Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Who Decides?

I just received a DVD I am looking forward to watching with Mary Ann when we have an evening where we can sit and do so. As best as I understand it, it is produced by a homeschool family and the church the father pastors. It is called Friday at Noon and one of the quotes associated with the movie's promotions is from Fyodor Dostoyevski, and it says, "If there is no God, everything is permissible." My understanding is that the movie will use a fictional story to explore if atheists can call anything wrong.

I think it intrigues me so because at West Point, in my pre-Christian days, I concentrated in philosophy and once considered myself a moral relativist (I believed that what was right for some was right for some, and what was right for others was right for them). My enjoyment of academic intellectual arguments was rocked when a professor there (who I many years later found out to be a Christian) told me that if he really believed I was he would do all he could to have me kicked out of the academy. It was too dangerous to him to have someone preparing for an officer's position of leadership and authority who didn't recognize there are absolute rights and wrongs.

I think that my encounter with that professor (which I have written about that encounter and moral relativism before in this blog) rattled me so much because up until that time things like philosophy, religion, etc., were just intellectual things to have fun arguing. But his intensity and passion was new to me. He really believed it mattered and had consequence and wasn't just fun and games.

Later in my journey toward Christ the argument for absolute right and wrong was a strong factor in my conversion. I came to realize that at my core I had a strong sense of right and wrong—it was one of the things that led me to West Point and the military—and if I was honest I couldn't explain that, or defend it, without an appeal to authority in it . . . God.

Tonight I had fun with our girls at dinner. I asked them to explain to me why some things are right or wrong without appealing to God. Needless to say it was quite a conversation! Each time something was brought up as right or wrong I could simply ask, "Why?" and then not let them use God in their argument. As we talked back and forth they came to see that, without an absolute authority, there is no true right or wrong. Some might say it is defined by popular vote, or majority opinion, or the strongest, or ??? But the reality is that there is no way to say one person is more right than another, or one thing is more right or wrong than another, without some appeal to authority that is higher than them all. Even a country that decides right and wrong by votes on moral issues or laws can be overrun by a country with a stronger army that decides right or wrong on its own moral compass—and the invaded country has no basis to say that they are right and the invaders are wrong.

It is truly a scary thought when someone denies there is a God by Whom absolute right and wrong is defined. If they are consistent in their logic from that point on then they have entered a realm where anything goes, and they have no basis or standing or appeal to say someone is wrong, even if that someone intrudes on their rights or safety. It is, I believe, a powerful approach to witnessing because it is a very rare person who will not acknowledge that inside them they have a sense of right or wrong. To pursue where that comes from and if it is absolute or relative is a powerful door to begin to talk about God, being made in His image, and His transcendence over all.

So, sit back, pour yourself a good cup of coffee, gather some friends, and try and define absolute right and wrong without including God. It should be an eye opening time! I'd love to hear about it! Blessings, and thanks for reading. —Erick

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