This week, Pastor J.D. answers a question about whether or not we should give out our own pronouns when asked.
- We have actually talked about this topic a couple of years ago from another angle, and this may be a good time to revisit that.
- The podcast from several years ago got a lot of attention and a lot of people asked questions about it. I think it’s good to bring that back up, both to continue the conversation and also to clarify some things I said.
- I’d actually like to start by discussing that previous question (“Should we use someone’s preferred pronouns when asked?”). The conversation in our culture has shifted even since then. Also, I’ll be candid: as I’ve wrestled with this, some of my own thinking on this has crystalized and, I’d even say, matured.
- There are several dynamics at play when we think about a question like this. One of those is is truth. Our job as witnesses is to stand uncompromisingly on the truth, to rebuke our society, to stand against untruth and darkness.
- Another dynamic are the relational aspects of knowing someone and maintaining a relationship with them. We’re not just called to defend truth but to win people.
- So, if someone has transitioned and wants to be called different pronouns, should you consent to that? Let me first use a phrase I first heard from Andrew T. Walker: “The answer to that question begins and ends with no.” The reason I say that is because I think, as believers, we have to be crystal clear on the truth. I did make this point on our previous episode, talking about the necessity of being crystal clear on truth, but I think I should have been more clear and I want to do that now: there can be no ambiguity in our testimony to the world. This is not ambiguous in Scripture, it’s not unclear, and part of our calling is to speak to culture when culture does not align with what God has said.
- I understand there’s a lot of brokenness, dysphoria, and complexity to this for a lot of people, but we have to be honest about what the Bible says.
- After that has been made clear, some of these other relational dynamics kick in. In that previous episode, I was hypothesizing about a situation where I’m sitting in my office with a dad and his transgender child, coming to me for clarity and so I make clear to them what the Bible says. But, if in the course of conversation I used the child’s self-referential pronoun as I talk with and about them, just to keep them in the conversation, I don’t think that would represent a capitulation or compromise of truth if someone chose to do that, assuming they’d been clear about the truth on the front end and the back end. That should never be done in a way that implies acceptance or affirmation, even for a second.
- The easiest thing, honestly, is to use their name, even if that forces you to word things awkwardly.
- Again, we’re trying to balance two things: clearly testify to the truth, and doing our best to keep our relationship with the other person in order to engage with them at the heart level.
- Let me add a third thing we’re balancing: to fight the battle at the right location. Being clear and truthful about gender is a battle we have to fight, no matter how unpopular. But that doesn’t mean that I fire shots or draw battle lines in every other sentence when I’m trying to get the conversation focused on what we need to get it focused on.
- Our goal is to engage the issue in a way that engages the heart, and to speak truthful about God’s design without apology. So that’s why I say the answer to the question begins and ends with no.
Now, back to whether or not you list your own pronouns when asked (like on a name-tag at work, for example).
- Different dynamics are at play here. On the one hand, saying that my pronouns are he/him is a true statement. I’m not telling or affirming a lie. But, what obviously is being done here is an attempt to normalize the idea that pronouns are a choice. And for me to clarify what my pronouns are, I’m normalizing the question and we believe that’s not even a valid question.
- So, when I point out my pronouns, in one way, I’m making a true statement but in another way I’m normalizing a question that should not be normalized.
- For that reason, I would resist giving my pronouns wherever I could because I don’t want to normalize the gender confusion or recognize this as legitimate question.
- If a job requires this, or the government requires it one day on our ID, should we refuse that even if it means losing our job or going to jail? I’m not sure I’d want to give one answer that would just be applicable at all times and all places. I think you’d have to discern what is best for witness and truth and your calling to be somewhere.
Lastly, while we’re talking about things you said in the past, we’ve gotten a number of questions about a sermon you preached a few years ago. You used the word “whispers” in relation to how the Bible speaks about homosexuality. So, can you explain what was happening in that statement, and would you still say that today?
- The short answer is no. In a message on Romans 1:24-32 called “How the Fall Affects Us All,” I said that in comparison to how Jesus talks about the sins of religious pride and greed, it’s as if God whispers about sexual sin while he screams about pride and greed. It was a comparison by analogy.
- I regret the word choice. It was a rather clumsy way of making the point. The point I was trying to make — that Jesus seemed to save his “loudest thunder” for religious hypocrites — that point is one that I stand by. But in the end, the language that I used to make that point probably obscured more than it illuminated, and I know that as a communicator, I bare the responsibility to speak clearly.
- Scripture says that teachers receive a stricter judgment, and I take that very seriously. In this case, my words confused some on a very vital topic which desperately needs clarity today.
- At no point was I trying to imply that sexual ethics are muted in Scripture or that Scripture is unclear about them, or that they’re less important than other sins and that we should not speak clearly and boldly about them or be embarrassed by them. I do seek to build bridges where I can, but I don’t believe we should ever undermine the Bible’s teaching to do so.
- I was speaking directly to the members of The Summit Church in that clip, highlighting a problem that I feel is pervasive in congregations like ours, which is that we treat gospel ministry as if it is primarily a culture war, speaking condescendingly about the sins of others while overlooking the sins at work in our own hearts.
- Failures in communication are almost always the fault of the communicator, and so, for any confusion that my wording may have caused, I do sincerely apologize. In that message and many others, I’ve been clear about the seriousness of sexual sin and I’ll continue to do that.
I also want to be sure we link to that sermon, as it has helped a lot of people asking questions to hear the broader context.
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