Talking about Transgenderism 3: The Bible

Talking about Transgenderism

Earlier in this thread, I wrote that there are some things for Christians that don’t change, here.

Then I wrote about feelings of squeamishness and their role in moral thinking, here.

For Christians, the Bible is unquestionably the definitive source of information about the mind of Jesus. There is no other place to start in asking what he wills. Christians have disagreed about how the Bible is complemented by scientific investigation, common sense, and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, but all Christians appeal to this book.

What does the Bible say about transgenderism?

The relevant texts

The uncomplicated answer is that the Bible doesn’t discuss transgenderism, because hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery didn’t exist 2000 years ago. Now let’s complicate things. The Bible addresses issues surrounding gender. A few are worth considering:

  1. The Creation narrative pairs Adam and Eve and holds this up as a model for human relationships. It offers itself as the universal origin story (Gen. 1-2).
  2. The complementary gender pairing then runs throughout Scripture as a model, a metaphor for other relationships, and a norm. The prophetic voices compare God’s relationship to humanity with a husband and wife. Song of Songs expresses erotic affection between a man and a woman. Jesus reiterates the gender pairing of Genesis – a man will leave his parents and be joined to his wife (Mt. 19:5).
  3. In addressing same-sex attraction (which, it should be noted, is not the same moral question that transgenderism poses and honestly shouldn’t be lumped with it) the Bible is negative on the subject the four or so times it mentions it (Rom. 1:26-27). In LGBTQ, the “T” is distinct from the rest because the rest concern attraction, and “T” concerns self-perception and identity independently of attraction. I only mention homosexuality here because it falls in the broader category of gender relations.
  4. In addressing transvestitism, which, again, is not the same as transgenderism, the Mosaic law condemns it (Deut. 22:5), and it otherwise doesn’t receive attention in the Scriptures. This subject is also different than transgenderism per se, because transgendered people say they are seeking their true identity, whereas cross-dressing is intentionally posing as the opposite gender.

More can be said, but those are generally the texts that are discussed surrounding the issue of gender.

Surprisingly, theologians do not follow a simple conservative-liberal split on their study of these texts. Some otherwise traditional exegetes have landed at the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t address transgenderism sufficiently to rule it sin. Others find the male-female gender pairing so overwhelmingly normative that an alternative that must be brought about through human medical intervention has to be wrong.

But what about…?

Here’s the analogy that matters.

Christians believe that the world is fallen. It is broken by sin. Sin is not simply a list of bad behaviors, it’s a state of brokenness into which everyone is born. We come off the assembly line not working right, so to speak. We are not born innocent, and then somewhere around the age of ten start to sin (I have kids – they start to sin way before the age of ten).

Biology itself is broken. We can be born with congenital heart defects, appendices that can kill us, cleft palates, hermaphroditism, genetic predispositions for destructive tendencies, and the like. Surgically, we fix some of those. We intentionally amend the biology to make it work closer to its intended design and for healthy life.

Transgenderism rests on the assumption that gender can be broken in exactly that way. We can, it is suggested, be born with a biological confusion between what we look like on our outsides and how we were wired on our insides. It simply asks for the same kind of surgical correction to pull closer to the intended design and to healthy life.

Transgenderism does not necessarily challenge the male-female complementary pairing. It doesn’t have to do with same-sex attraction. It isn’t spawned by a desire to wear the other gender’s clothes. It is fundamentally the belief that one’s biology isn’t quite right and that it can be corrected medically, as we do with so many other kinds of biological issues.

The question is really whether or not that is a correct description of what is happening with transgenderism. Is it possible to show that the biological wires are crossed (and can be corrected), or must this merely be a mental state of confusion causing a person to want to be something different than what they really are? This is at the heart of the true moral question, and it can’t be resolved with a quick Bible quote, a commonsense appeal to biology, or a gut-level reaction of discomfort. We actually have to lovingly and faithfully think this one through. In the next post, I’ll talk about the case for the biological wiring of transgenderism.

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