Generation Cedar

Some of the comments from a recent post reminded me of a gripe I’ve had for awhile, though it’s a bit difficult to articulate.  Running rampant in this culture is a false, guilt-associated belief that it is wrong to claim to be right about anything.  I guess the core is humanism–believing that man decides what is right and wrong, and since every man is different, then every man determines right and wrong for himself, and if you say your way is right that flies in the face of every other person whose “right” is different from yours 😉

True, there are some things that are one person’s opinion/conviction of what is right.  Then there are absolutes from Scripture that determine truth across the board.

It has all been blurred.  In Christian circles, we aren’t even allowed to claim absolute truth as truth because of “offending someone” and/or “meddling”, or being unloving.  (Forget the fact that we are commanded to “teach, exhort, admonish and instruct one another”.)  And now any truth I don’t like can be easily discarded by claiming a different interpretation of Scripture.

But even on the issues that aren’t as black and white, aren’t we still creatures who should be discerning, searching and building our decisions based on what we believe to be right?  And if we aren’t allowed to believe that one thing is better than another (and talk about it), then what?  Aren’t we just floundering around?  Contrary to what the social engineers of our day want us to think, all things are NOT created equal.

It would be like saying, “I know that road is longer and has road construction and would be far more inconvenient than this other road, but I know you like the long road and I wouldn’t dream of hurting your feelings by suggesting that you try this shorter, more efficient road.”

In my opinion, NOT to share my perception of the “better road” is the unloving thing to do.

Daja, from In Other Words, posted this a while back and I think it is BRILLIANT!

Ponder the post…

In reading a pro-life debate on a blog recently, someone intended to put the pro-life activist in her place by saying something to the effect of “You’re just never wrong are you? You just think you’re always right?”

Why is that an insult to tell someone, “You think you’re right”? This is committing intellectual suicide! Well of course they think they are right and so do you and so do I! If you didn’t think you were right, then you don’t really have any belief system at all! I think it’s the kind of argument one adult gives to another when they’ve been backed into an intellectual corner. It’s akin to the kid on the playground who when he has nothing left to says says, “Really?! Well, I’m rubber and you’re glue….” or chants something like, “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider, girls go to Mars to get more candy bars!”

Ouch. That really hurts.

G.K. Chesterton sums up my feelings exactly (as he always seems to):

‘A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt–the Divine Reason….The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful of his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.

At any street corner we may meet a man who utters the frantic and blasphemous statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one, or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern skeptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.’             –Chesterton

And the way I figure it is that if something is worth believing it is also worth defending. And if you cannot defend it, argue it, or support it, for the sake of sanity–abandon it! And “I feel like….” is not a defense, an argument, or a support. Try again.”

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38 Responses

  1. So true. IF you haven’t read Chuck Colson’s “How Now Shall We Live,” you should, and you will love it. It will give you amazing strength and ammunition in defending your faith. Your blog, and everyone who reads it will benefit. It was one of those books, while reading, the scales fell off my eyes. I’ve been excited to watch the same thing happen to others who have read it. I am reading A W Tozer, another powerful read in “The Pursuit of God.” I have Chestertown on my list. We MUST be equipped and know how the persuasively defend our “rightness,” because there is such a thing as Absolute Truth, even though over 50 percent of Evangelicals will say there is no such thing. Frightening! We have a fight on our hands, but God will equip us, and we must fight!
    God bless you in your efforts to be a light in a dark world.

  2. Debbie,

    I LOVE The Pursuit of God–Tozer is one of my favorite. And the Colson book–I think I bought it for my Dad, but didn’t read it myself! It rings a loud bell…I love Shaeffer’s book as well–the title akin to Colson’s: “How Then Shall We Live”…I’ll have to round up that Colson book now!

