Dr. Mackereth’s pronoun problem
Dr. David Mackereth has worked as a medical doctor in the Accident and Emergency Department of government-run hospitals in England for over twenty years. Last year he became a benefits assessor for the UK Department of Work and Pensions, a job that involves determining whether a person fits the criteria necessary to claim social-welfare benefits on the grounds of disability. A few days after he began his new job, he claims he was asked in a performance evaluation a hypothetical question: “If you have a man, 6 feet tall with a beard, who says he wants to be addressed as ‘she’ and ‘Mrs,’ would you do that?” Dr. Mackereth, who is a professing Christian, answered the hypothetical question in the negative, citing his religious beliefs for his hypothetical refusal, for he, like all Bible- believing Christians, believes that gender is not fluid but that God has made two—and only two—distinct genders, and that a person should not be legally obliged to use pronouns that do not correspond to his or her biological gender. His case is now being heard before an Employment Tribunal in Birmingham, for he claims wrongful dismissal and religious prejudice on the part of his employer.
Recently, the good doctor appeared on “Good Morning Britain” to discuss the story with British journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan. Morgan’s hostility was clear from the beginning. The interview began with Dr. Mackereth explaining that, according to Christianity, a change of gender is not possible. In response, Morgan said, “You understand that that makes you a bigot?” Somewhat taken aback, Mack- ereth asked, “Define bigot,” which Morgan then defined as someone “woefully intolerant of people…who have gone through a difficult transition,” asking the good doctor whether he “shouldn’t just find it in [his] Christian heart, given that [he’s] such a Christian, to respect that.” Mackereth attempted to explain his objections: “Well, the Bible tells us that God made us male and female; he made us for his own glory. If I’m a bigot, then the whole of Christianity throughout history is bigotry. I don’t believe that. I believe Christianity is the truth of God.” In a stunning display of ignorance of the Bible, Morgan challenged Mackereth: “The Bible says that if you look at people in an adulterous manner you should be stoned to death. Do you agree with that?” Then he added, “Given your self-righteousness, do you wander around the streets of your city looking for people who are looking at people in a lustful way and stone them to death?” Mackereth attempted to defend his position: “You haven’t established that I am self-righteous. I am a sinner saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I carry the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I long for the same thing for everybody, which is to know him. That includes people of every kind of background, but you’re right: if we were to apply the Bible without its context, literally, every one of us could be stoned to death.” Visibly disgusted with Mackereth, Morgan spat: “You should stone yourself to death.”
Morgan, for no other reason than that he needed a transgender perspective, then turned to India Willoughby, a transgender journalist and presenter, born Jonathan Willoughby. Willoughby is neither a theologian, nor a jurist, and therefore could not be expected to have anything useful to contribute to the discussion. Willoughby opined: “The Bible is full of contradictions,” giving as the example that God forbade the eating of shellfish in the Old Testament, adding the utterly inane comment, “It’s now 2019, we live in a civilized society, and it’s not the days of the Bible. I think God would actually be really cool about transgender people. If Jesus came back…he wouldn’t be changing wine into water [sic]; he’d be changing men into women, women into men, doing all of that.”
Behold the depth of intellectual discussion presented on British daytime television!
To answer Morgan and Willoughby, however, Mack- ereth, if he had been allowed to speak, could have explained the following. First, Morgan is conflating two things: the capital punishment of adulterers required under the Old Testament civil law, which punishment applied only to those caught in the act of adultery, for no one was ever executed for a mere thought in the Old Testament; and the teaching of Christ concerning spiritual adultery in Matthew 5. Second, Morgan and Willoughby are ignorant of the fact that the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws were abolished because Christ, who is the substance of the law, fulfilled the shadows in His lifelong obedience, sufferings, and death on the cross, as passages such as Colossians 2:16-23 teach. Therefore, there is no longer any prohibition against eating shellfish, pork, or other meats that were unclean in the Old Testament, and, therefore, there is no contradiction in the Bible. Third, the New Testament church judges sins, even sins such as incest, which were capital crimes under the Mosaic Law, with the spiritual judgment of Christian discipline and excommunication (see I Cor. 5); therefore, it is grossly inaccurate to suggest that death by stoning is still required in the New Testament church. Fourth, when the Lord Jesus returns, He will raise the dead, transform our mortal bodies, judge all men and women, and make the new heaven and new earth in which righteousness dwells. All impenitent violators of the law will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And fifth, and finally, there is salvation full and free for all who turn from sin and find refuge, righteousness, and life in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Of course, such a message, which I can articulate without the pressure of appearing on television, and to which Dr. Mackereth witnessed admirably given the circumstances, is not welcome on “Good Morning Britain.”
