By / Feb 26

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” is a resource for pastors and church leaders that includes a theological framework and practical scenarios that will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

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Gender confusion among the next generation

The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate. Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum.

It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.

Theological framework and practical scenarios to address gender confusion

That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

We know that this is not just a thought experiment, so the ERLC also gathered pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to situations on the ground.

  • Most of us will not face a question about our theological anthropology and how it defines our understanding of the categories of male and female.
  • But, we may meet an individual who has adopted a new identity and has preferred pronouns.
  • So these pastors, ministry leaders, and subject-matter experts considered what to do in a number of scenarios drawn directly from questions posed to actual churches and pastors.

There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the one who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.

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By / Sep 8

Do parents have a right to know if their child is socially transitioning to a transgender identity in school? The issue of gender identity policies in schools has become increasingly contentious, with parents correctly feeling they have a right to know when their child socially transitions at school, and many public schools arguing that schools have a responsibility to “protect” students by keeping that information from parents.

Social transition describes the process by which children or adolescents adopt the name, pronouns, and gender expression, such as clothing and haircuts, that aligns with a transgender identity. 

Social transition in school districts

Increasingly, school districts across the country are attempting to keep parents from discovering when such social transitioning is occurring at school—and they’re being supported by the federal courts. 

Maryland: In August 2023, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 that three parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, lacked standing to challenge the school’s gender identity policy because they had not alleged their children were transgender in the first place.

The policy, which the Montgomery County Board of Education adopted for the 2020-2021 school year: 

  • permitted schools to develop gender support plans for students to ensure they “feel comfortable expressing their gender identity”; 
  • directs school personnel to help transgender and gender nonconforming students create a plan that addresses their preferred pronouns, names, and bathrooms; 
  • and bars staff from informing parents of those plans without a student’s consent. 

Lawsuits are pending challenging similar policies in other states. 

California: In July, a federal court dismissed a similar case brought against a California school district by a parent who alleged the district had violated her constitutional rights by failing to tell her that her child had asked to use a different gender pronoun. U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez said in his ruling: 

“The issue before this court is not whether it is a good idea for school districts to notify parents of a minor’s gender identity and receive consent before using alternative names and pronouns, but whether the United States Constitution mandates such parental authority. This Court holds that it does not.”

The states that do—and do not—require parental notification

School gender identity policies on informing parents about students who are transgender or social transitioning vary widely among school districts and states. Here are some states that have issued guidance on this issue:

  • Alabama: State law requires that no school staff shall “withhold from a minor’s parent or legal guardian information related to a minor’s perception that his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with his or her sex.” 
  • Arizona: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • California:  While policies vary by school district, the state issued legal guidance issued by the California Department of Education, which expressly states schools may not disclose a student’s gender identity without the student’s permission. The California legislature also passed a law which makes the state of California a “safe haven” for minors to receive irreversible, sterilizing surgeries and treatments. The bill allows minors to act against their parents’ wishes and travel out of state for these procedures without parental consent.
  • Florida: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Idaho: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Indiana: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Iowa: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Kentucky: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Montana: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents.
  • North Carolina: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Utah: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents.

In states not listed, there is no state-level requirement to notify parents. 

What every concerned parent can do

Even in states that require notification, concerned parents should make a direct effort to determine whether their child secretly identifies as transgender at school. A simple way to do this is to access the student’s records and see if the child is using a different name or pronoun. Two federal regulations—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment—require schools to provide parents with access to student records and federally funded instructional material until a child turns 18. 

Unfortunately, this is one of the few options available to all parents in the U.S. As Ryan Womack of Alliance Defending Freedom observes, “Parental rights are not always protected in every state or federal court as carefully as are other fundamental rights.” 

Eventually, the Supreme Court will have to determine whether public schools will be required to respect parental rights. 

