top of page

Sexuality and Sex: An Expression of the Transcendence of God part 2—Sexuality Beyond the Self

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

Sexuality as an Expression of God:[1]

The biblical narrative communicates a cosmos that springs into existence ex nihilo through the divine Word of God (cf. Gen. 1:1; 3; 6; 9; 11; 14; 20; 24; 26; Jn. 1:1-3). Yet, such an expansion does not negate nuance nor particularities. The Creator of the universe brings into existence a finite order “neither [as] a minimalist nor an aesthete, and His creation includes elements that marry the best of functionality with the best of beauty.”[2] The created order, then, communicates multi-varied spheres of operations which correlate one to another. There are multitudes of organisms inhabiting one central ecosystem. There are broad ranges of breeds hosting one central species. There are two sexes inhabiting one humanity. There is, fundamentally, unity and multiplicity. Thomas Aquinas expresses this phenomenon by saying, “But the divine intellect planned and established in things the multiplicity and diversity in order for created things to represent the divine goodness in different ways, and for different things to share in it in different ranks.”[3] This is, in turn, clearly seen amid the varying accounts where animals, vegetation, and the sorts are brought forth “according to their kind” (cf. Gen. 1:11-12; 21; 25; italics mine). There is, then, flexibility within the confines of creational categories.


Therefore, this blog series (access the first article by clicking here) will establish a theological formation upon the nature and function of sexuality and sex as it pertains to an expression of the transcendence of God found within Scripture and creation. Furthermore, this research will examine how Western societal views of sexuality and gender—built upon philosophical naturalism—is insufficient to substantiate modern assertions.[4] To this end, additional questions will be addressed: What is the significance of sex? Is gender merely a social construct?[5] Is sexual intercourse merely a physical transaction between two consenting adults? The premise of this article will be to defend how the phenomenon of sexuality and sex—rightly understood—expresses the transcendence of the Creator God of the Scriptures.


Sexuality Tied to the Transcendence of God:


The disenchantment of secularism, however, has brought to surface a collapsing paradigm in worldview formation; one in which a transcendent metaphysics would be undermined.[6] Philosophical naturalism, in turn, has made its way into prominence and, thus, brought forth a malleability in sexual identity.[7] The Enlightenment project which produced the likes of Freud and Rosseau (to name a few)—whose aim was to redefine the sexual paradigm—envisioned sexuality not as a product of the Divine mind, but of therapeutic renderings found within the self. That is, the arbiter of sexual truth became levied to the whims and waves of secular intuition. How a person feels is monumentally more important than the scientific or empirical data. Trueman captures this shift respectively,

The confluence of changing material conditions, social and economic practices, and intellectual developments served to shatter the old hierarchies of medieval and early modern Europe and paved the way for a more egalitarian view of humanity. And this is a critically important development because it goes to the very heart of the issue of recognition since it fundamentally changes the terms of the dialogical nature of personal identity.[8]

No longer is sexuality taught through the broader societal norms which were highly influenced by Judeo-Christian values—especially in the West. But the social imaginary, according to Taylor and Trueman, has granted a viability for a different sexual ethic. Professing Christians like Justin Sabia-Tanis imply, then, that “[male] and female define two categories of humans, but they are not meant to be exclusive boxes that limit our individual expression.”[9] This notion assumes that gender expression is fluid, and such fluidity is consistent with the created order. He goes on to say, “Looking at the world’s diversity gives us insights and glimpses into the nature of God; this is not a world of staid conformity but one that is exuberated in difference.”[10] Could the so-called “boxes” of sexual identity be culturally construed? Does sexuality, for the Christian, terminate upon the created order. Or, is there a clearer theological and metaphysical aim? Though diversity must be championed amid the creativeness of the Creator, where are the necessary and biblical boundaries to limit ambiguity and capricious notions of sexual identity?


