My name is Greg Gifford. I have the privilege of being your lecturer. I want to do my best to get us into the text to introduce the topic in general and then to prompt you with a couple of things regarding biblical authority. If after this message you have clarity on biblical authority and its pertinence to transgenderism, then I’ve done something successful. That’s partly my goal.
I. Who/What Defines Us?
I want to put forward an erroneous self-conception that I have and do kind of like a brain or mind exercise. I want you to help critique a statement. I’m not being silly; I’m not trying to be minimizing or anything like that. I want to start to genuinely think about how you would validate or disprove this statement.
Suppose that I were to claim to you, “I believe that I am a giraffe.” When you hear that statement, I don’t want you to immediately say, “Hahaha, Greg, stop.” I want you to start to evaluate how you would disagree with me and why you would disagree with me (the basis for your disagreement). Ruminate on that for a second. Why would you disagree with that statement? What gives you the right to disagree with that statement? On what basis do you disagree with that statement? Think about how you would answer these questions if I were to say to you: “I believe I’m a giraffe. I believe that I was born in a man’s body, but am actually a giraffe. I oftentimes wonder if I should go to the Sahara and I should live as a giraffe among other giraffes.”
In your mind you might think, “Greg, give it a break. Just chill.” But I’m being serious. What grounds do you have to disagree with me? What’s your basis for disagreement?
Whenever I put that forward to you, hopefully you’re starting to think something along the lines of, What is your means for justifying or falsifying something? Because if we’re just dismissive and say, “Well, Greg, you’re just being ridiculous,” okay, maybe I am, but then also maybe I’m not. Maybe there is a level of truth to what I’m saying. What is the authority by which I can prove something to be true or disprove something to be true. You may be thinking, “Okay, we’re starting out on a limb here.”
If you’ve been keeping up with research lately, here are some of the things that are developing. It is newer that we’re starting to see a trend in individuals identifying as animals and then expecting to be acknowledged as an animal.
A picture from 2017 from The Telegraph shows a Norwegian woman who identifies as a cat and identifies with all of the behaviors that would go with that: hissing at dogs, fear of water, and cleanliness standards that would be indicative of being a feline. Some of it is just unusual to say the least. As of about September 2022, there was an Australian high school female who has done the same thing, and she is now expecting that her high school would accommodate for her identity.
This is the question: How do we say to someone, “That’s not who you are”? What is the basis of your authority? That to which you appeal is your final authority. I’m going to spend some time unpacking this.
Is it your body? Is that the final authority? I would even encourage us as Christians to think that there’s something more authoritative than your body. But is it your body? Is that why you would say, “You’re not a giraffe” or “Excuse me, ma’am, you’re not a cat.” “Look at yourself in the mirror, Greg. That’s why I know you’re not a giraffe.” Because if my body is the final authority, then that is what I would put my ultimate and absolute authority in.
You could identify with experience from other giraffes and say, “Greg, you don’t look anything like other giraffes that I’ve pet at the zoo. You don’t have that long, swirly tongue that wraps up my hand when I feed you, and I don’t. My experience would be that you do not look like another giraffe.”
I could begin to appeal to other things, such as geography or genetics. Reason is something that is often a source of authority in our lives where we would ultimately appeal back to our reason. In so doing we would say, “Well, it’s not logical for you to be a giraffe because other giraffes don’t look like this, and ultimately if other giraffes don’t look like this, then it seems to me that it would be reasonable to say that you’re not a giraffe, Greg.”
While these are interesting, and at times helpful, what I would argue for you is that none of these are the final and absolute authority, even your body. There are physical anomalies that we can experience, and yet there’s still something more authoritative than my own body. Even over my own reason, there’s something more authoritative than my own reason.
I’m going to put forward that the authority of the Scripture is more authoritative than reason, more authoritative than your experience, more authoritative than your body, more authoritative than your genetics or whatever geography you would appeal to. The place of the Word of God is authoritative over all of those things.
What then has made it possible for individuals to get to this point where we’ve shifted from it seems ridiculous to us that you would claim to be a cat to where individuals would claim to be a cat and now expect to be protected in that identification? I want to give you an overview of some of the transition of thought that has taken place.
II. What has made transgenderism possible?
What has made transgenderism possible? Well, first of all, if you’re a student of history, you can go back to the Enlightenment and you can begin with studying Descartes and how Descartes really cracked the door for us exalting reason. Now whether you love philosophy or not, that’s not what I’m here to prove, but what I would say is that our love of wisdom—our philosophy—has shaped many things unbeknownst to us. One of the greatest things that it has shaped is our understanding of knowledge and how we know what we know. Whether you believe it or not, Descartes started to exalt reason to be ultimate.
Now, remember Descartes was the guy that was questioning, How does he know that he exists? That was a crisis for him. In asking that question, Descartes then starts to find the solution and find hope. The hope that he found is, “I’m thinking about my existence, therefore I must exist.” “I think therefore I am,” if you’ve ever heard that phrase. It was set in the context of, How do I know that I’m here? I know that I’m here because I’m thinking about the fact that I’m here or I’m not here. He’s arguing for his existence based off of the fact that he knows that he’s thinking about his existence right now. I think, therefore, I must exist. What he did was exalt his reason to prove his existence and that opened the door for the Enlightenment, where now we see God lowered and man exalted and man’s reason being one of the key things that was exalted.
We move then from an age of reason to a natural outworking of romanticism. Now you’ve heard of being a romantic, but romanticism is more of the idea of being true to your feelings and being genuine and doing that which is most genuine and true to who you are deep inside. Romanticism is seen as needing to identify who you are and not letting anyone stop you or letting the constraints of this world affect you.
Maybe you’ve heard of Rousseau. He said that man is born free, but is everywhere in chains. That is because the society is negatively hindering you, and in order for you to be your true self, society needs to acknowledge who you are, not constrain who you are. It’s a very seductive idea, isn’t it? That I don’t need school now to teach me how to act. I need school to confirm who I am and unlock my potential. Instead of me conforming to the standards of society, the standards of society need to conform to me. There’s a shift now and you’re seeing that gradual shift from reason to romanticism and romanticism to individualism.
Individualism is where I am the one that is supreme and I am the one that acknowledges what is true and what is right, especially for myself. You can’t know about me. Only I can know about me. I have to tell you about me and you should support that. This idea of individualism has culminated with where we’re at now with expressive individualism where we want to not only be true, but we want to be true to our feelings and you to acknowledge what our feelings are telling us, our identities, our self-conceptions, and our perspectives about ourselves. We want you to affirm those things.
This is a radical transition and it’s not true in other places. In Western thought we’ve moved from our reason is supreme to our intuitions and our feelings are supreme to now you must acknowledge and respect those and identify those as being true. How do you get to a place where it can make sense to self-identify in a way that does not correspond to your physiology? [This is partly hell.] How we know what we know and why we believe what we believe have changed.
Let me just pepper in some graciousness then. At times in counseling, we are not counseling a person who is overtly rebellious. There is a category of ignorant and deceived, as well. Does that make sense? You’ve lived your life deceived or perhaps ignorant of the realities that there are absolute truths outside of you, and now, for the first time, a biblical counselor is going to sit down with you and introduce absolute truth and absolute authority to you. What that should do just a little bit, biblical counselors, is it should promote graciousness in you. It would be like you going outside and someone for the first time saying, “That grass isn’t green. It’s never been green. It’s blue.” “What are you talking about?” That’s a worldview shock. It’s a worldview shock.
Are there individuals that espouse erroneous self-conceptions out of rebellion? For sure, there for sure are. But that doesn’t mean that all individuals who espouse erroneous self-conceptions are doing so out of rebellion. There are some that are simply deceived and ignorant, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean that they’re not aware of or not knowledgeable of the fact that they are not the ultimate authority. They’re not the final authority. When you believe that you have the ultimate form of truth within yourself, other authorities are threats and potential dangers to you.
“I can’t work somewhere that’s going to oppress me,” one begins to think. “I can’t listen to my parents because they’re trying to hold me back and I need to be true to me. I can’t listen to my pastor because he doesn’t know about what’s going on inside of me. I need to break free of these restrictions.” That’s what Rousseau was getting at. He is the highlight of romanticism to where it’s, If you are going to be true to yourself, you cannot let society keep you in chains. You’ve got to break free of that.
