By / Jun 23

Fifty years ago, President Nixon signed into law Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, a landmark policy for women and girls. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This important policy was intended to provide equal opportunities for men and women seeking to participate in activities and educational institutions receiving funding from the U.S. government. One of the most notable ways Title IX has benefited thousands of women is their ability to equally participate in sports. Catherine Parks writes, “many young girls now have the hope of competing at a collegiate level with all the benefits Title IX provides. The ability to earn a scholarship and compete at this level can be life changing. Women are more likely to attend college and graduate when offered an athletic scholarship.”

Women’s sports and the transgender movement

The 50th anniversary of Title IX is worth celebrating for all that it has meant for women and girls and their ability to fully and fairly participate in sports. However, in recent years, equal athletic opportunities for biological females have been repeatedly compromised by the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

In 2020, three star female track athletes lodged a high-profile lawsuit targeting their Connecticut conference’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports. The defendants alleged that two biological males won 15 state high school championships over three years, stripping biological women of crucial advancement and scholarship opportunities. In 2021, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the athletes are appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. 

Transgender atheletes are also challenging the integrity of women’s sports on the collegiate level. In March 2022, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won the NCAA 500-meter freestyle championship. Thomas, a biological male, competed on the men’s swimming team for two years before joining the women’s team after undergoing a year of hormonal therapies. Thomas struggled to break out while swimming against men, but the swimmer quickly dominated national competition after switching to compete against biological women. Controversy swirled around Thomas’ status on the women’s team, as multiple female swimmers protested and team parents raised concerns over lost opportunities and championships for their children.  FINA, the international swimming governing body, responded by banning male-to-female transgender swimmers from competition unless the transition occurred before the onset of puberty.

At least 13 states have banned biological males who identify as women from competing in women’s sports. States are beginning to recognize the irony of forcing female athletes to compete against biological males: these policies are explicit reversals of the very Title IX antidiscrimination measures meant to secure equal opportunities for women. Biological males enjoy a natural advantage when competing against women, and proposed redefinitions of Title IX protections discriminate against young women by expecting them to overcome those disadvantages.

Department of Education’s proposed changes

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes to Title IX regulations that would have sweeping effects on the original intent and purpose of Title IX. The department stated that it intends to prohibit discrimination “based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” In short, the department wants to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI). This is significant because it would allow for biological men to participate in women’s sports, particularly at a collegiate level, and would penalize institutions that did not expand the definition of sex to include SOGI.

The department’s proposed Title IX regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The ERLC will submit public comments on this proposed rule.

Why does this matter to Christians

It is becoming increasingly clear that issues of gender identity and sexual orientation will continue to be debated in our culture. Given that, Christians are, and will continue to be, confronted with difficult situations in their schools and universities that revolve around transgender athletes. As these challenges arise, Christians need to know how to respond. We uphold the design of our Creator, who chose to endow men and women with equal value, yet distinct physical attributes. In this context, our intentional physical make-up as men and women, boys and girls has implications for the way we perform in athletic competition, and those differences should be acknowledged and valued.

The important protections that Title IX offers girls and women are in jeopardy if additional steps are taken to allow biological men to compete in female athletics. The blurred line in the definition of sex is going to lead to the deterioration of women’s sports all together. Christians need to be firmly grounded in what the Bible  teaches about biological sex and be ready to give an answer to the neighbors, family members, and larger culture around us. As we watch our daughters and sons train and compete, we should rejoice at the beauty of God’s design for creation and seek to teach our children and those that God has put in our path to disciple that every one of us is loved and purposely created to point to the One in whose image we were made. 

How the ERLC is involved

The ERLC is supports the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. This act would clarify that it is a Title IX violation for schools that receive federal education funds to permit biological males to participate in female sports. We call on Congress to protect women and girls by ensuring they are given a fair opportunity to compete in athletics. 

The ERLC is also strongly opposed to the Equality Act. In addition to being detrimental to the issue of women’s sports participation, “the bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans.”

We will always affirm the biological differences between male and female reflected in God’s creation and uphold the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on gender identity stated in its summary of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, which says, “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

ERLC Interns Daniel Hostetter and Cooper Shull contributed to this article.

