The Bible and transgender issues

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

A visitor to my site asked this question: 'I know that the whole transgender issue is wrong biblically, but find it hard to find scriptural basis for this. Can you assist please?'

My response: The very first thing that needs to be stated is that sensitivity is required in addressing this question. Human beings are the most fragile of all things God created. We can be destroyed by just a word. Written or spoken. In answering this question I am walking on a tight rope stretched between two biblical mandates: that as a follower of Jesus Christ I must love as he loved, and that as a follower of Jesus Christ I must hold just as fast to God's “It is written!” as he did. In other words, I must strive to display both grace and truth, both love and holiness. Whether or not I succeed I leave to the reader to decide.

 

Summary:

Questions and definitions: About the reader, the perspective from which this article is written, and a few definitions.

Biblical perspectives: The sacredness of humans, human fallenness and lostness, boundaries set by God.

Perceptions of why people 'cross over': It's in my genes; it's all in my head; it's my choice.

The biblical perception of why people 'cross': It's an expression of our common human fallenness and lostness.

‘Coming out’: a comment.

Where do we stand as Christians? Four challenges confronting Christians because of the presence of 'transgender issues'.

 

Questions and definitions
Firstly, who are you? You may be a Christian wanting to help someone struggling with gender dysphoria [unease about their gender]. You may, but I hope not, be a Christian looking for biblical 'ammunition' with which to pass judgement on someone with gender dysphoria. You may be a Christian experiencing gender dysphoria and wanting to know what God says about it. You may be a Christian or non-Christian who is concerned about the culture confronting your children. Or you may be a non-Christian with gender dysphoria. Where you stand personally will to some degree determine how you respond to what I have written.

Secondly, from what perspective am I writing?  What I write is based on an acknowledgement that God actually does exist; that he is both personal and sovereign; and that he is the only God.  It is also based on an acknowledgement that God has spoken and acted in human history, revealing himself to us, that the Bible is the God-given written record of that revelation, and as such is the Word of God. This article is also written from the acknowledgement that both of these, both God, and the Bible, are absolute: that there actually is absolute truth that is true in all places, at all times and for all people; and that there actually are absolute moral standards that apply to all people, at all times and in all places.  

Obviously, anyone with a relativistic, post-modern mindset, or who seeks to accommodate the Bible to the contemporary relativistic mindset, will not be able to identify with the absolutes assumed by this article.

Thirdly, what do the various words mean?
Anatomical or physical sex/gender: physical sexual identity, usually obviously male or obviously female.

Intersex: people born with ambiguous physical sexual organs, chromosomes, etc. Most intersex people do not identify as transgender.

Gender identity: a reference to the gender a person feels inside – whether they feel male or female or a mix of both. People who feel differently to their anatomical sex are called transgender.

Sexual orientation: this term refers to sexual attraction, whether heterosexual [attracted to the opposite sex], homosexual [attracted to the same sex], or bisexual [attracted to both sexes].

Gender dysphoria: a feeling of unease about your gender, which can include body dysphoria – a feeling of unease about your body.

Transvestite, cross dresser: a person who wears clothing designed for the opposite gender. Transvestites may or may not be transgender or transsexual.

Transgenderism: a general term used to refer to the psychological condition of those who feel, express or identify as a gender identity different from their birth/anatomical gender.

Transsexual: (a) a person who has undergone surgical and/or hormone treatment to altar external sexual identity; and/or (b) a person who permanently identifies as the opposite sex.

 

Biblical perspective #1: The sacredness of humans
All people, including all of the above, have intrinsic and extreme value on two counts:

[1] They are human beings, and as such descendants of Adam and Eve who were created 'in the image of God'. It is this creation in the image of God that is the biblical basis of the sanctity of human life. This sanctity of human life forbids not only the killing of humans [Genesis 9:6], but also those other expressions of disrespect of human beings detailed by Jesus Christ [Matthew 5:21,22]. The transgender person was created by Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:16]. Jesus Christ sustains the life of the transgender person [Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3]. Individual 'gender identity' does not diminish human sacredness. [I am not by this paragraph inferring that God created anyone 'transgender'; I am stating a basic biblical perspective that all human beings are of equal value to God, all human life is equally 'sacred'. This equality of value and sacredness resides in the original creation in the image of God, and the residual potential of every human being to image God, pending their reconciliation with God through the Son of God and transformation by the Spirit of God.]

