Resources

  • Home
  • Resources
  • Articles
  • Director’s Dicta: “Lies that Live” – Part 2
  • Director’s Dicta: “Lies that Live” – Part 2

    Posted in ,
    By
    February 19, 2024

    The Sexual Super Self

    By Dr. Jeffery J Ventrella

    [Cue the orchestra]: What is a man? What has he got? If not himself, then he is naught. To say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows, I took the blows . . . and did it MY WAY!

    “That song is the National Anthem . . . of Hell” as philosopher Peter Kreeft quipped (paraphrased).[2]  We might call the worldview expressed therein “My Wayism.”  My Wayism encapsulates the idea that the Self is the measure of all things, the determiner of all action and attitude as well as the moral compass for both.  My Wayism is not confined to Las Vegas crooners, however.[3]  Consider Disney’s wildly famous animated hit, Frozen.  The heroine’s signature song expresses the same sentiment:

     

    “It’s time to see what I can do,
    To test the limits and break through,
    No right, no wrong, no rules for me.  I’m free – Let it go, let it go!”[4] 

     

    What’s going on here?  What links these lyrics?  The connection lies in what they assume about the human person – and what they assume is largely lies and half-truths stemming from the residual effects of the Truth being exchanged for the Lie.  This residue produces “lies that live.” In this instance, the lie consists of radical ethical autonomy, meaning that a person’s real essence supposedly consists in being “the master of my fate, . . . the captain of my soul.”[5]

    Because Christians are filled with the Spirit of Truth[6] and are called to speak the truth,[7] and not to be those “depraved in mind and deprived of truth,”[8] we are to be “sanctified in truth.”[9]  And, all this means unearthing and jettisoning those lies – contra to truth – that remain embedded in our “operating systems.”

     

    First, let’s acknowledge that My Way in fact asks the right question: “What is a man?”  The problem arises because when the Truth is exchanged for the Lie, we often answer good questions badly. Put differently, sin distorts several aspects of human anthropology impacting:  Man’s moral compass (My Wayism for example), Man’s composition (Gnostic dualism for example), Man’s community or social dimension (radical individualism for example), to name a few. [10]   People begin to live by these lies.  These lies need to be exposed, opposed, and foreclosed as much as feasible.  Let’s explore some of these implications. Let’s get to the gist.

    Man’s Moral Compass – The Rise of the Sexual Super Self

     

    Long before Elsa rejoiced in having “no right, no wrong, no rules,” so that she could “test the limits and break through,” King David understood the bent of fallen mankind:

     

    Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain?

    The kings of the earth set 

    themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,

    against the LORD and against his 

    Anointed, saying,

    “Let us burst their bonds apart

    and cast away their cords from us .”

     

    Many Christians acknowledge that sin remains.  Here, however, we see how remaining sin plays out:  mankind takes a stand against the LORD by rebelling against His righteous design and constraints, particularly, as Paul explains in Romans, limits and design regarding sexuality.  In other words, man himself becomes the arbiter of the standards he will follow or reject. Make no mistake.  This is a Gnostic move because Man looks inward toward himself for ethical direction.  He is a law breaker who becomes his own lawgiver, an outlaw who becomes his own sheriff by seeking a standard from within:

     

    The purposes [Telos] of things [now] arisewithin the person. The meanings of things are the same as his or her responses to them.

    As applied to sexual expression, this notion was explored by sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin. In 1956 he argued that the individual was coming to “regard himself as law giver and judge entitled to juggle all moral and legal standards” about sex as he pleases. [11]

     

    Put in theological categories, this is idolatry, as G.K. Beale notes:

     

    “[T]he fundamental idolatry described by the Bible lies also at the heart of the varied modern idolatries:  the idolatry of the selfThe self is set at the center of existence as a god:  ultimate significance is found in god-like individual autonomy, self-set goals and boundaries.”[12] 

     

    This idol of Self is expressed and dressed in many forms culturally.  Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson adorned this idol in flowery, yet absurd, prose:

     

    Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes.  I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”[13]

     

    In contrasting language, but affirming the same radical autonomy, the God-hating Ayn Rand stated it bluntly:

     

    Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice.  A code of values accepted by choice is the code of morality.[14]

     

    Goofy Hollywood personalities parrot this same monistic utopia too.  Here’s how actress Shirley MacLain put it:

     

    “Each soul is its own god.  You must never worship anyone or anything other than self.  For you are God.  To love self is to love God.”[15]

     

    Critically, this worship exchange, this sinful love of Self produces, as the Psalmist notes, ethical consequences, particularly as to sexuality.  Idol worship is never idle.

