Responding Biblically to a Tolerant World

It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.
Adrian Rogers


Key point: The church must repent of its worldly approach to tolerance and consistently exercise genuine love.


In a sermon he preached on February 28, 1999, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, long time pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, placed a spotlight on the one virtue that modern society upholds and seeks to demand of everyone—tolerance. Dr. Kennedy explained that the tolerance society now champions isn’t the same kind of tolerance Americans have practiced throughout the country’s history.

D. James Kennedy / D. James Kennedy Ministries
  • While tolerance used to mean exercising respect by putting up with a person or group with whom one disagreed, it now means
  • accepting and affirming all views as equal in value and as equally true. Moreover, it now means affirming all lifestyles as equally valid.

As we soon will see, the former definition of tolerance can be called negative tolerance, since it preserves differing or opposing opinions. The latter, more modern definition, can be called positive tolerance. Under positive tolerance, to fail to endorse the perspective of someone with whom we disagree is to be intolerant and bigoted.

But there’s a problem. The very people who advocate positive tolerance aren’t really tolerant of all views. In particular, they have a huge problem with the beliefs of biblical Christianity. Why? Because the tenets of biblical Christianity are absolute.

The very people who advocate positive tolerance are not really tolerant of all views. In particular, they have a huge problem with the beliefs of biblical Christianity. Why? Because the tenets of biblical Christianity are absolute.

In 1991, a very insightful Chuck Colson said,

A belief in tolerance is about as close as America comes to a national creed today. All lifestyles are equal. No one has the right to criticize. It’s the philosophy of the talk show hosts: Oprah, Donahue, Geraldo—keep an open mind, never judge anyone.

There is only one thing that is not tolerated—–and that is, people who are intolerant themselves, or rather, people who are labeled as intolerant. People with moral and religious convictions. These people are considered bigots.

How We Got Here—And Where “Here” Is

Returning to Dr. Kennedy’s sermon, we note that the new tolerance is a byproduct of the postmodern era. As Dr. Kennedy explained [minor edits made for clarity],

Postmodernism [the beginning of which is marked by the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989] says that rationalism has failed. The modernist said, “Faith has failed. We must be rational.” The postmodernist has said “Reason has failed. We must resort to feeling.”

How often do you hear people say, “Well I feel that so-and-so. I feel that Washington, D.C. is the capital of this country”? I don’t feel that. I think it. But it’s always not “I think” but “I feel.” The only important thing is how they feel. And we have even invented a new civil right. And that is the civil right for my feelings not to be hurt.…

We cannot have anybody’s feelings hurt. And part of postmodernism is this universal individual. We don’t have countries, we don’t have anything except the individual. There’s no human race, there’s just the individual and his feelings, and they must not be offended.…

And so we have gone from a democracy, a government by the people—of the people, by the people, and for the people—to a government by the sovereign individual. Or should I say, more accurately, the sovereign individual’s feelings? And that brings us to the fact that there are not even any universal truths of any kind for people, and whatever truths we have are simply societal constructs that each community or society or nation has created and these do not apply beyond the borders of that culture.

This is why I have repeatedly said that tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society. When you have an immoral society that has blatantly, proudly violated all of the commandments of God, there’s one last virtue they insist upon—tolerance for their immorality. And they will not have you condemning what they have done as being wrong. And they’ve created a whole world construct in which it’s not, and in which they are no longer the criminal or the villain or the evil person, but you are. And so they call evil good and good evil (see Isaiah 5:20).

Tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society.
—D. James Kennedy—

Charles Darwin

Also operative in this progression of ideas in history was the arrival of Darwinism on the world stage. Darwinism eliminated the “need” for God and absolute truth. The human individual became the measure or all things.

Even if you’ve been unfamiliar with the terms modernism and postmodernism, surely you’ve seen evidence of the grip of the new tolerance on American culture. Note carefully how accurate Dr. Kennedy is when he says that a new civil right has been established—the right not to have one’s feelings hurt, or we might call it the right not to be offended.