Dr. Mackereth will have difficulty arguing his case, however, because his employers have cited the transgender guidelines of the Church of England to prove that the good doctor’s position is outside of the mainstream of Christianity. I do not know whether Mackereth is a member of the Church of England or not, but this is a disgraceful example of how the apostate church makes it much more difficult for Bible-believing Christians (that should be a redundancy, but since the Church of England claims to be Christian, sadly, it is not) to argue their position. I cite from the guidelines according to which the Church of England “welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ” and even allows them to be baptized under their new name and gender:
If a transgender person is not already baptized, then baptism itself would be the natural liturgical context for recognizing and celebrating their identity in Christ and God’s love for them. Where such a person has already been baptized, the House of Bishops commends the rite of Affirmation of Baptismal Faith as the central feature of any service to recognize liturgically a person’s gender transition.
For a trans person to be addressed liturgically by the minister for the first time by their chosen name may be a powerful moment in the service. Some trans people may not wish their former name or gender to be mentioned. It should be noted that the giving or adoption of a new name has a long history in the Judeo-Christian tradition as may be evidenced from Scripture.1
Tellingly, the Church of England appeals to the widely held belief that all people, whether believers or unbelievers, are in the image of God, for the document states, “The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic.” But this is contrary to Scripture, which teaches that only believers are restored according to the image of God lost in the fall of Adam (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), When the culture adopts the madness of the transgender movement, and even the established Church of England conforms to the spirit of the age, Christians like Mackereth will increasingly find themselves an isolated and ostracized minority in the United Kingdom.
The author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye repudiates the Christian faith
Joshua Eugene Harris (b. 1974) was a leading figure in the “Christian Purity” movement. His father, Greg Harris, was a leader among Christian homeschoolers in the 1980s and 1990s, a movement that his son, Joshua, enthusiastically embraced. At the age of 17 Harris began to speak at his father’s homeschooling events, and from 1994-1997 he published New Attitude Magazine, a resource for homeschooled teenagers. In 1997 without any formal theological training, Harris moved from Oregon to Maryland to place himself under the mentorship of Charles Joseph (C. J.) Mahaney, pastor of Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries. The same year, Harris published his bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye at the age of twenty-two or twenty-three. A year later, 1998, he married Shannon Boone with whom he has three children. His second book, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship (2000), recounts the history of his relationship with Shannon.
Harris served as senior pastor of Covenant Life Church from 2004 to 2015. In January 2015 he announced that he was stepping down from his pastoral role to pursue formal, theological training at Regent College, Vancouver:
In reflecting on my own story, I can’t help but think that I have lived a sort of backwards life. Without meaning to, I have experienced life out of the normal order and sequence of events. At the end of last year I turned 40 years old. Yet it is only now that I am going to school. I haven’t completed any post-graduate study. I don’t even have an undergraduate degree. In fact, I have never attended a formal school full-time in my life…. Seven years after I arrived at the church I was set in as the handpicked replacement for C.J. I was 30 years old, with no formal theological training and no formal training in organizational leadership, and I was the Senior Pastor of a 3,000-member church. That, my friends, is a crazy, backwards life! 2
In addition, sexual abuse allegations rocked Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries around that time, although no allegations were ever made against Harris. In 2014 a former member of Covenant Life Church was convicted of the sexual abuse of children, which crimes took place in the 1980s. Allegations brought in a civil suit against Mahaney and others, that the leadership had covered up the abuse, were dismissed by the Maryland Court of Appeals in June 2014.3 Nevertheless, Harris expressed misgivings in an interview that “the isolation of Covenant Life, and of a small cluster of churches of which it was a part, may have fed leadership mistakes, including the decision of pastors—himself among them—to handle a child sexual abuse case internally instead of going to police.”4
In 2016 Harris released a statement in which he repudiated the core teachings of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the Christian purity culture it promoted, and apologized for the “hurt” it had caused. He followed that apology with a “Ted Talk” in 2017 and a contribution to a film “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (2018). As Albert Mohler astutely observes, “The obvious question that arose from the film and from his statement in 2016 is what was left of Harris’ understanding of sex, and for that matter, of Christianity?”
The answer to that question came in July 2019 when Harris announced his separation and divorce from his wife Shannon. He followed that with a repudiation of the Christian faith: “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he wrote. “The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction;’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”6 Finally, Harris “repented” of his Christianity, lamenting that his advocacy of Christian sexual ethics had hurt many people:
I have lived in repentance for the past several years— repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry.
Notice how Harris now equates Christianity with self-righteousness, not the truth of the grace of God, which excludes all self-righteousness. He also views Christianity as oppressive to women and LGBT people, as well as exclusionary and bigoted. Finally, Harris confirmed his newfound “tolerance” by attending a “Pride March” in Vancouver on (Sunday) August 4, and proudly sharing photos of himself wearing a T-shirt with the message “Love Is Great” while holding a rainbow donut.7
Harris should find the words of Hebrews 6:4-6 sober reading, as should we all:
It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.