God and the Transgender Debate: Book Review

The transgender debate is threatening to rip apart our culture. And it is raising a deep divide within the church. How should Christians respond?

I recently picked up a copy of the new book by Andrew Walker entitled God and the Transgender Debate. It has significant endorsements—e.g., Robert George, Rod Dreher, and Albert Mohler—and so I had high expectations, and yet I still found it a valuable read.

God Transgender Debate

Compassion and Truth

Walker approaches the transgender issue with both compassion and truth. For instance, he goes out of his way to remind readers that this is not ultimately about a debate, but about people who are made in the image of God and deserve honor and respect. He presses readers to ask this question:

“Have I actually made an effort to understand the perspective and pain of someone experiencing gender dysphoria?”[1]

As Christians, we must ask ourselves this question so we can approach this issue with both tenderness and gentleness.

And yet Walker firmly believes that Christians must be willing to speak truth, not for the sake of winning an argument, but because truth is what ultimately sets people free. He writes:

If I affirm transgenderism, I am actually doing an unloving thing. I am withholding truth because I value my own reputation or my own friendships or my own comforts more than I value the eternal happiness of the person made in the image of God who stands in front of me (p. 99).

Tough Questions and Issues

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Walker describes how, sadly, some Christians have cut off their transgender kids. In response, he simply says: “This is wrongThere is no justification for abandoning your child—ever.” Amen. Stories of Christian parents turning their transgender kids away are both heartbreaking and contrary to biblical principles.

At the end of the book, Walker offers his thoughts on some of the most pressing questions. For instance, he addresses the common question: “What about people who are born intersex?” In other words, does the existence of people with ambiguity regarding their biological sex imply that gender is not binary, but a spectrum?

Walker provides a few helpful responses. First, intersex is a physical condition (ambiguity regarding biological sex) whereas transgender is a psychological condition (feeling that gender identity does not match biological sex). Thus, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

Second, transgenderism assumes that sex is binary. Walker notes,

Transgender identities are built on the assumption that biological sex is known and clear—and then rejectedMedical intervention for intersex people is aimed at enabling them to live out the sex and gender that they were both with, but which is physically unclear one way or another. Medical intervention for those identifying as transgender is aimed at the very opposite—at obscuring the sex they were born with.”

Final Thoughts

Much more could be said about the book. Walker regularly writes on issues of ethics and public policy, but in this book, he writes with a pastor’s heart. His love for both the church and people who wrestle with gender dysphoria is clear.

If you want to know how to relate to someone who is transgender, or you’re simply interested in thinking through how Christians ought to approach the issue, then I am confident you will find this book helpful.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

[1] Andrew T. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate (Denmark: The Good Book Company, 2017), 97.


 

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21 replies
  1. jcb says:

    I couldn’t find anything in this article that explains why there is a negative attitude about Transgender people in the first place.
    Perhaps this line? “Transgender identities are built on the assumption that biological sex is known and clear—and then rejected”. This seems to say, some transgender persons are aware they are born with a penis, but “reject” that, meaning, they decide they don’t want to live with one. The article seems to suggest that there is a problem with this. Is that right? If so, what is it? Otherwise, it doesn’t look like this article says anything. It doesn’t look like there is any debate! Perhaps it is this line: “Medical intervention for those identifying as transgender is aimed at the very opposite—at obscuring the sex they were born with.” But this line is false if “obscure” means anything other than “change”. Yes, some transgender people want to change the genitals they are born with. Perhaps the unstated assumption of the article is something like “it is wrong to change/obscure the genitals you were born with, if you want to”. If so, that is prima facie false.

    Reply
    • Austin Larger says:

      Transgendered people are sinners like the rest of us. They aren’t deserving of any more negative attitude than anyone else. In fact, it’s the opposite. We all deserve to be loved, honored, and respected. That’s the message of the article; it’s not to further point out, or reason, the divide. Wouldn’t you agree? I encourage you to check out the book for a more expansive look. It may get into the background and details you’re interested in while delving deeper into how Christians should approach the issue, loving someone with truth and gentleness as the article put it.

      Reply
      • jcb says:

        Yes everyone tends to make mistakes. But to say that Transgendered people are sinners like the rest of us seems to imply that it is their transgenderism that is a sin, and this is false. People who pick up rocks are probably “sinners” (people who do things wrong/make mistakes), but they are not sinners because they pick up rocks. So yes, generally everyone should be loved/treated kindly, but articles like this seem to buy into the “there is something wrong with transgendered people” lie. I just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t doing that. That’s divisive.

