Calvin Goligher

Be Glad for Binaries

To reject the sex binary is ultimately to reject the Creator-creature distinction. Despising our binary sexuality, we exalt ourselves to the position of creator. We seek to author and determine our own lives, acknowledging only the limits of our own preferences. Yet in reality we are not on any sort of spectrum with God. He is God and we are not, and he sets the boundaries of our life, and marks out paths of righteousness for us to walk in.

God loves binaries. In creation, he separated light from darkness (Genesis 1:4), the waters above from the waters beneath (verse 7), the sea from the dry land (verse 10). We should be glad for each of these binaries. A cycle of day and night is better than endless dusk. “Water everywhere” is only good news for fish; the rest of us want “water on earth as it is in heaven.” And hiking and sailing are both better than wading through mud all the time.
The Gender Binary
The noblest of God’s binaries, though, is found in humanity. God crowned us with the honor of bearing his image, uniting a physical body and a rational soul (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). Then he split the man into “male and female” (1:27, 2:22), forming a greater whole through the union of the first man and woman, and through every subsequent union of a man who leaves his father and mother and holds fast to his wife (2:24).
God’s binaries ennoble both the pair and each part. As an illustration, consider the binary pair of an electrical cord and a wall socket: one cord might be better than another, but cords cannot be “better” than wall sockets. In the same way, who could say whether they prefer heaven or earth? Birds must nest in trees, and earthlings must gaze at the stars. No one prefers the land or the sea absolutely, but everyone appreciates the beauty of a coastline and the safety of a harbor. In the same way, men and women cannot be “better” than each other. One man might be a better man than another. A particular woman will excel a particular man in some particular respect. But men in general cannot be “better” or “worse” than women. Each is a good and indispensable part of an even better whole.
God’s binaries are about union, not division. The sex binary does not separate humanity into two halves, each going their own direction. Rather, it enables a deeper union than would be possible otherwise. Without the sex binary, each of us as individuals could go our own way as a full representation of the human species. In fact, though, no one person can actually represent the fullness of humanity, because no one possesses all the human sex characteristics or a functioning reproductive system. Only the union of a male and a female presents us with humanity itself, and not merely one or more humans. Individually, a man and a woman are just two people; together, they are a family, a race, perhaps the beginning of a royal line.
The Most Basic Binary
The binaries within creation illuminate the relationship between God and his creation. The “Creator-creature distinction” sounds like it is all about keeping God and creation apart, but it is actually about keeping them together.
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Cisgender

Like the term “sexual orientation,” the word “cisgender” is freighted with false ideas about sex and human nature. Christians should use the term only for very limited purpose, such as in quotations, lest we are subtly conformed to worldly thought.

This term is used to describe people whose biology and gender identity match, according to ordinary social expectations. Biological males who present as men are “cisgender,” as are biological females who present as women.
This term is inextricable from two larger overall projects of the sexual revolution. First, this term is bound up with the claim that biological sex does not determine anything about “gender”—that is, the social role and expectations that people adopt according to their sex. Second, this term helps to classify people according to their level of privilege in society. It is often said that cisgendered, straight, white, males are privileged and powerful, while gender-queer people are marginalized and low-status.
Both of these underlying ideas are false. The link between biology and social role is far too universal to come from a mere social convention or construct. No matter how many people insist that men and women can both be “birthing persons,” it is no accident that women generally have a more domestic role in society, and men a more outwardly-focused role. Biology and social role are deeply connected. They are both parts of human nature.
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Sexual Orientation

The only biblically consistent way to speak of “sexual orientation” is to recognize that sexual desires and behaviors do occur in deep and persistent patterns. These patterns may be so deep as to feel natural. But the same is true of other sins: it is “natural” for us sinners to be proud, greedy, angry, and so on. None of these sins, however, are “natural” in the sense that that they are normal and right behaviors for humans.

