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. 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

That Which Cannot Continue Will Not Continue

House Of Cards
House Of Cards (Photo credit: FurLined)

When I was a kid, I liked to build card structures. It was fun to see how many cards in the deck could be used before the whole thing came crashing down. Two things determined how far you could get, your skill at erecting the cards and the laws of physics. Skill will get you a long way but there is an absolute limit to how many cards can be balanced on one another. At some point, no amount of skill will keep the structure from collapsing.

We live in a culture that is reaching the outer limits it can achieve without collapsing. But, rather than going beyond the laws of physics, it is exceeding the boundaries of basic biology and economics that will lead to the collapse.

A hundred years ago, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was a man and who was a woman – that gender was a fixed absolute like skin color. Now, beyond the looking glass in 2014, thoughts and desires are fixed and the physical characteristics possessed by an individual are merely a serving suggestion.  One’s gender is whatever he or she wants it to be and, oh, by the way, there are now more than two.

This insanity was taken to a new high (or low) recently in California where the legislature decided one could use the restroom or locker room of their chosen gender whether their anatomy matched that choice or not. Now, in California, a man who claims he’s a woman can walk into a women’s restroom with your teenage daughter and if you object, well, you’re just an intolerant bigot.

Up is down, war is peace and men are women.

The economics being practiced today is no less bizarre. Again, a hundred years ago most people understood basic math, that spending more than you made was a recipe for disaster and that you can’t get something for nothing. Yet now, basic mathematics and economics are routinely flouted, not by third graders but by the leaders of the nation – and people believe them.

The recent roll out of the Affordable (sic) Care Act is a prime example. People are shocked that their insurance premiums are increasing by, in some cases a factor of ten. We were told that insurance companies would provide coverage to everyone and that you could not be penalized with higher premiums if you had a pre-existing condition (code for already sick). Of course, such a fiat does not change the cost of care provided to those who are already sick so the only recourse is to spread the cost of their treatment among a lot of well people who were heretofore paying less because of their good health.

Imagine saying to a single person, you now have to pay part of the grocery bill for an overweight family of five. I know you personally don’t eat that much but we don’t want to penalize people who eat a lot or have large families so in the interest of fairness, you’ll have to pay for part of their groceries. But never fear, you can keep your grocery store and your monthly food bill will not increase. Who in their right  mind would believe that? Yet that’s exactly what we’re being told about health care. And one provision of the new act even manages to combine both economic and biological lunacy by requiring single men to pay for maternity coverage, you know, just in case.

Up is down, war is peace and spending is saving.

However, there is good news. As the title of this post suggests, what cannot continue, will not continue. But it won’t be legislation that brings an end to this kookiness. Flouting the laws of nature and economics can only go on for so long before the house of cards comes tumbling down – it’s as certain as gravity’s action on a falling object. The resultant mess will be painful but if those left to clean it up have eyes to see, a culture built on reality can perhaps again rise from the ashes.