Friday, August 29, 2008

The Validity of the Moral "Ought"

Are there moral absolutes? Or does morality change over time? I’ve been contemplating these questions and how best to articulate my thoughts concerning them. If morality changes over time and something becomes wrong that was not wrong in the past, then we give up the right to judge the past. For instance, when slavery was a normal part of society in Europe and the Americas for many years was it right then and now wrong because we have evolved to know it is inhumane? If it was not wrong then, but became wrong we diminish the injustice done to the African people by our philosophy. It either has always been wrong, or slavery is only wrong subjectively in the communities and individuals who believe it to be wrong. Hence one community has no right to impose it’s morality on another. Essentially in this line of reasoning our hands are tied when it comes to present day Sudanese slavery we have no voice to proclaim slavery in their community as wrong. Unless, of course, morality is the same for all people, places, and times.

I enjoy history and minored in history in college. I sat through many a discussion concerning Christopher Columbus. I have read documents where he called Native American’s “savage” and spoke derogatorily of this “uncivilized” people group so foreign to him and his culture. The cultural mindset he carried saw them as less than human and often took advantage of them as our history so sadly reports. Professors like to use Columbus as a good example of how he ought not to be declared a hero of American history, but ought to be despised for his contempt of the Indian people. However, if his ethics concerning them were culturally based and right in his day by all cultural standards, we have no reason to sit in judgment that he ought to have treated them as equal human beings. However, we do know that despite his ignorance of the truth, the Native Americans ought not to have been treated thusly and we have apologized to them as a nation and have rendered financial retribution for our horrific treatment of them. Therefore we see the past actions as not those of a changing morality, but of an injustice done to them in that day. We see it was wrong then as much as it is wrong today to mistreat a fellow human being.

Either we confine morality to each community and time period or even to each family or individual and have no right to tell anyone what “ought” to be, or there is an objective morality to which we appeal throughout the generations cross cultures. However, believing the latter creates a necessity for a giver of that objective morality. If morality is not a product of our own invention and is instead objective and true to all people, then we enter into the Christian worldview. Now, I know here is where people are beginning to object and say that I am inferring connections between objective morality and God that cannot exist and cannot be proven. Maybe I cannot scientifically prove God’s existence. However, if we want to continue to dispense with the idea of God we must dispense with the idea of an objective morality for all people irrespective of community, culture, and time. If it was wrong for the European colonies to participate in slavery and to mistreat the Native Americans even though most of them thought it acceptable and right behavior, then right and wrong exist objectively outside of human construct. If instead, one wants to believe that morality changes, and slavery became wrong then they can only say it is wrong for them or their culture, if their culture agrees, and not for those cultures of old or modern ones still practicing slavery. One cannot have it both ways. And if there is an objective moral standard not created by humanity then where would it have come from?

My answer from the Christian perspective is that God is the giver of this knowledge and the standard of goodness by which all things are measured. And with all things being equal, morality is absolute. If humans are to treat other humans with value simply because they are created as valuable then any action that demeans the value of a person whether it be slavery, murder, abuse, rape, etc. is wrong for all people in all times regardless of culture.

Something is less than good when it fails to keep with God’s good nature. Sin literally means “missing the mark” thus not lining up with the standard. The Bible says that all have sinned. We have all missed the mark, because none of us can be holy without God by His grace and mercy making us righteous through Jesus Christ. If we persist in moral relativity we ignore the standard and make ourselves the giver of morality and I think we all know that we are not good and we do things that break our own standards so how can we be a standard giver? The only one qualified to give a standard is one who doesn’t break it, one who is perfect in goodness. The only one who can sacrifice himself for those who break the standard is one who is perfect and without blemish being sinless himself. The only way we find mercy is through the cross of Christ because He breaks us free from the law of sin and death cleansing us from our unrighteousness and empowering us to live righteously.

For the Christian, doing “good” is not means to earn favor with God. It is because of the favor of God that we love to do what is right. Even Christians forget this and sometimes get into a pattern of trying to earn favor with God and to impose this idea on others that their actions gain them favor or take away God’s favor. In actuality, our actions do not merit us salvation for we cannot save ourselves. We strive in Christ to live lives pleasing to God because we love God and not because we are working for something from God.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Treasure Hunting

I love to seek hidden treasure. I would rather go to a thrift store and happen upon a book I would like in good condition behind a stack of books or at the bottom of a bin then to go to a book store and select it off the shelf. There is a certain thrill in yard sale, flee market, and thrift store hunting. It is indeed a hunt for a treasure, and the thrill is in the seeking. The joy is in the finding. Once a treasure or two found at one thrift store, I am off to seek at the next location.

I also like to collect beach glass. I can certainly go and buy some at a local shell shop, but I would lose the joy of the hunt. I like to walk along the beach watching the sand carefully. Sifting through broken shells and smooth beach pebbles, I’ll see a sparkle as the sun reflects off the smooth green or white glass. Occasionally, I’ll find a blue, purple, or red piece of glass!

