Playing Games And Living Metaphors: The Incarnation And The End Of Gender -- By: Eric L. Johnson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:2 (Jun 1997)
Article: Playing Games And Living Metaphors: The Incarnation And The End Of Gender
Author: Eric L. Johnson

Playing Games And Living Metaphors:
The Incarnation And The End Of Gender

Eric L. Johnson*

Varying concepts of gender provide one of the major fronts in the culture war being waged in our day. We live in a time when the meaning of maleness and femaleness is being creatively renegotiated by forces larger than any particular individual or group. Essentially, traditional notions of gender are being largely rejected and replaced by egalitarian notions, though the replacement can vary significantly depending on whether the individual is shaped more by an equity feminist model (implying androgyny with no distinctive gender ideal) or a gender feminist model (kinder and gentler is better). 1 Regardless, new understandings of gender are gradually becoming assumed by many in our culture, and the Christian community is not unaffected.

The question facing the Church is (as always in such eras): Just how far do we go in our participation in this cultural movement? That the Church could reap some benefits from a renewed model of gender conceptions should be obvious. Changes that have already occurred have made it possible for Christian women to be employed in many occupations that social convention did not formerly permit. Furthermore it has challenged the Church to move beyond an unreflective reliance upon tacit, traditional assumptions about gender and receive afresh the Word of God on this subject.

The Church’s problem is that gender is not simply a social construction. 2 There is a reality that both underlies and stands beyond the referent. Everyone must agree that there are at least biological differences that cannot be simply reinterpreted 3 (though the significance of those differences surely can be). The Christian, however, believes that beyond this world is a God who

* Eric Johnson is professor of psychology at Northwestern College, 3003 Snelling Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55113.

made it, and she also believes that Christians should think about this world the way that God does. Consequently when considering gender she desires more than conformity to whatever the crowd constructs. She wants to know what the crowd is supposed to construct. This is especially important for gender because it is a human phenomenon requiring a complex confluence of formative processes, not unlike morality. While gender is rooted in biological realities, God has given culture some of the responsibility to shape gender. But this influence is in turn to be shaped by divine revelation concerning the phenomenon.

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