The new tolerance has ushered in a new civil right—the right not to be offended.
—D. James Kennedy—

The Biblical Response

Unfortunately, the new tolerance also has found its way into the church. One of the “Eight Menacing Trends in the American Evangelical Church” today is that “the church has equated loving people with not offending them.” Other trends on the list provide evidence as well.

Josh McDowell

How should followers of Jesus Christ live out their faith when the new tolerance confronts them from every side? Josh McDowell, a Christian apologist and an insightful analyst of cultural trends, provides the answer in a presentation he gave well over a decade ago1 to the staff of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ).

Like Chuck Colson and D. James Kennedy, Josh expressed insights in his presentation that were ahead of the times.

Listen carefully to the following series of sound bites from Josh’s presentation. While you can listen here, you’ll be able to follow Josh’s progression of thought much more easily on this page, where a complete text of this 3½-minute compilation, along with the audio, is available.

  • Josh defines negative tolerance.
  • Josh defines positive tolerance.
  • Josh illustrates the difference between the two.
  • Josh points to the biblical response to a culture demanding positive tolerance.
  • Josh cites the importance of balancing truth and love.
  • Josh emphasizes that loving people will be costly.
  • Josh shows how genuine love relates directly to absolute truth and principles of right and wrong.

These insights are piercing. They also are sobering. They call on the church to repent of its soft approach to truth and to love authentically. This means exercising love by demonstrating compassion and by declaring truth—but we as Christians cannot do these things if we abandon a high view of God’s authority and the reliability of the Scriptures.

Francis Schaeffer was another Christian leader who read the culture clearly and accurately. In 1984 he wrote that easy Christianity is a thing of the past, and that

Francis Schaeffer

only a strong view of Scripture is sufficient to withstand the pressure of an all-pervasive culture built upon relativism and relativistic thinking.…Without a strong commitment to God’s absolutes, the early church could never have remained faithful in the face of the constant Roman harassment and persecution [it received]. And our situation today is remarkably similar as our own legal, moral, and social structure is based on an increasingly anti-Christian, secularist consensus.

Christian thinker and apologist Jonathan Morrow is dead on when he says, “Our culture desperately needs to hit the reset button when it comes to larger conversation about truth and tolerance.” For this to happen, the church must act as did the early Christians. If we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, we no longer can continue to accommodate the culture by refusing to uphold the truth for fear of offending people.

Why? Because refusing to uphold the truth represents a failure to exercise genuine love!

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Josh McDowell, “Tolerating the Intolerable,” Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, aired on March 21 and March 22, 2013. I strongly encourage you to listen to both programs in their entirety. Mr. McDowell’s presentation had aired earlier on Focus on the Family. A CD copy of the Focus on the Family broadcast indicates that the program “last aired in October of 2002.” Josh’s website is www.josh.org.

Mr. McDowell’s talk © 2018 Josh McDowell Ministry. All rights reserved. No part of these Materials may be changed in any way or reproduced in any form without written permission from Josh McDowell Ministry, 2001 West Plano Parkway, Suite 2400, Plano, TX 75075. www.Josh.org. +1 972 907 1000. Used by Permission.

2Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, Illinois: 1984), 48-49.

 

A portion of this article is based on the content of “Discernment Needed, Part 2: Eight Menacing Trends in the American Evangelical Church,” which was originally published May 28, 2015.

Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 10

The daughter of a friend of mine recently told me she believes that “if you think a thing is right and commit yourself to it honestly, then it is right. And so then of course I brought up Adolf Hitler…[T]his principle that she announced endorses him, because he did very surely think that he was right. And I confronted her with that. And that was very hard for her. Implicitly, she had endorsed Adolf Hitler.…Now, you see, she’s got some thinking to do, but she didn’t have before. Because she just thought, ‘there’s a kind of person, and the person is sincere and is deeply committed to some values and pursues them honestly. That’s the right kind of person.’…That means that justification is all inside them.…God knows where that can lead!”
Larry P. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College


Note: In addition to highlighting two more myths that led to same-sex marriage in this country, this post sounds the alarm about dangerous legislation in the works in California. Occurrences in other places, including Illinois, also give us cause for concern. In my articles, I frequently drill down to discuss not only what is happening but also the philosophical underpinnings of these events. An excellent concise article on the situation in California, along with a clear explanation of why everyone, not just Californians, should be concerned, can be found here


Key point: However well-intentioned its promoters may be, the LGBT lobby is taking America to a very undesirable place.

This week we conclude our series on myths that led the the recognition of same-sex marriage in America. We’re adding two more myths to our list, bringing our total to eighteen. Be aware that while our list is thorough, it isn’t exhaustive.

Go here for a review of all the myths we cover in this series.

Myth #17: Absolute truth does not exist.

Fact: Absolute truth does indeed exist. This includes immutable principles of right and wrong, which are not determined within individuals, but outside of them. Yet, whenever a culture rejects absolute truth, eventually a set of values—the values of an individual or a group of individuals—is brought to bear on that society—with potentially disastrous results.

For the next few moments, as we begin to consider the myth that absolute truth does not exist, I’d like to ask you to forget that we’ve been discussing homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Instead, consider the matter of absolute truth more broadly: What happens when individuals reject absolute truth? Inevitably, they make up their own truth and attempt to live according to it. They do this with varying degrees of success, because typically reality prevents them from living consistently according to the values they’ve decided to embrace. At other times, people may succeed in following the principles they’ve adopted, but it isn’t uncommon in such a situation for other people to be abused and violated.

Episode 4 of the 6th season of the original Hawaii Five-0 television series provides a great illustration. The episode is titled “One Big Happy Family.” In it, an unusual family arrives in Hawaii and commits a string of murders and thefts. Here is the closing scene. (Additional information about this installment, including a transcript of this scene, is available here.)

On the show, Sadie Ferguson is the name of the woman who offered Steve McGarrett the family’s rationale for killing their victims and stealing from them. Her reasoning sounds bizarre to us, but there’s an advantage in its starkness: In this situation, Sadie’s case sounds every bit as ugly as it really is. Why? Right and wrong do exist, and Sadie and her family had violated universal principles of moral conduct. With the trail of blood and robbery so glaringly obvious, and with the Fergusons’ reasoning so blatantly and obnoxiously self-centered, no one would deny this family was guilty of egregious wrongdoing.

Noble-Sounding Lies

Far more often, reasons to do wrong are just as terrible but not nearly as obviously horrific. Think of some of the noble-sounding excuses people use to justify all kinds of wrong actions.

  • Everybody’s doing it!
  • I can only go around once in life; so I should go for the gusto!
  • I need to be true to myself and follow my feelings.
  • Surely God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy!
  • If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with!

Now, all of us need to realize that no one—whether gay or straight, male or female, young or old—is exempt from falling into the trap of using faulty, crazy reasoning to justify doing whatever he or she want to do, even if God forbids it. Satan is a brilliant strategist, and as we have indicated, the kind of reasoning he uses to convince us to do his bidding often sounds attractive and even noble at first. Also, we often are shortsighted and foolish. Our hearts are evil! We entertain the notion, even unconsciously, that our way is better than God’s. It isn’t!

The good news is that when dangerous-but-noble-sounding “logic” is exposed to the light of God’s truth, those with minds that are open, even just a little bit, to His truth often can see just how foolish and even bizarre such reasoning is. It is, in fact, a lie. It’s also ugly—just as ugly as Sadie Ferguson’s justification for murder and theft. You see, the light of truth peels away the masks that hide the lie and that make the reasoning so attractive!

