By / Jan 9

The events that we witnessed at the Capitol this week are disturbing and almost unbelievable. And above all the things they reveal is that we are fallen human beings who are in need of a perfect, righteous, and holy Savior. When we don’t know what to do—and even when we do—the most important thing we can do is go to our God in prayer. Below is a prayer you can use personally, as a family, or in your church community.

Great God of the nations. Father, Son, and Spirit. We worship you. From the peak of Mt. Everest to the floor of the Indian ocean, you alone are worthy to be praised. We thank you for the privilege of being heard in prayer, which was purchased by the blood of your Son. 

And as we pray, we consider that majestic holiness that Isaiah peered upon. And as we do, we are quickly mindful, as he was, of our own sin. Oh Lord, how often we have fallen short of your glory. This past week, we have been greedy, prideful, and prejudiced—spending, speaking, and strolling past neighbors who were made in your image, thinking ourselves better than them. 

We are too often like the priest that walks by the wounded Samaritan. As our neighbors have been beaten, broken, and bemoaned, we have walked by with little regard for them and, at the same time, great regard for ourselves. Have mercy on us, oh God.

Forgive us for the ways in which we, the church of Jesus Christ, have contributed to the unrest that pervades our nation. Forgive us for our pettiness, our selfishness, and our gracelessness. Forgive us for the ways we have neglected your Word and prayer. Forgive us for using the church instead of serving the church. Forgive us for greater allegiances to party politics, patriotism, or preferences than to Christ, his Kingdom, his people, and his purposes in the world. 

In these days, we have had to learn, yet again Lord, that we ought not to hope in princes. We have learned to hope in you. 

As we do, Lord, we lament the present circumstances. We mourn the division that is rampant within our nation, our cities, and our churches. How much longer must we see people praising your name while at the same time blaspheming people made in your image? How much longer must we walk through the valleys of racism, murder, and pandemic fears? How much longer must we languish for our sons and daughters? How much longer until we are home, with you, in heaven? 

We wait, O blessed Lord. And as we wait, we pray that you would rend the heavens with blessings innumerable. In particular, we pray for a breaking forth of repentance among this land. People great and small. Black and white. Men and women. Boy and girl. Democrat and Republican. Baptist and Episcopalian. Bless our nation with a deluge of repentance so that we might walk in the newness of life—not alone, but together, as your people, in order that we might be the light you’ve called us to be—the light that so much of our nation is looking for now. 

Thank you, Father, for hearing us. It is only because of the sufficiency of the work and worth of your Son that we can not only be heard, but be loved and known by you. We love you Lord. May we learn to love you and one another more.

We ask, in Jesus’ magnificent name,


By / Oct 22

Gender – We believe that gender is God-given, not socially constructed or self-determined; that gender distinctions are rooted in creation and manifested in biological differences, transcending social customs and cultural stereotypes; that being created as a woman is an essential aspect of our identity (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6).

In January 2012, UK couple Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper made headlines when they finally revealed the biological gender of their five-year-old child. Sasha Laxton, who was beginning to enter school, was announced to be a boy. At birth, the young Sasha was referred to as “the infant,” and, at three, was on the cover of the family Christmas card wearing a pink tutu. For Sasha’s parents, he was given the freedom to decide who and what he wanted to be, unrestrained by cultural biases. Sasha’s family is just one among a growing trend in gender-neutral parenting. There are online communitiespersonal blogs, and even books describing how parents can let their children have the liberty to discover their true selves. Last fall, California governor, Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing transgender public school students to choose which bathroom they would use and sports teams they would play on. Last month, ABC News featured a family whose young daughter insisted that she was a boy. The parents adapted to their daughter’s belief, cutting her hair, changing her clothes, and thereafter referring to her as “he.” According to one gender therapist, the parents gave their child a gift by adapting so early.

Each of these stories demonstrates a growing cultural belief that gender is changeable, self-determined, and not essentially related to one’s biological sex. They claim that a child’s anatomic gender may not necessarily be the gender she identifies with or indicate her sexual orientation. Basically, someone’s biology at birth is just one of many factors determining which gender (if any) that person truly is.

How did this category of gender identity become so culturally defined?

That’s where this gets interesting. According to sources like, gender is a social construct, meaning that it was created, determined, and developed by society. Gender “is actually taught to us, from the moment we are born. Gender expectations and messages bombard us constantly. Upbringing, culture, peers, community, media, and religion, are some of the many influences that shape our understanding of this core aspect of identity. Gendered interaction between parent and child begin as soon as the sex of the baby is known. In short, gender is a socially constructed concept.”

