Judith Butler’s Theory of Gender Performativity: A Christian Response


Jordan B. Cooper

Article ID:



Apr 17, 2024


Apr 10, 2024

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​Since the release of the now famous Vanity Fair article in 2015 in which former male track star Bruce Jenner was revealed as female-identifying Caitlyn Jenner, a rapid and forceful campaign to redefine the nature of human gender has infiltrated nearly every influential American institution.1 From media to public education to social media campaigns, the American populace has been told from nearly every angle that the traditional distinction between male and female that is nearly universal in human cultural experience is mistaken.2 It did not take long for public conversation to move from a discussion of gender dysphoria, which refers to men experiencing confusion or distress about perceiving themselves as women and vice versa, to the contention that gender does not exist at all in any objective sense, and that, therefore, human persons can simply claim to be whatever gender they so desire. Further, it is asserted that there is a moral duty of all citizens to refer to people by their chosen pronouns, thereby affirming that gender identity is a matter of subjective social determination.

Many have wondered how such a radical claim has been adopted so quickly in so many areas of Western society. The reality is that though the public discourse has changed very quickly, these changes are, in some significant measure, the result of ideas and movements that developed over many decades. Multitudinous factors, including the beginnings of feminism in the nineteenth-century, the divorce between sex and procreation brought about by the birth control pill and other reproductive technologies, and the decline of marriage are at play here.3 With regard to academic authors and activists involved in our current cultural climate in this regard, perhaps no name is more significant than that of Judith Butler.

An activist, professor of both comparative literature and philosophy, and a widely read-author, Butler has impacted a variety of academic fields and activist organizations. Through her many writings (both books and essays), she has touched on a variety of topics related to LGBTQ studies, geopolitical events, and American civil policy. The idea for which she is most widely known is that of gender performativity, whereby she argues that gender differences are not metaphysically essential, but socially constituted, as they consist in a series of ritual actions and roles.4

This essay explains the basic thesis set forth by Butler, primarily in her influential 1990 work Gender Trouble,5 and provides a Christian response to her contentions. Later works of Butler’s are referenced for the sake of clarification regarding her earlier book, as she continues to develop and expand upon the ideas initially set forth in that work. As there is much to be said on a thinker who has written so much material, this essay does not, and cannot, be comprehensive in scope. It focuses narrowly on the most fundamental claim of Butler: that gender is not essential to the human person, but is socially constructed, and is, therefore, performative and malleable.


While the various waves of feminism are themselves rather broad (encapsulating a variety of views and thinkers within them), there are some general agreed-upon ideas among the various thinkers within each wave. Butler shifts some of the most fundamental talking points of second wave feminist authors, and thereby moves from a binary to a fluid conception of gender and sex.

In her often-cited book The Second Sex, influential second-wave feminist Simone de Beauvoir famously states that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”6 While this phrase is often misunderstood by modern readers as a denial of the objectivity of the female sex, Beauvoir was referring to social expectations of womanhood, rather than womanhood as such in this quote. For second wave feminists, there is a distinction between the female sex and the social expectations of womanhood. While the former is not subjective and changing, the latter is.

The problem, according to Beauvoir, is that the expectations for womanhood in a proper society are all based on a negative identity. As the phrase “second sex” connotes, the female is defined as the “other” — the one who is not male. In other words, “male” is that which defines universal humanity in a positive sense, rather than female. This is reflected, for example, in the Christian portrayal of God as masculine.7 According to Beauvoir, Christianity teaches young girls that both divine and human authorities are necessarily male. This re-enforces oppression of the female sex, with the woman’s psyche being socially conditioned to think of herself as lesser and as incapable of leading in public life. This social conditioning includes a number of rituals and ideas taught to women at different stages of life. From birth to death, Western society reinforces male hegemony, and thus continually points women to their lesser status in society. Female liberation, for Beauvoir, consists primarily in divorcing the female sex from those cultural expectations that are imposed from patriarchal society, rather than necessitated by a woman’s nature.8 In other words, for second-wave feminists, women can exude strength, authority, and dominance as well as men can. The only reason people think this not to be the case is due to artificially enforced gender expectations.

