If I Like It, Then It’s Good: Moral Judgments, Part 2


The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do—that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? (“Moral Judgments, Part 1”

When I taught seventh and eighth graders, I soon learned that a good number of the boys students found it amusing to look for double entendres, particularly ones with a possible sexual slant. I decided early on that I could either learn all the latest slang and work to avoid any words that might carry sexual innuendo, or I could teach my students to employ a little self discipline. I opted for the latter.

The problem I came up against was that some bright kids astutely said, in essence, But why shouldn’t we laugh? It’s funny. They were right, of course. Suggestive interpretation can be funny. Dirty jokes can be funny too.

So, I asked, is that the standard we use to determine what we listen to — if it makes us laugh?

It’s the question we should all be asking today. Is the standard we use to determine what we read, watch on TV, listen to on our iPods, where we go, who we hang with, how we spend our time, what Internet sites we visit nothing more than that it entertains us? Is the highest good, our feelings of pleasure — happiness, mirth, satisfaction, gratification, amusement?

You’d think so, judging by what we talk about and how we spend our time. But most of us realize there are more important things than what pleases us — the good of our family, for instance, or for Christians, doing what God wants us to do. In public schools here in California, the overriding principle students are to use as a guide for their behavior is, Do no one harm.

But all those and the countless other standards used in the business world, in government, in the legal system, in the marketplace, offer no definition for “good” or for “what God wants” or “harm.”

Is it harm to make fun of someone? If so, then why do we allow Saturday Night Live to stay on TV? Is it “good” for someone to be mocked for his lack of singing ability on national TV? Is it “what God wants” when we write a book that says there is no hell?

How are we to make such judgments?

We could go with what pleases us. Saturday Night Live is a funny show, so whatever they joke about is just fine.

We could say, A person gets what he’s asking for, so the clowns who try out for talent shows when they have no talent, deserve to get hammered. But does that mean someone cheering for the Giants in Dodger Stadium is asking to get hammered?

We could say, What we think is right, is what God wants us to do. So when people like President Obama support fetal stem cell research because they believe many, many people will be cured of diseases as a result, does their belief in their cause mean they are doing what God wants?

Clearly, every issue has two sides. Who’s to say what’s right? Person A says pornography hurts a person and tears apart marriages. Person B says it’s an innocent way of releasing sexual tension.

Person A says abortion kills babies. Person B says abortion saves children from lives of abuse and neglect.

Person A says bullying is part of growing up and every kid gets teased. Person B says bullying destroys self-esteem and pushes victims toward retaliation of one kind or the other.

On and on, round and round. Is it true that we should just go with what the majority of people believe to be right? Do we take a vote? Today it’s wrong to throw Jews into concentration camps, but tomorrow, if we have enough votes, we can decide that good means Jews will be arrested and jailed?

Is there no fixed standard? No way to know what is right and what is wrong for all time? Or are we left to our whims or to the trends of society fashioned by the best propaganda money can buy?

One of the telling facts that came out of President Obama’s statements about the Supreme Court’s deliberations about the Constitutionality of the health care law was that he considered the popularity of the law to be a reason it should stand and not be struck down. As if popularity outweighed the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

But President Obama is a man of the times. As is Donald Trump. Secretary Clinton is no less a product of our times. How do they define good? It would seem they do so by whatever they want.

Essentially, our society has come down to this: every person does what is right in his own eyes, and if he’s doing something the law says is illegal, he moves with greater caution so he doesn’t get caught.

There ought to be a better way to determine what is right and wrong. And there is.

This post, part two of a short series on moral judgment, is an edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2012.

Nobody’s Perfect

familynews_061514I don’t remember a time as a child when I didn’t go to church and Sunday School, unless I was sick. At some point the Sunday School teacher told the class that all people everywhere had sinned. How I resisted that idea! I related that story in an early post.

I remember distinctly that I wanted to believe I could live without sin. I didn’t have the habit of lying and I’d never stolen anything. I was young enough that most of my actions were monitored by my parents. I was also the youngest in the family, so if my parents weren’t watching, chances are my brother or my sister was. In short, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to sin.

So maybe, I thought, with the way things were going, I could be the first person, besides Jesus of course, to not sin.

Well, I think it’s pretty clear that sin already had a stranglehold on my life. I mean, how much pride does a little person have to have to think she might alone resist all temptation and stand beside Jesus as a sinless person?