        Reply
        • jwc says:

          Sad. So very sad. Praise G-d for having mercy on us all. I pray He will give us all wisdom, and convict us all that we might turn from our sin and be saved.

          Reply
        • Austin Larger says:

          There is something wrong with all of us, no lie. Their transgenderism isn’t what makes them sinners, but it is evidence of our fallen nature. Regardless if we act on our desires, we all love the darkness over the light and that mindset is sinful. Our situations may be different, but that’s where we are encouraged to come together and have compassion for one another in truth and love. I’m curious if you may be a bit too quick to paint this as something it’s not, and therefore dismiss it. Again, I’d encourage you to read the book for more. There’s probably a lot to glean from it.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Their transgenderism isn’t what makes them sinners, but it is evidence of our fallen nature”
            How so? Would you say short-sighted people’s need for glasses is evidence of our fallen nature?

          • Austin Larger says:

            Andy,
            No, I don’t think you’d do well to compare a physical ailment to a mental one. We do live in a fallen world and as such nothing physical is as it once was created to be, disease, mutations, and the like. But when we speak of a fallen nature, it’s our broken spirit, mind, and will to do what we ought not that we refer to.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “No, I don’t think you’d do well to compare a physical ailment to a mental one”
            Why not? Mental issues are quite often caused by physical ailments in the brain, so drawing a distinction between the two is often not justified. Further, being born with the wrong sets of primary sexual characteristics seems very much a ‘physical ailment’. Do you have medical training to debunk either of the points I’ve made?

          • Austin Larger says:

            Ryan, do you believe in anything beyond material? If you don’t, I’m sorry, but I don’t see a point in discussing further. This is even more the case when you’re starting to commit fallacies like appealing to authority instead of addressing the issue. Why isn’t it justified?
            Please, if you want to make the case that transgenderism is rooted in physical biology be my guest.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Appealing to an authority is not a fallacy when it’s a genuine authority. Look up the appeal to authority fallacy if you don’t believe me. This is certainly the case when it comes to medical matters. Psychiatrists need a medical degree for a reason – there can be physical aspects to ‘mental issues’.
            .
            BTW: Please feel free to call me Andy. If you must call me by my surname then try ‘Mr Ryan’.
            .
            I don’t know for a fact what causes transgenderism. If you are ruling OUT a physical cause then that’s your claim to defend.
            .
            There are various possible views on what makes a person female. The most basic is it purely comes down to hormones and physical characteristics. This doesn’t seem to fit what anyone actually believes. Even arch-Conservatives have views on what makes women different to men that go beyond physical. Why talk about feminine behaviour, feminine intuition, female roles etc, if you believe the only differences are the visibly physical?
            .

            So surely all can agree that there are other differences. Do you truly believe that the other differences amount to mental states of mind? No actual differences in the brain? If someone says they think they have a ‘male brain’ in a female body, I dont see where you get the confidence to say this is effectively a mental disorder or mental illness, or what you’re basing this on.
            .
            Can you expand?

          • Austin Larger says:

            Hey Andy, I apologize about changing how I’ve been addressing you. I mean no disrespect. I’m living in Japan right now and going by one’s last name is normal, that coupled with a name that consists of two common first names I got mixed up.
            It’s a fallacy whenever it’s used to undermine/call into question the validity of an argument without actually addressing the points, regardless of the field.
            I’m unsure if you actually answered the first question if you’re a materialist or not… It kinda seems you said you weren’t. So I’m happy to hear there’s hope.
            Regardless, I’ve argued the science in the past, and the reactions can often be disheartening. I don’t have the interest to continue what I feel will be a fruitless, and tedious, back and forth right now, and through online messaging no less. I encourage the book and think it’ll be an insightful and faithful read. That’s why I chimed in initially. I pray the best for you 🙂