I’m reminded of the Proverb that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of Kings to search it out. I recently heard a minister by the name of Bill Johnson say that “God doesn’t hide things from us, He hides things for us.” He gave the illustration of hiding Easter eggs for his children to find. When they are young he hides them in plain view and takes pleasure as his children joyously discover them. As his children matured he knew that he had to hide them better to give them the same joy of discovery that they experienced in times past.

God asks us to seek for Him, for His glory and our pleasure. He enjoys pleasing us with discovery of Him. He will hide a truth for us to find so that the seeking and the finding are a journey of pleasure for us and it is to His glory to give us this delight. The awesome thing about God is there is always more of Him to discover. We can continually enjoy the pleasure of seeking Him and of finding Him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Favorite Quotes

I've been tagged by DreamSwept to share five of my favorite quotes from the books I have read. As I am an avid reader who keeps a notebook handy to transcribe quotes I like as I read, therefore, I may provide more than five.

"There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one." --C.S. Lewis That Hideous Strength

". . . regardless of a man's system. he has to live in God's world."
--Francis Schaeffer The God Who is There

"I don't think you could dream anything that hadn't something real like it somewhere."
--George MacDonald At The Back of the North Wind

"Opinions are preferences amid options. Convictions are woven into one's conscience."
--Ravi Zacharias Beyond Opinion

"We must be willing to get to the foundations of our experience. If we remain content to decorate the interior of the house of knowledge and pay no attention to the structure and foundation stones of the that house, we will find that the dry rot of absurdity and the rising damp of the unexamined assumptions are fatal to the structure. "-- Joe Boot Why I Still Believe

"To posit evil presupposes an ultimate standard of good."
--Joe Boot Why I Still Believe

"And God acts justly from within, not in obedience to some imaginary law; He is the Author of all laws, and acts like Himself all of the time."
-- A. W. Tozer The Attributes of God, Vol 1

"Only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn around and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot salty tang of Nature's current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her." --C.S. Lewis Miracles

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: First Meeting

The story of my meeting my husband starts well before we first met. Approximately two years prior someone I had never met spoke prophetically over me and told me that God had a covenant partner for me and together we would be called to the walk of the ministry. I had never dated before and really had no interest in dating for the sake of dating. I knew, however, that the person I would marry would be a good friend first and foremost. I believed that if I sought after God, God would supply this person in His timing and I was content.

One day, months before I would meet the man who became my husband, I had a day of discouragement. My younger sister was out on a date and I was hanging out with family. My mom’s cousin noticed my disposition and she took me aside that night in her front yard and knowingly encouraged me that God had the right person for me and she prayed that He would begin to open the door to that new chapter of my life.

Within a month or two my sister and I made plans to go see Star Wars Episode II one Sunday evening with friends from church. She gave my cell phone number to one of our friends to call us with the show time. That friend gave my number to a friend of his to call and set things up. Little did I know that I was conversing with my future husband, Joseph, over my cell phone that afternoon. We were officially introduced at the theater that evening. He attended my church, but we were not previously acquainted.

The following Sunday afternoon, Joseph called me and asked if my sister and I would like to hang out, maybe go to the movies or something. I declined as we had plans with family to go to By the Bay, a Big Band music event at the beach. He asked if he could come. I was shocked, but said he could come. I was thinking why in the world would he want to go with my family to hear Big Band music? I knew I had a love for old music, but who else my age would even endure such an event? I gave him directions to my house so that he could ride with us.

As the summer progressed we began to become friends through hanging out with church friends and talking via IM and the phone. I felt completely at ease as I had over heard him tell a friend that he was not pursuing any relationships at that time in his life as he wanted to wait on God’s provision. My sister and I spent much of the summer hanging out with him and other friends. Then it came time for my sister to return to college and for me to start classes again at a local college. By this time Joseph and I were good friends. He was easy to talk to and it was just natural. I didn’t have any pressure or expectations of dating. We were simply good friends. It wasn’t until the months that followed that our friendship blossomed and I suddenly realized he was the ONE. I made no indication of this realization, to him or anyone else. I waited until the day he told me he wanted to pursue a relationship with me with the hope of marriage, until I told him the feeling was mutual. I knew that I knew that I knew that he was the one God had for me to marry. We’ve been married just over four years now.

Joseph had been ordained as a pastor well before we met, but was not pastoring. Today he is pastoring and we are pursuing full time ministry, just as was prophetically spoken many years ago.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A View About Human Value

I like to watch The Antique Roadshow. People bring in their family heirlooms or a great garage sale purchase and the appraisers tell them the history of the item and attach a monetary value to the item. The monetary value given is an estimation of what people will pay at auction for such an item. Most of the time, when the item is a family heirloom, the monetary auction value cannot overcome the sentimental value of the item. When the item is merely a great garage sale purchase the value assessed comes solely from the amount of money a collector is willing to pay for the item. The item might be a campaign button from a presidential election and have no intrinsic worth. It only gains worth because people collect them and are willing to pay high prices to obtain it. If someone is willing to pay $1,000 dollars for it, it gains that value.