The problem was that I was blind to my pride and therefore blind to my sin. I set myself to studying the matter of sin. Everyone I knew had some sin I could identify, so I turned my attention to the Bible. Nope, all those people had sinned, too. I finally had to admit that I fell into the “all have sinned” camp, but I did so with great reluctance.

All that to say, I understand when people who are not Christians don’t want to think of themselves as sinners. Competitive people especially, who like to meet the standard set before them (and often want to do better than everyone else in the process), and people who want to be in control, don’t like to be told we can’t do something.

I can’t be sinless? What are you talking about? Just watch me!

And of course, by that time it’s already too late. The sin that was crouching at the door is now in full control.


Because sin is actually already in our hearts.

We have this basic fact recorded for us in the Bible. We know that sin took hold of Adam when he rebelled against God, and all of us since have been born in Adam’s image—in his likeness.

Most interestingly a group of Yale scientists have found a way to measure the moral values of infants too young to talk. Their findings are clear: babies aren’t blank slates at all. They prefer kindness and generosity, and yet they have prejudices. They are just and they are greedy. (See “Scientific Discovery Of The Sin Nature“).

In one discussion I had about sin with someone who thinks the idea is reprehensible, she explained bad behavior as immaturity. Just like newborns don’t know how to talk or walk or chew (mostly because they don’t have teeth!), they don’t know how to show empathy. They need to be taught. And if they keep learning, they will one day move away from things that create barriers between people.

Except the science shows that theory simply is not true. Infants do know which is the kind puppet and which is the selfish one or the mean one. And yet the babies themselves choose to do the selfish, the greedy when given the opportunity.

But, as my atheist friend suggested, good teaching can change this pattern of selfishness—up to a point. The scientist’s conclusion based on the study of the older children:

They’ve been educated, they’ve been inculturated, they have their heads stuffed full of the virtues that we might want to have their heads stuffed with.

So we can learn to temper some of those nasty tendencies we’re wired for—the selfishness, the bias—but he says the instinct is still there.

The instinct, the sin nature, is still there. We can mask it. We can pretend it’s not there. We can call it by another name, but the fact is, nobody’s perfect.


So if we’re all in the same boat, then what’s the big deal?

Here’s the big deal: we’re in the boat, and God is not. And we need God. After all, we were made for relationship with Him. That’s how we received the inclination to value kindness and justice which the Yale scientists discovered in their tests of babies.

Sure the scientists chalk these traits up to evolution, but I’m not sure why they think that greed is a trait passed on from animals. From all I’ve seen, animals seem to use what they need and move on. Sure, squirrels might store up nuts for the winter, but it’s not like they’re storing up nuts for ten winters to come, particularly so they can have more nuts than any other squirrel in the tree, and more specifically so they can have more nuts when they die. In truth, they aren’t looking to win by on-upping their fellow squirrels.

In reality, prejudice, greed, hate, selfishness are human traits. Sinful traits. We have them because we’re made in the image of the sinful people who begot us.

The key point here is that sin is universal. It’s a problem we all relate to because we all have to deal with the imperfection of the people around us and the imperfection of our own hearts that lead us to do hurtful things to others in return.

Identifying sin is only a first step, however. Sort of like recognizing you’re lying in a patch of poison oak. Once you see the problem, you can take steps to deal with it. And that’s the good news of Christianity. God has dealt with this sin issue for us, and now He wants us to trust Him.

Satan – Is He Real?

Dragonfight_03I continue to come up against views about God that contradict how He has revealed Himself. Where do those come from? After all, if I tell you about myself, you have no particular reason to think I’m distorting the truth. If I tell you I live in Southern California, I doubt if those visiting this blog automatically think, HA! a likely story! I suspect most people believe what I say about myself unless I give them reason to believe otherwise.

So too with God … I would think. But a study of history shows this is not the case. From the earliest moments, there in Eden, when given a choice to believe God or not, Eve opted for not. Why?

Quite simply, a second source introduced a contradictory view, and Eve had to choose what to believe. One statement was true, the other false. One statement came from God, the other from a beautiful creature that told her what she wanted to hear.

Well, that last part is my interpretation. It seems to me that a good deal of temptation feeds on what a person would like to be true, with disregard to what actually is true.

So in Eve’s case, the beautiful creature before her asked for verification that God had restricted Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit in the garden. Eve answered that they could eat from all the trees except for one, and that God said they would die if they ate from that tree.

The beautiful creature’s response? “You surely shall not die.” Essentially he promised her she could eat her cake and suffer no consequences.