It is this foundational differentiation between sex and gender performance that lies at the root of Beauvoir’s ideas that Butler overthrows in her system.9 For Butler, there is no essential gender at all underneath these social expectations of manhood and womanhood, as gender is performance based on social ritual. It is not, therefore, that a woman’s essence or sex must be differentiated from social expectations of womanhood, but that the notion of anything actually inherent about womanhood at all should be discarded. The quest for liberation, in this approach, is not only one of challenging feminine stereotypes or male-dominated power structures, but of challenging the construct of gender in toto. Much of modern gender theory grows out of Butler’s conviction on this issue.10


Butler’s construction of gender arises out of a particular approach to the nature of humanity. Regarding human nature, Butler often critiques what she calls a “metaphysic of substance.”11 In this essentialist framework, there is an objective universal essence of what constitutes humanity, which has both universal attributes (common to all people), and then particular ones (differentiated among individuals and people groups). Men and women both share in universal humanity but differ in the particular attributes of masculinity and femininity.12

It is what is referred to as this metaphysic of substance that is taken for granted within the classical Christian idea of personhood. Across Christian traditions there is broad agreement that the human race has a real and universal essence that is capable of objective definition. As one example, Lutheran theologian David Hollaz gives the following definition of humans: “Man is an animal, consisting of a rational soul and an organic body, framed by God, and endowed at the first creation with God’s own image, in order that he might 1) sincerely worship the creator, 2) live a godly life, and 3) attain eternal happiness.”13

This kind of essential unity of human nature in Christian thought is foundational for three primary reasons. First, there must be a universal human essence for humanity to have fallen in Adam. It is the essential connectedness of all people in the first man that allows for Adam’s unique representative status. Without a unity of nature, there is no explanation of the universal condition of sin. Second, it is the unity of the human race that establishes the dignity and value of each person. Third, it is only if there is a unified human essence that the eternal Logos could assume a human nature and redeem the world.

For Butler, however, this idea of an objective universal humanity is mistaken. She discusses this in her treatment of identity in which she argues for a “radical rethinking” of philosophical models of the human subject.14 In a classical Western view, each person is an individual self-existing subject. There is an actual coherent and self-consistent identity each man or woman has that extends through their lifetime (and beyond). This is due to the fact that humans are not merely physical biological beings, but also spiritual ones. In the midst of change, whether of the body or of social circumstance, each individual has a persistent soul.15 One remains the same fundamental “self” in all stages of life. Butler, in contrast to this, contends that ideas of a self are merely “socially instituted and maintained norms of intelligibility.”16 In other words, the “self” is merely a social construct that is used by human beings because it is the only way in which the world becomes comprehensible to us. Citing Michel Haar, Butler argues that the psychological self — “the ego, the individual, the person” — is nothing but an illusion.17 This is an outgrowth of Jacques Derrida’s idea of différance, wherein it is contended that words do not point to objective realities beyond themselves, but merely reference other words. Language is a self-referential system of difference and deferral, which creates a coherent pattern of human linguistic interaction, but does not have access to any objective or universal truths beyond itself.18 Thus, talk of “self” is merely a way to linguistically categorize experiences, and to frame the context for other words and interactions. It has no objective existence outside of the framework of language.

It is within this post-structuralist approach to language that Butler further argues that if the human subject is not objectively constituted, then neither is gender. Just as human subjects do not actually “exist” in any essential way, gender does not exist either. She summarizes this saying, “abiding substance is a fictive construction through compulsory ordering of attributes into coherent gender sequences.”19 Butler’s argument here is that humans have taken a series of disconnected attributes, placed them in some kind of coherent order, and then identified the possessing of some of these attributes with being male, and the others with being female. This is merely a socio-linguistic categorization, rather than a metaphysical or biological one. These socio-linguistic labels, for Butler, are rooted in performance.


For Butler, doing is being. If there is no coherent subject that exists behind a person’s actions, as Butler contends, then what constitutes a person is those actions. Gender, therefore, is “always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to preexist the deed.”20 Societies have social roles and expectations. These show themselves through various rituals by which discourse occurs. In these discursive interactions, certain pieces of clothing, for example, may be identified as those of a male or of a female. Similarly, there are different actions, interests, or behaviors, which might be similarly distributed based upon gender. A performative notion of gender contends that when such rituals are engaged in on a repeated basis, then one has now become whatever that social role is. One who engages in the behavior of “woman” through such rituals now is a woman, regardless of what their biological or psychological constitution might be.21

Butler’s idea here differs significantly from that commonly found in contemporary discourse in which it is contended that there is some kind of inherent internal psychological gender identity that may be at odds with the biological construction of the body.22 The belief that some individuals have a male brain or an inner psychological self that is at odds with their female body (or vice versa) is, to some degree, still a metaphysic of substance. This assumes that there is some fundamental unitary idea of man or woman in which the brain partakes. For Butler, there are no male or female brains, just as there are no male or female bodies. An admission of a biological basis of the female is, for Butler, to “defeat the feminist premise that biology is not destiny.”23 With regard to gender identity, Butler argues that “there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its result.”24 What Butler argues for is self-creation. Rather than nature placing limits upon human persons, the constructed nature of all linguistic and social categories allows for the total domination of biology and destiny by human persons.

