The 18th century Anglican minister, Richard Cecil once wrote, “Self-will is so ardent and active that it will break a world to pieces to make a stool to sit on.” No doubt such a wry observation by Cecil was informed by the conspicuous facts of his day, and yet it is almost as if he looked forward in time to our present-day predicament. Indeed we live in a dangerous age ruled by the zealous nature of the SELF where it demands that the world conform to its every whim or else be smashed to bits.
This time, however, it is not the world at risk, but more precisely, the REALITY of the world which has been targeted for destruction by the willful rebels of our day. As Cecil so superbly couched it, these stiff-necked people want to use the world to build a “stool to sit on,” and so the ageless scheme to enthrone themselves above God is still playing out, if not more so. Even now, the self-centered masses are ardently seeking to dismantle God’s established reality and then construct from the rubble a brand-new “reality” where the desires of their flesh can enjoy the most comfortable seat.
Certainly this is the shocking scenario lately set before our eyes. The current agenda of our wayward culture appears hellbent on eliminating any notion of an independent reality outside of mankind’s will. Witness, for example, the utter insanity that is currently taking place to deny one of the most simple facts of our world: the biological distinction of two human genders. How could we have guessed that this clear-cut truth would soon fall victim to a rampant intellectual dishonesty devised purely to legitimize sexual degradation? Yet this is what is being done when they insist that gender is “fluid” and no longer a scientific and moral absolute established by God.
Without batting an eye, the self-appointed authoritarians of our culture are now telling us that men can have babies, breastfeed, use the women’s showers, and justly compete in female sports. Typical of this absurd thinking, The Daily Beast published a dead-serious article entitled, “Yes, Men Can Have Periods and We Need to Talk About Them.” Sadly, this kind of nonsensical rhetoric will never properly address the affliction of gender dysphoria nor magically change the reality that men do not have the biological ability to menstruate. Nevertheless, this is the sort of befuddled reasoning that takes place when our cultural overlords suppress God’s truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and pronounce that one’s gender is merely a matter of personal preference, like choosing among 31 flavors of ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.
OUR DIMINISHING RANGE OF THOUGHT
Over a century ago, we still had a reasonable grasp on the reality of gender. But then somewhere along the way, the ruling elite in academia began to quietly retool the lexicons of our culture in order to manipulate our view of the world. According to Webster’s dictionary published in 1913, the word “gender” was simply defined as a term for “a sex, male or female.” Yet today the newest Merriam-Webster dictionary has altered its definition to mean, “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.” Even the most casual observer can see the subtle switch from basic biology to the shifting sands of personal feelings and societal attitudes to define a scientific word.
Such obvious manipulation of a word’s definition is reminiscent of the deteriorating language called Newspeak, as found in the George Orwell novel, 1984. Designed to “diminish the range of thought” among the citizenry, Newspeak was the “approved language” of the fictional country of Oceania that satirized the evils of totalitarianism; and yet Orwell was primarily using it as a literary device to alert us to our fate if we ever allowed the government to shape our thoughts by tightly controlling every word of our language. “If thought corrupts language,” Orwell once warned, “then language can also corrupt thought.”
As if wanting to prove Orwell correct, CNN took the gender controversy a step further and boldly declared in a recent article that there is “no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.” This shocking take was widely panned and the article subsequently rewritten, but CNN’s “clarification” merely reworded their original premise. “It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth,” they proclaimed in their follow-up, “and for some people, the sex listed on their original birth certificate is a misleading way of describing the body they have.” Hence, according to this media giant, the timeless truth of gender (or biological sex) is no longer fixed, but is changeable depending upon the point of view of the self-willed person.
Perhaps this kind of blather from the new propagandists of our time would be much ado about nothing if those of us still grounded in reality could scoff at such foolishness and go about our business, but this is no longer an option in this age of extreme political correctness. The free marketplace of ideas, it seems, is no longer free. Now ruled by so-called “fact checkers” and rabid social activists, many of our public institutions are dedicated to not only promoting the current narrative of gender fluidity, but are also shielding it from the slightest criticism. In fact, the “powers-that-be” in government and Big Tech are demanding that everyone fully accept this type of radical ideology or be “canceled,” silenced, or punished by law.