I suppose in part you’d have to say I’m taking God’s word for the fact that this beautiful creature, elsewhere described as an angel of light and the tempter and a roaring lion and the great dragon and the serpent of old, really exists. The thing is, the truth of his existence explains a lot. Sure, the presence of sin in the fabric of humankind’s nature also accounts for evil in the world, but the unanswered part of the equation is, How did the creation God made good become tainted by evil?

I don’t know how atheists account for evil, or for good, for that matter. I mean, apart from believing in a moral right and wrong, behavior just is. No one judges an eagle for swooping down and gobbling up a field mouse. But clearly we humans believe in wrong.

A team wins an NBA championship and “fans” take to the street, loot stores, start fires, throw things at passing buses. Most of us shake our heads and say, That is so wrong. CEOs run their institutions into bankruptcy but take for themselves million-dollar bonuses, and most of us say, That is so wrong. A state governor tries to sell an important appointment to the highest bidder, and most of us say, That is so wrong.

So evil is here, in this world and in the human heart. Its presence confirms a source. The Bible points to Satan as the source. Oh, yes, the Bible also identifies Satan as a liar and the father of lies. So the lie he told about Adam and Eve not dying … well, it was consistent with his nature. And the fact that one out of one humans die is a stat that can’t be twisted or misinterpreted to put Satan in a better light. He said we wouldn’t die. God said we would. Guess who lied!

In short, God’s word says Satan exists, and human history confirms it.

This article includes some minor changes to one published here under the same title in June 2009.

Published in: on January 26, 2016 at 6:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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God, The Bible, And Relativism

“Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.” (Emphasis mine). So says (Wikipedia), the Internet encyclopedia compiled by whoever. The Oxford English Dictionary (compiled by elite scholars) draws the same conclusion: “the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” (Emphasis mine).

My guess is, some people think a discussion of concepts like relativism has no relevancy to a person’s daily life or even to his belief in God. We’re more concerned with the cultural upheaval of the recent US Supreme Court decisions. But in truth, relativism led to those decisions. Relativism led to the media embracing same-sex marriage and transgender identity.

In a departure from the naturalism of the Modern way of thinking, Postmodern society smudges out hard lines. Consequently, biology is no longer enough to determine gender. Rather, the nebulous who-he-is-inside takes precedence.

However, anyone who believes truth is relative is on thin ice when it comes to God. In fact, I’d venture to say, a relativist doesn’t really believe in God. Not a sovereign God, anyway. Not an authoritative God. Not a good God. Not a God who says what He means and means what He says.

Relativism requires each person to determine what’s right and wrong, good and bad, for his own circumstances, within his own worldview. Hence, God is Himself not an absolute standard. His ways aren’t necessarily the right ways, since any person might decide “right” is something altogether other than what God has said is right.

In that vein, God can’t be sovereign. He isn’t ruling over others; they are the master of their own view of right and wrong, their own judge, their own determiner and interpreter of their lives.

God also can’t be good because Person A might say God is responsible for war and violence and hatred down through the centuries, and this would be true for him. Person B might say God is an impersonal force, a prime mover, and nothing more, and this would be true for him. Person C might say God is the great whole, of which each person is a part, and this would be true for him. Consequently, God becomes the author of hate, an amoral force, and an impersonal other. But Good? Not if relativism is true. God could only be good for those whose truth is that God is good. For all the others in the world who believe something different, then God is not good.

Finally, God would not be a keeper of His promises. His Word would not be settled in heaven, as Scripture says, nor would His word endure forever.

And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

How, then, could we say God is love? He might not be love tomorrow. How could we say He forgives? Maybe five years from now, He’ll decide He wants to hold the forgiven accountable after all. How could we say He’s holy or unchanging or all powerful or merciful or true? None of those things are reliable unless God is Himself absolute, the unshakeable authority—the firm and fixed, unmoving standard.

In short, the postmoderns who claim to be Christians are either rejecting God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and in the world He created, or they are denying their own relativistic beliefs when it comes to God. There can not be an absolute Sovereign and relative truth.

As it stands, relativism has only one absolute—that nothing is absolute. This line of thinking, of course, is a contradiction. In addition, the new absolute stating there are no absolutes supersedes what Scripture says about God and truth.

To be true to relativism, a person pretty much has to conclude, that we know nothing for certain. And that’s precisely where much of the world is headed. Consequently, each person determines what’s right in his own eyes. It’s a nihilism that allows for a hedonistic lifestyle and a clear conscience.