Christian parents, in particular, ought to be vigilant and take the initiative to directly protect their children from the confusing and harmful gender ideology touted by the prevailing culture. The Bible is clear that parents should be the ones primarily responsible for instructing their children in the Word of God (Deut. 6), and this includes what Scripture teaches about sexuality. As Christian parents help their children walk in the way of wisdom, they point to the goodness of God’s design and encourage the flourishing of their families and communities. 

By / Nov 15

Only a short time ago, it would have been unthinkable that young children would be introduced to transgenderism. However, it is a reality today. Children are regularly in class with boys and girls who are identifying as the opposite sex, all while our larger cultural is doing its best to disciple our youngest neighbors to embrace the sexual revolution. Christian parents instinctively know this is wrong but are often at a loss when it comes to talking though these issues with their preschoolers and elementary-age kids. That’s why Marty Machowski, a father and pastor, has written God Made Boys and Girls. Below, he talks about this resource and why it will help moms and dads celebrate God’s good design for gender and sexuality in an age-appropriate way.  

Champ Thornton: At what age do parents need to start having conversations with their kids about gender? 

Marty Machowski: When you consider that some public schools are reading books like I Am Jazz, which promotes a pro-transgender understanding of gender to young children, as well as the larger cultural message of the sexual revolution, you realize how important it is to build a biblical understanding of gender and sexuality in children from a very young age.

CT: How does a parent make the determination of what is age appropriate for their child and what is too much to share?

MM: As a parent, I wanted to be the one to introduce teaching on intimate topics with my children. I set out with a guideline that I would teach God’s plan for sex in marriage to my children when they were 10 years old. Then, when they turned 13, I would teach them how the world twists sexuality, and I’d talk about LGBTQ topics. But I had to adjust that timeline downward when my children were exposed to those ideas at a younger age. 

I didn’t have to teach my children about the idea of gender fluidity before they were 10 years old because it wasn’t such a promoted issue 10 years ago. But today, I would begin teaching my children biblical identity in gender and sexuality in purposeful conversation from about 3 years old by affirming God made my son a boy or my daughter a girl.

CT: Should parents start the conversation by reading God Made Boys and Girls to their children or wait until the topic of gender comes up naturally?

MM: I wrote God Made Boys and Girls to build a foundation of truth—that our gender and sexuality is a gift from God that cannot change—without having to talke about more mature issues like sex-reassignment surgery. So parents can feel comfortable using God Made Boys and Girls with their youngest children even before the issue of gender comes up. 

CT: God Made Boys and Girls addresses several common gender stereotypes. What are some examples you use, and how do you explain that we should avoid false gender stereotypes?

MM: If you look on the front cover, you’ll notice that the boy is reading while the girl is climbing the tree. When I grew up, the phrase “girls don’t climb trees” was a common gender stereotype. Back then, about the worst thing that could happen was a girl could be called a “tomboy.” While that is an unkind label, the girl in question wouldn’t have been given an option to start hormone therapy so that she could “become a boy.” Girls who loved to climb trees grew up to lead normal lives as girls—just the way God made them to be.

We should avoid gender stereotypes because they are unkind and unbiblical. Additionally, at the present time—with gender fluid philosophy so prominent in our culture—children are at a far higher risk of becoming confused about their gender identity. The biblical truth is that while God assigns certain traits and roles to women and not men, such as motherhood, God does not define femininity by the likes, dislikes, hobbies, or job preferences of a woman. The same is true for men. God calls men to be husbands and fathers, but doesn’t define masculinity by hobbies, interests, or occupation. 

CT: How do you explain the difference between boys and girls? Are preschoolers able to understand the science at that age?

MM: I included the science behind gender in God Made Boys and Girls to ensure my argument would not be dismissed by those who believe differently. Even basic genetics is over a preschooler’s head. But, I have always advocated that we teach our children information that is a step ahead of their full comprehension. That way, as soon as they are mature enough to comprehend, they have the information at their disposal.  

CT: What should a parent explain to their child if they come home talking about a classmate who is saying they are no longer a boy or no longer a girl?

