Tennessee Legislator’s Interesting Understanding of Truth and Its Implications

Oct 26, 2023 by David Fowler

Tennessee Legislator’s Interesting Understanding of Truth and Its Implications
One of Tennessee’s influential Christian legislators recently penned an article justifying the state’s new law protecting minors from “gender transition” surgeries and hormone therapies. I think the understanding of truth he expressed helps explain why evangelical Christianity is increasingly impotent in the face of challenges to the ethic it espouses.
The Legislator’s Truth Statement
The legislator wrote:
Tennessee’s law protects children and families from this unscientific agenda. The activists who oppose our law accuse us of enforcing some religious dogma. But this isn’t about religion, it’s about reality. Atheists, agnostic people, and a diversity of people from all walks of life recognize the truth about gender. 
Before examining what he says about the nature of truth, let me affirm my appreciation for any official who will publicly assert that there is a “truth about gender” that should be publicly embraced. I also affirm his recognition that there are some truths that public officials must recognize and to which they should defer when considering whether to regulate or prohibit actions taking place in society.
But think with me a moment of the nature of the truth he professes, and I think you will see that something thoroughly atheistic (modern/post-modern) is going on and it is consistent with the truth claim about human meaning on which transgenderism rests.
In what way is transgenderism “unscientific”?
He calls what doctors are doing to minors “unscientific.”  But, as we will see, he is using that word in its modern atheistic sense.
The older understanding of “science” would agree that transgenderism is unscientific. Why? Because empirical science can only tell us what our bodies are made of and how they work. It cannot speak to whether our bodies have any meaning or purpose beyond that which the person chooses to do with it.
Human meaning and purpose are matters that can only be answered by the sciences of theology[1] or philosophy. They, not empirical science, provide the answer to whether we should attach a particular meaning and significance to male and female bodies and why, and in what instances, that difference matters.
But that is not what this legislator means. It can’t be.
Why? Because he disclaims any notion that the truth to which he refers is drawn from religion. And that denial affects philosophy because it is grounded in the philosopher’s view about ultimate reality, be it a god of some sort or otherwise.
By eliminating the only two possible grounds for meaning and purpose relative to the body, this Christian brother has unwittingly reduced human meaning to nothing more than empirically determined biological facts.
There are two problems with this view of truth and when embraced by evangelicals, it tends to make Christianity impotent.
The first problem with this view of truth.
The Christian ethic about man and woman is grounded in a truth claim, namely, that God created mankind and each person is made in the image of God, which has to do with the nature or essence of our being and our purpose; what it means to be human is not confined to our reproductive organs.
In other words, the way we are made—male and female who, together, are generative of other beings such as us—reveals a fundamental truth about who God is. I explain this further in the footnote for those interested.[2] 
But the key point is this: If creation reveals the glory of God, which is proclaimed throughout Scripture, then to divorce “reality” from “religion,” as this legislator does and would apparently have us do, is to deny the fundamental truth about who God is and what creation is.
While the denial of the relationship between God and reality does not make this legislator an unsaved heretic, this denial has been called heretical throughout the history of the Christianity.
Take away God and creation, and the Christian no longer has any logical ground to believe anything different about the here and now than an atheist does. What then makes Christianity interesting or even relevant to the atheist? Christianity tends to become some pie-in-the-sky belief system disconnected from what is real, i.e., “reality.” Who needs it?
The second problem with this view of truth.
Unfortunately, when Christians reduce human meaning to biological facts, they have adopted a position that is consistent with the philosophy of human meaning on which transgenderism is predicated. 
Transgenderism flows from the post-modern’s nihilism which posits that we are nothing but biological facts (that “nothing but” is the “nothingness” of nihilism). Therefore, those facts have no meaning and ultimate purpose.
Consequently, any such meaning and purpose must be supplied either by social convention (what we democratically decide we want to make of things) or by the one who is the “biological fact,” i.e., self-identification, as in “I am a biological male who identifies as a woman.” They can’t be given by God if He is not integral to reality.
Transgenderism, then, is “scientific” in the sense that empirical science has convinced us that empirical facts are all we can know, and that necessarily means those facts are meaningless without our aid. Any concept of objective meaning, value, or ethic that is outside of ourselves is now unintelligible—we, and the material facts around us, are all there is!
A Christianity that reduces human meaning to biological facts, and then asserts that there is some meaning and purpose to our existence beyond mere biology sounds like a fairy tale to modern man.
Why this makes evangelicalism culturally impotent.
When evangelicals disconnect their understanding of God from reality, they are practical atheists when it comes to day-to-day affairs.
I know this legislator is not an atheist, and I am not calling him one. But to appeal to the masses as a ground of truth, while perhaps politically helpful, is to rely on the ad populum logical fallacy, which would have us accept a proposition as true simply because a large number of people believe it.
There were other ways my friend could have conveyed his point,[3] but the way he did so expressly denies the fundamental truth on which the Christian faith depends.
The predicate on which the Christian “hall of faith” rests in Chapter 11 of Hebrews is found in verse 3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” And that is why God, not man, gives to all things the law of their nature, their meaning, and their purpose. Atheists and transgender advocates deny this.
When Christians deny the fundamental doctrine of creation by God’s fiat on which rests the human ethic they expect others to accept, I can’t help but think of what C.S. Lewis said of atheists who demand virtue and enterprise in others.[4] I’ve paraphrased it for the occasion:
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We remove from the minds of people a God who creates them and expect them to find their meaning outside of themselves. We say God is irrelevant to how we’re made and are shocked to find the godless in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
[1] Moderns do not think of religion as a “science,” but that view of knowledge (which is what “science” means) is one that has been foisted upon us by atheists who have worked overtime since the 18th century to convince us that fundamental reality is matter and energy, not God. The older understanding of science was retained in Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: “In a general sense, knowledge, or certain knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind. The science of God must be perfect.” No one today, even many ministers, would think of theology as a form of science, because their view of science, like that of most people, has been reduced to empiricism.
[2] Over the course of redemptive history, we came to understand that woman (Eve) being made from man (Adam) and yet all future men coming through the childbirth of a woman is a revelation of who God is: one God in essence (ontologically)—Eve made from Adam—yet diverse in persons—Adam and Eve). Theologians describe the latter as the economic nature of God in the sense of the ordering of functions within the work of the one God.
[3] For example, he could have said, “All persons throughout time have recognized that human beings are, in principle and by design, made to reproduce, and to render a healthy child incapable of realizing that basic function on which his or her own existence depended is the definition of what it means to harm a human being. Opponents of this legislation would allow parents to rob their children of the very human capacity on which their existence as parents depended. Parents doing this is like cutting off the limb of the tree on which you’re standing. Sterilization of physically healthy minors is a contradiction of human nature and human flourishing.” This makes the point but without expressly denying God’s relevance to reality.
[4] From The Abolition of Man: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” 

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