The Gospel and Transgenderism: Part 2 (Words Matter)

A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1by John Ellis

Having previously set the stage by defining and detailing God’s story, the discussion can now turn to how transgenderism fits within the parameters of gender established by the Bible. Unfortunately, defenders of transgenderism often use shifting parameters that are, at times, self-refuting[1]. Thankfully, followers of King Jesus are able to lean on the transcendent and absolute truth of the Bible for guidance. God’s word is sure.

For many, however, words are a funny thing. Or, rather, words have no fixed meaning but are merely symbols of a specific set of circumstances fluidly experienced by a culturally shaped individual. For those people, human words are not sure and neither are God’s words.

For example, and by way of contrast, when I use the word “gender,” I’m using it as a synonym for “sex” – specifically, “biological sex.” Further, my use of the word is constructed by a transcendent meaning that is determined by an absolute that stands outside of my experience and/or feelings. For many others, when using the word “gender,” they’re referring to something separate from biological sex. Gender is a word that they believe is a social construct that only has meaning when grounded in their experience and/or feelings. For them, gender has no fixed meaning. This belief means that gender ultimately has no meaning outside of how the individual experiencing “gender” decides to define it[2].

The concept of “social construct” may be unfamiliar for many. To that end, the dictionary defines social construct as “an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may or may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society.” But what does that mean?

To help bring the definition back down to earth, consider clothing and modesty. Traveling around the world will reveal that different societies have differing beliefs about what constitutes appropriate ways to dress. To aid businesspeople, BBC Travel has provided a helpful article that explains the ways in which different cultures define “business casual.”  In other words, the ways in which cultures clothe themselves can be considered a type of social construct.

But, and this is a very important “but,” even though they differ on what constitutes appropriate ways to dress, all of those societies recognize that there are abstract concepts that transcend their personal society and experience. The fact that societies may have differing constructs about appropriate ways to dress does not undermine, much less deny, the abstract concept of “modesty,” for example. Questions are raised, however (or should be raised), about whether or not your specific culture is trying to adhere to the abstract absolute of modesty or, rather, rebelling against it. Further, and possibly more importantly, where does the abstract and absolute concept of modesty come from?

Circling back to Part One of this series, for Christians, definitions and answers to those questions are derived from God’s story – God’s character, His law, and literary tone within episodes, to list a mere three yet important examples. Problems begin to arise, however, when people use the concept of social constructs to deny or attempt to destroy transcendent absolutes.

Holding to a worldview that venerates the concept of social constructs at the expense of transcendent absolutes requires denying God’s purposes for His creation. Make no mistake, God created everything for a purpose; first and foremost, all of creation’s purpose is to bring Him glory. To that end, God created everything with an innate function, or, rather, everything has a final cause – referred to as teleology.

While possibly an unfamiliar word for many, teleology is far from an unfamiliar concept for most. Whenever people strike a match, they do so with the assumption that the match is going to produce heat/fire. That’s why the match exists. If a match fails to produce heat upon being struck, it’s still recognized as a match, but it’s a bad match because it is not fulfilling its function – it’s not fulfilling its teleology[3].

For many post-modernists, “teleology” is a dirty word because it’s the rhetorical foundation for transcendent absolutes; or, rather, from within a Christian worldview and narrowing it down further, a transcendent absolute that everyone and everything owes full and final obeisance. Thankfully, that transcendent absolute has revealed Himself, His law, and His definitions in the Bible.

This is evident from the very beginning of God’s Word. In the creation narrative of Genesis, God continually declares His creation “good.”  In his book The Lost World of Genesis One, theologian John Walton explains that God’s declaration of creation’s goodness referenced the functional readiness of creation[4].

God created everything with a function; all creation has a purpose, a final cause, a teleology. In reference to teleology and gender, Adam’s “condition [was] not functionally complete without the woman.”[5] When God looked at the pinnacle of His creation, Image Bearers, and said, “it is not good that man should be alone”[6], God’s main concern wasn’t the potential loneliness of man; God’s concern was that humans were not “functionally complete.” After the creation of the woman, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”[7]

With His words, God created everything, including humans. As the Apostle Paul once said while addressing the Areopagus at Athens, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”[8]

According to the Bible, God’s words determine reality and, hence, determine definitions – a statement that stands in direct contradiction to the philosophy of language and man-centered religion of those who insist that “gender” is a social construct. Many, however, may be surprised to discover that the rejection of God’s words through the worship of social constructs is not a new rebellion.

In Genesis’ creation narrative, it doesn’t take long for things to stop functioning as God intended. God’s good world became broken, and it remains broken to this day. Looking at the world reveals that something is wrong. Things (and people) do not fulfill their intended function; at times, matches do not produce heat; trees do not bear fruit; humans cause other humans pain and even kill one another. The brokenness of the world raises the question, who broke it? And God’s story provides the answer.

As Part One of this series discussed, humans formed an alliance with the Serpent-Satan in an attempted coupe on the throne of God. The first shot fired in that rebellion was the questioning of God’s words.

