Transgenderism, Mental Illness, and the Church

I recently read a post on the issue of transgenderism that made this statement:

No objective tests can prove that the transgender condition exists. No physical examination, blood test, bone marrow test, chromosome test, or brain test will show that a person has gender dysphoria. It is a condition revealed solely by the patient’s feelings.

I agree with that wholeheartedly.

But here’s the thing – that can be said about a plethora of conditions we collectively term “mental illness.” Things like ADHD, depression, anxiety, and even things like schizophrenia are also symptom diagnosed (as opposed to diagnosed via objective medical tests). You tell the doctor or therapist what’s going on with you, they ask additional questions  or observe your behavior over time and they give you a diagnosis. There are no blood tests or other objective medical tests involved. Sometimes there are medical exams to rule out other causes, such as substance abuse, but that’s different from a positive diagnosis via medical exam.

Unfortunately, the same church who wants to refute psychology on transgenderism, has largely bought into the psychological model for many other conditions equally unprovable.

For example, why do we accept this:

“I know what the Bible says about anxiety but I have a special situation.  The doctor says my brain doesn’t function the way others’ do in this regard so this is something I can’t help, something that must be treated medically.”

But not this:

“I know what the Bible says about gender but I have a special situation. The doctor says my brain doesn’t work the way others’ do in this regard. This is something I can’t help, something that must be treated medically.”

The Bible always treats destructive behaviors and inappropriate thoughts as sin, never as diseases. For example, it talks about the sin of drunkenness, not the disease of alcoholism. Yet the disease model of sin is widely accepted in many churches today, even many conservative ones, and I believe those chickens will come home to roost with the issues gender and sexuality.

For years the church has deferred to the discipline of psychology as an alternative authority or at least a coequal authority with scripture with regard to behavior and thinking. Rather than treating problems of thinking as opportunities to point people to scripture and encourage them to renew their minds, we’ve deferred to psychologists and psychiatrists. But now, when faced with transgenderism, we want to jump off that train and say (rightly) there’s no objective evidence that something in the brain determines  gender independent of  anatomy.

If you have male anatomy and think you are a woman, you don’t have a problem with your brain, you have a problem with your thinking. You are engaging in sinful and warped thinking that needs to be brought in line with the teaching of the word of God. But because we don’t make that declaration in so many other areas, we may have our work cut out for us doing so in this one.

Why Not Women Elders?

Why not Women Elders?

Of all the qualifications for elders taught in scripture, the most controversial in our day is the requirement that they be men.

Why is this so controversial?

Because we live in an era when people both worship equality and misunderstand it.

The Bible is clear that both men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). It is also clear that God, from the beginning, gave men and women different roles in his plan – even before the Fall. Adam was put in charge of the Garden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15) and Eve was tasked with being his helper (Genesis 2:18).

Male and female roles across the board are beyond the scope of this article but the point is equality of worth does not require equality of function. Unfortunately many people today, even inside the church, do not understand that. They’ve drunk deeply from the well of the Spirit of the Age and believe that to deny women any role is to deny their worth and equality before God. This is the same spirit, by the way, that says men and women are completely interchangeable because gender itself is a merely social construct.  But, you do not have to do the same job as another person to be equal to that person in value. Even among the persons of the Trinity there are differing roles yet all are equally God.

Scripture tells us the church is made up of people with a variety of gifts and that each of those gifts is necessary for the church to be healthy (I Corinthians 12). If we all had the same gift we’d have the kind of equality our culture seeks but we’d have an unhealthy church. As Paul says, if everyone is an eye we’d never hear anything!

What is the biblical evidence for male only elders?

The clearest passage is I Timothy 2:12-14:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

 With a similar passage in I Corinthians 14:33-35:

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Notice the two functions Paul calls out in the I Timothy passage:

  • Exercise authority
  • Teach

These are the functions of elders. They are, when taken together, uniquely functions of elders. Elders are the ones given leadership responsibility for the local church (I Peter 5:1-3, I Timothy 5:17) and the ones responsible for teaching the congregation (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9). There are other passages you can point to but if a woman is not permitted to do these two things with regard to men, she cannot function as an elder because she cannot lead and teach a large portion of the church.

It’s as simple as that.

