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I come to your blog seeking answers with respectful Christian curiosity […] Please respond to this query:
If God is perfect and all knowing; and the Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired instrument of his grace and peace. How can a contradiction in natural birth exist?
How does the Transgender person of soul reconcile their spirit?
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
Again, a respectful query on reconciliation.
To respectfully seek answers, to reconcile ideas and people, to arrive at truth: these are all honorable aims. I am delighted to respond as best as God lays on my heart.
First, both for ourselves and any other readers, let’s make sure we understand what is meant by soul and spirit. I took the following from the BibleHub website. It is similar to what I found on some other sites as well as confirming my previous understanding.
[T]here is in man a spiritual, reasonable, and immortal soul, the seat of our thoughts, affections, and reasonings, which distinguishes us from the brute creation, and in which chiefly consists our resemblance to God, Genesis 1:26. This must be spiritual, because it thinks; it must be immortal, because it is spiritual. Scripture ascribes to man alone understanding, conscience, the knowledge of God, wisdom, immortality, and the hope of future everlasting happiness. It threatens men only with punishment in another life, and with the pains of hell. In some places the Bible seems to distinguish soul from spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 [and] Hebrews 4:12: the organ of our sensations, appetites, and passions, allied to the body, form the nobler portion of our nature which most allies man to God. Yet we are to conceive of them as one indivisible and spiritual being, called also the mind and the heart, spoken of variously as living, feeling, understanding, reasoning, willing, etc. Its usual designation is the soul.
First, a quick explanation of 1st Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12. My sense is that the inclusion of both “soul” and “spirit” in these verses is meant as an amplification, not as distinguishing. We can see that more easily in the Hebrews verse. When the two-edged sword is described as dividing asunder soul and spirit, it means both, not dividing “soul from spirit”.
So the simple answer is that if humankind, while we walk this earth as corporeal creatures, are not spirit, but have an eternal soul that has a spiritual nature and therefore includes spirit, then the soul and spirit, even for a Transgender, must be reconciled with each other. Otherwise, you would be talking about some sort of split personality. No one I know of, not even our worst detractors, claims that about us.
Let’s take Psalm 139:13-14 first, since that is an all-encompassing situation rather than a verse that applies to one particular person. I considered this passage so important to discuss that I wrote a three-part blog post on it in the first month of this blog back in November 2013. (The reader is reminded that I was using the older term, transsexual, at that time.)
I will provide a link back to those posts so the reader can have further details. But to summarize for the purpose of this answer, I point out how interesting it is that when these two verses are used as a proof text that transgender is not of God, verse 15 is never included to give the full context of these verses. It is quite inconvenient to their claims of contradiction to call to mind that every one of us, transgender and cisgender alike, was curiously formed in the lower parts of the earth.
When sin entered into the world, death and corruption entered in with it. So while the Lord God has final say over everyone how everyone is formed, no one is born perfectly whole and complete. The imperfections are not sin in and of themselves (think of the passage when Jesus’ disciples ask who sinned, the blind man or his parents). Furthermore, if someone had been born who was without spot or blemish, there would have been no reason for God to have sent His only begotten Son to shed His blood and nail our sins to the cross. Only Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit, could have been the perfect Passover lamb to save us, one perfect sacrifice for all time.
While we are in the Psalms, we ought not forget Psalm 51:5: Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. It is another Biblical reminder of our humble origins.
That brings us to the Jeremiah verse that you cited. And guess what? I cited that same verse in Part 3 of my blog post series “I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”. Look closely at that verse again. God is not just telling Jeremiah that He formed him in the womb. He is also telling Jeremiah He knew what manner of person he would become. This means God knows Jeremiah on the inside: his heart, soul and spirit, not just his skin color, bone structure and yes genitalia.
Now here’s the question: based on which group of characteristics does God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet, the first group or the second? Obviously the first group. This is how God identifies Jeremiah as a person.