MM: One of the ways I hope parents use God Made Boys and Girls is as a reference when questions or concerns arise. So, if your daughter comes home and tells you that there is a boy in her class that is saying he is a girl, you can pull out my book and read through it. 

Then I think we’ve got to lovingly explain that some people get confused about their gender because of the Fall. Then we want to emphasize two unchanging truths. First, that God gives us our gender and biological sex as a gift. Second, that God codes every cell in our body, boy or girl, and there is no way to change that code. So a scientist can tell if you are a boy or girl just by testing one strand of your hair or one drop of your blood.

CT: Can you tell us more about the section at the back of the book written specifically for parents and caregivers?

MM: I knew when I wrote God Made Boys and Girls that I could not include all the information a parent might want or need in a story for preschoolers. So, I included much more detailed information for parents in the back of the book. It is my hope that it can equip parents with the information they need as their children get older and ask more mature questions.

CT: God Made Boys and Girls is a part of the God Made Me series from New Growth Press. Can you share a little bit about the other important topics the series addresses?

MM: The God Made Me series is designed to help parents have important but sensitive conversations with their children. Most parents feel equipped to teach their children how to tie their shoes or put on their own clothes, but when it comes to teaching on topics like “good touch/ bad touch,” or racial diversity, parents can feel lost for words. 

The God Made Me series provides the help parents need to teach children on those topics. God Made All of Me teaches children how others should appropriately treat their body. God Made Me and You covers the topic of ethnic diversity, and God Made Me Unique helps parents teach their children that God creates every person in the image of God, and each individual has tremendous value, regardless of his or her appearance or abilities. 

CT: If you could offer parents just one piece of advice as they start the conversation about gender and sexuality with their kids, what would it be?

MM: If your child begins to show signs of gender confusion, don’t panic. For example, if you have a little boy who asks if he can wear a dress today to be like his sisters, don’t freak out. The vast majority of children who are confused grow out of their confusion and can be effectively steered in the right direction by affirming their gender.

Affirming your child’s gender from a young age can serve to build their confidence in the gender gift they have received from God. So, when your son helps his sister, affirm the manhood he demonstrated in his care. When your little girl helps you care for her little sister, tell her she is going to be an amazing mommy one day, and tell her that God has made her to be such a wonderful woman. 

By / Oct 11

We live in an age experiencing the disastrous effects of the sexual revolution. Confusion over basic concepts such as man, woman, and marriage are but the latest divergence between a culture committed to radical individual autonomy and a church committed to Scripture’s teaching. Local congregations daily face questions of gender dysphoria, same-sex unions, and on basic concepts of what it means to be a man or woman. The ERLC seeks to come alongside and assist pastors and ministry leaders to answer those questions in light of Scripture’s clear teachings with resources like these and future projects.

Below, we have given a basic theological framework from God’s Word for approaching questions of gender and biological sex. Additionally, there are some practical guidelines for churches to consider in updating their bylaws to ensure that they are afforded as much protection as possible under the law. It is our hope that at both the theological and practical level this resource will be helpful to you as you serve your congregation. 

A theological framework of sex and gender

God created you. At its most basic level, the fact that we are created by God means that we are limited by the design that God has given us (Gen. 1). Recognizing that we are created by God means accepting that we do not have absolute control over our bodies and how they are to be used (Is. 29:16). They are to be used in accordance with God’s design and purpose. When we attempt to usurp God’s design, we repeat the sin of Adam and Eve who desired to be more than just “like God” but rather to become God (Gen. 3:5). Remembering that we are created and therefore finite grounds our theology of the body and gender (1 Pet. 1:24). 

God created you with a body. Contrary to popular understanding, our bodies are inseparable from who we are. We are not souls trapped in a body (1 Cor. 6:12-20). The Christian church has long understood and upheld the worth of the body, looking at both the creation account of Genesis where God declares the world good and the Incarnation of Christ where a perfect and holy God took on flesh and blood (John 1). As Christians, we must not fall for the lie of culture that our bodies are to be changed to meet our self-perception (2 Cor. 10:5).

