Episode 168 - A Common Parallel in How We Think About Transgenderism and the Gospel

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Today, we're going to talk about a parallel, between how we should think about and approach transgenderism and how we think about and approach the gospel and moral issues. I think there's something very helpful here.

Now, when I speak about this today, there will be some people that don't necessarily think they're accurately reflected by this. I'm just trying to talk about transgenderism, kind of as a movement or a moment by and large, and in broad strokes. With that being said, there is this idea today, that, you are the gender you identify with, that your gender is a choice, and you can choose to a different gender than you are, as opposed to, the classical and historic understanding that what makes you a man or a woman, has to do with how you were made, biologically.

Now, we're seeing that these two things have been separated. Now, society at large, at least the part of society with the loud voice, is saying that your gender or your sex, I should say, is what you were assigned at birth. It's not how you were created, it's not how you were made. There's not an end, a designed purpose to it. No, it's something that someone applied to you, it's not a reflection of who you are, or what you are. Since, your sex can just be assigned it is said, or your gender can be assigned, well then, we can reassign it. We can change it. We can behave differently.

I read a story this last week about a man in Canada, who has changed his birth certificate, to reflect that he is a woman, in spite of the fact that he is a he, because he will get, about $1,000 dollars of savings a year on his car insurance, which caused some people to say, "How much is car insurance in Canada?!” Anyways, we see this just doesn't work in society, when gender is seen to be something that's a reflection of self expression. People often go a step farther, and they'll have what is now called, “gender confirmation surgery.” It used to be called, “gender reassignment surgery,” or “sex reassignment surgery,” but they realized that seemed to imply that they needed to do something to change their sex, as opposed to confirm what they already thought of themselves as being. This surgery could take a couple different forms. We're not going to get really into the details today.

Here's what I wanted to put my finger on. Why do we think it's the body that needs to change, when the mind thinks of itself as something different than it is biologically? There are people today, who may be biologically male, but think of themselves as a woman, and will have certain body parts changed, or removed, or inverted, or whatever, so as, to make them feel like they are more the sex that they feel that they are. They are changing it, actually in reality, mutilating their body, because of what they perceive themselves to be mentally.

Now, there are a few problems with this. One, a lot of the people that have adopted this new transgender ideology that “I am what I believe myself to be,” are not Christians. They're not even theists. Most often, they are naturalists. They believe that the only things that exist are material things. On that view, who is the “you” that is different than your biology? There is no, “you.” There is no person that is separate from their biology. When they say, "Well, I am different than my biological sex," well, what is the “I,” If all you are is biology. If there's no soul, there's no mind, there's no spirit, then what is this you that is separate from your biological you? Well, there isn't one. Right? That's a contradiction at the heart of transgenderism in my opinion.

There are a few others. While they're inconsistent on that point, I think we also have to say, "Why should the physical change, when that is objectively one thing or another." It's objectively male or it's objectively female. Why should we change that thing, because a person mentally believes themselves to be something else?

It used to be in psychology, in previous years, before this changed as a matter of professional practice, that if you thought yourself to be a different sex or gender, then you actually were, then that was considered to be a mental disorder called, Gender identity disorder. That has changed to now, the only disorder is if you have distress from thinking yourself to be different than you actually are. That's now called, gender dysphoria. If your gender, as you perceive yourself to be, causes you distress emotionally, that's the disorder. It's not thinking yourself to be different than you biologically are.

That's a big change in psychology, which shows in part, that it is definitely not the objective science that some people would paint it to be, that there is definitely a political and social motivation a lot of times to how diagnosis and different things are conducted in psychology. That's a different topic. All of that to say, let's say you do have distress from thinking of yourself as a different gender than you are biologically. Why is this pretty much the only circumstance, the only condition where we think you need to change your body to match your mind? (Once again, a mind is not really a thing in a non-Christian world view). Why would we say that? We don't do that with other conditions.

There are people, who don't think the arm on the right side of their body should be there. It doesn't feel like a part of them and they want it removed. Should we say, "Yeah. You should chop your arm off, because it doesn't feel like a part of you." No, we would say, You know what? That person has something mentally going on. We should have compassion on them, just like we should for transgender people. That doesn't mean we should encourage them to mutilate their body, right? We should aim to help through counseling and other means, conform the mind to what they biologically are.

Now, in many states it's actually illegal now to counsel someone to help them change their perception of their gender identity, even if that means conforming it to what they are biologically and objectively. That's something we could talk about another time. Here's the thing. We don't do that with people who think their limbs aren't actually theirs. We actually, also don't do that with girls who struggle with anorexia. I mean, just consider the parallel case for how people counsel transgender kids, and how we would counsel an anorexic child.

There are people saying today, "Well, you know what? If you're six and you think that you're a girl, well we're going to give you hormones” that might actually end up chemically castrating you. That may affect how you grow and go through puberty and the choices available to you later on in life, if you were to get married. We're going to go ahead and do that, even at five and six. That is how society and many actual parents and doctors are counseling children today, and very young ages.

Now, how do we counsel someone who has anorexia? Do we say, "You know what? You're 16. You weigh 95 pounds, but you say you're fat, so yeah, you're fat. You should keep not eating." No, we don't say that. We don't say, "Well, you think you're one thing in your mind, so let's help you conform your body to that." We say, "You know what? The the body actually shows us that your mind isn't seeing things correctly, that how you perceive yourself is inaccurate." How do we know that? We look at their biology.

We say, "Objectively, you are not overweight. Objectively, you are malnourished. Objectively, we need to help you. Out of compassion, we are not going to encourage you in the direction of what you think you are, which is fat and overweight.” We're going to say, legitimately, you actually need to eat more. We need to come alongside and help. The way the mind is perceiving the body is inaccurate.

