Transgender and Christianity: From Andi to Bruce Jenner

Transgender and Christianity: From Andi to Bruce Jenner April 25, 2015

The subject of transgender has been in the news a great deal lately, with much attention focusing not only on famous athlete Bruce Jenner (and his ABC News interview), but on young children who have known that their perception of their own gender was different from what they were defined as because of their anatomy.

I think one reason why this issue has not seemed to me to be as difficult a problem as some make it out to be is the mere fact of having had a long time to think about it.

In 1983, the band Kansas released its album Drastic Measures, and as a fan of progressive rock in general as well as Kansas in particular, I bought the album and listened to it over and over. One song, “Andi,” written by then lead singer (and Evangelical Christian) John Elefante, is about the experience of a transgender individual. I’ll include the song on YouTube below so that you can listen to it, but for now, here are some of the lyrics:

Andi won’t dance, Andi won’t sing, Andi won’t play
She sits in her room hiding away, hiding away
She hasn’t a friend, they think she’s a boy, they leave her alone
But what they don’t know, Andi has dreams, all of her own

Yea, she wants to be a lady, can anyone just see?
That’s she’s trapped inside a little boy’s body

She’s waiting for the dream of her life
To be a lady, that’s all she wants to be

Andi you’re not just anyone, don’t be ashamed
Open the door, don’t hide away, your dreams will awaken
Andi you’re not just anyone, don’t take the blame
Though you’re scared and all alone, you’ll be there someday

It is no surprise that some conservative religious people are opposed to young people being exposed to ideas they disagree with. Having a chance to know about a subject, to think about it, to empathize with those different than oneself, already in one’s youth, is arguably more powerful in combating fundamentalism than the arguments that one encounters in adulthood.

It seems to me ironic that some respond to the subject of transgender by saying “God doesn’t make mistakes.” Because people are born in all sorts of ways – as clearly male or female, with self-perception matching genitalia, but also as intersex, or with a self-perception that does not match society’s perception of them and their genitalia. People are, for that matter, born as conjoined twins, or missing limbs, and sometimes are not born at all, at least not alive. If someone is going to say “God doesn’t make mistakes” then they had better apply it to all the different ways that people are born, and do so consistently.

But a better approach seems to me to be to recognize that, even from a religious perspective, the idea that God creates each individual in a particular way is morally and scientifically problematic. We understand the natural processes that are involved in the development of embryos, just as we understand the processes that create weather patterns. And sometimes the results of those natural processes are tragic, when a child is stillborn or a tornado destroys a home and all those living inside. Insisting that the precise course natural processes took were ordained by God leads to very dubious interpretations of natural events.

And so the bigger tragedy, in my opinion, occurs after such events, when people superimpose their theologies on events and interpret them in ways that harm those who are already suffering, depicting God as a monster in the process.

It is better, I think, to not blame God for everything that happens, and to focus instead on how we are supposed to approach other human beings. The calling of Christians is not to spout theological interpretations of events, or to deny that people genuinely have the experiences that they do, but to offer comfort and support and love. The Bible itself (especially the Book of Job) recognizes that life does not fit into the nice neat categories of theology that we seek to superimpose on it. And so why should life not also fail to fit into the nice neat categories of gender that we seek to superimpose on it? We today – like John Elefante, the Evangelical Christian who wrote the lyrics to Andi more than 30 years ago – should be able to recognize that our role as Christians is to echo that voice which the song says is calling in the distance: “don’t be afraid…you’re not just anyone, don’t be ashamed. Open the door, don’t hide away, your dreams will awaken…you’re not just anyone, don’t take the blame. Though you’re scared and all alone, you’ll be there someday.”

Have a listen to Andi by Kansas:

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  • Melanie D.

    This is an extremely powerful post. Thank you for writing it.
    I was wondering if perhaps you would consider using the word “intersex” to describe people who have what we classify as both male and female genitals. The other word has historically been used as a pejorative, which clearly you did not intend.

  • John

    Real Life Example:

    “Walt Heyer says that no one can really change their gender. He should know, too, because he’s tried…As an adult woman, he gave himself the name Laura, and lived under that
    identity for eight years. After studying psychology while still living
    as a woman, however, he says he eventually realized that a person can’t
    actually change genders and that he was delusional. He also later found
    out that he had a dissociative disorder and multiple personality
    disorder as a result of his haunting past. “You’re not born transgender,
    something happens in your childhood that causes you to not want to be
    who you are…And today the only thing that is…socially acceptable is
    calling yourself a transgender,” he said.

    Read More: http://www.christianpost.com/news/transsexual-returns-to-original-gender-after-relationship-with-christ-66932/

    Also from Scripture:
    The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. – Deuteronomy 22:5

    • John Pieret

      What makes you think Heyer’s story (and I emphasize “story”) is representative of all people who are transgender? The plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” Do you think that because one person claims to have been delusional and suffering from a dissociative disorder that all people who are transgender suffer from the same conditions? For that matter, what’s to say that Heyer isn’t delusional and suffering from a dissociative disorder now in his attempt to re-redefine his gender to match his newly discovered religious beliefs?

      And what the heck does transvestism have to do with transgenderism, much less intersexed people or any other of the human expressions of sex and gender, such as asexualism?

