For those of you who are still checking out my blog I appreciate your patience. I’ve been very busy teaching classes, pastoring the church, leading the worship, and trying to be a god honoring husband and father. I also have not had much time to write, nor have I had much about which to right. I guess I’ve experienced a kind of brain drain. What I have today grew out of past online conversations, many that I can recall from years gone by , and others that I’ve only read. I hope you find this useful.
My Dearest Friend,
It is encouraging to me that you have chosen to engage me in this conversation concerning my beliefs as a Christian. The reason being is that I believe it simply reaffirms what God has revealed in Scripture; that it is He who has placed a desire to understand life and seek out our purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and also He who moves in a person to cause him to seek Him (John 6:44). I realize that you are not to the point where you can accept this point of view, yet. But I am hopeful.
I have thought much about our last discussion, and would like to address a theme or two with you based on it. First, I’d like to return to your view of what constitutes what is right, and what is wrong. If, as you say, there is no God, what, then, is your basis for even attempting to differentiate between right and wrong? If there is no one higher than man himself, then wouldn’t that mean that man is the final arbiter of right and wrong? If that is the case, then which man is the final final arbiter of right and wrong? It seems to me that the buck must stop somewhere, and if it were left up to a single individual wouldn’t that mean that somewhere there is a worldwide dictator? By the way, God has warned that a final world dictator will come on the scene eventually, and it is not going to be pretty (see the book of Revelation for an explanation of that). We actually have a historical illustration of the harm that comes when a nation allows one man to be the final arbiter of right and wrong. Germany bought into Hitler’s ideals, which not only led to World War II and the deaths of many millions of soldiers from multiple nations, but also to the deaths of six million Jews, and many millions of civilians from various countries. The reason for this is that a man is not a reliable source of absolute authority. As in the case of Hitler, he was a man whose ideals were based not on facts, but on his own biases, misunderstandings, and hate. Reality demonstrates time and time again that, when allowed, men will manipulate circumstances in such a way as to suit their own personal likes and dislikes. And what happens when those personal preferences change? Once again Hitler’s treatment of his own right hand man, Ernst Roehm, the founder and original leader of Hitler’s Storm Troopers, gives a great illustration of the, shall we say evil, things that can result. My point is that if you believe that man in general makes the decisions concerning right and wrong, then the definition is left to a finite being incapable of infinite knowledge and thus incapable of establishing a universal ethical code. You would also be subject to the changing ethical “tastes” of a finite being whose own requirements, or standards for determining right and wrong may change. The resultant consequences would be devastating. God has warned us that the human heart (the innermost part of man) is sick, and desperately wicked; it cannot be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9). In truth, in His grace, God has built-in some protection against this sort of situation in that He has created each of us with an innate knowledge of right and wrong. But I’ll come back to that.
If, then, there is no one man who is the final authority, does that mean that there is a group, or conglomeration of men and woman who make that decision? That would ultimately end in a totalitarian government of sorts, would it not? Once again history has provide for us multiple accounts of what happens when such a situation occurs. The communist regimes of Russia, and China have killed, and imprisoned untold millions of their own people based upon the government’s idea of what constitutes right and wrong; right being whatever they said at the moment, and wrong being whatever they decide on the basis of what is best for the collective. Any dissenting view is met with harsh retribution. Is that the solution for determining ethical standards? Can an authoritarian government establish universal ethical standards? The answer is no.
Another alternative, if there is no God, is to allow each individual to establish his or her own standards of ethical behavior. However, this is not realistic. If I determine my own ethical standards, and the next guy establishes his own ethical standards, and we each have differing views of what constitutes theft, then how can I keep him from taking my stuff if he believes its okay to do so? At that point we must turn to the courts, which have established their own standards that go against both of ours and determine that everything that was taken from me is actually theirs. You can see the predicament that such a situation would put the world in; there would be mass chaos.
