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WHY HAS PERSONAL IDENTITY BECOME SUCH A BIG PROBLEM IN SOCIETY?
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, today, I’d like to take you to an in-depth article written by a friend of yours, Dr. Peter Jones. It deals with personal identity. He writes, “If personal identity becomes one of the areas of human rights to be defended with moral passion, then there can be no universal moral standards.” What does he mean by that?
HARRY REEDER: Peter has appropriately addressed this from Romans 1:18 through the end of the chapter, the three-fold death spiral of a culture that denies God and the worship of God and institutes the worship of the creature and the worship of the creation.
In other words, instead of what he calls “two-ism” — the majestic God and then, secondly, His creation — there is now the creature made in the image of God who is to oversee God’s creation that God made for him — the creation is the home of humanity made in the image of God and humanity is called to be a good steward of that home and to fill it for His glory and to use it for His glory — man says, “There is no Creator. Everything exists out of a materialistic explanation,” thus atheistic evolution. Therefore, man is God and we are not here in the image of God, but we are God.
DENYING GOD AS CREATOR LEADS THE CREATURE ASTRAY
And he makes the point, whenever that happens, there is a downward spiral. Today, it is the universally acclaimed “right” of personal identity: “I am who I say I am.” You now have actually taught, in academic circles with academic respectability, statements such as this: When you are born, it is valid to put on the birth certificate your “biological sex” male or female, but it is not valid to put gender because gender is a matter of social construct.
There is a direct denial that God says, “No, there is male; there is female.” Now, do we want socially attached directives to define gender? No, but we do want the Word of God that reveals to us that we are made in the image of God and the image of God requires male and female. And there is something distinctive about male and female and distinctive about how you live out your masculinity and your femininity in life and the three spheres of life: the civil arena of life, the sacred arena of life of the church, and the foundational arena of life which is marriage and family. There is a denial of that and says yes, there is a biological sex, but gender is a social construct and it awaits the person’s identification of their gender. That is, you personally identify.
ACADEMIA IS SPREADING POST-MODERN THEORIES ON IDENTITY
It was very interesting, if you’ll remember, the young lady, the president of an African-American organization in the state of Washington that claimed that she was African-American but we found that was cosmetic and the reality is she is not. And her family spoke up and then the outcry from the academic circles, “Well, yes, she is African-American if she identifies as African-American.” That now leads to men who say, “I identify as a female,” winning 100-yard dashes with male testosterone outgunning the hormones of the females in the race — “Oh, well, biologically, he may be a he, but he identifies as a she” — and so you now have chaos in sports and chaos in the military and chaos everywhere in the trans ideology, which is based upon personal identity.
Society was based upon premodernity, which is God has revealed truth in creation and in Scripture and you now function based upon what God has revealed — that is, reason is used on the foundation of revelation.
Well, now we have moved to modernity, which says no, revelation is mythological and man’s reason is the foundation of life and that’s modernity. It was captured most clearly by Descartes, who said, “I think; therefore, I am.” Up until then, it was “I am; God has revealed I am made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God, I can communicate and think.”
Therefore, up until Descartes, academia was built upon “I am; therefore, I can think. I am made in the image of God; therefore, I can think. I am a rational creature. I’m not an animal. There’s something different about humanity made in the image of God, male and female.”
Now we move to the Descartes declaration embraced by academics, which is “I think; therefore, I am.” Well, the fallibility of our thinking has attacked the veracity of our existence. Thus, now modernity has moved to post-modernity so we’ve moved from “I am; therefore, I think,” to “I think; therefore, I am,” now we have moved to “Whatever I think I am is what I am.”
HOWEVER, CHAOS OF IDENTITY LEADS TO CHAOS OF SOCIETY
And that, of course, leads to utter chaos as we’re seeing, but man’s rebellion and idolatry of self says, “I will not reason from God’s revelation. My reason is going to be supreme and, if my reason is supreme, then I am sovereign and there is no God who made me what I am. I am what I think I am and whatever I think I am, I must be treated that way in society. So, if I say I’m an African-American but I’m Caucasian, it doesn’t matter. You have to treat me that way because that’s what I think I am.”
And that’s where the trans ideology has extended into the gender confusion arena and so, instead of seeing gender confusion as an adolescent issue, it has now become a “cause celeb” whereby, “These are not people confused, but these are people telling you who they really are inside of themselves.” And you go back and say, “Well, if you go inside of them and we take the DNA out, guess what? They’re male. They’re a female. That’s who they are. You dig them up after they die, 500 years, do a bone test, they’re going to say, ‘That was a man. That was a woman.’”
THE GOOD NEWS IS OUR IDENTITY IN GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE
My identity is not derived from who I say I am, and what I do and what the culture affirms. I am what I am, first of all, because God made me in His image and, secondly, I am what I am by the grace of God. Tom, we now have a generation of children who have no meaning except what they say is their meaning and what the world affirms as their meaning instead of an intrinsic dignity.
Tom, I just finished a couple of hours last night working on a chapter in my commentary that I’m doing on the Book of James, which says to us this glorious truth: How can you say you love God and don’t love your brother? If you can’t love your brother, who is made in the image of God, how can you say that you love God? And notice our relationships with each other are built on the relationship and dignity of who God is and how God made the people around me. I can’t say I love Him and then have people around me who are made in the image of God and not properly love them.
And what is that declaring? That’s declaring, everybody you meet — I don’t care if they’re Black, white, rich, poor, North American, South American — I don’t care who they are or where they are in terms of their intrinsic worth. Everybody has intrinsic worth, not assigned to themselves by themselves or assigned to themselves by the culture, but they have an intrinsic worth assigned to them by God. It is not an assigned worth and dignity, but it is an intrinsic worth and dignity. God made them in His image; male and female He made in His image; old and young; rich and poor; in the womb, outside of the womb — there is the dignity of humanity.
God made you in His image and, if you come to Jesus, you can be conformed to the image of Christ and you can say with men who are changed like the apostle Paul, who was Saul of Tarsus and a religious terrorist until the grace of God met Him and then he says this: “I am what I am, not only because of how God made me, but what God is doing in me. I am what I am by the grace of God in Christ.”
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.