Monday, August 30, 2010

Good News and Bad News

Christianity tells us two things about who we are. It tells us we are very good ontologically speaking. We are created by God. That means our life has a purpose and a dignity beyond what we can realize. Not just our life but every human life. Made in God's image. Children of God. Jesus being willing to give up His life for us. These are very deep truths that would revolutionize our lives if we understood them.

But then there is the bad news. That we are very bad morally speaking. That sin has effected us so much that even what we feel is good is filthy rags in the eyes of God. Again we have trouble digesting it. We know we are not perfect but we don't really get how bad our sins are and how many of them we commit. We make so many excuses. We compare ourselves to others rather than comparing ourselves to God.

Modern man has things exactly backwards. They look at evolution and arrive at a very low view of man. Because we can explain to some degree where man's physical nature comes from we assume that must be the whole story. It isn't. It is just the part of the story science can investigate. But the thinking leads to a view of man as an animal that has learned a few tricks. That the desire for love, goodness, beauty, truth and meaning are just artifacts of evolution and not pointers to our greater purpose. So modern man believes we are ontologically bad. That our inherent worth is merely in our own minds.

When it comes to morals the story changes. Then modern man declares himself to be good. Why not? We have gotten very good at affirming and encouraging. We want people to believe in themselves. Believe what? Not that you are just an animal that has acquired delusions of dignity through an evolutionary accident. You need to believe you are good. Suppress that conscience of yours that convicts you of so many moral crimes.

But people are not fools. If everyone is affirmed in their goodness then the questions get asked. Good in relation to what? Who says what is good and what is bad? If survival of the fittest is the central principle of existence then how do I know I am one of the fittest? What if I am defective in some way? Why should I believe in myself then?

The religion of assumed moral goodness crashes because humans cannot believe things just because they are beneficial. They need to honestly think it is really true. To just tell people they are good, beautiful, valuable, etc. without any justification behind it simply does not fly. People know they are broken. They see their sin. Not fully and honestly but they see it. They also see their human weaknesses. They see they don't measure up when compared to other people. Affirmation that simple ignores this data won't last. People will feel good until their next failure.

This is where the gospel is so beautiful. It takes sin, suffering, and failure very seriously. By affirming only what can be affirmed truthfully that puts their self esteem on solid ground. It also calls them to meet the challenge of improving themselves and improving the world. You are good but you can be better and this is how. That is a much more positive message than you are good even if you spend all you time on porn and video games. 

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