The following is a brief response for a college student studying gender at a state university:
I think you are hitting the issue correctly in seeing where the tension exists.
- Modern View - sex is biology, gender socially constructed – you can see the modern view on display here
- Biblical View - knows no such distinction. We simply do not find in Scripture a "male who is really a woman" like you will see discussed in today's world. Sexuality and gender are linked in the teaching of the Bible -
I see in Scripture "sex" extending far beyond mere biology as it is linked directly to the "imago dei" or image of God in Genesis 1:27 - here we find "male" and "female" both created in the image of God. Now, what the image of God is has been a long discussion, and still ongoing in Christian theology, but nobody thinks it means a corporeal (bodily) existence. Perhaps Mormons...
In my opinion the image of God is ontological (we have a certain nature – rational, emotional, volitional), functional (we have been made to rule and reign with God in the earth as vice regents), and relational (to exist in a communities of love and commitment). We are made “that way” and it spans both male and female. The Greeks and some Christians have erroneous thought of women as a lower order of being in the past. Both Jesus and the apostles writing (Galatians 3:28) repudiate this view as made clear in my paper “Twisted Gender”
So I believe there is a maleness and femaleness to the human person, not simply their sex organs. Additionally, there are roles that God has made that only women and men can fulfill. Only women can be mothers and only men fathers. Now today this is very tied to biology - only women bear children. Now, we may "succeed" some day in establishing artificial wombs and move the birthing apparatus outside of the woman's body. I think this will be tragic and sad and a huge loss for women, but nonetheless it is a goal of certain feminist ideology. Even then, it will not change that women are designed for having and rearing children. I see the despising of motherhood as a great loss in our civilization.
Now, as to certain roles, the work done today is a bit tentative on asserting "Matriarchical cultures" - in fact, in almost every society the man is the provider/warrior and the women serve as community bearers and shapers. Even today we see a move to using the term "matrifocal" for cultures once thought to be ruled by women. We see that what really is seen is a high honoring of the matriarch in the community in terms of wisdom, guidance and leadership. It is not as if males are no longer fighting the wars of the tribe or called upon to provide. Now there is the goofy "bonobos" comparison which is a relative of the chimpanzee. These apes are used to provide an ideal for human species as they exhibit sexual freedom and matrifocal behavior – I find this absurd.
One final issue – many use the tragic birth of genetically ambiguous children as “proof” that gender must be constructed. But in these infinitesimally small amount of cases we find genetic problems, issues that are difficult which require tough decisions to be made by doctors and parents. These could never serve as any sort of normative casuistry as to what we are. In these cases something genetically did not replicate properly.
The Scriptural view is that God has designed us in a complementary fashion of male/females by which he is imaged in the world. Additionally he has made us sexually compatible to bring about joy, pleasure and children in committed marital relationship. Men are called to lovingly lead as servants in the home, women to lovingly be on the same team as both move forward under God. Our modern world rejects the necessity of both sexes, declares fathers irrelevant, makes sexuality a choice which is backed up by hormones and scalpels. It has not helped either sex and certainly has not been good for children.
Now, the biblical view ought to stand in the arena of ideas about who we are and we must make our case. My short article is a small shot at this, but others more learned than I have made better cases...Follow the footnotes is what I always say.
For those interested in gender stuff, a good resource is available from The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Their web site has recently been relaunched - www.cbmw.org. In addition to the site which has many resources for chewing, they also have a gender blog which may be of some interest.
Finally, a few entries from POCBlog on Gender issues from the past: