What the Fighting Over Gender Issues Is Really About

By Michael Sherrard Published on May 3, 2016

Do you ever wonder how rational people could think genderless bathrooms are a good idea? Are you confused about what is happening culturally? Does it make any sense to you that corporations are applying political and economic pressure to reform our social sexuality?

Here’s what’s going on.

The cultural battle over sexuality and gender comes down to one thing: a meaningful life. That is what all of the fighting is about, and it is why it rages with such fury and vitriol. Each battle contributes to a war over the much larger question: How does one have a meaningful life? And this is what you must understand: your answer to that question is determined by your worldview.

A worldview is a set of beliefs that cause you to view life a certain way. We all have one. You cannot escape it. We each have beliefs that affect how we see life, form conclusions and interpret our experiences.

I have a Christian worldview. I possess Christian beliefs about reality. Among other things, I believe God exists, the world is rational (i.e. knowable) and life has objective meaning and inherent value. My existence as one made in God’s image — my inestimable worth in His eyes — is the source of my meaning and value.

I live in a society, though, where nearly everyone has a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism is another set of beliefs about reality. Naturalism holds, among other things, that God does not exist, the world is rational (though naturalism cannot explain why it is that way) and life has no inherent meaning or value.

And that is a big deal. Did you catch it? Life has no inherent meaning or value. So what makes you and your life worth anything? That’s the big problem for the naturalist.

Naturalists have long recognized the consequences and problems that stem from their worldview. You see, according to naturalism, the self or soul does not exist. Put simply, you do not exist. The you that “you” think “you” are is merely molecules in motion. Chemistry and physics dictate how you act, feel, and respond to this world, and “you” are merely one local effect of all that physical activity. George Orwell noted this some time ago in his essay Notes on the Way. In it he writes about the necessity of cutting away the self. “Man is not an individual, he is only a cell in an everlasting body.” He goes on. The problem, though, is when you cut away the soul you find yourself in a very desolate world: existence void of meaning and value. Orwell saw this:

For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But unfortunately there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all, it was a cesspool full of barbed wire.

So how do Naturalists rescue themselves from this bleak dystopia? They manufacture their own meaning. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a pioneer in this. He espoused that “existence preceded essence.” This basically means that you are a blank slate, so make your life whatever you want. Because your existence has no inherent meaning or value, you can do whatever you want with it. Be a dragon. Become a woman. Marry your mother or computer. Define your life as you see fit. Your autonomous will, and that alone, is what gives your existence value and meaning. It is your dignity.

This is what the fight is over. To have a meaningful existence, you must be free to form yourself according to your own will. Therefore a threat to, say, the freedom to choose your gender is a threat to a naturalism-centered society’s needs to manufacture meaning and value through unfettered freedom of choice. If you remove the ability to form your essence through choice, you remove any hope of a meaningful life.

Let’s be clear about what is taking place here. Our society is collectively acting on the assumption that God does not exist and naturalism is true. Men and women are fighting to form a society that reflects this belief. This again is why the fighting is so intense.

I wonder if people are aware of how radical this shift is. I wonder if we are prepared to declare in such a fashion that God is dead. Are we ready to completely replace the Christian worldview with a naturalistic one?

If naturalism is true, then certainly we should do that. Christians should abandon their Christian worldview. But it’s not true. Naturalism is a very weak worldview in terms of its ability to explain reality, and it doesn’t offer a sufficient rational justification for believing in it. To explain that fully would require more space than I have here, yet I think we can examine just one aspect of the naturalist’s position and see why it’s something we can’t embrace.

According to naturalism, God does not exist; therefore, you must form your own essence to give your existence meaning and value. But remember, this means you are a “cell in an everlasting body,” molecules in motion, chemistry and physics dictating how you act, feel, and respond to this world. You are not a soul or a self; you are a machine, a slave to the physical processes that determine what you think, say and do. For this reason you have no free will.

This is a huge problem for the naturalist. Freedom, the very thing needed to have a meaningful existence, it is the very thing that cannot exist if naturalism is true.

How anyone can hold to naturalism and a belief in free will is beyond me. And for that reason, I cannot imagine how anyone can be a Naturalist. The most important thing they need to live a meaningful life is impossible according to their worldview. And isn’t this the greatest form of irony? Naturalists go to great lengths to manufacture freedom so that they can give meaning to their existence, rejecting the Christian worldview that naturally contains both freedom and meaning.

So it is naturalism that has brought us this battle. From it follows the fight we are currently in. A meaningful life is what hangs in the balance here. This is why the battle rages.

So what does this mean for us who believe in God and are trying to hold on to a more sane society? Foremost, it means we must engage the root issue. We cannot merely address symptoms. We easily get sucked into arguments over bathroom policies and what not, which that is fine; we should engage in those conversations. But our efforts will be fruitless if we fail to address the issue at its heart. Genderless bathrooms flow from the naturalistic worldview.

Unfortunately, most people haven’t really thought about gender issues and such in a meaningful way. They haven’t recognized how naturalism is the worldview behind the fighting. They haven’t connected the dots. They’ve merely connected with soundbites.

You can help, though. You can help people think meaningfully about this important issue as you engage them in respectful conversation. As I’ve written in my book Relational Apologetics, I believe the best approach in most cases is to ask questions, listen, learn how to stay on topic, practice humility and point people at the right time toward a true understanding. Be gentle and respectful in your conversations, and many will come to see that Christianity still speaks reason in an age of naturalistic nonsense.

 

Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics.

Originally published at MichaelCSherrard.com. Used by permission.

 

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  • Jennifer Hartline

    Naturalism seems quite misnamed to me. Everything it seems to encompass is unnatural. It rejects what is knowable by reason and obvious by nature; namely, that the human person is male or female, and that the sexes were made for each other.

    • Charles Burge

      A better term is materialism. Some may claim that it differs from naturalism, but the tenets and the underlying assumptions are basically the same.

  • Tony Arlington

    I appreciate your post but it’s really bad form to write this article and then link to your book at the end. I’m just thinking about this from a naturalist’s point of view. If I was a naturalist and came here and read this post then saw you trying to hawk your own book I would dismiss anything you say as simply some ploy to make money.

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