A Voice of Truth in a Culture of Chaos

A review of To Be a Woman: The Confusion Over Female Identity and How Christians Can Respond

Miles Mullin

We live in an age of chaotic confusion regarding gender and sexuality. Things that seemed obvious to nearly everyone merely a decade ago are now considered uncertain for increasing numbers of Americans. Aside from isolated avant garde academic circles, no one in 2013 would have guessed that one of the biggest questions of 2023 would be: “What is a woman?”

Confusion around these topics also permeates our churches. Most Southern Baptists have a reflexive and intuitive understanding of what a woman is, an understanding that is grounded in a biblical view of the world. However, many of them are perplexed regarding how our culture arrived at this point and are not quite sure how to effectively engage the people behind the headlines in order to reach them for Christ. On both points, Katie McCoy’s book, To Be A Woman, provides clarity and direction. It is a boon to Southern Baptists and other Bible-believing Christians who want a quick, accessible introduction to these issues.

 In perspective and approach, McCoy is thoroughly orthodox and thoroughly shaped by the gospel. From the beginning, she lets readers know that she believes “the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and that what it says about male and female, gender, sexuality, sin, redemption, and everything else is true” (9). She also highlights the ministry opportunity that these cultural developments have wrought. 

Providentially present in this age of confusion, believers possess the gospel message of hope that broken people who seek peace with their bodies need to hear. “We are His ambassadors,” she reminds us, “His messengers entrusted with good news: they don’t have to settle for their brokenness. He offers them wholeness. He gave his own body to recover and restore those who feel alienated with their own bodies. Better still, He brings them into the body of Christ” (14).

 McCoy’s significant intellect and ability are obvious. Throughout To Be A Woman, she draws on her own expertise as a theologian as well as assimilating large swaths of information from other experts and drawn from studies. At the same time, she employs illustrative stories throughout each chapter that make the book both engaging and relevant for a larger audience.

History and contradiction

In the early chapters, McCoy outlines how we arrived at this cultural moment, succinctly sketching out the philosophical factors that have made freedom for self-expression the highest good, and sexual orientation and gender identity the most important forms of self-expression. Today, any attempt to even suggest limiting self-expression or to point to an authority beyond the self is considered oppressive. This is despite the demonstrable damage—both mental and physical—that such an approach has produced. 

Far from helping women (or men) struggling with gender identity, affirmative care has not delivered on its promises, as evidenced by the growing detransitioning movement.

In the middle chapters, McCoy rightfully points out the contradiction at the heart of the cultural affirmation of these trends. On the one hand, gender is not determined by one’s physical body. A person should not feel compelled to look or act in a certain way just because they are biologically male or female. Such expectations are cultural stereotypes that too often serve to hinder self-expression and each person’s pursuit of their authentic self. 

On the other hand, if a person “feels” that their true gender is contrary to their biological sex, then they should embrace that feeling. How? By adopting the appropriate cultural expressions of what it means to be a man or woman, by undergoing hormone therapy, and, eventually, by changing their physical bodies to conform them to whatever biological sex they “feel” represents their true self. In this cultural moment, biological sex does not determine or shape gender—until it does.

 Unsurprisingly, McCoy objects to this line of thinking both on scientific and theological grounds. Scientifically, there are simply too many biological differences between males and females to ignore. Theologically, bodies matter because God created human beings as embodied creatures, and biological sex matters because he created their bodies as “male and female.” 

As McCoy puts it, “The sexed body was designed to correlate with the gendered self” (98). This biological binary is not an obstacle to people living full, authentic, flourishing lives. Rather, it is a good, and an integral part of the way in which they do so. Designed by God, “Maleness and femaleness have a purpose” (98).

Our ultimate aim

In the final chapters of the book, McCoy focuses on practical approaches to engaging the chaos that swirls around gender and sexuality, tackling issues like pronouns, smartphone use, and education. Although drawn from her own biblical study and deep thinking on these issues, these are not in-depth studies. Rather, they are quick introductions to an issue, followed by solid recommendations. Covering enough to satisfy some readers, these chapters will spur others on to further study.

As she rounds out these chapters, McCoy reminds us of our priority as we engage: Our goal is not the defeat of gender ideology, but the transformation and restoration of people made in God’s image to relationship with him. We love people because God loves them, and “we speak out against ideas and practices that harm them” (135). As we do so, we run toward the individuals who have been overtaken by the hollow promises of gender ideology and commit to the long, arduous work that will rescue them from this cultural tyrant. Why? Because as human beings made in God’s image, they are worth it.

 Throughout To Be A Woman, McCoy is thoughtful, but she is never nuanced in such a way that prohibits her from drawing firm conclusions that provide helpful guidance to readers. As a result, this book will serve churches well. I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to understand these issues better, especially if they share McCoy’s concern for the broken people whose bodies—and lives—are literally being destroyed in this age of gender confusion.

Miles S. Mullin II, Ph.D., serves as vice president and chief of staff for the ERLC, having previously served at the Missouri Baptist Convention, Hannibal-LaGrange University, and Southwestern Seminary, as well as a trustee for the ERLC. Miles was educated at the University of Virginia (B.A.), Southeastern Seminary (M.Div.) and Vanderbilt University (M.A., Ph.D.) where he studied American Religious History. He is an active member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Miles and his wife Jenny met in Cru. They have lived in five states and raised two adult sons.

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