Absolute Truth Really Is All About God

 Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 17

Consider the atheist who is outraged at seeing a violent murder on the ten o’clock news. He is very upset and hopes that the murderer will be punished for his wicked actions. But in his view of the world, why should he be angry? In an atheistic, evolutionary universe where people are just animals, murder is no different than a lion killing an antelope. But we don’t punish the lion! If people are just chemical accidents, then why punish one for killing another?…[Moreover, m]any atheists behave morally and expect others to behave morally as well. But absolute morality simply does not comport with atheism.
Dr. Jason Lisle

Truth always carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.
Francis Schaeffer

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Part 16 is available here.

The Declaration of Independence begins with this insightful and profound statement:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The acknowledgement of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” is more than significant. The Founders affirmed the existence of a set of standards coming from God and reflected in nature, or the natural world. It’s true that the Declaration does not mention a specific God; the point of the document was not theological. Even more importantly, it was widely understood that this reference was to the God of the Bible. Our early leaders believed strongly in religious liberty. Even so, God’s existence is assumed, not argued—and equally assumed is the idea that laws, including principles that affirm human dignity and a set of standards of right and wrong, are an inherent part of the natural order of things. These standards originate from outside—and not from within—humanity and human reason.


Truth comes from outside human beings, not from within.


Writing for the Heritage Foundation, Mark David Hall addresses the question “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” He essentially answers by saying, “It depends on what is meant by ‘a Christian founding,’” but affirms the answer is yes if the phrase means biblical principles and ideas strongly influenced America’s architects. “I believe,” Hall writes, “that an excellent case can be made that Christianity had a profound influence on the Founders.” He cites five specific examples, including these.

  1. Their faith taught them that humans were sinful.…
  2. They firmly believed that God ordained moral standards, that legislation should be made in accordance with these standards, and that moral laws took precedence over human laws.

The idea of absolute truth, therefore, was an important principle informing and guiding America’s Founders as they led the Colonies to separate from Great Britain and as they drafted the US Constitution. Although it didn’t originate in the United States, the affirmation of absolute truth can rightly be called an American ideal.

Last week we highlighted five specific characteristics of Alliance Defending Freedom’s clients, and we used Blaine Adamson, Jack Phillips, and Barronelle Stutzman as representative examples. Against the backdrop of America’s founding, I want to underscore a point we dare not miss from our previous discussion. Here I am elaborating on last week’s fifth point, the importance of affirming and living by the right principles.

Blaine Adamson, Darold and Barronelle Stutzman, Kelvin Cochran, Evelyn and Donald Knapp, and Jack Phillips

Adamson, Phillips, Stutzman, and others are upholding principles that originated outside themselves. They are not willing to risk everything to have the right to follow their own feelings on a matter. If an individual is going to risk everything, he or she ought to risk it for something more certain than that! ADF clients are upholding the truth—absolute truth that reflects universal standards of right and wrong. These arise from God and His character.

God is the Architect of all that is, including morality and ethics.
Ancient of Days by William Blake (1757-1827)1

Yet their convictions run even deeper than that. Their beliefs are rooted, not just in ideals or principles, but in God Himself and their sense of accountability to Him. Last week’s three-minute audio clip contained clear evidence of this from the perspective of each client. This one-minute excerpt presents that core evidence. You’ll hear Adamson first, Phillips second, and Stutzman third.

To be clear, an individual doesn’t have to believe in God to believe in moral principles or absolute truth. However, the existence of absolutes is best explained by the existence of God, as apologist J. Warner Wallace has pointed out.

Confronted with the hostility, pressure, and expressions of hate that ADF clients surely must experience, these courageous men and women are not following their feelings. They’re not following their opinions either, although their opinions align with what they know to be true.


Alliance Defending Freedom’s clients aren’t following their feelings or opinions. Rather, they’re putting everything on the line because of what they know to be true and because they are compelled to obey the God who is the source of all truth.


They are putting everything on the line because of what they know to be true and because they are compelled to obey the God who is the source of all truth. It’s all the more reason to follow their examples. As Barrnelle Stutzman affirms, “you can’t be lukewarm” in your commitment to Christ.

What have you risked lately because you’re a Christian?

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

1Use of Blake’s work is not to be construed as an endorsement of his religious views. Ancient of Days does, however, symbolically highlight a number of divine traits that are consistent with the authority and creative power of the God of orthodox Christianity, which we do affirm.

top image: portion of an 1869 US postage stamp commemorating the presentation of the Declaration of Independence

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 13

God Reveals Truth About Himself: Eleven Things You Need to Know

God cloaks himself in invisibility and leaves the world to guess, hope, and kill over his identity and existence? This is love?
—author C. J. Anderson in No Kingdom Come— 

He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
—Jesus in Luke 16:31, explaining that people who refuse to heed what the Scriptures teach about how to avoid eternal torment also will refuse to believe a person who has returned from the dead—

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
—The Lord in Jeremiah 19:13

There is a God.
Rush Limbaugh, in his “35 Undeniable Truths of Life”

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

We come in our series on absolute truth to consider truths God has revealed about Himself to humanity. Note carefully that these are objective truths, realities that are in place and operative for all people, everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances—regardless of any and all human opinions or sentiments to the contrary. We call them objective truths because they have truth as their object. Thus, these realities exist outside human opinion or influence.


Truth about God is not subjective, but objective—outside of personal opinions and perspectives. It applies to all people, everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances.


In what we now know as Psalm 19, David wrote,

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth (Psalm 19:1-6).

The apostle Paul affirmed David’s testimony in Romans 1, and he issued a warning. We must heed what nature tells us. Here’s what Paul said.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Rom. 1:18-20)

Let’s carefully note several things from these verses.

First, those who deny or suppress the truth about God face His judgment (see v. 18).

Second, people suppress the truth about God “by their wickedness” (see v. 18; also see John 3:16-21). It follows, then, that God is perfect and holy. The prophet Isaiah declared that “the eyes of the arrogant [will be] humbled,” and “the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts” (Isa. 5:15-16).

Third, the truth about God is plain to all, even to those who refuse to believe it, and even if they claim evidence for God’s existence is lacking (see Rom. 1:19). Just how plain is God’s revelation? Another New Testament verse containing the word translated plain will help us understand.

In Acts 4, the Jewish authorities were angry with Peter and John for having healed a man in Jesus’ name and then proclaiming Jesus as the only way to salvation (see Acts 3). Conferring together, the Jews said, “What should we do with these men? For an obvious sign, evident to all who live in Jerusalem, has been done through them, and we cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16, HCSB, emphasis added). In this verse, the Greek word translated obvious is gnostos, which means “well known” or “notable.” It is the adjective form of the word ginosko, which means “to know.” Against this backdrop, the word translated plain in Romans 1:19 also appears. It is translated as evident in Acts 4:16. Just how evident was the miracle? So evident and obvious that the Jews were forced to admit, “We cannot deny it.”

Unlike the Jewish authorities in Acts 4, [many and perhaps most] Americans today are denying the undeniable.

Fourth, it is God who has made truth about Himself plain (see v. 19).

Fifth, God has revealed Himself through His creation (see v. 20). Accidents may happen, but no accident or random force ever could produce the ordered world in which we live. As human beings, we also are a part of God’s created order, and amazing miracles, at that! (Also go here.)

Sixth, Paul states that God’s “invisible qualities,” specifically His “eternal power and divine nature,” have been made evident in and through creation (see v. 20).

Seventh, God’s revealed truth is understood (see v. 20). The word translated understood means “perceived with the mind.” Having seen God’s revelation, people “get it.” They might not realize they’ve “gotten it,” but they have anyway.

We should stop here and point out that this seventh principle underscores the objective nature of the truth the Supreme Being has unveiled about Himself. Note carefully:

  • The truth about God is outside humanity and human influence. No person or group “creates” it; it simply is. We know it and understand it because God has revealed it to us, but it exists independent of us.
  • People understand the truth and either accept it or reject it. Their opinions to the contrary do not change it or alter it in any way.
  • Subjective responses to God’s revealed truth do, however, make all the difference in the world in people’s lives. Here’s why. A response to God’s revealed truth, whether negative or positive, influences God’s posture toward an individual. We readily should understand this, because we see this in human relationships all the time. God made the first move by creating us, but we sinned against Him. God acted again and again with overtures toward us, ultimately sending His Son to die for us (more on this in a moment). God loves all people, and nothing anyone can do will keep Him from loving them. Even so, when an individual rejects the innate understanding God has given him or her about Himself, He will respect that choice, even though He wanted it to be different. When is a rejection final? We cannot fully know. This is why Scripture repeatedly warns people not to put off accepting God’s revealed truth about Himself and the salvation He offers.

Eighth, because of the God-given understanding they possess, “people are without excuse” before the Lord (v. 20). They cannot say God didn’t reveal Himself in clear, discernible ways—because He has done just that!

Why Doesn’t God Erase All Doubts About His Existence and About What He Is Like?

