God’s Purpose for Sexuality
About the Guest
What is God's purpose for sexuality? Denny Burk, an associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, unpacks Genesis Chapter 1 to discover God's purpose in designing males and females in His image.
Denny BurkDenny Burk (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Ethics at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Burk edits The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and speaks and writes extensively about gender and sexuality. He is the author of What Is the Meaning of Sex? and coauthor of Transforming...more
What is God’s purpose for sexuality? Denny Burk unpacks Genesis Chapter 1 to discover God’s purpose in designing males and females in His image.
God’s Purpose for Sexuality
Bob: In spite of what the culture is telling us, understanding that God created us male and female, with a purpose in mind, really does matter. Author, Denny Burk, says we need to embrace God’s design for gender.
Denny: How is this working out for us—to have a generation of young men who view women as sexual objects? Who view their role more as a taker than as a giver? This has a profound effect on who we are, as not just individuals, but as a society. I think that it actually benefits us to have strong families—to have men who know how to be men—who know how to be self-sacrificial because they’ve learned that, growing up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We are wading into some counter-cultural currents today as we talk about human sexuality and about gender with Denny Burk. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You can’t see it, but I am wearing protective body armor today, just expecting that maybe—
Dennis: The topic! You think the topic is going to invite arrows. [Laughter]
Bob: There could be some shots taken on this topic; don’t you think?
Dennis: Slightly. I think this is a dangerous topic to discuss here, on national radio, but I also think it’s time. I think we’ve got to talk about it, and I think we have to talk about it wisely. We have a gentleman with us, Denny Burk, who’s going to help us do that. Denny—welcome to the broadcast. What a great first name you have.
Denny: You have a great first name, too, Dennis. [Laughter] I think you might even want to try out Denny. That one works really well.
Dennis: You know, there was Dennis the Menace when I was growing up. He’s still around—the kid’s never aged. I was compared to him quite frequently.
I think that’s why they refused to call me Denny. It just kind of flowed—Dennis the Menace.
Denny: Yes, I got that one too—I got that one too.
Dennis: Denny is married to Susan since 2000. They have four children. He is the Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College. He has written a book—are you ready for this?—What Is the Meaning of Sex?
Now, I know our listeners woke up this morning, asking that question. [Laughter]
Actually not; but I do know that every listener, who is hearing this broadcast, needs to pay attention because we’re going to spend some time this week unpacking what’s behind “…male and female created He them,” in Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 26 and 27.
To do that, Denny, I want you to go all the way back to when you found out about the birds and the bees with your dad. Weren’t you like nine or ten years old?—something like that?
Denny: Yes, I was. I really am so grateful because I was raised in a Christian home. My parents loved the Lord—they brought us up in church. My first orientation to all things, sexually, came from my dad. I was nine years old; and my dad took me aside and said, “Son, this is what it is.” He explained it to me. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that and how much I want that to be my own son’s experience. For me, growing up, my dad ended up being my resource. For me, if I had a question, I always knew I could go to him. He was just open for that. So I’m hoping to achieve that with my own children.
Bob: Well, you know—your experience puts you in the minority because most people did first learn about sex from a peer—where they learned—and you don’t get great information from your peers—you know, when you’re 12 years old—they don’t have all the answers. Or they learned about it at school. [Laughter] To learn about it from your mom or your dad—that is a privilege.
In fact, we’ve put together a resource called Passport2Purity® that is designed to give moms and dads that first opportunity and to establish that dialog between a parent and a child.
Dennis: And I was just with a group of parents, earlier this week, where I was equipping them to take about 130 6th graders through it. These parents—their palms were sweating. [Laughter] You could tell they were really listening. They were saying: “This is a threatening subject! What if my daughter curls up in the fetal position and completely wigs out on me? What do I do?” I said, “You just kind of laugh, and you have fun with her about it, and maybe curl up with her a little bit.”
What happened to you when your dad told you, Denny?
Bob: Did you curl up in the fetal position?
Denny: I didn’t do that. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. I was a little bit perplexed, I guess. I was surprised by the news. [Laughter] Everything took on a whole new light; you know? It was sort of shocking at first.
But I was so grateful because he was open with me. The truth of the matter is that, when you talk to your kids about this—“the talk” is the beginning of many conversations.
Denny: It’s not one thing you do and you never come back to—it’s the beginning of a long conversation that you come back to over and over again. That openness that I had with my dad on these things—I remember thinking at the time, “All of the adults in my life must be just like my dad.” I remember, one time, asking my grandmother a question, as a young boy—thinking that was appropriate. She just turned white! [Laughter] She just turned white. I realized: “Oh, wait a minute! This is just me and dad here—okay.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes, you’re actually blushing, right now, as you tell the story.
