Social Constructionism (4)

There is a section in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers I enjoy. A little lapse into this story may prove instructive. The section I’m referring to is the Battle of the Hornburg. The forces of the malevolent wizard Saruman have gathered before the great Hornburg fortress of King Theoden at Helm’s Deep. Seeking safety behind these great walls are the good people of Rohan. At first, the evil orcs and the Uruk-hai take a head on frontal assault. Thousands launch themselves against the mighty fortress, but the great wall at Helm’s Deep is impenetrable. A small remnant of soldiers under King Theoden resist the open attacks of the wicked Saruman. But soon Saruman changes tactics. He knows destroying the great fortress is key to overcoming them. He learns about a vulnerable spot in the wall. He sends a soldier with a bomb strapped to him to run headlong into a small culvert at the base of the wall which allows water to drain out. The bomb explodes; the wall crumbles; the fortress is breached. The inhabitants seeking safety in Hornburg fortress are exposed. They are susceptible to death.

For years, the principalities of darkness have been searching for that small culvert at the base of the wall of God’s creation. They’ve been searching for the key that will allow them to turn the great institutions of our lives on their heads; to manipulate them for their purposes. I am not saying God’s creation has a flaw that the wicked attempts to exploit. Not at all. Nor do we fear that God’s Kingdom even has the possibility of falling. We know the serpent’s head will be bruised through Christ (Gen. 3:15). But the kingdom of man doesn’t lay down arms. It is now focusing on destroying the very foundations of these ordinances so that they no longer offer a protective barrier for the creatures that are designed to operate and live within the bounds of these ordinances. In its denial of any absolute truth, social constructionism is one of Saruman’s bombs that has assaulted these creation laws.

I identify three major creation ordinances or laws: 1. work and vocation 2. marriage and family 3. rest. God’s creation ordinances are decrees he established concerning the ordering of creation. They aren’t creatures; rather, they are decrees by which all of creatures are to live within. They are boundaries and directives for God’s creation. They are sown into the very fabric of creation itself. As such, you cannot rebel against them without marring creation and staining it for generations to come.

There is also a very close connection to the nature of the creature and the creation ordinance. God designed his world in a way that makes the obedience of these ordinances natural. Man and woman are each uniquely designed to fulfill the decree of marriage and multiplication. The whole cosmos is created in unity of purpose which allows the creation to operate within the bounds of God’s decrees for them. Every form fulfills the God-ordained function. He doesn’t command the tree to bring forth fruit without having created in the tree a form for producing seed. He doesn’t command man to keep and dress the garden but not equip him with the physical form to carry out this decree. Thus, a rebellion against an ordinance can stain the very creature too.

But the kingdom of man chaffs under the authority of God. These decrees remind him that he is forever under a higher power. It reminds him that he is simply a creature who owes allegiance to his Creator. If modernism emancipated society from the authority of a Creator by giving birth to evolutionism, post-modernism is emancipating society from the decrees of that same Creator imbedded in creation. The former has proven more difficult. It not only has to contend with religious certainties, but scientific or natural certainties in creation. Even the unregenerate scientist can see that there is a form in creation perfectly fitted for its function. Post-modernism, however, is succeeding. Truth no longer exists. Work, marriage, family, and rest are being challenged by social constructionism. No longer will a human’s natural body dictate what their gender will be, he will choose what he wants it to be. No longer will that same body point to the fact that marriage should be between a man and woman, but society will choose what marriage should be. No longer will man till and dress his earthly garden through vocation, but progress and culture will proceed despite the sweat of his brow. No longer will children be the fruit of marriage; they will simply be a consequence which can be removed by a simple procedure in a clinic. No longer will the Sabbath provide the rest man needs, but he will find it wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and in any form he desires.

Just like Saruman knew simple arrows launched at the Hornburg fortress would avail little, so too does the kingdom of man know that something more powerful and seismic is necessary. Long standing institutions don’t fall easily, but they do fall when the foundations of truth are swept away. In the next few posts, we will examine social constructionism and see how it is fitted to do this disruptive work.  

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This post was written by Rick Mingerink, a member of the Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Michigan. Rick is also a principal at a Christian school in West Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Rick, please do so in the comment section.