[2] They are part of the 'world' that God loved so much that he gave his only Son as a redemptive sacrifice so that, if they believe in his Son, they 'shall not perish but have eternal life' [John 3:16]. God has provided for them and offers to them this incredibly costly salvation. Whether or not they receive this priceless gift does not alter the value that God thus places upon them. Individual choices and actions in identity or orientation do not exclude a person from this high value nor from God's offer of this priceless gift.

God loves people. God values people more highly than he values anything else he created. And he commands those who know him to similarly love and to similarly value all people.  

Biblical perspective #2: Human fallenness and lostness
All human beings since Genesis 3 are characterised by fallenness and lostness. Alienated from God, from whom our real identify is derived, we really don't have any idea who we are and what we are here for. The further a culture distances itself from God and his Word the more observable the depth of this lostness and this loss of identity, meaning and purpose becomes. Western culture had, since the sixteenth century Reformation, a superficial and general veneer of awareness of God and knowledge of his standards. But, starting in the nineteenth century and escalating with ever-increasing rapidity since then, that veneer has been ripped away, exposing again the real state of the human heart and mind. It is actually a much more honest perspective, although it is also much more disturbing for both Christians and non-Christians.  

This has happened largely because secular humanism and Darwinism have greatly diminished awareness of God as a real absolute in our cultural mind collectively and in the individual mind. With this perceived removal of God the value, identity, meaning and purpose of the human has also been removed, and the 'lostness' is intensified. Human life has become disposable. The value of the human has become relative. The definition of 'human' has become blurred.  The purpose of human life is illusive. This post-modern nihilism is the inevitable and logical expression of the denial of God and the removal of absolutes. Our tragic lostness has become all too evident. The pathos of human fallenness confronts us daily.

We see the lostness in the high levels of depression and suicide. We see it in the body dysphoria expressed in anorexia nervosa. We see it in the plethora of addictions into which people try to escape from the meaninglessness and pain of their lives. We see it in self-destructive psychological and physical behaviours. And we see it in gender dysphoria.

These 'transgender issues' that are increasingly before our eyes, and will be so even more as our culture moves further away from God, are a contemporary expression of human lostness. They are part of the dilemma posed by the two big questions that confront all of us: Who am I? And, What am I here for? For these questions there is really no deeply or permanently satisfying answer when there is no awareness of God. [See notes 6 and 9 on the web page referenced in #4 at the end of this study for notes re the high suicide rates and psychiatric issues among people who have undergone ‘sex-change’ surgery.]

In the context of this tragic lostness and fallenness Bible-believing Christians must remember that they too were once trapped in a similar lostness and fallenness. Not necessarily the same, but equally trapped, equally lost, nonetheless. But now they are 'found'. Someone has loved them enough to tell them the good news: that God actually does exist – demonstrated in the real life incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ. And that God came seeking them, the lost, and by his great love brought them back to himself affirming their value, their meaning, their purpose and their real identity. Christians must remember this very carefully and very deliberately. And remembering this, not set up an unbridgeable gap between them and the transgender community. There must be not even a thought of superiority or pride on the part of the Christian, but only a compassionate humility that gladly makes room in the arms of the Shepherd, close to the Shepherd's heart, for yet another lost sheep to be embraced.

Biblical perspective #3: Boundaries set by God for those who believe in him
Notice that this section refers to God's boundaries 'for those who believe in him'. This requires explanation: these boundaries are also set by God for all human beings, whether they believe in him or not, but God knows that those who do not believe in him have no real reason for living within his boundaries, and that the further a culture moves away from belief in God the more the unbelieving members of that culture will live outside these boundaries.  This is very clear in Romans 1:18-32 and Ephesians 4:17-19. God has no expectation that the godless will conform to his commands, and a grieved but realistic expectation that, generally speaking, they will not. Three times in Romans 1 it is stated that God 'gave them over' to live how they pleased [verses 24,26,28].

