After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, …Westminster Confession of Faith 4.2
Perhaps you’ve heard that old, supposedly humorous, story about the two drunken sailors stumbling through a foggy night. A stranger approaches, who, unbeknownst to them, is their commanding officer. They ask: Hey, friend, do you know where we are?? Incensed by their casual approach and disrespect, he gasps: Do you two know WHO I AM?? Well, how surprising to the two drunken sailors that, while their libations were giving them trouble as to their location, someone else could drink enough to forget who he was!
As much as that story might elicit a chuckle, it describes the day in which we live: so much of the cultural lager has been drunk that people are completely forgetting who they are.
There are two ways to attain unto the knowledge of the self. One is to study, as a self, seeking to define, describe, and display exactly what or who one believes himself to be. The other is to approach the maker of self and humbly ask: Who do you say that I am? He has answered that. “Will we believe him?” becomes the question. As one approaches the Confession of Faith, the answer is simplified through the distilling of biblical texts to get at just that question in clear and concise statements. Rather than complicate the matter, the Confession helps us get right at understanding “Who Am I Anyway?!”
As the Confession unfolds, chapter four, paragraph two brings us to the point where we, in a sense, meet ourselves. We immediately find ourselves in the context of the rest of the created order. “After God had made all other creatures, He created man…” To start then, we are created. We are not creators in some spiritual, cosmic way. Yes, people are creative, but we simply form and fashion those things given to us by God in the rest of the creative work that preceded our own making. Fundamentally, this means that there is a separation that is unable to be transcended. He is maker. We are made. He is Creator. We are created.
But, the Confession goes on in describing this creation of people “…male and female…” And here we hit the wall of our contemporary culture. Male and female. For all of the talk of spectrum of gender, and growing lists of supposedly available gender descriptors, all of it, the entire discussion is centered on the two basic sexes given to us in creation: male and female. And, while the growing number of sexual and gender identifiers seeks to present as scientific, the fact remains that the contrary definition and usage by various folk point more to subjective experience and self-definition than to clear, scientific categories with which one may know himself with confidence. In fact, a couple generations of people are now less and less confident in just who or what they are. “Am I Agender, Androgyne, Androgynous, Bigender, Cisgender, Female to Male, Gender Fluid, Gender Nonconforming, Gender Questioning, Gender Variant, Genderqueer, Intersex, Male to Female, Non-binary, Pangender, Transsexual, or Two-Spirit?” This self-uncertainty is seen very clearly in the self-annihilation we find with increasing regularity. “I don’t know what I am, therefore should I even be?!”
How would you handle one who comes to you for help? How would you counsel another struggling with their identity and experience? Where would you go to begin to lead them to the truth? Does the self-definition revolution mean that the Church is now outdated in her definitions and prescriptions? Absolutely not. With love and hope, we can sit with those experiencing these grave uncertainties, questioning who or what they even are, unclear on how to define, describe, and, consequently, display oneself, and soberly point them to the truth of Scripture summarized in WCF 4.2. Remind this one that God has made him exactly as He intended him to be. Does this mean all will experience a life free of questioning, doubts, or confusion? No. But it does mean that clarity is possible. Definition is reliable. Therefore, one’s self is knowable, not because I have defined myself, but because, in the Scripture, I stand face to face with the one who knows me and has defined me, because He has made me.