I’ve just listened to the last 30 minutes of the Today programme on Radio 4 which was devoted to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts 50 years ago and the present debate or lack of debate about transgender and gender dysphoria.
The most interesting comments came at the end of the piece from a listener. He simply pointed out that it was impossible to have an open philosophical debate about whether this was a good thing or not. And it is impossible. Because of the philosophical carnage caused by the clash between post-modernism and materialism. What do I mean by that?
Post-modernism is the term given to the broad concept that reality is an individual construct. What you know about the world is what you experience and feel. Therefore, the only thing that you can be sure of is your experiences and feelings. More than that, no one else has the right to tell you that your experiences and feelings are “right” or “wrong”, because these are moral terms that have no meaning if everyone is their own authority on reality.
We see this played out in the gender dysphoria debate in the way that a 9 year old boy was on the Today programme this morning explaining how he felt like a girl and had been taken to a clinic for hormone treatment to delay puberty, while he worked out what gender he was. It was assumed that the reality of this boy’s gender was governed by the way he felt about himself. It wasn’t even suggested that his feelings might be morally wrong, nor that they might be the result of the hormonal confusion that children can go through as they grow up, nor that they might be the result of wanting to enjoy activities that are usually subscribed to girls under gender stereotyping, nor that he might even have a mental illness. It was simply taken that the way this boy feels defines who he is.
This is where the clash with materialism occurs. Materialism is the idea that all that exists is physical matter. There is no spiritual side to people. We are simply stuff. Our experience of consciousness, sorrow, love, joy, grief is all the result of neurological electrochemical reactions that have evolved over time.
Now on the one hand Materialism also means that there is no category such as “morality” or “right” and “wrong”. The clash with postmodernism comes at the level of function. Because materialistic science, which has kept its head down throughout the transgender debate, has to say that throughout the natural world every animal has a gender which is defined by its sexual organs and is determined at the level of function, not feeling. In others words, if you are a male dog, you have male sexual organs and cannot become pregnant and have puppies. If your mind acts in a way contrary to the rest of your body, the materialist must regard this is a malfunction of the machine, that is the mind.
So we have two world views, that are not compatible, that are simultaneously held by a lot of people in the UK. Post-modernism, every individual has the right to decide who they are and what they want to do, unless it against the will of another individual. We are defined by what we feel. And materialism, we are simply matter that functions in a particular way governed by the physical arrangement of our atoms. We are defined by what we are physically. A tree is a tree. A dog is a dog. A man is a man. A woman is a woman.
So what about the Christian. The Christian rejoices in the fact that who we are is defined by the God who made us and loves us:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
At the same time Christian recognises that the world as God created it is now cursed because of sin. That the whole physical creation, including human physical and mental health, does not function perfectly as it should. Therefore, my mind is not a safe authority to trust when it comes to defining who or what I am. We live in a broken world of devastating pain and confusion.
The Christian also rejoices in the fact that being made in God’s image means that we are more than stuff. We are body and soul. We exist as a person who has a body, not simply as a collection of atoms bound together is a certain way so that we have consciousness. Therefore, I am not simply just a machine that functions or malfunctions. I am a child of God with struggles, heartaches, sorrows and joys, loves, and a whole host of other emotions that are real, because they are part of being in God’s image.
Lastly the Christian rejoices in the fact that their identity is not tied to their gender, their job, their wealth or their status in society, but rather to Christ.
As Paul says in Galatians 3:26-28:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
That is not to say that ethnic background, the emancipation of slaves, and gender equality don’t matter. But rather to say that whatever your struggles, you are a person loved by God so much that he sent his Son to die for you. So that now you are bound to Jesus forever by his Spirit. Inseparable from the love of God. Secure in the knowledge of his Fatherly care now and his perfect home in the future.