So, while these boundaries are applicable to everyone, and God will judge everyone on the basis of these boundaries, God expects only his people to conform to them.  This is affirmed in 1Corinthians 5 where Paul, addressing a case of incest within the church, and having passed judgement on that believer, states 'What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside' [verse 12,13].

The principles listed below, and the boundaries they define, are included here for the instruction of believers who are involved in, or are asking questions about biblical perspectives on, 'transgender issues'.

[1] The principle of creation. As noted above, God created 'male and female' in his image [Genesis 1:27]. Our anatomical gender identity is given to us by God [read Psalm 139]. Neither maleness nor femaleness is a thing to be despised or a thing to be coveted.

[2] The principle of contentment. Dissatisfaction with our anatomical gender identity is an expression of the covetousness forbidden by God in both the Old and New Testament [Exodus 20:17; Hebrews 13:5], and of the lack of contentment that the Bible describes as grumbling and complaining against God [Numbers 21:4-6; Psalm 106:24,25; 1Corinthians 10:9,10]. This principle of contentment is given broad application in Philippians 4:11-13, where Paul states that he has learned how to be content, how to cope, no matter what his circumstances are. God calls us to contentment with our anatomical gender, just as he commands us to be content in other areas of our lives. This contentment is not a listless apathy, but a vigorous determination that with God's help we can and will glorify him by the way we live in and with our circumstances – in this case, with our anatomical gender.

[3] The principle of dependence. God did not create us to live independently from him. By creating us 'in his image' he created us totally dependent on him, for an 'image' depends on the reality which it represents or reflects. It is nothing if there is no 'real thing'. Life is not something we are meant to do on our own. But that is precisely what the person who does not believe in God is trying to do. They are trying to get their value, meaning, purpose, identity from themselves. The Christian depends [or should depend] on God for his/her identity, and in that dependence is free from the need to depend on their gender for their identity, value, meaning and purpose. This total dependence on God is encapsulated in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: 'apart from me you can to nothing' [John 15:5], and expressed in Paul's 'I can do everything through him who gives me strength' [Philippians 4:13].

[4] The principle of separation. God calls his people 'holy' [which means 'unique', not 'common', set apart by God and for God]. As his holy, set apart, people he commands us to be separate from those who do not identify as his people. This principle of separation or holiness is equally clear in both Old and New Testaments [Exodus 19:4-6; Leviticus 18:24-30; Deuteronomy 6:10-15; Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 4:1; 5:8-10]. The people who believe in God are to be distinct from the godless mindset and practices of the culture in which they live. This is not in order to earn salvation, but to express their identity as someone whom God calls 'holy' and whom God has called to 'be holy' [Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:22; 3:12; 2Timothy 1:9; 1Peter 1:15,16; 1Peter 2:5,9]. This does not mean that Christians should separate themselves physically from the world, but that Christians, while still living in the world no longer belong to the world [John 17:13-10] but to God, and should therefore refuse to be indistinguishable from the godless world [James 1:27].

[5] The awesome principle of the indwelling Spirit. The previous principle highlighted the fact that God, who is holy, has set people who believe in him apart for himself. He has, in doing this, declared them holy and commanded them to be holy. There is a deeper level to this concept of holiness: that God, who is holy, dwells within those who believe in him. Every genuine Christian, individually, and all genuine Christians corporately, are the dwelling place of God, the 'temple' of his Spirit [1Corinthians 3:16,17; 6:19,20; Ephesians 1:13,14; 2:21,22]. This raises extremely important questions about our attitude to our human body, which includes our gender: Should we despise our body, a body God has made his dwelling place? Should we, simply because of our 'feelings' about our body, mutilate our body by sex-change surgery or harm our body by hormone therapy, when God has chosen to make our body his temple? Should we hold in contempt what God has so honoured?