The good news is that when dangerous-but-noble-sounding “logic” is exposed to the light of God’s truth, those with minds that are open, even just a little bit, to His truth often can see just how foolish and even bizarre such reasoning is. It is, in fact, a lie.

Shedding the Light of Truth on Noble-Sounding, but False Ideas

The Ideas

Now, let’s consider several of the points typically made to justify homosexuality and same-sex marriage today. These ideas are about love, relationships, sexuality, and marriage. Take note—they probably won’t sound all that bizarre initially, partly because we’ve heard them so much, and partly because they appeal to our sense of fairness. In reality, however, they too are ugly—because they deny God’s established truth and His design for humanity. Furthermore, if left unchecked, they inevitably will produce very ugly results.

In June of 2013 after the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, Joshua Bowman wrote an article for catholicvote.org pointing out the weaknesses of several arguments being used to promote same-sex marriage. The arguments included these four, which are quoted below directly from the article.

  • Gay Marriage Doesn’t Hurt Heterosexuals
  • If We Accept Gay Marriage, Peace and Love Will Reign
  • Marriage Is About Love and Commitment
  • Couples that Don’t Have Children Still Get Married

In another article, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine of Family Life offer reasons for opposing same-sex marriage. They begin, however, by citing three rhetorical questions often used in favor of it. Here they are.

  • If two men are in love, and want to declare their commitment, why should we keep them from marrying each other?
  • If two gays want to be married, aren’t they upholding the institution of marriage rather than weakening it?
  • If a pair of homosexuals want to marry and provide a home for children who would otherwise be without a family, then how can that be wrong?

In addition to these and many more arguments, we often hear this: I was born that way. We addressed this argument in our last post.

The Truth

We have sought to lovingly yet forthrightly push back against many of these ideas in previous articles. Here, suffice it to say that both God and nature speak clearly about what marriage is. Moreover, God states clearly in Scripture that homosexual activity is sinful. In addition to offending God, it also is ultimately harmful in this life to those who engage in it.

You may strongly disagree with me on this. If so, then for the sake of our discussion, please consider for a few minutes the possibility that the points so often made to defend and justify homosexuality and same-sex marriage are indeed lies. I’m not saying they are intentional lies; in fact, most people don’t recognize them as lies at all. If this is true, people have become deceived and have been swept away in a very dangerous direction.

Who Is Imposing Their Morality on Whom?

There’s something else. We don’t have to reach very far back in our memories to recall the loud and forceful objections of militant gay rights advocates to laws criminalizing homosexual behavior and upholding marriage as an institution of one man and one woman for life:

What right to you have to impose your morality on me? 

Yet, now that homosexuality has been decriminalized and marriage has been transformed into an institution that also includes same-sex couples, militant homosexual rights advocates are attempting to impose their on morality on the rest of society.

Years ago, Josh McDowell predicted this would happen.1 This clip comes from a presentation he gave prior to October of 2002. In the soundbite, negative tolerance refers to the old definition of tolerance—respecting those who disagree with us—and positive tolerance refers to the new definition—that all beliefs and values are equal.

We don’t have to look far for evidence of what Mr. McDowell said. On Thursday, April 12, 2017, Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, was raked over the coals (also go here) by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). Watch the exchange.

Ben Shapiro observes that

according to Booker, you must celebrate sin in order to believe there is a right for people to commit sin that has no externalities in a free society. This makes sense from a Leftist point of view, where government is the great instrument of the good, not a mere protector of rights—the same people who try to stamp out dissenting thought through “hate speech” legislation are likely to believe that religious Americans feel the same way about using government to stamp out sin. But they’re wrong. And they’re religious bigots.

Yes, those on the left loudly pushing the militant homosexual cause are religious bigots. Just how bad is it? Currently, in ten states, with a good possibility that Maryland will become the eleventh, minors cannot legally receive professional counseling from a pro-heterosexual perspective to help them deal with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. Such counseling has been outlawed! Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), explains part of the reason: Gay activists have misrepresented and demonized legitimate counseling approaches (also go here)—often called reparative therapy—to help encourage heterosexuality. They have overtaken many professional groups and insist on pro-homosexual counseling regardless of the clients’ desires. The American College of Pediatricians stands out as the rare exception.

