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Survivor and the Transgender Debate

July 19, 2017

By Dr. Braxton Hunter, President
Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Evansville, Indiana

Editor’s Note: For more by Dr. Hunter go to his website and blog.

Throughout our marriage, Sarah and I have been big fans of the CBS reality show, Survivor…

It’s one of our guilty pleasures. And immersed in the binge-watch culture of our day, we wait until each season is complete before gorging ourselves over several nights. Judge if you like. I’ve made peace with it. Yet, the escapism that network television thrives upon is sometimes turned on its head when reality TV is permeated by very real human struggles, and socially relevant topics.

Season thirty-four (the most recent) of the show featured the second appearance of a cast member who self-described as “gay” in a previous season, but was outed by another teammate as transgender. I will not mention this person’s name, for this is not an attack on an individual, but a response to the cultural approval of a particular lifestyle. In fact, I’ll go further. This outing was shameful, and I’m glad the offender apologized. The psychological struggles, and identity bewilderment of the unnamed transgendered individual are clearly very real, just as they are for many others. Moreover, as a believer, I see this whole issue as, at bottom, a worldview question. For us, this is not an oddity that should serve to amuse, nor is it an achievement that should be praised, nor is it merely a matter of one’s battle against cultural opinions. It’s more. It has to do with the image of God, the reality of sin’s effect on all of creation, the intent of the Designer, and the question of whether we live for our own satisfaction or His.

A strange cultural morality has emerged, and was clearly visible in Executive Producer and host, Jeff Probst’s eyes throughout the event. He seemed to take the unjust outing as a personal affront, as did several other tribe mates. I was appalled, as well, but there was clearly more to it than that. There was an air of universal praise for the noble individual in question in the small cosmos of the island. Don’t take my word for it. Slate magazine seems to agree.

Columnist, David Canfield writes,

It’s safe to say that never before in popular culture had a large American audience been guided into witnessing such forceful, persuasive, and (seemingly) unprompted advocacy for the trans community. (Emphasis added)[1]

Or consider the words of cast member, Sarah,

You know, I come from the Midwest. I come from a very conservative background, so it’s not very diverse when it comes to a lot of gay, and lesbian, and transgender, and things like that. So, I’m not exposed to it as much as most of these people are. And the fact that I can love this guy so much and it doesn’t change anything for me makes me realize that I’ve grown huge as a person.[2]

What Sarah got right is that transgenderedness should not change our love for individuals, but what the culture in general has gotten wrong is the affirmation of the lifestyle, and the praising of its embrace as a noble feat. From whence has this cultural morality come? On what is it based?

Scripture presents believers with an understanding that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that there was an intentional design related to male and female physiology (Matt. 19:4) that correlates directly with masculinity and femininity (Deut. 22:5; 1 Cor. 6:9), and that this is symbolic of transcendent, theologically rich truths (Eph. 5:25-27).

If this is correct, then anyone who affirms transgendered individuals in their decision to embrace a transgender identity is actually turning things upside down and demonstrating a lack of love – an apathy for the spiritual health of the person standing before them. It is a loveless cowardice that runs from the spiritual conflict at play, and strands the transgendered individual in a dry land. Instead, they should pray with them toward a biblically endorsed repentance. Not that an individual is in sin merely because of their desires, or identity crisis, but that acting on these impulses is a different question.

Is that change possible? Well, that question hinges, in part, on worldview considerations too. If the Bible is true, then change is possible. At least, that’s what Paul thought.

In 1 Corinthians Paul informs our understanding of this in chapter six, verses nine through eleven. He says,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Now, however one wishes to understand the sort of overcoming Paul references, that he is referencing an overcoming which has taken place in the lives of “some” Corinthian men is hard to deny. Attempts by liberal scholars[3] to dilute or alternatively explain Paul’s meaning are available, but also assailable.[4] Principally, the case is often made that the Greek word, ???????????? (arsenokoitai) should be understood to refer to male prostitutes rather than homosexuals in general. Moreover, ??????? (malakoi), typically translated “effeminate,” is thought to refer to effeminate boys. This combination, it is therefore argued, refers to pederasty.  As David Garland summarizes,

The meaning and significance of the words ??????? (malakoi) and ???????????? (arsenokoitai) have been examined in recent years by those who would like to water down the condemnation in the NT of homoerotic acts . . . [yet] . . . Paul considers homoeroticism to be a “dishonorable passion” and a “shameful act” because it is “against nature.”[5]

Furthermore, Garland rightly notes, “Had he wished to limit his critique to pederasty, he could have used the term ‘pederast . . .’”[6]

Ben Witherington III demonstrates that, even when one grants a certain degree of ambiguity in the text of 1 Corinthians 6:9, the argument would not go through. He reasons,

Some have urged that only pederasty is condemned in the NT, not homosexuality in general. If this were the only passage where Paul addressed the issue, one could argue in that way, but Rom. 1:26f. clearly shows Paul’s view of homosexual relationships in general. The reference there to lesbian relationships shows that Paul’s condemnation of same-sex relationships is not limited to pederasty.[7]

On the basis of the above treatment it is reasonable to conclude that Paul is, indeed, referring to all manner of homosexual behavior. He reveals that such activity was present in the lives of some Corinthians, and his words make it clear that homosexual practices have ceased among those same individuals. For them, homosexuality had been overcome! The above comments are equally applicable to Paul’s inclusion of “effeminate.”

