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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Inconsistency of the Worldview of Personal Autonomy, Part 2

In the last post, we considered one of the inconsistencies of the worldview of personal autonomy, particularly as it applies to transgenderism.  This worldview is internally inconsistent, that is, it is self-contradictory. 
A second way in which this worldview is inconsistent is in its application to the world.  It cannot be consistently applied to life.  Let’s be reminded that the worldview of personal autonomy holds that man has the capacity to decide for himself and pursue a course of action in his life, often regardless of any particular moral content.  There is no higher authority than self.  Again, we can use transgenderism as an example.  Personal autonomy, as applied to this issue, would say that the individual has the right to determine his or her gender identity, and society must relate to that individual according to the individual’s choice.  The politically correct consensus is that this should not be questioned.
Yet, an interesting story developed in the news last week regarding the head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP.  This woman, Rachel Dolezal, assumed by those around her to be African American, admitted that she is biologically white, yet claims to “identify as black.”  She views herself as a black woman.  Were society to apply personal autonomy in this situation in the same way it does with gender, Dolezal would be affirmed in this identification and those questioning her identity would be shamed.  However, Dolezal has been widely vilified for her attempt to present herself as and live as a black woman.
Why the contradiction?  Why is personal autonomy championed in one sphere but not in another?  Because the worldview of personal autonomy does not cohere with reality.  The real world is one created by God and under His authority and subject to His laws, both moral and natural.  The worldview of personal autonomy denies this and as such is in conflict with reality.  For this reason, we should expect those who espouse personal autonomy, or any other errant worldview, to have trouble consistently applying it in God’s world.
The gender component of our identities is decided by God and is written into our genetic code.  At the cellular level, our gender is no more in question than our race or species.  This is reality.  The concept of transitioning from one gender to another should be as absurd to us as transitioning from one race to another or one species to another.  And while some, in the name of personal autonomy, have acclimated their minds to the validity of gender transition, they cannot overcome the absurdity of the concept of racial transition.  Because their worldview does not cohere with reality, they cannot consistently apply it to the world.  Thus, they champion gender transition while rejecting racial transition.
This discussion may seem extremely insensitive to those experiencing gender confusion.  To them, this is not merely a matter of logic and biology.  We need to recognize that their confusion is genuine.  We also need to realize that while the Christian worldview is portrayed as hateful and intolerant of those who identify themselves as transgender, the Christian worldview is actually the only worldview that can offer them true compassion and hope.  More on that next time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Inconsistency of the Worldview of Personal Autonomy

The most common worldview in our culture seems to be what Dr. Albert Mohler calls the worldview of personal autonomy.  This worldview holds that the individual has the capacity to decide for oneself and pursue a course of action in one's life, often regardless of any particular moral content.  We see this thinking in much of what our culture has come to value, from the “right to choose” (abortion) to the supposed inherent virtue of challenging authority.  The worldview of personal autonomy says that there is no higher authority than self.
One test we can use to evaluate the validity of a worldview is by its internal consistency, or coherence.  Does it contradict itself?  By this test, we would have to conclude that the worldview of personal autonomy is not valid.
Consider one major issue upon which our country is currently fixated: transgenderism.  The push for the acceptance of gender transition through hormone therapy and surgical procedure is founded upon the ideal of personal autonomy.  The individual has the right to determine his or her identity, and society must relate to that individual according to the individual’s choice.  If a biologically male individual identifies himself as a female, he has the right to change his biological features to match his “identity” and to live as a female.  Further, society is bound to recognize that choice.
This has led to a cacophony of news items related to the how society is struggling to workout exactly how to accommodate the transgender community.  The issue of public restrooms alone is baffling.  If people can truly determine their own gender, then they should also be able to choose which restrooms to use in public, some argue.  There have been obvious objections by others uncomfortable sharing a public restroom with someone of the opposite biological gender regardless of how that person “identifies.”  One middle ground solution has been to create certain gender-neutral public restrooms for the use of transgender persons.  However, this solution is viewed by some as discriminatory because it singles out transgender persons and fails to fully regard them as the gender with which they identify.
This one issue of public restrooms points to a huge problem with the ideal of personal autonomy: one person cannot exercise true personal autonomy without infringing upon the personal autonomy of others.  If we propose to accommodate transgender persons by allowing them to use whatever public restroom them prefer, is it possible to also accommodate those who by their personal autonomy choose to not share public restrooms with those of the opposite biological sex?  No, it is not.  The only way for one person to live with complete personal autonomy is to deny complete autonomy to everyone else.  Anyone who has ever lived under the same roof with even one other person knows this to be the case. 
Some might say, “well, we should modify the idea of personal autonomy by saying a person has the right to choose their own course of life as long as it does not infringe upon another’s right to choose.”  What a nice thought.  However, human history bears constant evidence that man is not capable of preferring others.  Every war in history, every divorce, every murder, every rape, every act of injustice has been the result of man choosing his own way to the detriment of others.  And the transgender issue demonstrates this, too.  The LGBT community is not seeking merely to have the right to choose for themselves.  They want all others to prefer them, accommodate them, and celebrate them.  They have no interest in not infringing “upon another’s right to choose.” 
Introducing the caveat – “as long as it does not infringe upon another’s right to choose” – guts the concept of personal autonomy to the point of rendering it virtually nonexistent.  Here’s why – exercising personal autonomy almost always affects others.  If I choose to sit in a particular seat in the movie theater, I decide for everyone else that they will not sit in that seat.  That is, they are not able to exercise true personal autonomy; they must choose some other seat.  The times in life when making a choice does not in some way affect others are so few and far between that the exception becomes the rule and the application of personal autonomy can only infrequently take place.
You see, you can believe in the ideal of personal autonomy but you cannot live that way because it is self-contradictory.  It is a logical impossibility for all people to have personal autonomy.  Only the Christian worldview is internally consistent.  We’ll think more about that next time. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Is homosexual marriage a hill to die on?

