Who Am I . . . In a Fragmented Culture?

Who Am I . . . In a Fragmented Culture?

Psalm 8; Genesis 2:4-25

What makes you, you? That is the question I have tried to help you answer throughout this sermon series on identity.  I said that if we are going to answer the question, “Who am I when I am same sex attracted?” we need to first define marriage. 

I began my sermon a couple weeks ago with some statistics on the significantly higher suicide rate among those in the LGBTQ community than of those who identify as heterosexual.  I told you that I believe that there is a reason for that statistic.  The reason suicide rates are higher among those in the LGBTQ community is because of their struggle with being same sex attracted is legitimate, their experience of being dehumanized is tangible, and search for a safe place where they can be heard is limited.  The stories of Robin and Brady (from the two previous sermons), who once identified as belonging to the LGBTQ community,  began with both of them seeking help from the one place they should have found it right from the beginning, but initially were driven further away from the Church. 

I am convinced that at the heart of the conversation over same-sex attraction is the question of what it means to be a person.  The philosopher Judith Butler, who is also credited as being the founder of queer theory, said the following about being male or female: “We act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or something that is simply true about us, a fact about us, but actually it’s a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time, so to say gender is performative is to say that nobody really is a gender from the start.”[1]  The goal of philosophers of queer theory like Butler is to promote the breaking down of, “the link that connects biological sex to gender desire.”  

The picture that comes to mind when I think of Judith Butler’s statement about biological sex verses gender desire is the Mr. Potato Head toy with his arms where they should not go, his eyes where they should not go, and his legs where they should not go.  In her excellent book, Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey critiqued Butler by commenting: “Queer theory defends non-heterosexual behavior by the chopping up the human being into disconnected parts that are said to have nothing to do with each other.”[2]  

What I want to do for you, is try to explain the philosophical underpinnings behind the LGBTQ culture and the briefly touch on how those same underpinnings can be found in our culture’s understanding of sex, marriage, abortion, and even euthanasia.  My primary goal this morning is to offer you a biblical response that I believe makes sense.  The influential pastor, W. A. Crosswell, once said the following about pastoral ministry that I think many of you will appreciate:

When a man goes to church, he often hears a preacher in the pulpit rehash everything that he has read in the editorials, the newspapers, and the magazines. On the TV commentaries, he hears that same stuff over again, yawns, and goes out and plays golf on Sunday.  When a man comes to church, actually what he is saying to you is this, “Preacher, I know what the TV commentator has to say; I hear him every day. I know what the editorial writer has to say; I read it every day. I know what the magazines have to say; I read it every day.  Preacher, what I want to know is, does God have anything to say? If God has anything to say, tell us what it is.”

What I would like to spend most of my energy doing this morning is to show you that God, through the Bible, does have something to say.  I am going to do it by answering the question of what it means to be a human being.

Do you remember what I said two weeks ago in my sermon: “Who Am I When I Am Same Sex Attracted?”  I said for us to answer the question of “Who am I when I am same sex attracted?” we have to answer three questions: (1) What is marriage? (2) What does it mean to be a human being? And, (3) how can human beings flourish?  Today, we are going to see what God has to say about being a human being.

You are More Than What the World Says You Are

Two weeks ago, I answered helped explain marriage by spending our time in Genesis 2:18, which states: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  I showed you that the Hebrew word that the ESV translates “fit” and the NIV translates “suitable” is the compound word kenegdo, which is incredibly difficult to translate because it literally means like (ke) and against (neged).  It is also a word that is only used twice in the Old Testament.  The significance of the word being used twice is that it was not a typo or a mistake, but deliberate and intentional.  In other words, the helper who was suitable for Adam was like him in that she was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God as Adam’s equal, but different physically because she was a female.

The three things required for marriage according to Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 20 is threefold: (1) Both partners must be human, (2) both partners must be from different families, and (3) both partners must display sexual difference.  In other words, to be a human being has nothing to do with your sexual preference, and everything to do with reflecting the image of God.  But, here is the rub, your humanity also includes your physical body.  In a world that says your body does not matter, God says that it does matter. 

According to Nancy Pearcey, “The key to understanding all the controversial issues of our day is that the concept of the human being has likewise been fragmented into an upper and lower story…. This dualism has created a fractured, fragmented view of the human being, in which the body is treated as separate from the authentic self.”[3]

Here is what a fragmented view of the human being looks like according to Pearcey:

Has Moral and Legal Standing  
An Expendable Biological Organism[4]

In other words, the physical body is expendable because it is only a bundle of nerves and no more than a machine.  The body’s worth is determined by personhood; this theory is known as personhood theory.  The reason that abortion is now legal up to the third trimester, and the reason all gestational limits on abortion that allows a woman to terminate her child up to the time the baby is ready for birth in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, so long as that baby is unseen is because of personhood theory.  And now, in New York and Illinois, what laws existed to protect babies that survive abortion have now been removed.  Why?  Because personhood theory is the theory that all persons are human, but not all humans are persons.  

