Original Research

Science in service of theology: Gender and sexual orientation

Pieter H. Labuschagne
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 55, No 1 | a2665 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v55i1.2665 | © 2021 Pieter H. Labuschagne | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2020 | Published: 22 February 2021

About the author(s)

Pieter H. Labuschagne, Department of Curriculum Design, Faculty Theology, South African Theological Seminary, Bryanston, South Africa


By reflecting on sexuality, gender and gender roles, this article compared the contributions of two sources: one from the medical sciences and one from theology. These publications paved the way for an informed theological reflection on the ministry of people from an LGBT orientation. The motivation for this article was McHugh and Mayer’s statement that science offers limited answers to gender matters and that help should be sought from the humanities. The interdisciplinary nature of the research challenged us to consider non-theological data and to formulate our theological convictions better. An integrative literature review was used as research method and key research concepts included sex, gender and what influences these predispositions. The findings were analysed and synthesised and presented in a way that posed new questions for future research. It encouraged us to make informed decisions when offering theological responses to sex and gender. The inability of the natural sciences to identify causative factors of gender confusion opened the door to the humanities. It afforded theology an opportunity to engage with other sciences while addressing sex and gender from a faith perspective. This article presented a broad multi-disciplinary understanding of gender and sexual orientation and paved the way for theological reflection that is scientifically sound. Shifting our focus from causative to environmental factors in gender research was a profitable endeavour. Our first responsibility as religious practitioners is not to protect truth and condemn behaviour at the cost of people, but to liberate people to share in the fulness of life.

Contribution: This article promoted collaboration between theology and the natural sciences on matters of gender and sexual orientation. It was found that there is room for theology to investigate the role that environmental factors play in this regard. This approach corresponds with the aim of In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi to promote multi-disciplinary research where religious studies engage with social sciences, human sciences, or even natural sciences.


sex; sexuality; LGBT; gender; science; theology; gender plasticity; gender fluidity; gender confusion.


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