Many things in life consist of tedious balance. If one goes too far in one direction, there is the risk of developing an unhealthy extreme – too far in another direction, the risk of another unhealthy extreme. This is true within all realms of thought including the realm of religion and, of particular interest, Christianity. I offer this article (possibly running the risk of the unhealthy extreme of being too long) to encourage avoidance of three extremes and to offer a foundational focus that, I believe, will help us navigate the extremes. Actually, I offer this article to shed light on the pride that produces the three extremes in question.
To Be Reasonable or Not To Be Reasonable – That is the Question
The first extreme that will most assuredly produce unhealthy results is to dismiss God from life’s formula. This position is commonly known as atheism. However, there are many who claim to believe in God who, on the practical level, live as though He does not exist or, at least, has no pertinence to “real life.” Therefore, I would like to begin by emphasizing that it is more reasonable to believe in the existence of God than not to do so. To do this, I will rely upon the reasoning set forth by Francis Schaeffer in, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.
We can engage in two major approaches (arguments) toward discussing human existence and the existence of the universe in which we live. Either we claim that there are no logical, rational arguments, discussions or answers to offer, or we proceed by presenting arguments, having discussion and offering answers based on logical, rational thought. If one assumes the first (no logical, rational answers) – end of discussion. Of course, they must assume their suggestion is logical and rational. If one assumes the second (logical, rational answers), we face three important considerations.
Everything From Nothing
It could be, and has been, suggested that everything came from nothing. At one time, there was nothing but by way of a series of mysterious, catastrophic events something came into existence, which eventually resulted in what we currently observe as the universe of which we are a part. This approach is, to say the least, a stretch of imagination in the highest order, verging on an attempt at a logical, rational answer that is neither logical nor rational. We have no reason to assume and no evidence to produce the conclusion that nothing is capable of producing something. This, of course, assumes that the nothing we reference is actually NOTHING. Some careless representatives might assume nothing as the starting point asserting, “Once there was nothing and then there was a massive explosion…” When asked what exploded, it is stated that it was (insert the gas or matter of your choice). Of course, in order for such an explosion to occur, there must have been something, not nothing. This argument finds its way into an irrational attempt to be rational.
Everything From an Inanimate, Non-Intelligent, Impersonal, Eternal Something
Concluding that we cannot begin with nothing, we are “forced” to conclude that there was originally something and since this something cannot be the result of nothing the something must have been there the whole time or, in other words, it is eternal. It is often the case that those resisting the existence of God scoff at the idea of His eternality but whatever something they choose to begin with must also be eternal. With this, we can move to our second option, which is to begin with an inanimate, non-intelligent, impersonal, eternal something (inanimate gas or matter of some sort). If we are aiming to be as reasonable as possible, we must then consider how an impersonal, inanimate something is capable of producing, first, the regular, ordered complexity evidenced in the universe and second (and more importantly), we must ask where personal, animate, intelligent beings have come from.
Before moving to the third option, we must not underestimate the difficulty inherent in this premise. A reasonable amount of reflection on the issues of life resulting from non-life and person-ality resulting from the impersonal should lead us to be concerned that this foundational starting point does not provide the basis for answering very significant and appropriate questions about the universe in which we live. When considering the issue of life, we are not speaking of the most basic form of life as in single cell, amoral organisms that are incapable of personal relationship, love, choice-making, ingenuity, creativity, etc. (though even basic biological life is quite perplexing). As we consider the variety and complexity of life on planet earth, we should be overwhelmed with awe and dissatisfied with the shallow effort to ascribe this wonder to a theory of evolutionary process of which we lack solid evidence. Add to this the personal, moral component of human life, which many evolutionists and atheist would prefer to discard, and the complexity grows exponentially. Explaining reasoning capacities, creative imagination, love and the intricate relationship between mind, emotion, will and conscience with evolutionary theory is insufficient if not insulting, demeaning and foolish. I am “amused” when for the sake of appearing intellectual, a denier of God’s existence declares he / she cannot embrace the foolish ideas of a theist, creationist or proponent of intelligent design.
Everything from a Personal, Animate, Intelligent, Eternal Being
Our third option involves a perspective that agrees that there had to be something rather than nothing and that the something which was there was an eternal something. However, this something was not an impersonal, inanimate something, it was a personal, animate, intelligent, eternal being. Surely, an effort to understand the issue of origins is wrought with many questions and challenges. However, a perspective that reasonably reduces the amount of challenges we face is better than one that increases them. The major challenge of explaining how inanimate, impersonal, eternal gas / matter can produce animate personhood, including that myriad of fascinating mental (let alone biological) functions is overwhelming. The effort to ascribe the existence of such function to time and chance is insufficient and is such a mathematical improbability that the word “improbable” is inadequate.
