Book Review: Transgender

Vaughan Roberts Transgender Review

This short, readable little book in The Good Book Company’s ‘Talking Points’ series is a helpful primer for conservative/orthodox Christians on the contentious topic of transgender issues. Without wanting to give away the content of this very short book (just 74 pages), this is a book that seeks to be discerning. As the author notes; “As Christians, we shouldn’t let our responses be governed by our gut reactions, whether positive or negative, but by God’s word… we can’t just say ‘Yes!’ to all that the world affirms“.

Vaughan is an accomplished and prolific author – yet also a bible teacher and pastor. So it is good to see that his winsome style of engagement carries over into this small format. He is careful to exegete culture and scripture, and his chapter on individualism is brilliantly helpful – I would certainly encourage anyone in pastoral ministry to read, mark and digest this helpful summary of where our culture is with humanity. Speaking of the text, it was good to see that Vaughan’s starting point is creation – echoing a thread throughout this little book of the importance of understanding our gender/sex/body as being given by God rather than assigned by some unthinking deterministic process. I was particularly pleased to see discussion of the importance of embodiment in this chapter – something often left out in evangelical/protestant discussion of being human.

A helpful thread throughout this book – no doubt echoing the author’s own experience of same-sex attraction (Vaughan’s self understanding of his sexuality, that others might label as gay) – is the need for compassion and care. Too often, Christians have been amongst the vanguard of hate against people who are different. This book, I hope, will lead to a Christ-like softening for those of us who are grappling with how we talk to and about people whose experience of identity is complex, particularly in the area of sex and gender. This is particular evident in Vaughan’s decision to listen well; “It is also important not to speak in a manner that they find hurtful or degrading. For that reason I have chosen to use the definitions from the Stonewall website for the glossary of terms“. This awareness and sensitivity is a positive step forward for conservative evangelical dialogue on this contentious topic.

Overall, this little book engages carefully with culture, thinks surprisingly deeply about what it means to be human, and is framed in the brilliant biblical overview that Vaughan is known for. This is helpful – we cannot approach topics of this importance or controversy in isolation – not least because the author reminds us rightly of the way that we can talk and pray about and for people, caring compassionately because we know our Creator. The closing chapter, titled ‘Wisdom’, is a brilliantly practical application of some of the biblical principles and doctrines that the author has considered throughout the book. Whilst short – and not ultimately the theological response some of us are looking for – this is a helpful primer and conversation starter for Christians wanting to navigate the difficult tension between love for our neighbour and obedience to our creator, sustainer and saviour, King Jesus.

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