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Faith, Reason, and the Transgender Movement

October 28, AD2016

transgender

The transgender movement is wholly incompatible with faith and reason. Even though God wants us all to achieve salvation, He gives us the unbearable compliment of a free will. Our freedom to choose our own paths, to accept or reject the gifts of grace and reason, and to direct our faith to the revealed Word is a danger if we make poor judgments. We are responsible for our own choices and man’s freedom holds out the peril of eternal separation from God, as demonstrated by Christ’s own words at the end of the Parable of the Wedding Feast: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Our salvation requires us to choose the true over the false, to judge rightly. We must cooperate with grace in an attempt to perfect our natures that we might be ready to meet God face to face. We are not at liberty to invent our own schemes of reality. In an attempt to convey the truth with charity, it is our duty to commit to a program of fraternal correction after we attempt to remove the log from our own eye. To judge by the heart and mind of the matter, it is very clear that the transgender movement is not compatible with faith or reason.

Faith and Reality

St. Pope John Paul II introduces his masterful encyclical Fides et Ratio with a profound point: “Faith and reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which it soars to the truth.” Faith is the matrix out of which our reason ought to be formed. Reason is the process by which we come to attain the truth. We are in need of the truth. The saint describes truth as “a consonance between the intellect and objective reality” (op. cit., 56). We are not at liberty to invent our own truth; we are meant to discover the objective reality and to conform our minds and wills to it, not the other way around.

Faith is a type of “belief.” It is when we give assent to a declaration of fact to which we ourselves have no direct knowledge. We give our assent when we believe in the integrity and authority of the source. There is a distinction to be made between human faith and divine faith. We can have faith in the things our parents, teachers, and friends tell us if they are credible sources. We can give our human assent to assertions we encounter on the internet or in books if we believe the source is credible.

The difference between human and divine faith is that divine faith concerns the divine and is aided by supernatural grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us that divine Faith is “an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Catechism § 155). We believe in the Word of God because we have confidence in the authority of the Creator and we embrace those things revealed by sacred sources.

Reason and Reality

The First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith instructs us with exacting clarity, “Man being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will” (op. cit., 3:1). Human reason is a creature, God’s Truth is uncreated, unchanging and eternal. Reason is properly understood as the servant of truth.

Reason is a process used by the mind to acquire the truth. We use reason to verify or refute an asserted truth. In the case of divine revelation, we use our reason in the quest to give our full assent to uncreated truth. There are three things we do with our minds as we pursue truth by way of the intellect. The first act of the mind is called apprehension. This is where we apprehend what things are as we discover their essences. This first act is the basis for the terms we use to begin to make judgments, which is the second act of the mind. We put terms in right relationship to one another to make declarative judgments. The third act of the mind is the act of organizing our declarative judgments in such a way that conclusions can be drawn from clear thinking; this is what we call reasoning.

It is understood that our appetites and desires ought to be subordinated to our right use of reason; it is also sure that our reason ought to be subordinated to uncreated Truth, gifted to us by revelation and made intelligible by the supernatural graces given by God. We ought never to give ourselves license to invent our own “truths” or to attempt to create our own reality. This is precisely what the transgender movement attempts.

Cause and Form

On a website called Catholictrans is an article claiming to use Aristotle’s four causes to justify transgenderism. The article amounts to an assertion of an invented reality with an attempt to use The Philosopher to substantiate the invention; but in doing so, the author has to misuse reason and Aristotle’s four causes themselves. The attempt may well suffice to confuse by equivocation the general population, but Aristotle himself wouldn’t have it for a moment. As faithful Catholics, we must not acquiesce to this kind of sophistry, for we owe our neighbor much better than that.

The danger in presenting the four explanatory causes to a modern audience is that the material reductionism of this age renders them philosophically unintelligible. We must first recover our sense and apprehension of the immaterial order of reality before the conversation can even begin. We must appropriately ground our thinking in a proper Aristotelian metaphysics in order that we may understand the intention of the Philosopher as he gifts us the four explanatory factors of all contingent beings.

It is worth the time and effort to equip the human intellect with a deep understanding of the four causes, but it is not necessary to treat of them here. Aristotle’s four causes — material, formal, efficient, and final — are supported by his central doctrine of hylomorphism, the notion that all bodies are comprised of prime matter and substantial form. All bodies are comprised of a material and formal cause; the material composition of a thing is a manifestation of its formal principle or its substantial form. In the case of a human person, the human body is the material cause and the human soul is the formal cause of the body.

