Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 3

Someone who wants to explain what marriage is has the difficult task of explaining something that every one of our grandparents simply took for granted, that everyone two generations ago thought was common knowledge—that marriage is a permanent, exclusive union of husband and wife. Much of human wisdom is tacit knowledge. Only when it is attacked does it need a formal, explicit defense. Explaining why marriage is the union of a man and a woman is like explaining why wheels are round, but it has to be done.
—Ryan T. Anderson1


Key point: Through the process of natural procreation, nature teaches that marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman committed to each other for life and to the well-being of their children. Ideally, through the sacrifice and commitment required to maintain a marriage and to rear children to become responsible adults, family relationships deepen and become richly rewarding and fulfilling for all. The ideal isn’t always the reality, but failures to reach the ideal never should keep us from upholding it; nor should these ever compel society to change the definition of marriage.


Having studied teething and other similar discomforts that make infants and toddlers restless and fussy, 19th-century midwife and children’s nurse Charlotte N. Winslow created a “medicine” that would calm any child. In 1844, she passed her formula along to Jeremiah Curtis, her son-in-law, who was a Maine druggist. He and his business partner, Benjamin A. Perkins, marketed and sold the potion under the name “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.” During the 1850s, Curtis and Perkins moved their business to New York City.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was widely advertised. The company promoted its product through newspapers and other print media such as trading cards, cookbooks, and calendars. And it became quite popular. This letter, along with numerous other endorsements, appeared in the December 1, 1860 edition of the New York Times.

DEAR SIR:

I am happy to be able to certify to the efficiency of MRS. WINSLOW’S SOOTHING SYRUP, and to the truth of what it is represented to accomplish. Having a little boy suffering greatly from teething, who could not rest, and at night by his cries would not permit any of the family to do so, I purchased a bottle of the SOOTHING SYRUP, in order to test the remedy, and, when given to the boy according to directions, its effect upon him was like magic; he soon went to sleep, and all pain and nervousness disappeared. We have had no trouble with him since, and the little fellow will pass through with comfort the excruciating process of teething, by the sole aid of MRS. WINSLOW’S SOOTHING SYRUP Every mother who regards the health and life of her children should possess it.

LOWELL, Mass.
Mr. H.A. ALGER.

A youtube.com video purporting to be a “turn-of-the-century pharmaceutical ad” showcases how quickly parents could come to depend way too heavily on Mrs. Winslow’s formula. Even though the video’s title indicates Mrs. Winslow had created a cough syrup, the name of the product did not include the word cough.

The sad truth is that Mrs. Winslow’s formula was dangerous to kids to begin with!

The primary ingredients of the syrup were morphine and alcohol, with approximately 65 mg of morphine per fluid ounce. A teaspoonful of the syrup, then, had the morphine content equal to that of approximately twenty drops of laudanum. Given that the 1873 edition of The Health Reformer suggested that babies six months of age receive no more than two to three drops of laudanum, the dosages listed on the bottles of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup are alarming: For a child under one month old, the recommendation was 6 to 10 drops; children three months old were to be dosed half a teaspoon; and children six months old and up were to be given a teaspoonful three or four times a day! The recommended dosage for children with dysentery followed the amounts outlined above but was to be repeated every two hours until visual improvement was noticed. A teaspoonful of the syrup would have contained enough morphine to kill the average child, so it isn’t hard to understand why so many babies who were given Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup went to sleep only to never wake back up again…. There is no statistic of the number of children that died from the use of soothing syrup, as many caregivers did not link the death to the syrup or they chose not to reveal the use of the syrup, but thousands of children are believed to have died from overdoses or from morphine addiction and withdrawal.

A teaspoonful of the syrup would have contained enough morphine to kill the average child, so it isn’t hard to understand why so many babies who were given Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup went to sleep only to never wake back up again.
Museum of Health Care

Thankfully, The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required manufactures of medicines to list ingredients on the packaging of their products. Moreover, it established standards of medicinal purity and forced drug companies to abide by them. As a result, producers of Mrs. Winslow’s no longer could include morphine in their product and had to remove the word “Soothing” from its name. In 1911, the American Medical Association condemned the potion as a baby killer—but it wasn’t taken off the market entirely until 1930.

To be fair, we should acknowledge that Mrs. Winslow’s Syrup was created in an era when labeling of ingredients in medicines was not common and when medical professionals, including druggists and doctors, didn’t adequately understand the effects those ingredients would have, both good and bad. This was true of procedures as well as medicines; on December 14, 1799, an ailing George Washington was treated with a procedure known as bloodletting. The loss of blood he experienced at the hands of his doctors is now believed to have contributed to his death three days later. Nearly a century would pass before bloodletting as a treatment would fall fully out of favor.

More to the point, parents and other family members, understandably, trusted trained physicians and pharmacists. Modern medicine was in its infancy at the time, however, and even with the “best information available,” sometimes led to dangerous and deadly myths that exacted a heavy price.

Myths About Marriage

While we can be glad we live in a day when medical professionals have a much more accurate understanding of diseases, treatments, and cures; we unfortunately have regressed in our understanding of marriage. Scientific discoveries have given way to great medical advances, but with regard to marriage, we have trashed to our own peril what the natural world and ancient wisdom teach us.

Sadly, with regard to marriage, we have trashed to our own peril what the natural world and ancient wisdom teach us.