An object only obtains the worth that someone is willing to place on it weather the value be sentimental, practical, or monetary.

People, however, do not obtain worth in this manner. Now, we have all heard someone talk about the net worth of Bill Gates, but they are referring to his bank accounts and not his person. So how does a person obtain value?

There is a degree of value that is placed on a person through relationships between family members and friends. Employees are worth something to employers. However, with humans we cannot look at human value as we do objects. The value of a person does not come from their productivity in society, their ability to love or how much they are loved, or any such performance based value system. Humans are not valuable simply because other humans value them. If a human needed another person to give them value then the lone homeless person on the street would have less value than the person ensconced in relationships that value the person. Each person regardless of their abilities, capabilities, handicaps, friendships, performance, etc. has intrinsic value. No matter if no human on this planet loves that person or cares about that person or gains anything from that person that person is priceless.

Human worth doesn’t come from the value the rest of humanity places on the life. It comes straight from the Creator of that life. If no one else on the planet knows that person and values that person, God still has given that person value. He is the one that breathed from His life into the human life and gave life and He said it is good. He said man is fearfully and wonderfully made. No matter the handicap, no matter the age, mental capacity, or physical capacity or how many humans love a person, each person is uniquely special and valuable because God created him/her.

Moreover, because we are made in his likeness we know human life is valuable. That is why we know slave trafficking is absolutely wrong and murder and abuse and injustice is wrong. We have been stamped with knowledge of the intrinsic value of humanity. That is why when we do things that devalue humanity we feel the guilt, we feel the injustice. The famous scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth when Lady MacBeth is washing her visibly clean hands of blood over and over as the guilt suffocates her is so telling of our knowledge of the value of human life.

Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!


Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles: infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets:
More needs she the divine than the physician.
God, God forgive us all! Look after her;
Remove from her the means of all annoyance,

Lady Macbeth was overwrought with guilt from her murderous deed. Soap and water would not remove the memory as she slipped into near insanity. The doctor watching her condition adequately assessed her need for relief that can only come from divine forgiveness for her deed was not one only against humanity, but against the author of life. And it was He and He alone who could remove from her the guilt of her transgression.

As a Christian I bear the responsibility of loving people like God loves them even though I cannot do it as perfectly as God does. God calls me to love those who are in Christ and everyone else and even my enemies. He says that not a sparrow falls from the sky without Him noticing. He says that He knows how many hairs are upon our heads. He sees every tear and every laugh. He asks us to live a life of love, not of our own strength, but empowered by Christ. We are all created equal and we are all precious in His sight.

Just For Fun

My cousin has tagged me to share six (6) unspectacular quirks of mine. So I'll take a breather from my philosophical musings to share a little lighthearted quirkiness.

1) My fascination with the color purple borders on quirkiness. Not the movie, but the actual color whether it be violet, plum or just plain purple I have loved the color since I was a child. I don't wear it as much these days, but I used to be drawn like a magnet to any rack of clothing that contained a purple article of attire. I often had a purple purse, a purple neckless, purple on my shoes, and purple in my hair with a purple blouse or skirt. There was this house in the neighborhood over from mine growing up that was painted lilac with plum shutters. I was curious as to who lived there and if I would end up with such a house one day. I have expanded my clothing colors in recent years and only those who know me well giggle when someone new ask me my favorite color. For most anyone who knows me knows the answer.

2) Secondly, I'm Trekkie or sorts. I don't dress up and attend Star Trek conventions. But I do enjoy the shows and movies and still have hundreds of Star Trek novels boxed away with collector cards and other collector items. I grew up on watching Kirk and Spock and the original series remains my favorite. I'm admittedly looking forward to the new movie being directed by J.J. Abrams.

3) I've developed a new quirk which I think has rubbed off on me from my husband. I have to have my books match. If a publisher puts out a new book and it doesn't match the previous book of that author, it bothers me. I like to have them all the same. There are books right now that I want that are only available in hard back and that simply will not do. I have two or three paper backs that preceded the newly released hardback in the series and I just cannot bring myself to buy a book that doesn't match the others. Thus, I wait in hope for a matching paperback. Now if I had all hardbacks, it would need to be a matching hardback. The same goes for DVD sets. If I am buying each season of a show and the last season comes out in a a new fangled case that is designed to save money and now doesn't match the rest of the seasons' boxes, it's bothersome.

4) I'm a planner. I seldom like spontaneity. I like things to be planned out way in advance. Once I was given a project in my high school Spanish class with no due date. I asked my teacher repeatedly for a due date. She said she was giving the class ample time and would announce a due date later in the semester. I finished the project immediately. The due date ended up being months later. I just can't wait until near deadline. I have to do my task upon it being given to me. The difficult thing is to resist expecting others to hold themselves to the same quirky habit. Is there a word that is the opposite of procrastination? If there is that would describe me.