Sometimes people ask, “If God really is real, why doesn’t He simply reveal Himself in ways that make His existence undeniable and undebatable? Why doesn’t He just prove Himself beyond all doubt?” Some, like author C. J. Anderson, whom we cited at the top, apparently already have concluded God has hidden Himself. But has He?

Let’s respond to this objection with three points, all of which are interrelated. These will be the ninth, tenth, and eleventh items on our longer list.

First on our short list and ninth on our long one, if God were to disclose Himself in a way that would “blow us away,” His disclosure really would blow us away!


If God were to disclose Himself in a way that would “blow us away,” we truly would be blown away!


One day God will reveal Himself in this way, but because of His mercy, He hasn’t yet. Here’s the catch. With proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real, we no longer would be able to choose to love Him. Why? We cannot be free to choose to love God unless we’re also free to reject Him and His overtures of love to us. Consider this insightful parable by Søren Kierkegaard.

Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her?  In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist—no one dared resist him.  But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage…that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal…For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.

God wants us to have fellowship with Him. No human being ever can be totally equal to Him, but we must have a way of approaching Him. God provided that way in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. To the degree that He could, without ceasing to be God, Jesus became our equal!

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God Himself. God speaks through nature and His Word, the Bible, but He came to us personally in Jesus. Jesus was God from eternity past, but He lowered Himself to became a human being. He lived a perfect life and then died a terrible death on a cross to pay the penalty for human sin.

When we seriously consider the harsh realities involved in Jesus’ death on our behalf, can we really maintain a straight face and claim God has not revealed Himself sufficiently? While we haven’t received proof beyond all doubt that God is real, we do have proof beyond all reasonable doubt. As Christian businessman and layman Robert Laidlaw declared, “Christ has done all. I say it reverently; He can do no more. He has borne the penalty of your sin also; He has been raised by the power of God the Father, and now He presents Himself to you. Will you accept Him as Savior and crown Him as your Lord?”

This is Christ’s invitation to you and to everyone else. Unwilling to strong-arm His way into any person’s life, Jesus offers Himself to all. The Holy Spirit applies Jesus’ life-giving, stain-cleansing blood to the accounts of all who welcome Him into their hearts and lives. Accordingly, we can respond to Jesus’ invitation to us by repenting of our sins and trusting Him to give us eternal life as He promised.


Christ has done all. I say it reverently; He can do no more. 
—Robert Laidlaw—


There is a second reason God doesn’t yet disclose Himself in totally irrefutable ways. Because it especially puts the onus on us, this tenth truth should make us quake in our boots. Jesus indicated during His ministry that God reveals Himself increasingly to those who respond with open hearts to the revelations He’s already provided. On the other hand, if a person already has his or her mind made up, that individual cannot blame God for not revealing more. People like this may be brilliant by human standards, but they lack true understanding. They are “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Third (and eleventh on our longer list), God doesn’t want mechanical allegiance, but real love. We should be quick to understand this, because we desire the same in our own relationships. It’s appropriate, therefore, that the inspired writer of Hebrews declared, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6). If you’re not put in a position to trust God, you won’t. Moreover, you cannot have a meaningful relationship with anyone you do not trust!


You cannot have a meaningful relationship with someone you don’t trust!


Take some time this week and reflect on these eleven absolute truths about God’s revelation of Himself to humanity (a PDF is available here). Next week we’ll return to Romans 1 and make additional observations.

Paul was just getting started.

Part 14 is available here.

top image: Jesus Stilling the Tempest by James Tissot (see Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25.)

image credit: photo of candy cane rose—Susie Clay

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture passages are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The passage designated HCSB was taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®,  Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 12

Why Jesus Is the Only Way to God, and Why Truth Claims to the Contrary Are False

We are living in a post truth era, where people are searching for solid ground, they’re looking for something to say this is true, I can rely on this. Christianity claims to be true. It says it’s not wishful thinking or make-believe or legends or mythology, but it’s based on actual historical evidence. And I think these days young people especially are looking for something solid like that to put their trust in.
Lee Strobel, in an interview about the film The Case for Christ, which tells the story of Strobel’s journey from atheism to Christianity—

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

This week I want briefly to drive a home a key point in last week’s post by providing answers to two common objections to God’s plan of salvation.

Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God?

First, many people seem to be offended when Christians say Jesus is the only way to God—yet they are only relating what Jesus Himself declared. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He said. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Why should this challenge our sensibilities? God, after all, is God. He has a right to establish how people should approach Him and what will be required of them to enter His home. One former pastor offers this insightful account.

While I once was witnessing to a young couple, the husband said he believed there were many ways to be saved. I asked, “If I came to your house at night, put a ladder up to a second-floor window and climbed in, what you would do?” After the man told me he would shoot me, I asked, “You mean you require someone to enter your house only in the way you prescribe, but you believe you can decide how you are going to get into God’s kingdom?”

He responded, “I guess that doesn’t make sense, does it?” I left hoping my challenge eventually would come to represent a true turning point in this man’s perspective on Jesus.1

Rather than asking how God could exclude those who wish to approach Him in ways other than through His Son, we need to appreciate the cost He paid to provide the one way He provided. God’s perfect character requires Him to judge sin—even those actions we might deem the smallest and least significant violations of His law.

Is God Being Fair?

In a letter to his employees explaining why he believed in the God of the Bible Robert Laidlaw (1885-1971) declared,

A young man once asked me, “Do you think it is fair of God to set the standard of holiness so high that we cannot reach it, and then judge us for falling short?”

This is the second objection we need to consider. Laidlaw continued,

I replied, “God has not set an arbitrary standard of holiness as an official sets an arbitrary standard of height for his bodyguards. In such a case, a man may have all the other qualifications, but if he is an inch too short he is disqualified.

God has not really set a standard at all: He is the standard. He is absolute holiness, and to preserve His own character He must remain absolutely holy in all of His dealings with man, maintaining that standard irrespective of the tremendous implications which it may hold for both Him and us” [emphases added].


God has not really set a standard at all: He is the standard. He is absolute holiness, and to preserve His own character He must remain absolutely holy in all His dealings with man, maintaining that standard irrespective of the tremendous implications which it may hold for both Him and us.
—Robert Laidlaw—


So the question isn’t really one of fairness, but divine holiness. God cannot violate His own character.

God Demonstrates His Love Through His Son

The good news for us is that God also is loving, and His love compelled Him to make it possible for Him to offer us forgiveness. The only way He could do that was to send His Son, Jesus Christ, down to earth to fulfill the law by living a perfect life, and then to die a substitutionary death for sinful humanity. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead affirms God’s acceptance and approval of His Son’s sacrifice.

Respecting the choices of all, however, God will not credit Jesus’ death to the account of anyone who doesn’t express a desire to have it applied to him or her personally. The lost son in Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-32 learned the hard way that absolute personal autonomy is a myth, but he still had to choose to return home with an attitude of sorrow and repentance. We must seek God in the same way. We can be certain that just as the father in Jesus’ illustration rejoiced, God also rejoices whenever anyone approaches Him with humility and repentance. You can learn more about God’s plan of salvation here.

The Bottom Line

Jesus was cruelly flogged and then crucified. He died the most horrible of deaths. It is inconceivable that God would allow His only Son to endure such torment to secure salvation and then shun Him by allowing people to come to Him through other means! This never will happen.


Having allowed His Son to secure salvation by dying the most horrible of deaths, God never would shun Him by permitting people to come to Him through other means. 


This is why Jesus is the only way to God. This is why we cannot approach Him any other way. And unfair? How can we accuse God of unfairly upholding His absolute standard of perfection when He met it Himself through His Son, who sacrificed His life for our eternal benefit?

And oh, there’s one more thing. Having hit an absolutely insurmountable wall and then then observed that God has opened a door for us, even as He has consistently upheld His standard of absolute perfection, we are compelled to reject all truth claims—including relativism—that compete with the Christian faith.  It simply can’t be otherwise.

Reality and integrity demand it.

Part 13 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

top imageThe Parable of the Prodigal Son by Guercino (1591-1666)

Note:

1Jerry Price, “Jesus the One and Only,” in Life Words Personal Study Guide, Fall, 2010, (Nashville: LifeWay Christian Resources, 2010), 66.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 11

Jesus’ Death and the Internal Consistency of the Christian Faith

Many people quite naturally think to themselves, If I live a good life and my good deeds outweigh my bad ones, I should be saved. Yes, in the abstract that sounds good, but it ignores so many things that a perfect God cannot allow to be ignored.…[Thus,] God’s salvation plan wasn’t just one plan that He chose among many.…He had no choice other than the one He exercised for our salvation because [of] His moral perfection, His holiness, and His perfect justice inhere[nt] in Him. Unless He was willing to deny His own nature and compromise and violate His perfect holiness and justice, He couldn’t just wipe the slate clean without requiring a sufficient satisfaction of our debt. Far from violating His nature, He vindicated it with this brilliant salvation plan.
—David Limbaugh1

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Although I originally had planned to release an article this Easter weekend about Jesus’ resurrection, I am compelled, in part because I am in the midst of writing a series of posts about the existence of absolute truth, to write instead about Jesus’ death. I trust you’ll see why as my presentation unfolds. I have written earlier about evidence for Christ’s resurrection, including one post about the transformed life of the apostle Peter. Please visit these posts for information about this crucial aspect of Easter.

