A few years ago, our Answers magazine editor approached me about using a new author to write an article on the issue of transgenderism. This was my first introduction to Dr. Owen Strachan, and I was very impressed with the several articles he has now written for our magazine on this issue. He approaches this very emotional and heated topic with both truth and grace. Dr. Strachan is an associate professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missouri and a senior fellow (former president) of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He has published over a dozen books including The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them. I asked Dr. Strachan to share with us some thoughts related to his presentation in April at Sacred: Embracing God’s Design for Sexuality.
There is, we hear today, a new way to be human.
It’s called being transgender.
The transgender person is between genders—or maybe beyond them. It’s not exactly clear. That’s really the situation in a nutshell: it seems like almost no one today knows what it means to be a man or a woman. As a society, we are truly in danger of losing the script—and our grip on reality.
There Is Nothing New Under the Sun
In truth, challenges to God’s design are not new. The Lord created the man and the woman by his own hand in Genesis 1:26–29 and in the more detailed account in Genesis 2; shortly thereafter, the serpent struck against the first couple. The serpent convinced the man and woman to abandon their trust in God and conform to his serpentine direction. This act of disobedience loosed sin from its constraints; it poured out into the world like the world’s worst pipe explosion. It made us all into sinners by nature, creatures deserving of God’s wrath for our sin.
There are many kinds of sin we can point out in a post-Genesis 3 world. One of them we might have missed is buried deep in the Old Testament law. In the course of several prohibitions of ungodly behavior, Deuteronomy 22 says this: “A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5). We see here that the inclination to wear the clothing of the opposite sex is not modern; it is nearly as old as the earth. God’s law for Israel makes clear in the strongest terms that bending our identity to the opposite sex is sinful and wrong. Such behavior was not only dishonoring to God; it was an abomination before God.
The New Testament reinforces this teaching. Men and women are encouraged to dress and present themselves distinctly in 1 Corinthians 11:3–16. Men should not look like women, Paul teaches; women should not look like men. Instead, the sexes should honor God’s original design and creation order. This principle stands out today in our God-denying, gender-bending, order-subverting age. We’re so used to androgyny (or neutrality) that we don’t even think about it. We speak not of “fathers and mothers,” but the gender-neutral “parents”; our public restrooms are increasingly open to any sex; athletes who undergo surgery or body modification can now compete with the opposite sex, and on it goes. Even if we personally don’t participate in these behaviors, we are influenced by them—more than we know.
So, What Should the Church Do Today?
In a culture like this, we can feel like we have no idea what to do. This is particularly true when people around us are not only using androgynous language but are telling us they’re a woman trapped in a man’s body. In a time like this, the church needs to go back to the basics. We need to study creation afresh. We need to consider what the Bible teaches us about men and women. We need to know that mankind has—since Adam’s fall—always lived in rebellion against God and that we’re facing challenges just as every generation of Christians has.
We need a big view of God today. This will help us recover a healthy conception of obedience in our time. Obedience is not opposed to the gospel; obedience is powered by the gospel, the good news of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection. From this starting point, we’ll be able to see that the Bible offers us tremendous wisdom about being a man and a woman for God’s glory (Ephesians 5:22–33; 1 Peter 3:1–7; Titus 2). Our culture glories in rebelling against God’s design; as Gavin Peacock and I have written, the Christian glories in honoring God’s design, which means embracing the beauty of our God-given manhood or womanhood.
Our bodies, we understand from Scripture, are not lying to us. We might think they are, but they are not. They are telling us a key part of who we are, and who God made us to be. We may hear that we can be anything we want today. That’s frankly not true. Just like we can’t make up our ethnic identity, or fabricate a different age for ourselves, we cannot change our bodily identity.
It turns out, in the end, that there is no new way to be human. There certainly is no new way to glorify God. Instead of running toward new ideas that promise ancient problems, we should embrace ancient wisdom that makes us a new creation. All this is offered to us by Christ; all this is offered to us in Christ. Let’s never forget this; let’s never, by God’s grace, lose our grip on reality.
Well said! I very much look forward to hearing more from Dr. Strachan and how we can live out these truths practically in our lives.
Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!