By / Jun 9

The way in which believers think about their bodies is more important now than ever. The church cannot hope to be effective in a culture confused by issues relating to our bodies and plagued by an anti-body mindset. If believers hold a low, misunderstood view of physical existence, how can we be salt and light in a world that does the same?

While the culture claims that physical, biological realities are inconsequential or that a baby’s developing body is somehow detached from her personhood, the church must be equipped to articulate a biblical worldview on the body. It is imperative to confirm from Scripture that the body is not only valuable, but that God has ultimate authority over us as those who are made in his image. By standing on a biblical understanding of physical existence and building a corresponding theology, we can confidently address the most pressing issues of our day.

How should Christians view their bodies?

While there are multiple approaches to constructing a robust theology of the body, I believe the best starting point is Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. These Corinthian believers were highly influenced by the Gnostic and Platonic dualists around them. Viewing the material world as evil, the physical realm was considered bad while the spiritual realm was good. As a result, the Corinthians likewise elevated immaterial over material and became very anti-body. This thinking fueled their licentious behavior and allowed them to justify all types of sinful activities as they believed that, ultimately, the body did not matter.

So, what does Paul do? To combat their ungodly actions and immoral bodily treatment, he confronts and corrects the way they thought by establishing right beliefs about their bodies. They could only exhibit proper actions with the body by holding proper beliefs about the body. His correction flows from an argument for the body’s value and God’s authority over it by establishing Trinitarian involvement with corporeal experience—the ways in which Father, Son, and Spirit participate in and with embodied spiritual and physical existence of humanity. Paul specifically highlights resurrection (v.14), redemption (v.20), and indwelling (v.19) to show that the body was not too insignificant or sinful to warrant the Corinthians’ destructive actions.

We understand from Paul that the body is valued in our future resurrection and re-embodiment (v. 14), a promise that harkens back to the creation of embodied men and women made in the image of God. If the body is to be resurrected and the imago Dei fully realized, then the eschatological experience of embodied existence in the New Heavens and Earth holds meaning for the body now. Also, the reality that we were bought (body and soul) by Christ’s atoning work of redemption (v. 20) and our bodies joined to him as part of his body (vv. 15-17) signifies a definite worth to our material existence. Even more, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in our corporeity confirms the body’s sanctity as his temple (v. 19).

Paul also asserts God’s authority over the body in highlighting Trinitarian involvement with resurrection, redemption, and indwelling. These realities convey accountability for believers because through them we see God’s right over physical form. You are not your own; your body belongs to God (v. 19). His authoritative power is clear in resurrecting us from the dead (v. 14). Life belongs, body and soul, to the one who possesses power over the grave. Likewise, Christ’s sacrifice redeemed our embodied existence, which is to be comprehensively submitted to him (v. 20). The Holy Spirit also claims the believer’s body as his temple, demanding recognition of and respect for his ownership (v. 19). By mentioning each of these truths, Paul calls on the Corinthians to cease living by their own desires and submit to God’s role as the sole authority over their bodies. Each of these Trinitarian works should guide what Christians believe about their bodies, as our bodily actions and behaviors manifest those beliefs.

At the end of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul concludes that believers should glorify God in their bodies, which transpires in the way we think about and treat our bodies (v. 20). This final overarching, all-encompassing command for God’s glory flows from a foundation of right beliefs about physical existence; beliefs that, again, recognize the body’s value and God’s authority over it.

So what?

Today’s Christians, like the Corinithians, may sometimes operate out of an anti-body philosophy. Here are some diagnostic questions that may indicate you wrestle with this mindset. Do you:

  • Believe the body is inconsequential, 
  • Fail to hope in bodily resurrection, 
  • View the body as a sinful hindrance to the sinless soul, 
  • Think salvation is fully experienced when the soul is released from body, 
  • Or that the body must be bridled for advancement of the soul? 

Whether intentional or unintentional, this mindset will affect other areas of life. And believers cannot afford to propagate or echo the world’s low view of the body. Whether it’s an obsession with physical fitness, addiction to pornography, rejection of the bodily realities as in transgenderism, etc., we will never treat our bodies rightly until we begin to think about them accurately.