[6] The principle of incarnation. God, who is spirit, became flesh, real flesh [John 1:14]. This is what Christmas is about: this incredible incarnation. To do this, the eternal Son of God, who was with God and who was God [John 1:1-4] was conceived, by miraculous conception, in Mary's womb – in a female body. In this he honoured the female body. He was born a male. In this he honoured the male body. The incarnation, that foundational Christian truth, thus affirms the honour and dignity of both the male body and the female body. The physical body of Jesus became the vehicle of God's clearest self-revelation as Jesus, in his human body, displayed the nature and the attributes of God. He did this by his words. He did this by his actions. When his testimony about God was completed, he then, by his human body, made atonement for our sins as he died bearing them in his body on the cross [1Peter 2:24]. He further affirmed and sanctified the human body when he rose from the dead, in the same human body with the marks of his violent death still upon it [John 20:24-29; Revelation 5:6a].  This principle of incarnation is a strong affirmation that there is nothing about the physical body that should cause shame, or unease/dysphoria. Jesus, by his incarnation, has endowed the human body, both male and female, with an indisputable sacredness, an immeasurable holiness.

[7] The resurrection principle. The human body of Jesus experienced physical resurrection, which was witnessed by over 400 people. His resurrection confirms the biblical teaching of physical resurrection. There is both continuity and discontinuity between our present physical body and our resurrection body, as evident in the resurrection of Christ, noted above. Various human philosophies and religions view the physical body as unimportant, irrelevant even. Eastern mysticism seeks escape from physical matter, which is seen as an illusion, into union with the cosmic mind. But the Christian teaching of the resurrection of the physical body, and the Christian expectation of a 'new heaven and new earth', affirm the lasting significance of the human body, and affirm that the restoration and the renewal that takes place results in a body that is not subject to decay or death. Indeed decay and death will be impossible: God removes all death. God removes all pain. God removes all tears and sorrow.  But the physical, renewed, body remains, immortal, incorruptible [read 1Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21:1-5].

[8] The already/not yet principle. While we are still in this world, and until the Lord Jesus Christ returns, those who believe in him are already members of his kingdom, already redeemed, but not yet experiencing the final expression of his kingdom and not yet redeemed from the presence of sin and the presence of suffering. Read Romans 8:18-39. This is the reason why Christians struggle with pressures and temptations, including, for some, the pressures and temptations of the transgender issues that confront us in our contemporary culture.

[9] The incarnation principle revisited. As an essential part of his incarnation experience Jesus Christ was 'tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin' [Hebrews 4:15]. This suffering that Jesus experienced qualified him to stand as our substitute under the judgement of God and to stand as our Mediator/representative in the presence of God [Hebrews 2:9-18 and 4:14-16]. He knows what transgender pressure feels like. Just as he knows what hunger feels like, what poverty feels like, what rejection feels like, what pressure to conform to 'the norm' feels like. He knows what it feels like to be tempted to give in and give up, to take the easy way of least resistance. He knows the subtle pressure of the 'everyone's doing it', 'don't be discriminatory', and any other hash tags that might be thrown at us. The pressure to sin, the pressure to let go of his God-given identity, purpose and destiny, was huge. The pressure to avoid the final suffering was horrendous, so horrendous that he sweat drops of blood resisting it [Luke 22:44]. But he, 'for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame' [Hebrews 12:2]. As followers of Jesus Christ we are commanded to 'fix our eyes' on this Jesus, to follow his example – to view as insignificant any gender dysphoria and any other unease we might feel. His eyes were focused on the 'joy that was set before him' – that return to glory and honour at his Father's side.

[10] The principle of glory. That same 'joy' is before every Christian believer. Even now, in our union with Jesus Christ, we are 'seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus' [Ephesians 2:6]. Even now Christians are endowed with glory [John 17:22; Romans 8:18] and redeemed for glory [Romans 5:2; 1Corinthians 2:7; 2Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:27]. We have absolutely no need to seek glory through gender – whether our anatomical gender or our felt 'gender identity'. Our glory derives from Jesus Christ, not from gender. The real need for every believer is to be thoroughly assured of who they are in Christ – to see themselves as God now sees them, and to relate to themselves as God now relates to them – always, ever and only 'in Christ'. Perfect. Blameless. Innocent (without guilt). Holy. Complete. [Colossians 1:22; 2:10; Hebrews 10:10,14].

