God and Man As Male and Female: Implications for Gender Identity

If God is both genders - or contains both genders - shouldn't people be free to choose their own gender identity? Let me explain what I mean. Focus on the Family claims that its views on gender identity are based on a Scripture verse that says, "God created man in His own image" and then goes on to assert that this "image" includes both "male and female." Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this mean that God is androgynous - male and female at the same time? If this is true, wouldn't it further suggest that human beings made "in His image" have the prerogative of being either male or female - or perhaps both male and female - according to personal preference?

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You’ve raised an interesting and perceptive question. It’s the kind of question that can only be addressed by way of some profound and serious thinking about the nature of God and the deeper meaning of a familiar biblical text. By the way, it’s not surprising that we should find this particular subject – maleness and femaleness as “elements” or “aspects” of the Image of God in man – a bit confusing. The Bible itself describes it as a great “mystery”. In other words, it’s a revealed truth that has to be embraced by faith since it defies analysis and comprehension by the human mind.

The Scripture you have in mind is Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” If you examine this verse carefully, you will see that it does not say that God is “androgynous.” On the contrary, the writer makes an important two-sided distinction by means of the pronouns he chooses to employ. The first of these pronouns is singular: “in the image of God He created him .” The second is plural: “male and female He created them.” Herein lies an extremely significant truth. Viewed in terms of the Godward relation, “man” or “mankind” is one: all of us, men and women alike, are created equally “in His image” (see Galatians 3:28). But amongst ourselves we are differentiated by sex as a race, we are divided into two groups, halves, or component parts – male and female.

God, of course, is neither male nor female. He transcends all such categories. Indeed, the concept of an “androgynous” God is not only foreign but actually offensive to orthodox Christian theology. It is not God but we who are marked and set apart from one another in terms of sex. And yet, according to Genesis 1:27, it is only as these two distinct halves of humanity come together that the image of God in man is most fully and completely revealed.

It’s here that we run up against the great “mystery” of this doctrine; for the Bible does not envision this juncture between the sexes as taking place within a single “androgynous” individual, as you suggest, but rather in the sacred one-flesh union of marriage. Somehow or other it is in the bond between husband and wife that the stamp of God’s character and the meaning of His Trinitarian essence come through most clearly. As the apostle Paul writes, “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31, 32; quoting Genesis 2:24). Heterosexual marriage, then, is the “locus” par excellence of the image of God in man. This is why it is so important to maintain the distinction between male and female as originally designed and implemented by the Creator.

If you have further questions about this, our pastoral counselors would love to speak with you by phone.

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible

What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense

Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity & Femininity

Nurturing a Healthy Gender Identity in Your Child

Referrals
Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project

True U

Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

Lee Strobel

Articles
Why Male and Female Matter

Copyright © 2014, Focus on the Family.

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