In fact, a large number of dangerous and deadly myths about marriage led to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 that opened the door to recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States. That ruling, named for the plaintiff in the case, James Obergefell, doesn’t just rest on perilous myths; it also is reinforcing them. In turn, these myths also are reinforcing in people’s minds the perception that the Obergefell ruling is valid. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Like the parents who gave their children Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, multiplied millions today—many of whom are sincere and well-intentioned—are being led down a deadly path. It is the purpose of this series of articles to expose the myths that led to and that now are reinforcing Obergefell. 

We highlighted four myths in part 1 and four in part 2. All eight myths we have named thus far are listed here. In part 3 we will focus on just one, but a critically important one. We need to understand why this myth has such a strong grip on our culture, and even on the church.

Myth #9: Marriage has more to do with sexual pleasure and emotional ties than producing children.

Fact: An individual has to accept this idea to believe that a same-sex relationship really can be a marriage, because same-sex relationships cannot produce children. Thus, to call a same-sex relationship a marriage eliminates procreation from the marital equation.

Of course, we would not minimize the importance of sexual and emotional bonding between a man and his wife, but let’s make sure we don’t miss what nature tells us about the connections between their emotional bonds, the sex act, sexual pleasure, and children. The union of the man and his wife in the one-flesh act of sexual intercourse leads to conception and birth and the one-flesh expression of their union in the form of a child!

Reinforcing the idea of marriage as only about emotional ties and sexual pleasure has been the ceaseless mantra of same-sex marriage advocates who have repeatedly asked, “If two people love each other, then why can’t they marry?” Yet, as we said in an earlier post, “Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively.”

In his book Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson calls this relatively new perspective on marriage the “consent-based” view of marriage. This point of view says

marriage is primarily about an intense emotional union—a romantic, caregiving union of consenting adults.… [According to this view, the thing that] sets marriage apart from other relationships is the priority of the relationship. It’s your most important relationship; the most intense emotional, romantic union; the caregiving relationship that takes priority over all others.…2

Yet, as Anderson goes on to say, this view of marriage actually fails to see the marriage relationship as unique or special. In other words, it views it as different from other relationships in terms of degree rather than as a different kind of relationship. This view

cannot explain or justify any of the distinctive commitments that marriage requires—monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence—nor can it explain what interest the government has in it.

Lightstock

If marriage is simply about consenting adult romance and caregiving, why should it be permanent? Emotions come and go; love waxes and wanes. Why would such a bond require a pledge of permanency. Might not someone find that the romance and caregiving of marriage are enhanced by a temporary commitment, in which no one is under a life sentence?3

Moreover, Anderson asks, why should such a relationship be exclusive? And why should it be limited to just two people?4

With regard to heterosexual marriage, the arrival of children answers these questions loudly and clearly. Marriage should be permanent, exclusive, and limited to the man and the woman alone for the sakes of the children involvedThis is what nature tells us. While same-sex couples can adopt and thereby “bypass” their infertility, we cannot afford to miss the message nature sends about their relationship in and through their innate infertility. It cannot be a marriage! This isn’t bigotry, but reality!

While same-sex couples can adopt children and thereby “bypass” their infertility, we cannot afford to miss the message nature sends about their relationship in and through their infertility. It cannot be a marriage! This sin’t bigotry, but reality!

Let’s return to the heterosexual couple and note that even if they have no children, permanency, exclusivity, and restricting their union to two and two alone still make perfect sense. First, two is the natural number because only two sexes—male and female—exist. Furthermore, just as male-female differences make procreation possible, they also work together to cement a heterosexual couple’s relationship in ways utterly impossible with two men or two women. Here is a part of the evidence.

The Culture

Unfortunately, today people overlook this evidence when they think about marriage. Why? Because in people’s minds, the “consent-based” view of marriage and the radical individualism that gave birth to it are deeply, deeply ingrained in the American psyche. John Stonestreet made this point a number of years ago in a very insightful BreakPoint commentary. The idea, he says, of marriage as “anything other than a private expression of mutual affection” is totally foreign to average citizens and even “unintelligible.” Yes, they may desire to have children, but to them, having kids isn’t what marriage is all about: “When someone speaks about the social dimension of marriage and the centrality of child-rearing, they may as well be invoking the idea of arranged marriages and dowries.” You see, in a world that values freedom as “liberation from constraints, especially institutional constraints,” marriage can’t be viewed as anything desirably special unless it is seen, as Ryan Anderson put it, as a “consent-based” relationship. The alternative is to see it as restrictive and constraining, and therefore undesirable.

The Church

In the church, especially among younger Christians, views on marriage are not a great deal different. While a great many churches acknowledge the biblical pattern of one man and one woman committed to each other for life, rarely, if ever, do they mine the rich relational jewels that marriage affords a couple deeply committed to God, each other, and the welfare of their children. Marriage, according to God’s plan, offers a deep intimacy and a strong security foreign to all other relationships. But to have these, sacrifice is essential. Writing in First Things, college professor Abigail Rine observes,

As I consider my own upbringing and the various “sex talks” I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist [mainly “an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people” rather than both a demanding and richly rewarding relationship in which the couple sacrifices for each other and for the well-being of their children]. While the ideal of raising a family is ever-present in evangelical culture, discussions about sex itself focused almost exclusively on purity, as well as the intense spiritual bond that sexual intimacy brings to a married couple. Pregnancy was mentioned only in passing and often in negative terms, paraded alongside sexually transmitted diseases as a possible punishment for those who succumb to temptation. But for those who wait, ah! Pleasures abound!

Using Rine’s article as a backdrop, John Stonestreet explains in another BreakPoint commentary why young Christians have difficulty embracing a prohibition against same-sex marriage.