Today’s discussion will rely heavily on last week’s presentation of the Seven Pillars of Christianity. For easy reference, print out this one-page summary of the Seven Pillars and refer to it as you read this article.


For your convenience, print out this one-page summary of the Seven Pillars and refer to it as you read this article.


Significantly, we’ll highlight all seven and demonstrate their interrelatedness. Unlike relativism, Christianity has perfect internal consistency. Its components fit together and make sense of the world.


Unlike relativism, Christianity has perfect internal consistency.


We start with pillar number three, which upholds the Bible as the true and reliable written revelation of God to humanity. Introductory evidence for this can be found here, here, here, and here. We need to realize as well that the Bible also accurately records the events in which God acted to reveal Himself in history, an element of Christianity upheld by pillar number two. Keeping in mind these two supports, we now move to a third.

The Role of Ethical Teachings in Christianity

In the seven pillars, pillar number five is made up of “ethical teachings that mirror God’s character and that contrast to man’s sinful nature as well as the choice of every human being to follow his or her own way rather than God’s.”

A set of ethical and moral teachings as a component of any religious belief system certainly does not surprise us. While living a pure life is important, Christianity’s moral teachings are unique in that they represent far more than guidelines to follow and ideals for which to strive. Old Testament principles of morality, as well as the broader teachings upheld by Christ in the New Testament—all the moral guidelines of the Bible—point not only to how people should live, but also to both God’s holiness and man’s sin. When we understand this, we begin to uncover a critical way in which the Christian faith stands apart from all other belief systems. We need to ask, therefore, what God is like, and how the moral guidelines He provides reflect His nature.

God Is Perfect

Pillar number one describes God with several important words, including “just and holy.” To the Lord God, “all things are not the same.” Notice that this refutes relativism outright. Also, God “is the source of absolute truth, for He is the source of reality.” There is much more here than we can cover in this short post, but let’s examine just a few Bible passages that showcase God’s righteousness, justice, and holiness. You can see all of the following passages printed on one page here.


To God, who is the source of reality, all things are not the same.


We see in these Bible passages that God is absolutely perfect. He always is just and fair. He consistently does everything right. Keep in mind, though, that He is loving as well. In fact, the Bible declares with profound simplicity that “God is love.”

God’s Laws Reveal His Perfection

Returning to pillar number five, we note further that the ethical teachings of Christianity don’t just tell us what God wishes of us; they also demonstrate His holiness and perfection. We need look no further than the Ten Commandments to see this. Here are some examples.

God’s love is shown in His commands as well. Matthew 22:35-40 says,

35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ [see Deut. 6:538 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [see Lev. 19:1840 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

But wait! God isn’t just perfect in what He does, but also in who He is. Therefore, attitudes are important to Him, not just actions. Note Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. The sobering truth is this. If you think you’ve done well by not killing anyone, but have hated someone—anyone—in your heart, you’ve still broken the law. It’s a good thing not to have committed adultery, but you’ve still violated God’s law if you’ve lusted after another person in your heart. Do more than you’re required to do! Go the second mile! Love not just those who love you, but your enemies as well. Finally, Jesus nails us all when He says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

The important point here is God’s character, which is absolutely pure, perfect, and holy. To violate the law of God is to violate His character, and consequently, to offend Him!

God’s Laws Also Put the Spotlight on Human Sinfulness

We ought to be seeing this truth already. If we are attentive, we will hear the Ten Commandments and other divine guidelines telling us not only about God, but also about ourselves. It doesn’t even take Jesus’ expanded guidelines to show us we stand guilty before Almighty God. We tend to think we are pretty good people until we measure ourselves against God’s standard—then we realize how completely we’ve missed the divine mark. We’re reminded of Isaiah. Confronted with God’s holiness, he was overcome with a realization of his own unworthiness and sin. As Psalm 14:2-3 states, “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.” Romans 3:23 echoes this with the testimony that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

On his Facebook page, evangelist Ray Comfort explains.

Have you kept the Ten Commandments? This is what someone would be like if he kept the moral Law—he would always love God with “all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength,” and love his neighbor as much as he has loved himself. He has never made a god to suit himself (either with his hands or in his mind). He has always given God’s name reverence, kept the Sabbath holy, honored his parents implicitly, and never once has he been “angry without cause.” He has never hated anyone, had lust in his heart, or had illicit sex. He has never stolen even a paper clip or ballpoint pen, or told as much as a “white” lie, and not once desired anything that belongs to someone else. He is, and always has been “pure in heart,” perfect in thought, word, and deed.

God is not indifferent to these offences. He cannot be, because of His holy character. He must judge sin. What is the punishment for sin before a holy God? Death, both physical and spiritual: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Ray Comfort continues,

The truth is, we are not like that. We have all “sinned” many times, and therefore we have stored up God’s wrath, which will be revealed on Judgment Day. The proof that we have sinned will be our death, and after death we must face God in judgment. Think of it—if He has seen our every thought, word, and deed, and if He is going to bring all our sins out as evidence of our guilt on the Day of Judgment, we will all be found to be guilty. Our conscience has shown us right from wrong; we will be without excuse. God will give us justice, and Hell will be the place of our eternal punishment. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” [Luke 12:2]. That’s why you need the Savior.

Before moving ahead, we do well to recognize that all of these things are true because of absolutes. God is, and He is who He is. We are humans made in God’s image but marred by sin. We not only have a bent to sin but also have freely chosen to disobey God. We face the dilemma we face because of the real circumstances that prevail. We cannot dodge these realities or imagine them away. We cannot come up with our own “truth” to rescue us.


God is, and He is who He is. Moreover, as sinners, we have offended God and stand guilty before Him. We face the dilemma we face because of the real circumstances that prevail. We cannot dodge these realities or imagine them away. We cannot come up with our own “truth” to rescue us.


What, then, can we do? As Ray Comfort declares, we “need the Savior,” One who can rescue us from our otherwise helpless state. Only God can provide a Savior, and the good news of Easter is that He did just that in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Law Points Us to Our Need for Christ

Accordingly, the Bible affirms, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). Obeying the law was and is insufficient to save us, because we cannot obey it perfectly. Only God can do that. So, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, who was and is God, down to earth as a human being to live a perfect life and to reveal the truth about God. Pillar number four speaks to this. The apostle John wrote,

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.… 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.… 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:1-5-5,14,17-18).

Artist Enrique Simonet depicts Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem.

Jesus not only revealed truth about God; He also obeyed God’s moral law perfectly. In other words, He “fulfilled the law” (see Matt. 5:17). Having done that, He could die in the place of sinners, paying their penalty for them. Indeed, the only way their penalty could be paid was through His death. Accordingly, Jesus sacrificed Himself willingly as He was crucified on a Roman cross. Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection were the two most important historical events orchestrated by God and alluded to in pillar number two. What did God accomplish through Jesus’ death and resurrection? These passages tell us.

Artist James Tissot depicts his perspective of what Jesus saw from the cross.

From the writings of Paul:

  • For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1 Tim. 2:5-6).

From the writings of Peter:

  • For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Pet. 3:18).

From the writings of John:

  • He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:10-13).
  • And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:14-17).

Significantly, John went on to write in John 3:18 these reassuring—and jarring—words: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”


He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
—the apostle John in John 3:18—


God’s Invitation, and Real Answers for Life as it Really Is

Christ died for all, but His death is credited only to those who receive God’s invitation “making it possible to avoid His wrath, experience His mercy and grace, and get to know Him personally and intimately. When we accept God’s invitation, the Holy Spirit regenerates us, giving us a new spiritual life.” This is pillar number six.

We note here also that God’s plan of salvation and the way it addresses life’s critical issues give us real answers to the questions we naturally ask about the imperfect world that surrounds us. We saw this in pillar number seven. Here is one such question. Why does a holy, perfect, all-powerful, and good God continue to allow suffering and evil in the world? Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise [to return and to set the world right], as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The internal consistency of Christianity is striking. This is especially true when we contrast it to relativism, which is self-refuting. While the harmony between the components of the Christian faith by itself doesn’t prove Christianity to be true, it stands as strong evidence. Furthermore, the biblical worldview coincides with what we see externally, in the real world. It explains reality as does no other belief system. Our questions are answered, not completely, but adequately.


The internal consistency of Christianity is striking. This is especially true when we contrast it to relativism, which is self-refuting.


Knowing all these things, however, is not enough. We must respond. Returning to the invitation we highlighted in pillar number six, we emphasize that Jesus’ death and resurrection place before us life’s most important question. Pilate faced it, as will every other human being. Pilate asked, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22). Again, because of the absolute realities of (1) a holy God who exists and loves you, (2) your sinful condition, and (3) Christ’s provision for you on the cross, you must answer this question. You can’t “make up your own truth” to detour around it.


Because of the absolute realities of (1) a holy God who exists and loves you, (2) your sinful condition, and (3) Christ’s provision for you on the cross, you must determine what you will do with Jesus. You can’t “make up your own truth” to detour around this issue.


