The good thing about the Ten Commandments is that the things specifically cited give us no doubt as to what the Lord condemns. For example, it is perfectly clear that “You shall not murder” means “You shall not unjustly take the life of another.” Therefore, there is no controversy among Christians what God wills and how we are to act.
Christians disagree on plenty regarding this command. Abortion. Euthanasia. Capital punishment. War. Christians are all over the map in their views on these.
If Christians struggle to agree on something which is specifically cited in the Ten Commandments, it is no stretch to imagine the wide variance on many other items and issues to which the Holy Bible does not speak directly.
Is it sinful to drink alcohol? Nowhere does the Holy Bible say that it is. A bit of wine for one’s stomach is even recommended. Christ used wine for His last supper. While drunkenness is specifically condemned, drinking is not. Yet, some Christians decry all alcohol usage. Why? Often, the concern simply is for the possibility of one’s abusing it.
How about smoking? Or gambling? Or dancing? None of these are cited in Scripture as sinful. All, at various times and in various church bodies, have been declared sinful.
How about women ministers? Church bodies are divided on this issue, though many find God’s Word clear on the issue that there will only be male ministers, as is the case in my church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and other find it clear that women may be ministers.
What about Holy Communion? What exactly is going on in this meal? And it shall be received by whom? I wish you well in finding agreement. In my own church body, the LCMS, the question of whom shall be communed is widely debated and practiced despite the LCMS’s clearly written position.
Whom shall a minister baptize? Which funerals shall he officiate? Both questions result in a host of opinions.
Who is correct? Who is wrong? Who is acting righteously? Who is not? To whom does one listen?
When I was a pastor, disagreement over many of these items bothered me very deeply. Some ministers, when in disagreement with others, outwardly condemned the others as sinning.
Three things come together for me when it comes to a person’s transitioning from one sex to the other:
- God has not specifically spoken on the topic.
- The LCMS has yet to declare an official position on one’s transitioning.
- There is a wide range of views held by LCMS pastors on the topic.
Among LCMS pastors and lay people who find scandalous a Christian’s transitioning, it is common for them to insist that God’s Word is clear on the topic. They note that God created males and females, which means the gift of God’s creation is being rejected, that a transgender person rejects his or her vocation of husband or wife, and of father or mother, and more.
These, for whom transitioning is sinful, declare, “Those pastors who find it acceptable are caving in to new ways of reading God’s Word.” While that certainly is possible, here is the number of pastors who have done so: Zero. None of them has rejected or altered a single word of the Lord. All of them have been able to see, or are open to the possibility that gender dysphoria might arise from a physical, intersex condition, and that it can be honestly treated by a Christian both medically and socially.
Thus follows the question: To whom does one listen? Who knows what is sinful and what is not? Is there a sole reliable source anywhere on earth (outside of the Holy Bible), or a single person who gets it right every time?
The LCMS holds correct doctrine, but the LCMS is not infallible. The LCMS is made up of people, and all people are sinners, and so all people have the potential of getting something wrong.
One can point to situation after argument after contentious debate in the LCMS where a majority vote determined how the church body would proceed in practice of God’s Word, when the LCMS always insists that it does not decide God’s Word by vote. LCMS pastors will easily recall the aftermath of the post-9/11, Yankee Stadium, serial prayer deliberations and decisions.
The LCMS has not voted on how it views the transitioned person. For all of the papers and articles and arguments written on the topic, there is a wide range of opinions on the origins of gender dysphoria and how it might be treated in a God-fearing manner, and how it shall not.
In two years, the thirty-five districts of the LCMS will hold conventions. It would be no surprise if many of them weigh overtures on the topic, and for resolutions to condemn transitioning as sinful. The next year, at the next LCMS national convention, more overtures on the topic would follow and, unless something dramatic happens between now and then, they likely would declare gender dysphoria to be a mental illness which shall not be treated with transitioning, and to condemn transitioning as sinful.
And my fear is that they will think they have resolved the issue.
And my fear is that children of God who suffer gender dysphoria quietly to those who have transitioned will either continue to hide in guilt and shame in LCMS churches, not daring to tell their pastor of their situation, or they will quietly leave for a church which will not condemn them, or they will walk away completely out of hatred for God and His Church for how they have been viewed and treated in their church home.
And my fear is that the LCMS will shut the door of the Gospel to these children of God, whose only hope for eternal healing is in the finished work of Christ and the freely bestowed gifts of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.