Culture God Life

Personal choice as the new orthodoxy of popular culture

We live in a world of endless choices that span across the spectrum of reality in the 21st-century world.

Living in a society of free-market capitalism and a world of global connectivity offers consumers like us thousands, if not, millions of product choices in the age of the big-box store and the material abyss we have come to call online shopping. From on-demand media that offers an almost endless supply of entertainment to retail grocery chains that shelve 50 flavours of potato chips, the power of personal choice and over-abundance has come to dominate popular culture in the western world.

Not only has this power of personal choice come to dominate our economic life, but it has also certainly become the highest principal by which millions of people make moral decisions and establish spiritual beliefs or the lack thereof.

We live in a world where Hollywood actors have become the new moral authorities, cultural pastors if you will, who preach a message to the popular masses of the superiority of personal choice (and opinion)—guided by relativistic or humanistic ethics—when it comes to the “right” morality, spirituality and lifestyle.  We have the choice to be gay or straight, a boy or girl, married or divorced. We can be pro-choice, pro-life, pro-whatever, or the countless anti-alternatives. Oh and who can forget the millions of choices we have for “pornographic adventure” online, the largest—and perhaps most destructive—online industry in the world.

Personal choice isn’t a bad thing, I mean, it’s certainly much better than living in North Korea. The power of personal choice allows us to vote in free elections, to eat good food or fast food, to buy cheap diapers or pampers—the list is endless. You get the point. Having the power of personal choice ain’t all that bad, in fact it’s what makes democracy and the free-market work so well relative to other models of economic and political governance.

I’m not here to rail on what Christians call “liberal culture” or to judge and condescend those whose relativistic moral and/or spiritual choices don’t align with the Bible, orthodox Christian theology, or whatever you want to call it. Rather, the point I want to highlight is that the power of personal choice and opinion is now the “new orthodoxy” of secular culture in the west.

We can think of the word “orthodoxy” in general as the “accepted view” or “right belief” of a religious group, society or culture. Simply put, it is the general consensus among people groups.

Orthodoxy is an important concept in the Christian world. For Christians, to believe that Jesus is God (and human), equal to and co-eternal with the Father, and that God is Triune, consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is an orthodox position that forms the foundation of the universal Church.

Orthodoxy emerged in the Church as a response to the Arian heresy in the 3rd-century, which basically claimed that Jesus was not God, but created by the Father, and thus not equal or co-eternal with Him. But, what many people don’t know is what the word “heresy” actually means.

Heresy is a word derived from the Greek word αἵρεσις (hairesis), which when translated means a “strong, distinctive opinion” that stresses the personal aspect of “choice” to oppose or differ with the accepted view of a cultural or religious establishment.  Hence the Arian heresy. The power of personal opinion and choice go hand-in-hand in the meaning of heresy.

This is really interesting. Here’s why—if you haven’t already picked up on the irony.

Personal choice and opinion, the very meaning of heresy in the Bible, is now what forms the accepted view, what we call “orthodoxy,” to how secular culture determines morality and belief.  Secular culture has embraced the root meaning and operative of heresy as its new orthodoxy. Weird eh?

Now we uppity Christians could go ahead and call self-determined secular people heretics, but I don’t think that’s helpful, nor is it original or thoughtful.

Instead, we should notice the humor of our predicament as Evangelicals, Catholics and others who subscribe to Christian orthodoxy.

From the perspective of popular culture, we are the new “heretics”—those whose spiritual and moral beliefs are outside of the accepted view of the liberal cultural establishment.

But that’s absurd. Because from God’s perspective, we who hold to orthodox Christianity are “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” (Phil. 2:15); the people of God rooted in right belief and the Righteous One, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We may stand as outsiders to the accepted views and opinions of popular culture, but we find eternal acceptance in the loving arms of God the Father.

We may not be guided by self-determined morality and belief, but we desire the Holy Spirit to guide our choices so that we can do God’s will on this earth.

Our choice is God, not the world.


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