The following is a preview of our 12th Pastoral Paper, available now as a free download from the Center.
This paper has a narrow aim: to understand what the Bible says about the categories of male and female as they relate to questions about transgender (and non-binary) identities. I’ve titled the paper a “Biblical Conversation” instead of a “Biblical View” for at least two reasons. First, modern questions related to transgender identities are very new and there has been relatively little interaction with the complexities of this discussion. (Although, of course, there is no shortage of dogmatic opinions littered across conversations on social media.) Since this conversation is so fresh, any thoughtful interpreter should humbly be open to the possibility that their current assumptions should be reconsidered (or corrected) in light of further studies and research.
Second, the transgender conversation involves the convergence of many different academic disciplines: Biblical and Theological Studies, Ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman History, Psychology, Psychiatry, Gender Theory, and Biology (among others). While I have done my best to read and wrestle with many of the relevant works in these areas, I make no claim to be an expert in them all.
In light of these two realties, I will try to exercise great caution, and in some places tentativeness, in drawing conclusions from my observations of what the Bible says and doesn’t say.
Indeed, this paper is focused on the Bible and theology. I will not go into detail about contemporary scientific or philosophical theories about transgender experiences, nor will I engage all the various pastoral case studies that come up in this discussion (though I do offer some brief reflections at the end). And, for the sake of concision—it’s already a long paper!—I will not integrate personal stories into my exegesis nor focus on pastoral care, relational compassion, or the various ways in which the church has harmed transgender people. (Indeed, I believe it has.) This paper is therefore incomplete. It consists of raw exegesis and theological reflection. I’m only trying to fill one gap in the multilayered discussion; I want to explore a biblical view of female and male identities as these relate to other possible transgender or non-binary identities.
At the end of the paper, I will offer some general thoughts on a few salient pastoral/ethical questions facing Christian leaders, such as:
- Are there only two genders, male and female, or are there other options?
- Is it possible for someone’s gender to be different from their biological sex?
- Is it morally permissible for a Christian to present themselves or identify as a gender different from their biological sex?
- Is it morally permissible for a Christian to pursue sex reassignment surgery or receive hormone replacement therapy in an attempt to align their biological sex with their gender identity?
Click the link below to download a free PDF of "A Biblical Conversation about Transgender Identities" by Preston Sprinkle.