How should one define the word: Gender?

How would you define the word, gender?


For a word that gets tossed about quite a bit, it is surprising how murky its definition is. What persons in conversation mean by gender is often wide apart, making the conversation difficult. One girl at a speaking engagement expressed suspicion of me for even using the word, since in her mind it was a construct of people who were trying to deny God’s creation. She thought I should just speak of sexuality (male and female), not all this “gender stuff.”


Differing Def’s

The word comes from the Greek, of course, where the root becomes the basis for all manner of Greek and Latin-derived words signifying beginning or type. As Christopher West reminds us:


The root “gen”––from which we get words like generous, generate, genesis, genetics, genealogy, progeny, gender, and genitals––means to produce or give birth to.  A person’s gen-der, therefore, [should be] based on the manner in which that person is designed to gen-erate new life.


That is not how influencers used the word in recent decades. What feminists used to mean by gender was something originating outside the individual: a societal structure in which female people were inferior and subordinate to male ones. So gender was something that could be, and should be redefined. They always conjoined it with “roles” to decry patriarchy. In the process, they came up with some very silly ideas about how, if you try hard enough, differences between boys and girls would just go away.


But all that is moot in our brave new world. Within the new gender identity ideology, gender is an inner essence that is announced by self-declaration. You define that essence yourself and only you can know it. Everyone else is suppose to just believe you about your essence.


The Christian Weighs in

The funny thing is this: what I would consider the Christian view shares something of both these definitions. As usual, a worldly view capitalizes on a small part of the truth, denying other parts to construct something opposed to what God reveals.


The feminists are right to understand that gender is something more than our physical selves. It is something serious and worth paying attention to. We are more than the male & female we share with the animals. Gender is a great word for capturing how we distinctly are in relationship. But they are wrong in supposing that its rules and expectations are just a societal construct. God gives us gendered callings to love each other differently and so grow in intimacy and fruitfulness. His word sometimes confirms societal customs and sometimes contradicts them.


On the other hand, the gender theory ideologues are right to think that gender goes deep, deep into our core, our essence, so to speak. But they are wrong to think that we define it ourselves apart from our bodies. God gave it to us. He gave us our bodies, which we can see, to point us to our souls, which we cannot see.


Both movements are partially right but end up hopelessly wrong in trying to define gender apart from God. Understanding gender as part of His image, as Genesis 1:27 tells us (and Genesis means beginning something, as in giving birth), as both deeply identifying and also defining interactions in close society, makes our relationships fruitful, generating new life.


How will you use the word, gender?


  1. Steve Goble

    Sam, I believe gender according to God’s design allows us to both receive love and give love, to be magnanimous rather than selfish, to be real rather than false, to be whole rather than disintegrated. The process of becoming integrated in our God-given sex leads to joy and fulfillment in our relationships, whether single or married. Today, I am not hearing this from feminists, gender studies professionals and DEI professionals. In my opinion, this lack corrupts the word gender. Too many vulnerable persons are drinking in the cultural definition, and I pray that this trend will be reversed so hearts can be revived. Thank you for so clearly presenting the truth that understanding gender as part of God’s design “makes our relationships fruitful, generating new life.”

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