It doesn’t, however, remove actual guilt or final judgment because the relativist will one day face the absolute truth of his own death. And then, Scripture tells us, comes the judgment.

In that context, it’s clear relativism is worse than shaky ground—it’s thin ice, with a person’s eternal destiny at stake.

A portion of this article first appeared here under a different title in April 2012.

Atheism’s Unanswerable Question

Evolution_tree_of_lifeChristianity and atheism, which of necessity requires belief in evolution, are two contrasting worldviews, not only because they have opposing views about God but also because they have opposing views about humankind. While the focus of discussions and debates often concentrates on the existence of God, it is the view of humankind that leaves atheists with an unanswerable question.

There are two specific ways that Christians and atheists view humankind differently. First, Christians believe that humans are unique from animals because we have an eternal soul. Atheists believe instead in the “common descent” principle:

In evolutionary biology, a group of organisms have common descent if they have a common ancestor. “There is strong quantitative support, by a formal test”[1] for the theory that all living organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor.[2]

Charles Darwin proposed the theory of universal common descent through an evolutionary process in On the Origin of Species, saying, “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one”.[3]

Second, Christians believe humans, though created in God’s image, have a fallen, or sinful, nature passed down through Adam who turned his back on God when he intentionally disobeyed Him. The only way to change society is to point individuals to Jesus Christ who provides a way of escape from sin, guilt, the law, and death.

Atheists, on the other hand, believe humans are morally neutral at worst and might even be considered “good” by virtue of the fact that what exists has survived.

Right and wrong, good and evil, then, are not existent apart from the perception of a group or community. Hence, homosexuality is wrong until the group determines it is right.

Infants come into the world as blank slates or even as good slates and only turn toward evil if they are influenced by societal patterns (racism, for example) or errant views (such as religion). The way to change society is simply to re-educate people.

One atheist puts it this way:

So if we are determined, then how do we define evil? If our minds come from our brains, and our brain circuitry is out of our control, then is anyone responsible for anything – no matter how courageous, no matter how innovative, no matter how good or evil, that the person is? (“An atheist’s view of evil”)

Another atheist discussing evil concludes with this:

For atheists, a better explanation for the presence of evil in the world is that God does not exist. (“Atheism”).

A number of others discuss evil only as an argument against the existence of God. But here’s the question that atheists can’t seem to answer: where did evil come from? If life has a common descent, if we’re born with no natural bent toward evil, what injected evil into the equation?

In reality, the atheist scenario is one that would seem to result in utopia: humans, evolved from a common and not evil descent, growing toward their full potential without any negative force to intercede.

Except for society. Which teaches gender differences and racism and encourages belief in mythical gods which motivate people groups to hate.

But society is nothing more than people interacting with one another. So how and why did humans start acting in hateful ways toward people who were different from them? Why did the strong decide to take from the weak instead of using their strength for the greater good?

In other words, where did evil come from?

This is the atheist’s unanswerable question.

As I mentioned, a number of professing atheists lay evil at the feet of God, then declare that its existence proves He couldn’t possibly exist. That he doesn’t eradicate evil shows either that he’s too weak to do so (and therefore, not God) or too evil himself or too undiscerning to know evil from good (and therefore not God).

The argument, of course, ignores what God Himself has to say about evil and its existence. But more so, it offers no alternative, no explanation for the virulent presence of evil in the world.

In fact, some atheists deny the existence of evil:

Atheists such as Richard Dawkins claim that evil doesn’t actually exist. In his book, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life Dawkins writes: “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” (David Robinson, “The problem of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than Christians,” Christianity Today)

Of course such a view collapses the argument that evil disproves the existence of God, because something that does not exist cannot itself be used to disprove anything. So either evil exists, or it doesn’t. And if it exists, but there is no God, then where did it come from? How did it come to be included in this mix of materialism?

Actually the atheist I quoted above, was on the right track. Evil comes from the absence of God. He does exist, but He doesn’t force Himself on our lives. Humankind, having chosen to leave God out, now experience the world with the absence-of-God component a reality.

Fiction And The Supernatural – Merlin’s Nightmare, CSFF Tour, Day 2

Robert Treskillard at book signing2Merlin’s Nightmare, third in the Merlin Spiral young adult fantasy trilogy by Robert Treskillard, depends upon the supernatural, both the evil and the good. As such the story is labeled as fantasy, but should it be?

Isn’t the supernatural real?