Leaving aside these deep and powerful principles of biblical truth that put strong and clear boundaries around our choices and behaviour, some might ask 'Are there any verses in the Bible that specifically address 'transgender issues'?' Such 'proof texting' is not actually needed when we have such powerful principles to guide us, but here are three - one clear, two not so clear:

About cross dressing: Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids it as detestable to God.

About transgender behaviour generally: it is possible that Romans 1:26 includes reference to transgender behaviour, but the general context [verses 24-27] is a clear reference to homosexual behaviour.

About male to female transgender: In 1Corinthians 6:9 Paul uses the word malakos which is variously understood to mean 'effeminate' or 'homosexual'. The literal meaning is 'soft'. Its two other uses in the New Testament are in reference to fine clothing. In Corinthians it is in a list of the kinds of people excluded from the kingdom of God; some of the Corinthian Christians used to be such people before they were saved by Jesus [verses 10-11].

 

Perceptions of why people 'cross'
People who identify as transsexual or transgender do so for a range of different reasons. As Christians we need to be aware of these differences. We also need to be aware that, like the 'homosexual' community, the 'trans' community is, generally speaking, very protective of the perception that their feelings are something they are 'born with', something from which there is no escape, something that is part of the 'beautiful' variety of what being 'human' means, and therefore something that should be accepted and affirmed by families, churches and communities without any kind of pressure on the trans person to revert to their anatomical gender.

Before looking at these reasons, it is important to make a clear exclusion from those who identify with the 'trans' community:

Intersex people do not generally identify as 'transgender' or transsexual'. 'Intersex' refers to an extremely small number of people born with abnormalities in their male or female physical organs, chromosomes, etc. These physical abnormalities sometimes make gender identification at birth either difficult or mistaken. Sometimes puberty, or medical physical investigation, results in a clearer identification. At some point the parents or the person are confronted with an unavoidable point of decision: should this baby be identified as a boy or a girl? Do I identify as the physical gender I was designated at birth (on the basis of my then observable physical organs), or do I change my identity (by surgical procedures and/or hormone therapy) to conform with the opposite gender identity now observable or medically detectable in (some of) my physical organs?

From a biblical perspective such physical abnormalities are clearly, like any other physical abnormality, the result of Genesis 3, where suffering and death entered the world. Increasingly, we all suffer from physical imperfections; in some, these imperfections are more noticeable than others. The question faced in the paragraph above is of the same nature as other questions faced by people born with other physical abnormalities. For example: Should a person born with six fingers get one surgically removed? Should con-joined twins be separated? Should cleft palates be surgically corrected? To each of these three questions most Bible-believing Christians would not hesitate to answer 'Yes!'

This unequivocal 'yes' is, if we think about it, grounded in the example of Jesus Christ during the three years of his earthly ministry: he interfered repeatedly with the physical effects of the Genesis 3 curse: he healed the lame, he gave sight to the blind, he made the deaf hear, he restored crippled hands and crippled backs; he stopped chronic haemorrhage; he reversed even death.

The Christian thus has a mandate to relieve the physical suffering of those who have been physically impacted by the Genesis 3 fall. In the case of those born with physical abnormalities the Christian must act with the love and compassion that Jesus demonstrated to those suffering physically.

[Note: The reasons and comments below do not apply to people with such anatomical gender ambiguity. While 'intersex' is a physical disorder, 'transgenderism' is termed a psychological disorder.]

Now for the reasons given by the 'trans' community:

[1] 'It's in my genes.'  This reason gives the clear impression that the desire to 'cross' from one gender to the other is something a person is born with and therefore inevitable: that it is determined by the person's genes. That nothing can be done about it. This is possibly the most common reason given by people who desire a sex/gender change.

If this reason is actually valid then it clearly falls under the above category of a physical abnormality, because our 'genes' are part of our physical body.

However, the validity of this deterministic 'it's in my genes' reason is questioned at several distinct levels:

(a) At a philosophical level the whole idea of 'biological determinism' is merely a human theory of how things work, what makes people the way they are. It is a rather fatalistic perspective, leaving no room for free, undetermined, human choices. Jonathan Sarfati points out that 'the main supporters of determinism are evolutionists'1. In other words, those who hold to determinism are, generally, those who deny human creation by a deliberate action of God. It is a human substitute explanation of existence necessitated by the denial and rejection of God's explanation of existence.