Some people claim Paul is speaking from a cultural perspective, that this was true in the first century but does not apply today. Paul, however, doesn’t give us that option because he tells us why he forbids women to teach:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

 This is not cultural it is creational. It goes back to the roles ordained by God for men and women from the beginning and to the dynamics of the Fall. Paul uses the same logic to argue against women teaching and exercising authority over men that Christ uses in Matthew 19 to uphold marriage as one man and one woman – that God ordained it so from the beginning.

So elders are to be men. Always, in every era and every culture.

 

Photo credit: twm1340 via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Condemned by The Writing on the Door

Condemned by the Writing on the DoorI find it fascinating that one of the signs that Western Culture is circling the bowl is the current obsession with said bowl and who can use it under what circumstances. Why is the latest front in the culture war sex-segregated facilities, whether they be locker rooms or public restrooms?

Believe it or not, the Bible gives us some insight:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:18-20, emphasis  mine

Paul tells us the law of God, in other words the truth, is written on the hearts of men – all men, even unbelievers. Deep down every human being knows he or she is in rebellion against God and, apart from a work of the Holy Spirit, they do all they can to suppress that truth. When that rebellion is not just against God’s standards as revealed in His Word, but against the created order as well, suppression becomes more difficult. It’s one thing to suppress the truth regarding behavior that is not in line with God’s Word, I can, after all, choose to never crack open a Bible or expose myself to Christian teaching and thus avoid being reminded of my sin. It’s quite another to suppress the truth regarding the reality of who I am. If I’m a man trying to convince myself that I’m a woman, yet every time I strip down in front of the bathroom mirror my lie is exposed (no pun intended), I have to up my suppression game. It’s not enough to tell myself the lie, I must enlist others to lie to and for me as well.

That’s where bathrooms and locker rooms come in.

Bathrooms are everywhere – in the shopping mall, at the doctor’s office, in the grocery store, at Target. Everywhere we go we’re confronted with two doors, one for women and one for men. Bathrooms are also one of the last places in our culture where the sexes can legitimately be segregated. If I’m a man pretending to be a woman, I’m reminded of my lie every time I see these two doors and realize I cannot push the one marked “Women” and walk inside. So, in order to suppress the truth welling up within me, I must demand access through that door because that tells me other people also believe my lie and allows me to further suppress the truth.

Bottom line, this is not a quest for equal rights; it’s a quest to avoid reality and silence guilty consciences. But it won’t work. In the end, no matter how many states pass laws allowing men into women’s bathrooms or how many aging celebrities cancel concerts, men will still be men, women will still be women, and God will still be God and He will not be mocked.

Photo credit: Ric e Ette via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I Feel Therefore I Am?

Another hermaphrodite symbol (background-color...

In an article titled What Transgender People Teach Us About God and Our Humanity, Sharon Groves, Director of the disingenuously named Human Rights Campaign responds to Russell Moore’s recent comments on the “transgender question.”

However, rather than, as the title suggests, learning from transgender supporters, the main strength of the article is what it teaches us about transgender supporters.  It further exposes the hypocrisy of the left in general and the LGBT (did I miss one?) lobby in particular.  One of the key points of the author is that biology is not our destiny:

What if rather than saying that biology is destiny we actually explored the ways in which we all experience our own gender identities and expressions?

But apparently feelings and experiences are. Remember, these are the same people who say those with homosexual attractions cannot change. The same people who want to constrain those with unwanted same sex attractions by prohibiting them from pursuing change. The actual, physical reality of who you are should not be your destiny but your feelings and experiences should be.

This was one of the main complaints Groves had of Moore’s piece:

I was struck that in Moore’s piece he didn’t reference the experience of one transgender person.

That’s like responding to an article condemning adultery by saying “wait a minute, there are some people who are perfectly happy cheating on their spouses, why didn’t you talk about their experiences?” Dr. Moore, and all orthodox Christians, see God as the source of truth, not our experiences. Unlike Sharon Groves who seeks to know “who God is for each of us,” they seek to know who God is, period. My experiences don’t change who He is nor do they change His truth. As R.C. Sproul says “One of the most dangerous things you can do as a Christian is to determine your theology by your experience.”

In the end we heed the call to love our neighbors not by affirming them in their sin but by telling them the truth – even when that truth is contrary to their feelings. For those who believe Jesus Christ when He says unless we repent, we will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3), the stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Other voices on this topic:

Your Feelings Don’t Define You. By Mark Altrogge

The Humpfest Masquerade by Doug Wilson

An Open Letter to the Governor of California by Rob Slane