Theology on Tap hosts Dr. Marc Barnes
Instagram briefly suspended Holy Cross College from the platform after they advertised an event with Dr. Marc Barnes of New Polity. On Thursday, November 3, Dr. Barnes came to Holy Cross College to speak at the College’s bi-weekly “Theology on Tap” event.
In Barnes’ talk, entitled “What is a Woman? An Answer,” he posited that the answer given by Matt Walsh in his 2022 documentary, “What is a Woman,” namely, “adult human female,” is an insufficient response to the question. According to Barnes, “Though [that answer] has a kind of definitional sense, it’s not really answering the question. … It seems like the very answer is missing the profundity of the question.”
Barnes explained this merely biological response’s insufficiency: “The question raised by the transgender movement is, ‘Why do the facts [about biology] mean what they mean?’ The whole transgender movement is asking a good question.”
He continued, “What necessity compels us to look at functional anatomical differences in such a manner that the difference presents the person as essentially different rather than as a set of biological tools … The biological differences do not need evidence of a greater reality, but in fact cause that reality to be reducible to the biological data. In this logic, a human being is the primary reality, and it’s being female that is secondary.”
Barnes explained that in viewing maleness or femaleness as a “modification of an original sexless reality,” one reduces sex to “a temporal description of gendering happening in time,” rather than an unchangeable reality. This, claims Barnes, is the view held by both the LGBTQ activist and the conservative-turned-biologist.
In an interview with the Rover, Barnes explained the similarities between a biological answer to the “What is a Woman?” question and the LGBTQ response: “If you view what a woman is as the result of female parts, then … It’s just parts of [a woman],” whether those parts be physiological or psychological.
Barnes considers the answer given by Matt Walsh to be a mere short-term band-aid, not a long-term solution. The Christian perspective, argues Barnes, is one that begins from distinct genders, rather than the androgynous metaphysical framework of the pagans that sees gender as the composite of distinct parts.
“[The Christian perspective] is fundamentally saying that the primal state of the human is male and female,” noted Barnes. He continued, “Where it says this most clearly is in the book of Genesis; it says, ‘Male and female He created them.’ The book of Genesis goes on to describe two distinct acts of creation—the creation of man and the creation of woman—and there’s something being taught here. One of the things that obviously isn’t being taught is that male and female are modifications of a fundamentally androgynous human unit.”
Barnes then went on to retell various creation myths—among them Pandora, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium—all of which describe the creation of sexual difference, of women, as a sort of punishment or a “sign of man’s fall from a divine, sexless state” after an originally androgynous creation.
For the ancients, then, woman embodied man’s mortality, and she cut mankind off from his divine life. This is because by her very creation, woman “inaugurated an age of reproduction so [that] mankind doesn’t have an immortal life … Indeed, this idea of woman representing the fall into the sexual difference is so common that a lot of these stories end with some new creation story in which people come from an all-male form of production.”
The Christian creation narrative, however, is one that starts from a point of sexual difference. In Genesis, there were two distinct acts of creation. First, man was created from clay. Second, woman was created from the side of man. This, argued Barnes, shows that men and women are essentially two different species.
Barnes explained this to the Rover, stating, “In the Genesis account, man is created, and woman is created, and they are created with a capacity for procreation, but it is not true that they reproduce. Man doesn’t reproduce the species because, according to the tradition, in the act of procreation, God creates the new human person ex nihilo … If all you mean by species is the capacity to generate life together, then I agree that man and woman are united in one human species. But I think this is a different way of being a species than the way that animals are species.”
Viewing men and women as distinct metaphysical species helps account for the two separate acts of creation, and it allows women to be seen as something other than merely deficient men. It does not, however, deny that the existence of women keeps mankind from thinking of himself as divine.
Barnes told the Rover: “It’s by virtue of [man’s] sexual difference that he rejoices in the fact that he’s not like God, who has no sex … This is why I described the woman as proto-redemptive. She saves man from a transgression he has not committed yet by being a liturgical reminder of the goodness of not being God.”
In the Christian view, Barnes says, “Genesis is an inversion, and it’s a polemic against all the myths of primal androgyny that surrounded it … Because mankind is created and named ‘very good’ in its creation as female, the fact that [humanity] is now female cannot be considered a fall.”
Rather, woman stands as “a reminder of man’s own creatureliness,” and the Fall, wherein humanity grasped at Divinity and tried to be like God by eating the fruit of the tree—a Jewish symbol of androgyny—was “a fall into an imitation of androgynous myths.”
Barnes concluded his talk, saying, “This is the view that Judaism and Christianity bequeathed to the world: Male and female He created them, and He created them very good. It makes sense to me that as our world departs from Christianity, we should not be surprised to find a certain resurrection of the myth long buried, namely, the presumption of primal androgyny as the true foundational fact of the human person and the barely disguised resentment of women—those living reminders of the unknown God.”
Holy Cross College Campus Minister, Andrew Oulette, told the Rover that he began Theology on Tap four years ago to “encourage students to think about these issues in culture, through the eyes of faith. At the same time, I hope that it can be an evangelization tool where students [who are] maybe not as close to God or who are distant from the Church can, in a very comfortable setting, listen to a talk about the Lord and His Church.”
The next Theology on Tap, entitled “Why Vatican II was Necessary,” will be given by Fr. Kevin Grove on December 1 at Holy Cross College.
Elizabeth Hale is a woman from Northville, Michigan currently studying political science. If any men need reminders that they are not God, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.