God created humans male and female. In the opening pages of Genesis, the author tells us that humanity was created in God’s image and created male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). We often focus on the former, but the latter declaration is just as important. The author’s description is an acknowledgement of distinction and difference between the two. Men are not women, and women are not men. Yet, we should not overplay these differences in an unbiblical way because, as the next chapter reminds us, there is nothing more like man than woman (Gen. 2). Still, those differences are there and part of God’s design. Neither is more important or carries more of the image of God, and both are necessary to fulfill the command given to steward creation and multiply. As Christians, we recognize the ways that God has designed both men and women as distinct, yet equal expressions of humanity. 

God created male and female to complement one another. The opening pages of Scripture remind us that we are made in God’s image, and that men and women are to complement one another (Gen. 1:26-27). At its most basic level, this complementarity is revealed in biology: both man and woman are needed for sexual reproduction. It also reveals itself in a range of social and relational aspects (Eph. 5:21-33). At its core, complementarity glorifies God and is a reminder that we are created, finite beings who are unable to live in existence without others (Gen. 2:18). Though our current context seeks to blur the distinctions between men and women to the point that they are interchangeable, Christians recognize that each gender has something that is distinct and special. Neither can exist without the other (1 Cor. 11:11-12). 

The Fall affects how we perceive our bodies. The effects of sin have broken every part of creation. This includes our own self-perception and understanding (1 Pet. 1:14). The presence of disorders such as gender dysphoria (when a person’s perception of a mismatch between their gender and their body causes distress) is one example of the way sin has warped our understanding. Christians must recognize that sin is able to powerfully deceive, even to the point of thinking that bodily mutilation is the way toward happiness (Eph. 4:22). In contrast, Christians must offer a word of hope and a reminder that our bodies are good gifts given to us by God, not obstacles to be overcome. 

God meets those broken by the sexual revolution with compassion and grace. We are repeatedly reminded that God has compassion for those who have been broken by sin. The pages of Scripture are filled with the story of a God who cares for those who have been deceived, abused, and mistreated by society and culture (Jonn 4; John 11). Christians must recognize that the sexual revolution has been built upon empty promises. Many people have been (and will be) left hurt, confused, and at the end of their rope, looking for hope and answers: those who were deceived to think that casual sex was meaningless, our bodies could be changed as we saw fit, and that their gender was unimportant to who they were. The response of the church is to be the same as the response of Christ: “a bruised reed he will not break” (Matt. 12:20). We offer the same grace and compassion given to us and seek to restore those who have been broken by the lies of sin. 

COMING SOON: Downloadable, printable version of “A Theological Framework of Sex and Gender” for use in your church or ministry.

The importance of bylaws 

The ERLC worked with Alliance Defending Freedom to create a resource guide for churches to update their bylaws in light of challenges related to sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits. Below are the five areas where churches can provide clear frameworks outlining their faith and religious convictions to protect themselves so that they can continue in ministry that is faithful to God’s Word and brings about gospel transformation. You can read the entire guide here.

Statement of Faith (p.5): The Statement of Faith should serve as an encapsulation of the foundational theology of the church or organization. In addition to the usual topic of salvation, doctrine of sin, or church polity, a statement of faith should include the position of the church related to matters of gender, sexuality, and marriage. Because these issues now regularly confront churches, it is imperative that churches and religious organizations clearly put forth their belief in marriage’s foundational role in society, that it is rightly restricted only to one man and one woman, and that gender identity flows from and is inextricably connected to biological sex. 