This is precisely the opposite of the Christian view of human nature and destiny. In the Genesis account of creation, there is no mere humanity in the abstract, but there is a man and a woman.25 The “gender binary” is not some incidental element of theological anthropology but remains the very means by which humanity is first explicated in the Garden of Eden. God created Adam as male, and He created Eve as female (Gen. 1:27). This distinction shows itself through the entire biblical narrative, from distinct laws given to men and women in the theocratic Mosaic administration (Lev. 18) to the Pauline discourse surrounding interaction between men and women in the church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), to the primary metaphor of God’s relationship to His people in both Old and New Testaments: Yahweh as the husband to His bride, the church (Eph. 5:25). In created gendered existence (and there is no other), humans are bound to their bodies, because those are the limits that God Himself has placed upon the human race.

Limits are essential to human nature. Though created in righteousness, and with the blessing of imaging God in the world, Adam and Eve were given limits as to what they were allowed to do within the Garden-sanctuary of Eden. While told to partake of the blessings of the land, they were forbidden from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 3:3). This tree was a reminder of the finitude and inherent limitations of Adam and Eve (and consequently of humanity as a whole). While God is limitless, human persons are not. It is precisely the temptation to overcome such limits that Satan brings to Eve in telling her that through disobedience she would “be like God” (Gen. 3:5 NKJV). The denial of limits and the desire for domination over the self and the created order is the very essence of sin. The idea, therefore, that gender stands over and above biological reality is a carnal denial of human finitude, and a fruitless attempt at human self-divinization.

The Performative Speech-Act

Despite the radical division between a Butlerian philosophical approach and a self-consciously Confessional Christian one, there is a figure who is a joint influence for both Butler’s system and the theological writings of some contemporary Christian thinkers such as Lutheran theologian Robert Kolb,26Reformed author Michael Horton, 27and John L. Austin. With his 1962 book How to Do Things with Words, Austin proposed that language has the power not only to describe reality, but also to enact it.28 These ideas, as part of the general linguistic shift in the twentieth century, are incorporated into ideologically diverse systems with divergent applications in each. An explanation of the impact of Austin’s ideas in both Butler and Confessional theology illuminates some of the primary points of difference between these systems.

The essence of Austin’s thesis is that language is not always merely descriptive but is also performative. Much of our speech is “constative,” meaning that it is used to state things that are the case (i.e., “I painted my house white”). Other language, however, is effective, or performative. The term “performative” here references verbal utterances that not only describe but actually create a new situation. Austin’s primary example is the giving of a promise. If I make a promise to a friend, I create a bond and obligation between myself and the one with whom I have made the agreement. Another common example of this is marriage. The vows given in a wedding ceremony create obligations to one’s spouse. Further, the pronouncement of the presiding party that the man and woman are husband and wife now enacts this marriage. Through the words uttered, the man and woman have actually become husband and wife. A third example is found in the words of a judge presiding over a court case. The declaration of a judge that one is either innocent or guilty actually establishes innocence or guilt within a legal setting.

While Butler draws on Austin’s ideas here, she applies them in quite different contexts than the British philosopher did.29 For Austin, speech acts are a kind of performance. These performative utterances create new social realities, such as the contracts mentioned prior. Butler contends that gender, like these speech-acts, is constituted by performance. Just as a contract is a social bond created by locutionary acts, so is gender a social category created by ritual acts. Gender, for Butler, is not created by mere speech, however. There is more to womanhood than simply declaring, “I am a woman,” in some singular instance.30

Austin distinguishes between three elements of the speech-act: locution, illocution, and perlocution. The first, locution, refers to the use of the words themselves. In the example of a wedding, this would be the words “I do.” The illocution refers to the intended meaning and effect of the words spoken within the accepted social context. To simply say “I do” in any random circumstance does not create a marital bond between a man and woman. Speech-acts are not magic spells that simply do something when the proper words are spoken. In the same way, for Butler, the claim that one is a man, woman, or something else must also include intentionality on the part of the speaker, along with the understood social structures and context of that gender. With gender, this means repeated ritual actions that signal that gender in society. The third element of the speech act, perlocution, refers to the effect of the act. The perlocution of marriage vows is that the couple is now viewed by society as married. For Butler’s gender-performativity, the perlocution is that the one who performs gendered acts is then taken by society to be that particular gender.

