Apostle Paul, Bible, Christ, Christian identity, Christianity, circumcision, David Reimer, Gender Identity, Gentile, God, Holy Spirit, immutable identity, innate identity, Jesus, Jew, Jewish Christians, Jewish Identity, John Money, Pharisee, Philippians 3, salvation, Transsexual
(If you have not done so, please read the previous two posts on this same topic before reading this post.)
I am stating right up front that this post on the Apostle Paul in no way questions his cisgender identity. But on more than one occasion, he goes into detail about his identity in a way that can also shed some light on our discussion of how God see us and what is the source of various elements of our identity. This passage requires much discernment, for it could be used to justify that transsexualism is not sin and also to justify that it is sin unless we add in other points we have seen either in the Bible or in scientific evidence.
The remarks of Paul that I will focus on are found in Philippians 3:3-7:
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
Paul starts off by stating his Jewish identity. Gentile men and boys who had received the Holy Spirit and the gift of salvation, were not required to go through circumcision. It had been made clear that this step was no longer necessary to receive the highest spiritual blessings of God.
He then goes on to add that he has no confidence in the flesh. Why? Because he understands from the word of the Lord that the flesh doesn’t profit anything. And yet, if you look at his life, especially before his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, he had a great deal going for him when it came to identity based on earthly things.
Paul gives a partial list, the items that would be of greatest interest to the members of the church in Philippi (especially the Jewish Christians). He is a child of Israel, circumcised on the eighth day; descended from the tribe of Benjamin; an exemplary Jew under the law as a Pharisee and blameless concerning righteousness. In fact, so zealous was he for the law that he persecuted the followers of Christ.
Elsewhere in the Bible, Paul makes mention of the fact that he studied under a renowned teacher, Gamaliel, and that he was born a Roman citizen. He did not know it before he was saved, but God was preparing him, someone with an extraordinary heritage and credentials, to be His ambassador to the Gentiles while being able to legally do things most Jews could not.
Once Paul’s eyes were opened to the true identity of Jesus, having received a new identity in Christ, all these other items of identity were unimportant and easily cast aside or downgraded. No, his circumcision was not reversed, nor his birthright as a Jew and Benjamite, nor his Roman citizenship. His training under the Law was not forgotten. Indeed, his understanding of the Law and the Prophets would enable him to become the New Testament’s most prolific writer, building upon his prior training with the knowledge of the Gospel.
However, there is a major part of his identity that Paul never talks about at all. He mentions that he was circumcised, so we know that physically he was a man with male genitalia. But he never talks about his gender identity as a male (and there is no doubt that he was of the male gender). It is not something he can count as loss. Why? Because it was a part of him that he was born with, one that cannot be changed.
Part of the identity he talks about involves things he was born into. But they were only a part of him internally to the extent that he decided that they should be. Citizenships could be renounced or revoked. Heritages can be repudiated. He could have chosen at some point in his life to stop following all of the Law instead of a select few items that were changed when God, through Christ, gave us a better covenant.
Identities based on behavior are changed when the behavior changes. Consider a 13-year old kid with a reputation as a punk and wise guy. It may take a while for others to notice that a true change has been made, but if maturity and life experience bring about positive changes, the 13-year old wise guy is now a 30-year old standup guy. But gender identity goes far deeper. It is innate, intrinsic and immutable. Do you disagree or are not sure about that statement? Then do this. Go to a nearby shopping mall with a decent amount of adult traffic. Ask 100 men when they decided to be male and 100 women when they decided to be female. I would wager (no money, of course) that if 100% of the respondents didn’t give you an answer that in some way indicated that they never made such a decision, always knew their gender and never saw the need to change or question it, it will be very, very close to 100%.
I do not want to claim that Paul said or wrote things that are not part of the record. He never talked about the source of gender (is it the mind or genitals?) or the immutability of gender. But can we agree that it is highly likely, close to a 100% probability, that if asked that same question as the 200 people in the mall, Paul also would have said that he never decided to be male and he always knew that he was male?
From the statistics and charts I have seen, the same survey given to 100 MTF transsexuals and 100 FTM transsexuals would produce similar results as one given to cisgender men and women. 99+% are aware of their non-conforming gender identity by the early teen years with an average age of awareness at seven. (Finally, something for which I am average!)
This is the very point I am making. The vast majority of transsexuals do not decide their gender identity at some point in their life, exactly the same as what cisgender people experience in this regard. The theory of gender identity being learned rather than innate is now widely discredited, with widespread failure of treatment of infants based on that theory at the forefront of the evidence. For more information about that issue, do an internet search for Dr. John Money and David Reimer.
Of all people, Christians should be among the most understanding of transsexuals and immutable identity. For most Christians believe in the immutability of their Christian identity. It is the belief in eternal security: once saved, always saved. Both gender identity and Christian identity come at birth. For gender, it is physical birth, the delivery of a baby from the mother’s womb. For Christianity, it is spiritual birth, i.e., being born again. It is his Christian identity that Paul is emphasizing to be far more important than any other identity he possesses.
While we have no direct statement one way or the other in the Bible about how God views transsexuals, we have seen a number of verses that show that God focuses far more on what is inside of us: our spirit, our character, our heart for God and the other virtues that God prizes. I am long past wondering how God views people. Cognizant of God’s attributes and His character, the idea that He would focus on our physical body – and particularly our genitals – to define us has become downright creepy and repugnant to me. That is not the God I have met in the pages of the Bible and grown to know and love.
In a post to be published soon, I will look at questions that every person who denigrates transsexuals should answer. Some of those questions will apply more to Christians, others will apply to anyone who considers the Bible to have some level of authority, and some will be for anyone who is negative toward transsexuals.
My current plan is to post regarding New Year’s Day before returning to this theme.
- Apostle Paul – a deceitful missionary? (apologiachristian.wordpress.com)