5) I'm obsessed with the beach. I love to walk along the boardwalk. I love to lay out on the sand and listen to the waves crash upon the shore and watch the pelican dive into the ocean for their food. I love beach vacations and shells and beach houses. I have always dreamed of riding a horse down the beach along the ocean surf. The odd thing is I seldom get to enjoy this beach pleasure. I think that makes me yearn for the beach all the more.

6) As my blog readers have probably come to know, I like to think about thinking. I'm not sure if this is quirky, but it's probably pretty geeky. I like to look for what is behind a persons way of living and philosophy of life. I like to ponder deep theological and philosophical questions. I enjoy a good question as much as seeking out answers to the questions of life. I love to read, research, and write. I miss essay and research paper assignments from my college days. I want to learn why some ways of thinking work and some ways don't. I like to follow a train of thought out to its logical conclusion and then compare that with reality. I like to think about logic and reason and knowing and being and believing and not believing. I like to think about thinking. I like to think about worldviews instead of just with my worldview. I want to pull apart my worldview and examine it's foundations and inner workings and contrast that with other worldviews and other foundations and ways of thinking. I want to take the allegorical clock apart and see what makes it tick and how it comes to tell time, and question whether it is telling the correct time.

Okay that's my six quirks.

Here are the rules was following. I think I am going to keep the tag open ended and let readers take the ball and run with it if they want to since I don't know a lot of bloggers to tag at this point.

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Worldview Challenge Question

Let's put worldviews to the test. How does a human life gain value? If we are simply evolved animals, is a human life worth no more than the life of a cow? Or do our cognitive abilities rank us as more valuable? If so, is a dolphin then more valuable than a lamb? How about an insect, it’s a living thing. Does it have rights to life? How is it that squashing an insect does not invoke the same moral outrage as ending the life of a human? If the life of a human is priceless and valuable above all other living things, then how did this come about?

The Declaration of Independence declared that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. The United Nations manifesto grants that mankind has certain intrinsic rights, but omits any reference to them being God given.

If one rejects the Christian worldview that man is created in the image of God and is thus valuable and ought to be treated with dignity and respect then on what principal and standard do we maintain that humans have value?

Please think about this question and comment as to how your worldview answers the question of human value and rights.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Goodness of God and the Redemption of Man

Man cannot be good without God for God is the source of all goodness. One can follow every law God ever gave and still not be good. Jesus said there is none good, but God alone. God gave the law to Moses to show men a standard of measurement and when the Hebrews broke the law they had to present a sacrifice to the Lord to cover their sin. This was a foreshadowing in time of the real Sacrifice of God that would not cover sins, but wipe them away making the sinner justified and sinless in the eyes of God.

Romans 3:20 says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” So the law was given to show humanity we are sinful. This way no one could be in denial of our condition and need for a Savior. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “the ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock.” Lewis is saying that it used to be a forgone conclusion that man was guilty and God was the Judge. However in modernity, man got the idea that he was the judge and God is the one on trial. Yet the modern man takes for granted that he has no standard by which to judge God for God is the bearer of the standard of goodness, not man. How can man judge God without God? And if God’s proper place as Judge is realized there is no place for man to judge Him.

Romans 3:21-26 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished --- He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Therefore, the law and the prophets testified of the coming Savior who would bring about the redemption of man apart from observance of law. Romans 4:4, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However to the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness.” When man works to achieve goodness by following a moral standard instead of by accepting God’s free gift of righteousness, he places his goodness in his own hands instead of in God’s. And apart from God, his good acts will not lead to goodness. Scripture says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, his works did not justify Him. Only God can justify a person and when we try to be “good” on our own we are living in defiance of God’s righteousness. When we think goodness can be attained apart from God and then we can take that standard of goodness we think is our own evolved trait and judge God by it we have sunk into a quagmire of foolish thinking.

Romans 2:14 “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” Thus, when humans who have not been told about the law of God do by nature the things of the law they show that they do know good and evil and their own actions bear witness to this knowledge. Hence, to say it is possible to be good apart from God is to testify that they know there is a standard of good that they need to live by. Obeying ones knowledge of good does not bring righteousness it only produces the need for the real good: God.

Romans 5:7 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:18 – 19 “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life to all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

It all comes down to knowing we are sinners in need of a Savior and accepting Jesus sacrifice as the only redemption for our sins, thus becoming reconciled back to God. This new life with God is not one that consist of intellectual assent to the Truth, but one that is about knowing He who is the Truth, Jesus, experientially and tangibly. We invite Him to dwell with us when we accept Him as Lord and Savior and He changes our nature helping us to live the way we were created fully of life and the power of God.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A.W. Tozer Quotes: God's Justice & Holiness

Justice of God

“Justice, when used of God, is a name we give to the way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation. As gold is an element in itself and can never change nor compromise but is gold wherever it is found, so God is God, always, only, fully God, and can never be other than He is. Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so. God is His own self-existent principle of moral equity, and when He sentences evil men or rewards the righteous, He simply acts like Himself from within, uninfluenced by anything that is not Himself.”

Holiness of God

“Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down iniquity and save the world from irreparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation. The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united. God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that take the life of her child.”

Quoted from Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

Monday, August 11, 2008

Justice of God

I have posited that there can be no justice without the existence of a Just God. To provide argument to support this claim let us look at what “justice” means. According to the American Heritage Dictionary:

Justice (n.)

  1. The quality of being just; fairness
    1. The principle of moral rightness; equity.
    2. Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness.
    3. The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law.
    4. Law The administration and procedure of law.
    5. A judge.
    6. A justice of the peace.
    1. The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law.
    2. Law The administration and procedure of law.
    3. A judge.
    4. A justice of the peace.
  2. Conformity to truth, fact, or sound reason: The overcharged customer was angry, and with justice.
  3. Abbr. J. Law
    1. A judge. A justice of the peace.

The very employment of justice presumes a standard of rightness to which governs the actions of humanity. If justice is a “conformity to moral rightness” or “righteousness” there must be a standard by which conformity is judged.

If there is no objective righteousness there is no justice. There is no judgment of actions to a standard of righteousness. There is no upholding of a law any higher than man’s subjective laws of society. There is nothing concrete to justice. A victim is no longer a victim because there is no standard to determine violation of personal value or rights. The victimizer is off the hook for there is no standard. The only way that both the victim and the victimizer are brought justice is for there to be an objective moral standard.

The only way there can be an objective moral standard, is if there is an objective moral law giver who is in His character by His nature the self-existing standard of righteousness. Righteousness equates to goodness. If this righteous good God meets out justice according to the holy righteous standard of His character which results in punishment for some and mercy for others. God has decreed that He provided the sacrifice to enable Justice to justify us in Christ. If we are not under the grace of the gift of Christ blood, we are under Justice with no grace. This does not make God less good. We only find goodness in Him; apart from Him we are not good. His character is the standard of goodness and no one gains righteousness apart from His deeming us righteous through Christ.

We cannot judge Him as not good for we have no standard of goodness outside of Him by which to cast judgment upon Him. He gives meaning to the victim that would be lost without Him. He became a victim for us, experiencing our life on earth, experiencing human suffering first hand, and giving His own blood for our sins. What greater goodness could there be than Jesus sacrificing Himself for finite immoral man who rejected Him and rejects Him still? Christ didn’t die for good people; He died for unworthy sinners to make us worthy. He doesn’t ask for us to be good to earn salvation. He asks us to receive salvation from the only one who can give us eternal life.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless--I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Ask Questions Seeking Answers

I really appreciate Socrates. He wasn’t satisfied with just accepting the cultural worldview of the day. He wanted to know why we think the way we do. He wanted the experts to give real answers to his numerous philosophical questions. He asked about ethics, morality, the nature of goodness, the existence of the gods, the nature of absolutes, justice, politics, etc.

Hundreds of years later another notable questioner came on the scene. But instead of just asking questions, he came bearing answers. Not only truthful answers, but embodied in himself is and was and always will be the Truth. Jesus is He who is the Answer. Not only can He give answers to the big problems of life, He gives answers to our daily questions. Moreover, and greatest of all, He is the only true Answer and we can know Him experientially like a beloved friend. He invites the questioners to the eternal questions as He is the eternal life giving source to all creation. He is the Author of the story. He probes our spirits with His Spirit inviting us to open the door to our hearts to Him. When we do, He enters our heart and we become bearers of the Answer. He dwells with us and us with Him. The supernatural invades the natural in a wonderful life giving relationship.

Each person is at a different place in their spiritual journey. Some questions are more important to them than others. I hope they will ask their questions as all are important to their Creator. He says the Scriptures that when we seek Him we will find Him. Seek the Answer when you ask questions and you will find Truth and the Truth will set you free.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Euthyphro Problem

Socrates asked “Is what is good good because God wills it or does He will it because it is good?”

If the answer is the former then God can make anything good by His decree at will. He could have easily have reversed the 10 Commandments. For instance, commanding us to murder instead of not to murder.

If the answer to this question is the latter then God is held to some standard outside of Himself that makes Him will good versus evil. This would suggest a moral standard outside of God, which determines objective morality. This would also mean God is not perfect in and of Himself.

The answer is neither. God Himself by His nature is the standard and He is always Himself. All that He does is according to His nature.

To quote Paul Copan, “Indeed, the final resolution to the Euthyphro dilemma is that God’s good character/nature sufficiently grounds objective morality. So we don’t need to look elsewhere for such a standard. We have been made in the divine image, without which we would neither (a) be moral beings nor (b) have the capacity to recognize objective moral values. The ultimate solution to the Euthyphro dilemma shifts the grounding of morality from the commands of God to something more basic—that is, the nature or character of God. Thus, we human beings (who have been made to resemble God in certain ways) have the capacity to recognize them, and thus his commands—far from being arbitrary—are in accordance with that nature.”

Now one can push the age old question further and ask “Is God good because it is God’s character, or it is God’s character because it is good.”

However, to quote Paul Copan again, “if a good God does not exist, why think that morally responsible, intrinsically valuable, rights-bearing beings would exist at all? Without God, moral properties would never be instantiated or realized.”

He continues, “God, who is essentially perfect, does not have obligations to some external moral standard; God simply acts, and what he naturally does is good . . . God’s action and will operate according to the divine nature. So God’s goodness should not be viewed as His fulfilling moral obligations but as expressing the way he is.”

Moreover, the dilemma goes both ways as the atheists must consider, “Are moral values good simply because they are good, or is there some independent standard of good to which they conform?”

One either has to maintain a standard of objective goodness or digress to no goodness at all. Richard Dawkins writes in River Out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

If there is no objective good and evil we have “nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Yet we live in a world where everyone has a concept of good and evil. Are these merely terms made up by man with no inherent meaning? Is morality a myth and our ethics merely derived from what is best for survival or fitness to this nature we live in? We really aren’t left with satisfying answers to the need to be good.

I read a book review of a biography of Albert Einstein where it quoted Einstein as saying that he did not believe in objective morality, but had to live as if it existed to get along in the world. Why must we conform to a standard of goodness even if we disbelief in the very nature of good and evil? Why do we struggle between good and evil in our souls if it’s simply an idea produced by man? If man produced it, why is it so difficult for man to dispense with it? Why do we keep asking why? Maybe it’s because there is something real behind it all and our hearts yearn to be freed from this struggle because we were meant for something more. We try and find it through philanthropic acts of kindness, community service, religious activity, worship of man, worship of gods, worship of spirituality, etc. What is man searching for? Why the search if there is nothing to find at the end of the journey?

Could it be there is a real good God behind it all and our search is prompted by His image impressed upon us and our indispensable need to be rejoined to our Creator? Could it be that we have been fighting against our only hope and we need to stop fighting and surrender to the only one who can save us?

He is the author of this grand story and until we find our place in Him we will feel things just aren’t right with our place in this world for we were destined for more and we do know it. We even know by our own desire that He exists. For every desire has a purposed fulfillment. I think all our questions exist because there is an Answer for He is the Truth for which we are searching.

Paul Copan quotes taken from the book To Everyone An Answer

The Existence of Evil

If God did not create then there would be no evil. But He is a Creator by nature and His plan for all creation is greater than the existence of evil that comes from His creation rejecting Him and being separated from Him. He did not create evil. He said all He created was good. Sin entered into all creation by Adam’s sin. But even before that happened in our time, God had already purposed Jesus’ redemption in time for all mankind. He already saw the beginning from the end. It wasn’t a huge “oh, no, what have I done.” He knew all that would happen before He spoke a single thing into existence. And He sees the glory of all creation that comes through Christ and is being revealed in time. The glory of creation and of the Church being made ready as heir with Christ for all eternity far exceeds anything evil that can be brought about in this earth before evil is banished from creation.

Now is it evil for God who created a life to take a life? Life belongs to Him. He’s the author and giver of life. Life does not belong to us. It is wrong for us to take a life. It is not the same thing for God to do it. God sees the beginning from the end. He is God. Do we have cause to judge God as doing something wrong in bringing the Flood to wipe out a perverse generation and saving Noah and His family who serve Him? God’s justice was brought forth with the Flood. God’s justice was also brought forth by saving Noah.

If God does not exist, the whole discussion about good and evil and if God is good is a moot point. But if He does then the only way we know what good and evil are is because He revealed that knowledge to us and the self-sustaining self-evident God is the only standard of all holiness and righteousness.

Good and evil exist and we know the difference between them because there exists a Good God.

Also regarding suffering: see Peter Kreeft's essay.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Answers From the Christian WorldView Perspective

What is evil? Evil is not really the existence of something as much as it is the absence of something. Evil is the absence of good. It is a result of man living for himself instead of in the righteous way he was designed to live. It is, thus, a product of the God given free-will of man. God could have created men as robots with no freedom. They could then be “good” and love Him because He makes them do that, but would that be love? Would love keep us from harm so much so that it suffocates us into mindless obedience to a Will more powerful than our own to which we have no choice, but to serve? I think we can emphatically answer no. Therefore, the way of love is for God to create humans who can chose to love Him and live ensconced in His love or they can reject Him and live as they please.

