Missing The Forest For The Trees
Updated: Feb 22, 2021
"...societies have categories for thinking about people and identity, and a real problem occurs when those categories are simply not adequate or appropriate. That is the question that the church needs to ask about sexual identity: Are the categories that society now prioritizes actually ones that are appropriate? If the post-Freud taxonomy represented by the acronym LGBTQ+ rests on a basic category mistake (that sex is identity), shoudn’t Christians engage in a thoroughgoing critique of such and refuse to define themselves within its framework? Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that conceding the categories leads to unfortunate confusion."--Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, p390-391
Here’s the thing: we tend to miss the forest for the trees. That is, in Christian circles, when it comes to the hot button topics of the day, like abortion, sexual ethics, etc, we fail to appreciate the true nature of these issues. Our assessment doesn’t get to the heart of it. One of the blind spots of many conservative Christians is that we’ve fought those battles on the moral level--for instance, we ask “is same sex marriage right or wrong?”--on the sexual behavior level, or on the public policy level. We go to the ramparts about bathroom policy, gender divisions in sports, preferred pronouns, what should be our approach to children who declare a trans identity, etc, but we miss what really is fundamentally at issue and therefore miss what generates the crazy when it comes to those things. Topics like that are incredibly important, but we fail to see they are downstream from more fundamental issues and questions. All the changes that stem from the sexual revolution are not just loosening traditional morality, changes is modesty, what sexual behaviors/desires are morally permissible or being more inclusive; its a whole worldview shift, just as momentous as the worldview shift from paganism to Christianity during the days of the Roman republic, maybe even more momentous.
It is a profound shift in metaphysics and anthropology, and to fail to see this and fight the ideological battle there is a failure of imagination, a failure to really perceive what’s going on. C.S Lewis’ Abolition of Man, as does Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, both do great jobs at getting to the heart of it: the fundamental divide is between a worldview that sees the world (including the human person, body and soul) as shot through with a divine and transcendant moral order, full of objective purpose that we discover, rather than give to it, or a worldview that sees the world as pure physical stuff, with no inherent purpose to it, and therefore we ascribe whatever subjective meaning we want to it. That’s pretty much it: the world is either ordered by a transcendent source, or it is not. Either human nature is given to us by God and therefore has natural limits inherent in it, or we can ascribe whatever meaning we want to human nature and mold it to our inner desires. Either we look upward to find truth and meaning we did not create, or we look inward, to our feelings/desires/mental states, and define “my truth” based on what we find within...and then authenticity means expressing “my truth” without hindrance. This is prior to any sort of sexual ethics. If an individual, a church, institution, culture, country, what have you, adopts the “expressive individualism” that I oulinted above and pointed to in the last series on student thinking, then pretty much everything else in the sexual revolution, from abortion to publically funded trans surgery, follows as a “human right.” Embrace that first move, and it’s check mate in 13.