Are there Moral Absolutes?

Are there such things as moral absolutes?  Things that are truly wrong and those that are truly right?

It’s often popularly believed today that there are not.  But this is not the case.  Every great moral mind (pagan,  Christian, other…) has acknowledged the existence of objective, ultimate, and transcendent moral truth.

Here it is from one greater than I:

“But I’m here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. Eternally so, absolutely so.”  Martin Luther King Jr to 2nd Baptist Church of Detroit.

 

Also…   This.

Male & Female Complementarity – a vital issue and a superb video

Man.  Woman.  Maleness.  Femaleness.  Marriage.  Family.  Gender.  Difference.

Anyone with ears open knows that these are important issues in today’s world.  And also that our culture is attempting to radically alter the fabric of these things.

Presently, there is an international colloquium taking place at the Vatican – Humanum.  It is concerning issues of gender, marriage, sexuality, and family.  It is a collaboration between Catholics, Evangelicals, and others to recommit to the basic foundation of our common humanity.

This is the first of a series of videos produced to help articulate the philosophical and theological basis for male/female complementarity.  This first one is superb.  And a Must-Watch.

May this project be blessed and glorify the One who created by dividing (Genesis 1)

 

re:  On Marriage and Temple Desecration, C C Pecknold, First Things

 

How Should We Become Ourselves?

How should we live?  How do we become who we should be?  How do we truly “be ourselves”?

These aren’t silly questions.  They are terribly practical.  The answer we arrive at tells us a lot about our view of the world.  And it will also shape how we see our own human nature.

How should we become ourselves?  By following our nature or by going against it?  Is our nature good or bad?  Or do we need a new nature entirely?

A random ancient Greek looking guy.

A random ancient Greek looking guy.

The ancient Greeks believed – generally – that the world was an ordered place.  Plants, animals, natural forces all behaved in the way they ought to. (there was an ought) The world was the way it should be and operated within not only natural law but also moral ones.  For them, to live the virtuous life was to follow your own nature. Everyone had a role to play in the world, and when we were most true to ourselves we would live an ordered, virtuous, moral life.  This is an incredible over-simplification but it serves.  We need to be truly ourselves and then we will live the way we should.  We’ll find our place, treat others properly, and be most true to who we’re supposed to be.  If we acted in accord with our nature, we’d be who we ought to be. But the problem with this way of thinking is that it was missing something.  That is, a satisfying answer to why things aren’t the way they seem to ought to be. I it really just because some people weren’t living out their true natures?  What if we find that our natures are not inherently predisposed to virtue and right living?  What then?

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).  Seriously thinking about something serious.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Seriously thinking about something serious.

On the other side, and much later in history, came Immanuel Kant.  One of the most influential thinkers in history, to be sure, and someone who took an opposing position to ancient Greek thought.  Kant believed there was a Universal Good and everyone should pursue it.  (again, an ought)  That Good meant acting in unselfish ways towards others and humanity as a whole.  But Kant didn’t think that nature was a good guide.  Why?  Because we’re naturally kind of selfish.  Our human nature would incline us away from what was good. So Kant argued for acting in ways that were not in our natural inclinations.  If we were able to act in ways that were selfish, we could also train ourselves to act in ways that weren’t.  By, in a sense, not acting in accord with our nature.  (see how different this is from the Greeks?)

But there are just as many problems with this.  How do we act out a new nature?  Where does this new nature come from?

So, should we get more in tune with our nature like the Greeks suggest? Or, should we resist our nature and discipline ourselves into a new one, like Kant wants us to?

If we feel like we have Greeks to the left of us, and Kant to the right, we should look at a way in the middle.  Greek thought can’t account for the disorder of our natures – the ‘natural’ selfishness and so on.  Kant thinks we can’t follow our nature but he can’t really give a us a new one either. Our nature’s are bad.  But they weren’t always. The Greeks are right that there is a perfect way human nature should be.  But they’re wrong in thinking that we’re already there.  Kant is also right in that we can’t (kant… haha) follow our natural inclinations but he can’t provide us with a new nature either.  But there is one who can.

Biblical Christianity tells us the world was once a certain way – unspoiled, perfect, ordered.  But it also tells us that that it’s no longer that way.  Nature (and our human nature) was once good but now it’s not.  But it also gives hope for us because it offers us a new nature. In Jesus, that is when we believe in Him and are changed by Him, we are given a new nature.  We become part of new creation.  And we’re told that we must not follow our old nature – like the Greeks would have us do.  But we’re not left to construct a new nature – like Kant says.  Instead we’re given as a gift a new nature – by being born again – and told to put off the old and put on the new.  And it is by doing that, that we truly become ourselves and find the way to live in the world.

Who am I? And What Do I Worship? another self-administered test

This is a little self-test from Peter Kreeft.  It can help us determine who we are and what it is that we worship in our lives.  You can answer as quickly as you can and then check your answers with the key.

First, Some Personal Questions:

Who do think are the three greatest living persons in the world today?