No Basis for Transgender Theory

The Book of Genesis reveals that God made both male and female (Genesis 1:27). He also made everything else in the universe including rocks, trees, and animals. To understand the four causes and hylomorphism is to understand that the vegetative soul, the animal soul, and the human spirited soul are the formal causes that manifest themselves as the things God intended. Transgender theory cannot make a claim to the four causes or hylomorphism because there is no distinction between a formal and material causes that is anything more than an abstraction from an integral unity. An apple tree is an apple tree because its formal cause is that of an apple tree; it could be nothing but the apple tree. A Siamese cat is the same; even if it made the claim it wanted to be a jaguar, its Siamese cat-ness is a manifestation of its formal cause and impossible to change.

Just so, a human person is his sex regardless of claims to the contrary. This is the case if the revealed word of God is to be believed, and if one accords his reason with Aristotle’s four explanatory causes and his doctrine of hylomorphism. By faith and reason, there is no possibility of a change in sex. There are many defects in nature, but the substantial form of a thing manifests the thing for which it is a formal cause even if its manifestation suffers a deformation. All defects and deformations are accidents and not substantial forms; therefore, there is no basis for transgender theory either in the revelations of God or in Aristotelian philosophy.

The transgender movement must look for its justification from notions of Cartesian dualism, but in doing so must also admit to leaving the faith and reason required by the Catholic Church. This does not mean that we will not embrace the transgender community with compassion and good will, but that we cannot promote, support or encourage such behaviors that contradict the eternal truths revealed to us as well as the perennial philosophy that constitutes the right use of reason. The transgender movement is a denial of revealed truths of our faith and a rejection of Aristotelian philosophy; no amount of sophistry can change that.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Catholic convert, husband, father, Catholic writer and speaker on matters of Faith, culture, and education. He teaches, theology, philosophy and Church history at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta. Steven is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, The Imaginative Conservative and Catholic Exchange.

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  • adam aquinas

    Bigotry, under the guise of any religion, is still bigotry!

    • Steven Jonathan

      And you claim that pointing out that the doctrine of hylomorphism which contradicts the possibility of the gender ideologies is bigotry? You believe that allowing God’s revelation of man and woman is bigotry? As Pope Francis says . “In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place, And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’ Today children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give … money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”
      So Pope Francis, and every who disagrees with you is a bigot? So you think the standard for gender is how someone feels? Adam, – you are a bigot against Catholic truth- There is nothing else you can say except that you disagree with revealed truth and that makes you the narrow one.

  • james

    Broccoli, kale, cauliflower have been carefully bred ( changed, altered ) over 2000 years. So too fruit
    trees ( sweet lemon) and the legion number of animals that have been crossbred and domesticated by
    nature and man over thousands of years. The platypus is natures way of using body parts for the good of
    itself and nature. Natural selection is a product of choice (free will) and efficiency and in the end it either thrives because its part of a niche or it goes extinct because it no longer has a place to thrive. We really do need a visit from some ET types to get to the bottom of this. In the end, if the world becomes a better place because something fits better in it that’s a good thing. If not the consequences and entanglement of the act plague the author and then it becomes a personal problem. If some act of the cosmos wipes out our planet I get the impression you would be personally offended, Steven. and that would be just so unreasonable.

    • Steven Jonathan

      Dear James, Humans are not cauliflower, broccoli, kale, sweet lemons, platypuses, or any other kind of subhuman thing, they are human persons, made in the image and likeness of God. The inerrant word of God says “male and female He created them…” Materially reduced theories of evolution notwithstanding, We are simply not at liberty to make up our own reality and it has nothing to do with who may or may not be offended. If you think there is something unreasonable about the four causes as they relate to this topic please state it plainly. The issue here has nothing whatsoever to do with personal offense. If we are to believe the Bible, then the transgender movement is an offense to God and reason. This is the only offense that concerns me. So you bring up a material reduced argument that is little better than a red herring and make an ad hominem attack by suggesting that I would be offended by an extra-terrestrial event. I surely understand where you are coming from, a very kind and empathetic place, but ultimately an unreasonable place even though you fallaciously invoked unreasonably. I state here and now plainly that your argument is pathological or at least materially reduced. I claim that mine is grounded in Biblical and philosophical truth. Why don’t we have an argument grounded in reason? Because ideology is so much easier, is it not?

    • james

      And I forgot to mention that in some prehistoric era the DNA from a dead end branch of the hominoid tree was grafted onto the successful shoot that became us. We all have some Neanderthal in us and it is speculated that this infusion is a prime factor in our success. And you would be offended if an inevitable event that wiped out most life on earth in the past(s) happened again with enough time to ponder all the “asserted” truths that would fall woefully short of their biblical revelations especially the end times. It has been good, as always, reasoning with you.