According to this definition, gender changes with time just as society does. If gender is something determined by society, then it only makes sense that it will adapt to its environment. If society is the standard or principle around which we organize gender identity, then a person’s anatomy is simply one factor among many in determining one’s gender. If we have the ability to determine our gender identity, then to insist on specific gender expressions based on biology is actually holding us back from discovering our true selves. As long as humanity is the hinge around which our view of gender identity revolves, it will change with the times.

As concepts like gender bending, gender-neutrality, transgenderedness, and even asexuality become more mainstream, how do we respond? Here are three, cumulative points to consider:

Biology cannot be separated from gender identity

The gender-neutral/transgender community claims that one’s biology is distinct and separable from one’s true gender. But, while gender is not an exclusively biological aspect of humanity, it is in harmony with one’s biology. As Russell Moore says, “Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human.” Addressing whether a converted transsexual ought to return to living as a male, Moore points out that one’s gender cannot be changed by a surgical procedure. A man who undergoes a sex change does not actually alter his male identity.

Gender encompasses whole personhood. And since gender is a matter of personhood (biologically, psychologically, relationally, etc.), then it does not follow that we can separate one’s anatomy from their gender identity. A person’s biological structure is that person’s gender. Therefore, the two cannot be separated.

Gender expression is not the same thing as gender itself

One of the things that gender-neutral parents often cite is that they want their children to have the freedom to like things that are stereotypically associated with the opposite gender. Boys can like pink and yellow and girls can like blue and green. Boys can play with dolls and girls can like trucks. All of these things are gender expressions, which change with culture and time. Gender expressions usually are social constructs. Just compare hair lengths for men in a first century Eastern culture with a 20th century Western one. That’s not to say that these expressions are of little importance. In reference to masculinity, John Piper describes that the mature man recognizes and is sensitive to cultural expressions of what is considered masculine, and adapts his behavior to fit what is culturally masculine (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).

But while these cultural expressions may articulate one’s gender identity, they do not determine it. In other words, if a little girl loves sports, cars, and playing in the mud, that does not mean that she is actually a male with the anatomy of a female. In the case of the girl whose family adapted to her belief that she was a boy, there is no guarantee that she will not, one day, believe she is a girl. Expression communicates identity, but it does not determine identity.

Gender identity is a God-centered, not man-centered, reality

The core of the transgender debate is about authority. Who has the right to name a human being? If God created human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), then gender is given primarily to express something about God, rather than ourselves.

The ultimate purpose of gender is to image the character and nature of God. And it bears significance on our personhood, both individually, and relationally (Gen. 1:27-29, 2:18-25, Eph. 5:22-33). Karl Barth said it this way: “That God created man as male and female, and therefore as His image and the likeness of the covenant of grace, of the relationship between Himself and His people, between Christ and His community, is something which can never lead to a neutral It, nor found a purely external incidental and transient sexuality, but rather an inward, essential and lasting order as He and She, called for all time and also for eternity.”1

If God is the ultimate reality around which we understand our gender, then only He has ultimate authority to define our view of gender. To claim that one’s true gender is different from one’s anatomy at birth not only assumes the authority to name ourselves, but also claims that God has given us a gender that is out of alignment with our whole being (Ps. 139:14).

The Church and the transgender next door

Our gender-bending culture would like to believe that its transgender trends are a sign of barrier-breaking progress. But, in reality, it signifies a God-denying suppression of truth (Rom. 1:21-32). The tragedy of the transgendered woman is that she is stamping out the self-ingrained signposts that lead back to Him. The increasing presence of transgender individuals demonstrates humanity’s underlying desire to understand themselves, to achieve a sense of wholeness. But the wholeness they are searching for can only begin with reconciliation to their Creator, through the Redeemer who came to restore their whole person to God, body, soul, spirit…and gender (Rom. 8:23, 1 Thess. 5:23).

Now more than ever, our world needs a courageous, Christ-proclaiming Church to unashamedly articulate the truth of male and female as made in the image of God. And, through that truth, to call back every male and female to the One whom they were created to image.

1 Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1961),207-208.

This article was orginally published by Biblical Woman.

By / May 1

The Hobby Lobby case has brought to the fore the current state of confusion regarding how contraceptives work. One of the problems is lack of clarity on the question of whether some—or any—contraceptives can cause an abortion.

Why is there so much uncertainty? Doesn’t the name contra (against) conception say it all?

A Change in Definition

Well, actually, the answer is no. And to understand why, we need to go back about fifty years, when Albert Rosenfeld realized that the newly available oral contraceptive pill (OCP) might not only prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg (the classic definition of ‘conception’) but might also terminate embryonic human life by inhibiting implantation in the womb (which occurs about a week later). Since such interference would occur after conception, he realized that some people would say this represented an abortion (or was abortifacient). He recommended a ‘solution’ to this problem: “Equate conception with the time of implantation rather than the time of fertilization—a difference of only a few days.” That is, he got around the fact that these drugs might cause the termination of a pregnancy by changing the definition of when a pregnancy started—because if there were no pregnancy, you couldn’t say you were causing an abortion. (Whether this abortive mechanism does actually operate for the pill is still not clear, as we see below.)

