“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
- Who am I?
- Where did I come from?
- What is my purpose?
- By what standards should I live my life?
- What is my ultimate destiny? What happens when I die?
These are the most profound questions that confront every person. How you answer will determine the way you live and work, as well as the impact you have on others during your lifetime. How society answers these questions shapes politics, education, business, media, and arts and entertainment.
These questions are the most important you can ask … and answer.
The work of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is helpful in understanding how contemporary culture deals with these life-shaping questions. Taylor makes a distinction between mimesis and poiesis. Put simply, these terms refer to two different ways of thinking about the world and yourself in the world.
A mimetic view regards the world as having a given order and a given meaning, and thus sees human beings as seeking to discover that meaning and align themselves with it. Poiesis, by way of contrast, sees the world as impersonal raw material out of which meaning and purpose is created by each individual.
Both of Taylor’s major works—Sources of the Self and A Secular Age—tell the story of the shift in Western culture from a predominantly mimetic view of the world to one that is primarily poietic. Whereas people used to believe it was necessary to understand and align with the moral structure of the universe (mimetic view), now the popular and dominant belief is that the world has no moral structure; therefore, people must pursue and express their identity based on their own internal passions and preferences (poietic view).
Further, in today’s socially and politically divisive culture, the progressive left sees as “oppressive” any attempt to ask (or require) people to align with external standards or norms. They claim—incorrectly—that the external norms are socially and artificially constructed standards created by the ruling class (white European males) for the purpose of oppressing minority groups.
The progressive left is particularly hostile to standards rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Therefore, they are militantly opposed to the Christian faith and radically committed to an extreme poietic worldview.
As a result, modern society has dethroned God and enthroned self. Our culture has abandoned long-established moral standards, thrown off restraint, and now encourages people to seek fulfillment, identity, and self-expression in their deeply felt preferences and passions, no matter how bizarre. The consequence is that what was once unthinkable has become not just acceptable, but socially promoted and legally protected.
The self and its passions reign supreme in our generation. It is, however, a philosophy for fools. It will only lead to moral confusion and chaos, and eventually destruction.
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14.1-3)
More tomorrow …