But even at this level, there are philosophers who, without any reference to God, seriously disagree with the concept of biological determinism.

(b) At a scientific level there is also difference of opinion about the validity 'biological determinism' generally, and more specifically, the validity of the deterministic reason for transgender feelings. This difference of scientific opinion about genetic causes, and the lack of any certainty and clarity, is due to a number of causes, which are admitted even by those seeking to confirm a genetic reason2:

The fact that the number of participants in the research projects is too small to reach scientifically valid conclusions.
The wide variations of test results across the 'trans' participants.
The wide variations in the brains/hormones of non-trans test subjects.
The non-reproducibility of the research and its results.

It is clear that the scientific validity of this reason has not been established; indeed it is seriously questioned. In a hormone and genetic study of male to female transsexuals researchers concluded that 'This gender disorder does not seem to be associated with any molecular mutations of some of the main genes involved in sexual differentiation.'3

(c) From a case history perspective, the gene theory is invalidated by (1) 70-80% of children with transgender feelings spontaneously losing those feelings, stopping transgender behaviours and reverting to their anatomical gender; and (2) people identifying as transgender moving between masculine and feminine behaviour depending on context.4

(d) From combined historical, anthropological and sociological  perspectives the genetic/deterministic answer is untenable. The sexual practices of human cultures have undergone changes far too rapidly to have been genetically determined.5

It is possible to search the transgender issue online and come up with multiple claims supposedly based on scientific research. It is necessary, however, to search out the boundaries under which this research was conducted and the basis on which the conclusions were formed. True scientific method requires a large test group including both transgender and non-transgender participants. For a theory to be confirmed as scientific fact, that proposed 'fact' must be repeatedly observed in nature, and/or must be reproducible in a laboratory. What we have is a human conjecture that 'it's in my genes', and there have been attempts to prove this conjecture by scientific research. But, as indicated in the previous paragraphs, there does not appear to be any valid scientific basis for this conjecture.

[2] 'It's all in my mind/head.'  This reason has some similarity, and some relation, to the previous one. There are two distinct expressions of this reason:

(a) That the physical brain of a transgender person is different from the brain of a non-transgender person; and

(b) That the way a transgender person thinks/feels is different from the way a non-transgender person thinks/feels.

Obviously the second reason states a true fact: that a transgender person thinks/feels differently from a non-transgender person in the area of gender identity.

The first reason also states a true fact, if the studies on a very small number of transgender brains are representative of all transgender persons. MRI and PET scans of transgender brains reveal subtle micro differences noticeable only if you are actually looking for them.2

What is often overlooked is the question: does fact (a) cause fact (b), or does fact (b) cause fact (a)?

Most people, without thinking through the issue, would probably answer: fact (a) causes fact (b). But this answer fails to consider what neuro scientists call neuro plasticity, or brain plasticity. These terms refer to the ability of the brain, including the adult brain, to change, and the fact that the brain does indeed change. The physical micro-structures and the neural pathways of our brains change relative to the use we make of them by our habitual thinking, our habitual behaviour, our habitual feelings and other mental processes.6,7  In other words, if an anatomical male is constantly acting out as a female this will cause subtle micro changes in his physical brain that make his brain more and more like a typical female brain in the areas relative to that behaviour. If he stops such behaviour and habitually thinks and lives as a male his brain will eventually revert to its original male characteristics.

[3] It's my choice. This is a very simple and very honest answer. It avoids all forms of determinism and owns responsibility for personal feelings, thoughts and actions. It leaves the person free to revert to behaviour typical of their anatomical gender. Regardless of any impact the environment or cultural pressure may have exerted, regardless of any gender dysphoria felt by the person, they know that their identity as 'trans' is their choice.

