Live Not by Nonsense!

I know what it’s like to suffer at the hands of anxiety and I also know the debilitating effects of what has been called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  The two are often partners in crime.  If one is near the other is not far off. For me, anxiety and OCD settled in just before my senior year in high school started. I went out one evening with friends and ordered pizza and the kitchen threw in a side of salmonella at no extra charge.  However, in the long run it cost me quite a bit.  I ended up in the hospital for the first four days of my senior year.  I was in bad shape.  However, the unexpected outcome of the experience was a long term battle with the aforementioned foes. 

Now, why tell you about this? Well, be patient and you’ll see.  I can remember in the days, weeks, months and years ahead being told one thing over and over again. “It’s all in your head!” You know what that means and so did I.  I was imagining the problems. They weren’t real. They were nonsensical.  An overactive imagination was creating realities for me to contend with. I was obviously on the losing team. I found it hard to tell people that it might all be in my head but that’s where my current residence happens to be, so give me something concrete by way of help!

And like Christian wallowing in the Slough of Despond, help did come.[1]  It came in a variety of ways but I’ll tell you about one of those avenues. I was challenged to trust God. Yes, I can hear the moans. Those of you who have struggled with these problems have heard this before.  I know.  But hang in there. I was challenged to trust God in a concrete way. I started to think about the general reliability of my senses, the things God gave to me that I might experience the world around me.  I could see, smell, taste, hear and touch.  And when I smelled coffee in another room, I knew someone was brewing a pot.  When I touched something hot I knew it was hot. And when I read my Bible I didn’t doubt that I was reading God’s Word. My senses connected me to a real world. Now, here is the point. If I spent an hour going around the house checking to make sure that the stove was off or the doors were locked I wasn’t trusting the senses God had given to me! I didn’t doubt the smell of coffee, that the stove was hot or that I was reading meaningful sentences from the Bible. So, why not look at the stove, see that it was off and believe it?  That among other things was an enormous help to me in overcoming what could have led to a debilitating life.

Now, here is my question. Why aren’t we doing the same thing for people who say, for example, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body?”  In days gone by we would have said, “It’s all in your head!” And those people would have been correct to say, “Yes, but that’s where I happen to live at the moment!”  And so, what is to be done?  Well, the obvious. Show them a dollar bill and ask them what it is.  When they say, “A dollar, of course!” we affirm them.  Then brew some coffee in another room and ask them what they smell.  When they say, “Coffee, of course, and may I have a cup?” we give it happily. Just to press our point we might say as we hand it to them, “Now you’re sure it’s not tea you smelled?” “No,” say they, “I know coffee when I smell it!”

And then we invite them into a room alone with a mirror.  When they emerge we ask, “What did you see?” Of course, the biological man is going to say, “I saw a man.” Of course, he did.  We must invite people to live in the reality that God has made. The person who lives in their own mental world with no connection to reality, not even their bodily reality, is an extreme form of solipsism. It’s literally non-sense.  In other words, this person has shut out all sensory evidence and so lives in a world of literal none-sense. Local governments are legislating non-sense these days.[2]  So, what are we to do?  In 1974 Alexander Solzhenitsyn asked a profound question and then gave it an answer,

And thus, overcoming our temerity, let each man choose: Will he remain a witting servant of the lies…or has the time come for him to stand straight as an honest man, worthy of the respect of his children and contemporaries?[3]

For Solzhenitsyn, the answer could not have been clearer. He would not live by lies. I can’t think of better Biblical sense than that. Let us stop re-telling lies, affirming and supporting lies, using the vocabulary of lies and condemning people to live with their own lies through legislation.  Let us live not by lies. Or better, let us live not by nonsense.

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is also an online instructor for Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. He is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and has published academic articles and book reviews in various journals. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth ( an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. 

[2] West Lafayette, IN is considering legislation (Ordinance 31-21, Ord_31-21_Ban_Conversion_Therapy__Amended_.pdf ( that would forbid using this sort common or Biblical sense in counseling people struggling with sexual orientation.   


Jeffrey Stivason