Religious Employment Criteria (p. 11): Churches and religious organizations should strongly consider creating a religious employment requirement for all employees so as to avail themselves of the full weight of First Amendment jurisprudence. Under the “ministerial exception” churches and religious institutions are able to take religious belief into consideration when hiring and firing without penalty under non-discrimination laws. By clearly defining roles according to their contribution to the organization’s religious mission, and having employees sign the statement of faith, they can protect themselves from legal challenges.  

Facility Use Policy (p. 14): A fear of many churches is that they may be required to grant use of their facilities to couples who may wish to use them for a wedding ceremony the church would not sanction or other events. In general, churches are free to grant access to their facilities as they wish because they are private property. However, they can further protect themselves by creating a clearly defined facility use policy that identifies the religious nature of the building and restricts use of the facility to those who act in accordance to your beliefs. 

Formal Membership Policy (p. 16): While many churches have an informal process of affirming or recognizing church membership, their legal protections are increased by formalizing the process. In ideal circumstances, their written process should cover the procedures for becoming a member, procedures for church discipline, and procedures for disfellowshipping or excommunicating a member. Each of these helps to provide a legal framework protecting the church and providing clarity to members of the expectations of membership and the processes that can be expected in times of discipline. This can be especially helpful if a member objects to the church’s implementation of disciplinary measures. 

Marriage Policy (p.18): In addition to the statement of faith which clearly outlines the church’s theology of marriage, churches should create a marriage policy which outlines the parameters under which pastors, ministers, or staff will solemnize a marriage. This marriage policy may include not only a statement on belief of marriage as between a biological man and woman, but also another statement on the use of the facility for marriage ceremonies. Additionally, churches may consider adding a provision that only members will be able to use the facilities to provide a further layer of protection if the church has a requirement that members affirm the church’s statement of faith. 

COMING SOON: Downloadable, printable version of “The Importance of Bylaws” for use in your church or ministry.

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By / May 13

Florida recently passed legislation expanding and codifying parental rights in their child’s education. One of the most controversial sections of the law prohibits classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards. 

Critics have used this provision to frame this legislation as a “Don’t Say Gay” law. But supporters on both sides of the political aisle say such legislation is necessary because parents should be informed regarding what their children are taught about topics like homosexuality, transgenderism, and gender fluidity.

“Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children, and schools should not be keeping important information from parents,” said Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson. “Children belong to families, not the state.”

Since the passage of the Florida bill, more than a dozen other states have proposed similar legislation. Here is some of the legislation related to parental rights and LGBTQ+ issues in education:

Alabama: In April, the state passed an amendment that prohibits classroom instruction or discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade in public K-12 schools.

Arizona: A proposed bill in the legislature would allow parents to review the formational documents of any school student group or club involving sexuality, gender, or gender identity. Another bill had language stricken from its final version that would have prevented school officials from withholding or concealing, facilitating, encouraging, or coercing students into concealing a student’s gender identity or “requested transition” if it is “incongruous with their biological sex.” Parents also would have needed to give consent before students were asked questions on a survey about gender expression, perception, or stereotypes. 

Indiana: A proposed bill would prohibit any requirement for students enrolled at a state educational institution to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. Another proposed bill would require parents’ written consent for students to receive sex education on transgenderism and would require parental consent for medical inspections or mental health treatment, including on counseling about gender transitioning issues, pronoun selection, and referral to other agencies that provide these services.

Iowa: A proposed bill prohibits curriculum provided to a student from including instruction relating to gender identity unless the school district or accredited nonpublic school obtains the prior written consent of the student’s parent or guardian. If a parent or guardian does not provide written consent, a student may opt out of instruction relating to gender identity. Another bill would require schools to give a week’s notice to parents before educators ask students which pronoun they prefer or before administering a survey on pronoun use and to send them the response upon request.

Louisiana: A proposed bill would prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindegarten through eighth grade and prohibit teachers, school employees, and presenters from discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity with students. 

Missouri: A proposed bill would prevent public schools from requiring students to engage in gender or sexual diversity training. 

North Carolina: A proposed bill would require any state employee to report to parents if a minor has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with their biological sex.

