John Piper: The Question of Laverne Cox

“Genitalia are not destiny” – But are they by design?

This is an interesting opinion piece by John Piper. He attempts to lay a theological grounding for why transgender people are acting against “God’s will”.

He uses Romans 1:19-28 as his reference.

19 For what can be mknown about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, nhave been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,7 in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they obecame futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 pClaiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and qexchanged the glory of rthe immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore sGod gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to tthe dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for ua lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, vwho is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason wGod gave them up to xdishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,ymen committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, zGod gave them up to aa debased mind to do bwhat ought not to be done.

Let us first consider that he is using Paul’s words so we therefore must consider Paul authoritative. This is problematic, but a topic for another time. What Piper desires to do is show how we should be guided by God’s design in spite of what every ounce of our being might be telling us. There are questions which the scripture themselves beg. Why does God opt to “give them up”? If his “attributes” have been “clearly perceived”, then why is their confusion? Who are the subjects of this specific part of the text and can we accept the correlation to modern day? The latter might be the most compelling.

These are all fair questions, and ones I would enjoy having Piper answer. Where he totally loses me is the subject to whom he is responding. Laverne Cox details how he/she hoped at a young age thought “I was a girl”. Understanding how identity works relative to maturity, what can must Piper say about a child have clarity relative to gender?

Surely we can agree children lack experience to make reasonable evaluations of the surrounding world, but self-understanding seems different.

This is further compounded by Piper’s need to correlate our role in the universe with our gender, or more specifically whether we have a penis. Is someone like Laverne any less meaningful to god, moral towards others or incapable of receiving “salvation” because he/she feels their physical gender representation is false?

Piper states:

Without God, this reasoning is compelling. If there is no God telling me what is wise and good, then my own preference will assume that role. It will seem “ridiculous” to say “biology is destiny.” The modern man thinks otherwise, as William Ernest Henley says, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
But in Paul’s mind, the issue is not what nature says “inherently,” but what it says as God’s revelation of his design for male and female. God, the wise, loving, purposeful creator and designer of human life is the one who connects biological nature and sexual identity.

We use advances in medicine to correct birth defects. By Piper’s own words it would seem we are not honoring the words of Paul as conveyed by the creator, that being we are manipulating god’s design/revelation for human life. Even considering the healing miracles we are left wondering who has the authority to change the physical world.

One could argue that Paul is speaking directly to gender, but why then is it specifically gender which must be preserved? If we disassociate gender from the idea of good the argument fails.

Proverbs 16:4 says, “The lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Isiah 14:24 says, “The lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so it shall be, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand.” In light of these verses what can we say about how god might create someone? It is reasonable to pause prior to condemnation and ask whether this person is somehow fulfilling a plan which escapes understanding. Possibly to edify, or possibly to defile.

We are left unclear not only of the purpose of someone like Laverne, assuming we accept such a premise, but also questioning the very nature of a god who is noted as making that which is wicked for a purpose.

The article reads very well, and while you may not agree with Piper his approach is far from antagonistic and should foster valuable debate amongst theists and non-theists.


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