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July 20, 2004

On better morality

It can be interesting to read secularist comments with regards to what they consider to be the relativistic nature of morality. It’s interesting because, try as they might, they can never get away from affirming the ultimate nature of morality. Take Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars and his post The WorldNutDaily on Morality.  In the aforementioned post he takes WorldNetDaily’s Mychal Massie to task for his article titled Morality Doesn’t Evolve.   To illustrate why he thinks that morality does evolve Ed uses a couple of examples from the Bible that have to do with slavery and war. After quoting Leviticus 25:44-46; Exodus 21:20-21; 1 Timothy 6:1-5; and Ephesians 6:5-6, Ed states, “Clearly, our morality today is far advanced from biblical morality in regard to slavery.” With regards to war he quotes Numbers 31:14-18, and then states, “Under modern laws of war, this is the absolute height of savagery.”   The seriousness of this topic is revealed as he conlcudes by stating:

By the way, this issue is probably the single biggest thing that led me to leave Christianity so many years ago. I realized that if someone today said that God had told them many of the things that the authors of the bible attributed to God, we would quite literally consider them insane. If a Hitler or Stalin claimed that God told them that it was okay to kill everyone in a neighboring country except the virgin women, to be taken as the spoils of war, we would consider that to be the very essence of insanity and savagery. Yet when Moses makes that same claim, no one blinks at it. Well, I blinked. I do not for a moment believe that God would command anyone to do something so clearly barbaric, not today, not yesterday and not ever. And no one, not even the staunchest fundamentalist, would disagree with me if it happened today. But they won't apply the same standards to biblical events and figures. At any rate, it should be clear to all but the most blinded that in regard to these two issues, slavery and war, our modern moral standards are entirely opposed, and infinitely superior, to biblical moral standards.

  It is not my intent to address the theological questions that Ed raises in this post. There are certainly other bloggers more capable of addressing how the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants relate to the Davidic and New Covenants (e.g., Mark Roberts, Jollyblogger, and Wheat & Chaff); as well as resources addressing the differences between culturally specific legal guidelines and universally applicable commandments (e.g., What We Can’t Not Know).   What I’d like to address is the thought that Ed expresses in his last sentence: “…our modern moral standards are entirely opposed, and infinitely superior, to biblical moral standards.” In fact, he prefaces his quotes from the Bible with the same thought, “Not only has our morality "evolved" since biblical days, it has evolved for the better.” Did you catch it? – it has evolved for the better.   For anyone to claim that one form of morality is better than another presupposes some separate standard with which to compare the two. Regardless of whether a secularist wants to admit it, he is, in effect, appealing to a higher standard that all "forms" of morality must answer to.   This leaves the atheistic naturalist in a sticky predicament, for if nature is all there is, and morality has any authority at all, then where did it come from? The logical conclusion is that morality is, in reality, an illusion – some sort of sick joke that humanity has fallen for. For a mere naturalist (i.e., not necessarily an atheist), the issue is partly resolved through deism. Yet even the deist is left wondering how (and if) an impersonal deity interacts with human morality. A non-interacting deity might as well be a non-existent deity; and the implications of an interacting, authoritative deity seem to be self-defeating for the concept of deism itself.   If morality is relative and can change over time, then who’s to say that one version is better than another? Yet, if we can understand that one application of morality is not only better than another, but that certain moral principles apply to all people at all times, we had better well understand that we aren’t in charge.   Postscript: For another look at how morality seems to be “evolving,” check Joe Carter’s post The Negation of Love: Abortion and the “Culture of Me,” in which he highlights how twisted views of morality have resulted in pre-abortion women writing “love” letters to their soon-to-be-killed unborn children. One chilling example is,

For my little angel: Although I say goodbye to you today, you will always be in my mind, heart, and soul. Please understand that this wasn’t your time because you are better off in the hands of God than mine at this moment. My own creation, you are and forever will be beautiful and pure. I smile when I think of you, even if I cry. You have given me reason to be strong and wise and responsible. You will always be my baby. I will see you in heaven, sweetheart. I LOVE YOU! Always and unconditionally, Your Mommy.

  Please read the comments section at Joe’s post as well for insight into how our 21st century culture attempts to rationalize such letters.   Also, check the Touchstone article Her Mother's Glory, by Robert Hart, in which he discusses the connection between his giving his adopted daughter away at her wedding and a victim of rape, left pregnant by the rapist.