Behind all of this discussion is another question. Perhaps it is where we should have begun our discussion. That question is, why should anyone be concerned about right and wrong to begin with? I mean, if there is no God, and we are simply the product of random chance and time, evolution, then what difference does it make what one bag of protoplasm does to another anyway? If I answer only to myself, why should I be concerned about anyone but myself, and maybe my immediate family? Why would anyone care about anyone else at all?
Yet that is not what we see around us is it? No. We see that people and societies in one part of the world have ethical standards that are identical to people, and societies in every other part of the world. We know that people in Thailand, or China, or England do not want anyone stealing their possessions, committing adultery with their spouses, killing them or their families, etc. in the same way that we don’t want any of those things to happen in our own lives here in the United States. My point is very simply that there are universal standards of right and wrong behavior that transcend the boundaries of countries, ethnic groups, communities, and even religious sects. How does a worldview (remember a worldview is, in the simplest of terms, the entire system, no matter how loosely organized, that every individual uses to understand, and interpret the world around them) that believes that the God of the Bible does not exist account for such universal ethical standards? If you will allow me to answer, such a worldview cannot account for such ethical standards, nor can it justify their existence at all. I will restate the question I asked earlier in the form of a statement: It doesn’t matter what one bag of evolved/evolving protoplasm does to another, whether good or bad, assuming there really is such things as good and bad. In a world that is the product of random chance evolution there is no room for right or wrong. There just IS. Survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.
Now, within the Christian worldview we have answers for the questions that surround the concept of ethics. We believe in the One God of Christian Scriptures who has revealed Himself in His creation, His Son, who has explained the unseen God to us (John 1:18), and through the Christian Scriptures, which He superintended in such a way that all that was written is correct, without error, and exactly what He wanted us to know. He revealed that in the beginning He created all that exists out of nothing (Genesis 1 & 2). He explained that He created man in His image, thus insuring that mankind both knows Him, and right and wrong (Genesis 1:26-31). His creation was without flaw, but Adam rebelled against God by refusing to abstain from eating from the only tree that God forbade him from eating (Genesis 3), and at that point, sin entered the world that God had created. For our purposes we can say that at that point in history the contrast between right and wrong was presented to the created order.
Adam’s sin, or rebellion, brought devastation upon the created universe to the extent that all of creation was placed under the curse of God’s impending judgment. However, God was not content to leave things in such a state, but put in motion His plan to repair the breach culminating in the entrance of His own Son into the world. He took on humanity, lived a sinless, perfect life among His creation, died to pay the penalty of man’s rebellion, rose again on the third day to be seated at His Father’s right hand where He now awaits His return to judge the world. I tell you all of this to demonstrate first that the God of the Bible created all things. Therefore, as the Creator He has the absolute authority, right, and responsibility to establish the universal ethical standards, which He has done. These standards reflect His character and reflect who He is. He has revealed His standards in the Scriptures, and He has put those same standards within the operating system of every man. The apostle Paul explained this in his letter to the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-19, 32). Mankind, on the basis of being created in the image of their Creator, knows right from wrong because they know Him. They cannot escape the testimony within themselves, nor can they escape the testimony found in the rest of creation.
My friend, the Christian worldview is the only worldview that can explain both the existence of the universal ethical standards, and their origin. Only the Christian worldview, with its belief in and dependence upon the God of Christian Scriptures, offers the truthful explanation of the universal ethical standards that actually exist in reality. Only the Christian worldview can explain the existence of evil, and why certain things are right, and why certain things are wrong. Only the Christian worldview has a remedy for the evil that exists in the world. In the end God will reconcile with evil, and all who have not turned to Him for forgiveness will endure His judgment.
The good news is that He has provided a way for our bad to be erased. His own Son, Jesus Christ, became a man and lived among His creation. His death on a cross paid the penalty of our sin, and made it possible for us to be forgiven for our wrong. God will judge the wrong, or evil of the world, but those who have accepted the forgiveness purchased by the death of Christ will escape that judgment. It is my prayer for you that you will come to know the God that you know by faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
I pray that you will find His saving grace.
Forever your friend,