1) ____________

2) ____________

3) ____________

4)  Who do you think is the most powerful person in the world today, whether for good or for evil?  ____________

Name the person you turn to first for advice and help when you have problems in each of the following areas of your life:

5)  mental health ____________

6)  marriage ____________

7)  money ____________

8)  sex ____________

9)  family ____________

10)  career ____________

Next, Some Theological Questions:

11)  Why did God create the universe?  ____________

12)  How can we know God?  ____________

13)  What is God like?  ____________

14)  Why do you believe in life after death?  ____________

15)  What is the secret of getting wisdom?  ____________

16)  How can a wicked person become righteous?  ____________

17)  How can you become a saint?  ____________

18)  When you die and meet God and He asks you why He should let you into Heaven, what will you say?  ____________

19)  What is the Church?  ____________

20)  What is the solution to the problem of war?  ____________

21)  What did St Paul know that you do not that made him such an effective evangelist?  ____________

22)  Christianity seems to be just one religion among many in the world.  How can this local, Western, Jewish, particular thing be for everyone, universally?  ____________

23)  What is Christianity?  What does it preach, say, claim, or proclaim?  ____________

Next, Some Philosophical Questions:

24)  What is truth?  ____________

25)  Define your way of life.  ____________

26)  Define “Life”.  ____________

27)  What is death?  ____________

Next, Some Psychological Questions:

28)  What is the end, goal, and purpose of your life?  ____________

29)  What is your solution to boredom?  ____________

30)  Define your true identity?  ____________

31)  Why is your identity so mysterious?  ____________

32)  What is the best cure for loneliness?  ____________

33)  What can you do when you feel tired all the time?  ____________

Finally, Two Questions To Pull It All Together:

34)  What is the last command of the last apostle?  ____________

35)  What is the most frequently disobeyed command?  ____________

source:  Peter Kreeft, Jesus Shock, pages 6-35

for the Answer Key, scroll down, way down.

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Answer Key

1 – 3) Luke 24:5: If you didn’t answer “The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, why not? Do you think of God as real persons or impersonal abstractions?

4)       Mt. 28:18: It’s Jesus, man!.

5 – 10) Phil. 4:19: God supplies for all your needs through Christ, not just the spiritual or religious, but all of them.

11)     Col 1:16: All of creation is through and for him. He is not just Savior of the world. He is its purpose!

12)     Jn. 1:18: All true knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Light of the World.

13)    Jn. 14:8-9: “God is love and love holds nothing back, so the Father holds nothing back in expressing himself in God, the Son.”

14)    Jn. 11:26: “Death is not a philosophical problem but a live one. Its solution is not a philosophical argument but a live person.

15 -18) 1 Cor. 1:30: Jesus isn’t merely the cause of wisdom, righteousness, sanctity & redemption… he IS our wisdom, righteousness…

19)    Eph. 1:22-33: The Church is the Body of Christ, “It is an organism before it is an organization, and incarnation before it is an institution.

20)    Jn. 14:27: Jesus is our peace.

21)    1 Cor. 2:2: “Less is more.” Catherine of Sienna once said, “Everything I know I learned at the foot of the Cross.”

22)    Col. 3:11: The Gospel is the story of the Author of the universe redeeming the universe. Hence, Christianity is truly the only universal religion.

23)    Col. 1:27-28: Our faith is all about a relationship with the Living God.

24 – 26)    Jn. 14:6: “Once again, abstractions acquire hands and feet and lips.” Jesus doesn’t just teach the way, truth and life. He IS the way, truth & life!

27)    Phil. 1:21: “If your life is Christ, then your death will be only more of Christ, forever.”

28)    Eph 4:13: “The meaning of human life is to grow up, and to grow up means to become more like Christ.”

29)    2 Cor. 5:17 (see also, Eccl. 1:9, Rev. 21:5): “Behold, I make all things new.”

30)    Gal. 2:20: To live is to love. To love is to give yourself, fully, freely, fruitfully, faithfully, forever. Anything else is death. To love is to be God-like and you are made in the image and likeness of God!

31)    Col. 3:3: Our lives are hidden in Christ, ‘We are all caterpillars (Adams) in process of transformation into butterflies (Christs).”

32)    Mt. 28:20: You are never alone. Christ is with you always.

33)    Mt. 11:28: With Christ as your center, there is no storm, no trial, nothing that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

34 – 35) 1 Jn. 5:21: What are the idols in your life? All of us have them, money, sex, drugs, TV, shopping, etc. Each and every time you put yourself first, you act selfishly then you are placing some idol on the throne of your heart and pushing Jesus aside.

What Does Worship Do To Us?

What are we doing when we worship?  Worship meaning engaging in the practices which draw us close to God and in which God draws close to us – prayer, praise, song, hearing the Word, communion…and so on.  We are loving the God Who has made Himself known to us and given us everything.  We are giving and receiving from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit.  Worship is wonderful but it is also vitally necessary.  We need to express our love for God.  We need to meet with Him and He meets with us.  It is encounter, it is experience, it is essential.