None of this is meant to say or imply that Jeremiah is transgender. What I am saying is that God’s primary identification of us is based on what’s inside, not on what’s outside; the spiritual and eternal, not the physical and temporal. Only a relatively small percentage of people are born transgender. But we have been around since the earliest days of recorded history. I’m not a scholar of ancient languages, but I’m told that the subject of transgender people was dealt with in the Code of Hammurabi. And my learned Jewish friends (as well as Christians who have researched this topic) tell me that in the rabbinical writings of Classical Judaism, there is provision for six genders, not two.
There is one thing that neither you or anyone else I have discussed the topic with has ever been able to produce: a Bible verse that states that the inner spirit of a person must match the outer anatomy when it comes to gender identity. I have been reading the Bible faithfully, daily most of the time, from cover to cover over and over again, for over 25 years. This was always an important topic for me. That verse would have leapt off the page for me. Those Christians who naysay transgender would be raising it as a banner. But they can’t because it doesn’t exist.
But is there scripture that suggests the opposite? I believe so. They are the very words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:12. Jesus describes three categories of eunuchs: those who were born that way, those who were made that way by someone else and those who made themselves eunuchs.
Now the lesson that Jesus is teaching to His disciples directly relates to the ability of a person to resist sexual temptation and therefore be able to remain single without falling into fornication (any sexual activity outside of marriage). But there are two things to keep in mind. First, that Bible teaching can have layers of meaning. Second, when Jesus taught in parables, He used examples and situations that the people of His day were familiar with. Therefore, even though scripture is eternal, Jesus never would have taught a parable that referred directly to computers or nuclear weapons.
Of the three categories, the most familiar would have been those who had been made eunuchs by someone else. Although the Jews did not practice it, it was a familiar practice for the rulers of the neighboring countries to castrate certain people, whether of their own nation or a defeated nation, for various purposes: watching over harems, becoming trusted advisors who would not be aggressive enough to become rivals, and so on. Since these eunuchs were neither born that way nor did so of their own volition, the most familiar category is of no further interest.
The less familiar two categories are where we draw our attention. Remember that Jesus and his disciples would have been familiar with the six genders of classical Judaism.
The person born a eunuch could be someone born with male anatomy but is impotent and acts more feminine upon reaching puberty. Such a person would likely be saris and would be considered male to female transgender today. Or it could be someone identified as female at birth who displays a masculine personality at puberty. That person would have been identified as ay’lonit in Jesus’s time and female to male today.
What of the person who makes “himself” a eunuch? Yes, that could be someone seeking to live a celibate life and needing to take extraordinary means to accomplish that purpose. It was not uncommon for men of the early Christian church to undergo castration to live a celibate life of service. However, a saris could also fit this description: someone assigned male at birth but who now lacks male genitalia, in this case voluntarily ridding themselves of unwanted body parts to live as in the preferred female gender.
It should be noted that Jesus does not speak disparagingly of any of these eunuchs. If He had reason to, He either would have used a different example or phrased the parable in a different way.
We have one more example relating to genitalia (in particular male genitalia) where the spiritual is more important than the physical. Deuteronomy 10:16 taught: Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
Nor is this an isolated verse. We see this theme repeated in Leviticus 26:41, Deuteronomy 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:4. And that devout scripture student, the Apostle Paul, picks up this theme in Romans 2:28-29 and Colossians 2:11. These teachings have import far beyond transgender. It permits Jewish women to stand before the cross of Christ and the Throne of Grace on equal footing with Jewish men. And it permits physically uncircumcised Gentiles to do the same. Indeed, this was one of the first debates in the young Christian church when evidence of the Holy Spirit’s anointing of Gentiles was first reported. Would these Gentile men be required to undergo circumcision? It was eventually deemed unnecessary. God had already circumcised their hearts.
Apparently we haven’t come very far in 2000 years. People are still focusing on the less important physical attributes, willing to limit ourselves to what we can see. As God truly observed in 1st Samuel 16:7, man judges by the outer appearance, but God judges by the inner things of the heart. Are we not called upon to grow in spiritual maturity so that we see things as God sees them?
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. – Romans 2:28-29