"A Perpetual Forge of Idols"

Some wit once observed, “In the beginning God created man in his own image; and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”[1] This is a humorous way of making the point that Calvin made in his Institutes:  “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.”[2]  The advantage the first saying has over the second is the addition of the fact that the idols men forge tend to look an awful lot like their forgers.  

This is true, not only with respect to the false conceptions people have of the Father, but also of the Son. Not finding the real Jesus (the one presented to us in the pages of Scripture) much to their liking, they refashion him into their own image. They don’t like Jesus as he is, and so they imagine him to be what he is not. This imaginary Jesus, not surprisingly, is one who happens to agree with them and endorse their agenda. Thus, we find Jesus re-imagined as a woman, as a homosexual, as an animal rights activist, as a card-carrying Democrat, as a flag-waving Republican, as the original socialist. Sometimes he is re-imagined along racial lines. There is a black Jesus, where the gospel is reinterpreted in terms of black history and culture. There is also a Hispanic Jesus and an Asian Jesus. And lest we feel too indignant about this, let’s recognize that there is also a white Anglo-Saxon Jesus, complete with golden hair and blue eyes that is every bit an idol as any Jesus other than the first century Jewish Jesus, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1).

The latest effort to re-imagine him comes from the keyboard of one Suzanne DeWitt Hall, who last week wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled, Jesus:  The First Transgender Man. She accuses Christians who take the Bible literally of doing nothing of the sort, but rather “imposing their own filters on stories and phrases to fit their particular ideology.” One can only smile and respond, “Physician, heal thyself.” She seems to have a penchant for imposing plenty of filters of her own.

So how does she go about justifying her claim that Jesus was the first transgender man? She sets the stage, strangely enough, by discussing Eve. “The Bible tells us she is the first example of human cloning.” It does no such thing, of course, but this doesn’t seem to bother her. She adds,

If we take the Genesis account in it’s [sic] literal meaning,[3] as conservative Christians demand that we do, she is also the first case of a transgender woman. God reached into Adam, pulled out a bit of rib bone, and grew Eve from that XY DNA into Adam’s companion. She was created genetically male, and yet transformed into woman.

She was created genetically male? The author pulled that one out of thin air. The text neither says this nor implies it.

Let us be clear. A transgender woman is a man—genetically, biologically, functionally, really, a man—who thinks of himself as (or wishes himself to be) a woman. This was not true of Eve. Ever. She was created genetically, biologically, functionally, and really, a woman. There never was a time when she was anything other than a woman. God performed a supernatural act in the creation of Eve and was not limited to the genetic material of Adam. To assert otherwise is to be guilty of the worst form of reductionism.

The author goes on to say,

Then along comes Jesus and the whole pattern is both repeated and reversed… the second act of cloning occurs. The Holy Spirit comes upon the second Eve [Mary], and the child takes flesh from her and is born. Born of her flesh. Born with XX chromosome paring. Born genetically female, and yet trans-formed into man.

Yes, these really are her words. No kidding.

Her error lies in supposing that God was limited in the incarnation to the genetic material of Mary (as she had previously supposed he was limited to Adam’s genetic material in the creation of Eve). Jesus’ rebuke of the Sadducees is appropriate here, as well:  “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). God did something wonderful, something supernatural, something miraculous in preparing a body for Jesus (Heb. 10:5). But it did not involve transforming him from female to male. The author says Jesus was “born genetically female, and yet transformed into man.” We might ask, when exactly did this happen? Presumably, sometime in the eight days between his birth and circumcision?[4]

[1] I have seen this quote, or some variation of it, attributed to Voltaire, Rousseau, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and some fellow named Anonymous, a very copious writer of quotes.
[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.11.8, translated by Henry Beveridge.
[3] She has a rather strange notion of what it means to take the Bible literally. Interpreting the Bible literally means interpreting it according to its own particular style of literature (from the Latin litera). We interpret the Bible literally when we interpret poetry as poetry, historical narrative as historical narrative, parable as parable, symbols as symbols, etc. I don’t know of anyone who interprets the Bible literally as she uses the term.
[4] I should add that it is possible to read her post as a reductio ad absurdum argument in the form of a modus tollens:

If P then Q.
Not Q (because Q is absurd).
Therefore not P.  

Thus, “If the Bible is interpreted literally (as so many conservative Christians claim to do), these are the absurd results that follow (Eve would have to be regarded as a transgender woman and Jesus a transgender man). Eve is not a transgender woman and Jesus is not a transgender man. Therefore, the Bible cannot be interpreted literally.” The problem is that it is not clear she’s offering a reductio. From some of her other posts it seems she regards the creation narrative as ahistorical, and so since Eve (in her view) was not a real person in history, she was neither a real woman nor a transgender woman. The author does seem to believe the incarnation to be historical, however, and also to believe that Jesus was a transgender male.


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