Tag Archives: transgender

Is Paul Contradicting Genesis, Regarding Gender, in Galatians 3:28?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past twenty years or so, you will know that some elements of Western culture have been chipping away at the classic, historical Scriptural distinction between male and female. Some well-meaning, well-intentioned folks, even in the church, have been encouraging this movement along, in some unfortunately unhelpful ways.

Granted, for the past hundred years, many evangelical egalitarians have sought to restore a sense of balance, by advocating for more women in church leadership, at the local church level, by citing Paul’s “magna carta” passage Galatians 3:28. In general, most Christians support this understanding, at some level:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”

The original context for Paul’s writing in Galatians is to address who can and can not be baptized, in the church. For Paul, gender is no prohibition to baptism, as opposed to something like circumcision, which was just for Jewish males. But many Christians today have appealed to Galatians 3:28, as having a broader application, advancing causes, such has encouraging women to serve as elders in the local church. Such proponents of this interpretation contend that Paul is eliminating the distinction between male and female, when it come to exercising spiritual authority, in the local church.

This is a disputable matter, in much of evangelicalism today (though for some, on either side of the debate, the issue is “indisputable,” favoring their particular reading of the Bible). Many are quite correct to say that there need not be a slippery slope here, away from more difficult matters concerning gender. I would agree.

Yet it is amazing to see how many corners of the church manage to find creative ways of sliding here, anyway. At one level, it is understandable. There is still sexism in the church. Correcting past wrongs is something all Christians need to pursue, and Galatians 3:28 has an appropriate application here. Affirming the gifts of both women and men, for ministry, is essential. But it is also very easy to go too far with Galatians 3:28, and get caught up in extremism.

For example, quite a few in the church now appeal to Galatians 3:28 as sanctioning same-sex marriage, and a growing number are now affirming transgenderism, in such a way, as to go beyond the traditional understanding of gender dysphoria, as a psychological condition. Such a broad range of advocates all agree, in putting forward the thesis, that gender is no big deal to God, though the applications differ. Along with the surrounding culture, such advocates now treat gender as merely being a social construct, even to the point of denying the traditional basics of human biology, which is an attack on modern science.

Just recently, I heard the newest argument, being advanced in at least one mainline Protestant, or what some would call “progressive Christian” circle, that Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3:28 is actually CONTRADICTING the teaching in Genesis, regarding humans being created in the image of God: male and female, God created humanity. Underlying this belief is the assumption that because male and female are inherently equal, male and female are therefore inherently interchangeable.

Here is the crucial passage, that Paul is supposedly contradicting:

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

Has gender really become irrelevant today?

Regardless of how this question is answered, what it clearly has become, is a free speech matter, in the surrounding culture. Consider the “cancel culture” attempt to silence Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling.  Rowling voiced her concerns that some elements of the transgender movement are harming women, and she paid dearly for making such statements. Yet Rowling is not alone.

Journalists and academics are now finding that their careers are under threat, if they do not bow to the “new orthodoxy” advanced by “critical theory.” Note that it is not specifically conservative evangelicals, who find themselves under threat. These are also liberal, secular minded people, including atheists and agnostics, who nevertheless share the historical Christian claim, and scientific observation, that there is a distinction between male and female. Christians therefore, should be careful not to lump all “liberals” into the same basket. Some of these leftward leaning, secular thinkers recently signed an open letter in Harper’s Magazine, urging that all respect the freedom of speech, including statements that claim that gender actually matters, and that gender is not merely a social construct.

Let me be clear: We should not overreact, as some have unfortunately done (The recent debacle that has almost destroyed one of my favorite podcasts, the Mortification of Spin, is a good example of extremism, on the conservative evangelical side).

Instead, we should encourage women to use their gifts for leadership and ministry in the church. We should affirm justice in society (including those areas pertaining to race). We should encourage those who experience same-sex attraction to have a solid network of supportive friendships, as they seek to honor God regarding their sexuality. We should also have compassion on and extend grace towards those who are experiencing gender dysphoria.

But let us also be united in affirming the teaching of Scripture: We were created in the image of God, male and female. This means that while male and female are indeed equal, they are not interchangeable. This is a mystery that reflects the very character of God. It is vital for the church to uphold a means of honoring that distinction, within the structure of corporate worship, and the Christian life.