Gay activists have misrepresented and demonized legitimate counseling approaches—often called reparative therapy—to help encourage heterosexuality.
—Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays—

And now, things are growing even worse. The gay lobby has become a powerful and arrogant player in American life—so powerful and arrogant, in fact, that it is in the process of imposing it’s own “absolutes” on society at large.

For some time, California has been futile ground for coercive LGBT legislation. Now it could become the first state in the nation to ban reparative therapy for everyone! All forms of it this kind of therapy, even counseling given through the sale of a book and in a religious setting from a religious perspective. In a Facebook post, former Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon calls the proposal “the biggest effort at book banning, the banning of counseling services and church conferences, the banning of academic courses, and a general banning of free speech in the history of the United States.” He warns, “Any counselor that suggests to clients that homosexual practice or transgender identification is in any way wrong or unhealthy, irrespective of whether they offer ‘orientation change’ services will become a criminal in the eyes of the state.”

Any counselor that suggests to clients that homosexual practice or transgender identification is in any way wrong or unhealthy, irrespective of whether they offer “orientation change” services will become a criminal in the eyes of the state.
Robert A. J. Gagnon

On television, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp sounded the alarm.

As we have seen in the past, what happens in California has implications for the entire country. Since when does the government have any business preventing an adult from receiving a counseling service he or she wants and is willing to pay for? We may be on the cusp of entering a day when, even though the government has no business whatsoever doing this, it does it anyway! I would encourage you to find out more about AB 2943 here and here.

And be aware: It is especially significant that while AB 2943 prohibits pro-heterosexual counseling to help anyone with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender issues, another proposal AB 2119, “adds the mandate that ‘foster care kids struggling with transgender feelings [must] have access to ‘gender affirming’ counseling, puberty blocking drugs, and sex-change operations.'”

The new tolerance, therefore, is a one-way street down which a steam-roller is barreling, squashing everyone standing in its way!

The new tolerance, therefore, is a one-way street down which a steam-roller is barreling, squashing everyone standing in its way!

Make no mistake. This is tyranny! But it is the inevitable place to which society will go when it abandons absolute truth and one group becomes powerful enough to impose it’s own morality on the whole.

Myth #18: Since absolute truth does not exist, government can manipulate the meaning of marriage to mean whatever it deems appropriate.

Fact: This myth returns us to the place where we started in this series. In part 1 we considered four myths that related to the courts, government, law, and the US Constitution. I encourage you to return there for that discussion.

With Malice Toward Note; With Charity for All

As Abraham Lincoln did during his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, I convey these ideas “with malice toward none [and] with charity for all.” We began this post with a quote about the fact that a failure to affirm absolute truth essentially gives a green light to tyrannical actions like those of Adolf Hitler. We next cited an episode from Hawaii Five-0, the original series, that demonstrates what can happen when an individual or a group comes up with their own absolute truth. Let me be clear. I am not saying the leaders of the LGBT community are like Hitler or that the thefts and robberies depicted on a television crime show present a picture of exactly what the gay lobby wants to accomplish.

A book-burning in Nazi Germany, 1933.

I am saying that these represent the kinds of ends to which a society’s or an a group’s abandonment of absolute truth will lead. And significantly, one parallel between AB 2943 and Nazi Germany is glaringly evident: the censorship of books! Without question, the militant LGBT lobby is becoming more and more coercive and tyrannical.

Their agenda must be opposed, lest America be held for generations to come in bondage to all myths that led to same-sex marriage.