      • Andrew Dowling

        Cue all the conservative evangelical trotting out of gay people who were “cured” . . .that was common place until just the last few years

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      I’ll have to assume an incompetent was impersonating Jesus for that piece of scripture or that it was only meant for Jews at that time. One, clothing is a human invention much like written languages and paper technologies. Two, clothing is optional or uuncommon depending on where one llives, and it’s been like that forever. Good show, Mista B!

    • Jess3200 .

      You do realise fashion changes, right?

      I assume you don’t go around in a tunic (the clothing of men at the time) or attach tassels to the end of your clothes? (Deuteronomy 22:12).

  • John Pieret

    If someone is going to say “God doesn’t make mistakes” then they had better apply it to all the different ways that people are born, and do so consistently.

    And it should be remembered that about 50% of all pregnancies spontaneously abort. If you are going to attribute blame to God for everything that happens, he is the greatest abortionist in all history!

    • mintap

      He also wiped out entire people groups in the Old Testament. God is Lord over all life. He can give or take away.

      • So you are one of those people who denies that there is any kind of objective morality, and says instead that whatever God happens to do or ordain is moral?

        • mintap

          Something like Divine Command Theory? No, not really.

          Here is a quote from John Frame that I think is pretty good:
          “When someone says that for God to be his own standard allows him to be an arbitrary despot, declaring what is good today to be evil tomorrow, the critic is not dealing with the reality of God’s revelation. The God who reveals himself in all creation is simply not that kind of person. We do not know him as an arbitrary despot.”

          • So you think that genocide actually inherently is – or is not – morally wrong?

          • mintap

            It clearly is morally wrong for humans: “You shall not murder.”

            But do you think we can place moral rules as absolutes over God himself? Yes, it is true that god cannot violate his own character, but that is not a moral rule, but simply a character of God.

          • If something is merely a matter of God’s character, that isn’t aptly described by phrases like “objective moral standard,” since you are rooting morality in the qualities of a divine subject.

            And of course, your own words in your comment – “It clearly is morally wrong for humans” – puts you at odds with Deuteronomy and Joshua, which depict humans as appropriately engaging in a genocidal war.

            But if we grant for a moment, for the sake of argument, that your approach has the potential to lead somewhere helpful, then let me reword the question I asked in a previous comment: Is genocide in keeping with God’s character?

          • mintap

            Let me first reword my response:
            It clearly is morally wrong for humans acting autonomously. (This way it is not at odds with Deuteronomy or Joshua.)

            Isn’t the divine both object and subject in one? It is both the one and many. It is the source of both objectivity and subjectivity. That is the nature of a triune God.

            So is genocide in keeping with God’s character? Not with some of his characters taken by themselves. If we just say God is Love, then no it doesn’t fit. But God is not just Love, he is a host of other attributes as well. He is Just, Omniscient as well. We could guess that there were cases where God’s Omniscience and Justice in conjunction with his authority warrant genocide. The Bible presents such cases after all.

          • The fact that the books which humans authored, and which are part of the compilation known as the Bible, depict God as commanding genocide, does not demonstrate that God commanded genocide, nor that it would be moral for God or anyone else to do so. You’re simply begging the question there.

            But your view is that, if God commands it (and presumably there is a way of being sure that God is commanding it?) then killing children, or every living thing in a city, then becomes moral? And so, for instance, if God commanded the 9/11 attacks, those would be moral on your view, correct?

          • mintap

            If God commands something we’d better do it.

            See Abraham’s situation with Isaac for one case of what this looks like.

          • mintap

            (That’s a lot to read. I’ll try to look through those.)

            And disturbing is a subjective feeling, and sometimes we may be disturbed by God’s work; there is nothing wrong with that: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom”

            Also I don’t see how treating God as if he is sovereign Lord is problematic. That is exactly what he communicates about himself. I don’t know what the alternative would be; treating ourselves as ultimate moral judge?

            Let me suggest looking at the work of John Frame, who I quoted above, as someone who has more rigorously, convincingly and clearly laid out arguments about God’s Lordship. You seemed to be interested in exploring this topic. He’d be someone I think would have some of the best answers to some of the questions you are asking. At the very least, it could challenge you and responding to some of his work could spark another long list of blog posts from you. As an artist, I find John Frame’s theological approach very inspiring.

            This website lists his work: http://www.frame-poythress.org

          • Frank

            Obviously it is.

          • Obviously what is what?

          • Frank

            I answered your question at the end of your post about God, genocide and morality.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Wow, I’m shocked to see Kansas of all bands made a song whose subject matter was 30 years ahead of its time! You learn something new every day

    • OK, I’ll ask: Why would you not expect Kansas to be a band that would make a song of this sort?

      • mintap

        fly-over country in their name?

  • ChuckQueen101

    Great piece, James.

  • Frank

    Yes our sinful fallen world results in corrupted genetics and other abnormalities and disorders. God makes them male and female, sin distorts that.

    • How does sin affect the genome? Or do you mean that God caused there to be genetic deformities as a punishment for sin?

      • Frank

        I mean that sin is woven into every aspect of creation including our genes and DNA so it’s no surprise we have people born with disease and disorder.

        No it’s not about punishment by God. Because of Christ, God no longer punishes in this life.

        • What does it mean to say that “sin is woven into…our genes and DNA”? Who wove it there, if not God? Are you suggesting that Adam and Eve were genetic scientists in a lost advanced civilization and did this to themselves and us?!

