Trans* and the Bible

A few days ago we received an e-mail. One of our readers wanted to know how to treat transgender people in a church context. Here is a part of their e-mail:

I am mentoring a young transman who came to church initially as a female, and left when he was not getting the affirmation he needed as a male. He is now denying any kind of faith interest at all.  I find this situation incredibly sad. He needs all the support he can get as he faces this major life change. We and a trusted Christian counselor are trying to come to an agreement on what is the appropriate way to work these issues through. We want to keep our faith genuine and real and be a light in the darkness. Maybe your ministry can help?
Here is our reply:

If we want to talk about transgenderism and the bible we first have to agree on two things:
1. We admit that the Hebrew texts of the bible meant something different to Jewish readers thousands of years ago than the English text without the same cultural reference means to us today in 2016. Or in other words: “Scripture cannot mean now what it did not mean then.” (Rick Brentlinger, *1950, Independent Baptist preacher)
2. We must refrain from reading topics, word meanings, contexts and connotations into the bible that were not given when the texts were originally written down. Or again in other words: “Scripture only settles matters about which it speaks plainly.” (Richard Hooker, 1554-1600, Anglican theologian)
With these two aspects in mind, let’s look at what the bible says about transgender people.

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Wet Feet?

When God spoke to Moses, it was through a brightly burning bush. For Gideon, the message came through a piece of white fleece. To Joseph, through vivid dreams. To Mary and Elizabeth through beautiful angels. To my friend, Ann, through the whisper of the wind in a wheat field. To me, through an infomercial for a blender. Or so I thought, at first.

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Disappointing frailty?

Being human is not easy. On the contrary. It’s extremely hard. It is a constant running from one appointment to the next, one big life event to the next. We have to make money so we can feed our family, help our children to become responsible adults so that they can make money and support their families. Being human is about constantly falling and constantly trying to get up again. And sometimes we fail. Sometimes we stay there on the ground, without hope, without faith. When we fail we constantly disappoint God.
Sometimes it seems that being human is nothing but a struggle, that life is nothing but a purgatory we have to go through and overcome as good and as obedient to God as possible so that God gives us our eternal reward: A place, or a state of being where all pain is forgotten and all loss amended.

Isn’t there even a story in the bible that speaks of Jesus’ own disappointment in human failure?

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