The Dangers of Identity Bending

By Robin Schumacher

The old joke goes like this: two drunken sailors are staggering back to their ship from a bar. Along the way they get lost and suddenly see a figure walking towards them out of the fog, which is the captain of their ship. Not recognizing him because of their drunken condition, one says to the captain, "Say, mate, can you tell us where we are?" Indignant, the captain responds, "Don't you know who I am?" One sailor then turns to the other and says, "Now we're in a real pickle. We don't know where we are, and he doesn't know who he is!"

Not knowing who we are seems to be a trend these days. The most recent example is NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal who said an interview that she considers herself to be black even though her biological parents have proven that she was born caucasian. In addition, Dolezal said in the interview that she doesn't believe her parents to be her "real" parents and that her adopted brother Izaiah is, in her eyes, her son.

Postmodernism is Alive and Well

Anyone who thought postmodernism was on its way out has recently been shown how wrong they are. The postmodern stance of affirming no truth, which powers the "true for you, but not for me" crowd, is more alive now than ever.

Such thinking is amazing considering how many times the postmodern mindset has proven to be self-defeating and false. Its stance of "I affirm no truth" affirms the truth that no truth can be affirmed. Oops.

Moreover, postmodernism's cousins are every bit as self-defeating. The relativist contends that, "all truth is relative" except for the statement that all truth is relative (that is absolute).

Skepticism says, "I doubt all truth" except for the claim that all truth should be doubted. Agnosticism states "you can't know the truth," but says you can know the truth that you can't know the truth.

Even in the area of morality, postmodernism shows itself to be contradictory. The same people who claim that morals are relative are absolutely sure you shouldn't punch them in the face and they demand their spouses be absolutely faithful to them.

But what we're seeing these days with people like Dolezal appears to go deeper and seem to demonstrate complete breaks with truth and reality.

Revisiting Reality and Truth

Although sad to admit, it appears our culture has lost its understanding of truth and reality, and the importance that each plays in our lives. Perhaps a short refresher is in order so that we can all be on the same page.

Reality is simply the state of things as they actually exist. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. Yes, it really is that uncomplicated.

In Scripture, truth is referenced as having a constant and enduring firmness (the Hebrew term emeth) and "hides nothing" (the Greek word alētheia). Postmodernism jettisons both definitions and is more than happy to deny and bury facts in order to get what it wants so its agenda can be advanced.

But there's a very real danger in doing that.

The Protective Power of Identity

Our way of life and logical thinking in general mostly rests on four concepts:

1. The law of non-contradiction: something cannot be "A" and "non-A" at the same time and in the same sense

2. The law of the excluded middle: something must be either "A" or "non-A"

3. The law of rational inference: for example, all men are mortal, John is a man, therefore John is a mortal

4. The law of identity: allows us to say "A" is really "A"

It's the last law that seems most neglected these days. Attributed to Aristotle's teaching, but not really becoming widely known in theology camps until Thomas Aquinas appeared on the scene, the law of identity helps us in two ways. First, it makes rational communication among human beings possible. If you tell me you're eating an apple, a picture of a tuna can doesn't pop into my head.

Second, the law of identity acts as an important protective mechanism. For example, it's what keeps you from mistakenly drinking rat poison instead of the bottle of Coke you wanted.

The law of identity basically says that something is what something is. Pouring that same rat poison into an empty bottle of Coke won't change the poison to soda. A thing's nature or essence remains no matter how much a person sincerely believes it is something else.

Of course, external changes can happen, but not identity changes. For example, a block of ice may become liquid or gas, but it still continues to be H2O.

The very real danger of postmodernism is that it conditions people to believe that they can reject the law of identity, make breaks with reality (e.g., such as someone denying their true ethnicity) and play the same games of exchange when it comes to spiritual realities. This is where things can go wrong in an eternal sense.

God is…

If you approach most any non-Christian (outside of a hardened atheist) and ask, "Who is God?", there is a near perfect chance of their response beginning with, "I like to think of God as..."

The postmodern, anti-realist culture has people believing that they can somehow actually swap the true identity of the Creator with one that fits what they want/believe/hope God to be. Needless to say, this cannot be done.

God is Who He is. His identity is unchanging and does not conform to what humanity thinks Him to be.

Why does this matter?

The Bible is replete with warnings that believing in false gods and false messiahs lead only to eternal tragedy. For example, Jesus said, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). A. W. Tozer puts it like this: "To believe on Christ savingly means to believe the right things about Christ. There is no escaping this." [1]

Manufacturing a fake god or false Jesus — usually one that dovetails with the beliefs and practices a person wishes to embrace — simply won't do. This is why every book in the New Testament except Philemon contains warnings about false spiritual teaching.

Today's culture has molded people into believing that identity bending in all its various forms is mostly OK, although poor Ms. Dolezal found out the hard way that being "transracial" isn't accepted. At least, not just yet.

The Bible calls such things exchanging the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25) and goes on to say that when you reject the one true God, part of His judgment that follows is unnatural behavior and practices visited upon those who deny Him.

The drunken sailor's statement to his friend, "Now we're in a real pickle. We don't know where we are, and he doesn't know who he is," is a fairly adept description of what's going on today in our society.

But I'm not laughing. How about you?

1. A.W. Tozer, "How Important is Creed", in That Incredible Christian (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1964), 22.

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | Current-Issues  | Theological-Beliefs

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Published 6-19-15