          • Frank

            No I’m saying sin has corrupted everything. Everything.

          • I heard you the first time. I am asking you what that means.

          • Frank

            It means nothing by default is how God intended it to be, or created it to be.

            What are you saying! Are you saying God creates disease? Are you saying God is the one who took the life of a stillborn child? If so do you believe a God is loving?

          • I am not sure what that first statement is supposed to mean. But it sounds like it is denying the Biblical teaching that human beings not just in their initial created state but throughout history are made in the image of God.

            Who do you think created disease, if not the Creator? I understand you want to avoid having God be responsible for these things, and I support you in that, but claiming that ancient humans modified the genomes of microorganisms is not a way of doing that which makes sense or has any plausibility to it.

          • Frank

            I am not saying that. Sin is not a human construct. Sin exists, humanity just invited it in.

            Being made in the image if God and being corrupted by sin are not mutually exclusive.

            Still not sure what your position is.

          • You left the comment claiming either that God ordained for the human genome to be corrupted so as to cause people to be confused about their gender, or that somehow ancient human actions introduced changes into our genome which resulted in this and God for some reason did not intervene to prevent this manipulation of the genome by humans. Either way, your stance seems implausible.

            But you now seem to be saying that God made sin first, before humans, and humans ‘caught it.’ Is that it?

          • Frank

            Maybe I am being unclear. I’ll try again.

            God did not ordain sin. Sin entered our world, every aspect of it, not due to Gods choice but humanities choice. Humanity did not create sin nor does humanity have control over sin.

            You never answered what your view of sin is.

          • I am still trying to work out what yours is. Are you saying that God placed a tree in the Garden of Eden which would cause genetic deformities, and that was what the first humans ate from?

            You aren’t explaining how human actions not directed at the genome have supposedly transformed the genome. And I am not content with shoddily-argued superficial answers. Feel free to say you have no idea about any of this. But if you are going to make assertions about your fellow human beings, you ought to be prepared to justify them, don’t you think?

          • Frank

            Knowing your position might help us communicate better.

            I am saying that God placed the tree there to give humanity a choice. To trust him or not to trust him. Humanity didn’t and is still making that choice. Because of that choice sin entered into our creation and corrupted everything as evidenced by mortality, suffering, disease, natural disasters, etc….

            If you still don’t understand I am not sure what more to say. I’d rather you help me what you understand it to be.

          • It won’t help to discuss my own view as long as you think that humans literally ate from a tree which caused changes to the human genome as well as that of other living things, but you believe that God did not cause the tree to have that property, and did not make the world become what it is today, but somehow humans did this, in a way that you refuse to explain. Please, explain this. What do you think we did to our genome, and how? Why won’t you answer this question?

            Or am I to understand that you are one of those people who thinks “it is due to sin” explains everything, even when it clearly does not, and that you have had the audacity to assert this publicly on the internet without ever having looked even superficially into the implications, and without ever having given thought to obvious and basic questions this stance raises?

          • Frank

            I don’t understand why you seem to have a level of hostility as a subtext in your words.

            Humans did not alter their genomes. Sin did. What’s so hard about this concept?

            I could say the same thing to you about your audacity, if I could ever get a real answer from you. If you don’t know say so but your continued refusal to answer is telling.

          • I am not refusing to answer. I am still trying to understand your first comment. You just repeat the same thing over and over again. What is hard about the concept of sin altering the genome? The fact that humans do not have the power to alter their own genome other than through modern scientific means, and you claim that God was not the one who modified humans’ genome. And so what is so hard about this concept is that you continue to assert it as though it is true and yet refuse to provide any explanation as to what it means, how you envisage the processes involved, and anything else of that sort.

          • Frank

            James this is not a hard concept to understand at all. Yet you continue to misrepresent it and claim I am the one that has failed to understand it.

            Do you believe in God? Do you believe there is a force against God, what some would call the devil? Do you believe there is a spiritual battle happening?
            Please answer these questions. After all you posted something I just responded. The onus is on you to explain further. Especially if you think I am wrong. Or you can continue the way you have been, ignoring my answers while not providing any of your own.

            Once again why the animus? I don’t understand it.

          • So you are saying that you think the devil tampered with humanity’s genome, introducing confusion about gender, and God just let it happen?

            The onus is not on me to explain your views further. I keep asking you to clarify what your assertion about sin and the human genome envisages having happened, and you have asserted that it is not a hard concept, and yet apparently you nonetheless cannot explain or clarify it.

            How is expecting you to clarify what you mean, and asking you to be specific and provide evidence and reasoning for your claims, “animus”?

          • Frank

            So no answers from you? Why not? Instruct me on the truth of the matter if you can. Or you can just ban me because it’s just too darn hard.

          • Why should I ban you? Are you deliberately being difficult? The impression I have is that you have not thought the matter through, and are likely to realize that “human sin messed up our genome” is not a viable position if I can just get you to not simply fail to explain yourself, but realize that the reason you are unable to do so is that your stance is problematic. Once we get there, then we can look at alternatives. But as long as you think that saying “It was sin” while rejecting ever possible interpretation of what that might mean is viable, you’re not ready to move to the next step yet.

          • Frank

            That’s funny because that’s the impression I get from you that’s you have not thought it through, have no support for your position and are not ready to continue intelligently speaking on this issue. Of course without you telling me what you think it’s hard to know for sure.