As Rine points out “the redefinition of marriage began decades ago” when “the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination.”

And if marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” then it seems mean-spirited to Rine’s students to argue that marriage by its very nature excludes same-sex couples.

Sadly, both the church and the culture are imprisoned by a myth, by a deadly, false idea! Again, the myth we’re highlighting is this: Marriage has more to do with sexual pleasure and emotional ties than producing children.

Lightstock

Changing the Culture’s Perception First Means Changing the Church’s

Here we see the results of the church’s failure to uphold marriage as an institution that mirrors God’s character and that reflects Christ’s relationship with the church. An emphasis on purity was and is needed, of course. But so is an emphasis on sacrifice and its rich rewards. Nothing can hold a candle to making a positive difference in the world beyond one’s own lifetime through one’s children!

Nothing can hold a candle to making a positive difference in the world beyond one’s own lifetime through one’s children!

Yes, it is difficult to sacrifice, but we have immeasurably benefitted from the One who sacrificed His all for us. In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul challenges us to emulate Him and His service to others,

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Keep in mind as well that Jesus Himself said,

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

The Key

Pastors and Bible study leaders, the key to loosening the grip of this myth on the culture is leading and guiding God’s people to break free of its grip on them and on the church at large. Christians cannot fight spiritual battles in the culture if they’re unfamiliar with the weaknesses of the myths Satan uses to entice people. On the other hand, when God’s people understand what marriage is, and why it is what it is, they’ll be far better equipped recognize and reject the myths that have led to cultural and government recognition of same-sex marriage.

Moreover, they’ll understand that such recognition is a lot like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup—soothing to some, yes; but also dangerous…

…and potentially deadly.

 


Significantly, just four days after I posted this article, this BreakPoint commentary was released: America’s Reversal on Gay “Marriage”—What Really Happened?


Notes:

1Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2015), 17.

2,3,4Anderson, 15.

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.

Links to all the articles in this series are available here.

top image: Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup promo picture—National Library of Medicine

Part 1: Myths Relating to the Courts, Government, Law, and the US Constitution

Part 2: Myths Relating to Male-Female Differences, Procreation, Parenting, and the Absence of a Mother or Father in Every Home Run by a Same-Sex Couple

America, Where Are You? Part 1

A Sobering Assessment

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that—the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God, when it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Mike Huckabee


Key point: Three landmark Supreme Court decisions have helped chart America’s direction and helped define who and where we now are as a country. To help America recover her moral footing, we first need to understand just how far off the stable path these decisions have propelled our country.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

In Genesis 3:9 (go here for the context), God asked Adam a powerful question: He “called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” This question came on the heels of Adam’s and Eve’s disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It came for Adam’s benefit—not because God was looking for either Adam or Eve. Adam needed to assess where he now was in terms of his relationship with God, and, as it would turn out, in his relationships with everything else.

God Judging Adam by William Blake, 1795

The beginning of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we are in terms of our relationship with God—not just individually, but also as churches, nationally, and culturally. We need to take advantage of this opportunity. Accordingly, this will be the theme of this series of articles.

Steve, a friend and coworker of mine, reads my posts regularly and encourages me a great deal. A few months ago, he told me he would like to write a piece reflecting his own thoughts about where America is right now and what can be done about it. On November 11 of last year, he emailed me an article consisting of 338 words. Steve not as “long-winded” as I am.

President Trump and his wife Melania visit a Las Vegas shooting victim

My friend began by citing the recent mass killings at the First Baptist Church of Southern Springs, Texas on November 5 and at a Las Vegas concert on October 1. These incidents left 84 people dead and 566 injured. To what can we attribute these horrific events? Are some people just that mean? Do we need stricter gun laws?1 Steve indicated that if we go down these paths, we totally miss the main message of the larger picture. He wrote,

Three events in the USA’s past are keystone moments in the history of our great nation.

The Authority of Law Statue at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC

First, in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled unfavorably regarding prayer in schools.

Second, in 1973, the Supreme Court made murder of our most helpless citizens legal.

Finally, in 2015, our nation, again through the Supreme Court, declared that people of the same sex could marry.

These three events present a drastic change from the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers during the last half of the 1700s.


The Declaration of Independence acknowledges, affirms, and upholds “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” yet on numerous occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States has thoroughly rebuffed them.


To murder, to not be allowed to pray, and blaspheme the institution of marriage by making legal an act that God calls an abomination is a dangerous set of events. Historically, in the Bible when people take these paths, destruction follows.

In the book of Romans, the last 15 verses of chapter 1 describe the current state of the culture of the United States. Our nation has been given over to itself in its wickedness.

Then my friend essentially said this:

America has a chance to make a change for righteousness and to be saved from destruction, but needed changes will occur, not primarily through the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of our government, as important as the decisions made in all of these institutions are. The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The church has to be concerned about reaching people—I get that. And it must reach younger generations if it is to survive in the long term. Yet in its well-intentioned efforts to reach the young, it has become a place of entertainment rather than a place where the truth is upheld, a place where people can find a large gym to maintain physical fitness but not discover the gutsy challenges of the gospel, and a place that all too often seeks to be “relevant” over being authentically truthful.

