MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next, a preview of Listening In.
This week, a conversation with author and theologian Trevin Wax. In this excerpt, he and host Warren Smith talk about a certain worldly view of life and how we ought to counter it as Christians.
WARREN SMITH: There’s kind of an umbrella expression that I’ve heard psychologists and philosophers use and that is the phrase “expressive individualism.” Can you say more about what that means?
TREVIN WAX: Expressive individualism is the academic term for describing this way of life in which the purpose of life is to find yourself and then express yourself to the world. It’s this idea that there is only one way of realizing your humanity. And you must discover what that unique essence is that you have deep down inside of you, no matter what, you know, your religious affiliation, or what the previous generation or what your friends or family or anyone would tell you, you, you have to be yourself.
SMITH: Given that what you’ve just said is true. The question then becomes, for me, what’s the antidote to that disease?
WAX: I think it’s important for us to spot this philosophy when we see it. To recognize what in it is appealing, and true. Because there is truth about our individuality. Our uniqueness. Our being specially made in the image of God. I mean, there is truth in there. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so appealing. It wouldn’t catch on with so many people if there were nothing true about it.
But to dig deeper to find out what the deeper longings are behind that, so that when we do then begin to show how that way of life doesn’t work, how it doesn’t actually account for the persistent feelings of guilt, and shame that we have, that it doesn’t actually resolve our sin problem, that it doesn’t actually lead to the fulfillment we thought it would lead to. What you want to do is, you want to present some of the problems with that way of life, almost as if you’re putting a pebble in someone’s shoe that they’ll walk around with. So that even if they haven’t completely come to faith, yet, they’re beginning to doubt the understanding of life that they’ve always had, and beginning to be open at least to another approach, which would have us look up to God first.
So that when we see ourselves, we see ourselves in light of God, in light of His holiness, see our sinfulness, see our need for him. See the fact that Jesus counters this. Looking at this approach to life when he says, you know, the way that you gain your life is by losing it. It’s on the other side of self denial that we find true and lasting fulfillment and joy, right?
So it’s very counterintuitive. But Jesus’s words of wisdom and truth here continue to have a powerful effect today and people will be open to them, when they begin to recognize that this way of life that passes for common sense has more problems than they may have ever anticipated.
BASHAM: That’s Trevin Wax talking to Warren Smith. To hear the complete conversation, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.