Affirming the unity of our baptism into Christ’s church does not go against the rest of Scripture. So, let us stop misusing Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 in a misguided effort at supposedly “contradicting” Genesis.

Canadian psychologist and Harvard professor Steven Pinker is now among the latest to have experienced threats from the “cancel culture” mob. While I do not share professor Pinker’s atheism, nor his missteps regarding history, as a Christian I fully support his efforts to protect free speech. As Christians, we should honor those values that encourage open debate and wide ranging discussion, without fear of retribution:

 


Statements: What Does Nashville Have to Do With Chicago?

On August 29, 2017, a group of evangelical leaders announced the signing of the Nashville Statement. If you have not heard of it, you should go and read it for yourself.

The Nashville Statement was crafted by the leadership of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), in response to recent cultural changes regarding the public acceptance of gay marriage and transgender identification. For those Christians who have felt that the evangelical church has not taken a firm enough stand against these cultural trends, this is a boldly direct statement that such Christians should spend some time carefully studying.

CBMW originally had its beginnings, in the 1980s, opposing the acceptance of women as elders and/or pastors, in churches, as well as affirming male-headship in the home. But now, with the Nashville Statementunder the leadership of Bible professor Denny Burk, CBMW has broadened its scope to “equip the church on the meaning of biblical sexuality.”

Why is it called the Nashville Statement? Well, because, like other Christian confessional documents, ranging from the Nicene Creed, to the Augsburg Confession, to the Westminster Confession, it was written in Nashville, Tennessee. It contains a listing of articles, made of various affirmations (“WE AFFIRM”) and denials (“WE DENY”), that seek to address a biblical approach to gender dysphoria and same-sex desire and behavior.

The written style of the Nashville Statement is therefore much like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, drafted in Chicago, in the 1970s. Like the Chicago Statement, the Nashville Statement enjoys some of the same positive characteristics as well as suffering some of the same problems that these type of documents have.

As I have written about before, the Chicago Statement succeeded in defining a view of biblical authority, that many evangelical Christians could rally around and support, rightly affirming the Bible’s truthfulness. On the other hand, the Chicago Statement was unsuccessful in resolving a number of issues surrounding how the Bible is to be interpreted. Much of the challenge that has arisen, since the Chicago Statement’s signing, involves how terms, like inerrancy, that are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, are to be defined and applied in Christian hermeneutics.

The Nashville Statement carries much of the same properties, but within a different scope. The Nashville Statement is already gathering an impressive number of Christian leaders, across a wide set of backgrounds, who have publicly signed onto the document. It affirms the beliefs that Christians have held for 2000 years. In our sexually confused world, this is a big deal. I would not be surprised if the Nashville Statement becomes a unifying banner for many, if not most, conservative evangelicals.

Alas, the Nashville Statement has its difficulties. It uses terminology and language that some might find antiquated, offensive, or otherwise, difficult to define, such as “homosexual,” “divinely ordained differences between male and female” (Article 3 & 4), “homosexual or transgender self-conception” (Article 7), and “transgenderism” (Article 10). What does all of this mean?

For example, does the Nashville Statement mean that those who identify as gay and celibate persons can consider themselves as being fully Christian, or does it preclude such self-identification? I honestly do not know. As far as I can tell, many of the signers (and non-signers) of Nashville themselves are deeply divided on this.

There has been a firestorm of criticism from the progressive wing of Christianity, such as this counter-statement, Christians United: In Support of LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church.  However, there have also been a different set of criticisms from other conservative evangelicals.

From my perspective, I would not have written such a document in the same manner. While the Nashville Statement affirms central ideas that I would strongly endorse, like in defending a biblical concept of marriage, I doubt that it successfully casts a vision of how to reach out to an LGBT+ population, that remains either hidden in silence in, or already alienated from, evangelical churches.

This is a pastoral crisis in our churches, and it has been that way for years. A 2009 study shows that teenagers who struggle with same-sex desires, many of whom come from Christian families, who experience rejection from their families, are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, than other teenagers. I personally know a number of folks who have left evangelical church communities, feeling that evangelical churches are not safe and supportive environments for addressing LGBT+ questions.

