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EFAC Australia

General

A Brief History of Gender and its Significance

Daniel Patterson

Dan Patterson is an Australian writing a PhD on gender at the University of Aberdeen School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. He co-ordinates www.embraceidentity.org

Introduction

The topic of gender has recently captured the public’s attention. One reason for this is the radical attempt by some organisations and theorists to “queer” gender. What follows describes, albeit in brief, the historical and theoretical backstory that has lead to the development and use of queer theory to achieve this end. Evangelical responses to this issue will be greatly enriched by better understanding the history that has brought us to this point. This article is not an attempt to engage the debate, but is focussed on the more modest task of explaining the historical and theoretical parameters of the debate. 

A Very Brief History

Questioning gender norms in the past has catalysed significant changes to culturally embedded gender norms. Following is a brief recount of how gender has been under question for over 100 years, and how each new wave of questioning of gender norms can be characterised by distinct emphases falling under the broad banner called feminism. The historical questioning of gender norms can be divided broadly into three feminist waves, each offering a depth of social analysis the previous wave did not achieve. 
It is not accurate to say that queer theory is feminism or even a kind of feminism, but one is able to identify queer theorisation as having emerged from and in response to perceived inadequacies of a particular formulation of feminism of the 1980s.1  

This issue of Essentials seems to be dominated by Bishops and Academics. And it is very encouraging on that account. Bishops are called on to teach the scriptures and exhort with wholesome doctrine. Christian academics ought to be students of God's word who in turn can teach others, clarifying, explaining, exhorting others to be hearers and doers of God's word.

Such encouragement is always needed, not least in the present. Conflict is part of our lives. Unfortunately often within the life of the church. Many are confused by disputes within the church. And increasingly by debates in the wider community. Some have abandoned their loyalty to the scriptures in the face of friends who live in ways they once would have seen as inconsistent with the Bible.

Confusion and conflict sometimes make retreat attractive. Which is a pity since there are many pressing issues in our society to which Christians can make important contributions: indigenous issues; the environment; refugees; family life; economics; politics even.

Confusion and conflict sometimes expose our insecurity and lead to ungracious and unhelpful ways of responding. We have much to be thankful for in the examples of brothers and sisters who speak winsomely and clearly about many of these matters. Not least the bishops, academics, and ordinary folk who keep on speaking the gospel in the sure and certain hope that God's gospel is still the way people come to know the living God.

With an election and possible plebiscite ahead, we should pray for those who have opportunities to speak (all of us in fact) that we will do so graciously, clearly and boldly.

To look through the collection, see the article list on the left. Publishing of Essentials is made possible by a paid membership so if you're not currently a paid-up member/subscriber we encourage you to become one so we can continue to fund this very worthwhile journal. Our Membership form is here.

The One and the Many

There is always a struggle to see what we share with those strangers who are our neighbours. How can we find truth and love in these conflicts with our multiplicities?

Dale Appleby

Some in the social sciences have observed the decline of the old seventeenth century liberal theory that individual reason and individual need could explain all aspects of the social order. Instead of a universal human nature shared by all people, 'culture theory' said that there were multiple ways of being human, all of which could only be understood in their context. Religion replaced by rationalism. Rationalism replaced by multiple and equally valid ways of being human.

To look through the collection, see the article list on the left. Publishing of Essentials is made possible by a paid membership so if you're not currently a paid-up member/subscriber we encourage you to become one so we can continue to fund this very worthwhile journal. Our Membership form is here.

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