  3. I’ve just gone through a bit of this with my family. They were condemning me for teaching my children that Jesus is the only way and that we should pray for those in our family who don’t share those beliefs. Sigh. No absolutes sure make God look awfully similar to false gods or no god at all. But our God is real, and He gave us a Son and a book to help us know Him and His will better.

  4. We Americans have elevated the notion of being unsure about everything to a very high place. Relativism is almost an official religion, and even those things tried and true have been sacrificed on its altar. The absurdity of expecting people not to passionately believe in anything for fear of being offensive. Who doesn’t believe in something that another person disagrees with? So we are to discard our convictions in response to every dissenting opinion?

    And if believers, who all claim to serve the same Savior and believe the same Bible, fail to agree on even the most basic doctrines of daily life, is it any wonder the church is viewed through skeptical eyes by the world?

    And if the Bible, that we claim is the definitive word of God, is open to interpretation based on each reader’s understanding, lifestyle, and comfort level, how can we claim it is then the definitve word of God? We can’t. The truth is, most don’t, even those who would say they do.

    The American church reminds me very much of the southern Kingdom of Judah during the time that Jeremiah prophesied. Every one running to the prophet (pastor/teacher) who says what they want to hear. It is very unnerving, Kelly, this phenomenom you speak of, to say the least.

  5. I am often quiet when I know I shouldn’t be. That I think is worse than being wrong.

    I was in a book study once with a group of women who held a variety of “interpretive” opinions, many not based in the Bible as the ultimate authority. I spoke up on a point that was borderline blasphemous – and I think that term gets thrown around in an almost abusive manner in order to strongarm rather than to educate, so I don’t use it lightly – and was told that I was being “un-Christian” – I wasn’t allowing people to feel “safe” and the word blasphemy was too harsh. You would have thought I had stood up hollering, waving the Bible around and pointed brimstone lightening bolts at them. The woman who’s comment I had commented on didn’t speak to me for the rest of the study, in fact made certain I heard her saying childish things about how “fundamentalist” some of the study members were – it was like jr high, I could barely believe it. These were grown women, who count themselves as “feminists” and Christians.

    Anyway, the point of this long story was that I let that single incident stop me from being my usual vocal self with regard to the separating of fact from fiction, Biblical truths from the false “spiritual” teachings that tend to bridge into my particular Protestant denomination. I was more worried about what that gal thought,someone who’s name I couldn’t tell you now if I had to, than about what God thought.

    My husband gave me really good advice, from his unique perspective – he was saved as an adult, after we were married, and his committment to Christ is astonishing in it’s depth –

    1) if you know you’re right – based on fact and study and independent confirmation (can you tell he’s in law?) – stand by your statement and don’t worry about what anybody thinks

    2) don’t argue with a Pharisee – you can be right all day long, but unless you’re just doing it for target practice, save your breath. Pray for them sure, but they can’t hear you. It’s a trap.

    Thanks for the pep talk Kelly, it’s a good one.

  6. I love me some Chesterton 🙂 The quote Daja gave is from his book “Orthodoxy” if anyone is interested in reading the whole context. It’s great stuff, but a little dense–though the book itself is short.

    This hit a chord with me today, Kelly. I’ve been getting some flack about a post that got published at LAF this past week. In fact, all but one commenter on it has written in to basically tell me what you’re talking about here, that I have no call to claim that I’m right and to want other people to be held to a standard. (The post was against no-fault divorce–how’s that for some controversial material.)

    The thing I find the most interesting is that those who get so worked up over someone defending an absolute truth or claiming to be right is that they all seem to think we are very bitter, unhappy, unfulfilled people??? Why is that? The only connection I can make is that most people think if we are certain of something it means we are narrow-minded which in turn must lead to a leap of logic that we are also mean, angry, bitter, dysfunctional, repressed people? *sigh*

    On with the good fight, I suppose 🙂

  7. Bethany,

    I feel your pain! (Welcome to my world :-/) From time to time I get some AMAZING comments (that I usually don’t publish for their vitriol) about “how sorry someone feels for me” you know, with all my obvious bitterness and unhappiness, and how cruel a picture of God I paint, blah, blah…

    I don’t understand it either, except that at the core of humanity is a rebellion against submission to anything, even blaring truth that God has given for our good.

