Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fergie's Freedom

Fergie’s pink eyes always yearn for home. Fergie is an exceptional guinea pig. Whenever she is removed from her cage and allowed to roam freely, she exhibits only guarded enthusiasm. Sure she’ll pad around awhile, depositing a turd here and a turd there. If she’s particularly anxious, she might even leave a trail of poops.
But inevitably Fergie’s thoughts turn back to home. For her, sojourning in the great expanses falls short of the hype. Before long, Fergie winds her way back to the outskirts of her cage, and gazes longingly at her little hut through the bars towering a foot above her head.
She’ll wait there for a time, thinking her caretaker will be bright enough to see that she’s done with her imposed romp and wants back in her cage. When she realizes her tender is not so informed, Fergie popcorns up and over the bars in a single bound and scurries blissfully back to her house, keeping her rump to all astonished onlookers.
Fergie knows that true freedom is not freedom from all boundaries. We would do well to learn this from Fergie.
We don’t understand freedom, otherwise Fergie’s behavior wouldn’t surprise us—her athletic prowess notwithstanding. We tend to live under the belief that we are free agents. Not so. In reality, we are wholly dependent on our Creator; we only live because He grants and sustains our life.
Unfortunately, we stubbornly strive against this fact, determined to make it on our own in the wide open and allegedly boundless spaces. Having cut ourselves off from God, we find our world a frightful place, where we quickly start grasping and possessing--jealous of what we don’t have, hating those who do; far from the promised freedom, we find ourselves prisoners of our own insecurity. Fergie shakes her head and looks to home; so should we.
Let’s go back to God and rest in the cradle of His holiness. Only there are we truly free.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What is the true arbitrator of morality? Part 3

Thirdly, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if we are the products of only matter/energy. The epistemological implications of evolution dogged Darwin: can we know we know anything?

The eighteenth century philosopher and patron saint of materialism, David Hume, explained that all we can know is what we receive as impulses impinging on our nervous system; truth is nothing more than a consistent outcome from a repetitive series of stimulus/responses. If we are only the outcome of matter/energy slow-cooked in a crucible of chance, then Hume would be perfectly correct. But how could concepts of right and wrong ever emerge from such a state? They couldn’t.

Hume’s ideas awoke Kant from his intellectual slumbers. Even though Kant disavowed any possibility of uniting the particulars with the universals—nature with grace—creature with Creator--he saw the necessity of the universal of a transcendent morality, and proceeded through his concepts of the maxim and the categorical imperative to prove the existence of God—albeit, despite his Lutheran upbringing, a deist god, not the Christian God. Kant took a leap of faith because practical reason demands that there is a transcendent morality, and in the process showed that there has to be a God.

The point is the evolutionary philosophy, which is founded on the eternal existence of matter/energy, cannot accommodate concepts like morality without contradicting itself. I am reminded of one such philosopher who went to great lengths to show that infanticide, war, rape, and such are all valid mechanisms of natural selection, and therefore not wrong. Okay, at that point he appeared to be living his worldview. But then he finished by saying that we all really should try to love one another. Sorry, dude, you cannot do that. Your worldview simply doesn’t have any explanation or justification for making such a leap. But you made it anyway because you knew that it is impossible to live your worldview in the real world. So you imported morality—Judeo-Christian concepts of love and justice, I might add—into your philosophy in order to make it livable. What it should tell you is your worldview is fatally flawed.

We can know because the Creator, God, is both infinite and personal. He created an ordered universe; therefore, it can be investigated. He interacts intimately with us whom He created for that purpose, so we can know and understand the cosmos He placed us and our purpose in it. Being personal, God’s right order of things naturally involves relationships. And these relationships are driven and maintained by Love. But Love cannot be divested from the right order of things, otherwise everyone would attempt to interrelate on the basis of what feels right, and the result would be chaos and destructive relationships.

