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God and the Transgender Debate: a review

"If Christians have anything to offer this contentious age, it is truth, and we should not shy away from that truth."

"It is only loving to hold to Biblical truth if that truth comes wrapped in love."

These two sentences, heading up consecutive paragraphs in a chapter called "Challenging the Church" serve as a great summary of the ethos and intention of God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker, a book that succeeds so admirably in what it set out to do.

Up until a few years ago, to question gender would have been an absurdity. I don't think it would be a stretch to suggest that, a decade ago, even Phillip Schofield would have raised an eyebrow at the thought of someone believing themselves to be of the opposite gender (or something completely non-binary) to the one they were born with. But now, in 2018, we find ourselves, as a society, adrift in a new wave of ideologies that challenge so many of the basic cultural practices and assumptions that have been taken for granted for the past... Well, however many years there have been, I suppose. These new ideologies have come quickly, they have come forcefully, they have come from a minority, and they have come politically. It's a new world, with a new challenge for the Church that needs to stand firm and represent God and His word. It's time for ambassadors of Christ to enter negotiations with the world, to join in the debate, make its voice heard in love, and pray for God to act. We must stand by, ready to respond with love to any who are willing to engage with us.

Walker does just that. He's clear, right from the beginning, that Christians are usually last to the party. The culture moves, a shift happens, the church casually observes, then critiques the mess that's been made when it's too late to have any real impact. Walker wants the Church to be in on the ground floor with the transgender debate, walking alongside the culture as it begins to behave in ever more radical ways. He wants the Church not to be late to the conversation, he wants every Christian to have something useful to say right from the start.

Acknowledging that this short and easy to read volume is only a start, Walker starts the conversation for Christians, providing the basics of what we all need to know in order to say something - anything meaningful when confronted with the issue, which we all most assuredly will be. The chapters are short and to the point, and most of the content is effectively Christianity 101, as Walker reminds us of the simple yet fundamental truths we can all too easily forget. Majoring on what things such as being made in God's image, and loving one's neighbour as oneself actually mean, the focus of the book is primarily to help Christians know what the Bible says and to know what God means when He speaks through it. This is the basic necessity for all Christians as we seek to engage with the world. The very least we need to be able to articulate is what we say we believe in. And although there is much helpful critique of transgender issues, in particular about the language used, the book isn't intended to be a detailed assessment of the scientific and philosophical shortcomings of a yet another faulty worldview. Walker really is more concerned that Christians know what they believe and know how to respond. He puts emphasis on the need for empathy and love, and the need to cultivate a posture of humility and compassion before we begin to engage in the debate. He apologises for the way Christians, the Church and himself have acted in the past that might undermine any attempt to be heard. He is eager that in this particular debate Christians do not let the Church down, that we don't let God down by being judgemental or by acting shocked or appalled, and that we don't respond awkwardly to a broken world that needs to be kindly invited into the perfect Kingdom.

Walker also calls us to be people of the Word as he so clearly is. "We have to love the truth so much that we care about truth more than we care about what the world thinks about us." Empathy will count for nothing, and love for people will be impossible if we don't first have an even greater love for and commitment to God and His Word. It's God's Gospel truth that the world needs to hear. And whilst we must listen to and love and walk alongside with the those struggling with gender identity issues, we must confront them in their opposition to God and His Word, because the Gospel is the only hope they have. And the risk of causing offence is one we simply must be willing to take. To affirm a transgender person in their pursuit of an identity that is not being conformed into the likeness of Christ is not love at all, but hatred. But it's at this point that the battles will be won and lost.

If you are a Christian you must get informed and become prepared for this debate. I don't think there are any exceptions here. To neglect this issue and to shy away from it is contrary to the Bible's calling on your life as Christian. So choose a book to get you started. If not this book, find another recommended resource, but start somewhere. And with Andrew Walker, pray that God brings those struggling with their identities, particularly those struggling with gender identity issues, to the Church.


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