    Great article you wrote, BTW 😉

  8. But you don’t know! You haven’t been to Heaven yet, have you? 🙂 So you can’t know. That’s just empirical fact. For me, this is not a “blaring truth.” You want your truth to be mine, but it isn’t.

    That’s what you can’t understand.

    Hitler was sure he was right. Bloody Mary thought that God ordered her to burn Protestants at the stake to save them. See what I mean?

  9. Katie,

    There is no question that some areas are more *gray* than others, and some are left to conviction, etc…I haven’t denied that. But I’m afraid that you are wrong about “you can’t know”. Scripture refutes that idea from start to finish. There ARE some truths that are blaring, it’s just that we don’t always want to see them.

  10. Kelly, I think you are right to point out a trend where some people won’t take any position on anything out of a misguided relativism. In my observation, this is often true of young people, people who really haven’t thought the matter through, or people looking for a cop out during a tough argument. They are so open-minded, their brains have fallen out!

    I am a humanist and I think we CAN know a lot of things. We can look at physical evidence (and apply the scientific method) to learn about the physical world. We can look at moral issues and apply reason to them by figuring out which moral propositions will reduce suffering and cruelty. Through this method, we can conclude that certain things are morally wrong.

    So I think humanists and Christians can agree in rejecting the mushy relativism of the young and the ignorant. But where we part company is what we believe the truth to be, and what we believe are appropriate sources of knowledge about the truth.

  11. Katie,

    From your own comment, it seems that you do believe in moral absolutism: You seem to imply that Hitler and Bloody Mary were both empirically wrong in their actions to take human life. If someone told you that they thought Hitler or Bloody Mary was “right”, would you shrug and say, “Well, my ‘right’ is different than your ‘right’,” Or would you say, “No, they were absolutely wrong and this is why…”? Just curious.

    I think you would say that the evil of Adolf Hitler was a blaring truth. How does this differ from the “blaring truths” that Kelly is speaking about? I’m honestly curious.

  12. You touch upon the fact that Christians who state their beliefs about right and wrong are sometimes criticized for being offensive and meddlesome. But I am not sure you are being criticized merely for saying that someone is wrong. It is the CONTENT of what you are saying that is being criticized.

    For example, some Christians say that homosexuality is morally wrong because it says so in the Bible and that therefore, gay relationships should not be legally or socially sanctioned in any way. And then a lot of us liberals turn around and say the Christian attitude about homosexuality is morally wrong. But we are NOT criticizing the Christians for taking a moral position. We are criticizing them because we believe this attitude about homosexuality inflicts needless cruelty and isolation on peaceful individuals who are causing no harm. It is not that taking a moral position is bad — we ourselves are taking a moral position in condemning Christianity in this regard. It is the CONTENT of the Christian position to which we object.

    Another point (and maybe this goes without saying) is that context matters. I think it is okay to tell someone she is wrong in a political debate or on an internet site designed to discuss these ideas or to prevent her from harming someone. But I would not generally tell my co-worker or a social acquaintance that I disapprove of her moral views. I might choose not to socialize with that person more than necessary but I wouldn’t go out of my way to challenge her thinking unless somehow we became very close.

  13. Elizabeth,

    Your points are exactly why I’ve tried to distinguish my blog as a blog for Christian women, and have often (although it’s hard!) declined from debating with non-Christians.

    See, your points make perfect sense apart from my Christian world-view. I’m sure I would hold the same position if my truth were not rooted in my Christian faith.

    Therefore, there is no possible way to even discuss these issues–Christians with non-Christians, because it can never make sense, nor can any conclusion be reached when we’re coming from two different world views.

