking, and even as they lie down to sleep (Deut. 11:18-21). Children should know that their parents are aware of the questions they have. Brian Seagraves and Hunter Leavine have given adults some tools to start the first of many conversations.

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