Now living contrary to our created purpose will be harmful and against what is good, pure, and holy. It will have consequences because the way of sin leads to death. That is the natural order of things. If something leaves its natural habitat where it belongs and enters an unnatural habitat there will be a significant depletion of its vitality. It is the same for humans. If we live contrary to our created habitat of existence, which is in communion with our life source, God, then we begin to lose the fullness of life and we live in a counterfeit reality. We need our roots to be in God to have the fullness of life. When our roots are in this world instead we do not obtain enough sustenance to be complete. When our nature took on sin when Adam chose to go his own way, humanity was altered, depleted in a sense from our intended nature. Adam spiritually and physically caused a change of events in all humanity. But God is a loving and good God and despite our digging our roots into nature instead of His Super-nature, He in His grace and mercy provided a way to protect us from the consequences of sin. He did this by the most loving act of sacrifice of His own Son who is of His substance, God. This redemption provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not just for those who trust in Jesus after this event, but for all those who looked forward to the promise of redemption before this event. All of creation climaxed and culminates in the redemptive act of Christ. All that was depleted can find restoration in Christ because of His sacrifice.

Why did God have to do it this way? Why not just forgive all our sins with no sacrifice? Or why not just let us do as we please and give us all eternal bliss anyway? The wages of sin is death. Death, physically and spiritually, is the result of sin in the natural order of things. So either we continue in that death—that separation from the life source of God or He dies in our place and substitutes Himself to pay the price that we would have had to pay to protect us and restore us by His works and not by ours. So while all men sin and none are good by themselves. He paid our debt of sin. He suffered so we wouldn’t have to. What greater love can there be? What greater goodness?

You see, eternal life is more than heaven. Heaven is a place where our life continues after the natural body dies, but it is an extension of our source of life while we are living on the earth. If we are in God on earth, we continue the same way upon natural death. We continue that life with God. If we reject God on earth we continue in that place of rejection after death. It’s the state we exist in by our choice, not by His punishment. Eternal life happens when we accept the free gift of the forgiveness of God through Jesus. He promises that He will dwell within us, and commune with us, changing our nature to a redeemed nature versus our nature that is tied to death and the earth due to sin.

I was asked in a comment that if a Christian’s nature is changed why are some atheists more moral than some Christians? It would appear there is nothing to this whole idea that somehow Christians are changed for they are not better in their actions than anyone else who strives to be moral.

The answer is that while spiritually we are made new, sometimes it takes some time for that to mature in outward changes. It is a process of growth in Christ. Some Christians are in a place where they accepted His forgiveness and they have His eternal life, but they never left infancy in their relationship with Him. Sometimes it’s because they held on to some parts of their lives that they did not want to surrender to God and God’s still working out a process of redemption in those areas. Each person’s relationship with God is different and its own journey. There are not to be cookie cutter Christians who are all in the same robotic state of maturity in Christ because they said some prayer and now everything in their life is all-good. Upon accepting God’s forgiveness and coming into relationship with Him, you are at that moment under His grace and mercy and His justice justifies you as holy and pure in His sight. But in the natural there are things that still persist from the old life that often times can take time to work out. You do not suddenly loose your will and become a perfect moral puppet serving God’s every whim. You still have control of your mind, will, and emotions and you still are in a learning process of what it means to know and trust God. God is patient with us and He is kind. Our struggles or our doubts do not offend Him. So you’ll find Christians at all different places in their walk with God.

The important thing is looking at ourselves and our own distance from God. We can’t get to God by being good or being religious or any other way we can come up with by our own ideas. The only way to God, is God coming to us. He has done that through Jesus opening the door for anyone who wants to step through and walk a new walk by His loving strength; therefore entering a new supernatural reality that is more real than our counterfeit realities we derive by our unaided reason. He is the reason we can reason and yet we use it to deny Him instead of to come to Him for even our reason has been adversely affected by the sinful nature. When we use it without Him being our source of truth, we use it in a limited fashion and not in its fullness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Goodness Derives From God

I would like to address the matter of humanities knowledge of good and evil from the Christian worldview. At this point, I am going to deal with the topic in a foundational philosophical manner that would be agreed upon by all theists. While theism is broader than Christianity, Christianity has the foundational adherence to the position I am herein presenting. Therefore I am not delving into Scripture nor Christian doctrine to address this topic at this point. In future posts, I will develop it out and provide a more detailed response as prompted by questions this post will undoubtedly produce.

As far as I have deduced, my audience accepts that there are good actions and behaviors as well as bad ones and that humans for the most part know the difference between the two. Further, I think all cultures no matter how remote have a system of right and wrong even if their standard of moral judgment is different than the next culture. So where does that idea come from? How did we gain a moral construct of right and wrong? Is it mere social conditioning? Is it merely instinctual impulses of survival? Is something wrong because society says it’s wrong? Can one culture condemn the actions of another as wrong? If so, by what standard?

Theists maintain that we have knowledge of the difference between good and evil (even if we disagree sometimes on specifics) because there is a standard of good outside of nature because a good God exists. When we break from that standard we have the conscious to know something doesn’t line up with the way we are created to live. We know when something is foreign to goodness.

