Dear Church Family,
Many Christians know and refer to the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians as “the love chapter.” Because of its description of the epitome of love, 1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings. As Paul begins to summarize his thoughts, near the end of that chapter, he speaks of how the Christian longs to see His Savior in glory and to be made perfect: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). As he makes this point, he provides an illustration from everyday life:
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Call me a cynic or a pessimist, but I think this illustration is probably lost on most people today. You see, in this illustration, Paul is making a value judgment which he assumes to be universal (perhaps it was at the time): mature character is a virtue; childishness is a vice. Speaking, thinking, and reasoning as an adult is to be preferred to speaking, thinking, and reasoning as a child.
So why do I think that Paul’s illustration would probably be lost on most people today? Because, according to the ethos of our modern popular culture, there is no objective standard of what it means to be human as defined by our Creator (I’ve previously written about the givenness of what it means to be human, as well as the loss of the idea of human nature).
In my own estimation, this denial of inherent creational standards is manifested today in the intersection of a youth-centric culture and transgenderism (or anti-genderism).
A Youth-Centric Culture
Most of the popular culture that we consume encourages childish speaking, thinking, and reasoning. Ken Myers writes that in popular culture,
Youth itself is transformed from a matter of age into an ambiguous matter of attitude, defined by its rejection of boredom and its celebration of movement, change, energy: that is, fun. And this celebration is lived out in and inscribed upon the body in dance, sex, drugs, fashion, style and even the music itself. By contrast, in the view of biblical personhood, adulthood is a desirable telos. Paul regularly talks about perfection and completeness and maturity as aims for disciples. (Ken Myers, “Is Popular Culture Either?”)
Where once Paul could argue based upon the assumption that “adulthood is a desirable telos,” modern popular culture targets the youth, but seeks to increase its market-share by making adults nostalgic for the childishness of the youth culture.
Though anecdotal evidence, I couldn’t help but notice this extoling – and catering to – the youth culture in A-ha’s recent acoustic recording of “Take on Me.” In the video, the members of A-ha (now in their late fifties) sing a haunting version of their 1985 hit while middle-aged women weep and swoon, reliving the days of their romanticized youth. In our age of distraction, nostalgic sentimentality (which used to be something that one tried to avoid) has displaced wrestling with reality and the pursuit of man’s chief end (WSC 1).
Transgenderism (or Anti-Genderism)
In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America removed the restrictions that denied membership to youth based upon “sexual orientation.” Two years later, it lifted the ban on gay leaders. Earlier this year, it opened enrollment to “transgender boys.” In the latest casting off of any sort of recognition of the created order, last week the “Boy” Scouts opened its membership to girls, removing any notion of divinely-ordered gender differences.
This acceptance of “anti-genderism” is ubiquitous in popular culture. One can’t watch a television show today without the obligatory homosexual or “gender-neutral” character popping up. Again, as Ken Myers writes:
[The] invitation to moral autonomy is like a powerful bribe offered by popular culture. And what does it have to lose? Absolutely nothing. In fact, if you accept the bribe, you’ll give them money, either by buying their product or by watching their program. (Ken Myers, All God’s Children in Blue Suede Shoes, 69)
Modern individualism encourages each person to define their own social and aesthetic reality “apart from considerations about how the creation is ordered” (All God’s Children in Blue Suede Shoes, 85). In keeping with the desire to speak, think, and reason like a child, popular culture teaches us to not submit to the Creator who has made this world (and us) a certain way. Instead, we are encouraged to, like a spoiled child, throw a temper-tantrum and try to force the world to conform to our own individual whims.
In our youth-centric and anti-genderism culture, Christians must look to God’s two books of revelation (Scripture and nature (or the created-order)) as anchors of truth.
Scripture calls us to “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Nature teaches us that we are to put away childish things (speaking, thinking, and reasoning like a child), and maturation and wisdom are virtues to be desired.
Scripture tells us that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Nature teaches us that there are inherent and complementary differences between men and women, that these differences are a given, and that they are to be celebrated.
So, as Christians, we recognize that God speaks to us about these things in the two books of Scripture and nature. And, as these two books are in agreement. God’s revelation gives us anchors to cling to amidst the ever-changing winds of popular culture. As Christians, it behooves us, therefore, to give priority (in our submission and our time) to God’s truth, revealed in His two books, and not to the wisdom of the world.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch