Hermaphrodite, 1–2 century AD, The Uffizi, Florence
Ever since the news broke about Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn, discussions about gender, sex changes, and intersex realities have filled my social media feeds. One chilling remark someone made was that the church may soon hit our Galileo moment. Indeed, some Christians are using funky hermeneutics to support easy answers—and these folks sound a lot like those who labeled heliocentric views as heretical.
For example, some quote Genesis’s beautiful words, “Male and female he made them” (Gen. 1:27). And this, they say, means that people are born either one or the other. Period.
Except Moses wrote that description about life in Eden. And today people are not always actually one or the other.
Our Lord himself insisted that sometimes bodies differentiate from what we might call the norm: “There are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:12).
Remember that story about the Ethiopian eunuch? Upon reading Isaiah 53, he discovered that the prophesy about Messiah said He was not one who would reproduce. King of kings, Lord of lords, Eunuch of eunuchs! Once Philip told this eunuch the whole story about Christ, the eunuch wanted to be baptized on the spot. Know what’s interesting about him? The author of Scripture seems to go out of the away to avoid repeatedly calling him a “man” (Acts 8:26–40). Instead, three times where you or I might otherwise insert “the man” or “the woman,” Luke inserts “the eunuch.” What are we to make of this?
That we need some humility, perhaps?
In such a context, I recommend a book. Mark Yarhouse, an expert in sexual identity and therapy, challenges the church to rise above the political hostilities and listen to people’s stories. In Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture, Yarhouse offers a Christian perspective on transgender issues that eschews simplistic answers and appreciates the psychological and theological complexity. The result is a book that engages the latest research while remaining pastorally sensitive to the experiences of each person.
When I was at Calvin College in January for a worship conference, I saw posters announcing an upcoming seminar there that Dr. Yarhouse was doing on this topic. And that excellent content is also now available. I’ve included it below.
In the midst of a tense political climate, Yarhouse calls Christians to come alongside those on the margins and stand with them as they resolve their questions and concerns about gender identity. That is so much wiser, healthier, and sounder hermeneutically than slamming people with an easy-answer text.