It's actually the same way with transgenderism. How the mind is seeing things is inaccurate and yet, society and parents and medical professionals, I think for political reasons often are encouraging people into the exact opposite way of how we would encourage them if they had pretty much any other mind/body disconnect. In nothing else I'm aware of, do we say, "You know what? Let's change the body. Let's distort it. Let's mutilate it, to fit what a mental perception is."

Now, that point stands on its own. I think that's a very helpful critique of how we are inconsistent here, and can actually show that this logic and reasoning does not work in other areas. It's compounded in its harm by the fact that studies have shown that a very high percentage of children, who think that they are not the gender that their biology is, actually work through that, without intervention, and end up identifying and thinking of themselves as the gender that matches their biological sex. And yet, now we are short circuiting that pathway and saying, "You know what? Well, if you think you're a girl, you probably are a girl, so let's dress you differently. Let's push you into that identity, and let's give you hormones to ‘confirm’ you in that, even if those are actually destructive to who you are and how you were designed to be."

Once again, this is compounded by the poor logic, and it's children that are getting hurt. It's the fabric of society that is being torn apart. All of that to say, Now we can get to our gospel parallel here. We often address the wrong problem with transgenderism, as a society. We think it's the body that needs to change, when it's actually the mind, the soul of the person that needs to change, that we need to target our counseling, and our comforting efforts there, and our compassionate efforts there, and not encourage someone in something that's harmful to them.

Now, let's flip this around and look at another issue. There are many issues today in society where Christians rightly take a stand and say, “That's wrong. We shouldn't encourage that." Where strains in the church maybe say, "Yeah, we should encourage this behavior," and often times conservative Christians are saying, "No. We shouldn't do that." We also have to realize that we are unlikely to change the behavior, if we don't address the root cause, which is the fact that people who live in habitual sin, are not Christians.

If there's no desire to fight sin, the Spirit is not present there. Scripture gives us a pretty robust view of the Spirit, and his power, and his effectiveness, and that God, through the power of the spirit, is actively conforming us to the image of Christ. If we see no conforming effort, then it's likely to assume that we are not a Christian, or that someone else is not a Christian.

Now, can I make that ultimate determination? No. I'm speaking quickly here to get to a point. I'm not fleshing this out as carefully as I would in another setting. Simply to say, the Christian life is marked by increasing conformity to Christ, not by stagnation.

With that being said, if we are talking with someone, and let's just say they're habitually promiscuous. There's no fidelity in their marriage. We could reasonably, and rightly counsel them against that for even non-religious reasons. There are health concerns. They're just practical concerns that, "Hey. This could lead you to get a divorce and that could be bad for you financially and bad for your children," and all these sorts of reasons.

We shouldn't think that heart of the person is going to change without them coming to Christ. That's the parallel here. We need to focus in on what is the thing that actually needs to change in the situation. We talked about transgenderism. It's the mind, or the heart or the soul of the person, not the body that needs to change. There’s parallel here when we think about the gospel: It's once again, the heart that needs to change, before we're going to see a behavior change.

I think of 1 Corinthians 6, which gives a long list of sins that people identify with, and practiced habitually, and Paul saying, "If you do these things," in 1 Corinthians 6, 9 and following, you're not going to inherit the kingdom of God. You're not a Christian. By doing these things habitually, you are evidencing the fact that you do not have the spirit of God.

He goes on to say in verse 11, such a verse of gospel hope: “but such were some of you, but you were washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the lord, Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God.” He is saying that some people used to do these things, and what was the difference? Did they go to a 12 step program? Did they get counseling? Did they have an epiphany? No. No, what happened actually is the Spirit changed their heart. They became a Christian.

The solution to the ills of society is the gospel. Obviously that has downstream effects, certainly. The issue here, once again is not that a person is being promiscuous is their largest issue, although it certainly is an issue, but there are two things to think about. One, it's unlikely that a person's longterm habitual sin is going to change, except by the power of the Spirit. Yes, it sometimes happens an act of God's common grace. It's not something that's very routine.

The flip side is, let's say someone could change that thing on their own. What they have shown is that they have done it in their own power, and they have still not solved their fundamental problem, which they can actually not solve. Right? Only coming to Christ in repentance and faith will actually result in the helpful type of life change that someone needs, because the change that's needed is not one necessarily in terms of behavior and action. It's actually a change of the heart. That should help us, when we think about people.

We might have friends who are engaged in behaviors that we think are sinful and destructive, and they're not Christians. Yes, it's reasonable and kind for us to warn them about the social consequences, the temporal consequences of those things, and also to warn them about the eternal consequences, but to focus in on the fact that, that behavior is not the thing necessarily we need to change to get to the gospel. It's the gospel and the transforming work of the Spirit that will change the behavior.

In the old testament, when God is speaking of what the new covenant will be. He says, "I will give you my Spirit and cause you to walk in my ways." It's the Spirit that conforms us to Christ. No conformity to Christ, no increasing conformity to Christ, no presence of the spirit. Now yes, people can muscle through things and white knuckle some types of moral change on their own, but without the spirit, it's ultimately fruitless and also, it often increases someone's reliance on themselves, which is the single thing we need to disabuse them of, for them to come to Christ.

I hope this has been helpful. There are parallels all over the place, in how we think about issues. There's certainly a parallel here. It's the heart change in a person that leads to them being part of those who used to do things, but have been changed that we see in 1 Corinthians 6. It's similar with how we approach transgenderism. We realize that it's not the body that needs to change, it's the mind that needs to change. Actually, these two issues come together where, as we are made new in Christ, often that has to do with reversing the effects of sin in the world, in a temporal sense. Coming to Christ helps people address the sins and distortions and lies they've been led to believe by Satan, and culture, and themselves.

I'll talk with you next week on, Unapologetic.