So, before the church can speak to these cultural issues regarding corporeal existence, we must confront our own bias toward the body. Once we do that, we will be effectively equipped to speak into the culture on a whole host of issues, because after all, our theological beliefs should lead to practical application. Indeed, through a proper theology of the body, Christians will be able to:

  • Address gender issues that arise from a devaluation of our created bodies.
  • Help those who engage in self-harming behaviors understand the body’s significance.
  • Confront the need to steward our bodies with reasonable exercise and nutrition habits.
  • Speak into the lives of those with disabilities whose bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose.
  • Recognize embodiment and the essential reality of existing as spiritual and physical beings.
  • Affirm the personhood of a developing child whose life God ordained and purposed.
  • Combat arguments for euthanasia with a recognition of God’s authority over the end of life.
  • Defend biological, physical realities that establish gender as a good gift of God.
  • Contend for God’s good design for men and women in marriage and childbearing in a sexually confused age.
  • Fight the pornographic push to objectify humans and separate sex from marriage.
  • More effectively understand the connection between mental health and physical health.

The list could certainly go on, but, clearly, believers are able to address a host of cultural issues, and any others that should arise, through a right theology of the body. In the end, we value physical existence and recognize it as belonging to our God who promises bodily resurrection, became embodied to secure our redemption, and indwells our bodies as his temple. As the church, we proclaim through our lives that it is our aim and purpose to glorify God with our bodies because we are not our own, for we were bought with the highest price (1 Cor. 6:20). 

By / May 11

One of my favorite athletes of all time is Florence Griffith-Joyner (1959–1998). Affectionately known as FloJo, she still holds the women’s world records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter open events. What made Griffith-Joyner so endearing was her combination of God-given speed and irrepressible style. Other female runners pull their hair back in order not to have any additional drag from the air as they run. 

Not FloJo: She sprinted to the front of the pack with long hair blowing in wind created by her own tremendous speed. And her fingernails were even more famous than her hair, with Griffith-Joyner sporting long nails in bright, fun colors. She was so fast and her nails were so long, it was not hard to imagine that she might just take off and fly! On and off the track, she radiated grace. And yet, as the fastest woman in the world, this American legend would be slower than the fastest male high school athletes in the United States. 

Consider these comparisons from Missouri. Florence Griffith-Joyner burned the 100 meters in 10.49 in 1988, a world record now 34 years old. But the Missouri state boys high school 100 meter record is tied between Jon Vaughn (1988) and Maurice Mitchell (2007)—both running at a blazing 10.42.1Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 100 Meter Dash,” In 1988, Griffith-Joyner also set the women’s world record in 200 meters at 21:34. And yet the fastest six boys in Missouri High School history beat our beloved FloJo’s record time.2Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 200 Meter Dash,”

The differences that can’t be changed 

Why are these young men faster than the women’s world record holder? Because God designed men and women differently, and when we go through puberty, males develop more muscle mass and larger bone structure.3One article says,  “In boys during puberty, sex hormones may have dramatic activating effects for promoting rapid accumulation of muscle mass and the acquisition of muscle strength.” Yang Xu, et al, “Relationships of Sex Hormones With Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength in Male Adolescents at Different Stages of Puberty,” Plos One 16.12 (December 2, 2021): 2. Nieves, et al say, “Gender-related differences in bone width are more apparent after puberty.” See Jeri W. Nieves, et al, “Males Have Larger Skeletal Size and Bone Mass Than Females, Despite Comparable Body Size,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 20.3 (2005): 529 For example, a man’s leg is about 80% muscle, compared with about 60% muscle in a woman’s leg.4Laura Geggel, “Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women?,” Live Science, May 27, 2017, Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women? | Live Science This means males can run faster than females. 

In light of modern demands for biological males to be allowed to compete with females in the name of trans-inclusivity, it is crucial to keep in mind that biological males who identify as females will have an unfair advantage over biological females. This advantage will continue to accrue to biological males even after taking female hormones. Someone who is born a male will continue to have larger heart size, bigger bone structure, and larger lung capacity after transitioning.

A 2021 report in Sports Medicine said the advantages in muscle mass and strength conferred by male puberty is only minimally reduced when testosterone is suppressed as per current sporting guidelines for transgender athletes.5Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg, “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” Sports Medicine 51 (2021): 199 – 214. In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that after one year of taking female hormones, male-to-female transgenders did lose about 5% of their muscle volume, but they generally maintained their strength levels.6Anna Wiik, et al, “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 105.3 (March 2020): e805 – e813. 