How will you respond?

Next week, against the backdrop of this post, we’ll offer answers to two common objections to God’s plan of salvation.

Written on Good Friday, April 14, 2017

Part 12 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes—Part 10

The Seven Pillars Christianity, an Authentic Faith

 Genuine Christianity is more than a relationship with Jesus, as expressed in personal piety, church attendance, Bible study, and works of charity. It is more than discipleship, more than believing a system of doctrines about God. Genuine Christianity is a way of seeing and comprehending all reality. It is a worldview.
Charles W. Colson

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Christian Apologist Gregory Koukl admits to facing a dilemma when he meets another individual and shares introductory information about himself. Once, when he was seated next to a stockbroker on a flight, the gentleman asked him what he did for a living, and Greg told him he was a writer. “What do you write about?” certainly was a natural question for Greg’s new friend to ask, but it triggered a challenge for Greg. Mr. Koukl writes about religion—Christianity specifically—and he could have said that, but he didn’t want his seatmate to misunderstand the nature of his work. While most people would not condemn Christian authors outright for believing lies and myths, neither would they view their writings as authoritative or authentic in any deep way. Rather,

people are tempted to think of religion as a kind of spiritual fantasy club—true for you, but not necessarily true for me. Find the club you like—the one that meets your personal needs, that gives you rules to live by that are respectable but not too demanding, that warms your heart with a feeling of spirituality. That’s the point of religion. Do not, however confuse religious stories with reality. They don’t give you the kind of information about the world that, say, science does. Yes, believing in God is useful to a point, but religion taken too seriously is, in some ways, like believing in Santa Claus—quaint if you’re a child but unbecoming of an adult.1

Yet, as Koukl goes on to say, Christianity isn’t like that. Instead, it “is a picture of reality.”2

The rebuilding of a Southern California house previously consumed by a fire provides a great analogy, because the reconstruction of the dwelling reveals its otherwise hidden traits. These include things like the solid nature of the foundation as well as the strength of the nuts and bolts that hold the rafters and studs together. In Koukl’s words, the “whole house is bolted down to the ground in many different ways.”

Christians and non-Christians alike need to see that Christianity is like the new house: “It’s not a flimsy structure that someone has sunk a couple of nails in and the first guy to come by who can huff n’ puff real strong is going to blow it away. Christianity is a system bolted down to reality.”

If true, this has serious consequences for everyone rejecting or ignoring the Christian faith. Summit Ministries president Jeff Myers puts it this way.

Although it might sound broad-minded to argue that we should invite everyone to live as he or she pleases, the world does not change to fit our whims and desires. If Christianity is true, then it accurately describes the world as it actually is. Rejecting Christianity, then, is the same as rejecting reality itself. Inevitably, the real world crashes in, revealing the consequences of rejecting God’s rules and patterns.3


Rejecting Christianity is the same as rejecting reality itself. Inevitably, the real world crashes in, revealing the consequences of rejecting God’s rules and patterns.
—Jeff Myers—


As Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27,

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Authentic Pillars Support a Faith that is Objectively True

We’re in the midst of a series of articles on absolute truth, and during the past two weeks (here and here) we’ve been poking holes in relativism as a belief system. We’re not finished doing this, but as we enter Holy Week with its Easter climax, I want to use a couple of posts to uphold the authenticity and reliability of Christianity. Next week we’ll do this by focusing on an important aspect of Christ’s resurrection, but this week I want to present the big picture of the Christian faith, which has seven reliable pillars. Christianity rests on these firm supports. Our discussion is far from exhaustive, but it will be informative and helpful in showing the basic elements of Christianity.

Just as no building can stand without adequate supports, so, too, Christianity can’t stand without authentic pillars. Because its pillars are solid, the Christian faith also is objectively true.

Pillar number one: A creative, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and loving God. The first words in the Bible highlight and allude to many of these divine qualities. Moreover, God is both objectively real and personal. He also is just and holy; to Him all things are not the same. He is the source of absolute truth, for He is the source of reality. In addition, God reveals Himself in nature. In other words, we can learn a great deal about God simply by observing the created order, the interactions within it, and the uniqueness of human beings (also go here).

Pillar number two: Real, historical events in which God has acted to accomplish His purposes.

Pillar number three: A trustworthy and reliable written revelation of God to humanity. We have this in the Bible, which we rightly refer to as God’s Written Word.

Pillar number four: A personal revelation of God to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh. Jesus, in fact, is the central focus of the Christian faith. Jesus is God’s Living Word and God’s ultimate revelation of Himself to humankind. One writer even affirms this: “Knowledge of truth is possible because of the creating and revealing work of the Logos [Word] of God, Jesus Christ.” Jesus came to earth as a human being without ceasing to be God, lived a perfect life, and on a Passover Friday died on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for human sin. On Sunday morning, He rose from the dead and subsequently appeared to His followers multiple times before ascending back to the Father, even as angels assured His disciples that He one day would return.

Pillar number five: Ethical teachings that mirror God’s character and that contrast to man’s sinful nature as well as the choice of every human being to follow his or her own way rather than God’s.

You’ll find pillars two through five discussed succinctly in this brief article.

Pillar number six: An invitation to humanity from God making it possible to avoid His wrath, experience His mercy and grace, and get to know Him personally and intimately (go here and here). When we accept God’s invitation, God the Holy Spirit regenerates us, giving us a new spiritual life.

Pillar number seven: Reasonable, clear answers to life’s basic questions. We look around us, and intuitively we know things are not as they ought to be. Why are things out of kilter? Christianity offers us substantive and adequate, though not exhaustive, answers. The explanations it gives us make sense of the world we live in as does no other belief system. The Christian faith tells us

  • how we got here,
  • how we got into the mess we are in,
  • the ultimate solution to our problems, and
  • how God will resolve things in the end.

It also shows us how we fit into God’s master plan.

Since the seven pillars are real, Christianity also is true, period—regardless of what people think or feel about it. In other words, Christianity and the biblical worldview square with reality because they are true in the absolute, objective sense.


Christianity and the biblical worldview square with reality because they are true in the absolute, objective sense.


Like the house built to withstand earthquakes in Southern California, they are “bolted down to reality.”

Next week, we’ll look at a central teaching of Christianity—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That discussion, too, will help us contend for the recognition of absolutes.

Part 11 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 21-22. Learn more about Koukl’s book here.

2Ibid., 23.

3Jeff Myers, Understanding the Faith: A Survey of Christian Apologetics, (Manitou Springs, CO and Colorado Springs, CO: Summit Ministries and David C. Cook respectively, 2016), 15.

 

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 9

Encouraging People to See Relativism’s Fatal Flaw

Imagine that you woke up today and saw this news flash: “All bills in American currency declared equal.” No longer is the $100 bill more valuable than the $1 bill. Under the new system the only thing that matters is who has the most bills of any kind. Thus, a person holding a hundred $1 bills now has the same purchasing power as a person holding a hundred $100 bills. The only question would be, “How many bills do you have?” Of course this would never fly. People would revolt and demand that the value of their bills be recognized.
Voddie Baucham

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Last week we examined several serious cracks in relativism as a philosophy. This week I want to highlight what we might consider its fatal flaw. Yes, it has many—but this one is a doozy. As we move toward identifying this defect, we’ll briefly review material we’ve covered already and provide a context for making our main point. Remember what relativism is—a philosophy that states that all perspectives have equal value, that no one idea is less or more justifiable than any other. Thus, relativism says absolute truth does not exist.


Relativism is a philosophy that states that all perspectives have equal value, that no one idea is less or more justifiable than any other. Thus, relativism says absolute truth does not exist.


What ought we to say about relativism?

First, absolutes clearly exist in the scientific world. This point isn’t hard to make and we could cite countless examples to prove it. Previously, we examined the saga of Apollo 13. Here’s one more. Refresh your memory about the disease known as “infantile paralysis,” or polio, and the medical professionals in the 50s and early 60s who conquered the disease. In particular, become better acquainted with medical pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk on this page.

Why were Dr. Salk and his team successful? They respected reality and adjusted their work to absolute truth, to the unyielding realities that were in effect. While it’s true Dr. Salk is widely known to have said, “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality,” we must never forget that he also said, “Nothing happens quite by chance. It’s a question of accretion of information and experience.”


Nothing happens quite by chance. It’s a question of accretion of information and experience.
—Dr. Jonas Salk—


Second, absolutes exist in everyday life, and relativists appear to have no problem conforming to them. Yes, even “a relativist has to admit that some truths and falsehoods exist. He knows he’s wearing a blue shirt and not a red one. She lives in Texas, not in Vermont. Go through a traffic intersection when you approach a green light, not a red one.” Let’s add this item to the mix as well: Allison is married to Rick.

Deny or even ignore realities like these, and you’ll get into trouble—maybe not right away, depending on which truths you challenge. Keep it up, though, you’ll be “up a creek without a paddle.”

Third, the notion that all ideas—even moral ones—have equal value is inconsistent and illogical. It is self-refuting. We said this early on in part 2 when we spoke of the law of non-contradiction. We emphasize this point once more here.