 


Update on AB 2943, Thursday, April 19, 2018: Assembly votes to violate the 1st Amendment


Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

top image: California State Capitol in Sacramento, California, by Andre m

Note:

1 Josh McDowell, “Tolerating the Intolerable,” Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, aired on March 21 and March 22, 2013. The clip presented here comes from the broadcast on March 21. Mr. McDowell’s talk had aired earlier on Focus on the Family. A CD copy of the Focus on the Family broadcast indicates that the program “last aired in October of 2002.” Josh’s website is www.josh.org.

America, Where Are You? Part 5

The State of the Church


Here is the great evangelical disaster—the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this—namely accommodation. The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.…This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Thus we must say with tears that it is the evangelical accommodation to the world spirit around us, to the wisdom of this age, which removes the evangelical church from standing against the breakdown of our culture.
Francis Schaeffer

Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years.
Francis Schaeffer


Key point: In its efforts to avoid offending people, will the church wind up offending the One it never would dream of offending—God Himself? Unless it makes a conscious decision to honor God in the environment of moral quicksand in which it finds itself, the church will indeed offend God. The good news is that through the church, God still can turn America back to Himself. God’s people however, must cooperate with Him for this to happen.


Summaries of all the articles in this series are available here.

Last time, we stated the following.

  1. Engel v. Vitale was an initial step in the process that effectively cut off a generation, and future generations, from voluntarily acknowledging God in a public environment.
  2. Having been cut off from God, America had no point of reference for recognizing the intrinsic value of human life. Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton therefore legitimized the practice within the human family of turning against one’s own and killing the most vulnerable and defenseless members.
  3. Obergefell went even further, denying what it actually means to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage affirms what being being a human being is all about, but same-sex “marriage” effectively removes that affirmation from the institution of marriage, at least as far as public recognition is concerned.

This is not to malign anyone, especially homosexuals and those struggling with gender identity issues. The truth is, however, that telling them to “be who you are” actually will hinder them from being who they really are and finding fulfillment by reaching their God-given potential. Their struggles are real. We must be understanding and offer compassionate and loving help. Yet this does not mean telling anyone it’s OK to follow their base inclinations and desires. Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 are identical. They declare,

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

It doesn’t help that our country has lost a clear understanding of what is required to have and maintain genuine liberty. Liberty is not license—the freedom to do whatever our base desires urge us to do. Rather, it is freedom within the reasonable restraints set by morality, law, and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


Authentic liberty is not license—the freedom to do whatever our base desires urge us to do. Rather, it is freedom within the reasonable restraints set by morality, law, and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


Liberty, as Depicted at the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts (see below)

Where is the church with regard to this cultural quicksand? To answer that question, let’s first recall that in Matthew 10:16, Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Lightstock

I believe the church is following Jesus’ command to be as harmless as doves but unfortunately is failing to be as wise or as shrewd as serpents. Moreover, the church needs a shot of boldness.

The Pressure to Conform

In a very real sense, God’s people find their situation similar to that of a teen who is outnumbered by the crowd. Here is an excellent example. Researchers recruited several groups of ten young people to help them with a study of how well teens could see. The participants were told that they would be shown numerous sets of three lines, each of different lengths, and would be asked to indicate which was the longest line in each case: A, B, or C.

The researchers, however, weren’t really studying eyes or vision. They actually were investigating the effect of peer pressure on teenagers. Nine of the ten participants in each group were told privately to choose the second longest line rather than the longest one, while the tenth individual was allowed to keep on believing the study was all about teens’ ability to see.

In incident after incident, when the facilitator would introduce a set of lines and ask the group for a show of hands when the longest line was named, nine of the ten would, in unison, raise their hands for the second longest line, bewildering the tenth young person. Could I have misunderstood the instructions? They seemed so simple, the confused teen must have thought. Didn’t they say we are to indicate which line is the longest? The directions were repeated, and no, the student had not misunderstood them. All were to indicate which of the three lines was longest. The pressure to join the group was enormous—so much so that 75 percent of the teens studied raised their hands with the rest of the group, even though everything they were seeing was contrary to all the instructions they had been given and what they knew to be true!

