Aristotle stated that “the worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” I believe the great philosopher was on to something.
Equality is not a “one size fits all” proposition. “Nuts” and “bolts” are equally metallic—but they are not equal. “Straight” and “curved” are both shapes—but they are not equal. “Three” and “seven” are both numerals—but they are not equal. To speak of these things being “equal” is not particularly helpful. To enforce equality where it doesn’t exist is not only wrong but pernicious.
The voices that cry for equality are numerous. I think it’s time to rediscover the virtues of inequality—and to celebrate it.
We need to applaud the fact that humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes: tall, short, plump, and thin. We do not have the same interests, aspirations, and dreams. We are of differing intelligence, appearance, creativity, and abilities.
Science clearly affirms that our genders are different. We are equal in dignity and worth, but this does not mean equivalency or alikeness. We are not interchangeable. Men and women are profoundly and marvelously different in a multitude of ways. We are not equally beautiful, tender, sensitive, intuitive, or strong. We are gloriously diverse.
We have different inclinations and strengths. Men are better suited to making houses, women do better at making homes. Engineering appeals more to men, and nursing is more attractive to women. That’s fine. Why try to force equality where there’s diversity? We need to accept the fact that we are not all equally good at the same things. There is contrast and complementarity. And it is beautiful.
A world of total equality would be insipid and dreary. To reduce everything to sameness, to eliminate contrast, to do away with difference is to get rid of that which makes life fascinating, exciting, and challenging. It turns everything gray. It all becomes bland.
True equality is about the dignity and worth of each person. It is not about sameness, identicalness, or interchangeability. When equality denies diversity it becomes absurdity.
It foolishly attempts to make unequal things equal.
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.
Sometimes people in the faith community are accused of attacking science. To do so would be the height of foolishness. No person of reasonable intelligence would question the value of science. Problems arise, however, when science overreaches itself. What should be requested is for science to remain scientific.
Would it not go against all logic to ask a plumber to check our cholesterol level, or to request that the gardener tune the piano? These people are skilled in a particular field, and they would do well to operate within that field. Likewise, science functions best when it stays within its prescribed domain. Science is equipped to analyze natural phenomenon but is not in a position to address any others, or to pontificate that other causes could not possibly exist.
Science is capable of telling us how things can be done, but it cannot tell us what ought to be done. To expect science to answer philosophical questions is to go to the wrong place for answers. To mix science with philosophy is to confuse them both.
“It is our mistake to ask science to do something it can’t,” admitted Iain McGilchrist. “It’s like expecting your iPod to tell you whether you are in love.”
Christianity is not at odds with science. It has trouble with science that has become religious and has ceased to be aware of its limitations. Science answers a lot of questions, but to expect it to answer them all is not only an impossibility, it is also an absurdity.
Travel back in your mind for a moment to the beginning of time, before Creation, and imagine a God who is not a Trinity: a solitary, all-powerful, self-sufficient Supreme Being. He relates to no one, answers to no one, speaks to no one. He is independent and alone, living in secluded splendor.
His thoughts do not go beyond Himself, because He is all there is. He knows nothing of relationships, dialogue, intimacy, love, friendship, serving, or giving. He has no need to practice consideration, patience, respect, generosity, self-sacrifice, compassion, or kindness. He takes no one else into account, because no one else is there. His existence revolves entirely around Himself.
If such a God were to create a universe, would He make a world of people where it’s all about family, community, and relationships? Would He come up with the idea of something called marriage, where two lives merge and live together as one? Would He establish love as the supreme virtue?
It is highly improbable.
Would He give us the capacity for humor and enjoyment and laughter?
Would it ever occur to Him to become human and to share His glory with us?
It would never cross His mind.
If the Solitary Deity had created us it would be to obtain service and worship. It would be all about His supremacy and our subservience; He would be king and we would be servants. It is not people and relationships that would interest Him but compliance. This God would demand that we bow and obey—you get with the program or you’re in big trouble.
That’s the kind of universe we would expect from the all-powerful Unaccompanied Boss.