July 19, 2004

But it makes the point

In church yesterday, our interim pastor used a story as an illustration for the closing of his sermon. Now this is a typical tactic for just about any public speaker - highlight your point(s) by using a story that the audience can relate to. But I got a bit uneasy when, after he started the story, I realized I had heard a different version of it years ago.   Here's the story (attributed to a Randy Walker): 

In 1967 while taking a class in photography at the University of Cincinnati, I became acquainted with a young man named Charles Murray who also was a student at the school and training for the summer Olympics of 1968 as a high diver. Charles was very patient with me as I would speak to him for hours about Jesus Christ and how He had saved me. Charles was not raised in a home that attended any kind of church, so all that I had to tell him was a fascination to him. He even began to ask questions about forgiveness of sin.

Finally the day came that I put a question to him. I asked if he realized his own need of a redeemer and if he was ready to trust Christ as his own Saviour. I saw his countenance fall and the guilt in his face. But his reply was a strong "no."

In the days that followed he was quiet and often I felt that he was avoiding me, until I got a phone call and it was Charles. He wanted to know where to look in the New Testament for some verses that I had given him about salvation. I gave him the reference to several passages and asked if I could meet with him. He declined my offer and thanked me for the scripture. I could tell that he was greatly troubled, but I did not know where he was or how to help him.

Because he was training for the Olympic games, Charles had special privileges at the University pool facilities. Some time between 10:30 and 11:00 that evening he decided to go swim and practice a few dives. It was a clear night in October and the moon was big and bright. The University pool was housed under a ceiling of glass panes so the moon shone bright across the top of the wall in the pool area. Charles climbed to the highest platform to take his first dive. At that moment the Spirit of God began to convict him of his sins. All the scripture he had read, all the occasions of witnessing to him about Christ flooded his mind. He stood on the platform backwards to make his dive, spread his arms to gather his balance, looked up to the wall and saw his own shadow caused by the light of the moon. It was the shape of a cross. He could bear the burden of his sin no longer. His heart broke and he sat down on the platform and asked God to forgive him and save him. He trusted Jesus Christ twenty some feet in the air.

Suddenly, the lights in the pool area came on. The attendant had come in to check the pool. As Charles looked down from his platform he saw an empty pool which had been drained for repairs. He had almost plummeted to his death, but the cross had stopped him from disaster.

I remember hearing the same story as a youth, except the main player (the hapless diver) was a rich executive who had returned home early from a business trip. He decides to dive into his pool and experiences the same fate as the aforementioned Chuck Murray.   According to the Urban Legends Reference Page, the University of Cincinnati had two Charles Murray's enrolled in the 1960s, but neither of them were at the school in 1967 and neither of them were divers. Also from Urban Legends,

You have to wonder about a university that would grant one of their top athletes -- a guy who's in training for the Olympics -- special pool privileges, then close their pool for repairs and drain it, without even notifying him about their plans.

...you have to wonder about a diver who walks around a pool, climbs up a ladder to a diving platform, and stands overlooking the pool in a building "under a ceiling of glass panes" on a night when "the moon was big and bright" yet didn't once notice the absence of light reflecting from where the water should have been. And you really have to wonder about an experienced diver who plunges into a darkened pool from a high-dive platform without having first checked the water to ensure that there are no objects (such as people) in his landing area.

You've also got to wonder why a diver of Olympic stature isn't concerned about noting the surface of the water - remember that little stream of water that is constantly sprayed onto the surface, creating ripples, in order to give the diver a point of reference?   Now I'm not faulting our interim pastor... he most surely received the story thinking it to be true. Yet a little bit of research can help verify accounts and / or claims that, on the surface, seem a bit too contrived.   Still, what concerns me is just how many people in the congregation, if told about the story's lack of authenticity, would care? Would they be more concerned with whether the story helps make the point the pastor is delivering, or would they think that the story's veracity is more important?   Would people accept the story, simply because it made them feel better?

July 15, 2004

Are the pics working?

I'm having trouble confirming whether or not my 1978 / 2004 pics, as well as the two pics from my recent vacation, are showing up properly on the blog.   If they aren't showing up, can someone explain why?   Thanks.    

The weekly "Who Cares?" award

It's barely been a day since the announcement that Shaq is leaving the Lakers and I am thoroughly sick of the story.

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