God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other.27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents.31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.
–Apostle Paul, Romans 1:18-35 J.B. Phillips New Testament
The philosopher [Immanuel] Kant was right long ago to notice that moral activity implies a religious dimension. The atheist [Friedrich] Nietzsche also saw the point and argued forcefully that the person who gives up belief in God must be consistent and give up Christian morals as well, because the former is the foundation of the latter. He had nothing but contempt for fellow humanists who refused to see that Christian morality cannot survive the loss of its theological moorings, except as habit or as lifeless tradition. As Ayn Rand also sees so clearly, love of the neighbor cannot be rationally justified within the framework of secular humanism. Love for one’s neighbor is an ethical implication of the Christian position.
This suggests to me that the world’s deepest problem is not economic or technological, but spiritual and moral. What is missing is the vision of reality that can sustain the neighbor-oriented life style that is so urgently needed in our world today.
When injustice or tragedy comes our way, a common response is to get angry and exclaim, “why me?” or “this is not fair!” or “this shouldn’t be happening to me!” Some shake their fist at God.
Why do we react this way? Why are we troubled by injustice? Why do we find tragedy and suffering so intolerable? Who told us things were not meant to like this?
Human beings resist the idea of accepting pain as inevitable. We cannot bring ourselves to consider tragedy as normal and to live with it as we do with the changing of seasons or varying weather patterns. Suffering regularly provokes anger and disappointment.
Somehow we instinctively know there is something wrong with this picture. Things shouldn’t be this way. This idea seems to be written deep inside of us. Injustice and suffering were simply not meant to be.
Tragedy would not seem tragic to us unless somehow we knew that life was supposed to be different. Injustice would not exist unless there was some kind of unspoken universal law that everyone should adhere to.
After all, we cannot talk about “crooked” if we do not have some idea of “straight.” We cannot be homesick if we have no home. We cannot be disappointed or frustrated unless we are convinced something better should be taking place.
If there is a God who wrote his moral law in our hearts, and who created us to live in a perfect world that was somehow ruined in a tragic way, then our reactions make a lot of sense.
But if this material world is all humans have ever known, if this is “normal” and it has always been this way, then anger makes no sense at all. It’s like blowing our cool because autumn leaves turned color, or because the temperature dropped.
If an atheist acted according to his naturalistic worldview, he would see everything that goes on in this world as normal. He would not be getting angry at tragedy and injustice.
But he does.
It appears his heart knows something that his head doesn’t.
In a 2007 article (now in his website archives), atheist Richard Dawkins frowned upon those valuing faithfulness. In “Banishing the Green-Eyed Monster,” he asked, “Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity in the first place?” He says that we need to intellectually “rise above” the sexual jealousy that blind Darwinian evolution has produced in us and cheerfully permit our spouses to carry on any sexual recreation they choose to have outside the marriage bed. “Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others if he or she is that way inclined?” he asks. Dawkins is being completely consistent with his worldview by denying any objective sexual morality, even where marriage is concerned, so long as no one is harmed. (It remains unclear, however, why harming anyone or anything is objectively wrong in his view, where morality is nothing but an evolutionary social construct.)
My sense is that most self-described atheists, particularly those who are in happy marriages, have a deep-seated conviction that something is truly wrong with marital infidelity. As God’s image-bearers, the Truth of Things resonates strongly within their soul, and they know that spouses should be faithful. Just like they know, intuitively, that it is wrong to stab puppies with scissors for fun. The Apostle Paul talked about how even those who do not profess to follow God often still follow His law, for it is written on their hearts—“their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:15).
Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ. –Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
Science has been the iron wedge by which the secular has penetrated the realm of the sacred. Science has been the sharp scalpel with which our most cherished ideas about humanity have been subjected to dissection and doubt. Those who suggest that religion is the primary source of human conflict and bloodshed are not looking closely enough. If we examine the history of violence in modern times we will often find rationales rooted in science.
The idea that all human lives are sacred and of equal value is not a product of science. The sanctity of human life cannot be proven in a laboratory. When it comes to this most profound and foundational moral insight, we in the West have only one source: the Judeo-Christian tradition. This idea was first expressed in the Bible and it has survived throughout the centuries because of the ongoing authority of the Jewish and Christian faiths. If some of the Enlightenment thinkers later embraced and reiterated the concept, they cannot be credited with an immaculate intellectual conception. It was right there in the Bible most of them read.
The Judeo-Christian tradition has built a wall between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. It has placed man on a pedestal and put a crown on his head. Modern science, on the other hand, has consistently sought to tear down this wall and treat man as just another species of animal. Science has sought to take that crown off our heads—and measure the size of our skulls.
We are frequently warned these days about the great danger of religion expanding into fields where it does not belong. This concern is not without justification. There are areas of expertise, especially in the realm of science, where religion can contribute little. Religion cannot help us split the atom or map out our DNA. The Bible provides no clues that can help us cure cancer…
But we must also recognize that there exists an equal and possibly greater threat of science exceeding its proper boundaries. Especially when it comes to morality, science can confuse, but it rarely enlightens. Science can enable us to split the atom, but it cannot help us decide whether we are justified in using an atom bomb. Science can help us map out our DNA, but it cannot help us determine whether it is moral to clone humans. Science can help us cure cancer, but it cannot help us cope with cancer.
When science ventures beyond its core areas of competence into the area of morality, it often leaves corpses in its wake… With an air of authority to which they have no claim, scientists have called into question the key principles which protect humanity—especially the weakest among us—from annihilation. Before even grasping the danger, they could bring our whole ethical edifice crashing down. If religion does not belong in the science classroom, then it is equally true that science has no place in the ethics classroom. We need a wall of separation between science and morality every bit as much as we need on between church and state.
An ancient Hebrew songwriter coined a phrase: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
I think he was on to something.
We need something higher. A vantage point. Something above. Something that transcends us.
In a world where equality reigns, where everyone is in the same boat, on the same level, in the same mess, we are left without a clear reference point. We have no guiding star to show the way. We are without a North Pole to make our moral compass work. No clear guidelines. Just sameness.
We need a Rock that is higher.
If we develop and choose our own values, then what we put in with one hand, we are taking out with the other. We end up building on something no better, no higher than ourselves. Not a promising foundation.
Equality informs us that no one has the right to judge. We are all in the same soup. No one is qualified to say something is wrong or evil, or to suggest their opinion is the best. All ideas are equal—except, of course, the idea that one might be better than another.
If that’s the case, Mother Teresa and Hitler end up on the same level. Heaven and hell would no longer exist. If no one has the right to “judge,” then the Holocaust and hospitals are both equally valid. We have no solid basis to discriminate between killers and caregivers. We are left only with different options, opinions, and personal preferences. We have leveled the playing field, and now it’s all up for grabs.
We have become confused about gender. We don’t know how to differentiate between men and women, or how many variations there are in between. Everyone is free to make their choice from the gender smorgasbord. We don’t know which bathroom to use, or if we should say Mr, Mrs, Ms, or something else. We are at sea without a rudder.
How did we get into this mess?
We need something rocklike—something solid that doesn’t shift or quake with each passing fad. A strong foundation that is resilient and resistant to the changing winds that blow. Something fixed and unmovable.
We need something higher.
Maybe . . . it’s Someone higher that we need.
Someone to define which direction is up and which is down, how things are to work, how life is to be lived. That would sure help.
Maybe there is Someone.
Perhaps we lost our way because we lost sight of Him.
Maybe we need to join the Hebrew poet and said: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”