I know many people, even some professing to be Christians, say belief in the supernatural is nothing but superstition. Those whose worldviews lean toward rationalism determine what is real by one or more of their five senses. Consequently, since you can’t smell demons or touch them or see them, they don’t exist.

Still others lean toward mysticism, but this bent seems more inward looking, more centered on the mind and emotions. There seems to be little awareness of a being or beings outside ourselves. Rather, the mystical puts us in touch with other living things—meaning, other natural beings that can be identified through the five senses.

Christians, on the other hand—true Christians who believe in the Bible—know that God is Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is Spirit, that Jesus has a spiritual body. Consequently, it should be a given that Christians believe in the supernatural.

Surprisingly, however, there’s an arm of evangelical Christianity that basically closes the door on supernatural activity within the Church. The Bible, the reasoning goes, is God’s final word and speaks authoritatively. It is sufficient for salvation and there is no other revelation that will be added to it.

Consequently, the office of prophet has ended. In addition, according to 1 Corinthians 13, tongues—the ability to speak unknown and unlearned languages–will cease. Presumably that means the gift of interpreting tongues is no longer necessary. I’m not sure how the gift of healing was included, but these “ecstatic gifts,” according to this line of thinking, ended with the first generation Christians, or there abouts.

In short, according to this view, the Christian no longer has any involvement with the supernatural. Of course unbelievers don’t either and never did have anything to do with the supernatural.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are evangelicals who believe that demons and angels are everywhere, that Christians must exhibit ecstatic gifts, especially tongues, or they aren’t really Christians.

Many of the latter have shown by their lives that their “conversion” isn’t genuine. They embraced a “spiritual high,” but not the God who they claimed to be the source of their joy. On the other hand, those denying supernatural activity have been accused of turning the Bible into the third person of the trinity in place of the Holy Spirit.

So what is the truth about the supernatural?

Those who don’t discount the Bible as myth, who believe that Jesus actually did walk on water and heal the blind and raise Lazarus from the dead and cast out the legion of demons, believe in the supernatural. The question then becomes, is the supernatural still active? Or is it active in the sense that it intersects the natural world?

Enter fiction and stories like the Merlin Spiral that explore the supernatural from both the side of evil and the side of good. Is there power in the hands of evil? Can mortals defeat it? What is the source of power for good? Can mortals access it?

Merlin’s Nightmare begins an exploration of these elements from the beginning. Here’s a sample:

Morgana reached into her bag once more and pulled forth the orb, another gift from the Voice. Like the fang, she had found it beneath the Druid Stone. It had many powers, but tonight she would use it differently.

Out from the trembling, roaring hole appeared a translucent image of Gorlas that only Morgana could see—his soul emerging from his body. Quickly she held the orb out, and Gorlas’s soul glittered, faded, and then began to sink once more into the pit. The apparition’s face twisted in agony. Oh, but she would save him from this pain. She began to chant;

    Soul of earth, soul in death, come now to me.
    Skin of dust, skin in rust, come and serve me!
    Merlin’s end, Merlin’s rend; yes, you must be
    Arthur’s bane, Arthur’s chain; yes, you must be!
    Power of night, Power of fright, come now, my prize.
    Flesh astrewn, Flesh of moon; yes, you shall rise.

. . . Gorlas’s soul shimmered its last, and then the orb sucked it in like a black liquid swirling down through a funnel. A scream whistled upon the air, and then all was still.

It was done! For inside the orb, surrounded by purple flame, glared the weeping visage of Gorlas. (pp. 19-20)

In the world of Merlin, fanciful though it is, the supernatural exists. How does that help readers to process and understand evil and good at the supernatural level? Because it is imagined by the writer—in this case, Robert Treskillard—does that negate its truth?

I submit that fiction dealing with the natural is still made up, or pretend, if you will. And yet such stories can show a young man coming of age or a brave widow overcoming tragedy or an estranged couple finding reconciliation. Those stories resonate because readers see the truth in them, though the characters are figments of the author’s imagination.

In the same way, an author, though using the medium of fantasy, can pull the curtain back a little on the supernatural. Not in a precise, this-is-exactly-how-it-is way, but in a It-Is way. It is, and it is real—the evil, but also the good.

The next question is, how does the natural man deal with the supernatural? For that one, I suggest you read the Bible. But you also might find Merlin’s Nightmare an intriguing, thought-provoking story that shows one person’s struggles to overcome.

Be sure to check out what other CSFF members participating in the tour have to say. You can find a list and links to their articles at the bottom of the Day 1 post.

