The transgender movement is making inroads across American society, from the White House to magazine covers to mainline Protestant churches. In less than a decade, the idea of changing one’s identity to match an internal sense of gender went from unthinkable to passé. In fact, schools and school boards have penalized teachers for disagreeing with this ideology. Yet millions of Christians — and those of other faiths and none — still reject the transgender orthodoxy, and for good reason.
On Sunday, Sam Ferguson, rector at my church, The Falls Church Anglican, delivered a fantastic sermon explaining why transgender identity is incompatible with biblical Christianity — and how Christians can disagree with transgender orthodoxy while extending kindness and God’s grace to the men and women who struggle with gender dysphoria (the persistent and painful condition of identifying with the gender opposite their biological sex).
Ferguson noted that in modern America, “gender has become divorced from biology.” He recounted that his interactions with gender dysphoric friends taught him three key lessons: that gender dysphoria is real and involves real suffering; that uncertainty on these issues is pervasive, especially among Christians; and that Christian engagement requires compassion and clarity.
He laid out two essential questions in this debate: What does it mean to be human? Where do I go in the face of pain and dysphoria to find hope?
Ferguson recalled a long discussion with a friend who suffered from gender dysphoria, a man who saw himself as female. He let Ferguson pray for him, entered a long-term friendship with him, and accepted the gospel. The two of them delved into the Bible’s teaching on what it means to be human — specifically in Genesis 1-2 — and came to the conclusion that transgender identity is incompatible with biblical Christianity.
1. Humans are created
When Genesis recounts the origin of humankind, it places the emphasis not on men and women but on God as Creator. God, not humans, says, “Let there be light.” God, not humans, creates the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. God, not humans, places His image on mankind.
Ferguson zeroed in on Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
“We’re not our own authors,” Ferguson noted. “God grants us dignity to steward our identity but not to create it.” Furthermore, the Bible does not say “God made them, black and white” or “God made them, smart and not smart.” Rather, it emphasizes the gender — male and female.
2. Our bodies play a role in determining identity
God created humans as embodied creatures, so each person’s identity always includes his or her body. Ferguson noted the simple claim of transgenderism — that someone has a “boy mind in a girl body.” Transgender orthodoxy claims that the body is important but not essential to a person’s identity. It insists that authenticity may require changing the body, like one changes a winter coat.
Yet in Genesis 2, God forms Adam from the dust of the ground, and the first man gets his name from that very ground (adama means “ground” in Hebrew). God does not just use the dust however. He also breathes into Adam, giving him a spiritual life.
“Man is not less than a physical being but he is also spiritual,” Ferguson noted. “Our fundamental identity as male or female is about our whole being, not reducible to an inner sense.”
3. God writes gender into the Bible
Ferguson delved into the words that Genesis uses to describe God’s creation of Adam and Eve. When describing God’s forming of Adam from the dust, Genesis uses the same verb as a potter forming clay. When describing God’s shaping of Eve from Adam’s rib, Genesis uses the same verb as an architect constructing a building.
Genesis 2 concludes with a celebration of the compatibility of male and female and the institution of marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The creation of human beings culminates in the union of male and female, which is only possible because of the complementarity of their bodies.
Genesis 1-2 gives no indication of an internal sense of gender. Instead, it emphasizes God’s artistry in creating men and women, and in the complementarity of our bodies, which is an essential part of humanity.
Ferguson’s gender dysphoric friend found clarity in these lessons, but they did not solve his gender dysphoria.
Yet Ferguson and his friend found that the sense of dysphoria — the feeling that something is very off about your experience of the world — is normal for a Christian. Christians believe that while God created us in His image, we are fallen and it is a struggle for us to follow God’s will and avoid sin. As Paul described, “I do, not what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:15, 22-23).
Christianity promises a solution to this dysphoria — the resurrection of the body. This promise also extends to gender dysphoria and those who suffer from it. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not just restore us to God; He also suffered our pain and our limitations. His Resurrection gives us hope amid all our struggles, and the hope of eternal life with Him inspires us to follow His commandments, however imperfectly.
While it is a sin to reject God’s design for your life as expressed in your body, Jesus can forgive any sin and restore any rebel. Ferguson noted that suffering with gender dysphoria is real but that transgender identity, hormones, and surgery represent a false hope that only the Resurrection can truly fulfill. He said that Christians who suffer with gender dysphoria but who nonetheless live in accordance with their biological sex can live out a powerful testimony of faithfulness amid suffering.
Christians need to sympathize with those who are suffering with gender dysphoria and we need to celebrate those who nonetheless reject transgender identity to follow God. The church needs to be a welcoming place for all people — but Christians must tell the truth of the gospel with clarity.