Twitter, for example, suspended the account of a prominent Spanish politician for simply tweeting, “A man cannot get pregnant“ because he “does not have a uterus or ovaries”—which Twitter quickly labeled “hate speech.” Then, in Canada, a father was put in jail because he refused an order by the court to address his 16 year old daughter by her preferred pronouns of “he, him, or his” as she began transitioning to a male “identity.” And more recently, a Colorado court basically ruled that Jack Phillips, a professing Christian who owns a bakery, is required by law to create cakes celebrating sex reassignment even though it conflicts with his religious beliefs.
So what is going on here? Why is our elementary concept of reality under such widespread attack? And how did this forced compliance to the whims of irrational, self-willed people seem to happen so quickly?
OUR HISTORIC VIEW OF DIVINE REALITY
It wasn’t that long ago that the world appeared more inclined towards God’s will and was confidently grounded in the reality of His awe-inspiring creation. Humankind found satisfaction in their given environment because they saw how God’s glory was revealed in their continued observation of, and interaction with, the natural world. Going into the 20th century, we still marveled at the obvious intelligent design that miraculously brought forth life, sustenance, and sacred purpose in this place we call Earth. And with the rapid development of our science and technology, we had learned much about the mysterious workings of this world and gained an immense respect for the intricate mechanisms that drive God’s amazing handiwork.
Even the Bible’s inspired record had, up to that time, maintained an honorable position among many famous scholars throughout history as an insightful resource in which to better understand the truth of God’s world. Scientists like Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur found much wisdom in the revelation of Scripture concerning man’s distinct place in the created order as creatures formed from the dust and made in the likeness of God. More recently, Dr. Raymond Damadian, the pioneering developer of MRI scanning technology, insisted that the Bible is vitally important not only to scientific discovery, but to the welfare and advancement of society. “The highest purpose a man can find for his life,” he said in 1994, “is to serve the will of God.”
Like the psalmist of Scripture, these great Christian intellects asked, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; What is man that You think of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). Indeed, the prevailing historic view for many centuries was one which fully embraced the abiding reality created by God so that humans could be fruitful and have a respectful dominion over the earth as stewards of His creation (Genesis 1:26, 28).
As explained by Mark T. Mitchell, a dean at Patrick Henry College: “Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, along with Christian thinkers who came later, held that the cosmos was an intelligibly configured reality and that human beings could flourish only if their lives conformed to that reality. To act justly was to act in a way that corresponded to a reality ‘outside’ of the self, a reality that existed prior to human will. The intellect and the will, therefore, were subordinate to (or obliged by) a divine reality that humans did not create.”
OUR DENIAL OF THE DIVINE REALITY
Nowadays, however, our subordination to this “divine reality” has all but disappeared. We as a 21st century people no longer seem content to behold God’s great work and feel blessed to live in it. After only a few decades of strange new philosophies invading our human institutions and persuading the masses to constantly question our timeless standards of truth, we suddenly find that our society is unable to discern the difference between God’s reality and our delusional fictions. The creeping blight of postmodern ideologies, like existentialism and deconstructionism, along with the elevation of the human imagination above the truth of God, has led us to gradually forsake reality and instead seek after soothing, self-fulfilling fantasies at odds with His will.
