January 29, 2021

Preston Sprinkle, Embodied: Transgendered Identities, The Church and What the Bibles Has to Say, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2021)

David W. Kendall, Ph.D. Bishop Emeritus, Free Methodist Church-USA, provides this review of the book by Preston Sprinkle, Embodied: Transgendered Identities, The Church and What the Bibles Has to Say, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2021)

Bishop Emeritus Kendall writes:

“Dr. Preston Sprinkle is one of most competent and compassionate voices speaking to both church and world today, especially on issues of sexuality, gender, and their interfaces with the church and discipleship.  Embodied reflects why the church would be wise to listen to his voice.

In this book, Dr. Sprinkle addresses “the universe of fact and fiction, Science and Scripture, thoughtful responses and reflexive reactions that surround persons experiencing some form of gender dysphoria – a sense of incongruity between their biologically sexed body and their sense of gendered identity. As he does, he outlines the basics of the sciences—biological, neurological, psychological—and what conclusions can at present be confidently drawn, what questions remain outstanding, and where the data are mixed or ambiguous.

Dr. Sprinkle also outlines the cultural, social and political dynamics that surround the experiences of trans persons and that condition the varied responses they encounter from others. These dynamics provide important context for understanding the marked increase of people experiencing gender dysphoria and self-identifying as trans.

Dr. Sprinkle carefully considers relevant passages and themes of Scripture, within their contexts, and synthesizes them as a basis for asking the right questions in appropriate ways and then drawing out teachings and principles from the Bible that provide a basis for answering them. Throughout his survey of biblical materials, the personal character (or heart) of God and God’s intentions for humankind, especially as revealed in Jesus, orients the discussion.

Notably, the actual lived experience of trans-persons is never far from the discussion. Whatever insights or perspectives arise from the sciences, the socio-cultural-political context, or the examination of scripture, they all inform the same primary goal: to understand and respond well to trans persons in ways that honor and respect their dignity and the kind of Lord and Savior Jesus is.

Here are several matters of focus I find especially helpful. Dr. Sprinkle models an open and eager pursuit of understanding of all facets of trans-experience yet exercises appropriate caution regarding how to apply scientific findings. He explores multiple sides of the issue, citing numerous credible sources, asks questions and proposes possible answers. The notes are full of sources for further study. Along the way, he provides helpful definitions and explanations of terms commonly used but sometimes misunderstood whenever trans-discussions occur.

In his treatment of the biblical materials, Sprinkle demonstrates his desire to speak faithfully from the Bible not as law code, but as the story that reveals who we are meant but have failed to be, and how God responds through Jesus and the Spirit, within the community of Jesus’ Family, the church. In a world full of outrage, he calls followers of Jesus to the outrageous love of God embodied in Jesus and his people; a love that seeks truly to understand and enter into the lived experiences of others, not least that of trans-persons, and that offers such embodied love as critical to the healing needed both by trans and non-trans-persons.

Finally, though this book deals with complex questions and examines difficult issues, it is highly practical and offers truly helpful insight for the church, its leaders and members. On the book cover several issues are noted:

  • Why more and more teens are questioning their gender
  • What it means to be transgender, non-binary, or gender queer, and how these identities relate to being male and female
  • Moral questions surrounding medical interventions such as sex reassignment surgery
  • Why most stereotypes about men and women come from culture, not the Bible
  • Practical advice about which pronouns to use and how to navigate the bathroom debate.
  • How being created in God’s image as male and female relates to transgender experiences.Preston Sprinkle has researched and written a book that addresses these matters with precision and eloquence. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.”