The injustice toward women

Advocates in favor of allowing males to compete with females often make veiled and confused references to “justice” as a reason for their stance, but such arguments reflect not only a denial of basic differences between males and females but incoherent understandings of justice. The formal principle of justice states, “Treat like cases alike, and different cases differently.” Ronald Nash explained this concept and said, “Injustice always exists when similar people are treated differently or when dissimilars are treated alike.” And this is exactly what happens when biological males are granted leeway to identify as females in athletic competition: Dissimilar individuals—biological males and biological females—are being treated alike,7Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 359. and in so doing one person’s subjective autonomy regarding gender identity is being used in an unjust way to give a competitive advantage. 

I hope there will be many generations of young women inspired by Florence Griffith-Joyner’s amazing accomplishments. I also hope young women catch a sense of FloJo’s joy for life, realizing that life is a race to be run with excellence; our time on Earth is too short to give anything less than our best and to rejoice in the fact God let us be alive. But our culture already places many challenges in front of girls. Hollywood objectifies young women as sexual objects. Vulgar music cheapens sex. A billion-dollar porn industry distorts the entire culture’s view of women. All these things contribute to a sense of anxiety and inadequacy in many girls, feelings which emerge just as they are trying to navigate the difficulties of puberty and adolescence. 

Athletic competition divided into the categories of males and females allows girls to compete on equal footing with other girls, creating a sense of accomplishment separated from the cacophony of confused voices vying for attention. We serve our young women best when we do not place another hurdle on the track by allowing biological males to compete as biological females. 

  • 1
    Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 100 Meter Dash,”
  • 2
    Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 200 Meter Dash,”
  • 3
    One article says,  “In boys during puberty, sex hormones may have dramatic activating effects for promoting rapid accumulation of muscle mass and the acquisition of muscle strength.” Yang Xu, et al, “Relationships of Sex Hormones With Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength in Male Adolescents at Different Stages of Puberty,” Plos One 16.12 (December 2, 2021): 2. Nieves, et al say, “Gender-related differences in bone width are more apparent after puberty.” See Jeri W. Nieves, et al, “Males Have Larger Skeletal Size and Bone Mass Than Females, Despite Comparable Body Size,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 20.3 (2005): 529
  • 4
    Laura Geggel, “Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women?,” Live Science, May 27, 2017, Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women? | Live Science
  • 5
    Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg, “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” Sports Medicine 51 (2021): 199 – 214.
  • 6
    Anna Wiik, et al, “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 105.3 (March 2020): e805 – e813.
  • 7
    Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 359.
By / Oct 2

A friend sent me a link to an advice column this week featuring parents who are seeking to raise their child “gender-neutral” but are frustrated that their daughter keeps opting for a wardrobe typically associated with her biological sex. Our culture makes a lot of sex and gender today. In recent years, new words have entered our vocabularies to describe the way our gender or sexual identities align (or not) with our genetic makeup. A little more than a decade ago, words like cis, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming would have been nearly meaningless to the majority of the population. And even if you’re not familiar with these words, you can be sure that your children are or that they will be soon.

Our kids are going to grow in a world that is shot through with confusion about sex and gender and what it means to be male or female. So how can Christian parents help their children navigate this difficult terrain? Doing so will certainly be a challenge. But there is good news. Helping our kids navigate confusion about human sexuality won’t require us to learn much that is new. Instead, we mostly have to embrace something old. 

Made in his image

On our Bibles’ first pages, God tells us a lot about the way that he made us. When he creates Adam and Eve and places them in the garden, he tells us that both the man and the woman bear his image. I love the way that Genesis 1:27 puts it, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27). The most important thing about men and women is something they hold in common—both are made in the image and likeness of God. So as a starting point, our kids need to know that God made them with a purpose. He made them to represent him in the world and to reflect his likeness in creation.

Made male and female

But in that same verse in Genesis, we learn something else about the way that God made us. Though men and women both bear God’s image, men and women are distinct. Together, they represent the two complementary halves of humanity. And this brings up a second helpful point for kids on this topic. Not only did God make them for a purpose, but he intentionally made them either male or female. It is not uncommon for kids to question, at various times and to varying degrees, why they happen to be their particular sex. Growing comfortable in one’s own body is challenging for everyone. One of the best things you can do for your child is to teach them about God’s design for men and women and reassure them that everyone feels awkward about this at times. Especially today, kids need to know it’s not freakish or weird to feel uncomfortable or to have questions.