Ohio: A proposed bill would prevent, teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, and prohibits students in grades four through 12 from being taught or having to use curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity in any manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

Oklahoma: A proposed bill would prohibit public schools or libraries from holding or promoting books that make as their primary subject the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender issues or recreational sexualization.

Rhode Island: A proposed bill would also require children to be addressed by their common names and the pronouns associated with their biological gender unless parent permission is given to change them.

South Carolina: A proposed bill would prevent any state-funded entity from subjecting minors under the age of 18 to instruction, presentations, discussions, counseling, or materials in any medium that involve a number of “controversial and age-inappropriate topics,” including gender identity. The state has also proposed a bill that says a student, administrator, teacher, staff member, other school or district employee, or volunteer may not be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.

Tennessee: A proposed bill would prohibit the state board from approving textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promotes, normalizes, supports, or addresses lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.

Wisconsin: The governor vetoed broad-based parent’s rights legislation that included a right to determine the names and pronouns used for the child while at school.

By / Aug 10

Every four years, the summer Olympic Games take center stage. And while impossible-to-believe feats of strength and athleticism, camaraderie, and sportsmanship regularly wow its global viewership, the Olympic platform has sometimes also thrust prevailing social and cultural issues to the foreground. In some ways, the Tokyo Olympics may have done so more than ever.

As a prime example, one of the cultural issues that took center stage this summer was the transgender debate, seen most notably in the participation of Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old weightlifter from New Zealand who competed in the women’s heavyweight competition. Though admittedly reluctant to be a mouthpiece for the transgender community, Hubbard, who formerly competed in the sport as a male, has garnered a great deal of attention and sparked significant controversy by participating in Tokyo’s games.

Much of the conversation on this particular controversy revolves around the question of fairness. Namely, is it fair for a person who has undergone a so-called gender transition, especially from male to female, to compete athletically in their “new” gender classification? But while the issue of fairness is critically important in sports and athletics, the truth is that fairness is downstream from the real crux of the issue. At root, the issue at hand is whether we, as a society, will continue to recognize and accept objective truth. 

A web of delusion

We are suffering from a self-deception of our own making. The widespread acceptance of transgenderism reflects the fact that our culture has traded objective truth for subjectivism. In effect, we have crowned the self the ruler of truth. And in the midst of this, Sir Walter Scott’s memorable line, “Oh what a tangled web we weave,” has become uncomfortably poignant. Our culture has woven a destructive web of delusion, allowing feelings to supplant facts and preferences to replace realities.

Human beings do not decree what is or is not true. We are not God or gods. As limited and finite beings, our duty is much more modest. We recognize truth. We share truth. We stand for truth. But we do not fashion or alter what is true. And in our culture today, perhaps our hubris and propensity for exceeding the boundaries of our own authority is nowhere better displayed than with regard to gender. 

Rejecting reality

In the case of Laurel Hubbard, we are witnessing the downstream consequences of our culture’s rejection of objective truth. Hubbard’s example demonstrates just how quickly we’re beginning to encounter the consequences of decades of emphasis on self-supremacy and self-actualization. 

Any rational person can acknowledge that it is generally unfair to ask biological females to compete against biological males in physical athletic competition. This is especially true when the activity is weightlifting. The reasons why are self-evident but bear repeating. Males and females are distinct. Among other things, males and females have different musculoskeletal makeups: “Muscle size and bulk is less in women, due to the effects of the normal sex hormones. Men, given their greater levels of testosterone, have larger and stronger muscles, with a greater potential for muscle development.” Importantly, these physiological distinctions are not able to be altered apart from serious medical intervention — and even then clear differences persist.