William M. Briggs notes, “In 1994, professor Mark Glazer said, “Cultural relativism in anthropology is a key methodological concept which is universally accepted within the discipline” (go here for the quote). Briggs encourages his readers to notice the flaw in Glazer’s claim, then he points it out in glaring terms.

If it is true that “Cultural relativism is the view that all beliefs are equally valid” etc., and that that proposition is “universally accepted”, then we are confronted with something that is true wherever you are. If “relativism” is true, then it is false because anthropologists everywhere believe it, and if they everywhere believe it, it is a universal truth, something that is true without regard to culture.

It gets even more asinine. If “Cultural relativism is the view that all beliefs are equally valid” etc., then how valid is the view that “Cultural relativism is false”? I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks.

It’s even worse than this. Relativists use relativism to reject philosophies and ideas with which they disagree as well as to validate those with which they agree. They do these things in logically incorrect ways, but they do them nonetheless. Moreover, all the while, they essentially contradict what they say they believe by the way they live their lives. As we saw in our observations last week, apologist Greg Koukl paints this picture in vivid terms.


It is not my intention to offend—only to shed light on the truth.


Perhaps I should emphasize at this point that my purpose here is not to offend, but to help people who have been blinded by a lie discover the truth. This isn’t possible to do without taking the risk of stepping on some toes. I’ll take that risk.

Fourth, believing every idea has equal value has disastrous consequences. Hillsdale College president and professor Dr. Larry Arnn makes this point vividly in a true account he relates in a free online course on C. S. Lewis offered by the college. Dr. Arnn is discussing a Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man.

Go here to see photos depicting a partial legacy of Adolf Hitler. Be aware that the pictures are graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.

Adolf Hitler is but one example of many we could cite to demonstrate not only the poison consequences of relativism, but also the testimony of the truth that an immutable set of standards of right and wrong exists and is applicable for all.

I would like to ask my relativist friends this question: Are you really willing to live by a philosophy that exonerates Adolph Hitler? If this question bothers you, even a little bit, it shows that you really do believe in absolute truth. If it doesn’t bother you, you have a deeper problem than that of being misled by the popular idea of relativism.


Are you really willing to live by a philosophy that exonerates Adolph Hitler? If this question bothers you, even a little bit, it shows that you really do believe in absolute truth. If it doesn’t bother you, you have a deeper problem than that of being misled by the popular idea of relativism. 


Relativism’s Fatal Flaw

All four these items are serious enough, but now we come to relativism’s fatal flaw, and it is two-pronged. The fifth and sixth points flow from number four. While relativists claim moral absolutes don’t exist, sound reasoning demonstrates undeniably that—fifth—they actually do. Scientific and practical absolutes simply mirror their moral counterparts. Finally—sixth—they point to God’s existence.

Homicide detective and Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace explains. (This clip comes from part 1 of a 2-part series available on youtube.com. You can view both videos here.)

I have another question for my friends who claim to be relativists. Do you agree that it is wrong to kill people just for the fun of it? If you do, you really don’t believe in relativism! Relativism says that no moral absolutes exist, so if just one does, this philosophy is just as false as it would be if a set of absolute truths were real. The whole system falls like a house of cards. Here’s another important point. If one absolute principle exists, it’s quite likely others do as well, just as J. Warner Wallace indicated. 


Do you agree that it is wrong to kill people just for the fun of it? If you do, you really don’t believe in relativism! Relativism says that no moral absolutes exist, so if just one does, this philosophy is just as false as it would be if a set of absolute truths were real. The whole system falls like a house of cards. Here’s another important point. If one absolute principle exists, it’s quite likely others do as well. 


Sixth, even just one absolute principle points to the existence of God. Absolute truth has a Source to whom all things are not equal. Relativism is false on its face!

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said,

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.

Summary

In claiming that moral absolutes do not exist, relativism sets itself up as the ultimate absolute, moral and otherwise. It turns out, then, that to be a relativist is to be an absolutist after all—and to be both an inconsistent and self-refuting one at that!

Moreover, when any relativist appeals to or seeks to uphold any virtue—including the favorite tenets of tolerance and justice—she betrays herself, he unmasks his warped, convoluted, and false perspective.


When any relativist appeals to or seeks to uphold any virtue—including the favorite tenets of tolerance and justice—she betrays herself, he unmasks his warped, convoluted, and false perspective.


Not only do moral absolutes exist, but they have an ultimate source. They have to! A world without meaning really has to be a world without any purpose or meaning—including any kind of awareness of or aspiration to meaning or virtue.

Chew on this for a while, and be sure to return next week. We haven’t discovered nearly all the gems in this mine yet!

Part 10 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 3

Relativism’s Bitter Fruit

They’ve got this foolish concept that man evolved from something that even a microscope cannot see it. They’ve got this foolish idea that once upon a time I lived in water and then crawled out of the water, lost my tail, and became a monkey. They’ve got this foolish idea that man evolved from an animal.…If man once came from monkey, where are the monkeys that are having men today? Who put a stop on the play? Horses are still bringing forth colts. Cows are still having calves. Chickens are still having chickens. If monkey first made man, where is monkey now?…And one of the reasons why men, boys and girls, are acting the way they’re acting is because the schools are telling them that they’re animals. We’ve got to tell them that they are God’s choicest creation!

Rev. E. V. Hill, speaking at a Promise Keepers event at Anaheim Stadium (now Angel Stadium) in Anaheim, California, June 30, 19941

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Last time I made a bold claim. I used the sinking of the Titanic as an example of how false beliefs can give rise to some very horrific scenarios. I said relativism, because of its reliance on feelings rather than truth, “sets up one false idea after another! Relativists might ‘get it right’ from time to time but won’t consistently. And yes, the results can be just as disastrous as the sinking of the Titanic—and even worse!”

You may think I’m grandstanding, but I assure you, I’m not. To validate my point, however, I’ll need to show the relationship between relativism and evolution, as well as the relationships between evolution and several other movements and ideas. Alan Wilson and Matt Thomas, whom we met last week, will help us see these connections.

Relativism, Evolution, and a Materialistic Worldview

Alan Wilson had just completed his first semester of college and came home to talk to his pastor, Matt Thomas, about absolute truth, morality, and right and wrong. Matt helped Alan see what really was going on with regard to his fellow students’ perspectives about morality and values. Not surprisingly, nearly all Alan’s fellow students had taken positions that differed strongly from what Alan had been taught as a child and as a teenager, both at home and at church.

Matt explained that they didn’t believe what they believed about things like right and wrong, abortion, homosexuality, and absolute truth because they’d evaluated each item individually. Instead they had adopted a worldview—a set of presuppositions about life and the world—that gave way to their beliefs about all of these issues and more. They’d even done this unconsciously, “under the radar.” You can read an account of most of Alan’s and Matt’s conversation here. In their conversation, Pastor Thomas alluded to a connection between relativism and evolution. Simply put, the former descended from the latter. Can you spot the place(s) Matt alluded to these? See if you can, then see if you agree with my assessment. Matt told Alan,

“It’s important to remember that a worldview can’t be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Worldviews require faith. Someone may think they are really throwing their weight around when they ask you how anyone can be certain a particular lifestyle choice or action is wrong, but on what authority does he base his conclusion that no one can speak with such certainty? His belief that that no objective standard of right and wrong exists rests on his assumption that God doesn’t exist—or at least on his adherence to a belief system that assumes God’s nonexistence. Sure, he may say he believes in God, but think about it—the God in which he believes permits people to do whatever they feel like doing. That doesn’t sound like much of a God, does it?” Alan nodded, indicating to Matt that what he was saying made a great deal of sense. Matt added, “Evolutionists may claim that evolution is pure science and that all objections to it are totally religious and therefore invalid—but many of them cling to their belief in Darwinism with religious fervor. Just as theism is a religious belief, so is atheism.”

Faulty Ideas

You see, the theory of evolution says life on earth, including human life, originated as a result of random chance. If that is the case, then a meaningful, purposeful, personal God does not exist. Neither does absolute truth, so each person might as well “make up his or her own truth.” This is relativism arising from a materialistic worldview (a set of presuppositions that says the material universe is all there is). You can talk all you want about how God used evolutionary processes to create life; but, respectfully, all such talk is just hot air. Evolution by definition relies heavily on chance and random processes; so if God intentionally used any process, it couldn’t have been random. In other words, the idea that God “created” through evolutionary processes is a non-starter. It violates the law of non-contradiction. Just as smooth wrinkles can’t exist, neither can purposeful chance (also go here).

It’s especially true that random forces can’t account for the uniqueness of human beings. People have instincts, just like animals do; but they also have many qualities other life forms do not, including the abilities to reason, relate, communicate, appreciate beauty, and abhor ugliness. Nature says loudly and clearly that random forces could never have given rise to human life.

Evolutionists will object and say that chance isn’t the only force involved in evolution; things like mutations and natural selection also are involved. Mutations and natural selection clearly do influence what characteristics thrive from generation to generation within a specific species, but it’s difficult to see how these factors could even have been present at the origin of life. Various genetic changes within a species—we call these examples of microevolution —do not give rise to another species altogether. That would be macroevolution.


