Seminary president and theologian Albert Mohler says he sees no issue in using a transgender individual's preferred name in a casual conversation, although he says he would stop short of "affirming" the person in their "delusion" and sin.
Mohler made the remarks on his Friday edition of The Briefing, answering a question from a listener who asked how Christians should approach a transgender person's new identity during a conversation – especially in a casual conversation about the gospel.
"We cannot affirm someone in a delusion. We cannot affirm them in sin or in even an identity that is grounded in sin," Mohler said. "... I don't think that's an act of love."
Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he sees using a person's preferred new name as a way of treating them with dignity.
"I have had to deal with this in some fairly routine situations where I'm in a professional context, and someone comes up and introduces themself and says, 'Hello, my name is Debbie.'… I don't think there's any compromising conviction if I just simply say, 'Glad to meet you' and assume that for the course of that conversation, the only name I know about this person is Debbie."
But if Mohler is "asked to give positive affirmation of the fact that I actually believe that someone who's biologically male can be a female or vice versa, I can't do that," he said.
"That's a bridge I can't cross," he said.
It is important to treat others with dignity, Mohler said, in order to engage in a conversation about the gospel.
"I'm suggesting that we can't enter into a delusion or a lie, but we can and should speak to someone with respect and with care and recognizing their dignity even if that dignity has been confused by their own claim of a transgender identity," he said. "The reality is … we have to do our very best to see them as Christ would see them and then as Christians respond in an authentically Christian way."
The local church, Mohler said, must assist Christians on such hot-button social issues.
"We need the local church as a body of baptized, faithful believers, thinking through these issues and thinking through these issues in explicitly biblical in gospel terms," he said. "There are going to be questions we're going to have to face, say, two or three years from now we can't even imagine right now. … We're all going to have to learn some new skills as Christians in how to deal with an increasingly confused world and the very confused people in it."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Elizabeth Lara
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.