Culture

Why Christians Should Not Use Pronouns

By December 8, 2023No Comments
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I want to address the coercive requirement that people use transgender pronouns that transgender-identifying people require. I will briefly explain transgender pronouns and why transgender-identifying people increasingly pressure society to use them. I will then discuss why Christians should reject the general use of transgender pronouns altogether. Christians must not use transgender pronouns because it furthers the lie that pronoun use is acceptable, which directly undermines God’s created order and the duality of male and female.

I should define some concepts at the outset. The first is sex. Sex is defined as a biological reality, referring to an organism’s overall organization toward sexual reproduction. This organization includes chromosomes we inherit from our parents, reproductive organs, systems, and genitalia. This process is the best way to figure out what sex you are because it is the only way to make sense of the concepts of male and female.

The second is gender. Gender is the way one expresses one’s biological sex. There are differences between males and females, and we should not pretend these differences do not exist. Transgender activists deny that sex is a physical reality. They argue that gender is perceived and identity represents a person’s identity even if it goes against their biological sex. For them, biological reality and one’s biological sex were “assigned at birth.”

The last is gender identity. According to the American Psychological Association, “Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. For transgender activists, gender identity is distinct from either sex or gender, meaning a person decides their “internal sense of gender.” Transgender-identifying people claim that gender is “fluid,” and there is a spectrum of various options beyond man and woman, like “gender fluid,” “intergender,” and “non-binary.”

Colossians 2:8-10 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits (or principles) of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” This verse is fundamental as we consider how to address transgender-identifying people and their resolution to use transgender pronouns when referring to them. We must love them. But we also have a moral and religious obligation to speak clearly to them so we do not persuade them to continue in sin.

Considering the verse above, Christians should use language, including pronouns, that a) affirm the truth of God’s Creation, including God’s role as sole Creator; b) Love our neighbors by not doing them harm or promoting self-harm (“loving our neighbor as ourselves”); and c) using language to promote the Gospel by using our words to promote truth, not falsehood.

The Use of Transgender Pronouns: The Counter Argument

Preston Sprinkle, Ph.D., in his book Embodied, suggests that non-transgender Christians should use transgender pronouns that trans-identified people simulate to define themselves.[1] Transgender Pronoun hospitality means that if a woman presents herself as a trans man, we should use he/him or they/them. If a man introduces himself as a transwoman, we should use she/her or they/them. Sprinkle suggests that using a person’s transgender pronouns is an act of hospitality and respect.[2] Sprinkle implies that these transgender pronouns refer to how a person sees their gender identity. He does not believe one is lying if one uses “she” or “her” to describe a biological male.[3] Sprinkle also claims that not only is it respectful, but this hospitality is meant to establish a personal relationship.

Additionally, Sprinkle declares that using the transgender pronouns a person identifies with should be a matter of “common courtesy,” which Sprinkle considers a small “whisper of grace.”[4] For Sprinkle, “pronoun hospitality” is the best choice when communicating with a transgender person.[5] The pronoun reflects their gender identity rather than their biological sex.[6] Sprinkle is a Christian, but “pronoun hospitality” violates truth-telling in love and grace despite embracing the concept.

Transgender-identifying people state their desired transgender pronouns in person. Transgender-identifying people also use their transgender pronouns on social media, in personal biographies, and in email exchanges. Preston Sprinkle’s advice is not sound theology or psychology. Christians cannot exploit language, attributing transgender pronouns to those who create their gender. Scriptural truth is far above his understanding of the “flexible social meaning of language.” Acts 17: 26-28 says, “And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” We must live out this truth.

Andrew Walker advises, however, that Christians should reject using transgender pronouns because using them creates tension between living in the reality of God’s Word and the example of Jesus Christ. It also means discarding God’s Word and Jesus Christ in favor of the Marxist revolution’s truth–liberating the oppressed–and the desire to redefine marriage.[7]

Walker says that God’s Word and the example of Jesus can establish the truth about the reality of human flourishing. In this sense, transgender pronouns are make-believe because the assumed gender of the transgender person is a creation. Walker intimates that people want to be referred to not based not on their biological sex but on their brain–which suggests what gender they take on.[8] In that sense, transgender pronouns refer to an artificial reality where the transgender person wishes to live. Walker specifies that, as Christians, we should be willing to speak truthfully to our transgender neighbors when asked our opinion and understand that truth-telling is loving, even if it is not received that way.[9]