Upholding the Truth in Love

Is there hope for this country? Yes! But to be the lighthouse this nation needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


To be the lighthouse America needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


Concluding, Steve cited two verses of Scripture—one from the Old Testament, and one from the New.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord declared, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

While we must remember that God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 was extended to His people—those making up the nation of Israel—and that we cannot assume it applies to America in exactly the same way it applied Israel, the principle behind it does have a measure of application for the church in America in the 21st century. Similarly, in the context of Matthew 6:33, Jesus was challenging His followers not to worry about their material needs but to put God’s kingdom first. Even so, the principle of putting God’s kingdom first and of God’s taking care of everything else still is valid and has points of application for the church and the culture today.

Is Steve right in his assessment? I believe he is, and in future posts, I’ll explain why. We’ll look at each of the Supreme Court cases he cites, and then at the state of the church.

Be sure to return next time.

 

top image: www.lightstock.com

Copyright © 2018 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.

Note:

1While this isn’t a post on the effects of gun-control laws, this article offers some important insights on that subject.

 

Behold the Irony, Part 3

Observations Highlighting the Ironies and the Blindness of the “Progressive” Left

Those indoctrinated by leftist thinking become largely incapable of making accurate moral judgments.
Dennis Prager

Key point: Liberty and license cannot coexist indefinitely, but leftists pretend they can. Their version of liberty actually is a cruel form of tyranny, and this is why they must be stopped. Thankfully, Alliance Defending Freedom is challenging the tyranny of the left by defending authentic liberty in court.

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

M. C. Escher (1898-1972) was a Dutch artist who became well-known for depicting impossible objects and situations. The lithograph titled Relativity (pictured above) is one of his well-known works. He also created Waterfall

and Drawing Hands

Go here to see several more images by Escher that both fascinate and boggle the mind.

While it’s interesting and even fun to imagine a world in which these and other impossible constructions exist, we must remember they exist only in our imaginations. The various impossible images created by Escher violate specific physical laws that cannot be overruled in the real world. As long as we understand this, no harm is done.

Reality Is an Irresistible Force

The faulty imaginings of the “progressive” left, however, aren’t leaving the world unscathed. Rather, they are harming millions of people and a great many foundational institutions. It is time to expose these ideas as foolish, unrealistic, and—yes—extremely harmful. This is one of the goals of this series of posts.

Last time we reviewed two cases in which Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is directly involved—Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing. In these cases, ADF rightly contends that Jack Phillips and Steve Tennes, a cake artist and a farmer, respectively, should be free to run their businesses according to their deeply held beliefs without being penalized by the government.

Let’s draw some conclusions from these cases about the perspectives of those working against Jack’s and Steve’s religious freedom and liberty. As we consider these legal battles, we will see the inconsistencies of the political left’s thinking. We will see that in the name of tolerance, leftists are notoriously intolerant of Christians and others with traditional beliefs about marriage and the family. Please read part 2 for summaries of Jack’s and Steve’s cases.

First, Jack Phillips serves all customers who come into his shop. As we noted last time, he told Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple who asked him to bake them a wedding cake, “I’ll make you a birthday cake, shower cake, I’ll sell you cookies and brownies. I just don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” The issue, therefore, isn’t one of discrimination against homosexuals, but one of not wanting to lend one’s talent to support a specific event deemed morally wrong. This is a nuance that the progressive left refuses to see.

Second, Jack named his bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop for a reason. He’s an artist, and his work involves artistic expression. See for yourself in the first few moments of this ADF video.

Jack’s creative work is rightly considered a form of expression protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. As ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh) affirms,

Jack’s ability to make a living and run his family business shouldn’t be threatened simply because he exercised his artistic freedom. Artists speak through their art, and when Jack designs custom wedding cakes, he is promoting and celebrating the couple’s wedding. Jack will gladly allow anyone to purchase any product he sells, but he simply can’t put his artistic talents to use on a custom cake for an event so at odds with his faith convictions.

Tedesco adds,

The ACLU…would rather use the strong-arm of government to eradicate from the public square people whose views differ from the government’s. We hope the Supreme Court will affirm how illegitimate that is.”

Third, note that in 2015 the Colorado Civil Rights Commission reviewed cases for three other bakers who declined to make cakes that expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. The commission found that all three had a right to act according to the dictates of their consciences. If they have that right, why doesn’t Jack Phillips? ADF is spot on when it says, “The commission’s inconsistent rulings mean that the owners of these three cake shops may run them according to their beliefs, while Jack cannot.  He risks losing his life-long business altogether if he continues to run it consistent with his faith. Such blatant religious discrimination has no place in our society.”


The inconsistent rulings of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “mean that the owners of…three cake shops [who turned down requests for cakes opposing same-sex marriage] may run them according to their beliefs, while Jack cannot.”
—Jeremy Tedesco, Senior Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom—


So, the demand from the left is that to stay in business, Jack Phillips must serve all customers. Actually, he does—but the left goes further. Leftists insist he must serve all customers in every situation. Jack draws the line at the point of the meaning of marriage—the very same place where the three other cake artists reviewed by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission drew the line. Equality is the watchword of the gay rights movement—but refusing to acknowledge that Jack Phillips has the same rights other cake artists enjoy isn’t equality. Not even close. It’s bigotry.

Contrast that to Jack’s position, which is an authentic two-way street. Jack has said,

Regardless of your viewpoint about same-sex marriage, shouldn’t we all agree that the government shouldn’t force us to speak or act in a way that violates our deepest convictions?

Laws like the one in Colorado will result in kindhearted Americans being dragged before state commissions and courts and punished by the government for peacefully seeking to live and work consistent with their belief about marriage.

The couple who came into my shop that day five years ago are free to hold their beliefs about marriage; all I ask is that I be allowed the equal opportunity to keep mine.