Personhood theory, which permeates the culture of America and the world determines how a person can use his/her body based on his or her identity as a person.  But what determines personhood? That is the million-dollar question!  Among secular philosophers and scholars there is no unified consensus and there is no shortage of theories of what constitutes personhood.  For example, consider two of the most popular theories of personhood: (1) The Social Criterion Theory proposes that you are a person whenever society recognizes you as a person, or whenever someone cares about you, and (2) the Gradient Theory proposes that personhood comes in degrees, and you can have more or less of it.  So back to the unborn child… the unborn human is only a person gradually as the child comes to full-term and birth or if that child is wanted.  Personhood is determined on what a human can do rather than on who a human is. 

How is this discussion relevant to the question of identity and same sex attraction?  If the personhood theory is correct, then how you use your body is irrelevant so long as it does not violate your personhood.  So, under the personhood theory, a person can protest that he/she should have been born a different sex regardless of the anatomy he/she was born with.

But the question we ought to be asking is not what do the theorists say, not what does the media say, and not what those in my or your community are saying, but what does God say!  So what does God say?

Here is what God says through his word, the Bible: To be a human is to be a male or a female created and born in the image of God.  According to Psalm 139, we humans are individually formed by the power of God, kitted together by God, “…and fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of God.  If you are a human being, according to Psalm 139, God reverently and extraordinarily set you apart as the only species on planet earth designed for the purpose of worshiping and knowing him. 

By design, you are not a fragmented being.  Your personhood and your body were always intended from creation to be the essence of your humanness.  In other words, you are both spirit and you are physical. 

The fragmentation we experience as human beings is not between personhood and body, but with what we are supposed to be and what we now experience under the curse of sin. 

Listen.  Personhood theory assumes a low view of the human body and thereby dehumanizes the kind of human God’s Word says that you are.  Listen to what the Psalmist says of us humans:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:3-8)

You may have walked into this church building this morning asking the question: Does God have anything to say about same-sex attraction or what it really means to be “me?”  You have heard his answer; in hearing his answer has he said anything about personhood vs your body?  What you have heard is quite the opposite.  Your humanness is both your person (spirit/soul) and your body. 

You May be Less Than What You Think You Are

What I am about to say will either affirm what you already know to be true, or it will upset what you believe to be true.  There are two ways you can pattern your life: (1) You can decide that what God has said in his word is outdated or antiquated and that the better architects, like the personhood theorists, to tell you what it means to be a human being, or (2) you can agree that God has spoken and has given us an answer for what it means to be human.  Whatever you chose, listen to me very carefully: If you are the created and God is your creator, you do not get rewrite the blueprint of your humanness, which means that you do not get to rewrite your gender.  You do not get to rewrite the blueprint of marriage, and you do not have the right to dehumanize what God has called good.

What does it mean to be a human being?  It means that you are created in the image of God and were born to have a relationship with him.  By design, your humanness does not include your brokenness, it does not include your fragmented view of self, and it does not include your sin.  It is our sin that has fragmented and confused both our understanding and our experience of what it means to be a human.  Personhood theory demands that we embrace our brokenness as what will make us whole, but God has promised to redeem us from our sin-cursed selves for the purpose of making us whole. 

Think about what the gospel is for a moment.  Why was the incarnation necessary?  Why did God take on human flesh in the person of his son, Jesus?  There was a dominate belief in the Roman world that was convinced that the material world was evil and undesirable, this world view was known as Gnosticism.  For God to enter the world of the material (born in a human body) was scandalous.  Not only did Jesus physically grow up into adulthood, but he was born for the purpose of dying in our place under the wrath of God for our sins.  After Jesus died, what happened next?  He rose from the grave. 

How did Jesus rise from the grave?  He rose physically from the grave.  Why did Jesus physically rise from the grave?  He rose not only so that our sins would be fully and categorically forgiven, but for the guarantee of a redemption that will result in the experience of our full humanity—a full humanity we were created to experience from the beginning.  This is why the apostle Paul defended the resurrection so vigorously to the Corinthians who were convinced that personhood and not the body was what it meant to be a human being:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

To be fully human is not through the embracing your same-sex attraction, your brokenness, or what personhood theorists say makes you a person.  To be fully human is to be reconciled to God through his Son Jesus for the purpose of also experiencing a resurrection like the one Jesus experienced when he walked out of the grave.  To be fully human is to experience an unhindered, unfragmented, intimacy with the God who made you in his image for the purpose of knowing him.  That is what it means to be human.

[1] Judisht Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” The Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec. 1988), pp. 519-531.

[2] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books; 2018), p. 160.

[3] Ibid, p.14.

[4] Ibid, p. 19