Existentialism is a philosophy of existence that makes the individual primary. Among other things, it teaches that each person has the ability to decide for themselves the meaning of their life and who or what they are. None of that is imposed upon the individual from the outside. There is no such thing as an innate essence or design, no purpose for existence beyond that assigned by the individual.
In other words an individual is whatever he or she claims to be without regard to any external standard of measurement. This particular component of existentialism has been latched onto by modern western culture with a vise-like grip.
As a result, we have for several generations believed we could be things without actually having the characteristics of those things.
This is what allows society to take seriously people with male bodies who claim they are female and vice versa. Common sense and reality scream that human beings are born either male or female and that that can be determined based upon a rather cursory examination at the moment of birth – but existentialism says “not so fast.” It claims the right not to be boxed in by anatomy or any other external. I am the gender I say I am, all other evidence be damned.
This belief is not limited to the culture at large but has found its way into the church as well. It is the root of so-called liberal Christianity. If I call myself a Christian, others must believe it because it is what I believe about myself. I do not have to adhere to any specific beliefs or practices to be considered a Christian. I am one merely because I say I am.
So, according to existentialism, I can be a man without actually being male and I can be a Christian without actually believing what Christians believe. I am an independent free-agent and no one can tell me what to do or who I am but me. Of course this is not consistently applied. Much like the moral relativist who has no trouble identifying right and wrong when their car is stolen, existentialists have no trouble using externals to define those who disagree with them. It’s all well and good for me to claim to be a Christian while disavowing the resurrection but if you question my Christianity because of my view, you’re judgmental. But if existentialism is true, can’t I make judgments about others and still be non-judgmental simply because I believe I am?
The truth is we are defined all sorts of ways external to ourselves, many of which we don’t choose. And those definitions are often more accurate than the ones we come up with on our own. Think of the first couple of “American Idol” shows each season and the mistaken belief so many have about their identity as a singer. However, I am a son, husband and father whether I identify myself that way or not. And despite the cultural noise to the contrary, I am a man whether I see myself that way or not; I did not choose that and have no ability to change it, it is how I was designed – how ironic that that is a controversial statement in our day whereas the notion that one’s “sexual orientation” is fixed is taken as gospel.
If we are to recover as a culture we must jettison this kind of self-deception and hyper-individualism. We must move back within the realm of reality and stop believing the lie that we are completely autonomous self-creations. In short, we must place ourselves back under the authority of our Creator and Designer.
To choose otherwise is to choose destruction. Reality will not be ignored. She will eventually have her way with or without us – whether we believe so or not.