Transgenderism: A Theological Perspective

August 22, 2014

Imagine, instantaneously, feeling alienated from those closest to you—your family, your closest friends, and your other immediate social circles. All of a sudden, all that is familiar to you is completely distant. The chemistry you shared with your family and friends has evaporated. Your residence and your community are now places totally foreign. You perceive, at best, you are considered a nuisance by those around you; at worst, an outcast.

Now, imagine the aforementioned feelings of alienation, discomfort, and maybe even disdain thrust upon you because you do not feel at home in your own skin—your own body. You have all the physical marks of one sex, but your heart is pulled towards being the other sex and you cannot escape these yearnings. They have been with you for a very long time, maybe even as early as your days in elementary school.

For most in the Church, transgenderism is an aspect of life that is hard to understand and relate to. Most cannot fathom the dichotomy existing in one person  being one sex and desiring to be another. Around 700,000 people in the United States, however, feel this “tug of war” every day according to UCLA’s The Williams Center. Compared to the rest of the population, transgender persons are a very small percentage. But from California to Maryland, states have already begun implementing policies affecting this group of the national community. For this reason and others, Time magazine has called transgenderism the next civil rights battle in a recent article.

Based upon interviews chronicled in the article, transgendered persons describe life before they embraced the sex opposite their natal sex in this manner: Susan Stryker, “There was a sense of who I was to myself that did not match who I was to other people, and for me that felt profoundly lonely.” She continued, “It felt like being locked in a dark room with my eyes and ears cut off and my tongue cut out and not being able to connect my own inner experience with my outer world.”  Seventeen year-old Ashton Lee felt the inner battle most when, as an elementary student, she and her classmates were asked to line up by sex. She said, “I would always struggle on which line to choose, because I didn’t feel like a girl, but I didn’t look like the other boys.” The same sense of feeling adrift in one’s own body is corroborated by other transgender persons who have shared their stories in other places.

It is quite easy for Christians and others to dismiss these feelings as illusionary or freakish. While some might express a postmodern sentiment and call for acceptance in one degree or another. Others might pronounce an outright, loveless condemnation to hell. All of these responses are wrong. To respond correctly, we must think biblically; and to think biblically, we must know how certain biblical truths relate to transgenderism and the helpful implications of these truths. The issue is not dealt with directly in Scripture, but creation of the sexes and matters of the heart are discussed exhaustively. These two topics are extremely helpful in understanding theologically the heart-breaking plight of transgendered persons.

Theology can be viewed from two perspectives. One is from the perspective of being tribal; the other from the perspective of being helpful. Theology can be used as a pedestal by a certain group to elevate itself and therefore consider itself superior to all others for it has the “true” interpretation on all biblical matters.  Those with this tribal perspective on theology can also use it as a weapon condemning those who do not adhere to their theological structure. In contrast, is the perspective of seeing theology as helpful. It educates mankind about who he really is and who God truly is. We are all born with a significant, soul-destroying deficiency about the true state of the human heart and the gloriousness God possesses. Theology is merely categorized truth about God and man. And Jesus declares the massive impact of truth in John 8:32, “ … the truth will set you free.” Jesus did not speak these words to transgendered persons only. Transgender individuals do need to be set free, but he spoke them to all of mankind. So the truths detailed below relate to all. They are intended to provide insight as to how to understand the confusion and struggles experienced by transgendered persons, and to share with them who we really are and who we desperately need.

Genesis 1-3 introduces us to the realities that are pertinent to transgenderism— the belief it is possible for a person to be born with one anatomical sex while having a yearning to be the opposite of the natal sex. Hence, the transgendered person strives to live out their yearnings and becomes a type of person not seen in the Creation story. Genesis 1:27 reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God created two distinct types of persons, the man and the woman.

Then, in verse 31, Moses, the author of Genesis, provides insight into God’s thoughts about the design of mankind and his creation in general when he writes, “God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The phrase, “very good,” must be interpreted within the historical context. God’s sentiment about his creation was pre-Fall. There was no sin or imperfections caused by sin in the universe at the time. All was perfect.