You end up with a heavenly Hitler.
But … what if this God were actually a Trinity: a community of love and goodness and creativity and joy? What if this Divine Being were made up of a Father and a Son who love each other with eternal passion in the abounding fellowship of the Spirit? His creative activity would be entirely different, would it not?
We would envisage such a God to make a world where people experience the joys of marriage and family and friendship, and where love is valued as supreme. A realm where there is joy and goodness and beauty and wonder. A planet of sunsets, strawberries, butterflies, waterfalls, roses, and hummingbirds.
Such a God would create people in His image in order to lavish upon them His love and goodness. And it would not be surprising that, if things went awry, He would respond in mercy and compassion, and, if necessary, act sacrificially to rescue His creation.
It is also conceivable that this Divine Community of love would go a step further and invite humans to be part of His family as sons and daughters.
A totally different scenario develops when we have a Father- Son-and-Spirit God, instead of a Celestial Caesar. The Trinity is more than just another item in the creed. It is bedrock truth about God that radically transforms the whole story.
The Solitary Deity ends up looking a whole lot like a Middle Eastern deity who rewards suicide bombers and terrorists with heaven.
The Triune God ends up looking like Jesus giving His life for His enemies on a cross.
This is the God Jesus made known to us—the stunningly beautiful God of overflowing love and joy, who is Father, Son, and Spirit.
–J. O. Schulz, What Jesus Wished People Knew About God
If Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, Christianity would not exist. A religious movement with a dead messiah would attract no followers. Who could possibly be persuaded to worship a crucified man as God?
If you wanted to know who was NOT the messiah, it was someone hanging on a Roman cross.
If Jesus had remained dead, his followers would have scattered to avoid arrest. They would not have had the courage or the desire to risk their lives to spread the gospel. And they never would have died a martyr’s death (as thousands have) for their beliefs.
Something very remarkable had to happen to turn the story around.
Something like a resurrection.
There is no logical explanation for the rise of the Christian faith without the physical resurrection of Jesus. Without an empty tomb, there would be no gospel. Without Easter, there would be no Christianity.
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.”
The question sometimes arises: “How could anyone be devoted to a narcissistic God who commands us to worship only him and to have no other gods before him? How could you revere someone who appears to be obsessed with his own validation and recognition?”
God—a narcissist? Nothing could be further from the truth. God is not self-centered—He is completely other-centered. That’s what it means when the Bible states that God is love. He is boundlessly selfless by definition. He is an endless outflow of goodness and blessing and beauty. “In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled,” points out C.S. Lewis, “only plenteousness that desires to give.” The ultimate proof is the cross where God’s Son laid down his life to redeem us.
We are commanded to worship God, not because He needs it—we are the ones who need it. We can no more do without God than a bird can fly without air, or a fish can swim without water. To worship God is to be centered in the center, it is to have things in focus, to get things right side up. It is what we were made for. It is to ascribe ultimate worth to the One who is the Highest and most worthy object of worship.
If we don’t worship God, we will find something else to worship. Surrogate gods come trooping in. We end up connecting our innermost need for unconditional love, significance, and security to lesser deities who cannot bear the weight of our expectations. Things like relationships, pleasure, achievement, and success are forced to take on divine status—and they can’t do the job.
Not only do the false gods fail to deliver, they bring a little bit of hell with them. They become tyrants, and the tyrants become slave masters. When we attribute ultimate worth to something less that the most High God, we degrade and debase ourselves. This leads to the multiple addictions and failures of human living. Not to worship the true God is blindness, it is slavery, it is death.
The infinite worthiness of God makes Him the only fitting object of adoration. No one is more deserving. Every other contender for our adoration is woefully inadequate. The perfection of God’s character and the wonder of His works in creating us and in giving His Son to redeem us vigorously call for our worship. If we don’t, the stones will cry out.
It is not narcissism that prompts God to command our worship. It is love. There is nothing is more ennobling, elevating, or enriching than to revere Him. There is nothing more fitting.
To worship Him is to come back to reality.
It is to come back to the source of freedom, joy, and life.