            What now? My view is not an outlier view. There are people who explain it far better than I and you appear to be smart of enough to know what I am saying. How about you stop playing games and just answer my questions. Or I could just move on.

          • But the discussion is not yet about my views – which you could easily learn about just by poking around the blog, if you were actually interested. You made assertions, and I asked you what you meant by them, and asked you to justify them. I didn’t ask you whether you are the only person holding them. I did not (yet) offer alternative views. I simply asked you if you meant any number of things that seem to be implications of what you wrote. You have yet to either agree with my proposed explanations of what you said and the implications thereof, or to offer an explanation of your own. Why is this? I really do not like the fact that, after thus far refusing to answer questions, you are now trying to suggest that the discussion was about my views, and that I was the one who did what you did. Are you trying to persuade me that you are a troll?

          • Frank

            And another avoidance. I guess the irony is missed by you. Your views started this discussion and you are unable or unwilling to back up what you claim. Must be a bankrupt position.

          • What did I claim, but am unwilling to back up? Please stop this troll-like behavior. If you have a question, ask it, and if you have anything whatsoever to say in clarification of your own position, offer it.

          • Frank

            Are you kidding me? I have asked you a number of questions you have have so far refused to answer.

          • Frank

            And still no answers.

          • I had assumed at this stage that you were a troll. Your only “questions” that I recall were to refuse to answer my questions and then to ask “What’s your view?” while I was still trying to clarify yours.

            So what are your questions? And do you have any answers to offer?

          • Frank

            Do you believe in God?
            Do you believe there is a force against God, what some would call the devil? Do you believe there is a battle between spiritual forces that have different agendas?
            Are you saying God creates disease?
            Are you saying God is the one who took the life of a stillborn child?
            If so do you believe God is loving?
            What is your definition of sin?

          • I believe in God.

            I do not believe there is a personal devil – although since you said “force” I’m not sure that you do either.

            If one views God as Creator, then claiming that diseases were created by someone else constitutes polytheism. I believe that diseases came to exist through the same evolutionary processes which led to us existing in the form that we do.

            If one views God as sovereign over all processes and events, then one must believe that God is the one ultimately responsible for taking the life of a stillborn child. Of course, that may be a good reason for abandoning that kind of view of God.

            I believe that sin, from a Christian perspective, means above all else acting in a manner that is lacking in empathy – failing to live according to the core moral principle that Jesus taught us to live by, namely doing to others what we would want done to us.

          • Frank

            Thank you James I do appreciate it!

            I never said disease was created by “someone” else. I said it was created by sin which is not a person but a force. That aside do you believe God controls evolution? Or is it a natural process, possibly created by God but God lets it take its course? This question is also related to the still born child example. Does God purposefully take the life or allow it to be?

            Who defines empathy? Was it empathetic for Jesus to not heal everyone or feed everyone or solve poverty when it was in his power to do so?

            Would you want sin in others lives? Wouldn’t encouraging sin be non empathetic?

            Once again thank you for answering those questions and I won’t call you out if you get tired of answering more. 🙂

          • Not at all. I am happy to discuss things – I just honestly felt like you weren’t answering my question. And since you brought it up again, what is “sin” if you have defined it as a force that can bring diseases into existence?

            I think we live in a universe which raises the problem of evil in a very serious way. And so I prefer to acknowledge the limits of my own human reasoning, than to insist that I have things worked out. For instance, positing that God and/or Jesus can heal anyone at a moment’s notice, and chooses not to, does suggest that God is not a moral being of the sort that humans are. When we see someone suffering, unless we stifle our empathy, then we seek to alleviate it, especially in the case of our own children. To deny that God views things in the same way is to suggest that some or all of the language Christians have traditionally used about God – Father, caring, compassionate, merciful, loving, healer, powerful, etc. – is at best a pointer to a reality which does not match such descriptors in any literal sense.

          • Frank

            That would be true if we didn’t have free will.

            There is no perfect analogy but the relationship between God and us is best described as parent-child. You could do everything for your child but then they never grow up, never mature, never learn, never excel, etc…. So God let’s us make choices, even bad ones and if there were no consequences how would we learn?

            And through Christ we see glory out of suffering. So should God deny us the suffering and thus the glory that arises out of it? I am a much better man because of suffering.

          • I don’t see how the free-will defense helps with cases such as severe, crippling congenital defects that cause someone immense suffering. I think it makes better sense to argue that the Creator values the freedom not just of human beings, but of the cosmos as a whole, to become what it will become. We are a part of that, but placing ourselves as central creates serious theological and philosophical problems that a less anthropocentric view might avoid.

          • Frank

            Interesting. The way I see it that after Eden we have adversarial relationships with God, each other and nature. And so our genetics, which are part of our nature, is adversarial to us. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing good but that there is always good and bad. Weather helps us grow food but also destroys. We have the potential for positive relationships with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness yet people hurt each other often. We are not right with God because of sin but we have Christ to make it right.

            It makes sense to me.

            Thanks for engaging. I like this much better and it’s interesting. 🙂

          • Indeed, I agree, this is better, although I still think you are just saying “somehow this happens, I’m not sure why, I’m not sure exactly what causes it, and I’m not sure exactly what processes are involved.” In which case, I feel compelled to ask, why continue to believe and assert that this is so?

