How in the World Did We Get Here?
In a remarkable new book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman poses an interesting question: How did our cultural consensus on sexuality/gender change so dramatically in such a short period of time? He observes that his grandfather, who died in 1997, would have been shocked at what is commonly accepted belief in our current moment. I suspect that my grandfather who died in the 1970’s would have been equally stunned.
Astonishing and Bizarre
Let’s be honest, you and I are equally astonished. The thought that anyone could take the statement, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” seriously has caught most of us by complete surprise. It is truly astonishing but quite real and becoming ever more bizarre.
Consider that a former Olympic decathlon champion, Chris, now Caitlin, Jenner, decided to transition from male to female and became a heroic figure to many. Then decided to build on that new-found popularity to run for governor of California. Then decided to take a stand against biological males competing against females and was immediately and viciously attacked by the same folks who had recently called him/her a hero. Do we live in an upside-down world or what? And as Carl Trueman asks, “How in the world did we get here in such a short period of time?”
Forgetting What Matters
Of course, as Trueman points out, our journey to our current cultural moment did not
occur as quickly as we would like to believe. Indeed, we have been walking down this path for quite some time. Much of the journey has, however, occurred at the edges of common experience hidden away in the extremes of the academic and philosophical world. That is no
longer the case. Ideas that most people once the case. Ideas that most people once considered utter nonsense have gained significant cultural support. Again, the question is how in the world has this happened?
The answer is really quite simple. People over time tend, unless reminded often, to forget what matters. It happened to the nation of Israel following the death of Joshua. Here is how the author of the Old Testament book of Judges describes it.
“And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for Israel. And”, as a consequence, “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned (what a truly sad word) the Lord, the God of their fathers who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the people who were around them, and bowed down to them.”
Now here is the really painful part. “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. . . And they were in terrible distress.” Wow! Sound familiar. And sadly, it gets even worse.
As the accounts recorded in the book of Judges, or as I might title it, the book of Judgments, reach their conclusion we read these sad words, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in their own eyes.” Once the people of God abandoned their Lord that was their only option.
A Contentious Battle
As Trueman observes, that is an exact parallel to our modern times. Once a people abandon a fixed notion of what is true, and good, and beautiful, we are left with nothing but a noisy, contentious battle between competing ideas typically won by those willing to utilize the most brutal, bruising tactics. It is a world that the well- known 17th century political theorist, Thomas Hobbes, once described as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Yet again the question must be asked, “How did this happen?” How did we get from a time and place just sixty years ago in which every school day in this country opened with prayer, bible reading, and the Pledge of Allegiance to our current reality: God has been banished from every conversation and the Pledge has been replaced with the falsehoods and distortions of the 1619 Project.
The answer is really quite simple. Whoever controls the content of the classroom will control the minds of the masses. Without a strong counter-narrative, we and our children will find ourselves pulled along by powerful cultural currents that shape what we believe about who we are, whose we are, and how we should live. Those currents are remarkably strong, difficult to resist, and tend to fully envelop us in ways we often fail to recognize.
The Very Air We Breathe
As Dr. Steven Garber observes,"Our current social condition – the maelstrom of modernity – makes it incredibly difficult for Christian students to form a life that integrally connects their personal and public worlds. Characteristically, it isn’t that they choose to disconnect: rather it is in the very air they breathe as they grow up in America." And it isn’t only our children and young people that breathe that air, it is their parents as well; it is you and me.
We do have a choice, however. We can either continue to be “like the chaff that the wind drives away” or we can “delight in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditate day and night.” Then, and only then, will we be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season” and then in our efforts to live for our Lord we will, as the Psalmist says, “prosper in all that we do.”
Here are some suggestions about how best to ensure that our lives are rooted in healthy soil fed by the living water that only comes from our Lord.
Read widely, wisely, and well. The list of books is nearly endless, here are but a few:
Thinking and Acting Like a Christian, D. Bruce Lockerbie, Multnomah Press.
Love the Lord With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, J.P. Moreland, NavPress.
The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion, Rodney Stark, Harper One.
Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from It’s Cultural Captivity, Nancy Pearcey, Crossway.
The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer, IVP
Christian Counter Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott, IVP
Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, Alsia Childers, Tyndale (begin with this).
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller, Zondervan.
A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, John Stonestreet, David C. Cook.
Rethinking Discipleship: Why Christian Schooling Matters, Alan Pue, Purposeful Design Publishing.
Don’t just read – ponder, act, and then ask this question: How can I help those in my world begin to grasp and live out the truths that I have been exploring as I read? This is important for a simple reason: The average evangelical spends 47 hours a year in church. Compare that to the amount of time people spend with media. It isn’t even a close. We need to become more purposeful in helping ourselves and others counter the impact of our culture. That, by the way, is why Christian schooling done right is so important.
Take seriously this admonition found in the New Testament book of James, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach.” And remember this: God speaks most clearly to us in His Word. Therefore, always be a student of the Scriptures.
Finally, never forget that Satan is the Father of Lies. Falsehood masquerading as truth is his stock in trade. Only by “renewing your mind” will you or I be able to recognize the lies, then reveal and repel those deceptions.
We live in an ever-darkening world but here is the good news: In darkness the light of God’s word shines ever more brightly. So, choose to “be” that light.