Made in the Image of God. The construal of humanity, in one sense, is set apart from creation itself through the imago Dei.[11] Humanity is given a mantle of honor as vice regents; one whose call is to subdue the earth as representatives of the Creator God Himself (Gen. 1:28). Scholars have conceded that the creation narrative hits its climatical highpoint through the inception of mankind.[12] Though God magnificently construes the expansion of the cosmos, His attention and deliberateness reaches a capstone with humanity. It is as though Moses, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, takes heed in pointing the reader to the significance of the following events. As one scholar indicates, the number of words nearly double in comparison to the previous examination of the creation account. Creation itself undoubtedly, then, has an anthropological aim. Humanity—both in its male and female expression—is given significance to point creation back to its Creator; or rather, is called to bring order to the cosmos in such a way as to honor the intelligent Designer.[13] Stephen G. Dempster contends that humanity is “best suited for a unique relationship to God, and this means that they also have a unique relation to their natural environment.”[14] That is, how they represent God’s image within the created order is as important as being the conduit to which such glories are magnified. The task for mankind, then, is not merely functional but, in addition, moral and ethical. And yet, where does this emphasis come from? Where is this emphasis taking us?


It is significant to convey, contrary to the Barthian notion, that the imago Dei is captured amid both genders; that is, the center of reflecting God’s image is not found within the relational dynamics themselves as though any relational component is covenantally reflective of the triune God regardless of gender specificity.[15] Each gender, regardless of maleness or femaleness, encapsulates the imago Dei.[16] The image of God is first ontological and then teleological.[17] Owen Strachan further accentuates this notion by saying,

The image, then, is not fundamentally a trait or attribute. Rather, humanity is made in the image of God. To see humanity is to see the likeness of God. The human race is a living testimony to its Creator. . . . The image, then, is not a quality which may wax or wane in a human person. The image is not dependent on a rationality-nurturing environment, for the image does not reduce to intelligence or powers of reason. The image is not inhibited by physical deficiencies, for the image does not derive from a certain bodily state. The image is not unlocked when a person gets married, for the image does not flow from personal relationship. Neither can we say that the image is lost or obscured or marred or in any way compromised by the fall of Adam, deformative as the fall is. Mankind is made in the image of God. . . . The human race is the race made to display the glory of God in all the earth in a special way. The human race reflects the represents the person of God even after the fall (Gen 5:1-2, 9). One person is no more an “image-bearer” than any other.[18]

Furthermore, the notion of “image of God” insinuates contingency (Gen. 1:27). It presupposes an archetype to its prototype. Watkin is helpful when he breaks down “image” in the phrase “image of God” by saying, “We are beings whose being and identity do not originate with ourselves but with One who is greater than we are. This term tells us who we are not: we are not gods, but the image of God.”[19] Thus, the relational component, though significant (as we will see below), is not primary nor the basis in being an image bearer of God. Rather, it is an outworking that derives from reflecting a relational, transcendent being—a trinitarian being. Or said another way, the ontology of humanity does not remain static, but rather “issues forth an active, purposeful, moral, volitional existence.”[20] The relational enterprise, then, is not conjoined to the whims and fads of secular humanism, but rather is tempered and tethered to the One by whom relational fortitude is reflective upon in covenantal fidelity.[21] Katie J. McCoy poignantly writes, “As humanity images God with their being, and as sexual differentiation is not only functional but also relational, created sexual differentiation itself images the divine.”[22] Simply put, gender specificity plays an enormous role in imaging forth the knowledge of God to His creatures. Humanity, then, does not terminate upon itself, but rather points toward her Creator.


Male and Female He Created Them. Not only does the creation narrative digress to emphasize the formation of mankind, but the repetitive inference of being created male and female also finds importance.[23] Genesis 1:27 is formed amid three clauses or sentences: (1) “and God created man in His image”; (2) “in the image of God He Created him”; (3) “male and female He created them.” The first is construed with a verb-subject-object pattern, while the following two clauses operate in the pattern of modifier-verb-object. This unique sentence structure, according to Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, “is a clear macrosyntactical signal with pragmatic significance.”[24] Meaning, the priority of these sequential clauses is to communicate at least two interrelated pairs of assertions. The first is (a) that human sexuality is binary with two distinct genders—male and female—and (b) that humanity is reflective of the Creator God Himself. This initial pronouncement is to prepare readers for the following commands which correlate and make up the second point: (a) to be fruitful (three imperatives in Hebrew) and (b) to rule over the created order. Sexuality, then, serves fruitfulness which terminates upon multiplying image bearers for the sake of exercising Lordship over the created order. Humanity’s function is intrinsically tied to her ontological design as image bearer; that is, gender and sexuality has a peculiar telos which transcends sheer subjectivism. Or rather, one’s existential existence is formed and submitted to the metaphysical display designed by the Creator God Himself. Male and female, in turn, plays a monumental role in displaying the transcendence of God. Genderism points beyond the self toward her Creator.