     

    Worship, Sexuality, and Christian Character

    Paul in Romans 1 makes plain that the theological and worshipexchanges he describes result in unrighteous ethical conduct, particularly regarding sexuality that “breaks the bonds” of the Creator.[16]  This leads to societal and cultural chaos,[17] as Jonathan Burnside explains:

     

    “[I]n biblical thought, sexual relationships can be used either to create community or to destroy community.   . . . Sexual order helps to create relational order and sexual disorderleads to relational disorder.”[18]

     

    Put simply, false gods logically lead to many sexual partners, blurring the creational binary either serially or simultaneously—My Wayism — and thereby fomenting societal chaos.  In contrast, it was the Christian sexual ethic that both defined and distinguished Christians from the pagan cultures:

     

    “The observation helps to explain why early Christians commonly equated fornication[ethics] with idolatry [theology].

    The confinement of sex to one partner within the sanctified bonds of matrimony was correlated with monotheism; conversely, the Romans’ practice of a more wide-ranging sexual prodigality was the manifestation of a kind of polytheism. Consequently, “for Paul the sexual disorder of Roman society was the single most powerful symbol of the world’s alienation from God.”

     

    In this way, sexual morality “came to mark the great divide between Christians and the world.”

     

    Still, looked at from afar, the change was dramatic, amounting to “a revolution” not only in rules of behavior but also in conceptions of the human person and his or her relations to the state and the cosmos. And “sex was at the center of it all.”[19]

     

    This distinctive quickly became a sociological hallmark for identifying followers of Christ.  As the ancient Epistle to Diognetus, dating from the 1st or 2nd century, noted:

     

    “For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe… They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.[20]

     

    Living by sexual lies ensnares people and disorders society, and the Christian church is not immune from this lie.  The remedy requires moral clarity, moral conviction, and moral courage. Cultivating these characteristics is one of the prime outcomes for the TxC Fellowship.  Join us as we form the next generation’s leaders so that it may again be said of Christians that “[t]hey have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.”

     

    Next week’s Dicta:  My Flesh:  I AM a Body; I HAVE a Body; or I am EMBODIED

     

    For further study:

     

    • Peter Jones, The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality (2006)

     

    • Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (2020)

     

    • Helen Alvare, Religious Freedom After the Sexual Revolution(2022)

     

    • Jeffery J. Ventrella, Christ, Caesar, and Self? (2016)

    [1] My Way; lyrics by Paul Anka and sung famously as a signature song by Frank Sinatra.

    [2] https://twitter.com/mattswaim/status/1756816033162088459

    [3] Reportedly, Frank Sinatra after his marriage to Barbara in 1976, became a devout practicing Christian following many decades of galivanting My Wayism; he ended up resenting that signature song calling it self-aggrandizing.

    [4] Sung by the character Queen Elsa

    [5] Invictus, William Ernest Henley

    [6] Jn. 14:17

    [7] Eph. 4:15

    [8] 1 Tim. 6:5

    [9] Jn. 17:19

    [10] The astute reader will note that this listing references three areas that correspond to John Frame’s triperspectival triangles:  Norm, Person, and Situation respectively. John Frame, A Primer on Perspectivalism,  https://frame-poythress.org/a-primer-on-perspectivalism/  This Dicta focuses on the first, the operative norm – what’s the standard and who decides, particularly as it manifests itself in sexual behavior.  In coming weeks, we will explore other lies about the human person.

    [11] Helen H Alvare, Putting Children’s Interests First in U.S. Family Law and Policy: With Power Comes Responsibility (Cambridge University Press 2018), 50-51

    [12] G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship (IVP  2008),139 citing Ian Provan

    [13] Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind; Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Pantheon Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, 2012), 227

    [14] Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, 23; Cited in Wiker and DeMarco, Architects of the Culture of Death, 57 

    [15]G.K.Beale, We Become What we Worship, (IVP 2008), 296, citing Vitz, Psychology as Religion (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmanns, 1977), 125, citing MacLaine – Paul tells us that left to themselves, people in fact become “lovers of self.”  2 Tim. 3:2

    [16] See, Romans 1:24, 26, 27.  Distorted sexual ethics reflect the paradigm of the exchange because it rejects the fundamental binary of the created order – see note 17 infra.  However, Paul notes other ethical (and sinful) expressions of this exchange too:  debased minds, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander insolence, pride, disobedience to authority, et al.

    [17] See, Peter Jones, “Open Homo Sex in the Capitol,” Truthxchnage.com, February 13, 2024

    [18] Jonathan Burnside, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 328

    [19] Steven D. Smith, Pagans & Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), 124.  See also, the recent trumpeting of the “benefits” of polyamory feted in the popular press: Couple to Throuple,  https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2024/02/08/couple-to-throuple-reality-show-polyamory/72495436007/ and How a Polyamorous Mom Had and “Big Sexual Adventure” and Found Herself, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/13/books/molly-roden-winter-more-book-open-marriage.html

    [20] https://matthewhalsted.com/2021/09/13/quote-epistle-to-diognetus/#:~:text=They%20have%20a%20common%20table,the%20laws%20by%20their%20lives.