In a recent panel discussion at the University of Florida, world-renowned Christian apologists Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale, answered the question on everyone’s mind at the moment: Is God okay with people being transgendered?
It’s a needed question that if asked 99.99% of us wouldn’t be able to answer with coherent reason or authority. That is not the case here. Both Zacharias and Vitale walk us into the apologetics of scripture forcing us to look at these culturally shifting times through the lens of the Bible, and from there we must wrestle with the truth, alone with God.
Vitale begins his answer to this goliath question by honoring the extremely personal and vulnerable question for those listening and watching, “I want to be sensitive in the way that I answer [this question], and admit to you upfront that I don’t have a perfect response to this issue which is becoming more and more prevalent.” In order to honor the vulnerability of this question Vitale first affirms “this feeling of a gap between who we feel ourselves to be and what ultimately we are intended to be … the Bible affirms that gap. It says that we are living in a broken world … that creation itself is groaning for restoration.”
Working from that basis, Vitale says that the question actually is, “Is our gender something that is given to us or something that we need to create ourselves?”
He continues, “Now if we’re working within an atheistic framework then we have no choice but to try to create our identities ourselves in a variety of ways. I think that can be a great burden … that burden of having to create your own identity. If we’re talking about this within a Christian framework than we don’t need to create our own identity. Our identity in various aspects is given to us by God. And God created people according to the Bible, male and female.” But again, Vitale goes to lengths to reaffirm that “there still may be this gap between where we feel that we are and where we want to be. There may be a gap between what we are biologically and what we feel. God’s love for us is holistic. He loves us as full beings … He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs and knows us better than anyone. So He loves us in our physicality and our biology. And He loves us in our emotions and our psychology.” And most importantly God promises that “there can be restoration and reconciliation for them.”
Why should we trust God on this?
Vitale poignantly surmises, “I think it’s because Jesus Himself experienced something of a mismatch between who He was and the body that He was in. Jesus Himself, the incorruptible God, took on a corruptible body—and there was a mismatch there in some sense. And yet, because He was God Himself, He was able to die and then rise again with a redeemed body that was fully restored and fully reconciled.”
This is significant because it means that Jesus modeled for us the journey of this very gap differential. It’s also scary because it forces those experiencing the gap to trust in His ability and desire to bring full restoration and reconciliation. Forcing each of us in the gap to answer the question, “Is there a God big enough and loving enough who can do that? Did that God actually reveal Himself in history? And did He reveal Himself in history in a way that shows that He understands exactly what you’re going through because He took on a body that didn’t feel right? But He was able to go through that and rise with a redeemed body.”
- MODEL 1: The Integrity Framework—”Views gender in terms of roles assigned by the Creator. We could think of this as the Genesis 1 and 2 perspective.”
- MODEL 2: The Disability Framework—”Views gender dysphoria with regard to mental health. We could call this a Genesis 3 perspective: Since the Fall, things are not as they ought to be. We can view someone with discomfort over their biological sex and its expression in gender as something disrupted by the Fall. It is not a choice but a consequence.”
- MODEL 3: The Diversity Framework—”Views gender diversity as something that is natural and therefore good. This is where much of our culture has landed on the question.”
Zacharias encourages us to study these frameworks ourselves, to wrestle with them and seek God on them. He says, “One of the things that we face as Christian apologists is a diversity of opinions on these things and people who really and genuinely hurt over decisions like these. We know the deep anguish people come to talk to us about this.”
To model this point, Zacharias shares the story of Naaman in the Old Testament who is “suffering from a sudden disease and he comes to see Elijah and Elijah prays over him and heals him. Naaman, the Syrian, is shocked … he asks an incredible question and gets an incredible answer … Naaman looks at Elijah and he says ‘I have a question for you. I know who your God is and I know this is the God I now worship. When I go back home and work for my master, he takes me to the temple and in that temple, he leans on my arm and asks me to bow with him … Elijah, what should I do?’ … Elijah looks at Naaman and says, ‘Go and God will be with you and will guide you.’ Elijah doesn’t play God for him. Elijah says, ‘go and God will be with you and God will guide you.'”
“So, please ask God a question about yourself—not what you are, but who you are. That’s the first question. ‘Who am I, Lord? Not what am I? And once you gain your identity in Him, all other identities can be defined for you as well. He will tell you who you are and I will just tell you, ‘ask God the question as you read His word and He will guide you, I will not play God in your life. You lean on Him, He will guide you.’ “