The Future of Difference: Evangelicals and Gender Essentialism

Against the wider culture’s narrative that has thoroughly pathologized the notion of biologically determined essential differences for men and women, evangelicals and Catholics have responded with a growing number of works on the theology of the body. Christian tradition maintains a holistic dualism of body and soul as the essence of human life. However, voices in the evangelical gender debate assess the body-soul union for gender essentialism differently. Egalitarians affirm the body as the site of an essential gender difference, but claim the difference between womanhood and manhood stops with our embodied sexuality. Complementarians affirm the body this way as well, but also claim personal essential gender differences. However, they do so in a manner alien to Scripture’s own project, which brings misplaced emphases and applications.
In three Parts, and with an eye to our present cultural moment, this paper assesses these two evangelical approaches against a proposed version of biblical essentialism that is both embodied and personal. The body is the ground of our gender identity and establishes the essential asymmetries of manhood and womanhood not only in our sexuality but also in our biblically prescribed relationships to one another. Part 1 of the paper briefly traces the history and features of the culture’s anti-essentialism, including its final fracturing of sex/gender from the body in 4th wave feminism. Part 2 offers a biblical proposal for gender essentialism that is both based in the body and the relationships of male and female persons to one another. The final Part 3 compares current egalitarian and complementarian approaches to gender essentialism against the proposal of Part 2. The conclusion is that a revisioned complementarianism offers the fullest biblical picture of gender difference that we ourselves and the culture need to claim our own intrinsic value and identity.

3 thoughts on “The Future of Difference: Evangelicals and Gender Essentialism”

  1. Details?
    The author could have specified what the hybrid conclusion would entail. The thesis seems to make an attempt to refute Complimentarianism and Egalitarianism without a new term and details. Also, biblical references and reputable sources would help.

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