Meeting the man and the woman in God’s good garden-temple, the Serpent-Satan challenged God’s definitions for God’s words; Satan challenged God’s sovereign right to determine reality. This low point in human history is revealed by God in Genesis 3:1-7. In verses four and five, the Serpent-Satan scoffs directly at God’s words and definitions and utters the rebellious lie, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.”[9]

Satan was the first post-modernist guilty of deconstructing God’s words and concluding that God’s definitions are not binding and do not create reality. Desiring to be out from under the authority of God, the first man and woman followed his lead. Unfortunately, all men and all women throughout history have followed the Serpent-Satan’s lead.

Moving forward in history (moving forward very quickly) from the first rebellion to the nineteenth century, and history finds Marxism pulling back its rebellious head to continue the Serpent-Satan’s strikes against God’s words.

For some, Marxism is a scary word that has become a boogieman, of sorts. For others, they look to Marxism (fully or in part) for their salvation. For many, the dark depths of Marxism as a holistic worldview that actively seeks to rebuild the Tower of Babel are misunderstood.

Seemingly unbeknown to many, Marxism is not an economic system. Granted, a specific economic system is directly connected to Marxism, and for good reason. Instead, and far more dangerously, Marxism is a philosophical system with its own metaphysic, epistemology, and, of course, ethics.

Briefly, one of the primary building blocks of Marxism is the belief that matter is the only reality and that the supernatural is nonexistent. In fact, for a Marxist, ideas only exist in reference to the material, but more on that in a moment. Narrowing it down, Marxism holds to what is called dialectical materialism[10]. In short, that means that history is conflict and what emerges from conflict is the current reality. And reality (history – specifically material events) creates ideas; ideas do not create history. According to Marxism, ideas do not have consequences; ideas are consequences. This is because in the Marxist worldview, words do not have meaning, only power.

Whether they claim to be Marxists or not, those today who claim that gender is a social construct have a philosophy of language that is built on the assumption that words have power and not meaning. Since their words only have power and their perceived reality creates meaning, they get to create using only their words. Like God.

By way of explanation, consider the word “justice.” For a Marxist or for someone who allows his or her worldview to be shaped by the concept of social constructs, justice has no transcendent meaning – it has no meaning outside of itself (like their view of “gender”). For them, society (what materially exists in a certain space and time) creates the meaning for justice. On the exact opposite side, for Christians, the meaning of justice is rooted in the character of God and His purpose for history, and that definition of justice creates our society (or should create, but, you know, sin gets in the way). For a Christian, ideas matter because ideas (definitions) flow from the nature of God and His revealed Word.

Beyond the defense of transgenderism, the battle over words is of utmost importance. The story of the Bible plainly reveals that words matter to God. All one needs to do is skim the Bible to be confronted with the importance of God’s words. Beginning in Genesis, God’s words have power and create meaning/reality. Throughout the entire storyline of the Bible, God speaks and He expects people to hear and obey. Throughout the entire storyline of the Bible, wisdom is revealed by God’s words. And the Bible’s perspective on words culminates in Jesus Christ. John 1:1 beautifully reveals that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[11]

Did you catch that? “And the Word was God.” WAS God.

The way language is viewed and used reflects the rebellion of humans. It reflects the fall. The way language is used reveals that humans are either submitting to God or they want God’s power, but without submitting to God (in their worldview, words only have power, remember). They want to be God.

There is and has only ever been two world views – God’s view and Satan’s view. The stubborn, man-centered rebellion that foolishly claims that gender is nothing more than a social construct and has no fixed meaning is simply reflecting the reality that the speaker continues to accept the lie of the Serpent-Satan that they, too, can be God. As Ecclesiastes 1:9 succinctly says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”[12]

Part Three will deal specifically with how God’s words in the Bible view /define gender.

[1] This will be explored in Part 3.

[2] Which, ironically, is actually refuted by many transgender people. For example, and an example that is the shared experience with most biological males who believe their gender to be “female,” Bruce Jenner chose “negative” gender stereotypes to display his “femaleness.” For further clarification, I point you to this post.

[3] For the record, the example of the match did not originate with me. But, for the life of me, I can’t remember where I first read it, and searching the usual suspects on my book shelf has proven futile. Otherwise, I would give credit where credit is due.

[4] John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).

[5] Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, 50.

[6] Genesis 2:18, ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 54.

[7] Genesis 1:31, ESV Study Bible, 52.

[8] Acts 17:28, ESV Study Bible, 2122.

[9] Genesis 3:4-5, ESV Study Bible, 55.

[10] Somewhat repeating myself, Marxist ontology and epistemology are rooted, framed, and controlled by dialectical materialism. It’s impossible to discuss Marxist epistemology, for example, apart from dialectical materialism. To be fair, it’s impossible to discuss the epistemology and ontology of Christians without discussing the nature of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible – hence, part one of this series.

[11] John 1:1, ESV Study Bible, 2019.

[12] Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV Study Bible, 1197.


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