The question of how effeminacy, and homosexuality were overcome is a separate subject. Perhaps Paul means that God has supernaturally delivered these men from the proclivities that tempted them. Maybe now their desires are completely heterosexual and any effeminate identity struggles are gone. I, for one, rejoice at the very suggestion.[8] It is certainly within God’s power to perform such a miracle. However, we must not choose our interpretations based on what we would like to be the case. After all, this is the very misstep made by many who affirm homosexuality as biblically permissible for the Christian. Instead, I think it prudent to take a more measured approach to Paul’s meaning. At the very least he must mean that the sinful activities have ceased. For what it is worth, I believe that some have received supernatural, desire-changing, deliverance, but I doubt that it is universal.

Among the other sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are the sexually immoral (in general), thieves, swindlers, drunkards, and the greedy. I’ve yet to meet the Christian who is completely delivered from all sinful desires. The majority of believers struggle regularly with at least some of these issues. That said, scripture doesteach that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, as a great Reformer in our lives, serves to increasingly minimize the allure of these sins. Our minds may be renewed, as Romans 12:2 urges,[9] but we are not yet perfect. For these reasons, as well as a consideration of personal testimonies, it seems fair to assume that many people continue to endure homosexual temptations or transgendered identity struggles even after genuine repentance and faith.

So how are we to put it all together? What are we to tell our friend from Survivor? The biblically consistent answer is to encourage this person to repent, surrender to God’s design, and commit to living a life of sacrifice for Him. This, by the way, is also the most loving response if Christianity is true. But wouldn’t such a suggestion be to condemn the transgendered person to a life of conflicting emotions, and sexual dissatisfaction? Perhaps, but this brings us to the final point.

We humans are not here merely for our own satisfaction, fulfillment, or happiness. We are here to serve our King. What I describe above may sound naïve to the struggle of transgendered individuals. I understand that. Their struggles are real. Their suffering is real. This is not a mere blog article pontification for them. It is their lives. They are confronted with it daily. I will not pretend to understand the depths of their experiences. In fact, I think we should celebrate those who sacrifice the pursuit of personal satisfaction, in this regard, in order to submit to the God in Whose image they are made. It is in Him that satisfaction, peace, and Joy are realized.  



[1] David Canfield. “The Outing of a Transgender Contestant Was an Ugly Moment, but Survivor Was the Perfect Place for It.” Slate Magazine. April 17, 2017. Accessed May 23, 2017.

[2] SurvivorOnCBS. YouTube. April 12, 2017. Accessed May 23, 2017.

[3] Typically when I, and likeminded thinkers, refer to liberal scholarship I mean to convey the notion of liberal theology rather than liberal politics. In this case, however, both senses are likely fitting.

[4] D. Garland responds to two such treatments of the passage: Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Chicago; London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992. And see also, Scroggs, Robin. The New Testament and homosexuality: contextual background for contemporary debate. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.

[5] Garland, David E. 1 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. Pp. 212, 214.

[6] Ibid. 213.

[7] Witherington, Ben. Conflict and community in Corinth: a socio-rhetorical commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995. P. 166.

[8] Anecdotally, I have encountered many believers who claim to have been supernaturally delivered from the very temptation to engage in homosexual acts or transgendered feelings. Some of these men and women are now in, what appear to be, biblically faithful marriages. They seem fulfilled and satisfied.

[9] Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

A Personal Look Into the Life and Ministry of W.A. Criswell

July 18, 2017

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at the Georgia Christian Index and is used by permission.  We are immeasurably indebted and grateful to Dr. George Harris and Mr. Jack Pogue for this interview.  For more on the life and preaching legacy of Dr. W.A. Criswell go to the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library.

By J. Gerald Harris, Editor
The Christian Index

We must never forget those great men of the faith who preached the Word of God with such passion and power. I want to be sure our wonderful younger pastors are made aware of some of the heroes of the faith who have gone on before us.

