Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gagnon on Christianity Today

Christianity Today published on June 8 a somewhat disturbing article by Mark Yarhouse (professor of psychology at Regent University in Virginia) on "gender dysphoria." Gender dysphoria is the APA's current description of the condition whereby someone perceives one's "gender" to be other than one's birth or biological sex. The previous designation in the APA's diagnostic manual (and in my view still preferable) is "gender identity disorder" (GID).
Mark contends:
1. Church members should address a man who thinks he is a woman by her chosen female name and use feminine pronouns, and a woman who thinks she is a man by her chosen male name and use masculine pronouns. He appears unconcerned that this approach compels churchgoers to participate in gender delusion.
2. The church should not "treat as synonymous management of gender dysphoria and faithfulness" to Christ. The church should allow those with transgender desires "to identify with aspects of the opposite sex, as a way to manage extreme discomfort," including cross-dressing, as though such actions can be divorced from faithful discipleship.
3. For the most part the church should give up on the "culture war" battle on this and other issues. “The church is called to rise above [culture] wars and present a witness to redemption. Mark apparently believes that the church's focus on redemption precludes such things as: (a) trying to keep society from becoming increasingly confused and immoral in sexual ethics; (b) combatting society's efforts to persuade children in the public schools that one's perceived "gender" need not correlate with one's biological sex; and (c) working to prevent the state from punishing believers who can't support a transsexual agenda (for example, requiring schools and businesses to allow males who think they are females use female restrooms).
Mark cites me as an example of what he calls an "Integrity" position (he quotes me several times but strangely doesn't cite or link to the online article from which he quotes, which is here:…/TranssexualityOrdination.pdf). Mark does not put himself in this camp (though he believes Christians should let it "inform our pastoral care"). Rather he subscribes to a "Disability" position. Mark cites as a distinguishing feature of this position that it "rejects the teaching that gender identity conflicts are the result of willful disobedience or sinful choice." Gender dysphoria is not "a result of moral choice."
This way of delineating matters distorts my view because I do not view the mere experience of gender dysphoria as necessarily resulting from active efforts to rebel against God. My approach is not far from Mark’s on this score: “A person may have choices to make in response to the condition, and those choices have moral and ethical dimensions. But the person is not culpable for having the condition as such." However, even this view is a bit simplistic: There is often a dialectical relationship between involuntary desires and the strengthening and reinforcing of desires through behavior and active thought life (a nurture-becomes-nature component).
Another problem with his "Disability" view is that for the most part people don't associate a disability with sinful conduct. When people think of disabilities they typically think of such things as physical impairments of mobility, hearing, or sight; mental retardation or other learning impairments; or health impairments like asthma, epilepsy, or attention deficit disorder. Such non-moral disabilities can be accommodated in all sorts of ways without violating any moral standards of God.
Even depression and anxiety (cited as parallels to gender dysphoria by Mark) are not as directly or severely related to the desire to sin as a desire to pursue a gender identity at odds with one's biological sex (and in what sense do we accommodate to depression and anxiety?). This confusion on Mark's part causes him to want to accommodate to the sexual delusion of gender identity disorder in ways that I believe compromise core scriptural standards of sexual ethics.
Mark further argues that "it is an act of respect, even if we disagree, to let the person determine what they want to be called." I disagree. It is a mark of dishonor to contribute to the self-dishonoring misperceptions and false steps of someone who seeks to mar the stamp of gender stamped on one's body by the Creator (compare Paul’s language of dishonor in discussing homosexual practice in Rom 1:24-27). If someone believes that he is Adolf Hitler redivivus and wishes to be addressed as "Herr Hitler" or "Mein Fuhrer" it is not appropriate to advise Jews or anyone else to comply with his request.
Mark claims that "redemption is not found by measuring how well a person’s gender identity aligns with their biological sex, but by drawing them to the person and work of Jesus Christ, and to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us into his image." This statement is contradictory insofar as acting on desires to become the opposite sex can impact one's redemption negatively. In Paul's day such behavior would have incurred a warning about not inheriting the kingdom of God precisely because such conduct manifests an untransformed life marked by serious unbelief. Compare Paul's inclusion of "soft men" (malakoi) in the offender list in 1 Cor 6:9-10, which in context designates men who attempt to become women (through dress, mannerisms, makeup, and sometimes castration), often to attract male sex partners.
Mark appears to give little thought for the impact that accommodating a cross-dressing "transgender" would have on a church's standards for sexual purity and healthy sexual differentiation. Whereas Paul recommends remedial disfellowship for grievous sexual offenders in 1 Corinthians 5, because "a little leaven (of sin/corruption) leavens the whole lump," Mark encourages the church to complicity with sexual delusion. If a man wants to be called "Sara," to be treated as a woman (including use of female restrooms in church?), and to come to church in a woman's dress and sporting a female hair style, high-heel shoes, panty hose, and lipstick, according to Mark church members should accommodate. Although Mark refers obliquely to wise counsel from church leaders, he allows the offender to call the shots.
Mark would certainly prefer that persons with gender dysphoria make peace with their biological sex. He thinks counseling should be directed to "how best to manage gender dysphoria in light of the integrity lens" and advising persons with GID to explore their other-sex desires "in the least invasive way possible." However, his willingness to see the church accommodate to the charade of transgenderism rather than risk alienating a male "Sara" is at odds with the gospel.
I have no doubt that his desire is to be loving to persons experiencing this distress. Yet it is possible to be sensitive, gentle, and loving without forcing the church to act as if the lie is the truth.


  1. Essential Yarhouse is advising church members to lie, and to join in a lie. That's sin.

  2. I've long held that Yarhouse's views on gender and sexuality are heretical in nature and truly hope that other leaders in the church will read this CT article and see it the way you and Gagnon do. Yarhouse is the chief architect of the Christian Homosexual Identity movement, which is confusing not just individuals, but whole denominations.

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