Though distinctions, particularities, and multiplicity play a formative role in the design of creation (as was stated above), such nuances must be tempered by a teleological aim. Sabia-Tanis’s assessment praises the phenomenon of diversity: “Gender is one more facet of this natural variation intended by God as a feature of life on earth.”[25] Yet, his assessment truncates and, furthermore, terminates gender diversity and its multi-varied expressions upon the created order itself. Rather, such distinctions are designed to propel creation toward the transcendence and magnificence of God. Peter Jones rightly distinguishes this notion, to the contrary, when he says, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons bound in eternal communion. Together they collaborated to create the material universe, and it is that divine image that the universe reflects.”[26] Therefore, gender distinction does not terminate upon itself, nor is it merely a social construct. Rather, it is a guise to point to the distinction and unity found within the Godhead of the universe.


Gender binarism plays, then, a pivotal role in expressing the relational dynamics between what theologians call the Creator/creation distinction.[27] It is an in-person drama of the unity and multiplicity found within humanity; unity in that all persons are made in the image of God and multiplicity in that within humanity there is a complementarian structure between male and female.[28] Humanity images forth God by an analogia relationis (analogy of relation). The distinction between genders conveys a holiness or rather an “otherliness” within the cosmos. “To separate and to make holy are synonymous terms.”[29] This separateness, then, is conjoined on covenantal grounds via marriage which mark the sacredness, fruitfulness, and unity which will be elaborated upon below. To this initial point, understanding creational utility, as was stated above, grants insight into the One by whom the cosmic order was construed. To ignore the gender binary and, in turn, affirm a multi-faceted ambiguity in gender identity is to undermine the reflective nature of the imago Dei and its transcendental orderings. It terminates genderism upon philosophical naturalism which, ultimately, suppresses the truth of God (cf. Rom. 1:18). Consequently, how does gender and culture parallel amid the modern schemes of sexuality? How can gender not be minimized to cultural norms while holding to a metaphysical reality?


The creation account not only grants access into the ontological aim of humanity, but, simultaneously, gives rise to the socio-cultural commitment granted to the priest/king representatives in Adam and Eve. This divine directive has been termed by biblical scholars as the cultural mandate. Bruce Waltke has cosigned it to be humanity’s “blessing and responsibility to develop culture under the lordship of Christ.”[30] If creation contains a metaphysical framework in hosting the kingdom of God, the culture itself must exuberate a theocentric reign; that is, there must be an aura which guides and directs emanation within creation. The ontology of creation and the sociological means—or rather nature and culture—must not falsely be dichotomized.[31] One fashions the other while the latter expresses the former. Therefore, in one sense, gender binarism is culturally construed in that it exhibits the transcendent nature and relationship of the trinitarian God to His creation.[32] Yet, on the other hand, it is informed and fashioned by the divine mind Himself. The decree to work and subdue the land, then, embodies a culture-bound architecture which instills the divine imposition to “[be] fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Watkin captures this notion by saying,

To cultivate something is to help it grow, flourish, or improve. We find the term, of course, in the word agriculture, a bringing of order to the land and stewarding it for its own flourishing, our good, and God’s glory. But the term has quite rightly taken on a much broader meaning. If culture brings order and makes fruitful, then the whole world is cultural: God begins to cultivate it in His creation, and He mandates humans to continue and bring to completion His world of cultivation. Neither the dream of a “return to nature” (assuming that such an idea even makes sense) nor that of a utopian techno-future fits at all well with the Genesis 1 and 2 accounts.[33]