Walker makes the central point about how Christians should regard transgender pronouns. It is neither proper nor ethical for a Christian to lead a friend or family member in error, confusion, or sin.[10] Concerning pronouns, we must listen to and obey our conscience, which God provided for us when he made us in his image.[11] Our conscience makes us aware of sin because God created us to know right from wrong.[12] Therefore, Christians should reject using transgender pronouns because the authenticity the transgender person wishes to live in is not correct. More importantly, Scripture must be our guide. In refusing to use transgender pronouns, Walker indicates that the depth of the relationship determines one’s authority to speak accurately, speak authoritatively, and speak justly, guided by the authority of Scripture.[13] As Christians, we should avoid using transgender pronouns completely. If someone is a biological male or female, we must use their actual names rather than transgender pronouns. As Christians, we should be honest in public, meaning we must speak and write truthfully and not bend the knee to political correctness or justify falsehood.[14]

As Christians, we must speak truthfully, which means we must say what we believe because coercion is unacceptable to followers of God. In all things, we are to love God, love our neighbor, and promote God’s truth regarding God’s created order, which is best for us and our neighbors.[15]

Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sandusky are Christian psychologists who treat individuals with gender dysphoria. In their book, “Emerging Gender Identities, Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth,” they recommend that Christians journey with youth as they explore possible gender identities.[16] They support using language that aligns with gender identity, a practice they call “pronoun hospitality.” They claim that using a pronoun that aligns with gender identity does not make an anthropological statement and that youth who request new transgender pronouns are not making a theological statement.

I have to disagree with what Yarhouse and Sandusky are saying here. Sex is a biological reality created by God in a duality that includes both men and women. If a person is attempting to change their gender or wants to assume an opposite gender, then, by definition, they are making a theological and anthropological statement about who they are. The anthropological argument attempts to simulate an opposite gender in the image they believe corresponds with their mind. The theological idea is that they are trying to recreate themselves in the gender they want to be without the aid of the Creator. It is important to express this point: one cannot change one’s gender. One is born with either XX chromosomes, which means she is a girl who matures into a woman, or XY chromosomes, which means he is a boy who develops into a man. Those suffering from gender dysphoria need counseling from a compassionate counselor who is not likely to rush the suffering client into medicalization or hormonal drugs.

However, the body and soul are one. If the mind seeks to embrace a metaphysical dualism, this is Gnosticism, meaning spirit is good, and matter is evil. Gonstics largely abstain from reason and rely on secret knowledge they claim to have to understand and evaluate reality and truth. Transgender-identified people live their lives in this way. For them, the body is inferior to their soul, which is evil and incapable of redemption. We should not accept this mind/body dualism. Jesus’ birth, which comprised a body and soul, is specific to our salvation. For years, Christianity has declared the goodness of the body- of Jesus Christ and those who have received salvation. Salvation is about the healing and restoration of our bodies and souls—a theological idea confirmed in the Church as a sacramental that communicates grace.

Rosaria Butterfield, a former professor at Syracuse University, formerly used transgender pronouns and admitted it was a sin.[17] She says that using these transgender pronouns was a sin against the Ninth Commandment (bearing false witness) and encouraged people to sin against the Tenth Commandment (coveting). Butterfield was clear that using transgender pronouns was a sin against the Creation and image-bearing, discouraging a believer’s progressive sanctification and falsifying the Gospel. She also admitted that transgender pronouns cheapened redemption and trampled on the bloodstained cross of Jesus Christ. These transgender pronouns also failed to love their neighbor the way God and Jesus commanded; they could not offer genuine Christian hospitality and instead yielded hospitality to identity politics. Lastly, she disagreed with Yarhouse and Sprinkle regarding transgender pronouns because it makes no sense from a Christian perspective. After all, crafting a relationship on falsehood will not give the Gospel a hearing nor allow people to convert to Jesus Christ.

Language: Bullying

Much of gender theory comes from Marxist thought. Marx held an atheistic view of the cosmos, deliberately dismissing concepts in the Scriptures and human nature. Marx also rejected the universal truths and moral values. Instead, he focused on power relations and the liberation of those he saw as oppressed. His views were materialist and economic rather than ideological. Marx viewed social analysis as a practical action affecting change within specific cultures. Gender theory relies on Marxism, another reason Christians should avoid this ideology and using transgender pronouns for transgender individuals.

