My review of Preston Sprinkle’s ‘Embodied: Transgender Identities, The Church & What The Bible Has To Say’ 

If you were to ask me a couple months ago to describe and articulate my thoughts regarding the LGBTQ+ community and the greater transgender conversation, I probably would have focused on the various concepts, issues and positions that are expressed by the many voices within this group.  I would have attempted to elaborate on and explain the beliefs, thoughts, opinions and statements commonly held by transgender people and those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.  I would have tried to speak for them and share from a third-party perspective.  I would have thought that I was doing the right thing.  However, after reading Preston Sprinkle’s book, I have come to realize that by focusing only on the concepts, I would have been guilty of missing people.

Preston Sprinkle (PhD) is a best selling author and president of The Centre for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender.  He also hosts a popular podcast entitle Theology in the Raw.  In his most recent book, Embodied, Preston has set out to help people understand and engage in the conversation about transgender identities.  As a pastor, teacher and follower of Jesus, Preston’s heart is to help and equip Christian leaders, pastors and parents to speak into this difficult area with grace and truth.  In other words, his aim is to help people think more deeply and love more widely through a topic that can sometimes lack both. 

In this easy to read twelve chapter book, Preston dives into these deep topics with ease.  By keeping the focus on people, Preston skillfully informs and discusses hot-button topics and issues with care.  

Some of the topics and issues that Preston addresses are:

  • the issues surrounding incongruence between biology and identity (sex and gender)
  • the psychological, social and culture aspects of being male or female
  • what it means and does not mean when someone says that they are transgender
  • the rapid onset of gender dysphoria
  • gender stereotypes, intersex, and can a person’s brain be sexed differently from their body

Remember that I said Preston literally dives into the deep end with this book!  

As someone unversed in the terminology and array of issues, Preston’s book was very helpful and informative to me.  In other words, I was able to track and understand the complex issues because of Preston’s immense knowledge of the subject matter as well as his commentary from real-world relationships with transgender people.  His transparency and class in handling all of these deep subjects is second-to-none.  All in all, if you are looking for a ‘one-stop’ book to help you understand and engage in this conversation, then please do yourself a favour and order this book.  It is well worth it.

As a like-minded follower of Jesus, I was particularly interested in Preston’s treatment of the Bible and how he navigated the potential mine-field of emotions and opinions that surface when discussing these issues within the Christian tradition.  

In a very clear and caring manner, Preston touched on scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments that talk about human biology, sex and image.  His excellent teaching from Genesis and what it means to be made in God’s image helped me see that the Biblical categories of male and female are describing biological sex, and not gender identity or gender roles.  This means that the Bible affirms that the image of God is found equally in males and females.  As Preston says, ‘To a world where women were often viewed as lesser beings, God declares that his image is borne not only to males but also to females.’  

This has helped me to see that if sex differentiation becomes irrelevant today, then we can potentially miss some important aspects of our created sexed embodiment.

Other great insights from Preston include a unique perspective of Adam’s rib.  We have generally been told that when Adam was sleeping, God took one of his ribs in order to make Eve.  This has led to too many demeaning jokes that have a similar punch-line where Adam says, ‘what can I get for a rib?’ 

However, Preston teaches that we better understand what God is doing in Genesis when we allow the Hebrew word ‘tsela’ to be translated the same as the other forty or more times in the Old Testament when it is NOT translated to mean rib.  

Preston highlights that in almost every other usage of the world ‘tsela’ in the Old Testament, it refers to the side of a sacred piece of architecture like the tabernacle or the temple.  Wow.  That revelation alone is worth the price of the book.

I truly believe that this book is a must read for all Christians today so that we can be better equipped to engage in the topic of gender identity, stereotypes and even what it means to be transgender.  

I also believe that this book will help pastors and churches better understand and address the growing divide between the LGBTQ+ community and the church.  Again, this is where Preston’s work shines.  

Among other profound statements made, these select quotes reveal the heart and nature of his heart and book:

  • Jesus is building an upside-down kingdom where outcasts have their feet washed, the marginalized are welcomed, and dehumanized people feel humanized once again.
  • Christian acceptance is always acceptance into a flawed community seeking holiness and repentance.
  • The Bible’s primary invitation to every Christian is not to act more like a man or to act more like a woman, but to act more like Jesus.

Reflecting upon Preston’s work, I cannot help but feel his Christ-like passion towards people that have unfortunately felt the sting of ‘Christian’ judgement and condemnation.  If there is a mission for the church today, Preston would enthusiastically appeal to the followers of Jesus everywhere to begin embodying God’s kindness towards those the church has shamed and shunned.  In his words, ‘this is an essential part of Christian discipleship.’    

Thank you Preston.  Well done. 

Maranatha!

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