Sexuality Points Beyond the Self:


The modern sexual revolution contends that any discrepancy of sexual identity must not be conceded upon the individual, but rather upon the Creator God Himself; that is, God as Designer is responsible for the so-called mistakes. Fundamentally, it is an indictment against God. Sexual confusion, they would argue, is fundamentally God’s mishap. The therapeutic standard legitimizes subjective notions which sees truth—self-actualization—as terminating upon intuitive motives rather than a transcendent mind. However, Christ-followers must think deeply and, more importantly, biblically about the differing nuances found within the created cosmos. The material world, from a biblical standpoint, is not merely a by-product of evolutionary processes. Rather, the created order is construed by the transcendent Lord to communicate His infinite glories.

To this end, sexuality and sex must not be merely defined by its phenomenological outworking, but rather must be tempered and tethered by His divine Word. The created order embodies deeper meaning and greater spiritual connotations. To assume that sexuality is fluid and its definitive aim ceases upon the whims of self-identification is to misconstrue any notion of humanity’s ploy in being an image bearer of God. Humanity’s very existence, however, is to point to a transcendent Being (cf. Gen. 1:28). Likewise, sex is not merely a physical transaction servicing existential euphoria. Rather, its intimate rouse is meant to convey a redemptive narrative (cf. Eph. 5:31). Therefore, the prize of sexuality and sex must not be truncated to the impulse and inclination of finite creatures. They are, nonetheless, to be a projection of the infinite wisdom, grace, and mercy found within our covenantal Lord in redeeming a people for Himself. Sexuality and sex, then, embodies this grand narrative that if perverted deforms the very message that is meant to restore a broken and depraved world. To this point, the church must realize that not only is traditional marriage and sexuality on the docket for protection, but is the foundation for our faith message—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Consequently, in the guise of sexuality and sex, there is more than meets the eye. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

