That tension between faith and unbelief? It’s an ancient conflict.
Whether you look at Neitzsche, with his “God is Dead” reference (and implications) or the temptation in Eden, it’s the same dilemma. Shall we accept, and trust God, and his Word, or do we reject him, and assume for ourselves the mantle of god?
We all know the popular answer, don’t we? Defiance. “You shall be as gods!” “You’re not the boss of me!” Or even Milton’s (theologically flawed) quote: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n!”
In the real world, what are the implications of either response?
As for belief in the Christian God, there are only four possible combinations.
1) Christ really is God, and we trust him.
2) Christ really is God and we reject him (anyway).
3) Christ isn’t really divine, and we trust him (anyway).
4) Christ isn’t really divine, and we reject him.
Look for a moment at the first and fourth examples, compared to the second and third. What do you see? One and four have the beliefs that correspond to real facts, where two and three are examples of lives lived with a belief at odds with reality.
Do you notice how both belief and unbelief are capable of that mistake? Religion or irreligion cannot be called reasonable until you have answered the first half of the question. Reality exists whether we like it or not. The important question will be whether we line up with it.
Options two and three are foolish, for their own reasons. Both embrace a lie; or to use a popular term, of a delusion. Calling out to a God who isn’t there, or calling yourself God — if He is and you aren’t — both deny reality.
Option one should be pretty self-explanatory. If God is actually good, and wise, then living within the moral boundaries he’s established will be the most rational response to that Goodness and Wisdom.
Option four is popular and may seem harmless. It claims you set your own rules.
If you were the only person on the planet, that might be (nearly) harmless, but you are not. Here’s the twi st. Being a law to yourself appeals to many. But that same appealing feature is also its weakness. Even prominent atheists have admitted that atheism cannot define “good” or “evil” as objective terms, only subjective preferences. The reason? they have no Lawgiver, no final, third-party reference-point for right and wrong.
For some, that doesn’t seem like a problem.
If you and your neighbor agree that something is good, no problem. If you both agree that it’s wrong, and won’t do it… no problem. If you disagree on whether it’s right or wrong, OR if someone who admits it’s wrong is willing to do it anyway, that “not the boss of me” system begins to break down.
Sex is one area where setting your own rules is making the news. It could be paraphrased as: “Who are you to tell me when, with whom, or with how many I can have sex?” Isn’t that the objection driving, for example, the “gaystapo”?
Let’s see where making your own rules takes us. Since we’re on the topic of sex, what happens if you apply that approach consistently? Whether you hit the nudie bar (or not), sleep around (or not) is your own business, right? Maybe one day you find The One; maybe even settle down and get hitched.
Suppose you later find out that “The One” and your buddy meet behind your back at some no-tell motel every week?
Are you feeling angry? Betrayed? Not so fast. Why should you be upset? They’re doing exactly what they want to do. Why judge them? Stop making rules about sex that someone else is supposed to follow, nobody made you god over them. (Do you see how feeling even legitimately betrayed directly conflicts with libertine freedom?)
Let’s try another one. Many people think lying is ok. Are they right? Is lying ok for your taxes? Or for ducking out of legal obligations? Suppose your employer (or client) thought that about your paycheck… and tried not paying you for your work. Or suppose that child support payment doesn’t come in? What then? Those two values are now in conflict. Why should they have to pay you if lying is ok?
Even societal morals only work because people generally abide by them. Once a critical mass of people figure out that they don’t HAVE to play by the rules, lawlessness and corruption run rampant. Power and ruthlessness become more important currencies than skill, character and merit.
Formerly civilized parts of the world, where people have given up on rule of law, can devolve into war zones. Sometimes it happens in neighborhoods, and those kinds of neighborhoods are more about “surviving” than living well. Sometimes those conditions are only one natural disaster away.
The real problem with option #4 is it only works if most people live as though it were false. Why? Because nobody has actual power to tell you what was right or wrong, morality (even a simple “do no harm” definition) is really only a preference, like ice cream flavours.
Love your neighbor or eat your neighbor… really, what’s the difference?
Are we gods, or are we God’s? However you answer that question, there are real-world implications, so take time to see that your answer agrees with reality.
Image:Courtesy of: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/85678/does-the-sentence-im-on-my-knees-mean-im-down-or-im-sad