The definition of effeminacy (transgenderism) is wrapped up in the concept of men acting like women and women acting like men, contrary to their sex. Little girls still like to play with dolls and teacups. Little boys like to run and hit things. This is God’s created and cosmic order. Effeminacy reverses God’s created order.
In the discussion of the homosexual movement in our culture, and also in the corresponding debate in evangelical churches, including the PCA, there is another missing link in this whole discussion. The root problem of homosexuality is not same-sex attraction (SSA). Biblically, there is a subterraneous base from which homosexuality springs. Let me explain.
First, let me say that it seems so obvious that I don’t know how I missed it. Maybe it is because we live in a feminized society and we have been taught to think in terms of that perspective. Maybe it is because we really don’t exegete the Scriptures anymore. The tendency even in evangelical circles is to put forth arguments based upon sociological and psychological categories. Maybe, it’s too much secular education at the university level? I find that most written contributions regarding this issue are generally emotive with very little reference to the Holy Scriptures.
The point is this: The real problem is what the Bible calls “effeminacy.” SSA is not really the problem in this whole debate; indeed, it is a problem, but we need to take the axe to the root. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, the New American Standard Version (NASB) translation of the original Greek says that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals shall inherit the kingdom of God…” The King James Version (KJV) translation is the same, except where the NASB uses the word “homosexual,” the KJV says “abusers of themselves with mankind.”
In both The English Standard Version (ESV) and the New International Version (NIV) each translation deletes the word “effeminate.” Supposedly, the translators viewed effeminacy as the passive participant in the act of homosexuality and therefore just integrated the two words into one word, that being the English word homosexuality. I would guess that the translators must have agreed that the act of homosexuality always consists of both active and passive partners. This therefore must have justified leaving out the translation of one Greek word. Honestly, I feel a little cheated by the ESV and NIV. My thought is that translators should go ahead and translate the original words as used in the Greek, and then let the reader decide how to interpret them.
Now, what does the word effeminate mean? It comes from a Greek word that means “soft.” It is a word that in biblical times referred to the feminine quality of women as opposed to manliness. In searching the Old Testament for some equivalent concept, what comes to my mind is the commandment which forbids a woman putting on a man’s clothing and a man putting on a woman’s clothing. “It is an abomination to the Lord” (Deut. 22:5).
A modern equivalent concept of this text in Deuteronomy would be cross-dressing or a transvestite. Of course, this text would go beyond just dress. It would mark those who in their lifestyle choose to act like the opposite sex. In the modern world we would call it transgenderism. Definitions are important here. Remember that sex is what is between the legs and gender is what is between the ears. The definition of effeminacy (transgenderism) is wrapped up in the concept of men acting like women and women acting like men, contrary to their sex. Little girls still like to play with dolls and teacups. Little boys like to run and hit things. This is God’s created and cosmic order. Effeminacy reverses God’s created order.
Here then is the root problem of homosexuality. Some men want to be women. They do not want to be men. They prefer to take on the characteristics of femininity. The act of homosexuality is the outworking of this sin, in spite of the fact that God’s original purpose for sexual relations is between a man and a woman. The problem is that sexual relations will always be binary. Even homosexuals cannot escape the created order of opposite sexes becoming one. Males just choose to act like the opposite sex. One male partner plays the man and the other male partner plays the woman. One is the aggressor and the other is passive. One shoots at a target and the other is the target.
The Apostle Paul knew that men have a sinful tendency to be soft like women, and also passive when God calls them to strength and leadership. It comes from the Fall. For this reason, in 1 Corinthians 16:13 he encouraged males to “act like men” (NASV), and “quit you like men” (KJV). The temptation of men being passive rather than leaders is so powerful, that unless men fight against it, they will succumb to it. Sadly, most men have capitulated, just to varying degrees. Even a few professional football players and military soldiers eventually surrender. Homosexuality is the extreme evidence of this sinful tendency. This is another reason why those who claim homosexual orientation should not be elders in the church. Elders are leaders. They must not be men who exhibit femininity.
In conclusion, I would like to see more exegesis in this whole discussion. This is only a thumbnail sketch that has been missing in our analysis. Psychology and sociology contribute very little. In our discussion of the homosexual movement in both the wider culture and in the church, pastoral counseling must never stop at dealing only with homosexuality. It must go deeper into the original problem which is transgenderism. Contrary to God’s created order, many men want to play the woman, and many women want to play the man. That’s what we are really dealing with in this whole discussion.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.