From what has been presented to me thus far, atheists maintain that because they know right from wrong without believing in or fearing God that is proof that moral knowledge is not something related to knowing God. However, Christians maintain that we have a moral compass even if we are not brought up in Christianity or in religion. A person in the most remote village of Africa with no contact to the outside world would have a moral compass even if some of his actions were barbaric to the civilized world. His village would still have a system of right and wrong because they are humans living in reality. Thus, atheists will have just as much knowledge of the existence of good and evil and the desire to be moral people as anyone else.

Atheists, from my rudimentary observations, maintain that Christians believe morality is connected to a system of punishment and rewards of a demanding judgmental invisible God. They believe, therefore, that Christianity is a manmade system of controlling people into an outdated conservative system of morality by manipulation and the promulgation of the fear of hell.

I can understand why it may look like this is a fair description of Christianity. If the only Christians I had ever met were the ones I encountered this summer at the beach holding signs listing sins God was going to judge people for and shouting about hell into a crowd of teenagers--I would run the other way too and declare it a barbaric brainless religion. I cannot say strongly enough that people like that are not representing true Christianity and are decidedly giving Jesus a bad name by their shameful actions. My husband, a pastor, spoke with these people when we came across them and asked that they cease antagonizing the crowd of angry youth. We emphatically urged the crowd to disperse, to no avail. They were having too much fun heckling the beach preachers. I don’t blame the young people for their responses. My husband and I were greatly disturbed by this misrepresentation of the heart of God towards people.

I would asks that people look past the extremist and religious nut cases to the real nature of truth and examine the truth claims themselves despite some of the misleading representations often depicted in the media and sometimes observed in real life. Please don’t let the attitude and actions of some keep you away from really examining the truth claims of the Christian worldview.

To touch briefly on a more specific Christian view of morality: it isn’t about adhering to rules out of fear of divine retribution or hope of divine rewards. For some, granted, it is thus. However, for many others it is simply this: that man is separated from God because of our sinful nature and consequently fails to live up to even his own standard of right and wrong perfectly. However, because Jesus paid the price of sin in our place we are freed from the bondage of sin and empowered by Christ to love and know God and love and live with our fellow humans the way we were created to do so.

What God asks from man, is not blind obedience, but a real tangible relationship that starts with accepting the free gift of salvation from sin and death offered through Jesus. Thus we become reconciled back to God, ensconced in His love, and we begin life anew learning from God how to be all he created us to be. The work Jesus did on the cross is not simply to redeem mankind, but to redeem all of creation back to its full glory.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Evolution of Reason????

I have just read an essay by an atheist giving argument for the evolution of humanities ability to know truth without appealing to the existence of God. The writer puts forth that only those traits and thoughts that lend toward survival will continue and those thoughts which are harmful to survival and fail to line up with reality will not survive. Therefore, as the argument goes, we are evolving into something more true to our environment and our thoughts likewise will line up with truth.

So as to not misstate the author the following is two excerpts of his argument:

A creature that could not respond correctly to its environment, or that did so only imperfectly, would be at a significant survival disadvantage compared to one that could perceive more accurately. Therefore, it should be obvious that, all else being equal, evolution will always favor greater accuracy of sensory perception - both the ability to sense the environment with greater fidelity and the disposition to respond correctly to those sensory impressions.

Though it is not perfect, it is more than obvious that evolution will produce at least generally reliable mental tools for environmental perception, pattern recognition and abstract reasoning in any intelligent being. In light of this, the burden of proof is now on the presuppositionalists to explain why an evolutionary naturalist should not consider their own beliefs reliable.

If evolution is generating minds that think more and more truly then why do billions of people ascribe to religion and spiritual worship that atheists claim are illogical practices? If evolution is producing reasonable truth thinkers why are there so few atheists in this world? Are atheists claiming to be superior to the rest of the world? Atheism, despite the few popular books in the end caps at Barnes and Noble is not the wave of the future. Postmodernism is actually the current ebb and flow of the today’s world which does not ascribe to the knowablity of truth nor the supremacy of science and reason. Why is one more popular than the other if atheists are the more evolved humans? Most postmodern thinkers are very much into spiritualist thinking versus dogmatic reason. I’m not advocating postmodernism. I am only pointing out that it is fast becoming a cultural norm as modernism is quickly being transformed to postmodern thinking. Atheists are still behind the curve if we are truly looking at what is new and surviving as the most reliable human thought. So if evolution is producing true thinking as time marches on, why is culture moving away from science and reason to experience and spirituality?

If this explanation of evolutionary truth development were true then atheists would be the most ascribed to worldview instead of one of the least believed worldviews. It would appear that the argument for evolutionary establishment of truth in the human mind is actually self-defeating for atheists.

Author's Note: Please see comment exchanges to see that I was not understanding the nature of the argument I was addressing before I made this post. I am in dialog with those of the atheist worldview in the comments to learn more about what their position truly is so that I do not falsely represent it. I would delete this blog, but I would lose the comments and the lessons learned attached. So I invite my readers to read the comments for more on this topic.