Darwinists often cite examples of microevolution to prove that macroevolution actually took place. This is misleading, at best.


Without macroevolution, the entire theory that one type of animal—say, a human being—descended from a completely different type, such as a reptile or a fish, completely breaks down (see the quote from E. V. Hill at the top). Darwinists have a habit of citing examples of microevolution to prove that macroevolution actually took place. This is misleading, at best.

A growing number of professional scientists are speaking out and expressing scientific doubts about Darwinism. You can learn more about their concerns here.

Connecting the Dots

Perhaps one day we will be able to examine evolution more specifically, but for now I want to take a “wide-angle” look at evolution by connecting the dots between it and its descendants. Along these lines, there’s more to relate about Alan’s visit with his pastor. That visit really challenged Alan’s thinking and opened his eyes. Over time Alan began to see relationships not only between evolution and relativism, but also between evolution each of the following.

  • a lack of personal restraint in society
  • the sexual revolution and its fruit, including promiscuity, reliance on abortion as birth control, homosexuality, the redefinition of marriage, and transgenderism
  • environmentalism, including efforts to combat global warming by eliminating use of fossil fuels and relying exclusively on “clean energy”
  • the animal rights movement
  • population control
  • the eugenics movement

There even is a connection between evolution and Hitler’s efforts to eliminate the Jewish people. Go here to learn more about how Alan came to see all these connections. Keep in mind that this account originally was written in June of 2015, so some of the examples cited won’t now be front-page news. That’s OK. They still make their points quite well.

Relativism, you see, does not stand alone, so as we examine the damage it has caused, we need to see this damage in terms of the big picture—relativism and other related ideas and movements.

A quick review: We’ve seen that relativism is connected to evolution, which is related to each of the bulleted items above and to the Nazis’ genocidal effort against the Jews. It doesn’t stop with these, either. This article points to even more (also go here). Thus, as bad as the Titanic disaster was, relativism and its friends and family members have given rise to many more—and worse—horrific atrocities.

Good Intentions, Good Feelings, and Horrific Results

In closing, I’d like to add one more specific example to the above list. The video below featuring John Stossel obviously was made several years ago. Here is a video he made on the same topic made more recently.

In neither one did Stossel discuss how the problems highlighted relate to a particular worldview, but you can, can’t you? How has a particular worldview contributed to the problems Stossel describes, and how is relativism a part of the mix?

We’ll return to our series on absolute truth in two weeks to discuss some of the benefits arising from a belief in absolutes. Be sure to return next week for a very special post.

Part 4 is available here.

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

1video of Dr. Hill’s presentation, available at the Promise Keepers website

 

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 2

Relativism’s Flaws

It becomes very difficult to live in a completely relativistic world.…Suppose you are waiting in your car at a train crossing, and a train is coming down the tracks at 60 miles an hour. You know that if you drive your car out in front of that train, you are not going to be “relatively” dead—you are going to be “absolutely” dead. We can’t live by [a perspective that doesn’t acknowledge this and other clear realities].
—Dr. D. James Kennedy1

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

We are discussing the importance of contending for absolute truth in a world captivated by relativism. Last week we examined why people are so taken in by this philosophy. Relativism has a great deal of emotional and social appeal, but it isn’t intellectually sound. Here are seven reasons why.

First, relativism is inconsistent.

We alluded to this in the one-minute commentary we cited at the beginning of last week’s post:

Christians believe in absolute standards of right and wrong, standards determined by the character of a holy God. Believing in absolutes necessarily means believing all opinions are not equally valid. Relativists reject this perspective outright, so they don’t really see all opinions as equal, either—but they pretend to anyway, using “tolerance” as a mantra.

An astute observer of culture as well as a skilled preacher, Dr. D. James Kennedy noted that students everywhere in America are taught that absolute truth doesn’t exist. When one teacher said to his class that no one can know anything with certainty, a student responded, “Are you sure of that?”

“Yes, absolutely certain.”2 

This defies all logic. No one can credibly assert we can know that nothing is knowable! The first law of rational thought is the law of non-contradiction, which says that a principle and its opposite can’t mutually be true. Both can be wrong, but both cannot be right.

Trying to defy the law of non-contradiction can exact a heavy price. Inevitably, relativism prompts people to assume things that are absolutely false, and sooner or later, reality hits.

One is reminded of the “unsinkable” Titanic. On her maiden voyage in April of 1912, this luxury ship hit an iceberg and plunged to a watery grave, carrying 1,500 passengers and crew with her. My point is not that the designers and builders of the Titanic believed the ship to be unsinkable because they didn’t believe in absolute truth; probably other factors were involved, including arrogance and “the best information available.” Reality doesn’t play favorites, however; it doesn’t care what elements make up the foundation underlying any false idea. Even “good intentions” won’t hold reality at bay. Foundations are vitally important because shaky ones give rise to shaky ideas and solid ones uphold reliable ideas. We need to see that because feelings are a poor foundation for living one’s life (also go here), relativism sets up one false idea after another! Relativists might “get it right” from time to time but won’t consistently. And yes, the results can be just as disastrous as the sinking of the Titanic—and even worse!

Second, absolutes do exist, and they are self-evident. They are in place and in effect every day, profoundly, yet quite often subtly, influencing the lives and behavior of everyone, everywhere, in all circumstances and situations. Every time a person looks at his watch, takes a measurement of some sort, uses a cell phone, drives a car, eats a meal or a snack, writes a check, or does any one of a countless number of other things, that person is relying on standards and principles he or she assumes to be reliably true.


Every time a person looks at his watch, takes a measurement of some sort, uses a cell phone, drives a car, eats a meal or a snack, writes a check, or does any one of a countless number of other things, that person is relying on standards and principles he or she assumes to be reliably true. 


These principles don’t always have to be extremely precise in every situation, but they are precise enough to rule out any arbitrary or random influence.

Sometimes absolutes aren’t this subtle, and in crisis situations they even can be extremely precise and demanding. Just ask the crew of Apollo 13, which lifted off at 2:13 p.m. EST on April 11, 1970, from the Kennedy Space Center. You may recall that this mission would have produced the third landing on the moon had it not been for an explosion that changed everything. When the spacecraft was 200,000 miles from the earth and 45,000 miles from the moon, tanks carrying oxygen and hydrogen exploded, causing the spacecraft to shake violently.

As soon as Mission Control [MC] realized the extent of the damage, those in charge changed the goal of the mission: Get the crew back alive! To accomplish this, MC worked feverishly around the clock to overcome obstacles. They performed endless calculations to make sure that their actions and those of the crew would enhance rather than thwart the chances of a safe return.

In other words, they grappled with absolutes! Here is a report of the drama that unfolded. Let’s examine just one episode from that report. The Command Module [CM] and the Lunar Module [LM] had to be separated before the final leg of the journey home.

How could the two sections be separated in a way that would place the LM far enough away from CM before re-entry occurred? Normal separation procedures were not possible because of a lack of power and the lack of the service module, which by then had been jettisoned. The SM had been badly damaged anyway. MC had anticipated this issue and had contacted Grumman Aerospace Corporation, the manufacturer of the LM, to help resolve it:

Grumman called on the engineering expertise of the University of Toronto. A team of six UT engineers was formed, led by senior scientist Bernard Etkin, to solve the problem in one day. The team concluded that pressurizing the tunnel connecting the Lunar Module to the Command Module just before separation would provide the force necessary to push the two modules a safe distance away from each other just prior to re-entry. The team had 6 hours to compute the pressure required, using slide rules. They needed an accurate calculation, as too high a pressure might damage the hatch and its seal, causing the astronauts to burn up; too low a pressure would fail to provide sufficient separation of the LM. Grumman relayed their calculation to NASA, and from there in turn to the astronauts, who used it successfully.

Again, MC and the crew of Apollo 13 had to overcome obstacles by wrestling with absolutes. Even so, the unyielding realities they discovered—and with which they essentially cooperated—became their allies in the effort to bring the crew safely back to earth.

Third, people everywhere benefit from absolutes in the physical world, whether they realize it or not. For example, gravity makes ordered life on the earth possible.

Here is what we said in part 5 of “Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective on Rights is Leading America into Tyranny.”

With very few exceptions, it isn’t desirable for people to live in a world of fantasy and illusion. Mature people must grapple with reality. People need to eat! The bills have to be paid! The real world is messy, but it is the one we live in—yet it’s also the one in which we can find fulfillment and satisfaction, if we adjust to life’s demands and cooperate with its realities.

The law of gravity provides a great example. No one can step out of a 10th story window and expect to go anywhere but down, and fast! Gravity prevents us from safely doing a great number of things. Yet when we cooperate with it, we benefit immensely. Why? In a great many ways, gravity, which is part of “the natural order of things,” makes ordered life on earth possible.

Marriage, as humanity has understood it for centuries, is very much like gravity in this regard. When a society respects marriage as an institution uniting one man and one woman in a committed, lifelong relationship, it’s clear that it limits that society in certain ways. Perhaps it’s not as clear that it liberates it in many more! Clear or not, this is the truth!

