On Gender and the Soul

(3 customer reviews)

$20.00

Is the soul gendered? While various answers to this question have been finding their way into mainstream Christian media over the past few years, the question itself has remained unasked – and the broader implications inherent in our answer to it have been left unconsidered. On Gender and the Soul by Benjamin Cabe is an in-depth exploration of sex/gender and its relation to the soul with the intention of drawing out the teachings of the Church Fathers on the subject and applying in today’s world.

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Is the soul gendered? While various answers to this question have been finding their way into mainstream Christian media over the past few years, the question itself has remained unasked – and the broader implications inherent in our answer to it have been left unconsidered. On Gender and the Soul by Benjamin Cabe is an in-depth exploration of sex/gender and its relation to the soul with the intention of drawing out the teachings of the Church Fathers on the subject and applying in today’s world.

Benjamin Cabe presents an outstanding survey of the teachings of the patristic writers of undivided Christianity and the modern elders of the Orthodox Tradition, demonstrating their consensus on the nature of the human soul – and the specific examination of the soul’s relation to gender, the body, and sex. It is a seminal work of great value to scholar and novice, teacher and student, pastor and parishioner, physician and patient, in the midst of modern theories on gender issues. The patristic teachings presented herein will equip the reader with the Church’s guidance on the subject of sex and gender, amidst the contemporary cacophony of confusing opinions. I am confident that this book will promote needed and helpful dialogue and will contribute to spiritual healing, human thriving, and theosis. — Archbishop Michael (Dahulich), Rector of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

This concise but erudite overview of the “theology of the soul” is opportune, in light of modern gender theories; here, Cabe reveals not only how an Orthodox understanding of human nature is essential within Christian theology, but also how it applies to the healing of persons experiencing gender dysphoria within the context of the Church. This work will be an insightful resource for faithful Christians serving in ministry, theology, education and medicine. — Lisa Gilbert, MD, FAAFP, Ascension Via Christi; Fellow of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

Benjamin Cabe, fills a lacuna in Orthodox theological studies, examining the patristic understanding of gender as it relates to the body and soul. On Gender and the Soul is an excellent beginning to a conversation, driven by the ancient Christian ideal of spiritual healing rather than a modern political or sociological agenda. — Fr. Joseph Lucas, author of Prayer of the Publican: Justification in the Desert Fathers

Benjamin Cabe graduated Summa Cum Laude from Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 2019. In 2013 he founded Conciliar Post, a website devoted to meaningful conversations between different Christian confessions. In 2015 he founded Theoria, a YouTube channel devoted to producing professional quality videos about the Orthodox Faith.

3 reviews for On Gender and the Soul

  1. B Mason (verified owner)

    “On Gender and the Soul” is a fruitful, and alas, necessary resource that seems to fill a void in Orthodox writing to date on the topic of gender/sex and the soul. I must say as a disclaimer, I am not a theologian or expert of any kind, but this book presents a compelling and complete argument for the thesis that the soul is genderless. Benjamin is both compassionate and true to the deposit of faith found in church tradition, at least as far as I can tell, in his approach to surveying the Fathers’ teaching and scriptural wisdom. Initially, I admit, I did not know at the outset how critically important clarifying how the body and soul relate to gender is until I completed the book. If we are honest with ourselves and the ethos of Western society in our age, however, we in good conscience cannot remain silent or ignorant about these issues any longer if we wish to spread the Gospel to all and be fishers of men, to lead people home to the true faith. This is not minutiae or a petty philosophical squabble anymore. Truly, there is an elephant in the room and, whether we like it or not, legitimate confusion about sex and gender in the modern world exists. How do we as the faithful, lay and clergy alike, respond to these issues related to the perception of gender identity without our attention shifting from what should be our prime focus in our earthly lives – our identity in Jesus Christ – all the while staying true to the witness and wisdom of our beloved saints? Furthermore, how can we guide people who struggle with gender issues so that they, too, can feel heard while being lead towards communion with our living God without being disingenuous or denying the dogmatic truths we so love and cherish?

    Several Orthodox (and Catholic) scholars and writers before have attempted to venture on this path to address this heated topic, but their analysis often feels incomplete and cherry-picked, as many, regrettably, have simply kneeled to and submitted to the linguistic confusion and intimidation of cultural and political bullies. Others have decided to opt for the opposite approach, perhaps validly criticizing the values of society and the status quo through the lens of traditional Christianity, but, instead of suggesting a solution, strip bare an unusual hostility, aversion to and dislike for anywhere from 0.1-2% of the population, figures say, that classify as not fitting into the gender binary or associating with a gender that is not that of their birth. Clearly, neither approach works nor should be acceptable to conscientious and empathetic Christians. We, too, are subject to the passions and sin and, without exception, are in desperate need of healing and repentance… let us not delude ourselves and inflate our own egos. Fortunately, the author has labored for us to clarify this issue so we can better engage with the culture and understand the Orthodox teaching on the nature of the soul.

    Chapter One sketches the genesis of the question of the genderlessness of the soul in the author’s personal life at seminary and reviews the landscape of Orthodox academia on this topic to date. He also distinguishes himself and his position from contemporaries who also advocate for a genderless soul, who seem to go too far by suggesting the resurrected body will also be undifferentiated, or sexless, when Christ returns, which cannot follow for reasons he later discusses.

    Chapter Two is a brief historical survey of views on the soul from the Classical Greek and Pre-Socratic era, through to Plato and Aristotle, ending with in the Holy Scriptures and Church Fathers. This discussion is necessary to understand precisely what is meant by “soul” and “body” and to understand the relationship between the two parts which consist of a complete and harmonious (well perhaps ideally, prelapsarian, but I digress) whole. The key here seems to be not only to understand what is meant by terms and how Christian theology differs from Greek philosophy in its understanding of the soul, but to underscore the fact that we have darkness and delusion in our soul by virtue of the fall of humanity in the garden, making us unable to find our true identity in Christ and losing our sense of self in our slavery to the passions and, furthermore, leading to an identity crisis and, as the author rightly proclaims, an existential dilemma in all of us, ultimately. Only through purification of our heart and each part of our soul can we learn to fully cooperate with God and see the world, ourselves, and God Himself clearly.

    Chapter Three briefly discusses a disciple of the heretic Marcion in the second century named Apelles, who seemed to have had Docetist leanings as well. Among the other heterodox views he holds, the major focal point is that he seems to be the source of the teaching of the gendered soul in contrast to every other Father of the Church on the topic with the exception of one uncanonized Christian author, Tertullian, who we will see in detail in the next chapter.

    Chapter Four, along with Five, in my view is the meat and potatoes of the work, where Benjamin reviews Fathers and Saints on the topic of the soul from both the East (such as Ss. Athenagoras, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory the Theologian) and the West (such as Ss. Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose of Milan). I do not want to spoil the lovely experience found in the 50 or so pages of analysis in this chapter, so you should for yourself read these excerpts and the investigation for yourself as it is a truly fascinating discussion. However, unanimously, as is shown rather convincingly, the Fathers assert that the soul has no gender, but the implications might not be as it seems.

    Chapter Five, in light of Chapter Four, brings into focus the Orthodox Church and how it interfaces with modern, philosophical notions of gender, sex, and body, as well as providing further reinforcement of the importance of the sexless soul if we are to preserve our teaching, particularly with regard to the incarnation. As is stressed by the author in this chapter and the previous chapter, exhaustively and without haste, though the soul has no gender, it is evident that the human body has a definite gender and is fixed for eternity. Our souls are reunited with the very same bodies we have today, yet as they were originally intended to be, regardless of how we might modify them – surgically, pharmacologically, or otherwise. What and who someone truly is will be revealed at the end of time, body and soul, regardless of how we might change it here on earth. The reality that one is born a male in a male body will always exist regardless of what title it is given, and the genderless soul only affirms the truth of this claim. Indeed, if the soul was gendered, it might actually affirm the popular, modern conception that it is justified and proper for a man, in his own judgement, to modify his body to conform to his belief in a “female” soul or brain. Of even more importance than the classical Christian anthropological views, however, is the impact the existence of a gendered soul could have on the coming of the God-man Jesus, who was incarnate as a human male and identifies with/shares every part of man in his humanity except sin. We see, this not only creates a logical problem but an incarnational problem, as Christ comes as a male to save all of humanity, male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free, if we are to believe the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians. The author shows us that indeed, the idea of a gendered soul with relation to the incarnation is presented in apocryphal, gnostic writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, which posits that Jesus as the new Adam comes only for men and, as such, women must be somehow reincarnated as men in order to find salvation, but surely this is absurd and cannot be right in light of a universal gospel, that is, for all of mankind regardless of geography, station, or sex. I do not want to spoil the argument for one who wants to read the book for his or herself, but if you have the means to give this 130 or so page book a gander and want to see a more complete and fleshed out exposition of the ideas presented here, I invite you to assess the arguments for yourself… but I must admit, in my view, his arguments are fairly airtight.

    Chapter Six is a valuable toolkit for people who mentor and are called and led to encourage and assist those among us who struggle with gender dysphoria as, indeed, they are living with an inexplicably difficult tension within themselves in having a relationship with the body, and yet, we must know how to point them to resources to facilitate a deeper understanding of their identity in Christ and address these confusing feelings they might have. Our next generation of clergymen and laypeople alike need to know how to skillfully and empathetically assist these individuals and equip them with knowledge and truth in love. This chapter, as well as the insightful appendix, gives practical advice for one who is assisting or perhaps themselves struggling with gender identity issues.

    This book is an excellent read and I personally read it in one sitting. I am incredibly grateful for this book and for the author, and I hope it leads to many beneficial discussions in the future, online and in our own parishes. It, in my view, has successfully bridged a gap and disconnect that has not as of yet been addressed sufficiently as far as I can tell. However, we must remember not to be presumptuous, to listen, to be merciful to those we do not agree with, and to be watchful so we might not fall prey to demons who delight in our rage and conflict with people who are, let us not forget, also made in the image and likeness of God. May God bless you all, and thank you for reading.

  2. Herman

    Fantastic book. This book goes through the modern debate of gender/sex while deeply entrenched in the fathers, presenting the fathers in an understandable and approachable way. It’s extremely interesting to read just how detailed this debate has always been, it is also comforting to know that the issue has already been settled, in far more detail than we would make today. This is book is the answer to everyone who says “we live in a different world than them, they wouldn’t understand.” Ben lovingly presents the patristic consensus on the soul and body, while giving great resource for pastoral care. This book is especially needed today in all the confusion that exists.

  3. Lorelei B Mercer (verified owner)

    I was skeptical at first and rightfully so. Today we are bombarded with marxist demoralizing propaganda.
    This book is your shield against that. If you ever wondered or wanted to know what is the Soul and at the same time want the ability to articulate that message to others. You need this book. It not only fleshes out an in depth proof of souls existing, but their very nature. With that said, knowing what a soul is… and is not, will answer questions plaguing society and destroying societal cohesiveness. This answers the what, why, and how of not only gender but humanity.

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