Only 25 percent of the teens refused to go along with the crowd; just 1 in 4 was willing to take a stand for what he or she knew to be right, despite all his or her questions and the undeniable awkwardness of the situation. I can’t understand why no one else is choosing the right line, but I am certain which line is longest, and I’m going to raise my hand for it!1 Their courage and their actions are to be admired—and emulated!

Several lessons arise from this true story.

  • First, appearances can deceive. In terms of reality, the participants who were informed about the study actually were ignorant about the lengths of the lines. Moreover, even though the ones whose responses were being studied were not “in the know” about the real purpose of the study, these individuals actually were right about which lines were the longest. This is especially true when the student went against the consensus of the group. Let’s put it another way: The enlightened really were misinformed, and the misinformed were enlightened.

The enlightened really were misinformed, and the misinformed were, in fact, enlightened.

  • Second, the instructions were straightforward and simple, and in one sense, following them was simple. Still, following them was anything but easy! Even obvious realities can be hard to acknowledge in the face of a group consensus to the contrary.
  • Third, decisions to “go along with the crowd” were made based on emotions, including the understandable desire to be liked and the awkwardness of taking a singular stand.
  • Fourth, in real-life situations, the choice to follow the crowd brings only short-term benefits. By contrast, aligning oneself with reality, even though one is made to feel quite uncomfortable in the here and now, affords an individual or group a host of advantages in the long-term. Why? Reality is a friend to those who accept it and cooperate with it, but an enemy to everyone who denies and resists it.

The church is like each young person in the study who faced nine others with different opinions. What would he or she do—state the obvious, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered, or go along with the crowd to avoid controversy?

Equipped with God’s Truth, the Church Is in Touch with Reality

Abortion advocates claiming to contend for women’s rights have loud voices and great influence, and in their eyes, to be pro-life is to be anti-woman. Nothing could be further from the truth (go here and here). On January 31, 2018, the following statement appeared on BreakPoint’s Facebook page:

Too many pastors soft-pedal their teaching on #abortion. Maybe they don’t want to be seen as getting “political.” Or perhaps they believe this subject is not their calling. They might even fear offending people. #Pray that God would grant the #pastors in your community #courage to teach the entire counsel of #Scripture, including commands to protect the innocent. Pray that they would have the #wisdom to speak accurately. Pray that they would also have the #compassion to speak kindly.

With regard to marriage, the situation is desperate, as evangelicals increasingly warm to the idea of same-sex marriage. If the church doesn’t understand what marriage is, then the real definition of marriage, including marriage as a picture of Christ and the church, and consequently marriage as a picture of the gospel, will forever be lost to society. We must realize people do not have to understand the theology to benefit from the model! Even atheists benefit from it! Natural man-woman marriage reflects and conveys divine realities even “under the radar,” even without people realizing they are recipients of divine truth. The natural world does the very same thing (see Psalm 19:1-4).

Remember the study on peer pressure. Do not forget that the enlightened actually were misinformed, while the misinformed were enlightened. Do not forget that God is truth and the source of truth, and He has revealed truth in His Word. Human life is His masterpiece, and to destroy it is to offend Him. Natural, man-woman marriage has God’s fingerprints all over it! For Christians to withhold the truth about marriage when society is so terribly misinformed on this issue is to fail to faithfully represent the God who established it, and the gospel.

One is reminded of Joshua and Caleb, who also were outnumbered when they gave their report on the land of Canaan. In their case, they were outvoted 10 to 2. Could the Israelites conquer the land? Joshua and Caleb said yes, but the other 10 spies said no! Because these two men remained faithful to God despite appearances and even against overwhelming odds, the Lord permitted Joshua and Caleb to enter the promised land, even as he He barred everyone else in their generation from doing so.