Christian theologians who cite Austin use him in quite a different sense than Butler does here. The incorporation of Austin’s ideas in the theological realm has largely been within a Lutheran theological context, as writers like Oswald Bayer notice similarities between Austin’s performative speech-acts and Martin Luther’s idea of the efficacious Word of God.31 In Luther’s understanding of the divine Word, God’s speech does not only reveal divine truths as a series of doctrines for the purpose of intellectual assent (comparable to Austin’s constative speech), but also creates realities within the world.32 The roots of this are in the opening chapter of Genesis, wherein the reader is told that the divine words, “let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), results in the existence of light. Such performativity is clear in many other places, such as Jesus’ command to Lazarus to rise, which then results in his resurrection from death (John 11:43). In these, and other, instances God’s speech is not only descriptive but active.

There is, then, a sense in which this move to linguistics is a rather Christian shift in philosophy. Christianity is a religion of language. Creation came about through speech (Gen. 1:3). God revealed Himself through the written words of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). A significant element of Christian gathering and worship is preaching and the recitation of words (2 Tim. 4:2). God the Son is Himself called “the Word” (John 1:1). Further, along with audible locution, the church has performative ceremonies. The sacraments of the church are rituals in which God actually does something to the receiver. In Baptism, a new reality is established between the baptized and God, as well as between the baptized and the church. There is, however, a significant distinction between the Christian idea of performative acts and the Butlerian one: metaphysical realism.

In a Christian view, the temporal social order is rooted in divine order. A marriage is not merely a social contract between two consenting individuals, but is a divinely appointed covenant.33 When the one presiding over a marriage ceremony declares that a man and woman are husband and wife, it is God who secures this through the words of the one speaking. The baptismal formula, the words of institution in Holy Communion, and the proclaimed Word in the pulpit are all similar instances of God’s action brought about through a human subject, rather than a mere social ritual. When a judge declares guilt or innocence, he or she is enacting a judgment given by the delegation of authority granted by God.

Those actions in which a reality is brought about by performative speech in a Christian approach are those that God has explicitly granted. He has given authority to the state over certain areas related to public temporal life, has given the family authority over others, and has then granted the church the authority to grant new life through the words of Scripture and the divinely appointed sacramental rituals as means of grace.

There is and has been no delegated authority to any human institution to alter the fundamental elements of God’s creation, such as the nature of the sexes. Butler’s gender performativity undercuts God’s authoritative declarations by claiming that there is no divine order at all. With a denial of metaphysical realism, Butler argues that there is nothing underneath social order. Social order is all that there is. If this is indeed the case, then there are no borders or limits to which humans are bound. We, then, can control our own destinies and create reality in our own image. Two ideologies could not possibly be more diametrically opposed than that of Christianity and of Butlerian performative gender theory.


The writings of Butler may seem a bit esoteric for the average thinking Christian, and thus may seem to be of no significant concern. While these writings may indeed lack value in terms of academic rigor or logical coherence, the church must be ready to interact with someone who has such an impact upon the views of young people within our pews — even though most have not actually heard the name Judith Butler. What was once viewed as a radical fringe element within academia in the early 1990s became the accepted norm for social interaction within a period of thirty years. Had we been paying more attention earlier, perhaps the church could have done more to slow the tide.

Nonetheless, it does no good to ponder what might have been, as there is no changing the nature of the current situation. At present, there is immense pressure put upon Christians to affirm an ideology that is opposed to everything that our faith stands for. In the interest of what is deemed to be kindness, some have called for so-called “pronoun hospitality” in which the Christian is called to use an individual’s preferred pronouns regardless of their actual sex.34 This is a complete capitulation to the Butlerian view of gender. The entire premise of this post-structuralist attack on the divinely created distinction between men and women is based on the use of speech as an act of resistance against Christian patriarchal hegemony. To use a pronoun that does not reflect the actual God-given sex of an individual is to implicitly affirm that questions of gender are indeed those of personal preference and of societal creation, and thus to engage in resistance against the Christian West. This is especially the case with “neo-pronouns,” where people move beyond the supposed gender binary, choosing to use identifying terms like xe/xem/zir or it/its/itself, which are an explicit affirmation of the existence of genders that are neither male nor female. To use pronouns that do not accord with reality is to deny the divine order, affirm the authority of humanity over and against God-given creaturely limits, to align with the very anti-Christian ideology that is attempting to demolish the Christian West, and to speak dishonestly.

To clarify here, it is not my contention that Christians must seek to offend with language that is used toward those who identify as genders that are incommensurate with their biological makeup. Scripture repeatedly calls for Christians to treat others with honor, respect, and love. This is not to be done, however, at the expense of truth. The balance between these two callings (to be people of both love and truth) can be difficult to navigate, but it is incumbent upon every Christian to do so as faithfully as possible. Regarding this issue, it is wise to simply avoid using pronouns at all when meeting someone who tells you about their gender identity, rather than loudly and boldly referring to a person as “he,” when a biological male claims to be a “she.” Avoiding being argumentative and unnecessarily offensive does not mean, however, affirming a lie. Christians must remain steadfast on this issue, whatever the consequences might be.

What’s at Stake

Judith Butler is a thinker that Christians should be acquainted with due to her influence on both the academy and accepted ideas in the broader culture. Without understanding the ideological foundations of the issues that the church currently faces, Christians will be ill-equipped to discuss issues at their root. When dealing only on an issue-by-issue basis without interacting with core ideologies of current challenges, one of two problems is likely to arise: either the issues will not be sufficiently dealt with because the core point of disagreement is not actually identified, or ideas that flow from a broken foundation will be naïvely adopted because their roots are not recognized. Thus, it is necessary that the thought of Butler and similar thinkers is analyzed and distilled so that Christians are able to recognize when her influence is present.

The core of the issue with Butler here from a Christian perspective is rather straightforward. She denies the objective existence of any transcendent order through which there are objective standards that give value to, define, and limit human nature. Therefore, without an essential human nature, there are no limits to what human persons can claim about themselves and attempt to be. That which claims to free humanity from biological or theological constraints ultimately devalues men and women. It claims that there is no soul, no divine image, and no eternal purpose. Christianity claims, by contrast, that one who is infinite — the eternal Logos — took upon Himself human finitude and limits, and through those limits, set men and women free from sin, death, and hell in order to bring us into God’s eternal and perfect order. It tells us that whatever struggles we might have about identity, gender, or anything else are only temporary, and that all will be made right in the world to come.

Jordan B. Cooper is the Executive Director of Just & Sinner, President of American Lutheran Theological Seminary, and an ordained Lutheran pastor. He is currently writing a book on philosophers who have shaped the modern world.