Consequently, it is reasonable to state that maintaining a theistic worldview provides a better foundation upon which to offer answers for the major questions of origins and life.
This article aims to shed light on the issue of the pride of humanity but is not intended to answer deep philosophical questions. Therefore, as we consider the topic of atheism, the context just stated frames this consideration. Following is two aspects of atheism to be considered. One is Philosophical Atheism, and the other is Practical Atheism.
Philosophical Atheism is a worldview that presupposes the non-existence of a personal, animate, intelligent, eternal being. It should be emphasized that to hold this position in an affirmative manner, one must realize the enormous, if not impossible, task of proving the negative. In reference to declaring that there is no God, one must examine every possible option or location to establish this proposal in an affirmative manner. This is a task beyond the scope of human capacity. Philosophical atheism must always remain in the realm of theory; a theory that does not carry the weight of the most reasonable position. In a significant sense, the opening section of this article addresses the difficulties accompanying this philosophical presupposition. Therefore, though many claim this to be the preferred intellectual position, upon deeper reflection, one has very legitimate reasons to conclude quite the contrary. The question then becomes, “Why do many prefer this view?” I am going to make one very basic suggestion in this regard; by eliminating God, people feel justified in doing that which violates the moral standard that accompanies His existence. From my perspective, the effort to eliminate the sense of guilt by denying the existence of God will always prove to be a failed attempt as the reality of His presence and the law written on our hearts will eventually produce disturbance. Very often, those who take this approach “crack” unexplainably (from their perspective). Whether we like it or not, we are wired for truth, and the most foundational truth is that which is known about God (Ro.1:19). Whenever we deny truth, something within us begins to short-circuit.
Practical atheism is reflective of a statement found in the first epistle of the apostle John when he states, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1Jn.1:6). There are many people who believe in and verbally affirm the existence God, but their hearts are far from Him (Mt.15:8). The reality and presence of God have very little impact upon their character, their lives, their relationship and their choices. Often, such people are satisfied with a religious routine of some sort, finding a dimension of solace therein. However, there is no effect upon the way they approach being a husband / wife, mother / father (other than attempting to introduce their children to the same form of religious routine), doing finances, etc.
We are God (Humanism)
Atheism, philosophical or practical, lays the foundation for the second extreme position from which people approach life. It might be verbally stated or silently assumed but the extreme consists in living as though we (individually or collectively) are god. We (individually or collectively) decide what is right and what is wrong, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. Throughout history and in our current historical moment (increasingly so) we declare the “moral” boundaries according to our preferences, assuming there to be no greater moral standard to which we are bound. As we do so, we modify the law of the land to reflect this man-made moral framework. One should quickly recognize that this approach dismisses the eternal, animate, personal, intelligent, moral being who, in an eternal Trinitarian relationship, demonstrates and declares a proper moral parameter.
Indulge me as I offer an observation regarding elements of this moral disintegration. Considering Genesis 1:26-31, we first notice that God is the foundation of our self-worth as human beings. Unlike other parts of creation, were created in His image and likeness. Therefore, our value (self-worth) is significant but not greater than the value of the One who created us. Having removed God, we have assigned ultimate value to ourselves. Eliminate God and our value structure, in general, becomes arbitrary and confused. Two aspects of human design are immediately stated in the passage referenced above. One is the fact that we were designed to rule and the other is the fact that there are two genders, male and female. Both are early casualties when humanity begins acting as though we are god. We currently manifest outrageous confusion regarding gender issues due to rejection of God. The most fundamental aspects of being created in His image and likeness are things we fail to rule (govern) properly. Without the Eternal, Animate, Personal, Intelligent, Moral, Relational God, the foundation for maintaining a consistent, healthy approach toward morality, responsibility, relationships, value, and so on becomes arbitrary and unstable. This instability inevitably produces practical results of a cultural nature. The acceptance of abortion as a legitimate human right, homosexual practices, individual confusion about gender, and disregard for the most fundamental relationships of marriage (between man and woman) and family are manifestations of this foundational shift. We now see the legislative and judicial (who think of themselves as legislators) systems of the land shift accordingly.
Consider: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Ro.1:26-32)
Much more could be addressed under this heading, but I will move on to the next error, concluding this section by simply stating that human beings do not do well when we attempt to operate as God.
