Modern Man

June 14, 2023

Modern Man

If you, as a Christian, were asked which doctrine is your favorite, or which doctrine you would be interested in studying next, I would wager that the doctrine of man wouldn’t make that list. Why is that? Maybe because it is not as exciting as the doctrine of the last things? Or maybe because it is not as interesting as the doctrine of God and Jesus? I confess that the doctrine of man wouldn’t have been my answer either. In fact, it may have been my last choice. However, the doctrine of man has great value not only for the understanding of ourselves and God’s work, but also to our cultures’ misunderstanding of itself.

It’s 2023 and things feel crazier than ever in the United States. People are claiming to be transgender in record numbers. Medical surgeries for minors are intensely advocated for. And even the White House is displaying the transgender flag at equal height between two American flags. What’s going on! The answer is multifaceted. But a big piece of this comes from humanity’s understanding of itself—the doctrine of man.

God has given us a clear picture in the Bible of what we are (immaterial soul and physical body), why we are valuable (divine image bearers), why we are broken (sin), and how that brokenness is remedied (faith in the redeeming work of Jesus). As humans we are a wonderful male or female creation of God, bearing incredible value, who find themselves separated from God, enslaved by their sin, broken, and in need of salvation and peace with God.

But this is not the modern perspective. Instead of biblical man, the world has embraced what may be termed “psychological man.” In his book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman gives a historical scheme presented by Philip Rieff, where he details the historical development of psychological man, who finds identity in psychological happiness. Trueman states, “psychological categories and an inward focus are the hallmarks of being a modern person. This is what Taylor refers to as expressive individualism, that each of us finds our meaning by giving expression to our own feelings and desires.”1 Thus, modern psychological man is committed to and governed by personal desires and anything that would disagree is a threat that must be overthrown or brought into submission.2

When compared to biblical man, psychological man is vastly different. (This difference may be understood following Carl Trueman’s historical development of the psychological man.) Biblical man is sinful by nature. However, that reality was forsaken and changed into a good nature in the 18th century under the teaching of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He believed we are born pure and then corrupted by society. Furthermore, Biblical man has a divine purpose and mandate to rule the earth as God’s image bearers and to multiply. Nevertheless, that truth was rejected into believing that the good life is determined by you and you alone. In the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche, led people to believe that life had no purpose, and so you now determine what is a good and satisfying life.

Additionally, Biblical man is created by God. But that was discarded upon the 19th century work of Charles Darwin, who advocated that man was evolved by natural processes. Moreover, Biblical man was to engage in God’s sexual design of the body. However, Sigmund Freud combined the life goal of happiness idea with sex. Thus, sex became central to human happiness and identity. Trueman states, “And the result is that, before Freud, sex was an activity, for procreation or for recreation; after Freud, sex is definitive of who we are, as individuals, as societies, and as a species.”3 Lastly, biblical man was to live within God’s designed family. Nevertheless, Wilhelm Reich, taught that the family and its moral codes are the primary unit of oppression against women and sexual expression, and the state must intervene for liberation.

Consequently, psychological man has stripped biblical man of his broken sinful nature, his purpose, his divine origin, his proper sexual expression, and his family unit. It is no wonder people today have no idea who they are, what their ultimate purpose is, where they came from, and how to use their bodies. It is no wonder why transgenderism is exploding on social media, receiving display tables in major department stores, demanding childhood surgeries, puberty blockers, and more. It is because they have believed in a psychological picture of mankind that has stripped itself of its true identity.

So what do we do? Proclaim the truth of the doctrine of man. Psychological man needs a picture of biblical man, for in that is the beginnings of true identity and stability. May God&rsqup;s truth of the doctrine of man be a cause for worship and evangelism in our lives.