Expressive Individualism: The ‘Truth’ Behind the Half Truths

How aware are you of air? Air is all around us. We breathe it in every few seconds. It’s what we live and work and play in. But I’m guessing you’re not that conscious of air. It’s something you’ve just accepted as normal. Besides, you’ve never really known of anything else. But… let’s imagine you could speak to a fish. They would tell you that for them air is not normal. Not everyone lives in it… and it is peculiar to your species.

Ok, so why the laboured analogy? Well, air is kind of like what ‘Expressive individualism’ is to Australia and the rest of the West. You might be thinking… “expressive what now?!” I’ll do my best to define it for you in a moment. But for starters, expressive individualism is a philosophy that so permeates our culture that we are unconscious of it. We just think it’s normal, it’s how life is. But if you went and lived in another culture you would soon understand that your way of life shaped by the West… your ‘mindset’ and values are not universally true. They are peculiar to your culture.

This Sunday we begin a new series called ‘Half Truths: Exploring Some Common Claims’. There are four claims we’re going to be examining together:

  1. Do Whatever Makes You Happy
  2. Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What to Do
  3. Be True to Yourself
  4. Don’t Judge Me

I’m guessing you’ve probably heard these slogans in one form or another. They’re in our songs, our movies and our advertising. What ties all four of these claims together is the individual. Notice that each phrase encourages you as an individual to be the ultimate authority in your life. Maybe you think that’s just common sense… but if you go to India or China, you will realise that this thinking is not universal. This kind of thinking has been nurtured by expressive individualism’s influence in the West. Here’s my best attempt at defining this philosophy. Expressive individualism is the belief that to live a full and satisfying life, you must look inside and discover who you are, and then be free to express that without judgement from others. That might not sound all that bad. But then again, maybe that’s because we’ve breathed in this philosophy for many years? Wherever you are at, I encourage you to join us for our 4-week series examining some of the popular mantras of expressive individualism in our culture. Jesus promised, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

Jesus promises to show us the truth. He promises us freedom… and abundant life (John 10:10). Let’s listen to what he has to say together as we open up his Word. Oh, and if you’d like to learn more about expressive individualism, you can always start by reading this blog series from the Gospel Coalition.

Grace and peace,