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The War on Reality

By Dave Doveton
May 2, 2024

"You shall not bear false witness..." Exodus 20:16

The contemporary phenomenon of gender ideologies which we see promoted by certain western ruling elites has reached a stage where a particular group who self-identify as transgender have undergone hormone and psychological regimens and even surgery to alter their bodies. This amounts to a reaction to embodied reality that can only be described as a rebellion, a war on reality itself. If my internal feelings about who I am clash with outer reality, then reality is 'wrong'. Expressive individualism has asserted its autonomous right to defy reality.

In Romans chapter 1 Paul outlines a process whereby a culture descends into chaos by rebelling against the Creator God. He says that they in unrighteousness suppress the truth. He uses the Greek aletheia. This word can be taken to mean 'the truth about God' as he uses the word in an opposing sense of the choice of 'a lie'. That is, they choose falsehood instead of the truth. Moreover, the word aletheia is also used to convey the idea of reality in contrast to superficiality or falsehood -- as in "the only true God" (John 17:3 and 1 Thess 1:9), and Jesus' description of himself as the 'true' or real bread in John 6:32.

A consequence of this choice, Paul observes, is a 'darkening of their hearts' and 'futility in their thinking'. Idolatry stands in opposition to the truth; idolatry deceives and deludes those who practise it. Those who suppress the truth are both dishonouring the real God, but also ultimate reality. They suppress the truth about God, but also attempt to suppress reality.

Several key aspects of reality they reject or suppress:
Rejection of The Father:

In Sigmund Freud's theory of personality development, there are two principles[i] that he describes in his model of the psyche which are helpful to our understanding of human personality: a) the pleasure principle or ID which is a drive to satisfy urges and b) the reality principle or superego which acts as an authority in checking desires and impulses against reality.

Fathers play a strong role in the development of the reality principle -- in that they are the figures of authority and responsibility to whom we give account. They together with schoolteachers are the ones who give direction, injunctions, and prohibitions, they give us our value system, and call us back to reality.

Biblically and theologically God the Father, Creator of the universe is ultimate reality as he gives meaning to everything. He is the ultimate authority, and to him all must give account. The contemporary attack on fatherhood, paternal attributes, and masculinity (labelling it as 'toxic') can therefore be plainly seen as a rebellion against reality. True fatherhood exposes the lie of gender ideologies.

This rebellion is at the heart of a worldview which is becoming progressively more nihilistic in nature. Helmut Thielicke, in his analysis of the decadence that swept German culture of the 1930's and 40's expresses this very well, "As soon as the world loses the Father of the world, as soon as it is deprived of God, it must necessarily be stripped of the invisible. And among invisibles, naturally, are norms such as justice and also the ethical laws of value that determine good and evil.[ii]"

The German theologian pointed to two further components of a reality denying nihilistic worldview[iii] which we now find in contemporary culture -- they were: the rejection of purpose and meaning for human beings and the rejection of limits or boundaries.

Rejection of meaning and purpose:

This a major characteristic of nihilism. If human beings have no God ordained purpose, if life has no meaning except to pursue pleasures, desires, and material wealth, it is merely materialistic and mechanistic. If so, it has no transcendent purpose or value. This lays the foundation for abortion, euthanasia of the weak, the elderly and those with mental health challenges such as severe depression.

Rejection of limits or boundaries:

The deconstruction of human identity by gender ideologies is at heart a rejection of creational limits placed on us as either male or female. Thus, we embrace transgenderism, and quite possibly eventually, sexual aberrations such as paedophilia and zoophilia. Ultimately, transhumanism is the next state to be attained -- the fusing of human and machine. The deconstruction of human identity that occurs when we reject limits or boundaries must also lead to the deconstruction of relationships which order our society -- marriage and the biological family. It is logical that the boundary between private and public behaviour may also be transgressed in some ways -- including people indulging in public sexual activity.

Euthanasia can also be seen as a logical outcome of such a rejection of limits, as taking control of one's death is an attempt to manipulate bodily boundaries.

Just as binary sexual distinctions are part of God's created order, national boundaries demarcate sovereign nations, part of the global ordering of society. The Old Testament affirms distinct nations to be part of his created order and as Genesis 10:5 shows, with the ultimate purpose of blessing humanity. The prohibition against moving boundary markers in Deuteronomy 19:14 emphasises respect for property rights and by implication all boundaries and borders. Invasion and the transgression of boundaries is thus seen as offensive to the Lord who expects the proper stewardship of the land. Here Thielicke uses the metaphor of national identity to illustrate the interrelationship of limits -- human and national/geographic:

"Only as we see the "limits of humanity" (Goethe) do we see what man is, that is, not what this or that man is, but man as such. Anyone who has ever crossed a geographical boundary or the border of his own country knows what I mean. He knows that here for the first time he begins to experience fully the real nature of his own country, because he begins to see it in contrast with another; that only here is he raised to a deepened self-consciousness as a representative of his homeland because this consciousness is then related to the whole."[iv]

Antisemitism and hatred of Israel

What could the rise of a virulent antisemitism currently seen in the UK and USA have to do with nihilistic tendencies that we have described? One may as well ask the question why German society was so easily led into discrimination and hatred of the Jewish race. I suggest it is an inevitable part of this phenomenon. Again, it has to do with the breaking of boundaries and limits. Boundaries make distinctions; and distinctions are a scandal to nihilism. Israel, the ethnic nation, which in pre-war times was without a homeland, still existed as a scattered yet distinct people in many nations, including Germany. Although not all Jews were religiously observant, they were culturally distinct. This is the Biblical reality -- the Jews were and are called to be God's elect in the OT and still have a divine calling and purpose (Romans Chapter 11).