  1. Buzz Bissinger, “Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story,” Vanity Fair, June 25, 2015. Another significant event in the bringing about of these conversations among the general public was the premiere of the reality television series I Am Jazz in the same year, which stars a child in the midst of gender transition.
  2. The claim of the social universality of the gender binary has often been criticized on the basis of a third gender category of the “two-spirit” people in Native American societies. The term “two-spirit” is not a historic one, as it was only coined at the third annual international LGBT Native American Gathering in Winnipeg, Canada in 1990 as an umbrella term for native people who do not conform to strict Western gender norms. Much of the discussion here surrounds the “berdache,” who were a group of men in the southeastern United States (though not exclusively) that dressed like women and carried out women’s duties. These men supposedly did not marry, and served the same role that eunuchs did in other societies. There is a significant difference between men who take upon themselves the social roles of women, and a denial of any clear and objective difference between men and women. See Gregory D. Smithers, “Cherokee ‘Two Spirits’: Gender, Ritual, and Spirituality in the Native South,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12, 3 (2014): 626–51, https://doi.org/10.1353/eam.2014.0023; and Traci Ardren, “Studies of Gender in the Prehispanic Americas,” Journal of Archaeological Research 16, 1 (2007): 1–35, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-007-9016-9.
  3. Carl Trueman provides a helpful genealogy of some of these ideas in Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020).
  4. It is for this reason that the majority of the citations in this essay are from the earlier part of Gender Trouble (see note 5), which lays out this basic thesis. Other themes, such as her take on heteronormativity, patriarchy, and marginalization are not addressed directly in this essay, as they merit a fuller treatment on their own.
  5.  Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1990).
  6. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (London: Vintage Classics, 1949).
  7. Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 303–304.
  8. Terrell Carver writes, “This commonplace, considered by many to be foundational to modern feminism, was the sex-gender distinction: bodily sex is biologically given, whereas social behavior derived from it and thus corresponding to it — was malleable.” Terrell Carver, “Judith Butler (1956–),” in Alex Callinicos, Eustache Kouvélakis, and Lucia Pradella, Routledge Handbook of Marxism and Post-Marxism (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2021), 439.
  9. This foundational differentiation is now what is commonly described as the difference between “sex” as that which is biological, and “gender” as that which is either mental or social. The word “gender” has only recently become common, with John Money popularizing the term in the 1950s. It increased significantly in use in the 1980s but has been defined in completely different ways in both popular media and academic literature. For Money’s treatment, see J. Money, J. G. Hampson, and J. L. Hampson, “Imprinting and the Establishment of Gender Role,” Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry 77 (1957): 333–36. For a history of the modern use of the term “gender” and its difference from sex, see C. L. Muehlenhard, Z. D. Peterson, “Distinguishing between Sex and Gender: History, Current Conceptualizations, and Implications,” Sex Roles 64 (2011): 791–803, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-9932-5.
  10. Butler does, however, try to argue that her own approach to gender has some precedent in Beauvoir. She writes: “There is nothing in her account that guarantees that the ‘one’ who becomes a woman is necessarily female.” Butler, Gender Trouble, 11.
  11. This critique of the metaphysic of substance comes from Friedrich Nietzsche. A helpful article on Nietzsche’s denial of the consistent subject is Galen Strawson’s “Nietzsche’s Metaphysics?,” in Nietzsche on Mind and Nature, ed. Manuel Dries and P. J. E. Kail (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  12. Butler, Gender Trouble, 13–14.
  13. Cited in Revere Franklin Weidner, Anthropology, or the Doctrine of Man (Chicago: Wartburg, 1912), 3.
  14. Butler, Gender Trouble, 15.
  15. For an overview and defense of the Christian concept of the soul, see J. P. Moreland, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014).
  16. Butler, Gender Trouble, 23.
  17. Butler, Gender Trouble, 28.
  18. For a longer discussion of Derrida, see Jordan Cooper, In Defense of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful: On the Loss of Transcendence and the Decline of the West (Ithaca, NY: Just and Sinner, 2020).
  19. Butler, Gender Trouble, 33.
  20. Butler, Gender Trouble, 34.
  21. This is what stands behind the well-known interaction between documentarian Matt Walsh and Gender Studies professor Patrick Grzanka, wherein Grzanka defines a woman as “a person who identifies as a woman.” There is no essence of “woman” behind the linguistic identifier. Therefore, there simply is no definition of woman. What Is a Woman? Documentary, directed by Justin Folk, edited by Jarrod Leesland, Nashville: The Daily Wire, 2022.
  22. As one example: Lee Schubert, “Just a Woman with a Male Body,” HuffPost, updated October 23, 2016, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/just-a-woman-with-a-male-body_b_580a1b9de4b0f8715789f938.
  23. Butler, Gender Trouble, 41.
  24. Butler, Gender Trouble, 34.
  25. There is certainly a universal essence of humanity in which both men and women share, but this essence is always instantiated in individual gendered persons. As a parallel for this, think about the color red. While there is a universal idea that is “red,” anything you can point to that is red is not the universal color en abstracto, but is a singular instantiation of red in a specific object that has particular attributes (the object is a certain shape, shade, texture, etc.).
  26. Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008).
  27. Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
  28. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words (London: Oxford University Press, 1962).
  29. A good summary of Austin along with Butler’s relationship to him can be found in: Stephen Young, “Judith Butler: Performativity,” Critical Legal Thinking, November 14, 2016, https://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/11/14/judith-butlers-performativity/.
  30. This criticism was leveled at Butler after the publication of Gender Trouble, and she has repeatedly corrected this misunderstanding, especially in her book, Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (London: Routledge, 1993).
  31. Oswald Bayer, Jeffrey G. Silcock, and Mark C. Mattes, Theology the Lutheran Way, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007).
  32. Kolb and Arand, Genius of Luther’s Theology, 131–60.
  33. Charles Taylor catalogs this move away from the divine order in the understanding of modern society in his masterwork, Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2007).
  34. “What Pronouns Should Christians Use for Transgender People?,” The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender, June 16, 2018, https://www.centerforfaith.com/blog/what-pronouns-should-christians-use-for-transgender-people. 
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