Challenges to Humanity

Thinking Biblically about Transgenderism: Christian Identity and Response to the Movement

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Editor's Note:

This is the final article of Dr. Keathley's series titled "Thinking Biblically About Transgenderism."

The Biblical Witness Concerning Christian Identity

A Christian, first and foremost, must find his or her identity in Jesus Christ. The biblical concept of “union with Christ” is one of the most profound and transformative doctrines in Christian theology. At its core, this doctrine declares that believers are inextricably joined with Christ, not just in a symbolic or metaphorical sense, but in a real, spiritual union. The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). This union serves as the fundamental starting point for understanding the believer’s identity, status, and reality. I am who God says that I am. United with Christ, I am:


One of the most immediate and liberating implications of this union is the believer’s status as forgiven. Jesus Christ was raised for our justification (Rom. 3:25). When a person becomes a believer, her union with Christ means she is included in his life, death, and resurrection. This means that the penalty for sin, which Christ bore on the cross, is also borne by the believers in their union with him. The forgiveness that Christ secured through his death becomes the believer’s forgiveness. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).


The believer doesn’t have to live in perpetual anxiety about his standing before God; he is definitively forgiven because he shares in Christ’s definitive act of atonement. In this way, union with Christ is not just a theological concept but a lived reality that brings immense freedom and assurance. The believer’s forgiven status is not an end in itself; rather, it serves as a launchpad for a life of gratitude, worship, and loving obedience. This freedom includes the ability to overcome spiritual bondage, mental anguish, and psychological compulsions.


The Bible teaches that the primary role of the body is to glorify God. “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).


Scripture presents the Christian life as a journey of discipleship, in which the believer grows into ever greater conformity of Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:10-17; 2 Peter 3:17-18). We are called to grow in grace and knowledge. “So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

Advances in the science of neuroplasticity confirm the biblical principle of progression by the proper training of our minds.[1] Paul declares, “For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds, casting down arguments and every proud thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). The mind and the brain are so intertwined that it is difficult to tell where one starts and the other ends. Much like creamer stirred into coffee, our minds and our brains can be distinguished but are inseparable for as long as we live in these mortal bodies. Progress for any Christian—not just those struggling with gender dysphoria—requires cognitive therapies that employ the deliberate disciplining of the mind.


The simultaneous roles of ministering compassionately to transgender individuals and prophetically opposing Transgenderism require that biblically faithful ministers, spiritual speaking, walk and chew gum at the same time.

Conclusion: Responding to the Transgenderism Crisis

We must distinguish between the person struggling with gender dysphoria and Transgenderism as a social movement. Christians are called to minister to the first with pastoral sensitivity while opposing the second with prophetic courage. Paul Wendland says it well:

  • The danger is real. We are not simply dealing with the right of a relatively small percentage of people to choose how they can express their sexuality free from shame, discrimination, and hatred….In short, in the transgender movement, we are not only facing a teaching antithetical to basic Christianity; we are also dealing with an ideology that changes perceptions of reality and that creates entirely new cultural norms which have no precedents in human history. All this being said, the pain is also real. People who, for whatever reason, declare themselves to be transgender often do so after they have experienced some physical or emotional, sexual or psychic trauma, ranging from rape and rejection to bullying and belittling— and this often simply because they have not presented some typical preferences and behaviors that are associated with their gender within a particular culture.[2]

Pastoral Sensitivity for Those Struggling with Gender Dysphoria

Some studies show that among those who identify as transgender and gender-nonconforming the suicide attempt rate is as high as 40%. A 2019 study revealed that 81.7% had seriously considered suicide. Beevers concludes, “It would not be unreasonable to assume that between 90% and 100% of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals experience extreme depression.”[3] Professional caregivers have to keep these alarming statistics in mind when ministering to trans-identifying persons.

Prophetic Boldness in the Public Square

Still, ministers, ethicists, and public theologians also have a responsibility to respond to advocates of Transgenderism. We cannot be silent about minors being subjected to medical transitioning or girls being required to share locker rooms with anatomical males. The simultaneous roles of ministering compassionately to transgender individuals and prophetically opposing Transgenderism require that biblically faithful ministers, spiritually speaking, walk and chew gum at the same time.

Editor's Note:

This article is part of a larger project conducted by Reasons to Believe.

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[1] Erin I Smith, “Neuroscience and Self in Interdisciplinary Dialogue,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith no. 75 (2023): 2-14,

[2]  Paul O. Wendland, “A Pastoral Statement on the Transgender Movement,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly 117:1 (Winter, 2020), 6.

[3] Beevers, “The Merciless Ethic of Trans Acceptance,” 160-1.

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MA Ethics, Theology, and Culture

The Master of Arts Ethics, Theology, and Culture is a Seminary program providing specialized academic training that prepares men and women to impact the culture for Christ through prophetic moral witness, training in cultural engagement, and service in a variety of settings.

  • Challenges to Humanity
  • current events
  • homosexuality
  • theological anthropology
  • Transgenderism
Ken Keathley

Director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture

Ken Keathley is Senior Professor of Theology, occupying the Jesse Hendley Chair of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina where he has been teaching since 2006. He also directs the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, a center that seeks to engage culture, defend the Christian faith, and explore its implications for all areas of life. Of his writing projects most notably he is the author of Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (2010), co-author of 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution (2014), co-editor of Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos (2017), and editor of The Historical Adam and Eve: An Evangelical Conversation (forthcoming). Ken and his wife Penny have been married since 1980, live in Wake Forest, NC and are members of North Wake Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina. They have a son and daughter, both married, and four grandchildren.

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