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  • Sam Ashton

"For Christ and His Kingdom" Thank you Latimer trust!

Thanks to the Latimer Trust, I am now in my second year of a Ph.D in Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College, Chicago. I’m primarily researching the theological and moral significance of sexual dimorphism. In short, why has God made us male and female? So what for life today? How do we account theologically for intersexed bodies (often the ‘put-down’ argument in debates about trans-sexuality)? The project has a redemptive-historical shape (creation-fall-redemption-new creation), integrating key biblical passages with important voices from church history (notably Irenaeus, Nyssa, Augustine, and Aquinas). This research was motivated by pressing questions during my curacy, both pastoral and evangelistic. I hope to return back into Anglican pastoral ministry at the end of my studies.

In setting up my project and demonstrating the need to get back into the Scriptures, I have recently written on the “one-sex theory.” Some contemporary advocates for sexual polymorphism (i.e. intersexed persons are neither male nor female, but a discrete, third sex) argue that when we pay attention to the cultural and historical context of the Bible it becomes evident that biblical authors did not think in terms of a male/female binary (in fact a Modern social construct). Rather, in the cognitive environment of the ANE and Graeco-Roman world, the thinking was that everyone was male to a greater of lesser degree. Certain progressive theologians, some of whom are involved with Living in Love and Faith, have appropriated and adapted this one-sex theory to argue that we should read the Bible as the cultural and historical context demands: with one-sex glasses, abolishing male/female exclusivity, complementarity, and heteronormativity.

In response, I have drawn upon the secular scholarship of classicists and medical historians to query the universality of the one-sex theory, undermining the appropriateness of any one-sex appropriation for biblical hermeneutics. This establishes our need to get back into the Bible to discern more accurately the significance of the sexed body. As such, I’m currently exploring Genesis 1-2, engaging with arguments that suggest male/female is not a paradigm of fixity but a prototype of fecundity; male/female are bipolar (opposite poles on a continuum, but with ‘other’ sexed bodies as discrete categories in between) rather than necessarily dimorphic (everyone is either female or male). In response, I’m analysing how Genesis 1-2 has been read by the rest of the canon, as well as asking the important theological question, what is the impact of the Fall on the sexed body, both ontologically and epistemologically? Here, I am finding Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas extremely insightful.

The Latimer Grant has also enabled me to learn research languages, as well as participate in doctoral seminars on the Doctrine of Creation (Dr. Cortez); Knowing God in Aquinas (Dr. Levering); Christology (Dr. Treier); Justification (Dr. Moo). The breadth and depth offered at Wheaton goes towards fulfilling their motto of raising up scholarly-servants “for Christ and His Kingdom.” I must thank the Latimer Trust for making it possible for me to be here.

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