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Social Constructionism (3)

We are living in a transition period. For those of us who live in America, think about the deep changes that have taken place in the last decade. Some of these changes are specific to Americans, but often they represent changes experienced across the globe. We may be surprised to be reminded of the following:

  • In 2000, California approved Proposition 22 which restricted marriage to one man and one woman. This passed by 61% of voters supporting the bill! Even the majority in Los Angeles county approved the measure. Would they do the same in 2017?
  • In 1960, over 70% of Americans identified themselves as Protestant Christians. In 2000, it dropped to 52%. Today, only 37% of Americans identify as a Protestant Christian. (Gallup poll)
  • Throughout human history, mothers were the primary care givers of their children. Today, mothers are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of American families with children under age 18. Someone else is raising their children. Of course, this percentage is greatly influenced by the fact that many families are single parent homes. (Pew Research Center)
  • A few decades ago, robots and their artificial intelligence was a conspiracy theory for the science fiction world to muse on. Per Pew Research, all the experts they interviewed in their research predicted robots and artificial intelligence will pervade almost every aspect of our lives by 2025. There will be a disruption to our current occupation practices.
  • Less than a decade ago, homes used to be children’s sanctuary from the pressures of school, work and society. With the emergence of smartphones and tablets, it has quickly become their command center.

I could list more, but I don’t think I need to. An aware person understands they are living through a period of profound changes. In fact, social change seems to be a normalized characteristic of life. Change isn’t unexpected; rather, we’ve built our lives around its continual presence. These statistics and anecdotes not only highlight changes that have taken place over a relatively short period, but they highlight deep changes. They impact our heart, mind and soul in powerful ways. They are just small evidences of a great alteration in the social and moral fabric of America and abroad.

Some of the most long standing institutions of humanity are disintegrating. Institutions of marriage, family, and vocation are radically crumbling. These are creation ordinances. The humanist would say these ordinances are “transforming” or “evolving”, but that simply isn’t the case. They are crashing down around us. It isn’t even the crash that is so alarming as to the speed with which they are crashing.

How can this be happening? How can God’s creation ordinances be so openly violated in such a short time?  

The Bible tells us in the last days Satan will be loosed (Rev. 20:7). The people of God have known this for many ages. We may answer the above questions by simply acknowledging that Satan is at work. Or we may remind ourselves that we are “living in the last days.” But we would do well to probe a little deeper. Yes, Satan will be loosed; he may be loose already. And we are living in the last days, but the post-apostolic church has always “lived in the last days.” Such answers are too simple if we want a deeper understanding.

Satan employs means. Satan isn’t personally manipulating every man, woman or child that lives an ungodly life which deteriorates the fabric of our world. He isn’t omnipresent. He embraces tools which are used to undermine the great truths of God as they are applied and practiced in the social life of humanity. He employs means. Social constructionism is one of these means and it is changing our society.

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We are living in a transition period. We are entering a new era. The modern is giving way to the post-modern. What is coming isn’t fully known. We watch as the world morphs in front of our eyes. It’s as if we are seeing the late autumn forest drop her beautiful fall colors in fast forward. The death of winter is near. The chill lingers.

But even winter has a sudden beauty if we can look past the cold and death. For the child of God, we do not live in fear, “for he that feareth is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18). Neither do we separate from the society we are so intrinsically connected to. We live in this world so that we can use her, develop her, and cultivate her as God’s garden for his glory. Just as God placed Israel in the land of Canaan which was at the crossroads of civilization, we too do not flee the great public intersections of life. To help us live full lives by using our gifts and talents in joyful doxology to God, we would do well to prepare ourselves and understand the forces that are at play, lest we mistake darkness for light and light for darkness.

Let’s keep peeling the onion layers away. In upcoming posts, we will investigate what might be motivating the kingdom of darkness to specifically assault God’s creation ordinances. Also, we still need to explore social constructionism in more detail and show how it is an effective tool at doing just that. Stay tuned!

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This post was written by Rick Mingerink, a member of the Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Michigan. Rick is also a principal at a Christian school in West Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Rick, please do so in the comment section.

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