          • Frank

            It’s the only view that has compelling biblical support.

          • Supposed Biblical support is not justification for adopting a stance. It was the motivation for the Southern Baptist stance on slavery, after all, and something that even the Southern Baptists are embarrassed about, although unfortunately that has not led most of them to recognize the bankruptcy of the approach to Scripture that led them to adopt that stance.

            But let’s discuss the evidence even so. What do you think the Biblical support for your stance is?

          • Frank

            That’s a lot of work. I see if I can get to it.

            Nothing is true theologically without biblical support. Just because people have (pro slavery) and continue (pro homosexuality and gay marriage) to use scripture incorrectly doesn’t mean it’s not the final authority. And what I mean by that is that when our minds, hearts and heads agree with a position, if it is contradicted in scripture, we have it wrong.

          • Assuming the inerrancy of one’s own interpretation of Scripture, in contrast with the foolishness of other people in the past or present, is hubris that is (quite ironically) at odds with the teaching of Scripture. Paul’s opponents could quite easily point to Scripture to show how Paul was wrong, that his claim that God incorporates Gentiles into the people of God without circumcision directly contradicts the explicit statements about the covenant with Abraham in Genesis. Your approach to Scripture is incompatible with Christianity – unless you reject Paul, of course.

          • Frank

            Yes many have tried and all have failed to eliminate Paul from the canon. The only hubris is from those who think they have a special revelation outside of scripture.

            So far what I see is your approach to scripture is incompatible with Christianity. So now what?

          • I have explained to you why your stance is incompatible with Christianity. Merely asserting the converse is not making a case, which you obviously need to do if you want to be persuasive.

            You seem not to grasp that, when Paul wrote his letters, they were not scripture, except in the sense that that word means “writings.” But they did not have a canonical status, and so they were precisely what you consider hubris: they were Paul claiming to have revelation outside of scripture.

            So will you be consistent and reject Paul’s claim? Or will you acknowledge that your view of Scripture is incompatible with your acceptance of Paul’s writings as Scripture?

          • Andrew Dowling

            Fundamentalists can’t seem to grasp this simple concept . . .

          • Frank

            How ironic you accuse me of not grasping some thing.

            No wonder you seem so lost.

          • Does this mean that you don’t have an argument to offer for your own stance?

          • Frank

            No it means you don’t have a compelling contrarian position for me to bother. Nothing much worth disputing.

          • That is a cop out, and I think you know it. It would not take you any longer to write out an explanation of why my viewpoint is not compelling, than it takes to write comment after comment that is just dismissal and insult.

          • Frank

            Not at all. Based on your responses to me and your responses to Ginny I don’t see a fruitful discussion. Your promises are faulty and there is nothing I can do to fix it.

            Once again my view is not an outlier one and is supported by millennia of accepted and supported interpretations. It’s you that must provide the support if you say it’s different.

            As far as insults I’d say that’s ironic as well. Your posts drips of an undercurrent of insult and hubris. You are just not ready.

          • What did I promise? Did you mean premises? Why can’t you show me why you think they are wrong? Your view is a fundamentalist one and so most certainly is an outlier, although it may be common in the narrow religious circles that you have ended up in.

            If you cannot cope with your viewpoint being “insulted” (by which I presume you mean criticized and disagreed with), then you might not want to share it on a blog where it has been disagreed with before by a blogger who used to share it, and was led to rejected it because of the evidence first and foremost from the Bible itself.

          • Frank

            James my words stand. I am not insulted. I doubt you have the capacity to do so. Your foundational beliefs are so misguided that I wouldn’t even to know where to begin to properly educate you.

            I’m bowing out. You are welcome to the last word of you need it.

          • I don’t need the last word, but I find the stance as well as the tone you are adopting utterly despicable and it would be inappropriate not to say anything about it. I am an educator for a living, and I deal with all kinds of misguided beliefs in the classroom – including some very similar to yours. People can learn, and your words are simply an attempt to distract from the fact that you disagree with me and yet cannot articulate why. From the very outset of our conversation, you have repeatedly made assertions which you have refused to back up with arguments or evidence, and have refused to follow through to the logical implications of things you have said.

            You seem to think that one simply must assume the truthfulness of the views you hold. That too is incompatible with Christianity. The Christian faith is a faith that can be shared. It is distressing to see how badly you have distorted it, and how unwilling you are to repent and/or learn.

          • So rather than just asserting by your own authority that “special revelation” comes from Christian scripture, and only from scripture, can you actually articulate why you think that is true. Billions of people in the world disagree with you. Can you actually explain why you are right and they’re wrong, beyond your own vague say-so?

          • Andy

            Pretty sure the burden of proof is “I claim X, you’re an idiot if you disagree, prove me wrong.” At least, that’s what it says in the Book of Frank.

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            Unless he answers the later two questions in the negative he will have to answer the first question in the negative… unless we presuppose that Jesus and the devil are like the Greek gods, who really could battle each other and be enemies as none of them were capable of being omnimax beings according to their mythologies.

          • Jeff Preuss

            “I don’t understand why you seem to have a level of hostility as a subtext in your words.”

            Hello, pot.

          • Frank

            So where is the hostility in my post again?

            Thanks for your non contribution.

          • Jeff Preuss

            So sad.

