Is it OK for Christians to Use Gender Neutral Pronouns?

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Over the last couple years, Jordan Peterson, a professor from the University of Toronto has risen to fame over his controversial views on gender pronouns. The surprising amount of popularity and opposition he has received as a result of it is an indication that our society is in tumult. We have minority groups pushing their pronoun of choice, and we are expected to join hands with this movement. You can find his YouTube channel here.

Now, it is great to have a “no-nonsense” guy like Jordan Peterson refusing to use the vast variety of pronouns out there, and to be defending certain truths that even some Christians have in many cases grown confused about. But the question for Christians is: what will we do about this? What does Scripture have to do with this philosophy? What must the followers of Jesus Christ do to reach out in love to those who seek to utterly obliterate the image of God that is part of their identity?

Dr. Steven D. West seeks to answer some of these questions on the Gospel Coalition blog of Canada here. I respect Dr. West’s attempt to respond to this issue, and I’m sure I would find many opportunities to learn from his teaching at Heritage College in Cambridge Ontario, or Toronto Baptist Seminary in Toronto. Obviously, when we run into people who are struggling with their gender identity, we must respond in love and compassion, because in many cases these people have not lived easy lives, and more often than not have been abused and treated as the scum of the earth.

Dr. West engages his readership with a question: “Does a Christian have the liberty to discern which approach is most likely to give opportunities for the gospel to gain an audience?” He proposes a scenario of how people might think about us: “If people we meet in the transgendered community are convinced that Christians are hate-filled bigots, homophobic and transphobic, do we need to take our stand immediately on the issue of gender-neutral pronouns, or is that a secondary issue on which we can be flexible, so that we have more opportunity to share the gospel?” Then he proposes another question: “Can different Christians honor God by taking different stances?” In the end, he says: “But whatever our answer, it must be based on speaking truth out of love for God and love for our neighbor.”

I appreciate his questions, because he is asking what many Christians are asking, and ask in many more scenarios than just this one. But let us stick to the scenario on hand. Let us suppose a Christian wants to reach out to a person who want to be referred to as a ‘zher’. Can we be flexible on whether or not we refer to him as a ‘zher’, or can I be flexible about whether or my buddy in the pew over can refer to someone struggling with gender identity as a ‘zher’? The question isn’t about whether he is a ‘zher’, the question is about whether or not I can refer to him as ‘zher’. Or whether or not my buddy can do this for that matter.

I’m glad that Dr. West still recognizes that God made man ‘male and female’. But I disagree that you can speak the truth in love and call your friend who is disoriented on his or her gender a ‘zher’. I disagree, because this is not speaking the truth.

Let’s say that in this scenario, my friend was abused in some manner in his growing up years. He has not committed any crimes himself, but is really struggling with who he is. I want to love him, and prove that his identity is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3) if he is a Christian, or made in the image of God if he is not a Christian. I don’t yell at him, but I remain firm because I want him to know the truth rather than what his raging emotions are telling him. And then comes along another friend from church who starts calling my friend ‘zher’, and telling him that Christians who do not use that term are not being loving.

I believe that as a Christian I could soundly rebuke that friend for using the pronoun ‘zher’. I could rebuke him for a couple things. First, I could rebuke him for confusing my friend’s identity, by playing along with his confused pronouns. I could rebuke him for lying about what I am doing in my pursuit to speak the truth in love. Does this rebuke mean that I don’t love my brother in the Lord? Of course not.

Feelings rage in this modern debate, and it is not that our feelings are unimportant. But like the Psalmist we must turn to God when our feelings are trying to get the best of us. In His Word we find truth, reality, and life itself.

And so, it is probably best not to get caught up in the little corners of this debate. We can listen well, but then we can turn our focus on to Jesus rather than getting caught up in the hollow philosophies of 21st century North America. We can paint a more beautiful picture of sexuality than the lies of pornography and the horribly damaged image of God that is being so proudly displayed in our culture. Of course, the following verses talk about putting to death our fleshly lusts, but Colossians 3 begins with a beautiful portrayal of the good life, the best life, the most beautiful life: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Of course, these are words to Christians, but all men can know this life when they repent and believe in the Name of the Son of God. And then, wherever they are, whatever the consequences of their sins, or the forgiveness that they find in their trouble, they can know the glory of a life hidden with Christ in God. Ultimately, identity politics are put to rest at the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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