Only male or female

One of the reasons this topic can be so difficult for parents is because we sometimes lack the vocabulary to discuss these things together. But truthfully, the basics are pretty simple. When we use the words male or female, we are talking about a person’s biological sex. A person’s anatomy and genetic (chromosomal) makeup determine whether a person is a biological male or female. So when we say that sex is binary, we mean that God makes us either male or female. And what our kids need to know is that this is not an accident. The Scriptures speak often of the special care that God takes in creating and caring for each one of us (Psa. 139:13-18; Matt. 6:25-34). A man I deeply respect once told me that as he prays with his children, he regularly takes time to pray for his sons, “I thank God that he made you a male” and for his daughters, “I thank God that he made you female.” Parents can do their children immeasurable good simply by affirming the goodness of God’s design to them.

Masculine or feminine

Because sex is binary, that means that your child will live their whole lives either as a man or woman. But this doesn’t mean that your child has to conform to various stereotypes about masculinity or femininity. Your son is a male regardless of whether he would prefer to read and practice the piano or camp in the woods and chop down trees. Your daughter is a female whether she prefers pink dresses and tea parties or woodworking and watching football. The reason we are so often confused about this though is because we’ve unwittingly embraced ideas about how our biological sex is supposed to find expression. But the answer isn’t to raise “gender neutral” children; it’s to understand the Bible’s full range of masculinity and femininity.

Though the world is confused about sex and gender, Christians can hold fast to what God has said and affirm the goodness of God’s design

No one doubts King David was a manly man. He killed both a lion and a bear to protect his father’s flock before killing Goliath the giant to protect the flock of God (1 Sam. 17). But David was more than a warrior. He was also a harpist and a poet (1 Sam. 16). If your definition of manhood excludes King David, it also excludes Jesus, who not only fashioned a whip of cords to cleanse the temple and bore the fury of God’s wrath against sin, but wept at the death of his friend Lazarus and routinely exhibited compassion for the lost and hurting. Darrin Patrick used to say that a biblical man must be tough and tender, and I think that is a helpful way to put it. 

The Bible’s depiction of femininity is no less compelling. God made men and women distinct, and a special part of his design for women is their beauty and ability to nurture and care for others. But the Bible nowhere reduces women to objects. Throughout the Scriptures we see acts of faithfulness and even heroism featuring women God used to preserve his people and advance the gospel. The Hebrew midwives defied the authority of Pharaoh. Rahab assisted the spies to help Joshua take the Promised Land. Esther’s courage saved God’s people from destruction. The Bible also recounts the faithfulness of Ruth, the fearlessness of Jael, or the significance of Mary the mother of Jesus. The woman described in Proverbs 31 has noble character, speaks with wisdom, and is clothed in strength and dignity. That is exactly the kind of portrait we should hold up for our daughters.

The beginning

There is much more to say, but my hope is that this provides a foundation from which to engage these conversations with your sons and daughters. Though the world is confused about sex and gender, Christians can hold fast to what God has said and affirm the goodness of God’s design. Aside from pointing them toward Jesus, the best thing you can do for your children to help them understand how God made them is to model biblical manhood and womanhood in front of them. Fathers should be tough, ready to protect their families. But they should also be tender, kneeling down beside the bed to pray. Mothers should bless their children with incredible nurture. But they should also model the incredible range of gifts God bestowed upon women. 

By / Sep 21

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in a monthly series on what Christians should know about bioethics.

From the time of Adam and Eve until the late 1970s, there was—with one notable exception—only one way to make a baby: the sexual bonding of a man and a woman. The number of baby-making methods increased to two in 1978 after the birth of Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby.” Today, there are about 40 ways to make a baby, almost all of which can be accomplished without sexual intercourse.

Until the 1970s, “reproductive technologies” focused almost exclusively on helping a couple prevent conception. Although the tools ranged from the benign (thermometers) to the controversial (the Pill), most people understood both how they worked and whether their use could be considered ethical. Now that we have methods which sound like acronyms for U.N. agencies — IH, AID, ICSI, IUI, GIFT, ZIFT, IV — few people understand what they are, and even fewer know whether they are morally acceptable.

The rapidity by which the baby-making process has evolved has outpaced our moral reflection. However, there are few considerations, ranging from the personal to the linguistic, which should guide our thinking about reproductive technologies.

Love Your Infertile Neighbor

Our moral reflection has been outpaced by the new baby-making technologies.

The first is the duty to our neighbor. No matter what we think of the new methods for making babies, we should never dismiss the reason that they were created: to alleviate the pain and suffering caused by infertility, a curse that has plagued couples throughout our history. The Bible frequently mentions the problem of infertility and of the seven women mentioned by name who were barren (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, Michal, and Samson’s mother), six later bore a child. In each of these situations, Scripture implies God was directly responsible for delivering them from infertility. Today, the 2.5 million couples affected by infertility feel the same strain and longing, though they have the option of turning to technology, rather than God alone, for deliverance.

The number of people affected is humbling: After one year of sexual relations, approximately 15 percent of American couples are unable to conceive a child. This inability can become emotionally trying and leads many couples to seek out medical solutions to overcome their affliction. Every year couples spend millions of dollars on reproductive technologies for the mere chance of conceiving a child.

For Christians, medical intervention to overcome infertility may be acceptable, providing we do not violate established biblical principles or our consciences in the process. This consideration will necessarily limit the types of options that are available, but there are a number of methods, such as the use of fertility drugs, that do not lead to the most morally repugnant outcome: the production of multiple embryos that must be discarded or frozen and placed in storage.

Don’t Destroy Your Children

Whether out of ignorance or oversight, the pro-life community has until recently tended to overlook embryo destruction that occurs outside the womb. Unfortunately, though it has now caught our attention, we tend to oppose those who would destroy embryos for speculative scientific research while giving a pass to our fellow citizens who create “extra” or “spare” embryos out of the desire to have a child.

But while the motives may differ, all created embryos have the same moral status and deserve the same level of protection from harm. The pain of infertility does not provide an exemption to this obligation.

Fortunately, the first options that most physicians would consider are the least objectionable. Methods such as gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), or in vitro fertilization can be approached in a way that is respectful of human life. Whether they are completely acceptable for Christians is a question worthy of debate. In the absence of clear scriptural guidelines, there are bound to be disagreements (I would almost always advise against their use, though I respect those who do not share my qualms). However, there are some methods and approaches that are indisputably unethical and temptations to act immorally abound.

A prime example is the routine practice of creating “excess embryos”, a practice that is common, though not essential, to the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The IVF procedure is inherently expensive, often costing between $10,000 and $30,000 per treatment and the likelihood of success is dismally low. Even the best of techniques offers less than a 50 percent chance that a live birth will occur. Because of these obstacles, couples are often tempted to set aside ethical concerns in order to increase the chances of fulfilling their desire for a child.

Christian couples, however, should never be willing to unnecessarily sacrifice an innocent human life. The extra expense required to avoid moral wrongdoing may be substantial or even prohibitive. But the cost of destroying the embryo is even higher. It is never God’s will that we kill one child in order to give life to another. If it cannot be done morally, then it must not be done at all.

In welcoming Louise Brown—the world’s first “test-tube baby”—into the world we ushered in an era of new ethical dilemmas, a Pandora’s box that includes human cloning, the creation of “designer” babies and the eugenics of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Whether we create a dystopian future for ourselves will depend on whether we humbly accept our limits and fully understand our obligations. We may have dozens of new ways to make a baby, but the purpose of baby-making remains the same: to bring into the world a human being created in the image of God.

Other articles in the Basic Bioethics series:

Why Christians should care about bioethics

How Christians should think about bioethics

How Christians should think about bioethics (part 2)

How to illuminate the Christian perspective

By / Sep 30

I love watching my sons play baseball in our backyard. The competition is lively, and sometimes leads to heated disagreements about rules between an eight-year old, a six-year old, and a four-year old. Typically, when such disagreements surface, I, the father, am called in for consultation. And, more often than not, the disagreement is rooted in a misunderstanding or violation of the rules. Rules, the predetermined, absolute, objective standards that govern the play of a particular sport, are essential to the game. Without objectivity, there is no sport; only exercise or chaos.