Language manipulates people’s behavior to control them and coerce them into social conformity regarding transgender-identifying people– especially those who refuse to use the correct transgender pronouns when addressing transgender-identifying people. People who “misgender” others by not using the correct transgender pronouns chosen by the transgender individual face social exclusion or repudiation. Another consequence of misgendering a transgender person is being “canceled.”  “Cancel culture” has become the most effective tool for conformity and employing politically correct language regarding transgender pronouns or a new name that fits a presumed gender.[18]

This threat leads to public attacks on people who reject the new political orthodoxy concerning transgender-identifying people. These attacks lead to public shaming, boycotting, and banning them on social media platforms. People have also lost their jobs for not using the correct transgender pronouns and for misgendering people.[19]

The coercive use of transgender pronouns affects many things. Pronoun use deliberately removes the element of human nature, which minimizes the sexually differentiated body and soul of men and women, which we received from God. This removal of human nature allows transgender-identifying people to reject the reality that God created them in His image. It will enable them to reorient their identity to resemble who their mind believes them to be. This new personal identity is simply a production people create, and the individual appropriates and socially performs this new identity. Here, gender ideology rejects Christian theology, especially the created order. Christian theology endorses the male-female Creation of God but also recognizes the relational difference between the two. Gender ideology intentionally seeks to eliminate this male/female distinction. Gender ideology’s desire to remake itself only pushes those individuals further into confusion and sin, ultimately alienating them from the Creator and their fellow humans.[20]  Gender ideology is a form of postmodernism that rejects traditional concepts of classical philosophy–such as nature and being. Gender ideology also denies Scriptural claims that base truth in a universal reality or a scientific fact. Gender ideology seeks to overcome nature and God’s creative design by allowing people to establish new identities–which means a person can develop their own identity without the benefit or love from the Creator. In denying human nature and opposing the Creator, gender ideologues view the body as a blank slate to construct their chosen identity. This self-creation and transgender pronouns are a form of narcissism. It rejects an identity based on the biological realities of male and female, which God created explicitly in the Garden of Eden. For Christians, using transgender pronouns for those misappropriating genders challenges the created order, which forces Christians to go along with the idea that one can develop themselves in a way they want to be seen, rather than the way God created them.

In Deuteronomy 22:5, Moses tells the Israelites, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination.” God forbade men and women from impersonating one another because God did not want them to confuse their sexual roles. God made us uniquely male and female. Simulating the opposite sex confuses the roles of men and women. We see this in our contemporary context, and despite what the gender activists say, it confuses people and tiny children, who cannot conceptualize the idea of appropriating the opposite sex and the consequences that stem from it. This command is a form of wisdom that makes social sense. As Christians, this goes against the created order and forces us to see these people constructing themselves as a form of representation rather than how God created them.

The Argument Against Transgender Pronouns and the Created Order

Gender ideology rejects our status as creatures and co-creators with God since our nature includes differentiated bodies capable of transmitting life through man and woman in marital union. As Christians, we must remember that God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….” God “created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27). [21] Here, God told them to “be fruitful and multiply.”

In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” This proclamation was the first time God had called a portion of his creation “not good.” After causing a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, God created Eve. When God presented Eve to Adam, he proclaimed, “This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). At the beginning of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-4), the writer says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him, nothing was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus made everything. Using transgender pronouns must correspond to a person’s biological sex because we have a moral and spiritual obligation to use reality-based language.

These creation stories make clear that God created a distinction between man and woman to complement one another. The significance of these passages indicates not only a marital bond between a man and a woman but also “becoming one flesh,” which signifies a marital covenant that man, woman, and God work together to create children, which was the original intent.

When the Pharisees questioned Jesus to determine if it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for “any and every reason,” Jesus repeated both creation stories. Jesus reminded them, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So, they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus repeats this story in Mark 10:7-9, and in Luke 16:18, Jesus says, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Jesus is reminding the Pharisees and us of the duality of God’s created order: men and women who were unable to change their identities but also meant for one another.

Argument Two: Our Identity

Our identity does not come from representing ourselves as the opposite sex. Our uniqueness comes from–being created in the imago Dei– in God’s “image” and “likeness.” Our Creation means that God’s “image” is the foundation of dignity and equality for men, women, and children–rather than who we want to be. We maintain our dignity because God created men and women to reflect Him. Despite what the gender ideologues claim, our identity does not come from recreating ourselves in our mind’s image. It comes from being fashioned after God.