 

The biblical perception of why people 'cross'
As noted above, the Bible sees all people as 'lost' and 'fallen'. It also sees us all as 'sinners' – people who have rebelled against God, and who continue to rebel against God. Transgender people are actually correct in feeling the need for a different identity. But they are not correct in their hope and their belief that having a different gender identity will resolve the dissonance of their lives. It may, for a while lift the unease, but the unease will erupt again in another area of their lives, because unease is an intrinsic part of being 'lost', 'fallen' and a 'sinner'. There is no rest for people who have rejected God [Isaiah 57:20,21]. Rather than being the solution for their lostness 'crossing' is an expression of their lostness – their separation from God and from the identity of greatness and glory for which he created them. In seeking renewal through a change in gender identity they are expressing our common human rejection of God who says 'Seek me, and live' [Amos 5:4], and against the Son of God who says 'Come to me … and I will give you rest … and you will find rest for your souls' [Matthew 11:28,29].

 

'Coming out'
The LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] community urges people to 'come out', and celebrates when people 'come out' and publicly acknowledge their 'sexual orientation' or 'gender identity'. The person who 'comes out' is applauded for their choice and for their courage to own what they believe they are.  

From a biblical perspective this is quite ironic. For the Bible actually commands all of us to do what the LGBT community is doing in this regard, and affirms at an eternal, spiritual level what the LGBT community seeks and affirms at a temporary, earthly level. There actually is a biblical 'trans', a biblical change, a biblical crossing over, a biblical coming out. This biblical crossing has nothing to do with gender identity. It is real, it is deep. It is a return to the true identity and the true relationships for which we were created by God.

The Bible commands us to make a radical change. The word translated 'repent' is metanoeo. It literally means to change our minds. To change our thinking. But unlike the transgender change it is not a self-focused change that merely changes from one expression of self to another; it is a God-focused change. It is repentance away from sin, away from self and towards God [Acts 20:21; Hebrews 6:1].

The Bible affirms that when a person repents and believes in Jesus Christ a radical transformation has taken place and continues to take place. This is not a 'trans' event brought about by such things as cross dressing, breast-binding, hair removal, sex-change surgery or hormone therapy, but a transference wrought by God when he rescued us from the dominion of darkness and made us stand in the kingdom of his Son [Colossians 1:13]. The Greek word used is methistemi – which means to translate or transfer, to change the place where a person stands. The Bible further affirms that because the believer is united to Christ, that person is no longer viewed as they are 'according to flesh', but from this point forward are viewed, perceived, valued as they are 'in Christ', from a whole new perspective [2Corinthians 5:16,17]. But, there's even more: unlike those who have to continually use external means to sustain their trans identity, God himself sustains and ever increases the transformation that he has brought about in those who follow Jesus [2Corinthians 3:18]. The word used here is metamorphuomai, from which our English word 'metamorphosis' is derived. It means to be changed in form, to be transformed. Here in this verse it speaks of continually being transformed by the indwelling Spirit of God from one degree of glory into another into the image of God as we contemplate Jesus Christ.

The Bible commands us to 'come out':  '… come out from them and be separate' [2Corinthians 6:17]. The New Testament word for 'church' – ekklesia – means 'called out'. Christians, the church, are those who have come out – not out of one gender identity into another - but out of the darkness of ignorance of God into the light of the knowledge of God, out of rebellion against God into repentance, out of sin's condemnation into forgiveness, out of the godlessness of the world into relationship with God.

The Bible commands us to publicly confess or acknowledge our new identity as followers of Jesus Christ. [Romans 10:9; Matthew 10:32]. What the LGBT community encourages its members to do and applauds those who do, God commands those who identify as his to do.

The Bible affirms a new name. Whereas the transgender person chooses a new name to match his/her felt gender identity, God gives to those who believe in Christ a new name - a glorious and eternal name, the name of God, the name of Christ, and the name of the people of God [Revelation 2:17; 3:12].

The Bible affirms a new relationship. When people 'cross' gender their relationships change. They were, for example, a son; now they are a daughter. When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ their relationship with God changes: once they were his enemies, now they are his friends, reconciled to him by the death of his Son [Colossians 1:19-22]. Once they were children of the devil, now they are children of God [John 8:42-47; 1:12].

The Bible affirms a celebration. The coming out of the world, the repentance, the confession, the new identity and new relationship – all these things that occur when a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ are the cause of celebration. There is celebration 'in heaven' over every sinner who repents [Luke 15:5-7,9,10,32]. And there is permanent joy and celebration in the hearts of those who have repented and been given their new identity and their new relationship with God in Christ [John 15:11; Romans 5:2,11; Ephesians 3:14-21; 1Peter 1:7-9]. This joy, this celebration, unlike the euphoria of LGBT celebratory marches and festivals, lasts for eternity [Isaiah 35;10; 51:11].