          • Frank

            Yes imitation and non answers are all you have. No surprise.

          • Jeff Preuss

            Ooooo, so sorry, boo boo. I know how frustrating it must be to have your particular brand of ineffectual hostile trolling turned back on you.

          • Frank

            You have no power over me but obviously the reverse is not true. Carry on.

          • Jeff Preuss

            Oh, that’s cute. False, but cute.

            God loves you, and so do I!

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            You forgot to tell him, “See above.”, in your excellent counter-Franking.

          • DrewTwoFish

            I don’t. You’re a better man than I.

          • satan introduced sin when he asked in the Garden of Eden and continues to ask, “Did God really say?”

          • Is your point that you believe that Satan altered the human genome? Or is your point that you think the story in Genesis is a reason not to ask questions about things that one has been told? If the latter, then presumably you also do not believe in Evangelism, since if everyone followed your advice, they would all adhere dogmatically to whatever they had been told, even though some of them must be wrong. Is that really your viewpoint?!

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            Clearly, Frank means that Kryptonians should stay away from Kansas because it’s green meteor rocks that’s really causing all the “not ‘normal'” people to happen :~P

        • But He certainly allows shattered dreams in order to refine us to draw us to, and to become more like, Jesus.

      • Uh, there are genetic abnormalities due to humans living sinfully. Sexual deviance wreaks havoc on our privileged planet in myriad ways. Sexual freedom (aka “free love) is the foundation upon which all else is built for those who have not surrendered their allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is rebellion against one’s Maker. It is called sin and it is evil.

        • I don’t think anyone here is unaware that many conservative religious people today consider “sexual freedom” to be sinful. But I had not previously encountered the view that it is such sex which produces genetic abnormalities. How do you account for the fact that married Christian couples have children with such defects?

          • Because they have a long lineage behind them, where all sorts of hideous sexual encounters have taken place. The sins of the fathers are visited upon their children.

          • Oh, I see. Like the Hindu doctrine of karma, that viewpoint can be made to fit any and all evidence, and so is unfalsifiable. Not sure why your find it appealing. It seems morally reprehensible to me. Ezekiel seems to have thought so, too (see Ezekiel 18).

          • There are natural consequences to living in rebellion to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

          • And that is something that many people believe, whether they are Christians or Hindus. How does that belief provide evidence to settle the question under discussion here?

          • SIN.

          • That isn’t an answer. It is a word. This blog is for serious discussions of subjects at a scholarly level and in a scholarly way. I am willing to make allowances for those who find that too challenging at times, but it remains the overall ethos of the blog. Have you ended up here by mistake, or have you mistaken what sort of discussions take place here?

          • Thank you, all-wise, highly exalted one for putting me in my lowly place where I belong, among the ignorant, unwashed masses who are in dire need of progressive elites such as yourself to guide us in our darkness.

          • Trolling is bad enough. One word responses are bad enough. But then responding with sarcasm when you are called on your nasty behavior is just too far. It is sad that some people have their minds so twisted by toxic forms of religion that they come to view evil as good and good as evil. I pray that you will repent and begin to respond to other human beings with understanding and compassion, in the manner that the Bible (which you praise yet ignore) teaches.

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      You’re incorrect. All of these various effects on humanity result from green radioctive meteor rocks.

  • mintap

    “The calling of Christians is not to spout theological interpretations of events”

    vs.

    “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

    • A little context: since the writer says that Timothy had known these scriptures “from childhood”, he’s clearly talking about the Old Testament.

      • mintap

        “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings”

        It doesn’t say he had known all of them.

        A little wider context: Peter calls Paul’s writings Scripture.

        • Gary

          Acts 4:13 “13Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Author?

          • mintap

            Are you asking who wrote Acts? Luke did.

          • Gary

            Actually, sorry. I’m just pulling your leg. Anyone as sure as you are about ancient texts makes me go crazy. I meant it is interesting that Peter and John were such good authors, especially in Greek.

          • mintap

            Sure in what way?

            Regarding the amount of manuscript evidence compared to other texts from antiquity?

            Regarding the historical accuracy of Luke’s writing?

            How sure are you of you own thoughts? If people are sure about their own thoughts does that make you go crazy as well?

            If God really wants to set apart certain writings as his revelation surely he is capable of making his followers actually have something revealed to them.

          • Gary

            I’ve done this dance before. It doesn’t change any minds. However, I like to accept known scholarship instead of blind obedience. Plus a little common sense.

          • mintap

            I’ve done that dance too. I like to accept known scholarship too. I like common sense as well. AND I also like to accept the source sustaining scholarship and common sense, that which sustains (and is capable of sustaining, and has revealed this) the comprehensibility and consistency of the universe.

            We all are blind in some ways and we all are obedient to something. I think blind obedience to ourselves (something we all have first-hand experience as limited and faulty) takes much more irrationality and unjustified faith than the same placed in that which created everything (us, our rationality, nature, etc.) “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.” I keep dancing to that.

        • Someone pretending to be Peter calls Paul’s writings “writings” or “scriptures” but that doesn’t really help move the conversation forward, does it? None of the works that came to be part of a collection considered “scripture” had that status at the time it was written, by definition.

          • mintap

            There was a time of Apostles. That was largely documented. The Apostles talked about the church applying their teachings. They didn’t have the completed Scriptures yet until after John.