Some of this self-indulgence has to do with the growing infantilization of our Western culture. It has been aptly described by one sociologist as the “Disneyfication” of America, where our society has created a cartoonish reality where adults are more than eager to act like little children indulging in immature, imaginative playtime. Why else would advertisers pitch their adult products with cartoon bears and geckos, or Las Vegas transform their casinos into circuses, the Old West, or other childhood fantasy lands? In the past, such pervasive childishness was always understood as a severe impediment to one’s growth into moral accountability and godly wisdom, but these days many adults are no longer willing (or even expected) to seriously engage with the real world by “setting aside the ways of a child” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Instead, many adults regularly “pretend” to be a virtual character from their favorite digital game, fantasy book, or sci-fi movie; while others actually “identify” in their daily life as modern-day vampires, Jedi masters, “furries,” or hobbits. At the forefront of this phenomenon are grown men playing dress-up: drag queens, who inexplicably have been charged with educating our children by appearing at various children’s events for the purpose of “capturing the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and giving kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”
Adult males wearing mommy’s makeup may seem like kid’s play to some, but not when it is driven by an underlying purpose to engage and indoctrinate our children into their highly-sexualized lifestyle. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to know that planting sexual chaos into a child’s heart is an act of sheer evil. When such behavior leads innocent children into darkness, it is better for that perpetrator to be tossed into the depth of the sea than to face the judgment of God (Matthew 18:6-7).
THE RISE OF THE ALMIGHTY SELF
So why are so many people forsaking God’s reality to act like spoiled children playing make-believe? It all hinges, according to the revelation of Scripture, upon the petulant persistence of the SELF, which Stephen Charnock long ago called “the great antichrist and anti-God in the world that sets itself up above all else.” To the world, perhaps, this intense focus on one’s evolving self-actualization is considered healthy and wise, and yet the Bible tells us that “selfish ambition” is a “wisdom” detached from God and is therefore “earthly, sensual, and demonic.” Hence, we are now witnessing the resulting moral chaos in our society that this self-centered thinking causes, thus confirming James’ inspired assertion that such a fleshly endeavor will always lead to “confusion and every vile practice” (James 3:15-16).
Indeed, when contemplating our society’s widening break from God’s reality, Mark T. Mitchell boils it down to this one fundamental issue: “The soul, oriented to God, (has been) replaced by the self, oriented merely to self-fulfillment – thus paving the way for the triumph of the therapeutic, which validates and energizes our current obsession with personal identity.” Does this description not perfectly capture the godless cultural mechanisms fixated on deconstructing gender into a subjective expression of self?
With great perception, Mitchell rightly argues that it is the philosophical removal of God from our society which has caused this dangerous shift in the perception of reality for the sake of self-fulfillment. “Once God is jettisoned,” he writes, “the very notion of truth must be put to question.” He points to Friedrich Nietzsche as the first philosopher to articulate what was already the growing sentiment of many people as early as the nineteenth century: “God is dead,” and therefore “submission to divine reality or to a transcendent moral standard is an unreasonable concession to an imaginary ‘reality’.” In other words, if you break free from the concept of God, then you can make your own “truth” in this world.
OUR VAIN ATTEMPTS TO BREAK FREE FROM GOD
The dire consequences of such vain thinking are obvious and frightening. According to philosophical theologian Brian Hebblethwaite, if this kind of Nietzschean atheism were to take root in a society and flourish, then “nothing remains the same.” Hebblethwaite further details the tragic results:
“Not only do traditional moral values crumble. Reality and truth, as well, are evaporated away. Not only God, but an independent, ordered external world, to say nothing of a given human nature, dissolve. In Nietzche’s own words, ‘truth is fiction’, and nothing remains but sheer Promethean self-assertion and will.”
So has this bold atheism finally reached the masses? Are we, as a collective society, already exhibiting a strong Promethean resolve against God and His truth? Perhaps we are closer than ever before. The new Gallup poll, recently published, indicates that religious membership in the U.S. has fallen to just 47% among those surveyed — representing less than half of the adult population for the first time since Gallup began asking the question more than 80 years ago. This, of course, is only one indicator of spiritual decline in our country, but it is a sobering statistic that could explain the increasing attempts by many to create an alternative perception of the world so they can break free from God.
Not surprisingly, the Bible warned us of times like these where the masses would lash out against the will of God and dare to create for themselves a new reality. “Why do the nations rage? Why do the people waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth rise up; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against His Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry. ‘And free ourselves from this slavery.'” (Psalm 2:1-4).
THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE OF OUR TIME
It appears that the self-willed rebels of our day are not only lashing out against God and the “slavery” of His reality, but are also raging against those believers who name the name of Christ (Matthew 10:22; 24:9). They abhor people grounded in God’s truth who dare to “speak integrity” (Amos 5:10) and hold firm to the righteous rule of God’s principles rather than by feelings or peer pressure. The simple presence of God’s people, in fact, pricks at them like a spiritual thorn to their troubled souls, and so they seek relief by trying to remove the offense once and for all. Even when they secure their so-called “freedom” to do as they please, it is telling that they are still not satisfied until they snuff out any hint of spiritual disagreement with God’s people or their guilty conscience.
Douglas Wilson calls this the “battle of our time.” It is a war, says Wilson, “between those who demand their right to be creators over and against those who seek to defend their right to be creatures….” He then boils the issue down to this biblical truth:
“Only Jehovah God is the creator and we are His creatures. It is He that has made us and not we ourselves (Psalm 100:3). As creatures we have boundaries and natures and have not been given the luxury of inventing ourselves or reinventing ourselves or of creating ourselves.”
The Bible would tell us that this spiritual battle has been around since Satan first tempted Eve to question God and His truth by convincing her to eat of the forbidden tree with the empty promise, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Paul reiterated this fact when he spoke of those who deliberately replace the truth of God with a reality of their own device. In his epistles, he spoke of such people who, “had bartered the reality of God for what is unreal” (Romans 1:25, WEY), and “turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:4). Surely, then, the idea of people being “wise in our own eyes” by defining reality outside of God’s will is not a new thing (Isaiah 5:21).
WORSHIPPING THE IDOL OF SELF
This current impulse of the self-willed to be “like God” boils down to the one sin that is at the core of every rebellious act of mankind throughout history: the idolatry of the SELF. By seeking to break free from God, the self-willed can then replace Him with their own “independent spirit,” which Richard Cecil called, “the very heart and root of sin.” Explained Cecil, “We erect the idol SELF; and not only wish others to worship, but worship it ourselves.” Paul articulated this sad truth when he pointed to the very thing which stirred the wrath of God against the unrighteous: “They exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
Even now, the consequences of this idolatry of SELF are evident in the current attempts by the shakers and movers of our culture to deny the most basic truths of this world that were established by God as indispensable guideposts for our purpose and well-being. The inspired writers of Scripture certainly saw the ramifications in their day when people refused to obey God and instead substituted reality with their own imaginations. Said God: “’Obey Me, and I will be your God, and you will be My people. You must walk in all the ways I have commanded you, so that it may go well with you.’ But the people hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:23-24).
THE TRAGEDY OF THE SELF-WILLED
Paul lays out the horrific consequences of such “backward” thinking: When God’s patience has run out, He will abandon them to corrupt themselves as they please, and allow their continued descent into utter wickedness as the first indication of His righteous judgment against them. (Romans 1:28-32). Sadly, many in our society have no idea what has already befallen them as they pitch headlong into the insanity of embracing lies to serve their godless ideology. Their madness, in fact, has proven the teachings of God’s word on this issue. Because these rebels have refused to love the truth and be saved, says the Bible, God has sent a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, in order that “all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
How tragic it is that so many people today whose inmost beings were carefully formed and knitted together in their mothers’ wombs by their Creator (Psalm 139:13) would choose to butcher or misuse their God-given bodies, positions, and purpose to defiantly live with no regard for God’s established order. Blinded by their “dishonorable passions,” they are unable to see the irony of celebrating their rebellion against God by standing upon their pride. Little do they realize that this is a prime example of the “pride of power” and the “boastful pride of life” condemned by God (Leviticus 26:19; 1 John 2:16) which will one day be their undoing. As we read in Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
GOD’S GRACIOUS MESSAGE TO THE SELF-WILLED
Amazingly, the proud and haughty have a path that veers from their impending destruction. God in His great love and benevolence has revealed to us in His Word how we may have life and that more abundantly (John 10:10). Simply put, the Bible is God’s instruction manual to humanity and the Gospel, more specifically, is the way of salvation. 1 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As such, His revelation as recorded in Scripture is the perfect lamp to our feet and the shining light to our path as we walk through this world He created for us (Psalm 119:105). If we abide in His Word, therefore, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free to live in harmony with God through Jesus Christ and the natural world He created for us (John 8:32).