    My truth is based on what I believe God has said through His Word and how I have seen that truth revealed through time, not on what my heart and/or feelings say. If you don’t believe in God or His inerrant truth, there is no point in discussing the matter.

  14. Elizabeth,
    I’m going to assume that as a humanist, you reject the God of the Bible. (Please correct me if I am wrong).

    So, my comment & question to you is this:
    You state that you believe that there ARE indeed “things, truths, morals, empericals” that are DEFINITE. You state that we use “reason” to determine which morals are right or wrong based on if they reduce suffering, etc.

    Where does our DESIRE to REASON to reduce pain and suffering come from? And, why do some people posess it (you, me, Kelly) and some people don’t (Hitler, Stalin, etc.)? And….who decides if reducing pain and suffering is actually a worth-while, morally correct endeavor?

  15. Just a note: Amy Jo, don’t always worry if a comment doesn’t show up at first. This has happened to me three times or so, and it’s always just been a delay 🙂

  16. My issue isn’t that I dont agree with some absolute truth. But not everyone is going to see TRUTH all the same. We are human and imperfect. We are constantly undergoing change. If everyone here knows all the absolute truth they need to know, what other truth is there to learn or grow into? I have more truth revealed to me as I walk through life, and more fallacies unravel this way too.

    Truth isnt what is argumentable here. Its WHOSE truth. Yours, mine? None of us line up with Gods perfect truth, so when we say we have it in entirety, we lie to ourselves. Learning truth and wisdom is a lifelong process.

    So, I agree you have your truth, and I have mine. You say yours is Gods truth, I say mine is (though I say I have room for error, being imperfect). See the problem?

    I am sure I will be accused of relativism, but arent you committing the same crime when you claim you know the truth? And then you tell everyone else their ‘truth’ is faulty, humanistic, relative. It sounds like an easy out. Because to some of us whose truth is different, we see you as relativist…..meaning truth as you understand it= Gods truth. And everyone else is erroneous.

    I think what Elizabeth the Humanist revealed is that pride keeps us from truth. I am careful to not think I know all truth or else I fall into pride, being unteachable. While having some elements of truth to lean on, remaining open to more truth is not equivalent to Satan himself. We live, we learn. I read James one day, and three years later read it again and BOOM! something NEW is revealed. This IS what the bible is supposed to do for us, no?

  17. I love this quote: “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt–the Divine Reason” Wrote it down and put it on my fridge.

  18. I totally agree with this post! Way to go Kelly! I have had these same thoughts for years. It seems to fit in with everyone (even in church) then you are suppose to be accepting of everything and that is just not what the Bible teaches. You are either a Christian following God and his Bible or you are not.

  19. Kelly, I read “How Should We Then Live” by Frances Schaeffer too. Excellent history of how we moved away from God over the centuries and decades. I was an Art major, and could see how the process affected the arts.

    About “tolerance,” the virtue held above all others in today’s secular, multicultural society, I have a quote to share, from Dorothy Sayers:
    “In the world it calls itself Tolerance, but in Hell it is called Despair. It is the accomplice of the other sins and their worst punishment. It is the sin which believes nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”

  20. The Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God and it has stood the test of time and it will stand even when the earth has crumbled–I will plant my feet on its firm foundation. There is no use in arguing with the truths presented in the Bible. Anyone who does is simply trying to pacify a troubled conscience. God said it, I believe it and that settles it for me.

  21. LOL! I have the same thoughts all the time.
    People are also led to believe that feeling bad is….bad, these days.
    It’s not. If you did something wrong or made a wrong decision, you SHOULD feel badly or regretful. I’m not saying you should dwell on it or fall into a deep pit of despair or anything. 😉

    It does get hairy, because we all announce to the world, via our decisions, what we feel is “best.” And it is obvious then that anyone else who has not made the same choice is NOT doing what is “best.” LOL. I guess the problem comes in when we care too much about what others are doing.