James Tissot, The Grapes of Canaan

Please know it is not my wish or intention to disparage or discourage the church or its leaders. Ministry, including evangelism, is very hard work, especially in this culture! Moreover, many pastors’ plates are so full they are overwhelmed! I sympathize, and I understand.

Even so, Jesus said,

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

A Place to Start

The church can begin speaking out for the truth by doing so within its own walls, educating its own people. It must talk about and defend those ideals and institutions that are under vicious attack. Start with marriage. Hebrews 13:4 declares, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral” (NIV). This article names twelve traits that must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage. Pastors and other leaders should explore and explain to God’s people the deep theological truths reflected in natural marriage, including ways that marriage is a picture of the gospel. Here and here some articles that will help you convey these ideas.

All is not lost, but much has slipped away. Much is slipping away even now. The situation is urgent!

All is not lost, but much has slipped away. Moreover, much is slipping away even now. I believe, and my friend Steve believes as well, that God wants to use His church to call America back to Himself. To do that, the church must repent of seeking to entertain people and once again endeavor first to please God. When it does, it will demonstrate not only that it loves God supremely, but also that it truly loves others.

What is life? What is marriage? What is the nature of God? What is the gospel? What is salvation? All these questions are tightly interwoven.

Which line is the longest?

Are we who have the truth willing to declare it?

Are you willing to do your part?

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Dr. James Dobson, Preparing for Adolescence: How to Survive the Coming Years of Change, (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2006), 37-39.

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

The Scripture passage marked NIV has been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

About “Liberty” (see above; photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. Genuine liberty isn’t possible without the other virtues portrayed—faith, law, education, and morality. The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

 

Absolute Truth Really Is All About God

 Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 17

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

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Part 16 is available here.

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

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

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


Truth comes from outside human beings, not from within.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

 

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

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

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

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 13

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

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

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

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

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

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


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


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

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

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

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

Let’s carefully note several things from these verses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

Paul was just getting started.

Part 14 is available here.

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

image credit: photo of candy cane rose—Susie Clay

 

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

 

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

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

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 12

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

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

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

Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God?

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

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

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

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

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

Is God Being Fair?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

God Demonstrates His Love Through His Son

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

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

The Bottom Line

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


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


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

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

Reality and integrity demand it.

Part 13 is available here.

 

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

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

Note:

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

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

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 11

Jesus’ Death and the Internal Consistency of the Christian Faith

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

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

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


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


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


Unlike relativism, Christianity has perfect internal consistency.


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

The Role of Ethical Teachings in Christianity

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

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

God Is Perfect

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


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


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

God’s Laws Reveal His Perfection

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Laws Also Put the Spotlight on Human Sinfulness

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

On his Facebook page, evangelist Ray Comfort explains.

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

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

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

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


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


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

The Law Points Us to Our Need for Christ

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

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

Artist Enrique Simonet depicts Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem.

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

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

From the writings of Paul:

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

From the writings of Peter:

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

From the writings of John:

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


How will you respond?

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

Written on Good Friday, April 14, 2017

Part 12 is available here.

 

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

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

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes—Part 10

The Seven Pillars Christianity, an Authentic Faith

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


As Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27,

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

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

Authentic Pillars Support a Faith that is Objectively True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Part 11 is available here.

 

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

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

Notes:

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

2Ibid., 23.

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

 

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 9

Encouraging People to See Relativism’s Fatal Flaw

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

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


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


What ought we to say about relativism?

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


Relativism’s Fatal Flaw

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

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

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


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


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

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said,

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

Summary

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

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


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


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

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

Part 10 is available here.

 

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

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 3

Relativism’s Bitter Fruit

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

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

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

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

Relativism, Evolution, and a Materialistic Worldview

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

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

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

Faulty Ideas

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

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

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


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


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

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

Connecting the Dots

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

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

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

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

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

Good Intentions, Good Feelings, and Horrific Results

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

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

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

Part 4 is available here.

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

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