The couple who came into my shop that day five years ago are free to hold their beliefs about marriage; all I ask is that I be allowed the equal opportunity to keep mine.
—Jack Phillips—


Fourth, in the case involving Steve Tennes and Country Mill Farms, East Lansing passed an ordinance that prevents Tennes from selling his produce to any and all who would choose to do business with him, in every situation that would arise at the East Lansing Farmers Market. Kate Anderson, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, put it this way: “All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him.” Isn’t this the kind of business activity progressives are demanding of Jack Phillips? Yet Steve is being excluded.


All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him.
—Kate Anderson, Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom—


Fifth, the tactics of East Lansing officials indicate they’re all too willing to send this message: “People can believe whatever they want, but unless they agree with us about sexuality and marriage, they will not be allowed to do business in our city.” The new policy says farmers market merchants must be in agreement and in compliance with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance and its public policy against discrimination…while at the market and as a general business practice.” Mark it down. Steve Tennes has no problem selling to whomever wishes to buy from him—in fact, that is why he wants to participate in the first place! He does have a problem being told what he has to believe in order to be a vendor!

Kate Anderson explains,

What (Tennes) did [with regard to his beliefs about marriage] was not illegal. [See part 2 of this series of posts.] They [Steve and his family] are running their farm according to their beliefs, which is the right of every American. What is wrong here is the city of East Lansing targeting them and trying to discriminate against them for acting upon their beliefs and for believing.

What could be more un-American than being told what you have to believe to business in a particular public location? This isn’t just un-American. It’s tyrannical.

Sixth, the left has lectured Christians for decades about morality. Believers and other traditionalists have been told, “You can’t legislate morality” and “Don’t cram your values and religion down our throats!”

Far too few Americans understand that liberty and freedom are rarities in the world. Liberty in a nation is possible only when religion and morality restrain the population from using their freedoms to exploit and oppress others. Our Founders and early leaders understood this, and truthfully, it’s something both conservatives and liberals often fail to grasp. In his last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer explained the delicate balance between freedom, including individual liberty, and the societal order necessary for freedom to exist.

In our own country we have enjoyed enormous human freedom. But at the same time this freedom has been founded upon forms of government, law, culture, and social morality which have given stability to individual and social life, and have kept our freedoms from leading to chaos. There is a balance here between form and freedom which we have come to take as natural in the world. But it is not natural. And we are utterly foolish if we do not recognize that this unique balance which we have inherited from the Reformation thought-forms is not automatic in a fallen world. This is clear when we look at the long span of history. But it is equally clear when we read the daily newspaper and see half the world locked in totalitarian oppression.1,2

As we said, both conservatives and liberals have difficulty seeing this—but my point here is that leftist radicals are  inconsistent, hypocritical, and unrealistic. They tell us tells us we are cramming our values down their throats, but they then turn around and tell people who believe in natural marriage they must abandon their beliefs to participate in society’s routine activities. Who’s really doing the cramming?


The left is inconsistent and hypocritical. “Progressives” tell us we are shoving our values down their throats, but then they turn around and tell people who believe in natural marriage they must abandon their beliefs to participate in society’s routine activities. Who’s really doing the cramming? 


Speaking of the left’s bigotry and of history’s testimony, Dennis Prager astutely observes,

Society may no longer define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies allowed polygamy, many allowed child marriages, some allowed marriage within families; but none, in thousands of years, defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.

Seventh, one of the tactics the left has perfected is that of using words in judgmental and manipulative ways. Writing about Steve’s case for the Gay Star News, Joe Morgan declares, “An apple farmer in Michigan is claiming he is banned from selling his fruit at a farmer’s market because of this homophobic religious views.”

You can’t have an honest and fair debate with leftists, because they don’t respect you as an equal player in the marketplace of ideas. Instead, you’re a bad person—get this!—to hold to the millennia-old definition of marriage! Amazing! This is not the American way! It’s not equality. It’s not fairness. It’s not tolerance. Rather, it is unequal, unfair, and intolerant.

Behold the irony!

 

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

Notes:

1Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 21-22.

2See this article for more from Francis Schaeffer.

 

 

 

 

Behold the Irony, Part 1

Leftists Can’t Have It Both Ways, But that Won’t Keep Them from Trying

 We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.
Blaise Pascal

Key point: In the name of tolerance and freedom, the progressive left promotes bondage and tyranny—and many of them don’t even realize this is what they’re doing!

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

 

While June has become the designated month for celebrating homosexuality in the United States and even beyond, in some locations other dates are scheduled. In the Netherlands, for example, Amsterdam Pride “is a citywide gay-festival held annually at the center of Amsterdam during the first week of August.” On August 5 of this year, in commemoration of the event, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines released this meme. It says, “It doesn’t matter who you click with. Happy #PrideAmsterdam.”

Click the image to enlarge.

One has to wonder if it even crossed the minds of officials at KLM how foolish this would make the airline look. Here are some of the responses I found online.

John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview regularly does a one-minute commentary called “The Point.” The August 9 edition was titled “On Love and KLM Seatbelts.” Stonestreet declared,

Now, the message they were trying to convey with the seatbelt pairings was about love and sex, of course, not seatbelts. How they missed, with that headline “it doesn’t matter who you click with,” that only one of those pairs would actually click, and therefore only one pair would actually complete a seatbelt and save your life in case of disaster, is beyond me.