In addition, the people of Israel were to be evidence of both the existence of the real God as a sign of his presence in, and his purpose for, the world. If cultures aimed at the suppression of the truth about God, the nature of reality and his purposes, they would naturally want to deny the reality of his distinct nation/people. In the case of Nazism, the outcome of this was the attempted extermination of the Jewish race -- genocide. This genocidal impulse is resurfacing in a terrifying way and spreading at a frightening rate in our time.

Even as we witness irrational antagonism toward Jewish people, we should recognise that we the people of the New Covenant are also called as the Israelites were, to be a distinct people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. A logical progression, therefore, would be a wave of anti-Christian sentiment towards orthodox Bible-believing Christians who stand for the truth. Remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his compatriots.

As we observe, the result of these tendencies to ignore reality by abandoning boundaries and limits is increasing disorder in society locally as well as globally. Ayn Rand describes this choice that each individual has -- either to turn away or to suppress the truth about reality,

"(each) has the power to suspend, evade, corrupt or subvert his perception of reality, but not the power to escape the existential and psychological disasters that follow."[v]

Or, summarised as the pithy observation, "we can deny reality, be we cannot deny the consequences of denying reality."

These consequences are now presenting themselves. Already researchers are showing how young people are not being helped by gender ideologies but rather their mental problems are exacerbated[vi]. German political elites are attempting to redefine even the most basic God ordained structure -- the family[vii]. Powerful international bodies such as the United Nations are attempting to deny the reality and goodness of the natural family for the foundational health and well-being of society.[viii]

As believers, we know that these denials of reality will not, as their proponents claim, lead to a better, more compassionate society but to dystopia. Reality, if ignored, always comes back to bite us.

False language as weapon

Finally, anti-reality ideologies promote wholesale transgression of the commandment, "You shall not bear false witness". Thus, terms used in this ideology such as "non-binary", "trans woman" are terms which do not align with reality. That is, they are not true but false and thus ultimately evil and have destructive effects on society.

False language is not only deceptive, but also a weapon in this war against reality. Dr Jeffery Ventrella observes,"Many of the clashes with paganism occur over language, as language crafts moral imagination and plausibility structures. Vocabulary impacts thinking and thinking impacts action. And abusing language precipitates the abuse of power. Accordingly, we should expect language to be weaponized as a means for advancing paganism...."[ix]

Conclusion: How must Christians react?

If this is indeed a conflict[x], our Lord has given us the appropriate resources and ways combating what is false and destructive in today's Western culture. I would like to suggest at least four: a renewed mind, living within God's ordained boundaries, speaking the truth in love, and ensuring there is adequate Christian education of our children at home and in Church.
1. If we look at 1 Peter 1:13 exhortation in contrast to a pagan worldview, Christians set our hope on God's grace by preparing our minds for action and having sober minds. That is, we are called to have a correct understanding of reality itself.
2. The writer of Ecclesiastes proclaims: "Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity". This wisdom teaching examines the folly of seeing life as meaningless and can be seen as a tract against nihilistic beliefs, even when there are no easy answers to the deep questions of life. The solution proposed is found at the end: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) I take this to mean that we are called to be a separate people and to show a different way of living according to God's law and in relationship with the Father. Through our lives, God's people illustrate how living in limits is liberating and is abundantly fulfilling in every way.
3. We are called to be people who speak the truth in love; we do not allow ourselves to be subsumed in a web of lies propagated by various gender ideologies. Speaking the truth in our contemporary situation has the power to undercut false ideologies and worldviews and reconstruct the moral imagination[xi]. Those who build systems and governments on falsehood always try to silence truth-tellers because they are afraid of their power[xii]. "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ..." (2 Corinthians 10:4,5)
4. Spiritual formation of our children through education and discipleship in the home and in church is essential -- both to equip them in facing the cultural challenges they face in the present but also preparing them for the future. (Titus 2:1-10, Ephesians 6:4)

Dave Doveton is the Senior Editor of this website


[i] In Freudian theory, the reality principle is a regulatory standard of the mind whereby the demands of reality are taken into account before gratifying drives. The reality principle develops as a modification of the wishful thinking and impulsivity associated with the pleasure principle. (Encyclopedia of Personality and individual differences). Retrieved at https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1421-1 on 24/04/2024.
[ii] Helmut Thielicke, "Nihilism, its Origin and Nature -- With a Christian Answer", Translated John W Doberstein, Harper and Brothers, NEW YORK, 196, P61.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid P62.
[v] Ann Rand, essay "The Metaphysical versus the Man-Made" in Philosophy: Who Needs It.
[vi] See this summary of the Cass Report, for example: https://christianconcern.com/comment/cass-review-why-are-children-uncomfortable-with-their-sex/
[vii] https://www.mercatornet.com/will_woke_german_bureaucrats_redefine_the_family_to_include_6_spouses
[viii] https://juicyecumenism.com/2024/04/16/gender-ideology-western-hemisphere/
[ix] https://truthxchange.com/resource-library/articles/lies-that-paralyze-weaponizing-pleasant-words/
[xi] See Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents.
[xii] When a brave dissident spoke against the communist colossus, it shook in fear; see https://europeanconservative.com/articles/essay/how-my-mother-scared-brezhnev/

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