The objectivism that is foundational to the concept of sports, however, is being undermined by the emotivism of the transgender movement. “Emotivism,” as defined by ethicist Louis P. Pojman, “holds that moral judgments do not have truth value but are expressions of one’s attitude.” The result, as Pojman notes, is that these “judgments express one’s feelings and help them to persuade others to act as they desire.” The reality described by Pojman is precisely what is happening as transgender people move from an argument for personal definition of gender to an argument for public validation in the world of sports. Emotivism’s move from “one’s attitude” to “persuasion” is clear in the case of transgenderism and sports. The goal is no longer self-determination, but rather, societal affirmation.

To one degree, utilizing sports to validate one’s self-defined gender makes sense, given the fact that athletic competition clearly demonstrates the physiological differences between the male and female. If a biological male identifies as a female, then one of the ways to “prove” he is a female is to put himself in scenarios that allow comparison. (This also shows up in the recent gender-specific bathroom controversies.) The argument is not really about one’s self-definition. It is about that self-definition being forced upon others for acceptance. If a man who identifies as a woman prefers to tee off from the red tees at the golf course or use an undersized basketball at his house, no one is really all that concerned. Yet, when recreation becomes competition, the acceptance of objective norms and standards are necessary. When the transgender movement attempts to commandeer athletics as a mechanism of public persuasion, the narrative of the individual athlete’s self-identification necessarily dies. Sports are not about self-expression, but instead, communal, competitive activity governed by predetermined, objective rules. Thus, wielding sports as a tool for public validation is a self-defeating proposition. The subjective self-identification of transgenderism cannot co-exist with the concepts of objectivism, integrity, and justice, which are fundamental to sports.

As a Christian who believes that God created male and female in His image and revealed how the matters of gender are to be understood biologically, psychologically, and sociologically, I perceive significant problems with transgenderism. Yet, even an unbeliever should be able to judge the implications of the transgenderism worldview as untenable. The loser of this debate is not just the woman who is forced to accept as true her male competitor’s self- identity as a female, it not simply the women who for decades have been helped by Title IX provisions, but also and most importantly, the foundation of truth itself. It is the height of moral insanity to believe that athletic participants can determine their own gender, force others to acknowledge that gender, and then participate in a sport as if objectivity existed. Or to put it in the form of question, if something as fundamental as gender can be self-determined in sports, why can’t the very rules and standards of those sports be “self-determined” as well? Who has the authority to draw such lines? Ultimately, the transgender movement cannot answer such questions with any degree of ideological consistency. Its worldview is fundamentally opposed to an objective reality that transcends personal expression. Make no mistake, this is an “either/or” decision. It is impossible to embrace the worldview of transgenderism without undermining the foundational principles that govern sports.

Casey B. Hough
Casey B. Hough is pastor of First Baptist Church of Camden, Arkansas, and a PhD student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

By / Jan 23

I have known since I was a child when life begins. I learned this first from the rabbits I kept as pets. Later, I understood the magic moment we were hoping for when we took my little mare to visit the farmer’s stallion down the road. I understood, too, that the damp, mewling mounds of fur my cat birthed in my bedroom one morning had begun their little lives some weeks before.

Perhaps this is why I’ve never understood when people say they don’t know when human life begins. Or why the United States Supreme Court opined in its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion-on-demand, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” To deem this a difficult question seems only a way to make crooked the straight paths of the Lord (Acts 13:10). An acorn isn’t an oak tree, pro-choice people say. True—but a sapling is.

Of course, I understand that by “human life” people are often referring to dimensions of our humanity that go beyond biology—onset of consciousness, ensoulment, intellect, sociability and so forth. While interesting and important, however, such questions are not a sufficient basis for depriving another human of life. So I continue to hold to my childlike conception of when life begins.

A couple of years ago, a National Geographic documentary called “Extraordinary Animals in the Womb” used small cameras, dimensional ultrasound scans and computer graphics to offer a glimpse into other wombs. The images are stunning. In them we can see that even in embryonic form, an unborn dog is a little dog, an unborn dolphin is a miniature dolphin and an unborn elephant is a teensy elephant. From the beginnings of all these creatures, there in the womb (or the petri dish, as the case may be), each is made according to its own.

It is no different for human lives. Simply “ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7).

Editor's Note: ERLC and Focus on the Family are hosting the first ever Evangelicals for Life event next year in Washington DC on January 21-22nd, featuring Russell Moore, Roland Warren, David Platt, Eric Metaxes, Kelly Rosati, Ron Sider and others.