/ gender issues / Jeffrey A Stivason

Senses, Faith & Gender

When I was a teen, I struggled with obsessive compulsive behavior (or what some might tag as OCD). I simply couldn’t get it into my head that the oven was off or the door was locked or the window shut. And so, that would begin an endless cycle of checking and rechecking.  My parents were loving and faithful and it pained them to see me running myself ragged not to mention wearing ruts in their carpet. They wanted me to get past the issue and so they took me to a medical doctor. But after running many tests and not finding a physical cause for my symptoms he diagnosed it as “nerves” and then prescribed medication.

I can still remember being on the cusp of graduation and thinking, “I haven’t made it into the real world and I’m already on meds! This can’t be good.”  Shortly after graduation the Lord made me alive in Christ. Those two, the realization that I was on medication for “nerves” and I was new in Christ led me to a confrontation with myself. The result was a slow and painful civil war. Like all wars this one came with stories and lessons. One of those lessons continues to be very valuable to me.

I started to think about the general reliability of my senses, the things God gave to me that I might experience the world around me.  I could see, smell, taste, hear and touch.  And when I smelled coffee in another room, I knew someone was brewing a pot.  When I touched something hot I knew it was hot. And when I read my Bible I didn’t doubt that I was reading God’s Word. My senses connected me to a real world. Now, here is the point. If I spent an hour going around the house checking to make sure that the stove was off or the doors were locked I wasn’t trusting the senses God had given to me! I didn’t doubt the smell of coffee, that the stove was hot or that I was reading meaningful sentences from the Bible. So, why not look at the stove, see that it was off and believe it?  That among other things was an enormous help to me in overcoming what could have led to a debilitating life.

It was several years later before I learned that God actually teaches us this very lesson in the Bible. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Notice the word assurance.  It’s the word, hupostasis. It is a word with a range of meanings and “assurance” fits within the scope. But perhaps the tie which binds all the various meanings together is the idea of some objective reality.

This word communicates objective reality. But what does that mean? It means that faith gives us eyes to see the reality of the thing not yet seen, which is one reason why the word “assurance” is used in the ESV translation. It’s an old French word that had various meanings but among them was the idea of “certainty.” In other words, faith gives us the certainty that the reality we do not see but hope for is really there.

Now at this point you may be asking how this has anything to do with trusting your senses!  This is about the eyes of faith!  Hang in there and take a look at verse 3. Have you ever wondered why a statement about creation appears at the beginning of chapter 11?  The chapter is a densely worded biography about faith.  So, what is a statement on creation doing here? It’s simple. The preacher is telling us that what we see ought to drive us to what is unseen.  In other words, what is seen is evidence for what is not seen.  There it is. It’s a reverse engineered lesson in faith. Faith lays hold of an objective reality that we cannot see and the objective reality of creation is evidence of an unseen reality. In other words, the created order is a lesson.  It is evidence for the unseen.

So, why am I wrestling through this?  What’s the point?  Well, it reminds us once again of the faulty logic that is behind the transgender movement in our culture. I just read a book this past week called, The Gender Identity Guide for Parent: Compassionate Advice to Help Your Child Be Their Most Authentic Self, by Tavi Hawn. In the introduction Hawn writes, “Gender identity is a person’s true, felt sense of their own gender. This is independent of our body parts or any outward presentation.”  However, a little later Hawn introduces the term Gender Expression and defines it as the “many ways that a person might outwardly and socially express their gender identity.”

At this point you may be feeling a bit twisted about and who could blame you.  If you smell the coffee in the other room, you know that there is coffee brewing.  If you see the leaves bud on the tree in April and May, you know spring has sprung.  If you touch a hot surface, you didn’t pay enough attention to your parents.  And, says God, if you see creation all around then you know that the Unseen God is there. But, says Tavi Hawn, when you strip down and look in the mirror, what you see is absolutely no help to you in determining whether you are a male or female.

Let’s beat the horse dead for a minute. Apply Hawn’s counsel to any other situation. For example, would you really want to tell the person struggling with obsessive compulsive behavior, “Don’t trust your senses.”?  Or think of telling a child that the oven is neither hot nor cold, but it’s all in what you think it is.  There is only one word to describe this sort of thing, ludicrous. This is pretend time gone amuck.

So, what is to be done?  A return to the Scripture would be a good place to start. The Bible tells us how to handle the world around us. For example the Psalmist says look and see, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  But more, the Bible gives direction to the person who thinks that their thoughts are the authority. God’s calls them to submit to His authority so that they may finally rest from the wearisome toil of agitated and rebellious thoughts. We should pray for such a result.

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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