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “It’s a fallacy whenever it’s used to undermine/call into question the validity of an argument without actually addressing the points, regardless of the field”
            .
            You were making an argument or claim with a biological basis, so I was asking what your biological knowledge/training was. It seems you have none, which I feel has a bearing on your authority to make such a claim.
            .
            Reading up on studies of people claiming to be transgender, I note that several have discovered actual physical differences in the brains of a) women saying they think they should be men when compared to b) other women. In fact the former’s brains in structure and other ways bear more of a similarity with men. And the same goes for men who say they identify as women.
            .
            This gives HUGE weight to the notion that transgender issues are not merely mental disorders.
            .
            I would hope that the book you’re recommending above takes account of these studies in how it treats trans issues. And I would hope that you take them into account as well.
            .
            You never explained what relevance materialism and non-materialist philosophies have on this issue, which is why I didn’t address your question – it seemed like a short-cut to an ad hominem, a fallacy I myself am not keen on.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “It’s a fallacy whenever it’s used to undermine/call into question the validity of an argument”
            .
            Austin, you made a claim with a medical/biological underpinning. I wanted to work out what medical training or knowledge you had to back up that claim. The answer seems to be none.
            .
            Several studies of the brains of trans people show actual physical differences in their brains. In fact, men claiming to identify as women had brains closer in several ways to women’s. And women claiming to identify as men had brains more resembling men’s.
            .
            This gives HUGE weight to the idea that transgenderism at least in part has a physical cause. It’s a blow to the notion that it’s just a mental issue or some kind of mental issue. Have you read up on any studies on the causes of trans issues, or have you simply made assumptions and shut yourself from actual research?
            .
            Thanks for recommending the book. I would hope that it takes into account studies like the ones I mention above. I’d also hope that you would take them into account too.
            .
            Regarding materialism and non-materialist philosophies, I ignored the question because you didn’t explain how it was relevant to the issues we were discussing, and thus it seemed a short-cut to an ad hominem on your part, to name another logical fallacy.

    • PHH says:

      I believe the reason people distrust the idea that it is okay for people to change their sex is because this has never been an issue until doctors made it possible to do so. This is a relatively recent issue that seems to be more successful at driving a wedge between Americans than finding a solution for what appears to be a mental illness. Today’s quick fixes have produced an impatient people who are growing more and more hateful and distracted. Can our nation endure when so many changes are being thrust upon it? It is a fact that we are living in a culture war in which American families are being attacked by enemies that wish to confuse Americans, weaken families, and eventually change the political and religious landscape of the country. Is the transgender issue a growing pain for a growing nation or is it simply a pain caused by bad decisions complicated by an enemy who wishes destruction on all of us?

      All humans are designed to freely choose how they will live and they suffer the consequences for wrong decisions. Some people change their spouses when things become inconvenient, not because it is right or wrong, but because they can. Consequences for individuals may seem positive, but consequences for our Godless nation and our world are usually negative. We are up against an enemy that wants to break down all borders to nations and spread a form of fake “goodness” that is based in hatred and deception. Many people suffer so badly in an array of ways that they never give their sexual identity a second thought. The transgender issue is obviously another way for the enemy to strike a hateful blow at everyone. It spreads dissension, hatred, and makes some of our people suffer due to their gender.

      I wish we could make everyone’s pains tolerable, but it is not going to happen. The only way anyone finds true relief is in the salvation provided by Jesus Christ. There are many different world views that cause us to seem to have a “negative attitude” towards each other. I detected a negative attitude in your post. Love requires patience through all things and for long periods of time in some instances and I still have a lot to learn about it. I will continue to listen to possible solutions for the transgender community, but it is a lot easier when I am not falsely labeled along the way.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “I believe the reason people distrust the idea that it is okay for people to change their sex is because this has never been an issue until doctors made it possible to do so”
        .
        Just because people previously didn’t know how to correctly diagnose a problem doesn’t mean it didn’t previously exist. Many would have you believe that gays didn’t exist in any number until a few decades ago. It seems more likely that people no longer have to keep it a secret as the stigma attached to it goes.

        Reply
      • toby says:

        Can our nation endure when so many changes are being thrust upon it?
        What’s stronger? A person or nation that refuses to change with the times or one that stays the same.

        Reply
  2. toby says:

    In response, he simply says: “This is wrong…There is no justification for abandoning your child—ever.” Amen. Stories of Christian parents turning their transgender kids away are both heartbreaking and contrary to biblical principles.
    |
    Deuteronomy 21:18-21King James Version (KJV)
    18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
    19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
    20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

    21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

    Reply
  3. Bud Press says:

    Transgenders and the Denial of Reality

    “Transgender friendly” restrooms gained the approval of President Obama, the DoJ’s Loretta Lynch, Department of Education, liberal politicians and courtroom judges, and the LGBT movement, it’s time for common sense, rational thought, and truth to take center stage.