III. Transgenderism is a battle for authoritative truth.
It is a battle for authoritative truth. What is the final authority in a person’s life? To appeal to this authority is what makes a statement, a belief, or an opinion true. Let’s talk about some of the ways that we do that, maybe even unbeknownst to ourselves as Christians.
I’ve included naturalism and empiricism together. Maybe we could even include scientism (where we place too much of an emphasis on science). One of the things that I think was a blessing out of COVID is that we all have a healthy suspicion of science during these times now. Three years ago, I just had to say, “Research says…” and everybody believed it; but now I say, “Science says…” and everyone’s response is, “Nope. No. Get out of here, Greg.” We naturally lend towards empiricism, scientism, or naturalism where we want physical proof and we need some type of physical evidence. We would appeal to science or the scientific method for verification.
There’s rationalism where we appeal to our reason: “If it makes sense to me, it must be true.”
There’s romanticism where I appeal more to my affections, emotions, or feelings.
Whatever you’re appealing to in order to ratify a truth or falsify a truth, that is going to be the ultimate form of what is your authority. The core component of transgenderism is an appeal to one’s inner person as being the final authority.
But it makes sense. How does it make sense? It makes sense if you shift from external being the absolute truth to internal being the absolute truth. Some of that just makes sense, like, What do you expect is going to happen? When I dislocate absolute truth from being associated with God and His Word and I relocate it to being within me, then the natural result will be that it is disconnected from reality, from the truth of God in the Scriptures. At the core of transgenderism is a battle for authoritative, absolute truth. That’s the core. Who or what defines you? Who has the authority to define you? Do you define you? Most of us in this room might immediately default to, “Well, of course, of course.” But as I was thinking through this lecture, I was like, “Well, I actually think Christians do this on a micro scale. We self-define all the time.”
IV. In what areas of life do we find our own inner person as being a final authority?
I want to do this as an exercise to help show you so as to maybe cultivate graciousness in us and then to move towards: We still have to submit to a final authority. You and I self-define all the time, whether it’s good, bad, or whether you’ve ever thought about it. Here are some examples of the way we do that.
I hate the dentist. I almost have an ungodly fear of going to the dentist. Every time they say, “All right, you should be numb,” that’s like the last final words of my life. “You should be numb.” [imitates sound of fear] “Scale of 1 to 10?” I’m like, [in a whiny voice], “Ten and a half, 12, put me out.” You cannot prove how much pain you are experiencing. Have you ever thought about that? You can’t prove that and most doctors, if they’re gracious, aren’t asking you to prove it. If my dentist were like, “Man, I think you’re more like a 7. Can you prove you’re at a 10?” “I’m about to prove it, man. I’m going to get out of this chair.” The reality is that we do this all the time with pain management. You may say:
– “Hey, how much pain are you in on a scale of 1 to 10?”
– “It’s a 2.”
– “Okay, I’m fine with that.”
– “It’s a 10.”
– “Alright, we need to do something about that. We need to get you some pain meds and get you back to see the doctor.”
How are you identifying that? It’s based off of your own perceptions of yourself. Before we grab the stone and sling it and say, “How dare you self-conceptualize? How dare you do that?” We do that.
GI issues are often really difficult to prove and to have some type of evidence for. What is the source? What is the problem? Those that are on significant medications or those that are going through treatments for gastrointestinal issues (cleanses, things of that nature), oftentimes, we self-conceptualize and we identify about what’s happening within our own intestinal processes.
This is one that I give my students a hard time about. I see this and I’m being serious about this. A lot of them self-identify as having food allergies that they’ve never been diagnosed with. It might be a generational thing too, just to be honest, because I have a lot of 18- to 22-year-olds and I swear like every other one is gluten-free now. It’s weird to me. I’m not here to hate on celiac disease, right? That’s not my lane, but I do find it to be fascinating that you can self-conceptualize as having an allergy to a food and yet there’s been no proof of that. You have no evidence for that. It’s also interesting too because for some of the students it’s like a selective allergy until that really nice dish circulates around. Then I’m like, “I thought you were gluten-free?” He or she is like, “Well, I’ll be alright.” “Give me the brownie, you can’t get it now. Back off.”
