Preston Sprinkle, Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church and What the Bible Has to Say (David C Cook, 2021)
I remember the first time I read Preston Sprinkle’s book on sexuality, People To Be Loved. It was one of the best books I had ever read on sexuality and quickly became a go-to recommendation. There were three things that struck me as particularly brilliant about that book, and I’m so pleased to find that those same three characteristics are present in Preston’s new book on transgender, Embodied.
First, Embodied is clearly the result of thorough research and deep reflection. This is always important, but perhaps even more so when engaging with such a complex and controversial subject. Second, God’s love and God’s truth are wonderfully combined and expressed. Many of us will find we instinctively prioritise one or the other of these, especially when it comes to this topic. We tend to either prioritise God’s love and compassion for those identifying as transgender or we prioritise God’s truth about sex and gender. Preston doesn’t do either of these. He prioritises both, setting an example that challenges us to commit ourselves both to love and to truth. And third, Preston writes in a way that shows he deeply cares about the real people impacted by this topic. I remember reading People To Be Loved and being struck that it seemed like Preston really cared about me as a same-sex attracted guy, even though he’d never met me and would have known nothing about me. I hope many people who are trans will have the same sort of experience when they read Embodied.
Tackling the key questions
Preston has managed to tackle each of these key questions in a single book.
Christians have struggled to know how to respond well on the topic of transgender because it is so complex and raises so many different questions (ranging from ‘What does Christian faithfulness look like for those who experience gender dysphoria?’ to ‘Where do trans teenagers sleep at a youth camp?’). Preston has managed to tackle each of these key questions in a single book. I don’t know any other Christian books on transgender that have managed to do that so well.
He does this by breaking the book into two sections. The first section tackles head on the key question at the heart of the transgender conversation: ‘If someone experiences incongruence between their biological sex and their internal sense of self, which one determines who they are—and why?’ (p.24). Preston explores biblical teaching relevant to this question and considers some of the various ways that Christians have sought to answer it. These chapters provide really helpful teaching on God’s creation of male and female, gender stereotypes, eunuchs, intersex, brain sex theory, and the possibility of sexed souls.
The second section builds on Preston’s answer to the key question in the first half of the book and explores some practical questions. Each of these chapters will be hugely helpful to Christians, and especially church leaders, youth leaders and parents, who are wrestling with the implications of biblical teaching for those who identify as trans or who experience gender dysphoria. Preston looks at rapid-onset gender dysphoria and transgender experience among teenagers, at the practical questions about transitioning, and at questions around pronouns and single-sex spaces. In each of these chapters, Preston doesn’t shy away from the difficult real-life situations that transgender experience might raise, or from the consistent application of biblical truth, but he also doesn’t allow us to forget God’s heart for trans people and the huge diversity of experiences and situations among those who are transgender. In tackling these questions, Preston gives us some useful answers and also models how we as Christians should approach complex pastoral situations.
A go-to resource
Many Christians have big questions about transgender. We already have a handful of good resources to help us,1 but I think Preston’s book is now the go-to book for those wanting to understand transgender, to think about it biblically, and to love and respond well to those for whom it is a real-life experience.
- For an annotated list of recommended resources on transgender, see ‘Recommended Resources on Transgender’, Think.