The decision to allow Hubbard to compete against biological females because of Hubbard’s current female “gender identity” reflects just how deeply we’ve imbibed this cultural delusion. There is no doubt that Hubbard, and many others, experience true feelings of gender dysphoria, “a condition where a person senses that their gender identity (how they feel about being male or female) may not align with their biological sex and experiences emotional distress as a result.” Indeed, such people deserve tremendous mercy and compassion. But validating an identity that is not merely flawed but antithetical to Hubbard’s true identity is neither merciful nor compassionate. It is a rejection of reality and a repudiation of the concept of objective truth.

Eroding the foundations

When it comes to sex and gender the answer is not to capitulate to the winds of culture. Instead, it is to affirm that which is apparent by observation, attested via biology, and most importantly revealed in Scripture. It is no accident that the first pages of our Bible clearly describe God’s pattern for human beings in the words “male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). And it is equally important for Christians to affirm that gender is inextricably linked to sex. Regardless of whether a person may “feel” like a man or a woman, their gender is not determined according to feeling but according to a fixed and objective reality. Only males are men; only females are women.

Athletic competition reveals these distinctions acutely. Men and women typically compete in separate categories to ensure a fair and equal playing field. One need not subscribe to the Bible’s view of anthropology to recognize this. We can recognize the injustice of allowing biological males to compete against biological females because alongside our innate sense of fairness is our perception of these biological distinctions. 

Beyond sports, we can only guess just how damaging the eradication of these boundaries will be for both individuals and our society as a whole. What we do know is that this widespread rejection of objective truth will continue to erode the foundations upon which our common life is built. As Christians, we must strive resist the tides of culture and hold fast to the truth about what it means that God creates human beings as either male or female. These distinctions are critical, not merely to preserve the wonder that captivates us at the Olympic Games but to honor the pattern of God’s design for those he created to reflect his image back into all creation.

By / Jun 25

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the shocking collapse of a surf-side condo in Miami, the SCOTUS ruling on free speech, the coronavirus variant likely to cause the next wave, the drop in U.S. life expectancy, and the new family members introduced on Sesame Street. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Jordan Wootten with “What’s the future of the global religious landscape? Three takeaways from the Pew Center projections,” Wendy Alsup with “4 ways to equip your kids to walk with friends who experience gender dysphoria,” and Josh Wester with “6 reflections from SBC21: Resolution, a new president, and a spirit of unity.”

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Culture

  1. Surfside Condo Collapse: At least 1 dead, 99 unaccounted for; 55 units involved In catastrophe
  2. SCOTUS rules for cheerleader in free speech case
  3. Teen cheerleader’s Snapchat brings Supreme Court clash over schools and free speech
  4. Delta variant likely to cause next wave
  5. US Life Expectancy Drops by Alarming Amount
  6. Sesame Street introduces family with two gay dads during Pride Month

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By / Jun 24

The actor Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, cried in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey. She had asked Page, “What brings you joy after transitioning from identifying as female to male?” 

“It’s the little things,” Page replied. 

Page choked up recounting looking in the mirror after having a mastectomy. Page had felt deep inner distress before the surgery when wearing a t-shirt. That distress was real — so real that Page went under the knife for breast removal surgery. Page’s relief at having them removed was obvious. That is serious distress.

In Genesis 1–2, God created two distinct biological sexes in his image to reflect something of himself. But humanity’s fall quickly followed. The fall affected all of the human condition, including biological sex, both internally and externally. Within our own bodies, the chromosomes that determine biological sex have been affected by the fall as much as those that determine Down syndrome, autoimmune disease, or infertility. Intersex is the modern term for a person born with a chromosomal abnormality and/or reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of female or male. According to statistics put out by The Intersex Society of North America, roughly 1 in 1000 people experience an actual biological chromosomal abnormality related to gender.

The American Psychiatric Association also acknowledges a mental condition known as gender dysphoria. It involves acute mental distress resulting from a perceived mismatch between biological sex and gender identity, a person’s self-conception about their gender. This is not the same as gender nonconformity, in which someone of one distinct biological sex prefers to behave or dress in a way more closely associated with the other. It is also distinct from being gay or lesbian. Page and others who experience gender dysphoria have felt such distress that they cut off their breasts or genitals as a result.

