Monday, June 29, 2009
I find it fascinating how often a child will make a statement that adults think preposterous and dismiss as a child’s fantasy when in reality the child was telling the truth. An adult might not be so quick to go running around telling everyone they saw a fish fall out of a tree. But a child is unwavering in what they know to be true without regard to what others may think.
How much do our adult minds hinder us from seeing what is really true because life has taught us such a thing doesn’t happen? We have a greater mental maturity than a child and yet sometimes the child is more aware of what is really true for they tell it as they see it. I wonder if this is one of the reasons Jesus said we ought to be as little children to see the Kingdom of God. It isn’t that the Kingdom of God is some fantasy only fit for children. Nor is it that He didn’t want adults to uncover the truth of its non-existence and so it would be better for them to think childishly. No, it’s that children see what it is really there without preconceived notions of what’s proper or acceptable. They aren’t swayed by what’s respectable to society, but what really is before them.
A child can often perceive the reality of things much better than adults. They lack the fear that holds adults back from accepting something that seems too incredible to be real as reality. Children don’t concern themselves with all that, they just tell you what they know to be true even when a fish falls from a tree.
Friday, June 26, 2009
What is real value? Can value be real if it can be given and taken away at will by humanity? History shows a world full of people who think their race is better than another’s. Prejudice, racism, and slavery still abound in the world and yet we all have this idea that this is wrong. How is that? Are we just evolved from the animals and we have our own form of the survival of the fittest? What keeps that mentality from prevailing over the value of every man, woman, and child?
In the popular film I Robot, Will Smith’s character wrestles with the knowledge that a robot calculated the odds of his own survival over that of a small child and pulled him to safety instead of the child. Smith wanted the child, whom he had never met, saved before his own life. He was willing to chance both of their deaths to save the weaker one first.
In an airplane if there becomes a need to put on the oxygen masks the stewards tell the passengers to put it on themselves before putting it on the children and others who need help. This is because it is our natural inclination to protect the weaker not the stronger. The stewards know that if you don’t put the oxygen on yourself first you may not have time to help the weaker ones and they won’t be able to help you. The point though is that we will risk ourselves to help those with less chance of survival. This is not in line with the Darwinian evolutionary progress.
Regardless we hold to the value of life. If life has value regardless of who believes it does, then someone else external to us is giving life value. Time plus matter plus chance is not producing value. If all there is the natural universe which exists as a result of random chance then there is no value to our lives other than what we choose to give it. If we have the power to choose to give life value, we have the same power to take it away for we are not perfectly good people and we will use people for our own needs and thereby rob their value at the will of the stronger.
However, if we have been lovingly fashioned and created by a good God who makes good things then we have inestimable intrinsic value. Each and every human no matter how small or weak or handicapped has priceless value. This is why abuse, murder, discrimination, racism, hatred, unkindness, etc is wrong.
I’m certain some of you are ready to argue that since I said above that humans who give value can just as easily take it away that God could do likewise. In fact, you will further claim that he has reduced the value of life by taking it Himself. So how in the world do I have any grounds to claim God gives us value?
I don’t think anyone can argue though that humans have a birds eye view on life nor are we perfectly good in our thinking and actions. We could and have convicted innocent men. We are not perfectly just in what we do.
However, a perfectly good and holy God would be perfectly just and perfectly good in all of His words and actions. A perfect God would not need to change to be something other than what He has always been for if He is perfect then there isn’t something else better to be and perfection isn’t ever being less than that. So if God created us with value then we really have it and that doesn’t ever change. But God also is just because He is good and perfect and He can perfectly exact justice and when He does so our tainted fallen minds may see it has unjust and we may try and claim He is doing something wrong. But if goodness is that which lines up with Him, we have no grounds in our created selves to declare the only source of real goodness as doing something not good. For we have no other point of reference for the good. He created all, He is the only uncreated Being; thus His goodness is uncreated.
All other references to good only gain meaning in light of His goodness. He has to give it to us from His own goodness in order for it to be so. That is why that which is evil is that which is contrary to Him, for what is in accordance with Him is good. When we alter the point of reference of good to something that is not perfect we create an ambiguous ever changing point of reference which is no real point at all.