I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but yet it’s another example of the fact that we do self-conceptualize and we identify that as being authoritative. Maybe the food allergy is a California thing—I am in California. I’m not sure if you’re experiencing it in any other parts of the country. I’m like, “Just drink a Coca-Cola, like, come on.”
But it’s at the point where you say, “Well, you self-conceptualize and see that as being authoritative.” That’s what I’m getting at. We generally accept that.
There are other ailments that you might face. Think of joint pain or migraines. Oftentimes, we don’t need proof for joint pain if we’re talking about fibromyalgia, for instance. We’re going to accept that, generally speaking, you have some type of joint pain, and although I cannot prove that you have that joint pain—I can see evidences of maybe arthritis—but I’m going to accept those.
For many of these areas, we don’t have proof or any other substantiation besides subjective realities, like pain or stomach pain or maybe even the symptoms of those, to verify that these are indeed true. We regularly accept such issues. We do this all the time. We could keep going through the list. We identify, we self-conceptualize, and then we see that as being authoritative, even Christians. Even Christians do that. Therefore, before we start to say, “Well, how inconsistent of a lifestyle must it be to self-conceptualize in a way that is erroneous?” just think that we do that to. It may be on a micro scale, but we still have a level of self-conception that is not always accurate.
However, with each of these, we would reject categories or ontological differences that do not correspond to reality. If a person were to say, “I have a migraine,” we might accept that at face value. However, if he or she were to say, “I don’t have a brain, which is why I have a migraine,” we would appeal to the fact that his or her body is indeed whole. He or she may still have a migraine, but his or her body is indeed whole. In this instance, the body has served as evidence that their inner sensations or perceptions are perhaps inaccurate.
Therefore, we do hold a level of you cannot change your ontology or your being based off of your self-perceptions. We do hold that still at this point, for now at least. There is not a category in which we currently accept a person redefining themselves based on inner sensations and feelings.
Out of these micro-areas of self-conception—and we would affirm it to be true—there’s not one category where we would affirm that you should redefine your physiology based off of your inner sensations, feelings, or self-perception. Then the question starts to be—this isn’t just true in Christianity; this is going to be true in general—Why would transgenderism be the one exception to that? Because of a shift in authoritative truth. That’s why.
If you haven’t read the book by Abigail Shrier—it’s really written towards parents of young teenage girls—it’s called Irreversible Damage. She’s a Wall Street Journal reporter. She’s moral, but not a Christian. What she did in this work is she began to interview and do journalism on those who have identified as being trans (who have gone through some of the surgeries to make that so and then even some of those who have de-transitioned). In her work, she starts to talk about how gender-affirming care is becoming necessary now. Gender-affirming care is where when someone self-conceptualizes or identifies, then a medical doctor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist has to say, “Well, that’s who you are. I’m going to affirm that.” She gives an example of a young girl who perceives herself to be obese.
Here is the scenario. She says to imagine that you were to meet with a 95-pound young lady, and that 95-pound young lady sees herself as being obese and asks that you would affirm that she is obese. Instead of you correcting her ideology and self-conception, now you need to affirm that she is obese and refer to her as such based off of her preferences.
She goes on to describe the damage that would be caused to that young lady by affirming her erroneous self-conception (calling her fat, for instance; affirming that she’s not underweight, but that she’s overweight). The long-term damage of that is not going to be something that is reversible. This is the irreversible damage that she speaks of. If we would not affirm a young lady who wants to be viewed as fat while she is underweight, then what would be the difference about affirming someone who sees himself or herself as a different gender from what his or her body tells. Abigail Shrier goes on to say that the same could be true for race, body height, or any other dynamic. If you’re going to affirm a person’s self-conceptualization, where does it end? Where do you have to stop? Where does it become unrealistic?
The point of her argumentation is that it’s damaging and that for you to meet authoritative truth and be corrected is an act of kindness and love and preventative help and care. You wouldn’t tell the underweight 95-pound young lady that she’s fat. You would say, “No way. You’re not viewing yourself accurately. Here’s who you are. This is who you are.”
Inward confusion is met with the authority of reality as evidenced in the body. Here is the point about where we currently are.