So the meaning of “very good” would not be defined in the same way as it would be if it were used in reference to a student receiving a B+ for a class. In this example, “very good” is quite complimentary, but would mean something less than perfect. The use of the phrase in the verse, however, means something more than perfect. It is a reality plus a reaction. God created the male and female species perfectly then observed his creation and saw that it was “very good.” It was an attractive perfection, a quite pleasing perfection. There was no confusion in the man’s and the woman’s minds about who they were or what their roles were. God tells them in verse 28, “Be fruitful and multiply ….” Adam and Eve had specific roles in this command to “be fruitful,” i.e., have children. God would not have given this command if he had not first given them clear minds about who they were as a man and woman. Their thinking matched their sex.

Another truth in verse 27 supports the claim that Adam and Eve possessed clear thinking. The verse states they were created in God’s image. They were not exactly like God, but they mirrored his being in limited form. For example, mankind is capable of being creative, but cannot be creative with nothing like God can. Man uses existing realities to express his creativity. In regards to clear thinking about one’s self and one’s needs, they imaged, on a human level, God’s clear thinking. 1 Corinthians 14:29a teaches God possesses clear thinking. The verse reads, “God is not a God of confusion.” If he is not a God of confusion, then he cannot think in a confusing manner. Therefore, this is part of God’s image that was received by Adam and Eve. Confusion came when sin entered the heart of man. It would be a cruel joke if God created a person with one set of sexual physicalities and a mind bent towards the sexual physicalities of the opposite.

So what helps us understand the confusion and the unnatural desires experienced by transgendered persons?  Moreover, what helps mankind understand the general confusion and unnatural desires experienced by all? At this point, it is quite helpful to expand the discussion to include the nature of all mankind after the Fall for all of us possess the same rotten core that causes confusion and unnatural desires. (To clarify, unnatural desires are those desires that are foreign and are in opposition to the ones God gave us through our Parents before the Fall. The desires can be expressed philosophically, physically, relationally, sexually, etc.) The doctrines of God, man, and sin give us understanding into these areas.

The doctrines of God and man have already been introduced partially when I spoke of the Genesis 1 account of the creation of mankind. The next point to consider is man was created in God’s image morally. God’s reference point for morality is himself. “All his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4).  Justice conveys the reality of the unity of God’s actions with his character and this unity cannot be called into question regarding motive, purpose, or action. A question or an accusation cannot be raised against God because he is not tainted, even in the slightest bit, with iniquity or evil (Jms. 1:13).

The point is made emphatically by the prophet when he records God saying, “I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right,” (Is. 45:19). The God of heaven and earth speaks not in terms of ambiguity or confusion or contradictoriness. He always speaks truthfully and rightly because all of his communication is based upon his character, which is just and right. Bible scholars term these characteristics as God’s righteousness. The God of the Bible is righteous. Therefore, he acts righteously. Wayne Grudem sums it up in this manner, “God always acts in accordance with what is right and is Himself the final standard of what is right.”

The implication of God’s attribute of righteousness is that when he made us in his image he created us to act rightly according to his “final standard.” God’s final standard is in complete agreement with his design of us as humans. Mankind was created perfectly to enjoy the full range of our male and female qualities in a moral or life-preserving fashion. The qualities were not created deficiently or confusingly. They were created perfectly.

The doctrine of sin informs us as to where the confusion and unnatural desires sprang from. Genesis 3 gives us an initial look at what sin is and hints at its core. Verse six states, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate [against God’s command not to], and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command. Disobedience to God is a sin, but in the serpent’s tempting statement he hints at the sin fueling the sin of disobedience. The serpent said, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan tempted Adam and Eve with pride and he appealed to their lack of equality with God. He said they lacked knowing both good and evil and therefore, were not on the same plane with God. In essence, Satan says, “God made you deficient in knowledge. He is keeping it from you because he does not want you to be like him. Eating this fruit will complete you. You will truly be living if you eat this fruit because you will have the knowledge you currently possess plus the knowledge God possesses.” Satan made them feel inferior. He created a “need” and then provided a “remedy” to the need that was outside of God’s will.

