I found that many of the words associated with the topics of Human Sexuality and Redeemed Personhood have been altered to the point of having no real usefulness in communicating at all. Therefore, I begin with a post of essential definitions of the terms and words that will be used throughout this series.
The term humanity refers to the collective whole of the human race. Humanity includes all of the human beings that have ever existed, do now exist, or will ever exist. I am using the word as a logical term representing a singular concept that encompasses all human-beings that have ever lived in all time and all places.
Being means existence. A human being, therefore, is one that has human-existence. Being can also mean the nature or essence of something. A human-being is any, all, and only creatures created in the image of God. A human being is composed of soul, spirit, and body (Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Thess. 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).
By person, I mean a being or an individual that has moral, rational, volitional, and relational capabilities intrinsic to their essence – whether they are created (as in human-persons) or eternally self-existent (as in the Trinitarian Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Human persons are image-bearing creatures; that is, they bear the image of God. The term human-person includes – both acknowledged-persons and embryonic-persons.
By acknowledged persons, I mean individuals (people) that are philosophically acknowledged to be persons. I mean those individuals that have the capabilities of rationality, moral reason, volition, and consciousness/self-consciousness. By acknowledged persons, I also mean legal persons. Legal persons are individuals who are protected by the laws of nations, governments, legislation, and societies (Genesis 9:6).
Embryonic persons are actual persons, but not always acknowledged persons. Embryonic persons are those persons that have not yet experienced their own intrinsic (essential to the nature of) personhood. Although an embryonic person exists in a ‘seed state’ of experiential personhood, within that seed is a human person created in the image of God that has moral, rational, volitional, and relational capabilities intrinsic to his or her essence (Psalm 139; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15).
From the outset it is crucial to understand that the image of God does not evolve or develop in a person – it is what makes a person – a person. God is the ultimate Person, the ultimate Being. He is the one that put the person into personhood, the being into a being human (human-beings). He did this by imprinting his image onto our souls. At the point in time in which a new-being that bears the image of God comes into existence – we have a human-person, a human-being. The defining trait of humanity is image-bearing. It is what separates us from the rest of the created order (Genesis 1:26-28,3:20, 5:1, 9:4-6).
It is obvious that an embryonic person has yet to develop into full experiential personhood. However, embryonic persons are no less real human-persons than fully matured persons are, since personhood is about bearing the image of God, and not about the full experiential expression of that image. (And really, an idea like unfulfilled experiential personhood makes sense, if we think about it. The only human-person that ever fully experienced or expressed the image of God in human form was Jesus Christ – the only Begotten of the Father, the Incarnate Word.) (Exodus 21:22-25; Judges 13:4-6; Psalm 139:13-16; Luke 1:15, 31-35, 44; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 1:1-4).
Human sexuality is one of the two divinely created sexual states-of-being (human being) that intrinsically and inextricably belong to a male human-being image-bearer or a female human-being image-bearer. Human sexuality is possessed from the point of conception. The term encompasses the biological (genetic/physical), psychological (mental/emotional), as well as the spiritual dimensions and properties uniquely and particularly characteristic to and of human-males and human-females. The term itself does not refer directly to the social, cultural, or functional expressions of the distinctions within the human-bisexuality (male / female distinction), but it may carry the connotation of such concepts (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:5-25).
Gender is technically the sexual state of either being male or female. However, the term carries with it the heavy connotation of the social and cultural out-workings of human sexuality. As such, the term is subject to changes in its meaning that correspond to the social and cultural constructions and deconstructions of sexuality and activity. Gender is frequently used in the context of a person’s sexual orientation, identity, preferences, behavior, or practices.
Sexual essence has to do with the intrinsic nature and indispensable qualities of our sexuality – it specifically refers to the abstract dimension of our sexuality, but obviously the term includes the physical / biological implications of our sexuality as well.
Sexual ethic has to do with how we affirm, deny, apply, and evaluate the moral appropriateness of our sexual practices and activities as sexual-relational beings. As Christians, we have God’s word as the standard by which we make those evaluations.
This post series is primarily concerned with the sexual essence of humanity – i.e., what it means to be a male image-bearer or a female image-bearer. I hope these definitions help us as we consider these topics.
Other posts in the Human Sexuality & Redeemed Personhood Series:
Next Post: The Image of God 101.