I pay close attention to the writings of Mark Yarhouse, professor of clinical psychology at Regent University, in Virginia Beach, who believes that the Nashville Statement lacks the type of nuanced, mature reflection necessary to address extremely difficult and complex questions surrounding gender dysphoria, that many Christians, and often even scientists and psychologists today, do not know that much about. I also agree strongly with the critique offered by theologian Preston Sprinkle, author of People To Be Loved. The Nashville Statement will be a rallying point for many Christians, in that it affirms an approach to biblical sexuality. But it offers very little in terms of how Christians can faithfully love and care for friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members who struggle with sexual and gender identity issues. As Preston Sprinkle puts it, the evangelical conversation in this area typically “has been profoundly impersonal and one-sided (lots of truth and very little grace).”

Will the Nashville Statement have the staying power of a Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, or even a Nicene Creed? I do not know. Either way, I do hope for something better in evangelical churches, a Christian vision that fosters a spiritual posture that enables Christians to be agents of healing, as opposed to having the reputation as being agents of condemnation.


Jen Hatmaker and the Frustrated Evangelical Response to LGBTQ

The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website, unloaded a clever piece on Jen Hatmaker today, expressing the type of dismay that many evangelical Christians are thinking. But are we really hearing the message underneath Jen Hatmaker's public pronouncement?

The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website, unveiled a clever piece on Jen Hatmaker recently, expressing the type of dismay that many evangelical Christians are thinking. But are we really hearing the message underneath Jen Hatmaker’s public pronouncement?

Over the past week or so, Jen Hatmaker, the funny and vivacious reality TV star of the HGTV show, “My Big Family Renovation,” rocked the social-media world of evangelicalism asunder. Jen Hatmaker, a favorite in MOPS circles (that is, Mothers Of PreSchoolers, a very active group in our church), and popular speaker at various Christian women’s conferences, in an interview, publicly stated her affirmation of gay and lesbian marriages as potentially holy.

Well, this probably had the same effect as setting a stack of Bibles on fire.

Jen Hatmaker is but one in a steady stream of high-profile, evangelical celebrities and leaders to jump ship from supporting a traditional, evangelical view of human sexuality, to supporting gay and lesbian marriage in the church, over the past few years. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, and singer songwriter Jennifer Knapp, too. What was unthinkable ten or twenty years ago, is now becoming more common, as otherwise traditional “Bible-believers” are willing to discard 2,000 years of Christian teaching, particularly in the wake of the June, 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

What makes Jen Hatmaker a bit different is because she is not a pastor, or a theologian, or a super-talented singer. She comes across as a very down-to-earth, spunky, disarmingly honest and homespun happy mother, who has the same type of problems all of us have… and she has 109 thousand Twitter followers. That means that there are probably at least a handful of busy MOPS women in your conservative, evangelical church, who are probably a bit bewildered as to why Jen Hatmaker is making such a public stand on this topic.

These are not folks out there in liberal, mainline churches, who long ago dropped their commitment to biblical authority. Rather, they could be sitting next to you at your Bible-believing fellowship.

There is confusion in our churches.

What are we to make of this trend? How does someone with a high view of Scripture respond?  Continue reading


Transgender, Intersex, and Christian Love

If you have been wrestling with, as a Christian, how you can love people who identify as transgender in some way, you owe it to yourself to view the following sermon video by Andrew Wilson, pastor of Kings Church in Eastbourne in the United Kingdom1. On the one hand, there is tremendous pressure from the wider culture today to minimize gender differentiation, and it has an impact on how the church understands issues involving men and women in church ministry, same-sex marriage, and just what it means to be a male or female person. On the other hand, there are clues in Scripture where Jesus recognizes that there are eunuchs, those who do not fit certain biological gender expectations at birth.

What does Christian love look like, when we reach out to people whose biological sex does not match their experience of gender? Justin Taylor, of The Gospel Coalition, has a great summary of Andrew Wilson’s talk:

Notes:

1. Veracity featured another, short video by Andrew Wilson last week, for you “End Times” people. 


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