Love is therefore inextricably tied to the right order. This inseparable and essential union demands and defines the transcendent morality. The only way we can apprehend this morality and so exist in and fulfill the purposes for which we were created is if we walk intimately with God; for God is the only source of the Love and order that defines true life; we depend solely on our Creator for our existence. When we turn our back to him by believing we can be our own moral agents, we die. Sadly, that is the state we are all in. And this state of death keeps us floundering in the particulars without any way to the universal we know must exist because we cannot really live without it.

But precisely because God is both merciful and just, he hasn’t left us in death. Instead, in a real moment in history, He took on flesh and dwelt among us and entered death, and then, because He died unjustly, by the power of God’s Love and in His justice, Christ was raised back to life: Christ lives! And because He lives, we can live with Him if we only acknowledge Him as King and live to please Him, which is to conform to the Love and order God demands and created us for—to seek God to be our one and only moral agent. And we trust that we will please Him because, through Christ’s faithfulness to God for the restoration of His creation, God will be faithful and dwell forever with us who believe Him, trust Him, and so obey Him, and because of God’s faithfulness we will succeed.

Jesus the Christ promises us: “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What is the true arbitrator of morality? Part 2

Secondly, if morality is instinct, then everyone would be moral, which is not the case, even in the liberal European countries Professor Coyne mentioned. I’ve visited and worked in several of them, and selfish-ambition reigns there as here.

If morality were a product of natural selection, then morality would be hardwired in all of us; it would be instinct, not something capricious. A female black widow will always eat the male. A nursing mother dog will always push away a weak pup. If given a chance, a male lion will always eat the cubs. When one is hungry, whether, beast or human, one will eat. Instinct will always win out unless prevented by illness, the environment, or overcome by a stronger member of one’s species. Instinct would be the handmaiden of natural selection, if natural selection were the governing force of the living world.

But people are not naturally moral. People will invariably pursue their own agendas over the agendas of others. As I intimated in Part 1, people will pick and choose their so-called altruistic acts based on their own agendas. Hence, what might appear to be altruistic really isn’t anything more than the pursuit of selfish-ambition.

We must also avoid narrowly defining morality in this conversation. Morality is much more than acts of kindness. Morality is founded on pure justice and mercy; consequently, morality will necessarily encompass every aspect of relationships, from the most unseen to the most conspicuous. We cannot hope to be truly moral unless our core thoughts and aspirations are completely selfless.

Don’t play the self-interest card here. The argument put forth by Prof. Coyne is that morality is a development of evolution to secure the race. The only way to ensure such complete security is if everyone considers the other person before themselves. In that way every person’s needs would be met and every person would be able to achieve their ultimate purpose in society. Selflessness insures societal strength, self-interest undermines it.

The human race is completely selfish from birth. Therefore, morality cannot be an instinct. Morality doesn’t come naturally for us. Quite the contrary, morality is something we spend time trying to circumvent with the least cost, not something we easily embrace and willingly pursue. This would not be true if morality were the product of a natural selection; we wouldn’t be able to resist it if it were. Indeed, we wouldn’t even think about it anymore than we do hunger; when a stimulus occurs, we react to the stimulus.

Morality in the human race is far removed from any kind of a stimulus/response expected with natural selection; therefore, morality is not the result of evolution.

Morality exists because a moral God created us. We are immoral because, in our conceit, we have turned our backs to our Creator in deference to our selfish-ambition.

God gave Humankind moral laws for at least three important reasons: 1) to give us a picture of the right order God intended, and, therefore, must have for the cosmos, 2) to demonstrate we have rejected that right order in deference to our selfish-ambition, and 3) to protect us from ourselves until He completes His plan for restoration.

