As followers of Jesus, we seek to pattern ourselves after His example. And in all things, He exemplified grace and truth. Not grace or truth, but grace and truth. How, exactly, do we work this out in practice? And how, precisely, does this apply to the issue of transgender pronouns?
A recent teaching by Southern Baptist leader J. D. Greear underscored some of the challenges facing Christians today when confronted with the question of speaking to trans-identified individuals.
On the one hand, Pastor Greear clearly emphasizes the aspect of truth. He references solid conservative Christian books addressing transgender issues written by Ryan T. Anderson and Andrew Walker. And he states plainly that genetics determines your gender and that, “All told, when it comes to genetic sex, at the DNA level, there really is just male and female.”
Then, after addressing the question of “ambiguous genitalia and the ‘intersexual’,” Pastor Greear gets to the pronoun question, emphasizing grace. He quotes the comments of Walker from his book God and the Transgender Debate, then notes that “there is a spectrum of generosity of spirit vs. telling truth.” (See here for Walker’s article from 2017.)
In other words, if I address a biological male as “she,” I am not telling the truth. But, Pastor Greear believes, I am being generous in spirit towards this individual. This position is echoed by professor Preston Sprinkle, also cited by Greear, who advocates “pronoun hospitality.”
Greear’s teaching drew a strong response from cultural commentator Bill Muehlenberg, who wrote, “We now live in a world where we are routinely expected to deny reality, deny science, deny biology, and deny truth. We are encouraged to live in denial, to believe lies, and to reject reason and rationality. Welcome to the brave new world of trans militancy.”
How, then, would Muehlenberg counsel the Christian to speak towards a trans-identified individual?
“In sum,” he stated, “we must love the trans person like we love anyone else. And real love always means speaking the truth, and not allowing the beloved to live a lie, which is always damaging and harmful. Do not swallow the lies of this corrupt culture, but stand firm on the truth of reality, biology and God’s Word.”
Professor Robert Gagnon, the foremost authority on the Bible and homosexual practice, also took exception to Pastor Greear’s approach.
He wrote, “I am stunned that any leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, much less the president, would be contending that faithful Christians should practice so-called ‘pronoun hospitality’ in addressing ‘transgender’ persons by their delusional pretend sex. The idea that Jesus or Paul would have referred to a man as a woman or a woman as a man in anything other than satire and derision for abhorrent behavior is absurd revisionism in the extreme.”
Gagnon continued, “It is not an act of ‘hospitality’ or ‘respect’ to the offender but rather (1) a scandal to the weak and young in the church and a rightful violation of conscience for many that will lead many to stumble to their ruin; (2) an accommodation to sin that God finds utterly abhorrent; and (3) a complicity in the offender’s self-dishonoring, self-degrading and self-demeaning behavior that does him no favor because it can get him (or her) excluded from the kingdom of God. Am I being obtuse here?”
How, then, do we sort this out? What does grace require? What does truth demand?