To read a sample chapter, click here. To find out about the current series contest stop by the author’s website.

The Difference The Christian Worldview Makes

The-Amazing-Spider-Man-2-PosterThree particular works of fiction, two on TV and one on the big screen, have me thinking about the difference the Christian worldview makes. SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT ON

The movie I saw was The Amazing Spider-man 2, the surprisingly well-done remake of the recent Spiderman series with Toby McGuire. This new, and very different, version stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

As you might expect from a superhero movie, Spiderman must confront Evil intent on wiping out all of New York City and/or dominating the world. The thing is, Spiderman himself is under scrutiny and criticism, but in the guise of Peter Parker, reveals the movie’s theme: Spiderman gives people a reason to hope.

In the end, though, I’m left wondering—are most people leaving the theater and thinking, Yes, Spiderman gives me hope? I doubt it for one simple reason: Spiderman is imaginary.

In reality, if very many people think about it, their plight is similar to the little boy facing the mechanized and weaponized criminal in the movie’s denouement. He’s alone and small and void of any means of defeating the adversary.

Nevertheless, standing in his little Spiderman costume, he faces the criminal down, his only hope being that the real Spiderman will return. And since we know Spiderman is imaginary, where does that leave us in the real world?

As a Christian, though, I have a different view. I can look at that movie and think, Spiderman may be imaginary, but Jesus is real. He gives real hope, eternal hope. Consequently, I’m uplifted, reminded that I’m not alone, that one greater than the evil I see in the world has taken it on and triumphed.

Yes, the defeated enemy is trying to do as much damage as possible in his final throes, but victory over him is sure. Therefore, I can stand against him confident that I am not alone, that at the right time, the soon and coming King will return.

The second bit of fiction that has me thinking about the difference a Christian worldview makes, is the new version of the Fox hit TV show, 24. Monday the season finale aired and as promised it held some shocking twists. As I’m watching these characters mourn unspeakable loss, all I can think is, this hurts them so much because they have no hope. Their whole life and purpose for existence were wrapped up in this relationship that has been taken from them, and now they have nothing to live for. On top of that, they have no hope of ever seeing that person again. For them, the person they love is forever gone.

In contrast, the Christian grieves death, but for two reasons our grief is different. First, even when a loved one is gone, the Christian still has, through Jesus Christ, the sure relationship with God, who will not fail us or forsake us, and we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who gives us comfort.

Second, we have the hope of being united with believers who have gone on before us:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Those with a different worldview have no such comfort.

Which brings me to the third piece of fiction, the old TV show called Numbers. I’m convinced that’s one of the best shows ever made, and one reason has to do with the fact that the writers were consciously exploring spiritual themes. No, they certainly weren’t doing so from a Christian point of view, but neither did they take a position that ruled out God, such as the writers understood Him to be.

Their main characters were of Jewish heritage. One took a hard line against the existence of God, another accepted some of the Jewish tradition void of belief, the third came to a point where he thought there had to be something more in life, so he began attending temple.

A station that specializes on “previously viewed” shows, is airing Numbers a few times a week. In the episode I recently saw, the character who’d started going to temple, an FBI agent who had survived a near-death attack, was contemplating his life. He said the attack made him realize how fragile humans are—that we are little more than a bag of bones and blood.

He also wondered about God in light of his attack. If He existed, why had He allowed this attack? The character thought perhaps the message of it all was that perhaps God didn’t exist after all.

While I appreciate the show bringing up the question, I was a little surprised with the juxtaposition of these two thoughts, coming from the same character. Stripped to their bare essentials, he was saying, Humans are weak and therefore, there is no God.

It’s a pretty honest assessment, apart from a Christian worldview. Man is weak. Humans are just like that little boy in Spider-man, in futility facing down insurmountable evil.

The stunning part is the conclusion that there is no God. As a Christian, I would praise God for staying the hand of the attacker so that the blow he dealt didn’t kill me. But to the character who thought there had to be more to life, God allowing the blow at all was proof, or at least a strong bit of evidence, that God didn’t exist after all.

I don’t know if there’s a more depressing conclusion: humans are weak and we are alone.

Those of us with a Christian worldview, of course, agree that we are weak, but we revel in the fact that we are NOT alone. Consequently, we have hope. And that makes all the difference.

Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm  Comments Off on The Difference The Christian Worldview Makes  
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Words Have Meaning, Or Do They?