Satan and our flesh work in concert tempting us to find satisfaction to our needs in places outside of God. The greedy man seeks contentment outside of God by striving to gain and hoard money. The insecure wife may seek security from her husband and others by serving them endlessly in order to feel a sense of value and worth. The transgender seeks peace of mind by capitulating to his or her desire to be the opposite sex.

Our sins are motivated by pride leading us to believe we can live lives apart from God and find solutions to life’s dilemmas and “provide” our own satisfaction. It is also the core sin breeding all others. We are tempted to live and act as gods of our own lives and are greatly deceived in this pursuit. Sin has caused a deceitfulness that consumes the hearts of mankind. Jeremiah provides great insight, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9).

This is why we must look at God’s truth to understand how we were created to operate. We are constantly being lied to by our own hearts into believing that what is God-honoring and satisfying is not. Moreover, the prophet says it is impossible to have complete knowledge of how deep the deception runs or how frequently it occurs. Granted, deceitfulness is significantly conquered in one who has believed in Christ as Savior, but it can still tempt and cause one to sin.

Some examples of the deceiving heart: The lustful man who marries the gorgeous woman is deceived into believing he has found the most beautiful woman and now he will be satisfied. The satisfaction, however, runs out and in a short time, he is cheating on his wife. The single, Christian woman is deceived into thinking her satisfaction will be quenched when she marries. Yet, she finds the bitterness against God still clings to her after she says, “I do.” The transgender is deceived into thinking God or nature made a mistake when he or she was born with a natal sex impossible to identify with. Yet, after the surgery or a time of hormonal supplements, the sense of being adrift in one’s own body remains.

Finally, sin is about feeling in control. To man, feeling in control provides comfort because one knows exactly what is happening and what needs to happen next. Control arms a person with power one is wishing to wrest from another. Satan slyly tempted Adam and Eve with control when he mentioned they would have the knowledge of both good and evil if they ate the fruit. He tempted them to think something was amiss because God had not fully given them control of all possible knowledge. They fell for the lie and found out “control” of knowledge was only an illusion.

In our day, the controlling person tires him or herself endlessly in many ways. The fitness fanatic selfishly seeks control over the body in order stave off the effects of age as long as possible only to die at an early age because of a heart attack. The overbearing parents seek to control their children’s behavior in hopes of producing trophy children whom they can brag about only to see them become criminals or sloths. The transgender seeks control over a body given to him or her by God only to be left wanting more because the control did not satisfy.

Interestingly enough, the more we seek control the more we begin, in time, to understand how little we control. Adam and Eve sought control and became uncontrollable sinners. They found out instantly how they possessed no control over their hearts. The alignment of our hearts with God’s was lost on that fateful day. The unregenerate heart is the fountain of man’s evil as Jesus stated in Mark, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness,” (7:18-22). And Paul summed up the inability of man to change his heart when he wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works …” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Our external actions cannot save us from our unregenerate hearts. To be clear, transgenderism does not send one to hell no more than non-transgenderism gets one into heaven. It is an unregenerate heart refusing to believe in Christ that causes the punishment of hell to remain as the person’s eternal end (Jn. 3:18).

This is the satisfaction all of mankind is seeking—an escape from the joy-killing, unregenerate heart. The escape is not found in a spouse, a position of control, a child, acts of service, affluence, or a “new” body. Ephesians 2:9 brings us full circle. “We are his workmanship.” He created us; we have rebelled against his design for us. God loved us still and in an amazing manner. “He gave his only Son that whoever would believe in him would not [experience eternal punishment], but have eternal life,” (Jn. 3:16). He sent “his Son that the world might be saved through him,” (3:17).

We can be saved from our sinful selves. We can find the satisfaction we desperately seek. Our satisfaction lies in Jesus Christ alone. He is the hope we all long for, transgender and non-transgender alike.

Tim Scheiderer
Tim Scheiderer is a former journalist and recent Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate living in the Washington, DC area.

Tim Scheiderer

Tim Scheiderer (M.Div, Southern Seminary) is a freelance writer living in metro Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter. His other writings can be found at TPScheiderer.com. He is also a founding board member of The Augustine Center, a Christian Study Center at Georgetown University. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24