What the Gospel Means for the Transgender Debate

As Christians, the first thing we ought to affirm in talking about gender identity is that all people, regardless of how they identify, are created in the image of God

“Those who believe in the Fall ought not be shocked when we experience its effects, such as disharmony between our actual bodies and our mental perception of ourselves.  Our deepest desires and our most fundamental notions of self-identity don’t need blanket affirmation; they need resurrection.”

 

“This is who I really am.”

In those six simple words lies the heart of one of the most important and most controversial topics in our culture right now: gender identity. Such a sentence carries heavy meaning, especially for those who have suffered confusion and dissonance when it comes to gender and sexuality.

Our cultural conversations about transgenderism, gender dysphoria, and sexual identity matter not ultimately because of social or political implications, but because of what these issues mean for how we understand ourselves and each other as human beings. If Christians are to offer both clarity and compassion to those struggling with these issues, we must first recognize that what is really at stake is not a “culture war” or political clout, but real people. That means it won’t be enough to merely knock down a rival worldview; we must show, in word and deed, that the gospel really is good news—even better than the promises of the sexual revolution.

This hope of a better word permeates Vaughan Roberts’s helpful new book, Transgender. Appearing in The Good Book Company’s series of Talking Points, Roberts’s extra-brief (75 pages) summary of the transgender conversation and what it means for orthodox Christians serves as a valuable primer for gospel-centered engagement.

What It Means to be Human 

As Roberts explains, a growing number of people in Western culture are rejecting the idea that the body we’re born with constitutes who we really are. Instead, many, especially millennials, understand maleness and femaleness to be conscious expressions of desire and felt identity. According to this gender ideology, it’s wrong to think of human beings as inherently male or female. Gender is fluid, not fixed, and a person’s self-determination is the only authoritative judgment on who they really are.

As Roberts puts it:

There’s a deeply rooted conviction that everyone is free to define themselves as they wish, and no one has the right to question the self-definition. That explains why our culture’s knee jerk reaction to those identifying as transgender as changed from an unquestioning “Yuk!” to an unquestioning “Yes!” (30)

For many Christians, this idea seems self-evidently wrong and contrary to a biblical worldview. But too often, believers who accept the biblical teaching of gender—that God made mankind in his image, male and female (Gen. 1:27)—don’t know how to respond to transgender ideology. Unfortunately, some churches have responded by seeing those struggling with gender identity issues as “freaks,” adopting a defensive and even hostile “culture war” posture.

But such a response is both ineffective and also insufficiently faithful to the gospel. It’s ineffective because it doesn’t speak prophetically to gender ideology’s underlying assumptions about what it means to be a person. And it’s insufficiently faithful to the gospel because it doesn’t offer hope of rescue and new life.

Instead, Roberts’s book offers a helpful summary of what the church should be saying about transgenderism and gender identity. This summary is structured around the biblical theology of creation, fall, and rescue.

As Christians, the first thing we ought to affirm in talking about gender identity is that all people, regardless of how they identify, are created in the image of God. Because all human beings are made in the image of an infinitely valuable God, each of us carries intrinsic worth and dignity. No sin or confusion can erase a human person’s value.

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