Denny: That’s exactly right. Yes, that’s right; but, sincerely, it’s just the beginning of many conversations. I’m so grateful to have had that with my dad.
Dennis: Yes, and that’s what I’d want our listeners to hear. Moms and dads are to begin making the handoff about human sexuality as they are handed the child in the delivery room.
I mean, how you relate to that child—all the way through the preschool years, elementary, junior high, high school, and on into adulthood. It’s meant to be an ongoing journey of honest questions, back and forth, because—I’m going to tell you, as a listener, you don’t know what’s around the corner in terms of what this culture is going to throw at your child and some of the questions you’re going to have to address. I mean, these are interesting days to be raising children today.
Bob: And I think the dialog between a parent and a child has often revolved around kind of the mechanics of sexuality. We really need to have a broader discussion with our kids about the purpose of sexuality—the meaning of sex—which is what you’ve written your book about. I think there are a lot of adults who go: “You know, I’ve never even thought about that. All I’ve ever thought about is the mechanics of it.”
Denny: Yes, that’s right. The whole point of the book—the title is: What is the Meaning of Sex?—all I mean by that is—what’s the purpose of it?
It’s not our purpose / it’s not the world’s purpose. The question we’re asking is: “What is God’s purpose for sexuality?”
Denny: A lot of people kind of have a secularized view of sexuality. They’ve got their church over here, their family life over here, and the God-thing is over here—when, really, God means to be a part of every facet of our being. This most intimate part of our being—our sexual lives—God has a purpose for that.
Actually, from the first pages of Scripture, God makes that known. That’s why I wrote this book—is to answer that question.
Dennis: Yes, let’s talk about that for a moment. Let’s go back to the beginning—the book of beginnings—Genesis, Chapter 1. God makes it very clear. It says, “…male and female created He them,” “…in the image of God, He created them.” So we’re image-bearers, as male and female. There were two sexes created—not five, not fifty, not a bunch of gender identities—as we are today exposed to on Facebook®.
Bob: Well, and not one.
I mean, I think it’s important to say, “It’s not fifty but it’s also not one.” God could have said: “We have humans. They’re all the same.” And yet He didn’t—did He?
Dennis: So, unpack that. Go back to Genesis 1:26-27, Denny, and unpack what you believe is at the essence of gender identity there, as God made us as image-bearers.
Denny: Yes, when we talk about: “What is the meaning of sex?” we’re not just talking about a behavior. We’re talking about our being—what God created us—as male and female. In the very beginning, the Bible is very clear. It says: “’Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky…’”—and so forth—and then, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And He blessed them”; and He commissioned them to “be fruitful and multiply.” He differentiates humankind, in His own image, into two sexes—there aren’t three, there aren’t four, there’s not one—there are just two—male and female. He has encoded that difference into our very biology.
Now, what you’re going to hear today, from a lot of folks, is that the difference between male and female is just all social construct and that everything that you know about gender identity, and those kind of things, are just things that you’ve learned from the culture that you need to “unlearn” so that we can have complete equality between the sexes.
That’s just not the way the Bible speaks about it. The way the Bible speaks about it is that God created us to be male and female, which comes with a certain set of roles and responsibilities appropriate to our sex. So, to miss that, is to miss our humanity in so many ways. To miss that also leads to a lot of sexual confusion.
Bob: Okay, so the listener who hears this and goes: “I understand that there is a difference between male and female; but, Denny, the culture has imported a lot of meaning into maleness and femaleness that’s just—that is cultural.
“For example, the boy—who grows up—and he hears: ‘I’m supposed to like football. I don’t like football. I want to be a dancer.’”
Dennis: Yes, or “’…an artist.’”
Bob: Yes. The culture is saying to him: “Well, boys aren’t artists and dancers. You should like football and basketball.” I think this is where some people push back against this gender definition because we do bring culturally-loaded ideas into how we define gender.
Denny: Absolutely. I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t things that we learn from culture that are quite unhelpful about gender. Those things are there and some of them stand against, actually, the biblical ideal. So, when I talk about biblical masculinity or biblical femininity—for men, I’m not talking about machismo and, you know, “I like to drive trucks and watch football.”
What I’m talking about is the biblical ideal that, from the very beginning, God created men to be leaders, to be protectors, and to be providers.
