Robert Gagnon Responds to SBC President’s Push to Use “Preferred Pronouns” For Transgenders

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Last week, Reformation Charlotte reported that Southern Baptist Convention president, J.D. Greear told his podcast audience that he would opt to use the “preferred pronouns” for transgender people visiting his church, calling the practice “pronoun hospitality.” Of course, this is absurd, let alone biblical — and we reported it as such. To enable someone in their deception is the furthest thing from hospitality that one could do, yet, Greear has made a profession out of caving to the sexual revolution.

Robert Gagnon — a Presbyterian pastor and professor of New Testament Theology at Houston Baptist University, and former associate professor of the New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary — responds to Greear on his Facebook page. Below is his response.

What is going on with the Southern Baptist Convention? I am stunned that any leader of the SBC, much less the President, would be encouraging faithful Christians to adopt “pronoun hospitality” (ugh) to “transgender” persons based on so-called “generosity of spirit” (like Brian McLaren’s so-called “generous orthodoxy”?) in addressing “transgender” persons by their delusional pretend sex. The idea that Jesus or Paul would *ever* have referred to a man as a woman or a woman as a man in anything other than satire or derision for abhorrent behavior is absurd revisionism in the extreme.

The church’s complicity in sexual delusion benefits no one, least of all the offender. It is possible to be sensitive, gentle, and loving without forcing the church to act as if the lie is the truth.

It is not an act of “hospitality” or “respect” to the offender to use fake pronouns and proper names but rather (1) a scandal to the “weak” and young in the church and a rightful violation of conscience for many that will lead many to stumble to their ruin; (2) an accommodation to sin that God finds utterly abhorrent, to say nothing of the fact that it is an egregious lie; and (3) a complicity in the offender’s self-dishonoring, self-degrading, and self-demeaning behavior that does him or her (and the grieving ex-spouse and children, if there are any) no favor because it can get the person in question excluded from the kingdom of God.
What’s next? Treating as a married couple an incestuous union involving a man and his mother, allegedly as a show of hospitality and respect? Is that what Paul would have done at Corinth? Addressing the man and his stepmother as “husband” and “wife” so as to extend “hospitality” and “respect”? What kind of revisionist lunacy is this? Paul would not have taken this approach even for those who don’t profess to be believers.

And how far should the charade of “pronoun hospitality” and “generosity of spirit” go in church? Should the church authorities allow a man who identifies as a woman to enter a woman’s restroom? Unless church authorities are willing to let matters go to this point (and, if they are, I would suggest that faithful believers find another church), isn’t it better not to start by expressing ‘collusion with the delusion’?

I can’t believe that there is no serious push-back on this in the Southern Baptist Convention.
The way that my friend Andrew Walker (formerly ERLC, now a professor of ethics at Southern Seminary) expresses himself in his book *God and the Transgender Debate* on the particular point of pronoun usage (p. 157) I find unacceptable, especially this line: “My own position is that if a transgender person comes to your church, it is fine to refer to them by their preferred pronoun.” No, it’s not fine, for reasons that I mentioned above. Andrew adds: “To refuse to comply with their preference . . . could result in unnecessary provocation and confrontation.” Tough cookies. More damage is being done to the person and the congregation, not to mention God’s relation with the church, by becoming a co-participant in behavior abhorrent to God. One can think of any number of biblical texts where God takes far greater offense than his people anticipate. It is not an “unnecessary provocation” simply to *refrain* from using terms offensive to God while still exhibiting a kind demeanor. If a delusional man wants to use a woman’s restroom, he will have to be stopped, and that too may “provoke” (on his part) a “confrontation,” especially if everyone has already promoted his fiction.

Andrew has an online discussion that is more detailed and much better, which is to say far more reticent and restrictive about giving a pass to false pronouns. I will talk more about Andrew’s nuanced online view in the comments section to the post. At least in the Greear link to which I am responding (a link posted just 4 days ago) there is no mention of Greear’s more recent article; only Andrew’s book.

I’m far more concerned about SBC President Greear’s flirtations with the next view that he summarizes: that of my FB friend, Preston Sprinkle, who advocates an untenable (and in my view unfaithful) “posture of unequivocal pronoun hospitality.” His alleged analogy from Acts 17 I don’t find convincing at all. This shows a major misunderstanding of the degree to which such behavior was found to be offensive in ancient Israel, early Judaism, and early Christianity, a misunderstanding that I find puzzling, coming as it does from a NT scholar who should know better. There is no Jew of whom we are aware at any time in the ancient world, first century included (e.g., Philo and Josephus), who would ever have referred to a man who deluded himself into thinking that he was a woman as anything other than a man — except in terms of great derision.

Rev. Dr. Greear offers no critique of Dr. Sprinkle’s views, whether in the written summary on this link or in his audio remarks. In the latter Greear states:
“I lean a little bit toward ‘generosity of spirit’ [as opposed to ‘telling the truth’]– that’s where Andrew Walker also is. If a transgender person came into our church, came into my life, I think my disposition would be to refer to them by their preferred pronoun. When we want to talk about gender I will be clear with them on the truth. The question is ‘Is that the battlefront that you want to choose?’ . . . Preston Sprinkle has some good thoughts on this. . . . ‘Pronoun hospitality’ is the way that I would lean in this. . . . [If you can,] use the name that they have chosen for themselves and avoid using personal pronouns altogether.”

I disagree that use of gendered proper names is an acceptable alternative to use of pronouns. If you are referring to a guy as “Abigail” there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between that and using a feminine pronoun. There are some gender-ambiguous names in our culture (like “Jan”) that would be less problematic; but there are many that are not at all ambiguous in our culture. When a man is posing as a woman and insists on being referred to by a woman’s name, the use of a woman’s name reinforces the assumption that he is a woman, to him and to all those around when the name is used. Is there any thought here for scandalizing the conscience of “weak” believers who might take this so-called “generosity of spirit” as a sign of affirming the person’s “transgender” status or at least of treating it as a relatively light matter?

Let me be clear: Greear isn’t promoting transgenderism, to be sure; but he is flirting with a view that starts the church down a slide.

I don’t really see what the point is of the SBC having an inerrancy doctrine if it leads to leaders like the current SBC President encouraging their congregations to call men women and women men (even if only for a time), which in God’s eyes would be blaspheming his work as Creator. I would expect this kind of nonsense from the PCUSA, not the SBC. I am in utter disbelief. Is this something that Al Mohler would approve of? And if not, has he said anything against it? And if not, why not? Someone better find out before the voting for the next SBC President.

Some will claim: Well, that’s not a very “charitable” position because this is an ambiguity over which faithful Christians should be able to agree to disagree. This is what both J. D. Greear and Andrew Walker argue. That’s the same kind of misguided narrative I have been hearing for decades in the PCUSA. And look at where that got them. This is not ambiguous. This is not an agree-to-disagree issue. I say that on the basis of a quarter of a century of intensive study of biblical texts on sexuality, homosexuality in particular. I’d be happy to debate the point with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

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