How Then Shall We Act: A Christian Worldview of Engendered Bodies and Engagement with Transgenderism

Return to Intersections Home

Some have suggested that transgenderism operates within an anthropology that fails to recognize the interconnectedness of sex and gender.[1] Others claim that trans rights are human rights and that failing to recognize the human experience of gender dysphoria or gender transition fails to recognize the existence, lived realities, and humanity of trans people. Today, debates surrounding transgenderism and gender-diverse people often gravitate toward high-stakes issuesnamely sex spaces, female sports, and gender-affirming healthcarewith gender-diverse people at the center of the debate being treated in dehumanizing ways. While some demonize trans people for existing, others tokenize them, and in so doing both sides fail to fully appreciate the humanity and human experience of trans people.

As a Christian worldview understands the human being to be complex, with both embodiment and ensoulment essential to human nature, the reoccurring and timely observation that Western culture is growing forgetful of the body becomes ever more salient.[2] Western culture often seems to make an ontological distinction between this complexitywe are just bodies in a materialistic sense and the real “you” is some ill-defined emergent property of consciousness. What this means for bioethics and bioethics-adjacent cultural issues is that secular worldviews may fail to acknowledge the fuller picture of what it means to be human.

A Christian worldview as informed by a theological anthropology extrapolated from the creation narrative understands that embodiment and sex matter. Anthropologies that do not recognize embodiment as part of human nature are essentially inhuman in that they propose an anthropology that does not acknowledge an essential aspect of human nature. Christian bioethics should center any discussion about human beings around the imago Dei, as all human beings are intrinsically valuable and deserving of respect and protection. Dehumanization occurs whenever any human being is thought of or acted upon as if they are less than human, as if they are not intrinsically valuable and deserving of respect.

A Christian worldview as applied in bioethics and cultural engagement maintains a twofold commitment to challenge ideologies and anthropologies that are inhuman and, more importantly, to challenge dehumanizing behaviors. A biblically informed perspective on transgenderism will include both a commitment to a theological anthropology in which bodies, sex, and sociality matter and that recognizes the value of all humans, respecting them and their experiences and protecting them when they are dehumanized.

The secular culture is unable to answer the question: “What is a woman?”[3] So, how then shall we think about transgenderism given the importance of embodiment and a theology of engendered bodies?[4] How then shall we live as the culture war surrounding us increasingly demands allegiance to one or the other side? Further, in a world of social media polarization and dishonest representations of transgenderism, how then shall we speak to and about trans people and act on their behalf in a way that is humanizing and informed by biblical anthropology?

Sadly, many trans people have been mistreated and harmed in Christian spaces,[5] so the ultimate question for Christians in this moment and on this topic is: how then do we love? Christian love is demonstrated most prominently in our actions and words. In a culture where most people with opposing perspectives, or “tribes” as it were, are unable to empathize with, understand, or even engage honestly on high-stakes topics of critical importance, Christians can speak the truth in love.

1 Corinthians 13 uses powerful and descriptive language that Christian action done without love is meaningless. It also reminds that love “is not rude,” “always protects,” and “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (5–7, NIV). Concerns have been raised about the protection of children in their inability to assent to life-altering healthcare associated with gender transition, while others advocate for the liberty to seek what is believed to be life-saving care. In this crucial moment with high-stakes outcomes, will the secular world encounter shallow theological commitments that devolve into essentialism and reduce the human beings at the center of this discussion to an ideology? Or will it encounter Christians as agents of love and keepers of truth?

Christians can, at this uniquely troubling cultural moment, simultaneously advocate for a theological anthropology that understands human nature as gendered, seek to understand and empathize with those who have gender-diverse experiences and identities, protect the vulnerable, and most importantly, love.

Transgenderism inherently involves complex and challenging questions. Should Christians use preferred pronouns?[6] What should Christians think about preferred bathroom spaces? How should Christians respond to trends in gender-affirming clinical care? While these questions arise intuitively in the transgender discussion, attempting to answer them while failing to demonstrate empathy and Christian love often leads to barriers and dehumanization. Christians should listen carefully to the experiences of trans people, seek to recognize their humanity, and remember that people are not issues. Human beings are not ideologies, but people who are in need of the truly human affirmation that Christians can provide.

A uniquely Christian bioethical perspective on transgenderism advocates for a theological anthropology of engendered bodies. It does so in a way that is empathetic to the experience of real people and that recognizes all human beings as made in the image of God and worthy of respect and dignity, regardless of their sex, gender, or views about transgenderism. Wisdom begs our commitment to embodiment at this moment, yet love calls us to greater action in how we speak about and to people who have often been neglected and dehumanized.


[1] “Should Transgenderism be Regulated by Law?” Intercollegiate Studies Institute, streamed live on April 18, 2023, YouTube Video, 59:40,

[2] Bryan Just, “Embodied Souls and Ensouled Bodies,” Intersections, January 20, 2023,

[3] Michelle Goldberg, “What Is a Woman?” The New Yorker, July 28, 2014,; What Is a Woman? directed by Justin Folk (2022; The Daily Wire),

[4] For those interested in engaging further with a theology of engendered bodies and who wants to think biblically about an answer to “what is a woman,” the anticipated Gender as Love: A Theological Account of Human Identity, Embodied Desire, and Our Social Worlds by Fellipe do Vale would be helpful (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, forthcoming).

[5] Bridget Eileen Rivera notes the significant harm done to trans and other LGBTQ people because of the Christian church in the book Heavy Burdens: Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2021).

[6] For any Christian who wants to practice wisdom in this cultural moment on the topic of transgenderism, the book Embodied by Preston Sprinkle cannot be recommended enough. The commitment to scriptural truth and pastoral empathy toward those in the LGBTQ+ community is a refreshing perspective in a debate so often muddied by misrepresentation and misunderstanding. Preston Sprinkle, Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2021).