    According to GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), “Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate. Gender identity is a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or someone outside of that gender binary). For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.”

    In other words, if a person who is born a male thinks he is a female, to him his gender identity is female (or “gender dysphoria”). What he thinks he is overrides the reality of what he is. He thinks he is a female, therefore he is a female.

    While common sense shouts that there is a clear distinction between a male and female, there are serious attempts at play to blur the lines between a male and female. How rational is that?

    But, what about a man who looks into a floor-length mirror and sees leaves for fingers, branches for arms, roots for feet, and bark for skin? Is he really a tree? Does tree sap run through his blood vessels? Common sense says, “No!” Would anyone care enough about him to tell him the truth and offer counseling?

    While a man who thinks he is a tree is ridiculous and abnormal to the transgender, as far as transgenders are concerned, men who think they are women are normal and acceptable.

    By the way, if transgenderism is normal, why is there so much physical, mental and spiritual pain attached to transgenders>

    Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion, is revered as a great teacher, and even worshiped as a sinless “god”. His reverence for himself is obvious when he stated, “I was born into the world as the king of truth for the salvation of the world.”

    Buddha also stated that, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

    Although the position of God, King of truth, and sinless Savior of the world is reserved for the Jesus of the Bible, people who think they are something other than human are followers of Buddha’s twisted thoughts–whether directly or indirectly.

    Indeed, if Buddha’s words were valid, why didn’t he use his mind and thoughts to end poverty, war, and death in his lifetime and now? Is the world a better place as the result of Buddha’s teachings?

    The world is filled with an unusual cast of characters. There are people who think they are animals who are trapped in the bodies of humans (which is “species dysphoria”). The “otherkins” (or people who think they were animals in a previous life), tattoo their faces and mutilate their bodies to mimic animals. They complete the look with surgically-implanted whiskers and canine teeth. They look the part, walk on all fours, and act-out their thoughts–despite the reality that they are human beings.

    The irony of God is remarkable, in that His written word addresses the entire LGBT movement in Romans 1:18-32, and even those who think they are animals:

    “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:24-25)

    To appease those who think they are cats, and to avoid discrimination lawsuits, should public restrooms across the nation be required to install kitty litter boxes? Obviously, business owners would foot the bill, and raise the price of their merchandise to recover their losses.

    In another example, a woman who suffers from anorexia thinks she is morbidly obese. She literally starves herself out of fear of gaining weight. Is her psychological disorder any less serious than a man who claims to be a tree, or an animal, or a woman?

    Don’t forget what Buddha said: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Buddha lied, because at the end of the day, a person’s thoughts will never change the fact that animals are animals, and humans are human.

    So, where does it all end? Thoughts will turn into demands and will end in frivolous, multi-million dollar “discrimination” lawsuits in courtrooms across the nation–with taxpayers footing the bill. During the tangled confusion, judges and other courtroom officials are likely to enroll in “Anger Management” classes before their minds turn to pudding.

    Truthfully, hormone treatments and painful, dangerous surgeries will never change a man into a woman or a woman into a man. External changes to one’s body–regardless of how radical–only disguise a serious internal issue.

    Transgenders need compassion, prayer and counseling–not approval and enabling.

    You won’t hear about it in the liberal news, but there are transgenders and transsexuals who have awakened and returned to living their original birth-gender. Many credit the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ for the change.

    Finally, while thoughts play a major role in how people view themselves, one thing is certain: a man will never be a woman, and a woman will never be a man. To think otherwise is a denial of reality.

    Reply
  4. Bud Press says:

    When kids become the target of transgenderism, it demonstrates that the LGBT movement will stop at nothing to push their agenda. It is an attempt to convince innocent and impressionable children that the transgender lifestyle is normal and legitimate.

    But nothing could be further from the truth. Transgenders suffer from clinical depression, and are prone to drug and alcohol abuse. They willingly mutilate their bodies to “change genders,” and suffer from a 41% suicide rate afterwards.

    Introducing children to a world filled with mental sickness and perversion is extremely dangerous to the mental, physical and spiritual welfare of children.

    Children are the freshest of God’s creation. They are to be cherished and protected. Parents need to guard their children and refuse to tolerate that which will have long-term effects on their innocent minds.

    Reply

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