This affirmation about marriage reflects our fourth principle: Absolutes exist in the moral realm, just as they do in the physical realm. Proof of their existence may not be as convincing initially as proof of absolutes in the physical realm, but evidence still abounds.

Charles Colson, who converted to Christianity in the throes of Watergate, became an articulate defender of the Christian faith and of absolute truth. Once a TV host who had completed an interview with him told him how frustrated he was with Christians. “You’re absolutists,” he said. “You’re trying to impose your views on others.”

Colson tried to explain that believing in absolutes doesn’t make an individual an absolutist, and that a great many benefits come from a belief in absolute truth—but he was getting nowhere. Then he recalled that the man loved sailing. “Have you ever been out in your boat at night, under a cloudless sky, and used the stars to determine your direction?” The man answered that he had. Colson added, “Suppose for just a moment the stars had no reliable order, that one night they were positioned in one pattern across the night sky and the next night they were totally rearranged. Could you navigate then?”

“No,” said the TV host, “of course I couldn’t.” The tone of his voice let Colson know he just might have gotten through. Just as the set and unyielding pattern of the stars can prevent an experienced sailor from getting lost at sea, the moral map made up of absolute, unyielding principles can keep a person from making a great many perilous turns in life. 


Just as the set and unyielding pattern of the stars can prevent an experienced sailor from getting lost at sea, the moral map made up of absolute, unyielding principles can keep a person from making a great many perilous turns in life. 


Now, imagine now that you are a “fly on the wall” in the office of Pastor Matt Thomas as he talks to Alan Wilson, a college freshman in his church. You can read Alan’s story and an account of the conversation between Alan and his pastor here. This account sheds even more light on the nature of absolute truth. Here is the concluding paragraph.

Matt went on to point out that those who say they don’t believe in right and wrong actually don’t live that way. They may say absolute truth doesn’t exist, but if someone steals from them, they will be the first ones to appeal to a standard, and on the basis of that standard, object. “All people,” said Matt, “appeal to various values and standards, even if they never realize they are doing so. Innately, each person has a standard of fairness he or she is quick to advocate.”

The last point pastor Matt made in the report is our fifth. People—even those who claim to be relativists—appeal to absolutes in the moral realm, especially when they feel their own rights have been violated.

If relativism were true, then the Watergate scandal wouldn’t have mattered, would it? Yet even today, nearly 45 years later, almost no one would suggest that the lawbreakers shouldn’t have been prosecuted. Dr. Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at the time, wrote about the scandal in the May 2, 1973 edition of the church’s weekly newsletter. Even though Dr. Corts understandably used “Christian terms” like commandments and sin, his point about the importance of a moral foundation should demonstrate even to relativists that their prize philosophy robs everyone—not just Christians—of benefits only moral absolutes can offer.

The President [Nixon] is trying to clean house. Yesterday four staff resignations were accepted and the President has pledged that the guilty parties will be brought to justice. Sin does have a way of finding us out and this has been demonstrated in no more vivid way than the Watergate affair.…

In the end, greed or covetousness is the king of sins. The last of the commandments was intended to summarize all the rest which Moses gave. But in the final analysis, greed, bald covetousness is at the bottom of all sin. It is an expression of man challenging God, to get what he wants instead of what God wants for him, and to get it at any cost. It was totally unnecessary for the masterminds behind the President’s re-election campaign to bug the Democratic headquarters, for right near the whole country knew the outcome of the election already, including probably McGovern. Why then did those political dock workers do what they did? I believe they did it because of greed, covetousness. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Feeling the end justifies the means, they felt “the other side” were enemies of the republic. And in their misguided zeal, they became what they were fighting, enemies of the republic. For if we cannot have some moral base in our political system, [no foundation will exist] for the American people to express their feelings, exercise their rights, and share in the selection of their leaders. Everyone [sic] of us has something to learn from this experience. The moral lessons for us seem to be abounding everywhere in public life. But then what else can we expect in a world that had become morally schizophrenic, with no absolute standards, and each man “doing what is right in his own sight”?

Also, consider this. Who, even today, would oppose Dr. Martin Luther King, the great civil rights leader whom we honor this coming Monday and every year on or near his birthday? King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail about how an otherwise law-abiding citizen could legitimately advocate breaking some laws, even as he or she obeyed others. King explained that “there are two kinds of laws: just laws…and unjust laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws, but conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Here Dr. King not only acknowledged the existence of absolute truth; he also affirmed its authority.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,. affirmed both the existence and authority of absolute truth.


On a personal level as well, people, even those who claim they don’t believe in God, inevitably will appeal to a standard of right and wrong whenever they feel their own personal rights have been violated. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis astutely observed,

Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong—in other words, if there is no Law of Nature—what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.

Sixth, it’s clear, therefore, that people know innately that absolute truth exists.

If relativism were true and absolute truth were not real, people would not even need to be told absolutes don’t exist! Something deep inside the human spirit, however, says they do, and people listen to these inside voices. Individuals reveal this on a daily basis with both their words and actions, as we have seen. Scripture says the law is “written in their hearts.”

We began by saying that relativism is inconsistent. To this principle we now add elements that make up our seventh point. We have seen the evidence for these elements throughout this post. Relativism is inconsistent—so much so that it collapses under its own weight. It does not work in the real world.

Unfortunately, the elements that entice people to affirm relativism also act to blind them to its inconsistencies and failures. On this point, advocates of absolute truth must be relentless in helping people see what really is happening.

We summarize our post today with these statements from a previous article.

The natural world gives us a window into the unchanging nature of God and therefore the unchanging nature of morality—right and wrong. Truth is like the law of gravity. It is not something that is negotiable, nor is it something that can be invented by each person. Instead, it is observable. It also is discovered, and it applies to everyone at all times and in all places. Adjusting ourselves to accept and conform to the realities we discover paves the way for fulfillment and happiness in life.

Next week, we’ll examine some of the destruction and devastation relativism and its philosophical ancestor, evolution, have caused.

Stay tuned!

Part 3 is available here.

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Jerry Newcombe, compiler, The Wit and Wisdom of D. James Kennedy, (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Truth in Action Ministries, 2013), 1-2.

2Ibid., 1.

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 1

Relativism’s Enticement

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Two-and-a-half years ago I wrote a series of very brief articles for use as one-minute radio spots. Some of them offered observations about current events that now seem out-of-date; but many, like this one, remain timeless.

If It Sounds Good—Beware!

The sexual revolution of the 1960s didn’t just change people’s thinking about sexuality; it brought about a shift in perspectives on right and wrong. People today don’t see truth, right, and wrong as things to be discovered; they believe each person can create his or her own truth.1 This is relativism, which says all opinions are equally valid. This sounds good, but it is fatally flawed.

Christians believe in absolute standards of right and wrong, standards determined by the character of a holy God. Believing in absolutes necessarily means believing all opinions are not equally valid. Relativists reject this perspective outright, so they don’t really see all opinions as equal, either—but they pretend to anyway, using “tolerance” as a mantra. So, modern “tolerance” leaves no room for a belief in absolutes.

In this and several future posts, I’d like to explore these ideas. This week, let’s examine elements behind the phrase “This sounds good,” which is located near the bottom of the first paragraph. Unfortunately, relativism is very enticing—so much so that even many Christians have bought into the idea that truth is relative. In our post for December 9, 2016, we cited these statistics:

  • More than 25 years ago, 51 percent of evangelical Christians rejected a belief in absolutes.
  • In 1994, the percentage rose to 62 percent, and
  • in 1999, to 78 percent.
  • In 2011 the percentage of evangelical Christians not believing in absolute truth reached a staggering 91 percent!

The article for December 9 went on to lament that the results of ballot initiatives in 2016 offered no encouragement at all that the trend had reversed since 2011.

People in the general population readily can be carried along by the cultural tide, and Christians can too if they haven’t been properly grounded at church. Sadly, the church has failed in its duty to declare the truth and to ground believers in it. In a previous post titled “Eight Menacing Trends,” we explored the church’s failure in this regard. Please, carve out a few minutes to read or review this important article!

Against this backdrop, let’s explore why the philosophy of relativism is so widely attractive. We need to understand this if we are going to be effective in persuading people to recognize the existence of absolutes. Consider the following realities.

First, relativism appeals to people’s emotions. The notion that everyone can be right in what he or she believes sounds good and noble.

Second, relativism appeals to people’s imaginations. As a philosophy, it offers people the opportunity to create their own world of “reality.” One is reminded of what Walt Disney said of Fantasyland at the opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955: “Here is a land of imagination, hopes and dreams. In this timeless land of enchantment the age of chivalry, magic and make-believe are reborn and fairy tales come true. Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart, to those who believe that when you wish upon a star your dreams do come true.” Visiting Fantasyland is one thing, but relativism invites people to live there. This portends disaster, because fantasies can’t survive in the real world.


Visiting Fantasyland is one thing, but relativism invites people to live there.



Castle Neuschwanstein of Bavaria, one of the structures that inspired the Cinderella’s Castles located at the Disney theme parks

Third, social pressure to espouse relativism is extremely intense. This factor has at least two aspects. First, to reject relativism is to reject a belief held by “everyone else.” Who wants to be different from the crowd?