Deconstruction _ LEGO PhilosophyWords have meaning. Of course they do, or people would never be able to understand each other. If I say, Thanks for visiting my blog, no one is going to mistakenly think I’m saying you’ve stopped by my home. My blog address is one of my online locations, but it’s not where I reside physically. It doesn’t take any special level of language acumen to understand this.

And yet we are living in a time in which the meaning of language is up for grabs. Postmodern philosophy has played a role in the deconstruction of language.

Here’s a brief summary of what was and what is replacing it:

Western philosophy is in this sense logocentrist, committed to the idea that words are capable of communicating unambiguously meanings that are present in the individuals mind.

Words are capable of communicating unambiguously. Sounds similar to words have meanings.

For the postmodern thinker, however, there’s deconstruction:

deconstruction, a method of textual analysis . . . which by means of a series of highly controversial strategies seeks to reveal the inherent instability and indeterminacy of meaning. . . . Deconstruction is best approached as a form of radical scepticism and antifoundationalism. (quotes from “Postmodernism”)

And why deconstruction?

Postmodernists believe that people are trapped behind something in the attempt to get to the external world. However, for them the wall between people and reality is not composed of sensations as it was for Descartes; rather, it is constituted by one’s community and its linguistic categories and practices. One’s language serves as a sort of distorting and, indeed, creative filter. (from “Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn”)

If language is distorting reality, then it needs to be deconstructed.

And so, we have a culture–Christians and non-Christians alike–that systematically goes about redefining words. I’ll mention some of the hot-button issues by way of illustration, not to make a point about them necessarily, other than to say, deconstruction is effective.

First, the Mormon church has for years effectively deconstructed a number of terms from the Bible: Son of God, Father, atonement, redemption, salvation, and Christian to name a few. The apparent intent is to shake the identification of cult. Rather than trying to deconstruct the meaning of that word, Mormons instead have couched their doctrines in terminology that means something very different to Evangelical Christians than it does to Mormons.

So in the Mormon community “Jesus Christ” refers to a god, not a member of the Trinity.

Words have meanings, until someone deconstructs them.

For centuries now here in the US, marriage has meant “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.” For the last fifteen, twenty years, however, this definition is being deconstructed. Consequently, same-sex relationships now claim marriage, though clearly the traditional definition contradicts the concept.

Other words have undergone a similar deconstruction: the concept of glorifying God, for example, and even the meaning of worship.

Most recently “natural” took a hit in order to explain away Romans 1:26-27. The thinking of the author of a recently published book roughly states that God said in Genesis, it is not good for Man to be alone. God then saw there was not a fitting partner for Man, so He gave him one.

For the gay man, the only fitting partner is another man, so this means what is natural for him is a male partner, not a female partner. Therefore when he is joined in “marriage” to his partner, that is good in the same way that Adam and Eve’s union was good.

Extrapolate that then to the Romans passage and you see that in reality for the gay person, same sex activity actually is what is natural.

I undoubtedly have mangled the explanation, but it serves as a good illustration. According to postmodernism, language takes on meaning from within a culture or community. So within the gay community, “natural” has come to mean the opposite of what it means to the rest of society. Or should I say, what it had meant to the rest of society.

The thing is, words actually do have meaning, so society at large either accepts the deconstruction of marriage and natural and Christian or it rejects those re-definitions.

If it accepts them, then the words will have come to mean a new thing.

Living languages, in fact, do change the meanings of words, so there’s no shock there. But the fact is, this manner of deconstructing language seems to carry with it intention. It would seem there are those who wish to a) destabilize culture and/or b) reverse meanings.

What I find so fascinating in all this is that the Bible told us we’d be right where we are:

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!

Do Good And Evil Exist?

ThroughthescopeI think people with a theistic worldview understand that good and evil exist–evil being the absence of good. However, in this present day and age, more and more people have bought into the idea that the concept of evil is the only real evil.

Everything else in human behavior which is undesirable simply needs to be bathed in education. Those who do horrific things, like shoot kindergartners in their classroom or plan to gun down their fellow students in college, simply haven’t benefited from a proper upbringing in which they’ve been given what they need.

Basic psychology, we’re told, or “common” sense says that children simply need to receive proper care and instruction at the proper time, and they will be happy and productive citizens.

Mind you, I’m not knocking proper care and instruction. Every parent should give his child love and security along with provision for their basic human needs. Every child should be instructed about the things that will make them safe and will, in turn, help them keep others safe.

As good as education is, however, kids still do things they know could seriously harm them. And the older they are, the more apt they are to do these harmful things.

