By Ron Lutz
One of the most stimulating books I read this summer was The Road to Character by David Brooks. Brooks is a New York Times columnist. He is not a professing believer, but his new book has many Christian insights in it that make me wonder if he is close to the kingdom. The following excerpt jumped out at me because it explains so much in today’s world. Brooks is describing our culture’s shift to what he calls the “Big Me.” “If you were born at any time over the last sixty years, you were probably born into what the philosopher Charles Taylor has called ‘the culture of authenticity.’ This mindset is based on the romantic idea that each of us has a Golden Figure in the core of our self. There is an innately good True Self, which can be trusted, consulted, and gotten in touch with. Your personal feelings are the best guide for what is right and wrong… Your desires are like inner oracles for what is right and true. You know you are doing the right thing when you feel good inside…Moral authority is no longer found in some external objective good; it is found in each person’s unique original self… I know I am doing right because I feel harmonious inside. Something is going wrong, on the other hand, when I feel my autonomy is being threatened, when I feel I am not being true to myself.”
We sometimes wonder why Christian teaching seems to “bounce off” of many in our churches. Why is there so much inconsistency in the lives of professing believers? Why do so many young people raised in Christian homes walk away from the faith? Why do we hear frequent stories about the moral failures of Christian leaders? What Brooks and Taylor describe helps answer those questions. The mindset they describe is everywhere in our culture. And it sometimes becomes the default setting in our hearts without us even being aware of it. When we let what Brooks calls the “Golden Figure” guide us in our decisions, the results are terrible. If we let our feelings be the final authority, they will always trump the Word of God and mess up our lives.
Praise the Lord that he tells us the truth–we cannot trust ourselves, but we can trust him! There is no pure golden figure inside any of us. We are fallen, broken and needy sinners. As Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Every day in the news we hear of the cruel, selfish, and foolish actions of human beings. These things happen when we do what feels good or seems right to us. But the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us something far better–real life, life as it is meant to be. When we come to Christ, he makes us new. We receive love, forgiveness mercy and grace beyond description. We don’t have a “Golden Figure” inside of us, but we have something much better. By faith we have the Lord Jesus living in us, guiding us through his Word, and empowering us by his Spirit to live for him, rather than being controlled by our untrustworthy feelings.