Expressive Individualism and Multiple Version Only-ism (Part 1)

I am about half way through Carl Trueman’s brilliant work, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Trueman weaves together a beautiful intellectual tapestry by tying together the ideas of men like Charles Taylor, Jean-Joques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Fredrick Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. Trueman’s aim in gathering such a distinguished group of brilliant societal mavericks is to offer an explanation as to why there is such an emphasis on the individual qua individual in the West. Or to answer questions like, “What accounts for the murder of children on demand in the act of abortion or of the irrational compulsion that all people recognize a man as a woman because that is how he identifies at that moment?”

If I could boil down Trueman’s answer to the above question into one term that term is “Expressive Individualism”. Expressive Individualism is defined as

“a way of thinking or a worldview whereby individuals believe their dignity and personhood depend on casting off any and all relationships and traditions—including religion—that get in the way of their deepest and most authentic selves.”

Trueman puts meat on these definitional bones when he writes,

“In the world of expressive individualism, however, the truth of emotions is found not in their conformity to God’s revelation but in the sincerity of their expression.”

The question we have asked over and over here at is whether the Multiple Version Only position is in “conformity to God’s revelation.” We have argued that one sacred text comports quite easily with one God, one faith, one Spirit, one Savior, one Gospel etc. But the MVO crowd have yet to provide any argument to show their “conformity to God’s revelation.” In fact, the response that we most often get is, “Read the Bible that makes sense to you.” If the Bible is Canon or the Rule which rules over us and we can read whatever Rule makes sense to us [so long as our academic overlords deem it a Bible], then why can’t we be what makes sense to us? In other words, if we can pick the Rule we can pick how we are ruled.

Note that the hallmark of this sense/emotion is that it be “sincere,” not that it can be defended from Scripture and not that it makes any rational sense. All that matters is that you hold to multiple versions with sincerity and that is enough for your position to resist all objections.

I have often asked myself why so many people, from back-woodsy college professors to elite Ivy League divinity school professors, could not resist attacking KJV adherents. Why the disdain? Why the derision? Why the contempt? The MVO position is the prevailing position in the Western Church. The MVO position is the prevailing position in the colleges, seminaries, and divinity schools. They have had a run of the place for the last 150 years. How is it that the Traditional Text position or the Ecclesiastical Text position or the Confessional Text position could be a threat to such a monopolous goliath?

An Expressive Individualist would have us think of him as an actor on a stage in a play that is all about him. When he gets up on stage we are all supposed to accept the character that he chooses to be today. If we do not, then in his mind, we hate who he is because who he is is who he chooses to be in that moment. As such, when we say that you many not choose the Rule, but that the Rule chooses you by the leading of the Spirit of God through the word of God, our interlocutors are immediately incensed. And not because we are rejecting some detached academic argument but because we are rejecting their Expressive Individualism. Each day they get up on stage and choose to be ruled by the Rule they choose and to reject their choice is to reject them because they are what they choose to be ruled by.

In sum, if which Bible you read is a matter of choice then which gender you are is also a matter of choice. If accepting special revelation [i.e., which Bible version] is a matter of preference then accepting natural revelation [i.e., which gender] is a matter of preference. You may say, “Well now you’ve gone too far! Choosing your Bible version and choosing your gender are miles apart.” No, they are not.

The Bible is the rule of all faith and practice. The Bible tells us what a man is and what a woman is. The Bible is the primary source of Christian knowledge on what counts as a man and what counts as a woman. Therefore, to say, I can choose my Bible is to infer that you can choose your own gender because you have already allowed yourself to choose the authority upon which your definition of gender primarily rests as a Christian.

If you get to choose the rule book you get to choose how the game is played. If you get to choose the rules about what makes a man, a man [i.e., you get to choose the Bible you want to read], then you are necessarily choosing how that game is played [i.e., you are choosing what makes a man, a man]. In the end, you have chosen the Rule. The Rule has not chosen you.

We are going to hang out here a bit. If you have any feedback on this line of reasoning I would appreciate it. I’ll see if I can get ahold of Dr. Trueman and ask him questions along these lines as well. Blessings.

See Part Two Here and Part Three Here

4 thoughts on “Expressive Individualism and Multiple Version Only-ism (Part 1)

  1. Paraphrasing from memory, Van Til said the Bible is authoritative on everything about which it speaks, and the Bible speaks about everything. “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deuteronomy 22:5). What have I missed?

    Liked by 1 person

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