That seems counter intuitive. With all the education, these older kids should know better than to do drugs, smoke, have unprotected sex. But guess what? A lot of well-parented kids who never lacked love or any of the good things in life still go against their education.

The “evil is a myth” folks answer this fact by saying children are naturally curious, so of course, if a parent says no to a toddler who wants to stick her finger in the electric outlet, we can expect her not to listen because she is curious.

Given that rationale, I don’t understand what the point of “education” is. I mean, if a person knows the child won’t listen and must discover on her own, why don’t we forgo the wearisome instruction and let kids find out the hard way that drunk driving kills, gangs aren’t beneficial groups, and drugs are addictive.

I suspect with people like Lindsey Lohan we should simply be understanding: she needs to discover what’s healthy for her and what’s not.

The thing is, those who hold to the view that those like Ms. Lohan who do anti-social things, such as steal or drive drunk, simply needed to be properly nurtured and cared for as children, have no explanation how this “bad parenting” process began.

If humans are good and only in need of proper parenting, what caused the first bad parents to improperly provide for their children? Because clearly the teetering domino effect had to start somewhere. In this way of thinking, perfect parents, parenting perfectly, can’t produce imperfect kids.

And yet, somewhere along the line, children started doing unwholesome, even harmful, things. Which suggests there’s something inside the child herself that responds imperfectly.

Of course the Bible gives the clear explanation:

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. (Romans 7:9-13, New Living Translation – emphasis mine)

It’s not a lack of empathy or proper nurturing or instruction or maturity that causes people to do hateful things. It’s sin, that thing in the human heart that makes us want to do the very thing we’re told not to do.

Of course, without recognizing our sin, we have no realization of our need for a Savior, so getting this good and evil issue right is pivotal.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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Calling A Spade A Rose

roseIn the famous balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare popularized the idea that calling something by a different name doesn’t change the nature of that thing:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet (Act II, Scene ii)

But is that true? Don’t words have meanings?

There’s a philosophical principle called the law of identity, one of the three classic laws of thought, which says an object is the same as itself, or A=A. But what if we started calling A by some other name? Would it still be A?

So if Romeo Montague started calling himself Romeo Smith, would he cease to be the son of a Montague? Juliet was arguing from the other side: Romeo is Romeo whether you call him a Montague or a Smith. But words have meanings and his designation as a Montague was part of his identity. He wouldn’t cease being who he was, including who his parents were, simply by taking up a new name.

So why all this philosophical rumination?

It seems the Bible takes a dim view of a relativistic approach to life. From Isaiah 5:

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!

Notice, in the first instance simply naming as good that which is evil draws the warning. For this identity switch to be an issue, there really does have to be that which is good and that which is evil. In other words, stated in terms of the law of identity, good is good and evil is evil.

Anyone who contradicts this law, then would fall into the warning of woe. As it happens, we are living in a day when society does in fact call good what the Bible calls evil and the other way around.

Homosexual activity comes to mind. Society calls committed same-sex unions, “marriage,” but changing the name doesn’t mean there’s a family unit capable of reproduction, nor does it alter the fact that the Bible identifies homosexuality activity as a part of the consequences of the Fall (Romans 1:24-27).

Saying that there is no hell also comes to mind. False teachers can proclaim universal salvation all they want, but saying all people will go to heaven doesn’t make it so, not when Jesus clearly lays out the narrow road to life and the broad way to destruction.

A third evil/good exchange is the idea that Mankind is good, not sinful. Saying that Mankind has an education problem, not a sin problem demonstrates the greatest sin of all–that of ignoring God and His Word, or worse, calling Him a liar.

Which leads to the worst evil/good exchange of all–identifying God as wicked, wrong, evil, bad, a tyrant for exercising His justice. This lie defames the most righteous, pure, honorable, and just Being Who exists. He is perfection. He is the definition of good. So what could it mean to say that God is wicked?

Clearly, a change of name doesn’t change who He is. But words do have meaning, though they don’t alter reality. So the people who state those reversals, and those who listen and follow along, put themselves in dire circumstances.

Woe, “great sorrow or distress,” Scripture says, to those who switch out wrong for right, who call darkness, light and bitter, sweet. They’re only hurting themselves. God is still good, no matter what they say. Mankind is still sinful, no matter what they say. In other words, the law of identity holds true, though some may be deluded into believing that a spade is actually a rose.

Published in: on March 4, 2013 at 6:59 pm  Comments Off on Calling A Spade A Rose  
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