“Sexual orientation” refers to an innate, unchangeable trait that makes it natural and normal for someone to engage in certain sexual practices. The term functions as both an explanation and a defense of homosexuality:
Explanation: People naturally seek sexual unions that fit their orientation. Those with a “heterosexual orientation” will naturally seek sexual union with a person of the opposite sex, while those with a “homosexual orientation” will seek sexual union with a person of the same sex.
Defense: Orientation is an innate and unchangeable trait, like height or skin color, and therefore outside the realm of moral evaluation.
However, the idea of sexual orientation fails in both respects. To take the second point first, let’s grant the (unproven) claim that there are certain biological correlations with homosexual behavior. It does not follow from this that homosexual behavior cannot be evaluated morally. The reason for this is that there are biological correlations to many human behaviors that are clearly subject to moral evaluation. For instance, men are much more likely to commit murder than women. This does not mean that a moral criticism of murder is sexist. Nor does it mean that “men are murderers” because of some innate and unchangeable trait. Human behavior is complicated, and biology is one factor.
Second, the notion of “sexual orientation” fails as an explanation of homosexuality. Unlike height, skin color, or sex, sexual orientation is not observable. It can only be discerned by observing a person’s behaviors and statements. It is therefore at least possible that “orientation” is a concept developed to justify certain sexual behaviors, rather than a real explanation of them. That possibility was already there in the early days of gay and lesbian ideology, but it has emerged as a distinct probability as LGBTQ+ ideology has evolved.
Let me explain what I mean. Consider the phenomenon of “bisexuality” (the “B” in the expanding acronym). Is this an orientation in its own right, or does it describe someone who moves back and forth between two orientations? Such questions are even murkier when “gender-fluid,” “non-binary,” “trans,” “queer,” and various other identities are thrown into the mix. No longer are we talking about an innate, unchangeable trait that makes certain sexual behaviors natural. Rather, we are talking about completely decoupling any evaluation of sexual behavior from innate natural traits.
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Heterosexuality and Homosexuality

God designed men for sexual union with women, and vice versa, and no other options exist…Really, we only need the words “male” and “female” to describe the patterns of sexual desire and behavior that befit the created structures of our human bodies. What the sexual revolution calls “heterosexuality” is what God calls manhood and womanhood.

“Heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” are familiar terms, with apparently simple meanings. However, they often carry unbiblical implications, so Christians should avoid using these terms, or at least use them carefully, to ensure that we speak truthfully, clearly, and consistently.
To see what I mean, consider the root word “sexuality.” This word can refer to at least three distinct, yet closely related, things:

Actual sexual practices, or patterns of such.
Qualities related to sexual practices, such as identity, desire, lifestyle, fashion, and manners.
People who engage in these practices or adopt these related qualities.

These shades of meaning are present in the more specific terms “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality.”
Homosexuality
“Homosexuality” refers to practices, qualities, or people characterized by sexual desire for someone of the same sex. It describes a type of sexual behavior, as well as qualities related to such behaviors and people who engage in them. The advantage of using this term is that it is more objective than the euphemism “gay,” and more specific than terms like “LGBTQ+.”
Still, we must be careful to distinguish between homosexual practices, related qualities, and homosexual people. When these three are conflated, misleading or confusing statements may ensue. For example, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 describe homosexual practices as abominations, not homosexual people.
Heterosexuality
On first glance, the meaning of “heterosexuality” is obvious: it is the opposite of “homosexuality.” It refers to practices, related qualities, or people marked by a desire for the opposite sex.
“Heterosexual” and its less formal synonym “straight” can be useful to describe patterns of sexual desire and behavior approved by God. We have all been designed for sexual union with someone of the opposite sex, and not with anyone of the same sex.
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Homophobia

The term “homophobia” could be used to describe sinful attitudes or actions towards homosexuals. Its typical use, though, is to describe opposition to homosexual practices and beliefs, which is assumed to be irrational. Used in this way, it is an unfair rhetorical ploy to discredit any opposition to homosexuality.

Debates are rarely won on the battlefield of terminology, but they are frequently lost there. This is certainly the case in today’s debates over sexuality. Virtually all of the key terms are so freighted with ideological ordnance that entire regiments of exegetical and philosophical argument can be wiped out at a moment’s notice by a careless choice of words.
One word that we must handle with care is “homophobia.” Of course, this term is frequently leveled at anyone who dissents from the mainstream view affirming homosexual practices. Frequently, though, the term is also used by Christians to describe sinful attitudes or attitudes toward homosexuals. The problem is that when Christians use this term, we are either using it in a highly restricted sense that our secular culture does not recognize, or we are buying into some unbiblical assumptions about homosexuality.
The second half of the term, “phobia,” signifies an irrational fear. For instance, “arachnophobia” is an irrational fear of spiders. You might have arachnophobia if you avoid opening cupboards because years ago you found a dead spider in one. On the other hand, running away from a tarantula is evidence of healthy fear, not arachnophobia.
But what exactly does a homophobe fear? What does the “homo” refer to? It could refer to homosexual people. In this case, “homophobia” would be a useful term to describe someone’s fear of speaking to a homosexual, of stepping on their lawn, or of eating one table over from them at a restaurant.
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