Not surprisingly, this abundant life starts with a simple but transforming act of humility: denying SELF and submitting to the easy yoke of Jesus Christ, which is God’s will for His people. Indeed, believers in Jesus Christ are the true “trans” people of our day: “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17) who have been transformed by the renewing of their minds by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit to see their need for Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Christians, like the apostle Peter, know that only Jesus has the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68) which will faithfully guide them “so as to live the rest of their time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of self-willed men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2). The Gospel of Jesus Christ, you see, is “the whole message of this life” (Acts 5:20) that teaches us that we cannot live solely by the elemental needs of the flesh, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
THE GLORIOUS SUPREMACY OF GOD’S WILL
So what does the Bible tell us in these last days where so many people have become “lovers of self” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”? (2 Timothy 3:1-5). God’s Word plainly spells out how little our individual wills matter in shaping the reality in which we exist. It tells us that God’s will is supreme because He is the sole Creator of this world: “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:1-5).
More specifically, God’s will is supreme because He is also the Sustainer of every single man and woman who ever existed in creation: “Behold,” says the psalmist to the LORD, “you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Psalm 39:5). As one Christian writer put it, “Fish are sustained by water, trees by the soil; but if you take the fish out of water, or pull the tree from the soil, they will die. So it is with man. Take men or woman away from the kind providence of their Sustainer, and they will die.” Indeed Jesus Christ, being the express image of the invisible God, sustains, feeds, preserves, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:3).
ACKNOWLEDGING REALITY AS THE CREATION OF GOD
God’s reality, therefore, is essential to our lives. It firmly establishes His truth and puts an end to the moral chaos and confusion created by our culture’s agenda to redefine gender and redraw the fixed boundaries of human sexuality. His created reality, in fact, is nothing less than His truth. His reality is His truth. As Steve Lawson explains it:
“Truth does not come from this world. It does not arise from society and culture. Rather, truth comes down from above. It comes from God, who is truth and who reveals His truth to us. Truth is the self-disclosure of God’s own being and God’s own nature. God is the author of all truth because God is the truth. All things are measured by God Himself—by Himself—to determine what is in conformity with truth and what is non-truth. God is the final judge of all truth. Romans 3:4 says, ‘Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.’”
So let’s get real for a change. The Bible has been given to us by God to guide us through this world He created. Any controversy about the reality of gender or our established sexual purpose was nipped in the bud a long, long time ago. Right from the beginning in Genesis 1:27 we read: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And in case anybody thought this was a trivial point and dismissed it as myth, Jesus Christ reiterated this truth and made it quite clear: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5).
Any controversy about these matters, therefore, ends when God speaks. God is not like us, that He should lie or change His mind (Numbers 23:19). His word is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89), and the thoughts of His heart are revealed from generation to generation for our benefit (Psalm 33:11). He graciously bestows His truth to us so we will not lean on our own understanding and perish in our sin and ignorance. Reality is the creation of God, and as such, only He is able to show us our happy purpose in it and make straight our path through this life. This He can do, if only we would trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The self-willed rebels can rage all they want against God and attempt to break the world apart in a mad attempt to suit their fancy, but they will never find true satisfaction in this life without seeking His will and His will alone. As the Lord proclaimed in Jeremiah 17:5, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Anyone who tries to undermine God’s divine reality by making others question it or attempts to alter it as a matter of individual will is doing the exact same work as Satan, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies who sows rebellion, confusion, and despair in this world (John 8:44). Why would anyone emulate such a despicable liar who brings nothing but anger, heartache, and hopelessness to the spiritually-wounded people of our day?
Instead, let us deny self and follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who set the ultimate example for us when He humbly cried out to God the Father in the dark garden of Gethsemane. Mere hours before He obediently laid down His life as a sacrifice to bring redemption to sinners who seek after God with a broken and contrite heart, He boldly prayed: “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). And with this one selfless act of dying on a bloody cross in an earth-shattering moment in history, the world got very real indeed.