Following Rosenfeld’s logic, the subsequent printing of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s terminology text in 1972 saw a deliberate change of the definition of ‘conception.’ The accepted scientific view that conception was the result of the process of fertilization was altered to define ‘conception’ as implantation. As a result, the link between fertilization and conception was broken. Pregnancy was still defined as “the state of a female after conception and until termination of the gestation,” but the text now dated a pregnancy (and by implication a human life) from the time of the implantation of the embryo into the wall of the mother’s uterus. Under the new definition, any device that prevented the embryo from implanting in the uterus could be marketed as a contraceptive. 

Note that those who made this definitional change had no authority to do so—they weren’t embryologists. Despite medical textbooks adopting the new definition, respected embryology textbooks still mark conception (and the beginning of human life) at fertilization.

Two Classes of Contraceptives

This change of definition means there are two classes of contraceptives: those that work before fertilization, the classic definition, and prevent the sperm from joining with the egg; and those that cause an early abortion by acting after fertilization. We can work out which category any given contraceptive method falls into by considering how it works. This isn’t as easy as you might think—but some guidelines are available for those whose conscience prevents them from putting an early human embryo at risk.

If you want to avoid fertilization from occurring, you need to stop the egg and sperm from meeting. The methods in this group will include barrier contraceptives, such as condoms or diaphragms, where a physical obstruction is placed between the sperm and the egg. You could achieve the same effect by limiting the availability of one or the other. Preventing the production of eggs would make fertilization impossible (this is usually done with hormones). Similarly, the withdrawal method and natural family planning (also called fertility awareness methods) will work by keeping the sperm out of the way. Natural family planning works by avoiding intercourse during the woman’s fertile period, so that no sperm is around when there’s an egg present. The withdrawal method aims to keep sperm out, period.

We also have information to put some methods in the other camp—those that work after fertilization and so run the risk of causing an early abortion. We know that some hormonal implants, ormeloxifene, IUDs, and ‘abortion’ pills such as RU486 can definitely work after fertilization, and so would be ethically unacceptable for those who value life from fertilization.

However, we are left with a grey area—those methods whose mechanism is not fully understood. Because they are so widely used, the most important ones in this category are the oral contraceptive pill and some other hormonal contraceptives. Debate about whether the pill is an abortifacient has raged for years, with some dodgy research muddying the waters for the non-scientifically-minded. 

Here’s a brief explanation. There are three known actions by which the pill prevents pregnancy: 

1.    The pill suppresses ovulation (egg production); 
2.    the pill makes it difficult for the sperm to move through the cervix; and 
3.    the pill makes the lining of the womb thinner and hostile to the embryo implanting. 

The first two actions are not controversial, as they obviously just stop egg and sperm from getting together and so are acting before fertilization. The concern is the third effect. Some Christians have argued that if the first and second mechanisms fail, so that an egg is produced and sperm do get through the cervix, then an embryo could form. If this was the case and the womb was not prepared for the embryo to implant and develop, it would put the pill into the second contraceptive category of abortifacients. 

However, I think there is better evidence that if the first and second mechanisms fail and an embryo is formed, then we would also expect the third mechanism to fail (as they come as a package—all or none) and you would not have an abortion, but an unplanned pregnancy. There are disagreements about the reliability of the evidence both sides claim to support their arguments. The definitive research needed to decide the issue once and for all has not, and probably will never be, done. 

To make it all a little more confusing, some contraceptives, such as the pill, can be prescribed for non-contraceptive purposes, such as hormonal disturbances in the woman. If the required action of the method for the effect you want does not involve prevention of pregnancy, you can argue this is a permissible use even for those who oppose abortion. 

Obviously this is a complex area, and putting aside the legal implications of the decision, it doesn’t help to just lump all contraceptives into one basket when we are debating the morality involved. 

We need to remember, then, that the Hobby Lobby case is not about all contraceptives, but only those that challenge the ethical values of those that value human life from the time of fertilization. It’s good to debate these issues in our community, but let’s make sure we base our arguments on the facts.

(Editor’s Note: Megan Best, MD, is a medical ethicist and author of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Christian Ethics and the Beginning of Human Life. In the book she discusses these issues in depth. Further information about contraceptives can be found in Chapter 6. Appendix 1 explains in detail the debate about whether the pill causes abortions.)