At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Word made flesh. All the Gospel writers (especially St. John) emphasize the reality of God present among us in a very tangible, physical way. This is a critical truth because one of the dangers is reducing our faith to a mere collection of ideas, setting aside the actual Jesus who took up our full nature, lived among us, and summoned us to a real encounter.
These Christmas themes are more important than ever for us who live in a post-nominalist, post-Cartesian, neo-Gnostic world. The effect of this is that many of us live increasingly “up in our heads.” More and more we are out of touch with reality. What matters is what we think, how we feel, what our opinion is. Such things increasingly overrule even obvious realities.
In such an environment can come the notion that someone can say he is a female trapped in a male body. Never mind that his body is clearly male right down to its X and Y chromosomes. No, what matters is what he thinks and feels. Physical reality has nothing to do with his assertion and he feels quite justified in ignoring it.
How did we get here? It likely started with the rise of nominalism in the 14th century. But what supercharged the problem is sometimes called the “Cartesian divide.” The ideas of philosopher René Descartes are said to divide the more ancient trust in reality and the senses from the modern world, which is marked by increasing skepticism and doubt that we can actually encounter reality at all.
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