God Exists to Serve Us (Religious Humanism)
The third extreme consists of a theistic belief that reduces God to existing to serve human beings. This is a subtle perspective. It is not an overt declaration, it is a mindset and approach that make the happiness (not holiness) of human beings the supreme goal. This lays a foundation that encourages, or at least allows for, a moral shift based on man’s idea of what produces happiness. One can quickly realize that this is a poor foundation upon which to deal with moral issues. Sadly, it appears as though much of that which currently passes as Christianity is comprised of this approach. It is a view one can hear echoing in the sanctuaries of the twenty-first century church building and stadiums. It might be said that this allows us to create God in our image when we should focus on the fact that God designed that we reflect His image and likeness. This is a dangerously subtle distortion that the naïve will willingly embrace as it appeals to many of the selfish preferences that are actually at the root of our problem. This is in stark contrast to Biblical Christianity.
If we have any hope of cultivating an attitude and approach that God can truly bless, it begins with and must continue in humility. The following sample passages should establish this fundamental idea.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps.34:18)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Ps.51:17)
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor. (Pr.29:23)
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1Pe.5:5-7)
How do we arrive at and cultivate a proper humility? I would suggest that a helpful starting point would be to consider how long God existed before He created (or even decided to create) human beings. The fact is, we are not able to provide a concise answer to this question and can only consider the fact that His existence extends eternally into the past and the age of the earth, even according to high estimates, is a mere blip in comparison.
Contrary to the view that many have, a Biblical worldview and scientific discovery should not be at odds with one another. As we gain increased knowledge of the vastness and intricacy of the universe in which we live, our smallness should be amplified and greater humility should result. It is possible to glory in our discoveries and become proud (“Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” – 1 Co.8:1) or we can realize that each discovery reveals how little we knew before the discovery, assuming that the discoveries ahead reveal how much knowledge and understanding we currently lack. Correction of views once held should reveal our limitations and encourage humility. Correction of the corrections should do so even more.
The goal of this article is to provide a backdrop that encourages humility in regard to our view of ourselves in the shadow of God and the vastness of the creation of His hand, and I humbly admit this is but a feeble effort to accomplish such a goal. The decision to pursue such an endeavor was inspired from practical ministry interaction with fellow human beings. I have observed that much religious activity (including significant activity in the Christian community) and becomes a vehicle to attempt proving oneself or to reduce one’s guilt with a false sense of accomplishment and achievement. It is too easy to be led into the subtle error of Micah whose religious activity was founded in “I know the Lord will do me good.” Many approach God on the basis that He is their talisman, their genie in a bottle. Though it is not often recognized, this is a pride that can only lead to “destruction,” deception, disillusionment or disappointment. Before we can truly know the benefits and blessings of God (which are very many and very real) we must operate from a humility that is often very self-incriminating and unpleasant; a position many do all they can to avoid, even using religion as a vehicle to do so. In His unmatched wisdom, Jesus presented a parable which characterized much of the typical human experience in regard to approaching a proper way of dealing with the reality of our offensive waywardness in reference to God. As the prodigal “came to his senses,” he was led to declare, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men” (Lk.15:18-19).
The thought occurred to me one day, “How long did God exist before He decided to create human beings?” As stated earlier, we have no way of answering this question, which further illustrates my point. From the inmate in the prison to the theologian in his ivory tower, we are plagued by a pride we must set aside if we are to make any meaningful, God-honoring headway as human beings who were designed by God in His image and likeness to “rule…over all the earth” under Him. When it comes to the inter-personal, relational, moral aspect of ruling, it seems we struggle to rule in an effective, God-honoring manner.
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
 Basically, these are questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny.
 This is why the polygraph is so effective.
 I place the word moral in quotation marks because our culture is increasingly dominated by the assumption that the human race is merely an organic entity, bags of chemicals (if you will), controlled by organic processes, chemical reaction, that are beyond our control. We no longer understand or emphasize moral agency and, therefore, no longer believe in moral choice or moral accountability. Morality is merely, according to this view, an illusion that we need to “get over,” and move beyond so that we do not hold back our evolutionary progress.
 I suggest that self-worth (value) should be distinguished from how we feel about ourselves. Self-worth and value are objective and intrinsic in nature while how we feel about ourselves is subjective and often misleading, inconsistent with reality. We should be able to understand this as we consider departures of a sexual nature.
 Though this is an accurate representation of our approach, it is inconsistent and arbitrary as the underlying assumption is that we are simply a different manifestation of all the other stuff that started with some source of inanimate, impersonal, non-intelligent, eternal gas / matter. There is nothing that reasonably makes us more valuable other than an arbitrary assignment of such value.