As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling on homosexual marriage, it is appropriate to consider whether or not this issue is a proverbial “hill to die on.”  Many Christians have more or less accepted the changing tides and are ready to recognize and even support the marriages of homosexuals.  What should our stance be on this issue? 
I believe that this issue is a hill to die on.  That is, it is my conviction that believers should not recognize homosexual marriages as marriages in any sense and we should not participate in such weddings.  Let me give a few reasons why and then I’ll share what this means for me personally.  First, this is a hill to die on because it is an attack on the authority and perspicuity of Scripture.  (That Scripture is perspicuous means that it is clear; it can be understood.)  There may be things in the Bible that are difficult to understand.  Certainly there are portions of Scripture about which good, conservative interpreters disagree.  But that such passages exist does not change the fact that the vast majority of Scripture is easily understood. 
One issue about which the Bible is perfectly clear is homosexuality.  The Biblical material is so expansive that I simply do not have time to discuss it all here.  (If you would like to view a thorough exploration of the Bible’s teaching on this issue, check out this book.)  But an honest look at the relevant passages will lead one to the inevitable conclusion that the homosexual lifestyle is diametrically opposed to all that Scripture teaches regarding God’s design for human sexuality and marriage.  Again, there are things difficult to understand in Scripture – God’s view of homosexuality is not one of them.
Some who advocate homosexual marriage claim that the Bible is unclear about such things.  Some go even further and claim that the Bible has nothing negative to say about homosexuality, but that it only condemns homosexual rape.  Such claims are so preposterous they cannot be chalked up to mere foolishness.  Rather, they are the result of intentional dishonesty.  They represent an attempt to deceive self and others.  If any of these claims are to be believed one must first concede that words no longer mean things.  To say that something so clearly condemned by Scripture is not sinful is to deny the perspicuity of Scripture, not just the perspicuity of the relevant passages, but that of the whole Bible.  If these clearest of passages cannot be understood, none can. 
This attack on the perspicuity of Scripture is a back-door attack on the authority of Scripture.  It is an attempt to remove the clear teaching of the Bible from the arena of authoritative revelation.  This whole movement is an attack on the Word and for that reason, for me it is a hill to die on.
Second, this is a hill to die on because it is an implicit attack on the gospel.  There are two different senses in which this is the case.  First, homosexual marriage perverts the gospel picture that is biblical marriage.  Biblical marriage between a man and a woman is not merely a human convention shown by the ages to be the most advantageous way to order society and propagate the species.  No, Eph 5:22-33 shows that it is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.  The husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church.  The wife submits to her husband as the church does to Christ.  Regarding this marriage union, Paul writes, This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph 5:32).  When a man and woman are joined in this way, they point all creation to the story of the gospel.  The gospel imprinted on the marriage between a man and woman is what makes that union sacred. 
A homosexual union is a perversion of that picture.  It superimposes an abominable act over the top of the gospel (Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11).   
Homosexual unions pose an attack on the gospel in another sense – they deny the need for a Savior.  How is this the case?  They deny that sin is sin.  To claim that homosexuality is not a wretched act of rebellion – like all other sin – is to say that God is wrong when He says that certain acts separate us from Him and lead to eternal condemnation.  Some might reply, “No, we’re not saying there is no sin at all; we’re saying that this one particular act is not sin.”  This brings us back around to the authority and perspicuity of Scripture.  The Bible is so clear that homosexuality is sinful that to claim it is not sinful is tantamount to denying that anything is sinful.  For the Bible is no clearer about murder or rape or stealing or lying than it is about homosexuality.
If it is legitimate to argue that the Bible is not clear on such things, then the Bible becomes irrelevant and the real absolute authority is the preferences and sensibilities of man.  If we may remove one sin from the realm of wickedness, we may remove any.  And if we may remove any sin, we may remove the need for a Savior altogether.
And here is the great tragedy.  When we categorize homosexuality as something other than sinful, we remove the hope of the gospel from those who struggle with it.  Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is the only hope for rescue from any sin, whether it be lust, discontent, unrighteous anger, or homosexuality.  Though we may try to silence our consciences, we still live in God’s world.  And in His world, the human conscience will rage against sin, not as we define it, but as God defines it.  When we say that one particular sin is not sin, we remove all hope from people that their consciences can find relief from that particular sin.  If sin is not sin, then Jesus is no Savior and there is no hope for anyone.
It is compassion for the homosexual that should drive us to be willing to die on this hill.  Their only hope for freedom is not in giving themselves over more fully to their sin, but in repenting of it and trusting in Jesus Christ alone to rescue them from it.  And He can and does rescue sinners from all manners of sin, including homosexuality: …for such were some of you… (1 Cor 6:9-11).
Here is what this means for me personally.  I’m speaking for myself, not the elders or the church.  Out of fidelity to the Scriptures and compassion for the lost, I will not participate in a homosexual wedding in any way.  I will not recognize a homosexual marriage in any way.  This does not mean and has never meant that I must shun homosexuals (1 Cor 5:9-10).  I shouldn’t shun any lost person, for I have the gospel that can make them free.  It simply means that I will in no way recognize the existence of such a thing as a homosexual marriage. 
If there comes a day when the government requires clergy to solemnize homosexual marriages under pain of fines, incarceration, or worse, I will have no choice but to obey God rather than men.  God defines marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman.  I am bound by His definition.  And because this issue goes to the heart of the gospel and the integrity of the Scriptures, it is a hill I am willing to die on.