Therefore, for several years I have wanted to provide our readers young and old with a personality sketch of some of Southern Baptists’ greatest and most notable personalities – preachers who have gone on to be with the Lord. The idea of such a project began to take shape when I encountered Jack Pogue at the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library booth at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix last month. Continue reading

Southern Baptist Military Chaplain Conducts ‘Transgender Policy Briefing’ for Army Reserves Unit

July 17, 2017

By Heather Clark, Columnist and Content Editor
Christian News Network

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Christian News Network and is used by permission.   

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Concerns are being raised after a Southern Baptist military chaplain recently conducted a “transgender policy briefing” for members of an Army reserves unit that is based in Nashville—a briefing that was mandatory and was determined by the chaplain as not being violative of the convictions of Christian soldiers.

On June 23, the 304 Military Police Battalion advised soldiers that they were required to attend a “transgender policy briefing” that day.

One soldier within the unit, who identifies as a Christian and was concerned about the briefing, contacted Chaplain Capt. Erick Barrett to obtain information and spiritual counsel about the instructional period. Barrett received his ecclesiastical endorsement from the North American Mission Board, which is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention.

However, to his surprise and dismay, the soldier learned that it was actually Barrett himself who would be conducting the briefing. The soldier, whose identity has not been revealed, was even more surprised when Barrett advised that he didn’t think the training would be violative of his faith.

 Barrett nonetheless passed along the soldier’s desire for a religious accommodation to Commander Lt. Col. Kim Wilson, who denied the request. The soldier followed up with a letter.

“Capt. Erick Barrett informed me that he did not believe the ‘Transgender Brief’ would violate my sincerely-held belief; however, [he] would submit my request for accommodation through the chain of command,” the soldier explained to Wilson.

“The ‘Transgender Policy Brief and Training’ requires me to participate in something that I believe is contrary to what my religion teaches,” he explained. “… I do believe that participation in such training will bind my conscience to another religion, thus violating my conscience and faith tenants.”

Wilson again denied the request, stating that the briefing was mandatory under the direction of the Army. The soldier consequently attended the instructional session against his will.

The site Barbwire has published audio of the briefing, which Christian News Network has reviewed. During the hour-long session, Barrett took those present through the Army’s new policy on accommodating transgenders in the military, advising that the briefing “isn’t about what Chaplain Barrett believes,” but rather Army protocol. He asked how soldiers can follow the policy if they aren’t aware of it.

“How many different gender identities are there in the world today?” Barrett quizzed those gathered, advising that there are 42. “Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where truth is defined by the individual. That’s a reality. It’s not something that’s up for discussion. That’s just the world we live in.”

He outlined, however, that the U.S. military only recognizes two genders—male and female—and that soldiers will be held to the standard that aligns with that gender. So, when a woman decides to be a man or a man decides to be a woman, they will be held to the standard for that gender.

Barrett repeatedly stated that all soldiers are to be afforded dignity and respect, and emphasized that in the Army, “We do not discriminate, we do not isolate, we do not segregate.” At one point, he remarked that for a long time, “there have been men [in the military] that look like girls and girls that look like men.”

He also provided the example of a male soldier who transitions into a woman and quizzed soldiers on whether or not it would be considered proper under Army policy for the man to now use the women’s facilities.

“A transgender soldier begins using female barracks, bathroom and shower facilities. Because she did not undergo a surgical change, the soldier still has male genitalia. Is the soldier using the correct facilities?” Barrett asked.

“Yes,” the soldiers replied.

“Is the soldier operating within Army policy?” he asked.

“Yes,” those present again answered.

Revelation of Barrett’s leadership of the briefing has generated disappointment from others in the Armed Forces, including Capt. Sonny Hernandez, who serves as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. Hernandez characterized the chaplain-led presentation as being “godless.”

“There was no reference of Scripture, God, Jesus, repentance, or faith, which would be expected of an ecclesiastically endorsed evangelical who claims to be a Christian,” he wrote for Barbwire on Saturday. “For almost an hour, Chaplain Barrett pontificated about the Army’s policy on transitioning from male to female, or female to male, and reiterated innumerable times how soldiers’ gender is determined—while God was not included in this determination.”

“Chaplain Barrett did not exercise ‘responsible pastoral care,’ since he never mentioned that transgenderism ‘is a sin that violates God’s biblical standards,’ nor did he reference ‘repentance’ or the ‘Name of Jesus.’ After listening to the audio, objective listeners would never even know this chaplain is a professing Christian,” Hernandez lamented.

The North American Mission Board has described Barrett’s decision to conduct the transgender policy briefing as being “unfortunate” and states that it will provide “clearer guidance” to chaplains about such matters for the future.

Editor’s Note: Hernandez’ opinions are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military or religious organization. Hernandez contributed to this report, an issue of public interest, as a civilian on his own time.