In this article, Pastor Tim Keller reviews several of the popular arguments Christians have recently been using to affirm romantic same-sex relationships. Many have come up with new interpretations or ways of looking at Scripture and Keller addresses those new ideas. It’s a really helpful, gentle, and well balanced article. Although it is about homosexuality, I post it here because many of the arguments people are putting forward about the Bible on the issue of homosexuality also have ramifications for transgenderism and crossdressing and the Bible.
I’ll briefly comment on each of the types of arguments Keller addresses and then relate them to our particular gender and sexual struggles.
- Knowing gay people personally. As with homosexuality, it’s important not to make judgments in a vacuum when it comes to crossdressing. It is very important for Christians to hear the stories of crossdressers and transsexuals. However, as Keller points out, just because some Christians don’t bother to get to know transsexuals, and have shown bigotry, that alone tells us nothing about what Bible says about these issues. Some people argue that if you just get to know a transsexual ora crossdresser, you will feel their pain and quickly affirm their lifestyle. I heartily disagree with that. Getting to know a pornography addict or a obsessive compulsive person will certainly help me to have more compassion. But that in no way will entail that I will affirm their behavior instead of helping them find freedom from those behaviors.
- Consulting Historical Scholarship. While I’m sure the people of ancient Israel, and the early Christians, did not think about crossdressing using such terminology as transsexualism or autogynephilia, they certainly were aware of the phenomena of people who didn’t follow the gender norms of their culture. Crossdressers have existed all throughout history in every culture. And differences in sex, between men and women, have existed all throughout history, from the beginning. So when biblical authors talk about respecting the differences between the sexes, what they say has ramifications for us, whether or not they use the new scientific terms we’ve come up with.
- Re-categorizing Same Sex Relations. I agree with Keller that people claiming to find scriptural support for transsexualism or crossdressing are reading the Bible with cultural spectacles on – namely the cultural (and religious/philosophical view) that “people must be themselves”. That if we resist any of our sexual or personal desires we are harming ourselves and not being true to identity. Take a look at this post – The Myth of Choosing to be Yourself.
- Revising biblical authority. I’ve talked about this one several times on my blog. So many people today, even Christians, misunderstand completely the Old Testament Law. If we believe the Bible is true, if we believe Jesus is Lord, then we MUST NOT obey certain laws of the Old Testament. To do so would be to deny our faith and deny God’s Word. When Christians are accused of picking and choosing what laws to follow in Scripture, those accusing simply do not understand what Jesus has done for us, and how he fulfills the Old Testament Law. Besides, keeping distinctions between the dress of genders is not only in the Old Testament Law, but it is also restated in the New Testament in several different ways.
- Being on the wrong side of history. History always moves forward, but only someone who hasn’t studied history well would think that culture is always necessarily improving. We are continually improving in some ways while continually degrading in other ways. Just because a culture has moved forward on a particular issue, it doesn’t make the culture ethically correct. Our culture is moving forward on the issues of transgenderism and crossdressing. That is a reality. But that has no bearing on the ethical nature of these issues or what God truly says in his Word about these issues. Sometimes we as Christians will be on the wrong side of history, history as interpreted by those who have different worldviews than us.