Our understanding of what is good will be limited and tainted by our current state of imperfection, but when we join in God’s life by His invitation which He has extended freely He works in us to bring a full restoration of who we were really designed to be. And while He instantly makes us righteous when we accept His invitation, the transformation of the inner reality is a process walked out in time that culminates in a future day where we will fully be restored.
Monday, June 22, 2009
It is predominantly accepted that if something is true it is accurately corresponding to what actually is real. For example, if 1 + 1 = 2 is a true mathematical equation then we are accepting that if one thing is added to another thing the real result is that there is now two things.
This necessarily is not a truth we created, but a truth we discovered. People have assigned values to signs (numbers or letters) to explain that truth in a communicable form. Therefore, when a person sees the sign “1” we know it signifies the singular. Similarly, if a person sees the sign “I” it also signifies the singular in a Roman numeral fashion. However, regardless of the sign used, it has the value of representing what really is accurate. No one held a conference to decide if one object and a second object make two objects, it simply does. It is a reality, a truth.
To illustrate further, gravity is something real, it did not become real when we discovered it and gave it a name, it has been real. Man didn’t create or invent it. The real existed apart from our apprehension of that reality.
Therefore, when I use the term “really real” I am indicating that which is truly actual apart from our thinking about it. It exists or is true whether or not we know it or accept it.
To dig a little deeper, morality is either a reflection of what we think about the world and our humanity and does not correspond nor conform to any real good, or that which is really right morally is that which most accurately reflects the good.
If the former is true and there is no real good that morality corresponds to, then the only anchor for morality is that which we as humans devise. Those that agree with those morals remain free, and those who do not get punished by the system which enforces those ideals. So if humans devise that stealing is not an acceptable behavior then some form of punishment or retribution may be brought upon those who steal. But in the long run, the only wrong committed is that a person decided to do something outside of the cultural norm. Eventually a new cultural norm could be adopted and stealing made acceptable. This I think is similar to the argument given that slavery was acceptable and thus right and now not acceptable and wrong. Thus, morality changes over time or is different from one culture to the next. In this view, there is no good. Right and wrong are continually in flux based on whose perspective one is viewing the world for the oppressor and the oppressed see it very differently.
Now, in contrast to this view, there is the idea that morality is to be a reflection of what is truly good. Good exists, and what is right conforms to what is good. Something then is either really right or really wrong. We can do something that is wrong and not know it’s wrong, and it still be wrong. This view would say that if it is really good for mothers to love their children then it is good even if no one believes it to be so. If it is good for fathers to be kind to their children, then it is really good and right.
Moral principals, or laws themselves can be judged because they are to be reflections of what is right, and in them is not rightness itself. Thus if the government says that murder is wrong, their authority does not make it really true that murder is wrong. They could be incorrect and the law could be out of line with what is good, or it could be a reflection of what is really true and murder is indeed very much wrong. But there is a sense that we can judge if a moral is right or wrong, because there is an external good by which we judge. We might not be aware of this good, we might have a worldview that denies it, but we still think in conformity with the idea that we can reason about a moral that an entire culture upholds as right and we can contemplate whether it really seems right or not. There is something by which we judge it even if we haven’t understood it yet.
We use degrees of perfection all the time. Killing a child is worse than killing a fly. Or some would say we ought not to kill a fly either, especially if you are the President of the
So the two choices that I see on the table for those who accept the reality of humans living in relation to morality are that morals follow only from the human intellect and emotions and have no real correspondence with any real good or that morals are to reflect the real good and can do so in degrees of accuracy some being a bad or grossly distorted reflection and others being the best reflection available to us.
I hope that has cleared up the discussion a little. If I have not accurately retold the perspective of morals existing without a perfect good, then please show me where I erred. Notice I did not use the term “objective” or “subjective” or “absolute” anywhere above in this post to be as plain as possible.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Follow this link for the video. For another telling of it see this link.