Our identity also resides in Jesus because he redeemed and renewed us– leading to an emerging recovery of God’s image in us. Our redemption in Jesus Christ means we gradually grow into the likeness of Jesus in this life. As we gain and recover knowledge of God, his Word, and his world, we begin thinking more and more like God. Our redemption in Jesus means we renew our understanding, become more like God in our thinking, and are changed back into his likeness.[22] It also means that we grow and recover our Christian spiritual maturity, which allows us to be more like God. This regeneration and redemption in Jesus will enable us to grow into the likeness of Jesus concerning our character, which means that we conform to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). Being created in God’s likeness and renewed by Jesus is our identity. Our words and actions should reflect the truth of Scripture and God’s Creation of males and females. We are not to justify taking liberties with language, relying on the possibility that other people might understand that our true beliefs may not align with the clear witness of our words.

Conclusion: Compassion

Gender ideology does not accurately reflect God’s created order or the morality of His created order. As Christians, when we use transgender pronouns­, we are being untruthful because we give into the gender-denying sex traits of the person we are talking to while denying God’s deliberate Creation of male and female to be united in marriage. If we call a transman “he” or a transwoman a “she,” we are not being truthful and are misinterpreting who these people are. Despite transgender-identifying people choosing transgender pronouns, it harms them and is the opposite of telling the truth and loving them the way God commanded us in Leviticus 19:18, which says, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” Jesus reaffirms this command in Mark 12:30-31 when he says, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”[23] This command is a contribution to our faith. We demonstrate our love for our neighbor because we love God. There is no way to have one without the other. We cannot give in to the misunderstanding of who transgender-identifying people are. We should not use transgender pronouns. We should use the person’s original name.

I want to restate this. Addressing transgender-identifying people by their real name is not to be rude or disdainful of them. Sometimes, we do not know the original name of the transgender-identified person we seek to address. In these times, we may have to use the name they give us. There also may be times when we have to use transgender pronouns; we cannot control every situation, and in these times, using the name they provide or the transgender pronouns may be an unavoidable request.

However, many transgender-identifying people have lost their way without God’s knowledge. We can help them when we speak truthfully and lovingly to them, leading them to the one who created them and the God who wants to bless them. We must not employ the use of transgender pronouns. When we do, we give into a false reality that does not help them or us. We should address them by their original names but clarify that, as Christians, our reality exists in God’s created order– including the goodness and morality that exists in His Creation, despite the consequences of the Fall. Subsequently, we cannot use transgender pronouns for people who believe they can change their identity. That would not be truthful, despite what some Christians may think about the pronoun hospitality perspective.

The Church can embrace and journey with those struggling with their identity. Consequently, our compassion, God’s Word, and the example of Jesus Christ should motivate us to seek out the truth so that those suffering from gender dysphoria[24] can experience healing from the Holy Spirit. Some Christians may not understand our compassion or desire to lead those suffering to Christ. Jesus’ love allowed the truth to shine in a world of deception. Our witness to the validity of Creation must be a signpost to the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, especially for those lost.

References:

[1] Preston Sprinkle, Embodied: Transgender Identities, The Church, and What the Bible Has to Say (David C. Cook Publishing, Colorado Springs, 2021),

[2] Embodied, 203.

[3] Embodied, 203.

[4] Embodied, 207-208.

[5] Ibid. Sprinkle also cites Mark Yarhouse, Psy.D., who wrote an article for Christianity Today called Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon,” in which he also endorses using the new name of a transgender person. For both Sprinkle and Yarhouse, this establishes a relationship.

[6] Embodied, 211.

[7] Andrew T. Walker, “God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Say About Gender Identity?” (The Good Book Company, 2022), 186.

[8] Ibid.

[9] God and the Transgender Debate, 187.

[10] Ibid.

[11] God and the Transgender Debate, 188.

[12] Ibid.

[13] God and the Transgender Debate, 189.

[14] God and the Transgender Debate, 189-190.

[15] God and the Transgender Debate, 194.

[16] Mark Yarhouse, Julia Sandusky, “Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth,” (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, MI: 2020).

[17] Rosaria Butterfield, “Why I No Longer Use Transgender pronouns and Why You Shouldn’t Either,” Reformation21.org/blog/why-i-no-longer-use-transgender-pronouns-and-why-you-shouldn’t-either. Accessed, June 20, 2023

[18] John S. Grabowski, “Unraveling Gender: The Battle Over Sexual Difference,” (TAN Books, North Carolina, 2022), 47-51.

[19] “Unraveling Gender,” 51.

[20] “Unraveling Gender,” 53-59.

[21] English Standard Version. All verses used will be from this text.

[22] The Greek word eikon means an image.

[23] Jesus repeats this in Matthew 22:39 and Luke 10:27.

[24] A sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. This sense of uneasiness or dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life.


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