I recently read the book, “God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity,” by Andrew Walker. I didn’t know anything about Andrew Walker until the Gospel Coalition recommended his book. You can read about him here – About. I would like to heartily endorse this book and say a few things about it. It’s a short book and well written. Walker spends most of the time talking about the worldviews and philosophies of our culture in contrast to the Christian worldview. He looks at the issue of transgenderism through the theological lens of the Bible.
If you are looking for an academic treatise on transgender issues, this book is not it. I would refer you to the much more thorough and more scientific analysis by Mark Yarhouse in his book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria. In contrast, Walker’s book is more like an extended sermon rather than an academic book, and in that way perhaps it is like most of my blog posts. It is an excellent theological reflection about the issues surrounding transgenderism.
Some things I appreciated:
- The tone was perfect. It was not angry, even though many of us, especially Christians, are so frustrated with the changes happening in the culture, and our tendency is to approach this issue with anger and indignation. The word that I think best describes the overall tone of the book is “love.” The whole book focuses on love and compassion, especially for those struggling with gender dysphoria.
- This book is easy to read and helpful for churches as they try to figure out how to respond to these changing gender issues in our culture today. There are a few practical suggestions that are very helpful. There is also guidance for parents as they talk to their children about what they see at school or on television concerning gender identity.
- Walker agrees with me that unhelpful gender stereotypes are not the solution, and in fact may be part of the problem that is causing people to have exacerbated gender dysphoria.
- This book is really good for Christians struggling with gender dysphoria, as it helps us to think about the nature of sin, our identity, suffering in the Christian life, and our redemption.
- I thought Walker’s treatment of the issue of pronouns was helpful. He is compassionate, not legalistic, and yet he values the truth. He does not want to accommodate people in their delusions, but he also does not needlessly offend someone at the first meeting, especially if they are visiting a church. I agree with him that we can use people’s names as much as possible instead of pronouns.
- He made very clear that trying to live according to another gender contrary to what you really are, is sinful, whether that is by crossdressing or taking hormones.
Some things that could have been improved:
- The book by itself is not detailed enough when it comes to psychological and scientific analysis of gender dysphoria. Walker could have done more research and done a short chapter on some of the current theories about the causes of gender dysphoria and treatments. But this was not a big problem. The book is successful in its narrow theological focus. But I suggest that people should read it alongside of “Understanding Gender Dysphoria” by Mark Yarhouse. Especially if you yourself are struggling with gender dysphoria, and you want to understand yourself better, read Yarhouse’s book for a good summary of the academic literature, and then read Walker’s book for theological reflection.
- Walker gives guidance to parents about what to do if their own child is struggling with gender identity issues. I appreciated all that he said. But I think he failed to mention some important things. A child today will likely explore their gender dysphoria online before even talking to their parents. And likely they will get very one-sided and dramatic advice from people in the transgender community, making such youth think that suicide is the inevitable result of not transitioning right away. Parents should be made aware of what arguments their children will come across online, and what suggestions they will be given by the transgender community. Some advice from the transgender community is good and helpful, but much of it I view as dangerous. A child’s relationship with his or her parents may be poisoned by what they read online, prior to even raising the issue with parents. Further, the youth will quickly learn online that love without affirming the desired gender identity and transition is really not love at all, and they will see their parent’s lack of affirmation as “hate.” Parents need to be aware of this and somehow prepare for it. As parents it’s hard to compete with thousands of transsexuals speaking into the life of your struggling youth and telling the youth what they “must” do.
Here are some great quotes from the book that agree with what I’ve already written about elsewhere on this blog. They are powerful. Read them and then go read the book for yourself! I’ve bolded the parts I think are especially significant.
“Gnosticism says that there is an inherent tension between our true selves and the bodies we inhabit. The idea that our true self is different than the body we live in communicates that our body is something less than us, and can be used, shaped, and changed to match how we feel. The concept that our gender can be different than our biological sex is a modern form of the old Gnostic idea. What this means, practically, is that a man can identify as a woman, even if they have male chromosomes and the body of a man.”
“The church has often gotten gender wrong, just as society has. Unhelpful stereotypes exist around gender that can confuse individuals if they do not fit that stereotype. Being a man, for example, does not entail an automatic love of football (I don’t care for football at all!); and being a woman does not demand an automatic love for cooking (I know plenty of women who do not like to cook). When society attaches stereotypes to gender and sex, it can easily send the signal that anyone who fails to conform to those stereotypes is somehow failing to epitomize manhood or womanhood.”
“The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2 v 25) Imagine that: a world where everyone is at ease with who they are and how they are made; and feels good about how they look, rather than embarrassed or awkward or deeply disturbed about it; where people are able to completely trust those around them, so that they are able to be open with them.”
“The first result of the first rejection of God is that people feel ashamed of, and awkward about, their bodies. That is their first experience of living in a world that is now beautiful thanks to its Creator, but broken thanks to their sin. The first experience, but by no means the only one, nor the worst.”
“A transgendered person is made in God’s image, and that means that respect and honor are due to them as people, regardless of whether we agree with their self-perception. To see the full dignity of a transgendered person means to abhor or reject any mocking humor that would demean them. It means to stand up and defend them against bullies or abuse. Dignity demands that we speak up in the defense of someone’s worth, even when we disagree with their way of life.“
“Extending empathy does not mean that you accept or affirm or encourage someone to embrace the desire to live contrary to their created gender; it does mean, however, that instead of rejecting a person outright, you take time and make the effort to listen and seek to understand.”
“[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13 v 6) Here is perhaps the most delicate aspect of loving our transgender neighbor: how can we love our transgender neighbor while not sending signals that we approve of someone living in a gender opposite of their sex, or no gender at all?”
For further writings from Andrew Walker see his website – Andrew T. Walker
He has a lot of writings about homosexuality and other related issues – Writings