Dualism, Oneness and Transgender Ideology

Jul 5, 2019 by

By Jane Krammer, Anglican Mainstream.

The speed and extent with which Transgender Ideology has caught on has taken us by surprise. The suffering caused by gender dysphoria is intense and there is an undisputed pastoral need to engage lovingly and effectively with all those who are affected by it. Yet the ideology that has sprung up around the dysphoria appears to be advancing like an uncontainable wildfire; fight or resist it at your peril. Nonetheless, the Church has an immutable calling to be salt and light, and this includes speaking preserving and saving truth into the decay and darkness of Society. So, when the Church affirms the secular narrative, either actively or by default, and that narrative runs counter to the biblical narrative, then the Church is being disobedient to its calling.

Part of the problem we face is that we ourselves have become confused. As those who have been raised in western post-Enlightenment society, we are naturally prone to absorbing the latent Gnostic narrative of our culture with its cosmological body/soul dualism, denigration of both created and Creator, and emphasis on self-discovery. In the relativist, self-esteem culture we live in, the wisdom that is prized is no longer the fear of the Lord, but the journey of discovering who we truly are, or who we perceive ourselves truly to be. This emphasis spills over into our churches. Whilst it is helpful to discover our strengths and giftings, as humans we are sadly prone to glorifying ourselves rather than the God who made us.

We also live in a pluralistic culture, exposed to diverse religious beliefs and values at home, on our travels, through the media and online. Unity is a value that is prized, to be pursued by some at any cost, whilst dogma is viewed with suspicion and despised. In this context, there has been a temporally cosy resurgence of universalism in the Church, with its necessary emphasis on the unconditional love of God and discomfort with, and consequent downplaying of, the holiness of God, which requires a recognition of sin and the need for repentance. Culture is on the move, biblical adherence is seen as stiflingly old-fashioned, a crippling yoke to be broken, and much of the Church, uncomfortable with overarching biblical authority, yet not wanting to abandon it completely, reaches out for the teachings of plausible writers who, whilst quoting the Bible, affirm Society’s gnostic and universalist narratives.

One such writer is Richard Rohr; prolific and popular, with a persuasive style of writing, he is influential in that his philosophy now provides a frame of reference for many Christians of different persuasions. Expounding in flowing language, Rohr embraces a Pelagian doctrine of ‘original blessing’, rejects the (consequently superfluous) penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus, and makes the arbitrary, but for him fundamental, distinction between Jesus and the ‘Cosmic’ or ‘Universal’ Christ. Where ‘Jesus’ is relegated to the position of a guru or teacher, someone whose example we can follow; and the ‘Cosmic Christ’ or ‘Universal Christ’ is a cosmic ‘life principle’, in everyone and everything, permeating all creation.

In his writings, Rohr denounces what he calls ‘dualism’ and ‘dualistic thought’. However, it is important to understand that his is not a traditional understanding of dualism, but seems to include almost any binary division or classification, including gender identity1, as well as any attempt to delineate between good and evil. Instead, Rohr emphasises a ‘nondual’ oneness whereby we are all essentially one, interconnected in the ‘Unified Field’, with no distinction between Created and Creator. Reflective of the monist eastern belief that all consciousness, matter and energy are One; Rohr’s teaching can be very attractive to those seeking an affirming warm connectedness, and gives an ‘enlightened’ philosophical backdrop to the rainbow-spectrum, gender-fluid, unity of Transgender theory.

Interestingly, although Rohr vehemently rejects ‘dualism’, there is a body/soul dualism evident in his teaching on the ‘True Self’; which he perceives as ‘our soul’, ‘our deepest identity’, ‘our unique bit of heaven’, installed in us at the beginning by God, ‘at our own “immaculate conception”’2. This is very similar to the ancient Gnostic teaching that we are ‘sparks of God’ imprisoned in material bodies.

Linking this to human sexuality, Rohr articulates the view that gender is an attribute of the ‘“false” or passing self’ rather than ‘True Self’, biological features are “secondary to our identity” and sex and gender are “fluid concepts that exist along a spectrum”, rather than “fixed binaries determined by biology or genetic imprinting.”’3 This aligns with Transgender ideology’s rejection of the biological binary division between male and female, and acceptance of a Gnostic binary division/ dualism between soul and body, where physical bodies are largely irrelevant, and we are who we feel we are.

For those raised in today’s culture of self-esteem, Rohr’s teaching on ‘The ‘True Self’ can appear both reasonable and desirable, promoting love and acceptance of ourselves and of others. But a Pelagian doctrine of ‘original blessing’ renders the Cross of Christ superfluous, denies the Saviour, and leads to a worship of the Self rather than the God who made us. And, when applied to Transgender issues; this teaching gives a pseudo-theological authenticity to the now widely adopted phrase: ‘sex assigned at birth’, rather than the more orthodox and scientifically accurate phrase: ‘sex determined chromosomally at conception’.

In this belief-system, because it is our ‘True Self’ that is most important, it becomes acceptable to teach that our chromosomal sex is not an innate part of who we are, but rather our sex is something extraneous, ‘assigned’ externally by a doctor, midwife or parent. Whereas clearly Rohr doesn’t believe that life begins at birth, his teaching could be used to support the idea that we can be prisoners trapped in the wrong bodies and that rescue can be found in transitioning.

As more and more children and young people are caught up in the tangled reaches and confusions of Transgender Ideology, we in the Church cannot neglect our calling to be salt and light, particularly to the younger generations. As part of this calling, we need to refute error, and in love reaffirm the unchanging truth of the Biblical narrative. Humans are not a part of the divine; but are created by God in His image, separate from Him, and called to worship Him. Humans are not souls or spirits trapped in earthly bodies, but body-soul composites created by God for relationship with Him, and called to a bodily resurrection and eternal life with Him. Binary sexuality is not an evil or a mischance, but a good gift from the Creator God, through which a man and a woman are able to become one flesh and procreation is possible. Salvation and freedom cannot be attained through the re-invention of ourselves, by escaping our human bodies, or by anything that we can find within ourselves or any other person or thing; only through the saving, transforming love of Jesus Christ who died for us, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may have life and fullness in Him.

1 https://cac.org/gender-and-sexuality-week-2-summary-2018-04-28/

2 Richard Rohr – Falling upwards – published Jossey-Bass, San Franscisco, California, 2011– preface – the invitation to the further journey page ix

3 https://cac.org/the-essential-self-and-the-passing-self-2018-04-18/

Jane Krammer has been a committed Christian for over 30 years; she is married with four children and has an MA in Christian Ethics from Kings College London. She is a member of the Gafcon UK Council of Reference, and the author of Richard Rohr: Is his teaching biblical? which remains one of the most viewed articled on Anglican Mainstream.

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