If you are a Christian who believes God created two distinct biological sexes to fully image him to the world, how do you walk faithfully with a son or daughter who is experiencing such a mental crisis? How can we equip our kids to walk faithfully with others as well? Here are a few principles that guide me, principles that I work to pass on to my children as well.

1. Listen first. 

My children don’t struggle with listening to their friends the way that I do, so this is more of the lecture I must give myself as a parent. I often think I know the answer from Scripture upon the moment I perceive there is a problem. That is pride, though. If ever there was a situation for the wisdom of James 1:19, distress around gender dysphoria is it. James says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” 

I have often given the wrong advice — despite the best of motives to help someone honor God and Scripture — because I didn’t understand the situation. I had pride and unearned confidence in my own ability to diagnose what was going on and correct according to the Scriptures. Gender dysphoria is a particularly complicated mental health issue. The origins of body hatred to the point someone would cut off their penis or cut off their breasts are deep and complicated. 

James tells me to slow down as a parent, listen to what my child or one of their friends is actually saying, not what I assume they mean, and carefully seek to understand before responding with my own words. Kids experiencing true gender dysphoria are in a mental crisis. Listening can help diffuse the weights of conflict they feel, while advice one might give in response, even with the best of intentions, could push an already fragile teen to a scary place.

2. Ask deeper questions. 

Once the time comes to finally speak, start by asking deeper questions, not by simply dispensing advice. Kiera Bell recently won a lawsuit in the United Kingdom against the doctors who performed transition surgery on her when she was a youth. She recounts the distress she felt at the time: “I was an unhappy girl who needed help. . . . As I matured, I recognized that gender dysphoria was a symptom of my overall misery, not its cause.”

Kiera had an abusive home situation. Her deepest struggle was with self loathing after her parents’ rejection. Many who experienced gender dysphoria in their teen years report that their acute distress with their bodies lessened as they aged. As they matured in their ability to handle other struggles in their life, or they moved out of abusive home situations, their mental distress over their bodies lessened as well.

If we or our kids have friends that are in such distress, it’s worthwhile to ask how things are with their parents or their friends at school. Are they feeling rejected? Do they feel unloveable as they are? Have cutting words from those around them caused them to hate themselves? Ask deeper questions, and listen well before offering advice or attempting to “fix” the problem.

3. Pray with gospel hope to the God we can all trust.

I tell my kids that if a friend in acute distress shares their struggle, then after you have listened and asked deeper questions, the best words to respond with are those of prayer: “I don’t have all the answers, but can I ask the God who created us for help?” Their friend may or may not know Christ. But we can still pray with them in hope, which leads to number 4.

4. Speak gospel truth. 

The good news of Jesus speaks into both the inner struggles of our broken sexual bodies and the outer struggles between our broken relationships. Jesus’ body was literally broken physically so ours could be literally healed. Some of us experience miraculous healing of various physical abnormalities during life on earth, but all of us are assured an eternity at peace with our perfectly resurrected physical bodies, perfectly male or female in the image of God. While some heavenly creatures do not inhabit eternal bodies, human beings do. 

Dr. Gregg Allison reminds us in Embodied, “God’s design for his embodied image bearers is that as we are in this earthly life, so we will be for all eternity: embodied.” Our bodies matter. God did not make a mistake when he made us male or female. We may wrestle with how God made us, but Christ’s embodied resurrection gives us hope that we will be at peace with the bodies he gave us for eternity. There is no dysphoria in heaven. 

As we train our children to engage culture wisely, we must recognize the very real issues that our broken bodies in our broken world experience in relation to biological sex. And in the midst of it all, we point our children to Christ as the hope we have for redeemed sexual bodies both on earth and in eternity. Christ, too, is our source to endure in broken bodies while they last on earth as we confidently wait for Jesus to return and make all things new.