by Jacob Roberts
Nothing is true; everything is permitted. – The Assassin’s Creed’s Maxim
Taken from Vladimir Bartol’s novel Alamut, the “maxim” found in the popular video game series Assassin’s Creed poses a frightening reality. When nothing is true, everything is indeed permissible. In the game Assassin’s Creed Revelation, Ezio Auditore da Firenze attempts to clarify and justify the maxim asserting that, “to say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization.” Although his desire for people to consciously engage society rather than passively let the course of history move forward is laudable, the foundation for that intellectual engagement seems shaky at best.
Lest you think that the logic of the maxim can only be found in videogames, recent events in our world have proven that when truth ceases to exist, anything is possible. For instance, Dr. Deanna Adkins, a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, testified in a North Carolina federal court that, “from a medical perspective, the appropriate determinant of sex is gender identity.” In other words, Dr. Adkins believes that a person’s perception or feelings about their sex (not gender) can more accurately reveal their sex (again, not gender) than their XX or XY chromosome. She did not, however, explain how these perceptions would account for medical treatments that vary with sex, such as the dosing and selection of medication.
This rejection of genetic evidence marks an interesting shift in the intellectual climate of our world. Before, popular logic ran that our “gender” was a perception which could be shaped and molded by the person at will, while a person’s “sex” was a reality determined by their genetics. Even when accounting for chromosomal abnormalities such as triple X or XXY chromosomal anomalies, “sex” was understood to be scientifically verifiable. Now, according to Dr. Adkins, this empirical evidence does not hold as much weight as perceptions of gender.
Though this is just one example, it seems as if our world as a whole has continued to reject truth, even to the point of contradicting scientific evidence. Isaiah laments this kind of rejection of truth in a passage where he describes the woes of the wicked: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5: 20-21).
In this passage, Isaiah notes how people have rejected reality, creating their own truth in which evil becomes good and good becomes evil. While sensations such as bitter and sweet can vary from person to person, Isaiah nails home the point of his woes in that last sentence. We have rejected God’s truth and reality for our own reality which opposes His. We, the sheep, have attempted to become the Shepherd.
Now, some would say that this move from sheep to shepherd is commendable, that man has finally cast off the oppressive shackles of the divine and placed the reigns of destiny rightfully into the hands of humanity. After all, this would seem to be the logic of Ezio Auditore da Firenze from Assassin’s Creed. While I absolutely think that Christians are called to intellectual excellence—as seen in the numerous passages of scripture that call the faithful of God to reason, discernment, and wisdom—there is an extreme danger in attempting to supplant God as author and creator of reality.
Paul addresses this danger in the very beginning of his letter to the church in Rome. He asserts that some have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). The creature that we often serve and worship is ourselves, elevating us from the position of created to that of the creator. We reject God as the author of reality and instead install ourselves as the shaper and maker of truth. Such a rejection, Paul goes on to say, sets our mind on and fills us with evil (Romans 1:29).
Because of the supposed freedom and power gained by replacing God, doing so may seem like a profitable course of action; however, the evil that is generated by this usurpation of God’s role ends up destroying us. In one of his many psalms, David describes the self-destructive nature of evil:
Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads. (Psalm 7:14-16)
Even though becoming the creator looks as if it will give us the power and freedom we desire, it in reality only creates evil, something that David tells us will “recoil” back and destroy us.
As we reflect upon these ideas, we must be willing to ask several questions of ourselves and answer them honestly. In what ways have I attempted to move from sheep to shepherd, from created to creator? How has taking over God’s role as creator worked out for me? Has it produced the freedom, happiness, and fulfillment that I thought it would? Am I willing to deeply engage with God while still allowing him to be the shepherd and creator?
Though it seems as if our world continues to find new ways to try and take God out of his role as creator, we as his children should acknowledge and celebrate Him for who he is and what he has created.