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Book review: 'Transgender' by Vaughan Roberts

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Christian Concern's Communications Officer, Camilla Olim, reviews Rev Vaughan Robert's new book, 'Transgender'

Author Vaughan Roberts, the Rector of St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford, has written a timely new book addressing the topic of transgenderism, explaining the roots of this ideology, and offering practical guidance to Christians seeking to love the individual and speak truth.

Roberts, known for his book ‘Battles Christians Face’, tackles transgenderism in his usual accessible style, with biblical grounding and compassion. ‘Transgender’ begins with explaining gender dysphoria and its symptoms, and asking how Christians should respond to this cultural change. He posits that we often have two responses: Blind disgust, or blind affirmation (or as he puts it, "Yuk!", and "Yes!") Neither, he emphasises, are helpful, as they are emotional and simplistic. Instead, he encourages Christians to take time to consider the issue in depth and with sensitivity.

Transgenderism, Roberts explains, is a symptom of our individualistic culture – the "iWorld", where Enlightenment ideas have fed into our prizing autonomy and authenticity to the point where the mind is preferred over the body. The extreme reaction towards those who challenge transgenderism demonstrates how this is more than a political issue – it is a clash of worldviews, or "stories" –  the world’s gospel vs. the Christian gospel.

Roberts does not simply state that transgenderism is wrong, but instead explains why God’s design, for male and female to live in harmony with one another, is good and freeing. He affirms that we are created by a loving God, and it is in Him that we find our true identity. "True freedom, according to Scripture, is found not in asserting our radical independence and trying to be what we’re not made to be. True freedom is found in embracing and being who we are", he writes. He discusses the value of our physical bodies, and the importance of the distinction between male and female, as fundamental to understanding the distinction between God and human beings; and Christ and His bride, the Church.

To reject our God-given identity and attempt to construct our own, Roberts explains, is a symptom of the fall – mankind’s desire to "set the rules, to be in charge, to decide what is right and wrong". We are all victims of the fall – broken, disordered and sinful – but Roberts emphasises the hope the gospel narrative offers to all, "including those who struggle with all kinds of questions about their identity". Our identity in Christ is secure, he says, because it rests in His finished work and not in our own self-construction.

Roberts concludes his book with some much-needed practical advice, answering questions about how we should respond as a Church and individuals, to friends, family and strangers. He emphasises the importance of demonstrating love and compassion, and that only in the context of relationships are we able to explain that the narrative of the gospel offers hope, redemption and freedom.

‘Transgender’ is short, accessible, and yet theologically robust and emotionally sensitive. It answers many of the questions Christians may have, equipping them to speak clarity into the confusion. Every church should have this on their bookstand. 

Talking Points: Transgender will be available to purchase from The Good Book Company on Monday 3 October for as little as £2.49.