Internal perceptions are still, for now, subject to external evidences. For now, but that’s slowly changing. Internal perceptions are still tethered to reality or to external evidences, but that’s changing. For some of you it’s not going to be your generation, it’s going to be my generation or my kid’s generation. I have three boys. One of them is in public school right now. It’s their generation that’s going to face this. When we think about how I argue for perceptions of myself, I can argue for many perceptions about myself that are still subject to external authoritative truth.
To be fair then, we must see that the question of one’s existence still distills down to that answer of, What is authoritative truth? This is where I’d like to go to Matthew 17.
Let me introduce Matthew 17 and then we will go over to 2 Peter 1 in a second.
I want to read to you the account of the transfiguration. It’s a pretty phenomenal narrative here. When you meditate on what’s actually taking place and interpret it literally, it’s remarkable, and Peter’s going to give an account of this in his second epistle.
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Here is the experience: Peter, James, and John are with Jesus. Jesus is transfigured before them. They see Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus. They hear the voice of God, the Father say, “This is my beloved Son” that terrifies them. It sends them into a “falling on your face” mode. Then Jesus comes and touches them physically and says, “Rise and have no fear.” I’ve had some pretty neat experiences in life. I’ve seen the Lord do some amazing things in counseling and marriages, through youth ministry, and through pastoral ministry, but I’ve never had that transfiguration moment. I can’t say that I can duplicate that in my own life.
Peter’s going to talk about this in his epistle. Go over to 2 Peter, chapter 1. As you’re turning there, authoritative truth is the key.
Let me highlight a couple of these points and then I want to tell you the rightful place of the Scripture and hope to demonstrate that rightful place to you from what Peter’s preparing to say about mount transfiguration.
V. The Key Components of Transgenderism
The first key component is self-perception/conception. Transgenderism is actually “an umbrella term for the state or condition of identifying or expressing a gender that does not match a person’s genetic sex.” Identifying is your self-conception or your perception. It’s how you view yourself, what you view to be true. Gender identity, which is part of how you’re identifying, is a person’s self-conception of whether the person is male or female (how you view yourself).
The second key component is personal confusion. This used to be called gender dysphoria. Now we’re moving away from that term because we’re affirming transgenderism and not seeing the dysphoria as a problem. We’re blending cultural boundaries. We have parenting structures that are different. We have those who are coming from single homes and don’t have a male father figure and that affects them. When we think about the key ingredient of personal confusion through the environment of your parenting, it is a significant influence. Abigail Shrier is going to do some work on the type of home that you grow up in, and that’s also going to be the technology that you’re given access to in that home. It was interesting because YouTube was a huge part of persuading young people to transition and to identify as being transgender. That’s your environment.
The third is your epistemological authority. What is your final authority for what you believe is true? That’s it. That’s what I mean by epistemological authority. What’s your final authority? Is it your body? your self-conception? your experience? Those are the three components, but here is what I would put before you: the Bible, the authority of Scripture, when in its rightful place as God’s divine revelation means that all of life is understood through the lens of Scripture. I want to emphasize that, first of all, understood through the lens of Scripture. I make sense of the world through the lens of Scripture. But yet, there’s also one more thing. The Bible, the Scripture, when given its proper place, is not only the pair of glasses that I would wear to see everything, but it defines what I am seeing. It not only shows me, but it tells me what I’m seeing. God defines reality. Things are only accurate when God has determined them to be so. To know the world truly and accurately is to know it as God has revealed it in the pages of Scripture.
The authority of Scripture means not that I just look around with the glasses and say, “What am I seeing here? What am I seeing here? Yep, yep, yep.” But it’s, “Tell me what I’m seeing here. I don’t understand without You revealing to me.” When we use the authority of Scripture properly, it’s telling us what we see and also showing us.