The other two pairs were (hmmm, what word should I use?), impotent to serve as seatbelts. Again, I’m not sure how they missed this key flaw in their image, which is, after all, the key flaw in the whole “love is love” movement.

So, how did KLM miss the obvious? Mr. Stonestreet himself, I believe, provides the answer. Note one more time the last sentence in his commentary. “Again, I’m not sure how they missed this key flaw in their image, which is, after all, the key flaw in the whole “love is love” movement.”


They missed the flaw in the graphic because it represents “the key flaw in the whole ‘love is love’ movement.” They can’t see that flaw, either!


They missed the flaw in the graphic because it represents “the key flaw in the whole ‘love is love’ movement.” They’re especially missing that one—and the truth is, they want to!

Spiritual Warfare

We are reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

[E]ven if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, the apostle also had written this.

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

People have a natural inclination not to understand spiritual truths. Add to this the fact that once a person’s mind is blinded by “the god of this age,” and kept from understanding the gospel, he or she will have difficulty seeing and understanding a great deal more than the gospel—even certain things that ought to be obvious.

I am speaking in general terms here. God can overrule the forces of evil and open people’s eyes to a wide variety of insights. Thus, some may be able to see some of the specific things I’m highlighting in this series of articles without really understanding the gospel completely and fully. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to be an advocate of true religious liberty, but being a believer certainly should help. Generally speaking, though, the greater the animosity to God’s truth, the greater the blindness to other, related insights. We must not forget that the culture war is, at its core, a cosmic, spiritual battle.

As believers, we need to be keenly aware of what is happening in this battle. We need to be familiar with biblical teachings, of course. We need to pray, rely on the Holy Spirit, and be an active part of a local church. All these things are important. Moreover, like the “sons of Issachar” in 1 Chronicles 12:32, we must have a keen “understanding of the times.” Having this understanding, these men knew “what Israel ought to do.”

A Religion that Denies God

I believe we also can learn a great deal from a man who actually isn’t a Christian. Dennis Prager is a practicing Jew, but he understands more about what is happening in cultural and spiritual arenas than most Christians. Prager “nails it” in an article titled “The World’s Most Dynamic Religion Is….”

For the past century, Prager says, the religion that has gained the most traction in the world isn’t Christianity, Mormonism, or Islam. Rather, it is leftism.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people have no awareness of the extent to which the left has captured people’s minds and hearts. Why? Their religion is so thoroughly secular that no one thinks of it as a religion at all. Yet it is a religion—one that opposes all traditional religions and religious values.


The most dynamic religion in the world over the past one hundred years has been leftism.
—Dennis Prager—


You have to understand how leftists think and operate. They act with great zeal to win new converts, and they have the media and all of society’s institutions to promote their views. They present their beliefs as conclusions reached by science, reason, and rational thinking. Who in his or her right mind would believe otherwise? The implication, and sometimes the overtly stated mantra, is that to disagree with leftist ideas is to be “anti-intellectual, anti-progress, anti-science, anti-minority and anti-reason”—and even stupid and mean.

Like any other religion, however, leftism is a belief system that requires faith—but this doesn’t keep leftists from being certain “that there is no other way to think.”

Despite all this, leftists sometimes, however unintentionally, reveal the weaknesses of what they believe. When they do, we are wise to “behold the irony” and learn all we can!

In our next two or three posts, we’ll examine two specific cases in which Alliance Defending Freedom is directly involved, and we’ll use these legal battles to unmask some significant ironies coming from the “progressive” left.

It will be an insightful journey! Be sure to return.

Part 2 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.

image credits:

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 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 8

 Cracks in the Foundation of Relativism

If you say there is no such thing as morality in absolute terms, then child abuse is not evil, it just may not happen to be your thing.
Rebecca Manley Pippert

The eternal difference between right and wrong does not fluctuate, it is immutable.
Patrick Henry

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

One of my favorite images demonstrating the core problem in American culture today is the Castle Illustration from Answers in Genesis. We’ve highlighted this image previously and discussed some of its implications. We said,

Ken Ham, president, CEO, and founder of Answers in Genesis, has observed that Christians commit a strategic error in opposing evil by going after…“progressive” causes themselves rather than attacking the foundation upon which those causes rest.

Christians must learn to effectively attack the foundation of humanism, sometimes called secularism.

Note that Moral Relativism is a balloon in the above graphic. Relativism can accurately be considered a balloon or thought of as part of the foundation on which the castle rests. For our purposes here, we will consider it a part of the foundation. Moral Relativism is, and grows out of, autonomous human reasoning.

Christians need to offer well-reasoned arguments that shine the light on relativism’s inherent weaknesses. We endeavored to do this earlier in this series, but this issue is of such importance we need to revisit it. Moreover, this post covers new ground. While such presentations might be perceived as vindictive, they actually are helpful and beneficial. Truth is a friend to everyone who cooperates with it and makes the adjustments needed to live under its authority.

This is not to say that Christians never should frame arguments defending natural marriage, the preservation of innocent human life, or religious liberty, to name just three of the hot button issues raging in today’s culture. It is to say that when we consistently fail to point out the fallacies of “autonomous human reasoning,” including relativism, we aren’t really acting in love toward our secular neighbors and friends.

“But the church just needs to ‘stick to evangelism,’” someone will say. “Only the gospel can change people’s minds and hearts.” When seen against the backdrop of a clear understanding of what is really happening in our culture, these statements demonstrate that Christians need to think of evangelism in broader terms. Hitting the foundation of secularism is all about evangelism. If our friends on the other side of God’s truth believe they’re right and we’re wrong* about foundational beliefs, we won’t ever be able to convince them to join our side.


