The newest supposed front of the civil rights movement has already gone past homosexuality to transgenderism. For an Idaho spud like myself, it can be difficult to keep up with all the varieties of genders that seem to keep spawning more quickly than individual people are.
Vaughn Roberts’ book “Talking Points: Transgenderism” provides a useful history and definition of transgenderism and a Biblical response to it. Throughout the book, he is genuinely uncompromising when it comes to the actual Biblical doctrines of Creation and sexuality. There are only two sexes: male and female, because that’s how God made them.
Overall, it’s great, but I do have some minor quibbles. The first is in the category of “this may not be a problem, but we need to be careful that it does not turn into one.” That is the issue of definitions. One of the biggest problems in the sexual revolution has been the authority to define terms, e. g. it’s not perversion; it’s an “alternative lifestyle”. Roberts says, “It’s important not to talk in a manner they find hurtful or degrading. For that reason I have chosen to use the definitions from the Stonewall website for the glossary of terms on pages 21-24. Stonewall is an LGBT rights organization.” (p. 20) At some level this is commendable. The Bible speaks about language being translated so that the hearers can simply understand what is being said (Nehemiah 8:8). For those of us who are clueless about the ever expanding vocabulary of sexuality this is helpful. But isn’t part of preaching the gospel telling unbelievers they cannot contradict God in their definitions? Roberts himself makes very clear the Bible only allows for two sexes. But what he says about definitions here could be used to mitigate against that. Again, this is only something that could turn into a problem but is not a problem in the way he presents it. If he’s simply trying to get Christians up to speed, that’s fine.
The second issue has to do with when he says, “not to talk in a manner they find hurtful or degrading.” Is he implying that Jesus, meek and mild, would never call someone a whitewashed tomb (Matt. 23:37) or call someone a brood of vipers (Matt. 23:33)? We should keep in mind the difference between repentance and unrepentance. Jesus clearly had no problem using mockery or cutting language in the face of someone who was unrighteous and obstinately promoting their sin, as the Pharisees did, i. e. in the face of unrepentance. Of course, if someone has already repented, or seems interested in doing so, then we should not berate them or demean them. As Roberts rightly points out, Jesus hung out with prostitutes and was not demeaning to them. But part of repentance means we have to see our sin for what it is. Does our sin cause us to act like a viper? Shouldn’t we tell unbelievers that that is bad?
But then what about believers? “If we meet someone who’s not a Christian, and is transgender in some kind of way, and they come to church, our great longing for them, above all else, is that they’ll come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. In order for them to his love, we need to exhibit that love. And that certainly means that we should never be making jokes…” (p. 67-68) But God does sometimes uses cutting language as a goad to repentance, even for believers. Paul comparing the way some women dress in church to the typical attire of first century prostitutes is anything but flattering (1 Tim. 2:9-10), and he is speaking to Christians. This sort of language can be used to get Christians to continue to see their own sins as petty and easily overcome by grace.
However, I don’t want anyone coming away from this article thinking that we can go on insulting transgender people in a nasty or unbiblical or cavalier way. Obviously, it is possible to demean someone in a sinful way (Prov. 12:18) If someone genuinely struggles with sexual sin in this way, and they have repented and want God’s grace, of course we shouldn’t needle them. But God does use mockery as a means to that repentance and as a means for Christians to continue seeing our own sins as petty and wrong so that we run from them.
I don’t want to spend all my time critiquing the book, so there are several good points that Roberts totally nails. “The tree represents the fact that God alone has the authority to define what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. And by taking that fruit, human beings are saying, No! We’re not accepting that God alone is God… And what is it to be like God? It is to set the rules, to be in charge, to decide what is right and wrong.” (p. 46) Absolutely. To be God means to legislate reality. He legislates right and wrong, true and false, and he legislates definitions. He legislated that there are only two genders.
He also gives good advice when it comes to Christians dealing personally with transgender people. “We will never give in to a ‘yuk’ reaction, because they are beautiful and precious creatures made in God’s image. But neither will we give way to the false notion that ‘they were made way’.” (p. 53-4) When it comes to dealing with sin in others, Christians need to learn to be totally unflappable. You’re dealing with a spiritual corpse (Eph. 2:1); don’t be surprised if they stink. After all, everyone of us used to be that way too.
Beyond that, the book is great. Get it. Read it. It’s only 70 pages so you can read it in less than a day and it really does help Christians learn how to minister to transgender people.
You can get your own copy of Roberts’s book at Amazon here.
Five questions I would like to ask Roberts
1. Should we ultimately accept the gender distinctions of the LGBT movement or simply speak to them in biblical terms?
2. Are jokes about transgender sexuality never acceptable?
3. Although parents shouldn’t instill arbitrary gender stereotypes on women, we also need to show them that there is in fact a difference between men and women socially and psychologically. How do we do this?
4. How should we apply the verse about not cross-dressing today?
5. How did we get to this point, where the transgender movement is so readily accepted in our society?