VI. Biblical Authority as Understood by Biblical Authors
2 Peter 1:16-18
This is where I want to go to 2 Peter, chapter 1. This is a fascinating chapter that encourages me so much. It’s almost entirely about the Word of God. At the end we have, How did we get the Word? The Spirit carried men along. At the beginning (verses 3-4) we have sufficiency: everything that you need for life and godliness. Let’s go to verses 16-18:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)
Okay, time out. What’s he talking about? Matthew 17. But consider the dynamics of Matthew 17. Peter saw; he heard; he experienced; Jesus touched him on the back and said, “Rise, have no fear.” It was like a multi-sensory experience. In fact, it would be hard to say, “Peter, I know you had the walking on water experience; I know that Jesus confirmed you by the Sea of Galilee (John 21); but it’s hard to get past maybe a better multi-sensory experience.” Peter affirms that, and he says, “We’re not making this stuff up. We were with Jesus on that holy mountain. We ourselves heard the voice of God say, ‘This is My Son.’” Then in verse 19, “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…”
I’m going to finish this, but consider the gravity of what he has just said. Mount transfiguration is not as fully confirmed as the prophetic word. You may be like, “Well, that could be any prophetic word.” No, it couldn’t. He moves immediately into the Scripture and he talks about “no prophecy of Scripture” (verse 20). In Peter’s mind, he’s talking about the Scripture.
What is more authoritative than all of those senses that happened on mount transfiguration (eyesight, ears, physical touch)? What is more authoritative? The Scripture is more authoritative. Your Bible might even say more sure or more reliable. When we have this idea of confirmed, it’s trustworthy.
How does Peter interpret a grandiose moment like mount transfiguration? He says that it’s still subordinate to the Scriptures. The Scriptures are still more trustworthy than that.
How do you interpret your senses? How do you interpret your experiences? You do so through the lens of Scripture. Scripture is more authoritative than your senses. Peter says that it almost couldn’t get any clearer. Peter says, “We have a prophetic word that is more sure.” I didn’t have a mount transfiguration moment in my life, but I can tell you that there are times when I tend to think my senses are more sure than the prophetic word. Maybe you’ve been in that situation as well. “Lord, it doesn’t seem like You’re for me at this particular point in my life. It doesn’t seem like You’re near to me. It doesn’t seem like You’re hearing me.” Yet the Scripture affirms that He is for me, that He is hearing me, and that He is listening to me. My senses are not always accurate, and I have to bring them in subordination to the authority of God’s Word. I do that like once every 10 minutes. I’m just kidding, it’s more, much more. Do you experience wayward senses that have to be subordinated to the authoritative truth of the Scripture?
I think we all do to a certain degree. Then the question is going to be, How does Peter view this authoritative Word? He says that you would “do well to pay attention [to it] as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Continue to stay steadfast in the Word until Jesus comes back. We know that the Word that we have received wasn’t made up by men, but the Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of this book.
How do you interpret your experiences and your senses? You do so by subordinating them to the authoritative Word of God. It’s right there in the text.
Let’s go to John 10:35.
Here’s something to note: the Pharisees and Jesus both see that the Old Testament Scriptures are authoritative and cannot be broken. Now, in your study of the New Testament, particularly the gospels, it would be fascinating for you to note that in the times when Jesus uses the Old Testament, there is never a dispute about what was actually in the Old Testament or whether it was seen as being authoritative. In fact, the Pharisees would agree. That’s often why it was a real stumper. What’s the greatest commandment? Well, let me quote from the Shema (Deuteronomy 6). Boom. You can’t say anything about that because you believe that the Scriptures are authoritative.
Look at an insight that Jesus offers here. When quoting the Old Testament, there’s kind of this sandwiched comment here. Verse 35 reads: “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” Jesus quotes from the Old Testament and it may even be set off by some em dashes in your translation. It’s like a parenthetical comment: the Scripture cannot be broken. It’s as if He says: “Do you believe that the Old Testament Scripture is so authoritative that it will not be broken? So why are you coming at me right now for identifying as the Son of God?” The Pharisees do not push back on the fact that, “Well, actually at certain times, the Scripture can be broken.” That’s not the point. There’s total agreement on the fact that the Scripture cannot be broken. That’s again why Jesus silences them. It is agreed that the Scripture is authoritative. How does Jesus view the Scripture? As authoritative, as unbreakable. In Matthew 5:17, He’s going to fulfill all of the law. Not even one small amount of the law will be omitted. All of it matters. All of it’s important. None of it will be broken.