So that means that—for my son, I have a certain discipline and direction that I’m taking him, in terms of what I’m teaching him to do and what it means for him to be a man—that his orientation toward women is not to use them and abuse them—but to protect them.
Denny: His orientation toward his family is not to be a leech, but to be a provider. It’s my responsibility, under God, biblically, to understand that, as a man. That’s what I’m teaching him to do. I don’t want us to get hung up on these culturally-defined errors about gender. What I’m pushing for is what the Scripture says about it.
Dennis: And you know, Denny, that there’s a segment, even within the church today, that wants to homogenize the sexes, and erase the distinctives, and say, “No, they’re both supposed to lead—both male and female.” Take us back to the Scripture and point us to the truth of God’s Word about how, from the very beginning, God made Adam—He made man to be the leader.
Denny: Well, I think it’s actually all the way back in Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2—especially in Chapter 2, where the man is created first and then Eve is created second. The Apostle Paul says, in 1Timothy, Chapter 2, that the order of the creation is significant. It says in 1 Timothy, Chapter 2, “For God created Adam first and then He formed Eve from Adam,”—the same thing in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 11. Paul says it’s significant that the man came first. There’s a law of what we call “primogenitor” in the Ancient World, where the leadership function falls to the one who was born first—or the one who was made first, in this case—that, of course, is Adam.
We also see God coming and speaking to Adam first—giving him the command. Adam is given the charge to guard and to protect the garden and then, ultimately, to guard and protect his family and to speak the Word of God to his family. He’s the leader in this relationship. Then Eve comes along; and she’s created as the “helper suitable to him.”
Now, the significant thing about this is that all of this happens before there’s any sin in the world. Some people will say: “Well, the roles that you’re explaining there—the man’s leadership—that’s a function of the fall. After sin comes into the world, then you have inequalities and these things that we regard as evil.”
That’s not the case. These specific roles, given to the man—leader, protector, provider—these are all there in Genesis 2 before there’s any sin in the world—when everything was perfect. Before anything was corrupted, it was all there. What that means is that it defines for us a paradigm—an ideal—of what we’re supposed to be looking for in our own marriages.
Bob: I read a blog post just recently that was responding to what you’ve just laid out. This blogger said: “You know, there’s just no way of getting around it, Denny. What you’re arguing for is male superiority.
“You can say that men and women have equal value and equal worth; but as soon as you say that the man is the head over the woman, you have made him superior. Even if you then say, ‘No, no, no—he’s equal,’ he’s not.” How do you respond to that?
Denny: Well, I would respond to it, scripturally. If you look at Genesis 1, what does it say? It says that God created them both in His image. We’re all equally created in the image of God and, because of that, male and female have equal worth and dignity before God.
Denny: I would even take it further than that. If you read in the New Testament, when it talks about redemption and the way that the benefits of salvation are applied to men and women, they’re applied equally.
Denny: “There’s neither male nor female in Christ,” Galatians 3:28 says. And Peter—right after Peter says to the women that they need to submit to their husbands—1 Peter, Chapter 3—he says in verse 7— he says, “Husbands, grant honor to your wives as fellow heirs of the grace of life.”
So, we’re created in God’s image. We have an equality of value and being because of that; but then, we’re also co-heirs before Christ. We share equally in the benefits of salvation.
Bob: And in the same verse, where he says, “fellow heirs,” he says she’s the “weaker vessel.” So there’s equality but differentiation. I keep coming back to the fact that little boys have testosterone / little girls have estrogen. That does different things to your body. Why did God design boys to have testosterone and girls to have more estrogen? There’s something, even in the general revelation, that we find that speaks to the idea that you’ve got testosterone to make you stronger and to make you a protector; right?
Denny: Exactly. I think most people sense this to be true. This is sort of encoded in who we are.
Denny: Most people know this; but what’s happening, right now, is a wider culture trying to get people to un-know this so that point of view—on leadership and on roles within marriage—is so counter-cultural today.
So counter-cultural that it’s going to be hard enough just to live—but it will even be harder to stand for and to promote in the public square because people just think that it’s something that’s against human flourishing.
Bob: So the person who says: “Does this really matter? I mean, at the end of the day, if you and your wife want to have one of these marriages—where you’re in charge and she follows you and submits to you—that is fine. If my wife and I want to have a marriage—where I let her take charge of certain things and I take charge of other things—isn’t that okay—for us to just decide how we want to do it and do whatever works best for us?”
Denny: Well, I would ask another question. I would say: “How is this working out for us? Is it working out for us to have a generation of young men who view women as sexual objects?—who view their role more as a taker than as a giver?”
