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An Argument for Traditional, Biblical Sexual Categories and Against Transgender Ideology

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

-Isaiah 8:20

The following is a step-by-step, logical argument for deriving a moral position on transgender ideology from the Bible, science, facts, and sound reasoning. If its conclusions are to be challenged, its premises must be denied or the reasoning refuted. While many moral implications follow from the conclusion of this argument, I will state only two—one personal and related to public policy.

Definition of Gender Ideology

Gender ideology, at its most basic level, claims that one’s biological sex is not pertinent to one’s gender identity. That is, it has no normative force; it is incidental. Sex is given, while gender is chosen and is arbitrary. One may choose a gender identity that does not reflect one’s biological sex or birth sex. Moreover, gender is fluid, such that one person may identify differently over time.

Truth, Knowledge, and Logic

1. A true statement is one that agrees with objective reality. A false statement fails to agree with objective reality. This is the correspondence view of truth, and it is presupposed in the Bible. Truth is not constructed by society or individuals. Against the social construction of truth, see Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay (InterVarsity, 2000).

2. One has knowledge when (i) one believes a statement, (ii) has justification for that statement, and (iii) that statement is true.

3. Reasoning, evidence, and intuition are the cognitive modes that confer knowledge upon belief. A belief is not made true by force of feeling, group assent, cultural trends, political force, shaming, canceling, or through any form of intimidation.

The Bible as the Supreme Moral Authority

4. The Bible is objectively true in all that it affirms (Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 5:17-20; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 1 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Peter 3:16). When properly interpreted, it gives us knowledge. The Bible is thus a unique source of knowledge given to us by the Creator when consulted, understood, and believed. However, it is true whether or not it is consulted, understood, and believed. There are strong apologetic arguments to back up the truth of the Christian worldview and the Bible. See Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity-Academic, 2022).

5. The Bible speaks to fundamental moral questions, including sexual ethics (Exodus 20:1-18; Matthew 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10); and it does so as the absolute moral authority, given its divine Author. In other words, it contains a collection of moral truths that must be heeded, since it speaks with binding address.

6. Ontology: The Bible teaches that God created human beings in only two sexes: male and female (Genesis 1:26-28). It assumes the male-female dichotomy when it speaks of parents as male and female and in its many affirmations of humans as either male or female. The Hebrew of Genesis 1 does not allow that male and female are points on a spectrum, but rather an exhaustive dichotomy—or, put philosophically, an ontological binary. Each sex has its own nature and teleology.

7. Morality: The Bible prohibits any intimate sexual activity outside of intercourse within heterosexual marriage (Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:14). The Old Testament law allowed for polygamy, but this was a concession, not a deeply normative principle (Matthew 19:1-6). Sex between those of the same sex is uniformly and universally prohibited. So, if a biological man “transitions” to being a pseudo-female and has sex with a biological man, that is sinful.

8. Thus, the Bible prohibits cross-dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5). This taboo is part of the moral law, not the ceremonial law, which is fulfilled in Christ (See the Book of Hebrews), since the prohibition is grounded in creation and not within laws of ritual purity under the Old Testament covenant.[1] To cross-dress is to bear false witness (Exodus 20:16), since a member of one sex is pretending to be a member of the opposite sex. The issue is deception and imposture, not whether women can wear pants or men wear pink.

9. In the Bible, a eunuch is a male whose testicles have been removed by another, by oneself, or perhaps refers to one who was born with ambiguous genitalia, which is a result of a disease of sexual development (DSD). Jesus also uses this term for someone who, while not deformed, chooses not to marry (Matthew 19:12). The term is not synonymous with “homosexual,” nor does it allow for gender fluidity. But even if the meaning of the term could be thus expanded to include LGBTQ people, the Bible disallows any sexual activity outside of heterosexual monogamy. Sex outside of marriage is adultery or fornication.

Biology and Other Facts

10. Biologically, a human is either male or female. Nearly all humans have either the XY chromosomes (male) or the XX chromosomes (female), although there are some genetic abnormalities. Nevertheless, all humans have either sperm gametes (male) or egg gametes (female). This comports with the categorical assertions of Scripture regarding the existence of two, and only two, sexes.

