The cult of options and the paradox of choice: Monkey business

In his “Fools Rush In where Monkeys Fear to Tread,” Carl Trueman refers to Mark Dever’s (pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church) fulminations “against what he sees as the ”cult of options’ that is so important for young people today. In essence, the cult of options is the desire to keep all life options open, of not making commitments that close down possibilities in the future. Arguably, this is a function of a consumer society where choice is exalted as a virtue; it is perhaps particularly ingrained in America where even the education system allows for options to be kept open even to university level, ln Britain, at least in my day, you limited your academic subjects to three at the age of sixteen, and thus the fundamental choice – arts or sciences – was made very early on, Against this cult of options, Mark argues strongly for committing oneself early to particular things and thus cutting off the temptation to choose and to drift and to drift and to choose throughout life.”

Trueman asks whether it is possible in such a willy-nilly dilly-dally society to produce responsible leaders, for a leader has to be able to make decisions. Mark Dever’s diatribe reminds me of Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on “The paradox of choice” where he argues with panache that the more options we have in life, the more miserable we are.

Don’t be a monkey; Barry Schwartz is not a Calvinist; he’s Jewish. Oops, I’m both! Or is it all three?

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