She/her, he/him, they/them, ze/zir, and the list goes on—should Christian use transgender pronouns? Should we call a man “she/her” if he asks us to? Should we use “they/them” to describe a person? As what are called “preferred pronouns” increasingly pop up in email signatures, on name tags, and in corporate LGBTQ sensitivity training seminars, it’s a question every Christian must grapple with.
I was reminded of this recently when I saw a column written by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield. Dr. Butterfield, a former women’s studies professor and proud lesbian, is now a believer and has actually spoken at past Answers in Genesis conferences and written excellent articles for our website. And while she rejects the notion of transgender identity, when asked about transgender pronouns in past interviews and Q&As she has advised people, in the name of “meet[ing] everyone where they were and do[ing] nothing to provoke insult,” to use preferred pronouns. But in a recent article she has, very rightly I believe, publicly repented of this practice and is urging others to reject her former advice and, if need be, repent before the Lord.
Why? Well, I encourage you to read the full op-ed, but she states that using transgender pronouns is sinful because:
Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against the ninth commandment and encourages people to sin against the tenth commandment.
Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against the creation ordinance.
Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against image-bearing.
Using transgendered pronouns discourages a believer’s progressive sanctification and falsifies the gospel.
Using transgendered pronouns cheapens redemption, and it tramples on the blood of Christ.
Using transgendered pronouns fails to love my neighbor as myself.
Using transgendered pronouns fails to offer genuine Christian hospitality and instead yields the definition of hospitality to liberal communitarianism, identity politics, and “human flourishing.”
Using transgendered pronouns isn’t a sin because the times have changed, and therefore, using transgendered pronouns isn’t sinful today but a morally acceptable option in 2012. Sin is sin. The Bible defines this as sin. Sin does not lose its evil because of our good intentions or the personal sensibilities of others. Changing cultural forces can bring sin into fresh light (as the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision did for me). But a renewed focus is no excuse for sin and no dodge for repentance, not for a real Christian.
To all of this I say, yes! As my friend Heidi St. John says, let’s not sacrifice truth on the altar of a misguided mercy.
As believers, we cannot in good conscience use transgendered pronouns—no matter our intentions—because, in doing so, we are lying.
As believers, we cannot in good conscience use transgendered pronouns—no matter our intentions—because, in doing so, we are lying. When we use she/her (or Miss or Mrs.) for a man or he/him (or Mr.) for a female, we are participating in the lie that sex/gender is on a spectrum or that a man can be a woman and a woman a man. Or if we use “they/them” (or Mx., etc.) or the myriad of other “pronoun” options today, we are participating in the lie that humans are not innately sexed as either male or female. We’re participating in the lie that humans can choose to be or are naturally androgenous or ambiguous, when that is not true because God has created us either male or female.1
We aren’t self-made people who can be whatever we want. We have been created by God as either male or female (Genesis 1:27). Yes, gender/biological sex is binary. We are either male or female, and males cannot become females, and females cannot become males (no amount of external changes from drugs or surgeries changes your DNA, which is inherently sexed, or how God has created you). Using transgendered pronouns is lying about how God has created someone.
We are not to live by lies. Satan is the father of lies and a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). We should not contribute to his deception by lying to others. Rather, we stand on the truth, pointing people to the One who is Truth (John 14:6) and whose Word is truth (John 17:17).
But you might wonder, “Won’t this give unnecessary offense? Isn’t it better to ‘love’ and respect others by using their preferred pronouns? After all that might be the only way we gain an audience with someone.” To this I would say, no. As Allie Beth Stuckey says on her podcast Relatable, “You can’t out-love God by lying.”
Truth matters to God. We must obey his command to always speak the truth in love while recognizing that it isn’t winsomeness or a perceived feeling of “love” or “respect” that wins someone to Christ. No, it’s the gospel that’s the power of God unto salvation—and that’s why we never need to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can speak the truth however we want—we’re to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), gently and respectfully giving answers for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). But we speak the truth and trust God with the results.
We trust that when sin and the lies of the world leave someone empty, searching, and broken, they will, by God’s grace, turn to those who never lied to them, who lovingly spoke the truth and shared the gospel, and who daily prayed for them for help and answers.
Our job isn’t to save someone—our job is to speak truth into a culture of lies and point people toward Jesus Christ.
Our job isn’t to save someone—our job is to speak truth into a culture of lies and point people toward Jesus Christ. And we can’t do that if we aren’t willing to take a stand on biblical truth, including the truth that God has made us and has made us male and female—not on a gender spectrum and not ambiguous or androgenous.
But how does this work practically? After all, for many of you—perhaps especially teachers—this could be the issue that determines whether or not you keep your job! Well, I know that many Christians in such a position explain that they cannot use transgendered pronouns and decline to use any pronouns, always referring to the person by their given name instead of with the shorthand of a pronoun. Others continue to use the pronouns that properly reflect how God has created someone. What you decide to do will likely depend on your relationship with the person, how frequently you come into contact with them, and in what situation that relationship exists.
As you navigate a world steeped in lies, come boldly before the Lord in prayer, asking that he would give you wisdom and the courage to do what’s right.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.