Christians need to think of evangelism in broader terms.


Greg Koukl, founder and president of the apologetics ministry Stand to Reason, knows how to shine the spotlight on secularism’s crumbling foundation. In an article titled “Seven Things You Can’t Do As a Relativist,” he emphasizes that to be consistent, relativists can make no value judgements whatsoever. This renders their philosophical foundation as unstable as an avalanche! The mantra, “Well, that may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me; everybody can make up his or her own truth” may sound benign or even magnanimous, but it actually throws all kinds of obstacles in the paths of those who claim to live by it.


The philosophical foundation of relativism is as unstable as an avalanche!


Here’s a summary of Greg Koukl’s list of seven restrictions relativists have imposed on themselves through their own beliefs. In this seven-item list, quotations come directly from Koukl.

Rules for Relativists

First, don’t ever point your finger at anyone else and accuse him or her of doing something wrong. Relativists can’t do this, because their foundational belief denies the very existence of wrong. If they accuse anyone of anything they believe shouldn’t happen—things like racism, sexism, or bigotry, let’s say—they’ve stumbled on their own worldview. Advocates of relativism can’t be consistent without dropping words like should and ought from their vocabularies.

Second, don’t protest evil or complain about its existence. Relativism won’t allow this because, again, as a foundational belief, it denies the very existence of evil and wrong. This presents a huge problem for atheists, because the existence of evil frequently is seen as evidence that God isn’t real. Were God God, the argument goes, He would be omnipotent, and He would eliminate evil. Obviously He hasn’t done this, so

  1. He must not be all-powerful and therefore not really God, or
  2. He must not be good, or
  3. He doesn’t exist at all.

Mark it down. Relativism itself robs its followers of the rhetorical thunder they think they have. All three of these points rest on the assumption that evil is real. If a relativist is true to what she claims to believe, she won’t call anything evil. She can’t even call the Holocaust evil, since doing so would to be to uphold a specific standard of morality.

Third, don’t ever commend anyone or anything with praise or condemn it with criticism. Why not? A relativist claims to live by a philosophy that renders every action and event neutral. Nothing can be blameworthy or praiseworthy—ever; all things are “lost in a twilight zone of moral nothingness.”

Fourth, you have to throw words like fair, unfair, just, and unjust out of your vocabulary. You have to throw out terms like guilt and innocence as well. These words represent ideas that, under relativism, simply don’t exist. Think about it. If nothing can be blameworthy (see the third item), then no one ever can be guilty of anything wrong, and no one can be held accountable for wrongdoing. A relativist never can pursue justice and fairness, because nothing ever can be fair and just, or unfair and unjust. This rule simply says proponents of relativism need to make their words and their arguments conform to the beliefs they claim to hold.

Fifth, acknowledge that your belief system makes moral improvement impossible. A relativist certainly can change his ethics, but he cannot improve his behavior or aspire to anything better in any way. His foundational belief “destroys the moral impulse that makes people rise above themselves because there is no ‘above’ to rise to.”

Sixth, don’t try to engage in debates or discussions that address morality or values. With respect, I am compelled to point out that you have nothing to say. Relativism says all ideas are equally valid, so none can be better or worse than any other. Any claim to the contrary refutes relativism altogether. Thus, when an individual claims to be a relativist, he forfeits his right to accuse anyone of shoving his or her morality down his throat.

Seventh, stop talking about tolerance, because your belief system negates it. Relativism says values don’t exist. If values don’t exist, then how can tolerance, which is upheld as a value to be practiced, be real? It can’t.

You might think the heading of this list, “Rules for Relativists,” is an oxymoron because relativists don’t believe in rules. It isn’t an oxymoron, and I’ll tell you why. Not believing in rules doesn’t render them nonexistent. These rules are applicable because of the nature of reality and the inconsistencies of relativism as a belief system.


Not believing in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.


Greg Koukl has done all of us a favor—relativists included—by turning the spotlight on these cracks and exposing them.

As advocates of absolute truth, let’s follow his example and do the same. Here is a page carrying just the summary of Greg Koukl’s article.

Part 9 is available here.

 

Note:

*The very fact that our friends who espouse relativism would believe that they’re right and we’re wrong about foundational beliefs actually is a refutation of their belief system to begin with. Remember, they say all beliefs are equally valid. Yet they typically don’t see the inconsistency. This is why articles like this one and this series of articles are so important.

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

top image: an avalanche in the Himalayas near Mount Everest

 

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 7

Getting the Big Picture of Reality Is a Key Factor in Affirming the Existence of Absolute Truth and Understanding Authentic Liberty

[T]he problem of the 1920s to the 1980s…is the attempt to have absolute freedom—to be totally autonomous from any intrinsic limits. It is the attempt to throw off anything that would restrain one’s own personal autonomy. But it is especially a direct and deliberate rebellion against God and his law.
Francis Schaeffer in The Great Evangelical Disaster, published in 1984—

The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.—John Locke in Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

In a Family TalkTM booklet titled Discipline, Dr. James Dobson relates a story loaded with lessons for us today. Countering the idea that parents and their children should “be on an even playing field—making decisions by negotiation and compromise,” Dobson recalls observing his daughter’s pet hampster fidgeting in his cage, anxiously trying to escape. The little guy

worked tirelessly to open the gate and push his furry little nose between the bars. Then I noticed our dachshund, Siggie, sitting eight feet away in the shadows. He was watching the hamster, too. His ears were erect, and it was obvious what was on his mind. He was thinking, Come on, baby. Open that door, and I’ll have you for lunch. If the hamster had been so unfortunate as to escape from his cage, which he desperately wanted to do, he would have been dead in a matter of seconds.