If we turn back to God, we will begin to live moral lives—not perfectly, because God’s restoration is not yet completed; the world is not yet just. But by walking with God, today, God enables and motivates us to act justly with mercy and forgives us when we fail. And in the process we will see ourselves and others around us being restored. This is what Jesus the Christ has accomplished for us. All we must do is acknowledge Him as King and, for that reason, live to please Him. We can be confident that He will be faithful because He’s alive!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What is the true arbitrator of morality? Part 1

One Professor Coyne of Chicago recently published an editorial in USAtoday in support of his book, “Why Evolution is True.” The thesis of his editorial is that our genes that have been carefully developed through the agency of natural selection and Human reason are the rightful and best arbitrators of morality. He rejects, as the good atheist he professes to be, the idea of a god being such an arbitrator, because God, being inherently good, could only commit moral acts; yet a quick reading of the Bible shows God sanctioning the deaths of thousands of people. No, he says; evolution has created the moral code in people for the strengthening of Human society. People are moral even as atheists. Prof. Coyne supports this by reminding us how moral people in the liberal and atheist European countries are. We don’t need religion; we only need our instincts to be guided by our intellect.

I wrote a letter to the Editor of USAtoday in rebuttal of Coyne’s thesis; it’s unlikely they will publish it. Consequently, I will use this blog over the next few weeks to challenge Prof. Coyne’s assertions.

First, any truly moral act is founded on pure justice and mercy. Only God acts purely morally because only He is perfectly just and merciful. We can only act morally, therefore, if we are walking with God.

Everything God does is moral, even if it doesn’t appear so to us. Even the slaughter of thousands of people as described in the Old Testament? Prof. Coyne would no doubt counter. We are in rebellion against our Creator. He would certainly be just in vaporizing everything and starting over. But throughout the OT God was establishing His plan for restoration, and this required the execution of justice to pave the way for the ultimate expression of mercy in justice to be revealed: the advent, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of the God-Man, Jesus the Christ. God knows what He is doing, we don’t.

This is a difficult teaching. But Jesus told us the basis of judgment is very simple: one either enters the light or one doesn’t. Those who resolutely ignore God’s call to turn back to Him and remain in the dark will enter into eternal reprobation. There is nothing complex in this. God empowers us in every way because of the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ to enable us to turn to Him. And then He empowers us to enter and remain in the Light by faith alone (believing Him, trusting Him, and doing what He expects on the basis of that belief and trust). Jesus said come to Me all who are weary and weighed down (isn’t this all of us?) and He will give them rest, and then learn from Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Why aren’t people coming by the droves into the light? The answer is pride. They like Prof. Coyne, and I wish him no ill will, want to be their own arbitrators of moral behavior, and they have adopted a system of thought that appeases their consciences so they can do that without regret. Prof. Coyne spoke in pride how he rescued a hapless postman who had dropped his parcels--certainly a nice act. Yet, contrary to what the noble professor might admit, he will assess the next occasion using his reason, which he stated is our best dictator of morality, and decide against it, despite the protestations of instinct to the contrary. The reasoning will be quite convincing, I’m sure, such as the professor is late to an important meeting; or, in the interim the professor learned that the postman is a theist, so the professor decides the extra work will be due penance for the postman’s stupidity.

God’s moral economy doesn’t work that way. If we walk in the light, which is how it must be with God because he is perfectly just and merciful and He doesn’t change, then we must always do the moral thing, regardless of whether it’s an inconvenience or not, or our opinion of the person(s)in question.

Therefore people chose to stay in the dark because God’s moral economy appears too expensive. The irony, as I have already intimated, is that it isn't; because of Jesus’ faithfulness, God impels, empowers, picks up, and forgives everyone remaining in the light. And, instead of eternal reprobation, all such light-dwellers will have eternal life. This is the restoration I spoke of that God has accomplished through Jesus the Christ.

God will restore the right order of all things, where everyone walks with God, and, therefore, the cosmos remains just (right order is maintained, hence the concept of justice vanishes because justice is really only a course adjustment back to the right order of things), and all relationships, starting between God and Humans and proceeding to all those between Humans, subsist perfectly in Love (the concept of mercy disappears because the right order of things has been restored, hence there is no injustice to be reckoned).

God is faithful to His promise of restoration, and, therefore, perfectly just and perfectly merciful. And we can be certain of this because Christ is alive!