Confession and Orthodoxy: for Church and Society
I went to listen, to get a lay of the land. What I heard was, humanly speaking, both frightening and exasperating. Perhaps you have heard of my community in the news, which is just north of Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania. Recently, it appears that the Superintendent of the School District along with the publically elected board established or adopted (no one is willing to say) an existing practice that allows for trans-gender students to use bathrooms based on the gender with which they “identify” - without informing parents before doing so. What is more, this does not mean providing single “unisex” bathrooms. This means that biological males, who identify themselves as female are allowed to use the girl’s restrooms (and potentially locker rooms and share rooms on overnight trips). Worse, a new category of “gender fluidity” (I feel like a girl on Monday and a boy on Tuesday) further “muddies the water”! If your church is not facing this question, it is only a matter of how soon before you find the issue thrust upon you.
At the public meeting, I was exasperated. I heard high school girls speak in support of the school board's practice, endeavoring to equate the issue with “civil rights” – an enormous category mistake involving rebellious ontological assumptions. Parents spoke passionately, seeking assurances from the board that their daughter’s right to privacy and security would be guaranteed, but never questioning the legitimacy of identifying students as “transgender”. Apparently, according to the high school girls that spoke, this is an antiquated, generational concern that the school needed to “get beyond”. They are apparently more progressive and enlightened than the older generation! While the desire for privacy and protection are legitimate, exasperatingly, no one was discussing the real issue. Did anyone understand that while they denied the "religious" nature of the question, they were making profound (and unfounded) religious assumptions? A knowledge of the Confessions of the Reformation[i] would go far to guard orthodoxy both in the church and in the public square.
Although the assumptions made by the board (following larger society/culture) are legion, let us consider one way that the Westminster Confession of Faith guards an orthodox understanding of the issue:
“After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image’ having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”[ii]
Distinctions are found in the very nature of creation. Lying on the surface, the confession gives us three:
- A creator who is distinct from His creation.
- A creation that includes a distinction between humankind and all other creatures.
- Mankind involves a distinction between male and female.
The claim to be “transsexual” cuts at the very authority of God to make such distinctions and presumes (usurps) the authority to define ourselves according to our various sinful passions. The claim to be “transsexual” is at its core an ethical demand to determine “good” from “evil” as measured by the right to ontologically define our personhood in opposition to the distinctions made by God and therefore inherent in our created being. The Confession, rightly summarizing the teaching of the scriptures, gives us proper understanding and thus guards orthodoxy: God created humankind with two distinctions: male and female. As a biblical counselor, I am certain that the real issues leading to this purported “gender” confusion lie in issues of sin that can be found in the heart of the individuals claiming to be “transgender” or in sinful reactions to the sin they have experienced in their families. These are individuals who need not our judgment or rejection, but our loving pity and counsel. They need to be set free from their bondage by the gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ.
While the meeting was, humanly speaking, frightening and exasperating, I leave with the hope of the gospel. The “word of God is sharper than a two edged sword”[iii] and “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”[iv] We have weapons that are not carnal, rather are powerful, able to pull down strongholds (intellectual arguments and worldviews). The Confessions can and will equip the people of God to do battle in an increasingly dark and antagonistic culture, if we, the ordained ministers of the church of Jesus Christ, will teach them. We must, like the apostles, simply proclaim Christ, not seek to argue with the world using the world’s rebellious assumptions. To proclaim Christ, God’s people will be well served if we teach them the Confessions. This is the church’s “age of opportunity” – let us Proclaim Christ and Him crucified and resurrected!
[i] Westminster Confession of Faith, The Heidelberg Confession, The Canons of Dordt
[ii] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 4: Of Creation, Paragraph 2
[iii] Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17
[iv] 2 Cor 10:4-5
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and two grand children.