 

Where do we stand as Christians?
In this contemporary LGBT phenomena Christians individually and the church collectively are confronted with a challenge. Several challenges, in fact.

The first challenge is that we don't know what to do about it. We feel like we want to stop it, but we don't know how to stop it. We can't find any verses that clearly say 'Thou shalt not change your gender'. This absence of proof texts should not bother us. Indeed, it is probably a good thing, for it makes us look deeper into the mind and the heart of God as revealed in the totality of the Bible's message. At this point the challenge includes our fears for our children, our grandchildren and the children in our churches. What are we going to tell them that will enable them to live God-honouring lives in this cultural context of sexual diversity?

The second challenge is that many Christians do not naturally want to love or feel compassion for these people. Many actually want to condemn them. If we have a legalistic church culture this will be doubly so. But the Gospel commands us to mediate God's grace; it is his responsibility to administer condemnation, not ours. In this context is also the challenge stated at the very beginning of this article, that the Christian, as a follower of Christ, has a mandate to speak both grace and truth. The truth is that transgender issues are an expression of human lostness and fallenness – of human sin and separation from God; but the truth also is that God is the God who acquits sinners [Romans 4:5] – a God of grace, a God who restores.

The third challenge is that the church today appears marginalised. It has largely lost its public voice and its public credibility. There are multiple reasons for this, some from within the church, some because of the relativistic mindset of our culture. We cannot expect that the world, or specifically the transgender community, will suddenly take notice of us. Christians individually and the church corporately have to regain the right to speak to the world. This can only be achieved by being faithful to the God we claim to believe in. Our lives in the world must consistently reflect the truth we preach from our pulpits. The standards by which we live must consistently conform to the standards set by the Bible that we claim is the Word of the God in whom we believe. We have no right to speak the Word of God and call people to believe that Word, if we do not ourselves live by that Word. Our claims to believe must be verified by our actions. Before each other, before the watching world, and before God.

The fourth challenge is posed by the reality seen in the 'Coming out' section above: that the LGBT community does in relation to its identity and its members what we, the church, are supposed to be doing in relation to our identity and our members. Sadly, all too often, we are not. We, the people of God, have experienced a far greater trans event. We, the people of God, have crossed over from a far worse reality than gender dysphoria into a far more glorious identity than transgender. Do we have the courage to 'come out' – to tell our world that we are Christians, that we have crossed over from death to life, from darkness to light,  from unbelief to faith, from our previous atheism and our false gods to Christ? Are we actually living out our new identity as the children of God in full view of our world? And do we celebrate, do we applaud, when a lost sheep is found, when one more sinner comes home to the heavenly Father? And are we rejoicing with that inexpressible joy in God that does not need constant stimulation and that far transcends the fluctuating, fading and illusive joy for which all the world, including the transgender world, is seeking, reaching out, but never finding, for it is found in Christ alone?

 

Disclaimer:
The inclusion of the links in the two sections below does not infer that I agree with everything on that page or that website, or written by that author.

References:
1 Sarfati, J: http://creation.com/testing-god-darwin-and-the-divine
http://transascity.org/the-transgender-brain/
3  Lombardo F, Toselli L, Grassetti D, Paoli D, Masciandaro P, Valentini F, Lenzi A, Gandini L  Hormone and genetic study in male to female transsexual patients.  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23324476
4 Carter, J: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-transgenderism
5 Whitehead, NE: http://www.mygenes.co.nz/PDFs/Ch6.pdf  
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity
7 Whitehead, NE: http://mygenes.co.nz/transsexuality.htm

Suggested further reading:
John Piper's talks:
http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-sexual-identity-my-choice
http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/counsel-for-those-considering-transgender 
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-should-we-respond-to-caitlyn-jenner

The Gospel Coalition website [links to multiple articles]:
http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/search/results/dHJhbnNnZW5kZXI

News Weekly:
http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=57132