11. Even those who suffer from various diseases of sexual development (DSDs) are still either male or female biologically. Thus, the term “intersex” is a misnomer, since there is no biological category residing between male and female sexually. Those suffering from DSDs may experience great hardships concerning their sexual identities and should be treated with compassion, since their birth condition is through no fault of their own.

12. It is physically impossible to change one’s sex. As Dr. Paul McCue, former Chief Psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital (1975-2001) has written, “‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”[2]

Moral Implications

13. Given the above statements, a biblical ethic does not allow for someone to claim a sex other than that of their biological birth—male or female. There are difficult cases when those who suffer from DSDs are surgically altered as infants and raised out of alignment with their biological sex. In Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcy gives two such examples, but in both cases when these people became adults they later identified with their biological sex, despite being treated otherwise earlier.[3]

14. The expression of one’s sexuality (in behavior and dress) may vary from person to person and from culture to culture, but should reside within two basic constraints. (i) Any sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual monogamy is prohibited and sinful. As Paul writes:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

(ii) Cross-dressing is prohibited and is sinful, “detestable” (Deuteronomy 22:5, NIV). “Detestable” is also used for the occult practices banned in Deuteronomy 18:9, 12.

15. Gender dysphoria is a result of the fall (Genesis 3), as are all physical and emotional maladies, whether related to sexuality or not. We should not build into the originally good creation something that emanates from sin and the fall. That would be to dishonor both the goodness of God and the essential goodness of the unfallen creation (Genesis 1-2).

16. One significant aspect of the fall is that Adam and Eve sought autonomy from God instead of submission to him (Genesis 3:1-5). They wanted to define reality apart from God’s order and commands, “to be as God, knowing good and evil.” Those who claim they can assert their own gender identity apart from who God made them to be and apart from objective biology are doing the same thing.

17. How we address maladies caused by the fall varies from case to case. If someone is born with a heart defect, for example, it is right to try to correct it, since that restores normal functioning. The same holds true for a congenital eye problem The eye would be treated to restore normal functioning.

18. However, because one is either male or female, treating gender dysphoria by trying to change men into women or women into men is futile and harmful to those involved. It is not an attempt to restore normal functioning affected by the fall, but rather an attempt to change the unchangeable. To affirm one’s sexual confusion is not a beneficial treatment, but is, rather, an endorsement and furtherance of error.

If one’s erotic feelings or proclivities are not congruent with one’s body, one’s feelings should be adjusted or lived with instead of altering one’s body artificially to try to bring about an end that is biologically and theologically impossible—transitioning from male to female or from female to male. Given the biblical and biological facts, the idea that one is trapped in “the wrong body” is false and harmful. Rather, one is trapped by the wrong approach to the body that one has been given. That is the objective issue that needs to be addressed. Given the fall, one may misinterpret his or her sexual identity, but subjective misinterpretations do not create objective realities.

Further Moral Issues

19. In accordance with this reasoning and these conclusions, Christians can begin to work out issues related to transgenderism, such as how to minister to those in churches who are considering transitioning or who have done so. It should be obvious that no one should be encouraged to attempt the impossible—that its, to change their sexual identity through supposed “gender transitions.” Those troubled by their sexual identity need counseling and prayer, not life-altering surgeries, or chemical treatments.

20. Christians should also address public policy questions about the legality of “gender reassignment” procedures such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, chemical castration, and surgeries such as mastectomies and hysterectomies. However, at a minimum, these procedures should be made illegal for minors, who are not old enough to give meaningful consent and who would be irreparably damaged by such violence.

[1] 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 speaks of propriety in worship regarding how men and women dress and wear their hair. Putting aside some of the interpretive questions of this passage, the main and cross-cultural point is that men and women should dress and groom themselves differently. [2] Paul McHugh, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution,” Wall Street Journal (June 12, 2014). [3] Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018), 221-222.

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