Andrew T. Walker. God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? (The Good Book Company, Denmark. 2017) 174 ppg.
The cultural issues swirling around the American and Western church require Christians and church leaders to have a new level of theological perception. If we believe our faith has a firm grasp on the truth about who God is and how he created humanity, it is important for us to take a serious look at the culture around us through the lens of our theology. And so it is with one of the most sensitive and volatile issues today – the transgender debate.
Andrew T. Walker is the Director of Policy Studies with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and he has written a book designed to give the Christian a solid biblical theology of the human person and ways in which we can think through this issue. I agree with Walker as he writes early in the book, “There’s one more reason I’ve written this book: I’d love for the church not to be constantly playing catch-up in the culture” (pg. 17). It seems as if the evangelical church is always engaging these issues after being rocked back on their heels, and it is wise for us to tackle them head-on with biblical clarity, truth, and love.
The first few chapters of the book lay a worldview groundwork for the issue. How did we get to this point? What kinds of assumptions and questions brought us to a point where our culture is taking a one-sided view on a complicated issue? Here, Walker defines some common terms and begins to point the reader toward answers found in Christian theology.
In the second section, chapters 5-8, he builds a theology of the human person made in the image of God, with all the relevant consequences. While the author does a good job of maintaining an irenic and compassionate tone throughout, he is also clear where Scripture is clear. God made us male and female, and to flourish as people made in the image of God we need to learn to live as created. Freedom and flourishing are not found in capitulating to feelings of gender dysphoria, but by living in Christ.
This means some difficult decisions for some. And it will be a long journey for those who desire to follow Christ and deny what feels natural to them, or what may be overwhelmingly confusing to them. In the third part of the book, Walker applies his theological reflection to several specific issues. This may be the most challenging part of the book as Walker develops a theology the cross (Matt. 16:24-25). He argues that those who struggle with gender dysphoria need to deny that to faithfully follow Christ. Consequently, he drives home the point that all of us need to deny ourselves – the things that feel or seem right or natural but are dishonoring to Christ – in order to follow Jesus.
And finally, Walker answers several pressing questions such as, “Can someone be transgender and Christian?” and “What should church elders/leaders do if a congregation member asks for their child to be identified as the opposite gender (or neither gender)?”
All in all, we need books like this one. It is an easy read, but that makes it valuable as an introduction to an orthodox Christian view on this issue, and useful to a church, a board, a small group, or any individual who wants to faithfully think through this contentious issue.
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