Dobson goes on to discuss the difference between the hampster’s perspective and his own: “I was aware of dangers that he couldn’t have foreseen. That’s why I denied him something that he desperately wanted to achieve.”

In this respect, children are like that hampster—but so is everyone else in the human race, regardless of age, before he or she is willing to acknowledge the big picture offered by “nature and nature’s God,” to quote the the Declaration of Independence.

But wait! The Declaration does not just speak of “nature and nature’s God,” but of “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” What? In the Declaration of Independence? Yes! Our founders got it right. True freedom and liberty—on both personal and societal levels—can be established and maintained only when individals and society affirm the laws of nature, or absolute truth. Dr. Dobson’s perspective in relation to his daughter’s hamster parallels the one we need with regard to the world, life, and the universe.


True freedom and liberty—on both personal and societal levels—can be established and maintained only when individals and society affirm the laws of nature, or absolute truth. 


No One Really Believes Truth Doesn’t Exist

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.

Truths and falsehoods in the moral and spiritual realms exist, too. These also are evident, but we don’t recognize them with physical senses like seeing and hearing—and they often are even more consequential than realities in the physical relalm.

True Freedom Is Found In a Recognition of Absolute Truth

In their book on apologetics for high schoolers titled Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler expose 42 myths that have become quite popular in today’s culture. One of them is the “Anarchist Myth.”1 To expose this false belief for the lie it really is, McDowell and Hostetler tell a story. The story also is available online.

Herman, the son of a crab named Fred, was growing rather weary of what he believed to be the confinement imposed on him by his shell. “Hey, Dad! This shell is really boxing me in,” said Herman. “I can’t take it anymore! I want my freedom! My friends and I have been talking, and they feel the same way. Some of them are thinking about forming a group called ‘Crabs for Shedding Shells.’ I’m ready to help!”

“Son,” said Fred to his boy, “I understand your frustration. I know it’s easy for you to think your shell is denying you freedom and that you could move around unencumbered if you only could get rid of it—but let me tell you a story.”

“Aww, Dad, come on. I’m too old for that!” complained Herman.

“Now, hear me out,” replied the elder crab. “I think this will make a lot of sense to you. My story is about

Humphrey the human, who insisted on going barefoot to school. He complained that his shoes were too confining. They cramped his style, he said. He longed to be free to run barefoot through fields and streams. Finally, his mother gave in to him. He skipped out of the house barefoot. Do you know what happened?”

Herman opened his mouth, but his father continued before he could answer.

“Humphrey the human stepped on pieces of a broken bottle. His foot required twenty stitches, and some other guy took his girl to the prom while Humphrey sat home watching reruns of Flipper.”

“That’s a pretty lame story, Dad,” Herman said.

“Maybe, Son, but the point is this: Every crab has felt this way at one time or another, thinking life would be better if he could be completely shell-free. But that’s like a sailor getting tired of the confinement of a ship and jumping to freedom in the sea. He may think that’s freedom, but if he doesn’t get back to ship or shore, he’ll drown and end up as crab food. What kind of freedom is that?”

Fred explained to Herman that one day in the not-too-distant future, he indeed would discard his shell. The process, called molting, is a normal part of a crab’s growth into adulthood. “But don’t be fooled,” Fred warned his son. “After your old shell comes off, you’re going to be especially vulnerable. It’ll be a dangerous time. You’ll need to be more careful than ever until your new shell hardens.” Fred tapped his son’s exterior shield a couple of times and then summarized his main point. “The truth, Herman, is that without a protective shell, life will be far more confining than liberating.”

Both the irony and the reality of the situation were beginning to dawn on Herman. After thoughtful reflection, he turned to his dad and said,

“You mean that some things may seem to limit freedom but really make greater freedom possible?”

Fred smiled broadly and patted his son on the back with a mammoth claw. “How’d you get to be so smart, Son?” he asked.

Corporate Liberty Depends on the Affirmation of a Supreme Authority

“The laws of nature and nature’s God” are like Herman’s shell. Coming back now to the larger picture, we note that as a nation, if we don’t return to these, we will lose our liberty. Does everyone have to become a Christian in this nation for America to restore and maintain liberty? No, not everyone was a Christian even at America’s founding, although most were. People believed in God, however, and that was key. In particular, the Founders held beliefs “rooted in the Judeo-Christian values found in the Bible.”

While we might not be able to convince our secular friends and neighbors of the existence of God right off the bat (even though we certainly need to know and be able make the case for God’s existence), if we can help them see the connections between law, liberty, and belief in a divine being, that will be a good first step.

Yet we may need to take at least one step even before that. We absolutely must teach our children about these connections. As the Bible affirms Psalm 119:45: “I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.”

Have you had a discussion about absolute truth in your home?

Part 8 is available here.

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


For Further Study


Homicide detective J. Warner Wallace became a Christian after applying principles of forensic analysis to the Gospel accounts and determining that they passed the tests for authenticity. In these videos, he discusses the evidence for God based on the existence of moral truth.


In this video, conservative radio talk show host and devout Jew Dennis Prager argues from the other side of this issue. Prager makes the case that without God, objective moral truth cannot exist.

Both Wallace and Prager are correct, but each deals with the issue from a different angle.


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.