The Nashville Statement, a position document issued last month by a group of well-known evangelical Christians, addresses the myriad, and often delicate, situations of transgender persons with a cold screed that condemns such persons’ thoughts as sinful while also condemning their medical doctors, family, and friends.
Everyone, regardless of physical or psychological condition, must think of themselves as the gender matching their biological sex at birth. Other thoughts—in all cases, regardless of one’s physical, psychological, or other condition—are sins.
That is how the Statement describes God’s orders on gender.
How do the Statement’s signers know that these are God’s orders for all 7.5 billion people on Earth, no exceptions?
The Statement says the signers wish to “witness publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture.”
Often, a good way to witness publicly to what is revealed in Christian
Scripture is to quote Christian Scripture. Citing such scripture is sometimes effective, too.
Yet, the Statement does neither in relation to gender.
This post describes what the Nashville Statement says about transgender persons’ thoughts. It then describes what the Statement says about those who support transgendered persons. Finally, it points out some of the theological concepts on which the Statement’s assertions depend and asks whether those concepts are grounded in scripture, as the Statement claims.
What God Says About Gender, Per the Nashville Statement:
Most of what God says about gender relates to proper and improper thoughts and to reproductive organs, according to the Nashville Statement. The next few sections summarize what the Statement tells us God says about gender.
The Statement’s linchpin on gender:
There is a “God-ordained” and “God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.”
In other words, gender is binary (male or female), and God has ordered a permanent link between one’s gender identity and one’s biological sex at birth.
The Statement does not define “biological sex,” but presumably it is governed by one’s reproductive system—genitalia and internal systems—at birth (and, in some situations, chromosomal information).
The Statement says more about God’s view on gender-thought:
Adopting a “transgender self-conception is [not] consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
That is, if a person thinks of themselves as a gender other than the one that corresponds to the sex assigned at birth based on their reproductive organs, then that thought is a sin.
Grace of God, Limited for Transgender Persons
The Statement goes on to explain how the grace of God works relative to gender-thought:
The grace of God “enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept” the link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female; and
The grace of God, however, does not sanction “self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will.”
Thus, the grace of God allows a person to change their mind to conform to their body. The grace of God has its limits, though, and does not allow a person to change their body to conform to their mind.
What is God’s view on gender-thought in situations in which the person has a psychological condition or is intersex? The Statement says,
Neither “physical anomalies [n]or psychological conditions nullify” this God-ordered link between one’s self-conception as male or female and one’s biological sex; and
As to physical anomalies, “those born with a physical disorder of sex development” were “acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about ‘eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.’ … [T]hey … should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.”
Thus, per the Statement, transgender self-conception is a sin in all cases, even when physical or psychological conditions might suggest otherwise.
A person who has a physical disorder of sex development should have a self-conception of gender consistent with their biological sex to the extent it can be known (via chromosomes or otherwise, presumably).
Sin: Transgender Persons
In sum, the Nashville Statement says God’s view on gender-thought is this:
- If a person thinks of themselves as a gender besides the one that corresponds to the person’s reproductive organs at birth, then that thought is a sin.
- If a person has a physical condition at birth that makes their biological sex ambiguous, then to the extent that person’s biological sex can be known some other way (through chromosomal testing or the like, presumably), that person’s thinking of themselves as a gender besides the one revealed is a sin.
- No allowance is made for psychological conditions impacting gender.
- The grace of God allows a person with such a thought to stop thinking that way, but it does not allow for the person to continue thinking that way.
Sin: Doctors, Family, and Friends of Transgender People
Not satisfied with condemning the thoughts of the transgender person, the Nashville Statement also condemns the words and deeds of many of their doctors, friends, and family. The Statement condemns those who find acceptable, agree to, bless, support, or otherwise approve of transgender thought or of a transgender person’s actions furthering such thought.
The Statement says,
“[I]t is sinful to approve of … transgenderism and … such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness”; and
“[T]he approval of … transgenderism is [not] a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
In other words, your support of a transgender person or of a person who is questioning their gender can go too far. If your support of such a person constitutes approval of their self-conception as a gender that does not match their biological sex assigned at birth, or constitutes approval of an action based on transgender thought, then your support of a transgendered person is a sin.
Presumably, this means that if you are a faithful Christian psychologist, you will not advise a person with transgender thoughts that their thoughts are OK. If you are a faithful Christian parent, you will not bless your child’s decision to live as a gender different from their biological sex assigned at birth. If you are a faithful Christian friend, you will not approve of a friend’s decision to transition to a gender that is different from what you previously thought.
Instead of supporting a transgender person in this manner, faithful Christians must take steps not to “agree to disagree” with others about such persons, but instead should maintain the argument against such thoughts and/or not remain on amicable terms with people who disagree.
What is Revealed in Scripture?
The Nashville Statement has been roundly criticized. I will focus my criticism here on one of the Statement’s failures relative to scripture.
The signers of the Statement tell us all that they are expressing God’s will “revealed in Christian Scripture,” but they cite virtually no scripture in making their assertions about gender.
The key premises of the Statement on which these assertions depend are:
- There is a God-ordained, permanent link between a person’s biological sex at birth and the person’s required self-conception of themselves as male or female;
- Even if a person has a psychological, physical, or other condition that causes them to think of themselves as a gender different from the one associated with their biological sex at birth, it is still a sin for that person to think of themselves that way; and
- The grace of God is limited such that it does not allow self-conceptions that are at odds with one’s biological sex assigned at birth.
Where does scripture reveal these things?
The Statement does not say.
Declaring something as God-ordained is serious business.
There are many reasons why a signer of the Statement ought to withdraw the signer’s signature.
Among them: if a signer of the Statement cannot point to where the scripture reveals each of these three premises, the signer ought to withdraw the signer’s signature from the Statement immediately.