        • Because that’s how context works – pulling disparate passages from completely separate letters together to invent precepts the writings themselves never suggest.

          • mintap

            The writing itself specifically suggests that all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching. It is not an invented precept that Peter an Apostle of Jesus specifically teaches that Paul’s writing is Scripture. Timothy is a letter from Paul. The context in 2 Timothy also includes Paul calling himself an Apostle, of Christ Jesus. Paul specifically tells Timothy that his teaching is to be taught to Christians: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

            The calling of many Christians is to teach theological truths.

          • The writing is about as obviously limited to a reference to the Old Testament, as is possible. The writer could not have meant anything else, if Timothy had been reading these writings since childhood. This is what the greek word γραφή means in virtually all fifty New Testament uses of the word. Your attempt to make it mean something else based on a completely separate usage of the word in a different letter is arbitrary and unconvincing.

            Your assertion is complicated even further by the fact that the vast majority of New Testament scholars agree that Second Timothy and Second Peter are pseudepigrapha.

          • mintap

            Well, even taking your angle, Jesus showed his disciples how the Law and the Prophets (all the Scriptures) is fulfilled through him. And he then gave them the mission of teaching others this. Apostolic writing is part of the teaching about this.

          • How is this vague assertion “my angle”? No, Jesus never said anything about “apostolic writing” as scripture, even if you assume the gospels to be perfect records of his sayings (which is highly doubtful).

          • mintap

            In Mark 3:
            “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.”

            In Luke 9:
            “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”

          • I wonder why you are quoting these two passages? They indicate nothing about scriptures.

          • mintap

            The apostolic ministry, including the teaching/preaching/proclaiming of the Apostles, was instituted by Jesus. Even Paul, who was not one of the original 12 becomes an Apostle through an encounter with Jesus. Peter, one of the original 12 confirms Paul’s writing is Scripture. These principles are the source of the Canon.

          • No. The passages you quote say nothing of a “Canon” or “Scripture”. Even if you believe these gospels literally, and believe that Jesus gave the twelve authority to proclaim the kingdom of God – this does nothing to support the eventual authorization of a “Canon” of “Scriptures”. Even your own “Canon” will tell you that after this event, Judas betrayed Jesus, the rest fled Jerusalem, and Peter denied him. Even after establishing the church in Jerusalem, Paul seems to have found it necessary to correct Peter and other apostles on more than one occasion. If what the apostles “say” is not infallible, how on earth can one assert that what they “write” is infallible or even authoritative?

            And that, of course, assumes that we even have what they actually “wrote”. There seems little doubt that some of Paul’s letters are legitimately his, but biblical scholars overwhelming believe that some of his letters were not written by him, but are rather pseudepigrapha. You want to hang the authority of your “canon” argument on a single use of the greek word γραφή in 2 Peter, but every one of the other 50 odd uses of the word in the New Testament refer to the Old Testament, the passage only refers to the writings of Paul (nothing else in the New Testament), and second Peter itself is also assessed as pseudepigrapha (a forgery by someone other than Peter) by the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars.

          • Ian

            authority to proclaim the kingdom of God

            It is conspicuous that both quotes do *not* state that Jesus gave them authority in their preaching. They are both quite explicit about what the authority is given for. The sentence construction is such that there is no doubt this could be vague, the delineation is specific and consistent.

            Jesus does send out people to preach (and not just the apostles), but there is no indication that such preaching would have any divine authority.

          • Excellent point! … and thanks for correcting me in what the “authority” in the passages is actually granted for …

    • Gary

      Since 2 Timothy wasn’t even written by Paul, I wouldn’t tie my horse to it. Use it as commentary, opinion, not fact.

  • Ben Sutherland

    This normalising of a mental illness is a symptom of society falling toward total moral anarchy… maranatha.

    • Some view Christian faith, especially in its fundamentalist forms, as a mental illness. That term should not be thrown around lightly by anyone, but least of all by people on whom it has been inappropriately stuck.

      • Ben Sutherland

        With all due respect, someone saying that they are something that they are not (similar to believing that “I am a Labrador and will get all surgery and take all proceedings to become a Labrador”) is incredibly delusional.

        Believing in Christian doctrine, no matter how fundamentalist, is not denying the reality of what your body (and every cell in your body is saying). That society celebrates a huge delusion that someone (Bruce Jenner) who has clearly lived as a man his whole life is actually now a female, is a shocking development.

        For more on mental illness (in specific delusional disorders):

        http://apps.who.int/classifications/icd10/browse/2010/en#/F22.0

        “A disorder characterized by the development either of a single delusion or of a set of related delusions that are usually persistent and sometimes lifelong.”

        • It is interesting that you are so willing to declare that you share the fundamentalist view of human women as more like a different species, like dogs, than like male human beings.

          You also seem unaware, or in denial, when it comes to the fact that perceptions of one’s gender are rooted in one’s genes, one’s brain, one’s biological self.

          That fundamentalists are delusional is precisely the diagnosis that many would offer. And so again, as I said, one who thinks such labeling of themselves is inappropriate, ought to really consider the appropriateness of doing unto others what they would not want done to themselves – even if one is not pretending to represent the Jesus who taught his followers to live by that ethical principle.

          • Ben Sutherland

            That was a bit of a poor switch by you James, you know that a woman who literally believes that she is a man is in exactly the same boat.

