The Idol of Self-interest
There’s a very unpleasant breed of Christian festering in the comment sections of blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook groups. They won’t recognize themselves in the description I give in this paragraph, but you certainly will if you have run across them. They are typically young men, many well-educated and some with a background in philosophy. Their most obvious attribute, aside from their pride and superiority complex, is that they are unteachable. They always have an answer to counter anything you say. They are especially inclined to do so when they don’t understand what you said but think that they do. As one well-known Bible teacher has noted–that’s a stupid way to live.
The Cage Stage
Some1 have noticed that people who have come to accept the doctrines of grace, especially in the Reformed tradition (to which I subscribe), go through what has been dubbed a “cage-stage” in which these new converts feel compelled to correct everyone else’s doctrine in an obnoxious and impatient manner. The term comes from the idea that it might be better for all concerned if the people afflicted with this malady were locked up in a cage until they mature a bit in their faith.
Now many men, myself included, can relate to the excitement of learning new things as young men and remember their enthusiasm to tell others about what they had learned. And, we sometimes spread our message with varying degrees of hubris, forgetting that just a short time before, we too didn’t know these truths.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon can lead people to spread false teaching as well. Of course, they don’t think it’s false.
One such group consists of Ayn Rand devotees who claim to have incorporated into their worldview all of her true but none of her false philosophy. Their mission, the noblest on earth, is to defend reason, individualism, and capitalism.
Their tactics include making outrageous, provocative statements to get attention. For example, they might say “There is no such thing as …” and then they fill in the blank with a term we know by common sense exists. Or they say “… is more dangerous than Cultural Marxism” and fill in the blank with an apologetics method they deem inferior to theirs. They feel compelled to point out publicly what they see as muddled thinking by people they claim to have great respect for, people they were sometimes educated by. I haven’t yet figured out how these men, who are mostly in their twenties and some still in school, so quickly surpassed their mentors in understanding, let alone wisdom.
Now, in their defense, most of the philosophies and beliefs they oppose are truly dangerous and will have disastrous consequences for our society if adopted. However, their apparent lack of humility makes it impossible for them to learn from others where they are in error.
They cannot see, for example, that to someone outside their coterie, that their defense of self-interest has gone far beyond a rejection of altruism as a guiding principle for our lives to what looks like a worship of self-interest, making it a guiding principle for our lives instead.
My advice is to run as fast as you can the other direction when you encounter this philosophy.
I suggest for your consideration the following understanding of self-interest instead: It is in our self-interest to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.
A Winsome Alternative
Anyone interested in learning more about the dangerous philosophies currently infiltrating society and the Church can find on the internet other groups of men and women who have better arguments to counter ideologies such as critical theory and who have enough humility to continue learning and listening. They have a more winsome and convincing message.
- See these articles by R.C. Sproul and R.C Sproul Jr.: “Escaping the ‘Cage-Stage‘” and “Cage-Stage Calvinism: What Is It and What Causes It?”