One last place. Let’s go to the high priestly prayer in John 17. When we talk about John 17, Jesus is praying for His disciples and then for future disciples. We’re seeing that Jesus is identifying God’s Word as being something here, and the reality is that it’s not only truth (lowercase t), but it’s Truth (uppercase T). In verse 17, Jesus’ prayer is that God the Father would sanctify them in the truth. Then He says this: “Your word is truth.” The full verse reads: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Jesus understands that God’s Word is absolute truth. It’s not like all truth is true and the Bible is true, the grass is green, Jesus is God, and they’re all equal in their authority, but rather the Bible is true truth. I love this quote by Francis Schaeffer. He said, “Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural, but rather truth spelled with a capital T, truth about total reality, not just about religious things.” It’s true truth or Truth with a capital T.
The rightful place of the Word of God is to see it as not only the lens through which you interpret things but the lens that defines the realities of your life. Jesus is arguing and praying that God would sanctify them in His Word and His Word is the truth, the absolute truth. Peter says that even though he had that grandiose experience on mount transfiguration, the Word of God is more sure. It’s more reliable than hearing, than sight, than sense of touch. God’s Word is more authoritative than those things. When we come away from the Bible, what happens is we come away with a large view, a very high view of the authority of Scripture. You don’t study the Bible and come away from the Bible with a low view as if all truth is true (that the Bible is true and it’s just one more truth that we have out there, but there are many other truths that are equally true). No, the Bible is the final version of Truth. It is the authoritative version of Truth. It is true truth.
VII. Transgenderism is a struggle of authoritative truth.
I want to be candid. I’ve met with maybe two folks overall that are wrestling with transgenderism. When a person reaches out to a biblical counselor and the presenting problem is trans or a sensation that he or she is not in the right body, he or she is typically struggling. Does that make sense? These individuals are not hardened sinners that want to dig in and fight you over it. Hardened sinners wouldn’t be reaching out to a biblical counselor and are not interested in talking with you, in all fairness. Short of some trap that’s being set for you, you’re going to be talking with a person who’s struggling.
In that context of meeting with folks that are struggling, we have to be able to say, “Look, they’re in a battle for what is going to define them. What is the ultimate truth in their life?” That’s a scary place to be, is it not? It’s a scary place to be. What will you ultimately submit to?
When this struggle is taking place, it almost feels like we’re having to be philosophers to start off the conversation to identify, Do your emotions and do your feelings ultimately define you? Is your sensation going to define what ultimately is true about you? Who gets to disagree with that? Why or why not?
Because if I can get a person on board with saying, “I do believe the Scripture is the boss, the authority, the lens, Scripture is it,” then I’m cooking with gas. I can work with that. But I can’t counsel a person that does not accept God’s Word as being true and authoritative.
Why did you reach out to a biblical counselor? I mean that’s the reality is that most of us aren’t in that situation where they went to a biblical counselor because they hated the Word of God and don’t believe it’s authoritative. It’s like, “You have got some issues, man.” They’re reaching out to us because they believe that God’s Word is authoritative. Therefore, what we’re doing is we’re sliding in God’s definition of you over your self-conception of you and we’re bringing them into alignment.
According to Psalm 100:3, biblical authority means that God is the One who has made us and thus, we are His. God is the one that identifies us and informs our self-conception. Your Christian identity is informed by the authoritative Word of God, you see?
If I can’t slide in God’s identification of you because you reject biblical authority, let’s just not meet. I’m not going to be a whole lot of blessing and benefit to you. But if you’re on board with that thought that the Bible is ultimate, absolute truth—over your sensations, over your perceptions, over what you’ve struggled with your entire life—if you’re okay with saying that, then let’s inform you with how God has defined you. I think just for practical reasons that we as biblical counselors hold to the authoritative truth of God and then we appropriate what that truth is. Transgenderism is that battle. Will you define you or will you allow God to define you? If you’re willing to let God define you, you’ll see the restoration, the grace, the forgiveness, the mercy of the Lord. Just like any erroneous self-conception—hear me on this—I must bring that back to the authority and the truthfulness of the Scripture. Just like any other erroneous self-conception, such as: I’m not loved; I’m not valued; I’m not cared for; I don’t mean anything to anybody. Just like any of those erroneous self-conceptions, we bring transgenderism back to the authority of Scripture. What does God say about you and how can we live according to His reality?