***footnotes***

[1] This content is taken with permission from an assignment from a doctoral seminar called “Theology and Culture” at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am indebted to Drs. John Mark Yeats and Riley Dodge for their critique and assessment. [2] Watkins, Thinking through Creation, 65. I am following Watkins’ broader argument traced throughout his chapter called “Thinking through the Creation of the Universe”, 46-87. [3] Thomas Aquinas, Compendium of Theology, trans. Richard J. Regan (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 82. [4] See Carmen H. Logie, Candice L. Lys, Lisa Dias, Nicole Schott, Makenzie R. Zouboules, Nancy MacNeill, and Kayley Mackay, “’Automatic Assumption of Your Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Practices is Also Discrimination’: Exploring Sexual Healthcare Experiences and Recommendations among Sexuality and Gender Diverse Persons in Arctic Canada.” Health & Social Care in the Community 27, no. 5 (September 2019), 1204-13. See also Sarah Odell, “‘Be Women, Stay Women, Become Women’: A Critical Rethinking of Gender and Educational Leadership,” SoJo Journal 6, no. ½ (January 2020), 57-67. [5] See Peter “Peter Boyle” Boghossian and James “Jamie Lindsay” Lindsay, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies,” Skeptic (Altadena, CA) 22, no. 3 (June 22, 2017), 49-53. Boghossian and Lindsay falsified research and documentation with the notion to perpetuate a social narrative in gender identity. They construed these articles in hope of demonstrating the extreme nature of these progressive ideologies. These outrageous papers were accepted because they fit societal narratives of modern genderism. [6] See Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007), 270-295. Taylor attributes the rise of secularism to a shift from theism to deism which leads, ultimately, to the possibility of an atheistic societal existence. Trueman, similarly, comes to the same conclusion yet within the field of sexuality. Since deism is merely a system provided by a divine entity, humanity has the fortitude to change her course. There are no hard fixed laws, or rather those laws can be manipulated by technological developments. Thus, malleability is contingent upon human ingenuity rather than divine decree. This phenomenon, then, affirms Trueman’s thesis: how can a woman be trapped in man’s body? See also Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 35-102. [7] See Sarojini Nadar and Adriaan van Klinken, “Queering the Curriculum: Pedagogical Exploration of Gender and Sexuality in Religion and Theological Studies,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 34, no. 1 (Spr 2018), 101-9. Nadar and Klinken argue that queering the curriculum will assist in helping people become “citizens of the world” and advocate for democracy, human rights, and global justice. By setting their trajectory as such, they are displaying a truncated metaphysic amid theological teaching. [8] Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, 66. [9] Justin Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creative: God’s Intention for Gender Diversity,” Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views, ed. James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019), 196-197. [10] Ibid., 198. [11] See Jeffrey J. Niehaus, Biblical Theology: The Common Grace Covenant, vol. 1 (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014), 35-64. [12] I am following Stephen G. Dempster in Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, ed. D. A. Carson, NSBT (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2003), 56-62. [13] See Jerome I. Gellman, “Gender and Sexuality in the Garden of Eden,” Theology & Sexuality 12, no. 3 (May 2006), 319-35. Gellman produces a helpful work in tracing the feminist, revisionist interpretation of the creation account. He follows such inquiries with a robust and succinct rendering of the traditional view of gender roles found within Genesis. [14] Ibid., 58. [15] The author notes that the biblical narrative does take into account a covenant established by David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 20)—two heterosexual males. Yet, it would be noteworthy to contends that an analogia relationis is portrayed normatively amid a male and female paradigm in the redemptive qualities of God’s covenantal union with His people. [16] See Katie J. McCoy, “God Created Them, Male and Female,” Southwestern Jounral of Theology 63, no. 2 (Spr 2021): 49-64. McCoy, holding to complementarian theology, affirms gender equality and does not argue that gender specific responsibilities is mutually exclusive to relationality. [17] See Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind (Great Britain: Mentor, 2019), 7-50. Strachan goes on to say, “In my view, we best understand the image of God as an ontological reality that leads into function. Mankind is the representative of God on earth; to see a man or a woman is to see the only living creature made in the image of God.” 29. [18] Ibid., 29-30. [19] Watkins, Thinking through Creation, 90. [20] Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity, 31. [21] See Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2015), 17-28. See also Peter Jones, The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2013), 125-147. Ross Hastings, “The Trinity and Human Sexuality: Made in the Image of God,” Crux 53, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 13. Hastings argues that the binary nature of sexuality does not truncate upon creation itself, but rather transcends toward the Divine—namely the Creator God. [22] McCoy, “God Created Them, Male and Female,” 55. [23] I am following Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum in Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants. 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 223-224. [24] Ibid., 223. [25] Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creative,” 196. [26] Peter Jones, The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2013), 140. [27] See Peter Jones, One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference. Escondido, CA: Main Entry Edition, 2010. This work has been monumental in forming the author’s worldview in regard to paganism and sexual ethics. I am indebted to Jones. [28] I am following Kevin J. Vanhoozer in Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine(Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 18-32. Vanhoozer is emphatic that what is “at stake in the idea of performing is the very nature of Christ faith: does belief that fails to issue in behavior count as genuine witness (and understanding) or not? There is something inherently ‘performatory’ about the logic of first-person confessional utterances (‘I believe’; ‘We believe’). Such statements are not merely descriptive, informing others of the contents of one’s consciousness, but also dispositional, indicating the posture of one’s being and behavior toward the content of one’s belief” (19). See also Jones, The God of Sex, 140-143. Jones conveys unity within multiplicity by emphasizing the complementarian notion of creation, especially in the guise of marital union. The drama, then, is consistent to the trinitarian notion in that there is unity and plurality in the Godhead. [29] Ibid., 129. [30] Bruce Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 220. [31] See Watkin, Thinking through Creation, 102-111. [32] See John Skalko, “The Incoherence of Gender as a Social Construct,” Ethics & Medics 45, no. 4 (April 2020), 1-2.

[33] Ibid., 106.

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, SBTS; ThM, MBTS) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (13), McCoy (12), McColsen (9), and DeYoung (6). He is a Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool dad to his four children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.

68 views0 comments