Fourth, add to the loneliness of being in the minority the difficulty of taking an unpopular stand. This is the second aspect to the social pressure surrounding a belief in relativism, and it has both positive and negative forces. On the one hand, believing truth to be relative positions a person to be seen as affirming and “tolerant” of others. Who among us doesn’t want to be viewed as magnanimous? On the other, a person who says absolute truth exists has taken a position that makes him or her a target of vicious criticism. Of course, no one wants to be condemned as judgmental or to be accused of hate—but do you see the irony here? Those who condemn people for being hateful and judgmental actually are being hateful and judgmental themselves!

Fifth, believing in absolutes not only puts a person at risk for vitriol and strong criticism; it also requires a person to think through his or her position and to defend it intellectually, at least in his or her own mind. Put another way, believing truth to be relative is the “PLR”—the “path of least resistance.”

Sixth, relativism appeals to human pride.

I want to spend just a few minutes exploring this last item, for it probably is the primary reason relativism is so attractive. Scripture proves just how relevant it is even in its opening pages, because even there it reveals pride as a core reason for the mess in which humanity finds itself.

In Genesis 1 and 2 we see that at the dawn of creation God created a perfect world with a perfect garden, and He put Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, in it and given them constructive work to do. He placed only one prohibition on them; they were not to eat from the fruit from one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Gen. 1:26-31; 2:15-25). Perfection disappeared in Genesis 3. Satan, in the form of the serpent, enticed Eve to disobey God. Here is how it happened.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate (Gen. 3:1-6, emphasis added).

We see here that Satan not only enticed Eve with good-looking fruit and with lies that confused her about God’s intentions for her and for Adam, he also enticed her with the temptation to play god! This temptation appeals to pride as does nothing else! Note also the connections between pride, playing God, and relativism. Essentially Satan said, “Eve, you can make up your own reality! You can make up your own truth! You can become like God!”

Instead, when they sinned, Adam and Eve died spiritually and began to die physically as well. God also expelled them from the perfect environment where He originally had placed them. The top image is a detailed section of Italian painter Masaccio’s 1425 fresco titled “The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.” The artist didn’t get everything right in his painting; God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins before expelling them. His depictions Adam’s and Eve’s expressions of horror and shame, however, are quite fitting and appropriate.

The late Dr. Mark Corts pastored Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for nearly 40 years. A powerful and insightful preacher, Dr. Corts offered many keen observations from the pulpit during his ministry. Here is one of them: The essence of sin is always trying to be like God without God.


The essence of sin is always trying to be like God without God.
—Dr. Mark Corts—


After we—the members of the human race—fell into sin, God implemented a plan to make us like Himself, but that plan requires us to surrender to Him and follow His way, not our own.

We said earlier in the radio commentary that “Christians believe in absolute standards of right and wrong, standards determined by the character of a holy God.” We’ll explore this statement in a future post, but for now, don’t miss these important points.

  1. God determines reality; people don’t.
  2. As people created by God, we must live in the real world, the world God also has created.
  3. When a person buys into the lie of relativism and attempts to come up with his or her own reality and live according to it, that person is playing god.
  4. Pride always is at the heart of the temptation to play god.

In a classic and entertaining lecture called “God’s Way or My Way,” speaker and bestselling author Frank Peretti examines the disastrous results of trying to live one’s own way rather than God’s. Peretti’s speech recently was made available on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk radio program. I commend these broadcasts to you as a wonderful introduction to the battle for the recognition of absolute truth.

Next week, we’ll continue our discussion of this critical battle. Be sure to return.

Part 2 is available here.
View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Josh McDowell discussed the nature of truth on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast, May 22-23, 2007

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

The Challenge Before Us

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution, which holds us together, no man can tell, how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.
Daniel Webster, February 23, 1852, speaking before the New York Historical Society—

Daniel Webster

The results of the 2016 election are instructive for Christians on many levels. While believers have much for which to be thankful, some of the ballot initiatives sound alarm bells for Christians, the culture, and the nation at large.

By 65 percent to 35 percent, Colorado voters passed a law allowing doctors to prescribe a life-ending drug to a terminally-ill patient who requests it. Melissa Ortiz, a resident of Washington, DC, which also recently passed a similar law, is alarmed. She writes, “Joining five other states that have legalized this practice, the tragic choice by Colorado voters reflects how our nation is quick to devalue life and deny that suffering has meaning.” Ortiz and others are rightly concerned that the “right to die” will in many cases become pressure to die: In states that allow a doctor to prescribe end-of-life drugs to a terminally-ill patient’s request, “a growing number of sick people are being denied medical treatment coverage and offered assisted suicide instead.”


In states that permit physician-assisted suicide, the “right to die” often is becoming the pressure to die.


Here’s another alarm bell. A recent survey found that 60 percent of Christians agreed that “physicians should be allowed to assist terminally ill patients in ending their life.” Moreover, 38 percent of evangelicals agreed, either somewhat or strongly, with this idea: “When a person is facing a painful terminal disease, it is morally acceptable to ask for a physician’s aid in taking his or her own life.”

Assisted-suicide wasn’t the only issue before voters. In at least 3—and probably in 4—out of 5 states, they approved laws permitting the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. In California, Massachusetts, and Nevada, the votes weren’t even close. Recreational marijuana also likely passed in Maine. Only in Arizona was it narrowly defeated, although Arizona permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota approved laws allowing for medical marijuana use. Thus, now more than half of the states have laws permitting marijuana usage in some form. Many sound, practical reasons exist for opposing the legalization of pot for fun—and many even exist for opposing medical marijuana as well (also go here and here).

What should Christians believe about this issue? The Family Research Council’s Rob Schwarzwalder addresses this question clearly and concisely in this article. He reminds us of the physical dangers the drug poses, that as believers we are stewards of our bodies, that we have an obligation to obey the law (marijuana use still is illegal at the federal level), and that substance abuse has ties to the occult. Moreover, contends Schwarzwalder, the Christian is to exercise self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, “substance abuse, including the use of marijuana as a vehicle for recreation, offers a stark contrast to submission to the King of kings.”

What do Christians believe about marijuana usage? A survey done in 2013 found that among 18-29 year olds who call themselves Christians, 45 percent admitted to having used marijuana, and 50 percent either “strongly favored” or “favored” legalizing the substance. Among all age groups of Christians, 39 percent favored legalization and 54 percent opposed it.

In discussing the results of these ballot initiatives, WallBuilders Live! co-host David Barton lamented the place where the culture—and Christians—have arrived. Physician-assisted suicide and marijuana usage—especially recreational marijuana—could not have been approved without a widespread disregard for moral and ethical standards of right and wrong. The culture, and Christians as well, have abandoned a belief in absolute truth. Read and hear David Barton’s comments on this page.

This is not to say every question has a simple, straightforward, up or down answer from a biblical perspective. Some issues are more complicated than others; some leave room for debate among sincere Christians. Discussion among Christians over medical marijuana use is understandable, for example; but let’s not be naïve. Legalization of medical marijuana often is a gateway to legalization of recreational pot—and as we already have said, use of the substance is against federal law.

Abusing one’s body with drugs and taking one’s own life, however, are crystal clear issues, and Barton is right. Acceptance of these unethical and unbiblical ideas has occurred because the foundational concept has eroded that absolute truth exists and applies to everyone, everywhere, in all circumstances. Sadly, the American people, including Christians, no longer believe in right and wrong.

Author and Christian speaker Josh McDowell has studied this trend. He cites surveys to back up his contention that even Christians are abandoning the idea that truth is objective and exists apart from themselves.

  • More than 25 years ago, 51 percent of evangelical Christians rejected a belief in absolutes.
  • In 1994, the percentage rose to 62 percent, and
  • in 1999, to 78 percent.
  • In 2011 the percentage of evangelical Christians not believing in absolute truth reached a staggering 91 percent!

Can anyone cite any evidence that the number has improved since 2011? David Barton is right. Ballot initiatives don’t offer any encouragement!

Yet another poll cited by McDowell found that just six percent of American teens believe in the existence of truth apart from themselves. Also, there’s just a 5 percent difference between Christian and non-Christians on this issue.

Conservatism, contends David Barton, is being redefined by the cultural tide. Whereas being a conservative used to automatically mean, among other things, upholding traditional moral and ethical standards, the connection between these values and conservatism is being severed. Barton rightly points out that “we know from the Declaration of Independence that limited government starts with your view of God. If you don’t have a God-view and a moral view of government, you will not end up with limited government. So that’s the one thing that I think we have to work on in coming years.”

Indeed, without abandoning its primary responsibility of spreading the gospel, the church must help its own members and the culture understand that absolute truth not only exists, but will be an ally if we cooperate with it.

Christians who don’t believe in absolutes have missed a core teaching of the Bible and the Christian faith. Americans who don’t believe in them have missed a central tenet of the human experience and the American experiment.

The need is critical. Much more needs to be said about it, so we’ll explore it in greater depth in future posts.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.