The recent refusal of now-confirmed Supreme Court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to answer the question, “what is a woman?” is just one symptom that is part of a much larger disease infecting our society. In the same way, I tell men who struggle with a porn addiction that porn isn’t their true problem, the what is a woman/transgender debate is just one small manifestation of a bigger thing.
At its root, the foundational ailment producing our multiple higher-level maladies is a rejection of God and His true reality for one that is a self-created and false actuality.
The willful king of the bedroom
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor describes our current situation as a battle between the mimesis and poiesis worldviews. The first sees reality as having a purposeful order and design (teleology), which provides meaning and thus sees humans as needing to discover that meaning and conform to it. The second sees the world as nothing more than undirected raw material out of which stabs at transient meaning are attempted by the individual.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which worldview has society in its grip at the moment. The signs are unmistakable and include everything from the what-is-a-woman dispute to cancel culture.
For example, many pull their hair out as they see cancel culture claim victim after victim and wonder how it came to be so dominant in society. Tracing its birth up to our current end result isn’t all that difficult.
Dismissing God and His design for humanity, millennials and others like them built their own poiesis realities from the comfort of their childhood bedroom. Using all their social media apps, they were able to remove any offending opinion with a click, block texts and news sources that challenge their position, instantly unfriend people, and build a “safe space” that professor Carl Trueman says, “allows the individual simply to be himself, unhindered by outward pressure to conform to any greater reality…the individual is king. He can be whoever he wants to be.”
Consequently, the willful king (cf. Dan. 11:36) of the bedroom had no problem crying out, “Off with their heads!” to silence anyone they didn’t like. The problem is, once they left their bedrooms, they naturally wanted to continue their years-ingrained private filtering process and impose it publicly with like-minded mobs – First Amendment, free speech, and rights of other people be damned.
And, voilà, cancel culture.
The poiesis worldview and privatized reality-creating that birthed cancel culture can also be blamed for the identity debates we see. It used to be firmly understood that a person could privately pretend to be whatever they wanted to be, however, the rest of us were under no obligation to publicly join them.
The devil’s original question
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn identified the cause of society’s primary disease years ago in his speech that many called "The Great Forgetting": “Today’s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: “This is the Apocalypse!” Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it… Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
For those embracing the poiesis worldview, the practical process of forgetting God involves posing the devil’s original question, “has God said?”, responding with a definitive no, and proceeding to substitute their own subjective reality in place of God’s objective truth.
Has God really made humans only “male and female” (Gen. 1:27)? They respond no, with the end result being increasingly bizarre identities being proclaimed such as people who now identify as animals like a hippopotamus.
Has God said, “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24)? They say no, and so we see the strangest of unions being formed like that of an Australian woman who married a bridge.
Has God said that “because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11)? They answer no, and so you end up with, as Ann Coulter so well describes, “city after city being turned into feces-smeared murdertopias that make Charles Bronson’s Death Wish look like The Sound of Music.”
Puritan John Owen calls the process, “a deifying of our own imaginations”.
Along a similar line, Charles Taylor dubs thinking like the above, the social imaginary, which he defines as taking various practices and personal intuitions and making them not only possible but going so far as to bestow upon them a sense of societal legitimacy through political strong-arming.
Of course, anyone disagreeing with the subjective realities composed in the social imaginary is immediately and publicly attacked in ad hominem fashion with all the latest -phobia labels. The sad fact is, the torches and pitchforks crowd carrying out the assaults rarely ever consider the truth that such dissenters are not afraid of those with whom they disagree, but rather they are afraid for them.
So, take your pick of whatever debate is currently raging (e.g., what is a woman?) or the proclamations of the oddest identities. You can trace them all back to the rejection of God and His objective reality for a subjective one where people take His place, become self-creators, and substitute their social imaginary for His actual reality.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.