What is worship doing to us?  Here’s the flipside; and a different way to look at it.  What do the practices – prayer, praise, song, hearing the Word, communion… – do to us in return?  Without for one second cancelling out the expressive side to worship, we can also think about the formative side to worship.  Worship in a sense, trains us to point our lives toward God.

Nobody is more helpful in this than philosopher, James K A Smith.  Below is a 45 min talk where he talks about worship in the very broadest sense and shares some big ideas.  Those big ideas are:

1)  Human beings are not primarily thinkers.

2)  We often think something but then behave differently.

3)  This is because human beings are primarily lovers/desirers/wanters.

4)  We behave according to what we love, desire, want.

5)  There are many options for what to worship – some bad stuff!

6)  Christian worship is formative.  That means, it trains us to love the right thing – God!

Smith isn’t really a boring guy, so I’d encourage you to watch the whole thing:

 

A God of Wrath? Or a God of Love?

Have you ever been bothered by the idea of God’s wrath?  You’re not alone.  Many people don’t want to believe in the God of Christianity because he sometimes appears dangerously angry in the pages of the Bible.  Many people who are completely devoted to God still struggle with understanding this notion.  Sometimes we avoid thinking about it or we make apologies for it.  For skeptics and believers alike God’s wrath seems to contradict God’s love.  Isn’t God supposed to be loving?  How can Someone who supposedly ‘is love‘, be also full of wrath?

These are good questions to wrestle with.  They need to be seriously chewed upon and not placated with pat answers.  One of the most helpful voices on this for me has been the theologian Miroslav Volf.  He sees God’s wrath and His love as two sides of the same coin.  It is because God is loving that He must be wrathful, and His wrath is a corollary of His love.  Perhaps this comes into focus when we learn a little of Volf’s biography.  He is from Croatia and has seen his share of bloodshed in his homeland.  With that in mind, see how he twins God’s attributes of love and wrath:

MIroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf

I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God.  Isn’t God love?  Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath?  God is love, and God loves every person and every creature.  That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them.  My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come.  According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced.  My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry.  Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days!  How did God react to the carnage?  By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion?  By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness?  Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them?  Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil.  God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love.  God is wrathful because God is love.

-Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge:  Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, page 138.

This by no means answers every question about God’s wrath and anger towards sin.  But it helps us to begin to see that wrath and love are not necessarily opposed.  There is good news about God’s wrath even for those most deserving of it.  *we all deserve wrath in some measure*  It is that there has come One who has borne wrath for us, saving us from it.  That is the greatest love there is.

Related:

How does God’s wrath help us to be free of it?  Check out this post from the vaults:

The Real Reason Christians can love Our Enemies

A Life About Nothing? – or – where can meaning be found?

Why are we here?  What is the purpose?  Where can meaning be found?  There comes a point in culture where meaninglessness begins to reap its reward in people’s thinking.  Despair can become common.  When previous generations succumbed to nihilism – the belief in nothing – they generally fell into gloomy dispondence.  But what come after despair?  David Wells suggests that it is humour…

They look like they're having fun but underneath their lives are 'about nothing'.

They look like they’re having fun but underneath their lives are ‘about nothing’.

By the 1990s, when we encounter the television series Seinfeld, for example, this sense of internal loss and disorientation had been turned into a brilliantly acted but completely banal sitcom.  Seinfeld, Thomas Hibbs writes, was “a show about the comical consequences of life in a world void of ultimate significance of fundamental meaning.”  This show, he adds, was “by its own account, a show about nothing.”  The darkness of soul had lifted, though not its emptiness.  Now we were no longer serious enough to do anything but smirk.  The journey into the postmodern world, from the writers of this literature of bewilderment into television shows like this, is one from darkness in the depths to mockery on the surface, from suicide to shallow snickers.  The Void is the constant; how we live with it is where the differences arise.  David F Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, page 188.

Okay, nobody wants to be too hard on Seinfeld.  I loved that show when it was on and I would probably still watch re-runs if I had a TV and cable.  The point is that meaninglessness – a serious problem – results in a collective inability to take anything seriously.  Does this sound like it rings true for our culture today?  If life does not have any objective, transcendent meaning than maybe we won’t find despair but lots and lots of ‘good times’ on a surface level.

If there is a crisis of meaning among us today than we need a solution to it.  We need more imagination and an objective anchor to which we can point that imagination.  C S Lewis called our imagination ‘the organ of meaning’.  He didn’t mean imagination in the sense of making up something fake.  Imagination is setting our sights on the highest ideals and aspirations possible.  Human beings need meaning and they need to find it somewhere other than in themselves.  If we look for it only in ourselves we will end up having little “Seinfeld lives” – lives about nothing but our own goals, whims, and wants.

There is a better place to cast our imagination.  On the reality that is in Christ.  He is the most real, the most beautiful, and ultimate source.  Listen to what is said about Him:  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  Colossians 1:15-17 ESV.  Imagine that!  And then try, just try, to have a meaningless life.