During the middle of the twentieth century, the great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that the Western world was a “world come of age,” by which he did not intend a compliment; he meant that Westerners had learned to manage life without reference to God and that life without God is deeply unhealthy for individuals and for society and culture. Bonhoeffer’s insight was prophetic.
This is not to say that Westerners are irreligious. Scripture teaches that all people are religious. We are always worshiping; we are always orienting our hearts either toward the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or towards false gods such as Ba’al. Yet, unlike the people of the Ancient Near East, our idols are not usually shaped in the image of a golden calf. Instead, our idols tend to be metaphorical; we give our love, trust, and obedience to things in this world such as sex, money, power, and the approval of others.
Additionally, we build ideologies around our idols to support them and work out their logical implications in our lives. One such ideology is “expressive individualism.” And, although most Westerners may not be aware of this phrase, they are likely very aware of what it is in practical reality.
Expressive individualism (EI) is a label used to describe an ideology that has arisen during the past several hundred years, an ideology that has gathered steam and now dominates Western culture. EI is the view that….
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