This has a profound effect on who we are, not just as individuals, but as a society—and whether or not there will be human flourishing in our society. I think that it actually benefits us to have strong families—to have men who know how to be men—who know how to be self-sacrificial in the way that they relate to their families, and their churches, and their community—because they’ve learned that, growing up, from their own fathers because that’s the way they’ve lived and that’s the way that they’ve given to their family and to their community.
What we’re raising now, as a kind of egalitarian / genderless ideal is not going to produce that kind of a society. It’s not going to produce those kinds of families. So, I do think that this has a practical effect. I think we’re—actually, we’ve sown to the wind on this; and, right now, we’re reaping the whirlwind in the wider culture.
Dennis: There are those who would be afraid of stepping up and saying, “You know, here’s what the Scriptures clearly teach,” for fear of offending a culture that has, frankly, drunk the poison. You know, they’ve swallowed the lie—hook, line, and sinker.
What would you say to that mom and dad—who are raising a son or daughter and know that, as they raise them to live this way—that’s going to be counter-cultural / that’s not going to be embraced by the world?
Denny: I think this is a moment of real opportunity for us. Yes, we’re in a minority; but we’re a prophetic minority. We have a real opportunity here to bear witness to Jesus. As fathers are laying down their lives for their wives and for their children, that’s an opportunity to stand out—
Denny: —in a world that is going in a completely different direction because, when people see that, they go: “What causes that?! What motivates that?” What it does—actually, what the Bible says—is that “husbands are to love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Husbands are reenacting the gospel in their marriages. It provokes people to ask questions, I think, about the gospel and about “Where does this come from?”
So, this is a moment of opportunity for us to bear witness to a culture that’s going in a totally different direction.
Dennis: I couldn’t agree more. The topic that we’re talking about here: “What is the meaning of sex?” really does begin in the book of beginnings, Genesis, Chapter 1: 26-27. Parents, today, need to understand that helping your son / helping your daughter embrace the God-given identity that He has imprinted in their DNA—that is there from birth—is a part of our assignment, as parents. We need to teach them, from the Scriptures, what it means to be a godly man, and a godly woman, and know how to live counter-culturally because I’m going to tell you something—it’s going to get murkier and muddier than ever before as this culture kind of wallows around in this gender neutrality or multiple-choice gender identity.
Bob: Well, I think, as you understand God’s design for gender and sexuality better, you experience all that that means. You experience the benefits of God’s design more fully.
Dennis: And here’s the thing—don’t you want your boy to grow up knowing: “What a man is and what a man does,”—as God designed it? The same would be for your daughter. Don’t you want her to know: “What a woman is,” / “What is the essence of femininity, as God designed it?” and, “What a woman does”? That’s when you can have a generation of young people who can become the salt and the light to a culture that’s desperately going to need to see Jesus Christ in them.
Bob: Well, and of course, obviously, this is something that we’re going to have to—continue to point people to, to continue to address, to continue to open our Bibles and look at what the Bible says about these matters. A good place to start is with the book that Denny’s written, which is called: What is the Meaning of Sex? because it gets into issues related to, not just sexuality, but gender as well.
We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. Click in the upper left-hand corner of the home page, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order Denny’s book from us, online. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life” and then the word, “TODAY,” and get a copy of Denny’s book sent to you.
I should also mention that all three of us are going to be in Nashville, at the end of October, for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s National Conference, which is dealing with the gospel, homosexuality, and the future of marriage. It’s October 27th-29th. It is at the Opryland Hotel.
Registration is open. So, if folks would like more information about this event and would like to join us—along with a great line-up of speakers—Rosario Butterfield is going to speaking, J.D. Greear, Al Mohler is going to be speaking, Russell Moore, David Platt. Again, you can get the information, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can find out about the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s upcoming conference in Nashville.
Of course, speaking of Al Mohler, this weekend, we are headed to Portland for the I Still Do™ event. Dr. Mohler’s going to be speaking there, along with Dennis and Barbara Rainey, and Crawford and Karen Loritts, and David Nasser, and Ron Deal, and Shaunti Feldhahn. We hope our friends in Portland will come out and join us for the event this weekend at the Moda Center. We still have tickets available.
There are still tickets available for the October 4thI Still Do event in Washington, DC. Information about I Still Do can be found at IStillDo.com.
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We hope you’ll join us back tomorrow. Denny Burk is going to be here again. We’re going to talk about what God had in mind when He invented human sexuality in the first place. I hope you can join us back for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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