“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
Be self expressive! Embrace who you are! All of this sounds so self-affirming, it sounds like that is exactly what we should do, embrace our selves. We will feel better about who we are, but what if who we are is not who God designed us to be?
In recent days there has been a huge shift in language related to identity. Once there was a strong relationship between language and reality, but things have changed. Now we say things like, "that person identifies as a..." Identity language like this is not representative of reality, but a dream world where we can be anything we want and our simple desire to be something else is accepted as truth in spite of its glaring contradiction with reality. This is not only a change in language, it is the result of a change in how we measure the truth value of a statement. In short, this is relativism maturing. When a person who is biologically a woman decides to identify as a man, the truth is not measured by examining whether that person has xy or xx chromosomes nor is it measured by what body parts that person actually has. Instead the truth value of the belief is measured by whether that person indeed has that belief in the first place. Since the person has that belief, it is assumed that the belief itself is reality for that person. Where this all goes really sideways is how the politically correct thing to do is not challenge the belief in view of the almost insurmountable evidence to the contrary, but to accept that belief in spite of said evidence. To reject that belief is seen as rude, intolerant, and offensive.
Not only are these identity games contrary to obvious science that the average student once learned long before high school, but these games have a more sinister side to them. They are not innocent. According to the Christians worldview the universe was created good, by a good God (Gen. 1 & 2), but something happened, something bad. When the first parents were given one command to follow they betrayed that command and rejected the good world created by God in favor of a world they thought they wanted, a world the serpent promised, but could not deliver.
The world the serpent promised was one in which the first parents could be gods, they would know good and evil in the same way that God knew good and evil, they would be just like God. The first parents didn't want to be the creation, they wanted to identify as gods, just like God (Gen. 3). Unfortunately, their desire to identify as something different from what they actually were has had dire consequences for all humans since that time. The first parents didn't embrace who God created them to be, they embraced a fictional reality and insisted that God played by their rules.
Unfortunately, their identity games had dire consequences; God is not a bully and He didn't force the first parents or anyone since then to accept reality as He created it to be. However, he has not removed the consequences of ignoring reality either. Just as Pharaoh hardened his heart in the Exodus narrative, eventually God gave Pharaoh over to his own desires and God hardened Pharaoh's heart resulting in the destruction of the Egyptian military and the deaths of all the firstborn boys in Egypt. There are numerous examples of this throughout Scripture, Romans 1 likewise speaks of God turning people over to their own desires and allowing them to experience the consequences.
The choice to identify as something other than what one actually is has dire consequences. This is not just true about gender identity, but about every aspect of our identity. Scripture identifies all humans as people created in the image of God. This is perhaps the most significant thing about a person's identity. The choice made by the first parents diminished the extent to which this identity could be realized. All kinds of identity issues have plagued humanity since that time. While there are certainly various ways in which sexual identity has been perverted, pride issues, alcohol and drug issues, slavery, racial issues, and so on all stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of who God created us to be.
People, especially Christians, should not embrace the self that has been marred by sin, but instead we ought to embrace who God created us to be. This means looking forward to a time when those who follow Jesus will be redeemed, not just in our bodies, but in our understanding of self, a time when terms like child of God, coheir with Christ, and saint apply in all their fullness. Now they only apply in part.
Embracing the self who has been afflicted by sin is settling for less than God intended. This is true in regards to the transgender issue as well. Sin has harmed our understanding of who God created us to be. It is true that God doesn't make mistakes and that no matter who you are, you carry with you the image of God. It is also true that the image of God you carry as well as your understanding of it have been harmed by sin. All of us ought to reject certain understandings of how identity works. We don't get to choose our identity as if we were playing a game of house as a kid. It is sin that has caused our confusion, not God.
I'll end this post with a quote by C. S. Lewis that sums up the Biblical perspective on identity issues, "Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life." (Mere Christianity)
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.