  22. Years ago in college I did an independant writing study with a very liberal professor. He asked me to write a paper on thinking “outside the box” (he knew I was a Christian). He was actually speechless when I gave him the paper. He had never thought in the way I did and he admitted he had no choice but to give me an A because he I made HIM think. In my paper I explained that people can’t “think outside the box” without jumping into someone elses box. If I left what I knew was truth and tried to view things more “objectively” I would in fact be viewing it from someone elses “narrow” viewpoint. Oh boy, it’s been 10 years since I’ve written it and I am doing a bad job of explaining it! The jist of it though is that there IS such a thing as TRUTH and by defending it we are not being “narrow minded” or not “objective” but instead grounded and not wishy washy.

  23. Since we are not here just to be in a bubble with other like-minded Christians, but to be examples of the love and truth of Jesus to those who believe AND to those who do not, I think there’s one element that may be missing in this converstion.

    I believe the Bible is the Word of God; I try to live it in my daily thoughts, life, and actions. I also share His love and Truth verbally with others. But let us remember that if we are to be true example of His love and Truth, and thus win some who do not yet believe or know Him personally (and maybe never will, or maybe will—who are we to know that?), I believe we should deliver these in a loving way. And one thing that can stand in the way of a loving presentation is self-righteousness, to which most of us who strongly believe in anything (Christians, humanists, secularists, etc. alike) are prone.

    Even a person who reviles God was created in His image and likeness, and Jesus loves that person. So if I show sincere love and humility (which is very akin to love) when I share my views with him or her, then I’m closer to being like Jesus and more likely to have either successfully planted a seed which may later come to fruition in his life, or watered one which someone else (or Jesus Himself!) planted earlier.

    Please, my intention is not to criticize here, but to add what I think is a vital element to the dialogue.

  24. “Friedrich Nietzsche, The Parable of the Madman (1882)…”

    A humanist, nihilist and atheist philosopher struggles with the “death of God”. I suggest you read his parable, he was one of the most influential philosophers of the 19th century. I find he was one of the most honest ones too which I think you will find evident in his parable. Nietzsche struggle is that once you have “killed God”, you have killed objective truth “the anchor”, “the sun” so therefore men must become as god, then they have the power to determine what is truth; who and what you are (pure humanism). Apart from God, these “objective truths” are impossible to obtain as NO consensus will or can agree on truth. If find it funny that an atheist or humanist can even use the words “wrong” “evil” or “moral”, they have no “anchor” to determine which is such. As you put it Kelly, they blurred the lines, or as Nietzsche puts it “Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?”

    The humanist would have you believe that humanity, through science, reasoning, AND often left out of discussion, the collective values of a society for determining moral issues of right and wrong. However, that is relative truth, for instance; in our culture we invite our neighbors over for dinner, in other cultures they EAT their neighbors for dinner. Who has the moral high ground? In the US, we would find that morally repugnant. Apart from objective truth, we in our superior scientific intellect over the cannibals, we could argue many reasons why its ok to eat your neighbors, even down to discussing the dietary needs of the human and how human tissue can supply those needs. That argument is both reasoned well enough through science, our society can now say, “we understand why they eat their neighbors – we don’t do it, but they can” (you know they don’t have cattle to raise)

    I will give another short IE. Hitler believed the final solution to be for the greater good of human kind. He wanted to push the hands of evolution to bring about the master race through a “forced natural selection”. Extermination of inferior genetics and the breeding camps for humans with “superior genetics”. This was the moral thing to do. Hitler came about by this through, reasoning of the naturalist, the humanist, atheist and the nihilistic philosophers in the halls of academia. The sciences of eugenics, evolution, and natural selection. The collective moral sentiment that there where inferior races that could be exterminated for benefit of future humanity.

    Apart from GOD, no objective truth can be made, and anything can be justified and made “moral”.

    I guess for the atheist and the humanist, they need to determine for them selves if man CAN live with out GOD.

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