            Way to screw the analogy to bring in the feminist card.

          • Ah, so you believe that men and women are different species, but would not view one as inferior to the other.

            I don’t see that that makes your case more persuasive – and not just because it is a scientifically incorrect view of gender differences.

          • Ian

            You’ve never actually spoken to any transpeople about this in humility and care have you?

            Transfolk are painfully aware of their biological sex. A transwoman most definitely does not “literally believe she is a woman” in the sense of being in denial about her birth sex – because her biology is a daily reminder. So rather than straw man, how about you stop talking and listen?

            The general claim is that someone’s brain function can be a different sex to the rest of their biology. This isn’t surprising, since both brain and physical presentation of sex characteristics are continuous: there are plenty of people with intermediate physical sex characteristics, and the brain is more plastic still.

            It isn’t uncommon for bigots to sit on their high horse declaring whole groups of people to be evil, stupid, or mentally ill. It is a sad indictment on your lack of humanity and lack of humility, as far as I can see.

  • God doesn’t make mistakes. Humans do because of their depraved wills. It is the result of living in a fallen world that full-term, healthy babies are born still, like my only granddarling. God is no monster, but many humans are due to choosing evil in their narcissism, and not surrendering their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Be bold, be strong for the Lord thy God is with thee. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened unto you. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee. Why is it folks eagerly blame God for everything bad and sad on our privileged planet, but refuse to credit anything good, right, pure and lovely to Him???

    • Actually, I’ve mostly encountered people who thank God when someone who is sick recovers, but sue the doctor if the person does not recover. It makes sense to attribute all such things to God or none, but not just the good or the bad, unless one is a Manichaean or Zoroastrian.

      What does it mean to say that babies being stillborn is a result of living in a fallen world? Do you mean that you think that in the distant past there would have been access to a literal tree of life which would have restored the child to life?

      • John Thomas

        Bit off-topic, but it seems to me that Zoroastrian view of world as conflict between good and evil forces and it is better to side with good force, is a better mythicization of what could be going on in the reality. In a similar vein, Empedocles thought that reality was going through the cycles of cosmos (order) and chaos (disorder) by the opposing action of divine powers, love and strife. It seems almost corresponding to the conflict between forces of gravitational energy and entropic energy in current physics that determines the ultimate fate of the universe.

  • What of those folks who believe themselves to be quadriplegic in their minds when their arms and legs are totally healthy? They beg for a doctor to severe their spinal cord in order for their body to match their skewed perception of themselves. They may bind themselves to life in a wheelchair even though they can walk unhindered. Should a doctor mutilate their spinal cord, like a doctor is willing to mutilate Bruce Jenner’s genitalia ?

    • Do you have an example of such a case? And why do you have such a negative view of women, that you think a woman is like someone with a severed spine?

      • Bruce’s DNA is male. Nothing can change that.

        • He shared his DNA with you and you had it tested, and are able to tell not just whether his genetic code gives him certain external features, but also what sense of self it endowed him with? You must have made amazing leaps in genetics, and yet I don’t see your name online as having awarded a Nobel Prize. Would you care to explain this?

        • Thank you for the link. I’m not persuaded that believing oneself to have a different gender, given that gender is a spectrum and not a binary, is the same thing as wanting to become an amputee. But it is a subject I will look into further.

          • Michael Wilson

            I hadn’t chimed in here because I’m not a fan of the Kardashians and don’t care to keep up with them. But on the varieties of transgendered I think we first have to acknowledge that no matter how odd they may seem, they aren’t hurting anyone so they deserve to not be hurt by anyone. Beyond that the issue is whether these people are happy and what it takes to make them happy. Whether this is natural or “mental illnesses” is some what besides the point I think. Ginny is right about people that want to amputate limbs. Their are a number of people that have engaged in extreme body modification for personal fulfilment, be it to look like lizards, Barbie dolls, pop stars, etc. Personally I wouldn’t perform a disfiguring surgery for these reasons and think it best that people be encouraged to be happy as they appear. Bruce’s doctors should evaluate what is best for him, I dont think through that his is a case of biological intersexuality, but I could be wrong. Before surgery I woukd really want to make sure he cant be happy as a lesbian in a man’s body. If this will really make him happy, more power to him but I’m not sure if he is really different from lizard man.http://www.thelizardman.com/

  • raylampert

    It’s a very good sentiment to insist that people should focus on how they treat others and give comfort in times of hurt or disaster to those who need it, rather than looking for a theological explanation for the harm in the first place.
    But here’s where I think a problem comes in for those who believe in a God, and that is the question of where your God even fits in your own worldview. Does God even interact with the world in any direct manner? If you go the whole “mysterious ways” angle, then you have a being that doesn’t behave in any consistent or predictable manner, which is exactly what you’d expect if there was no God in the first place.
    Or, on the other hand, if you take the Bible as any sort of authoritative source on the nature of the God you worship, then you get a whole other mess of problems, not the least of which is that the God of the Bible does in fact cause disasters, illness and other tragedies against both those who disobey him and those who haven’t done anything wrong.
    Or thirdly, you just follow the moral precepts that you like because you agree with them, and ignore the stuff you don’t like, and you measure morality based on empathy, reason and how you affect the world around you. In which case you’ve adopted a mature, rational system of morality no different than myself and most other atheists I know. Which is a good thing!