Archive for March, 2010

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Is Happiness the Bottom Line?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

“Everyone should have the right to do whatever makes them happy.”  How many times have you heard someone make a statement like that?  In fact, there is a good chance that you have even said it yourself.  Although it is not a new idea by any means it is, nevertheless, enjoying a great deal of popularity among our culture today.  It’s not hard to understand why it’s such a popular idea.  After all, who among us doesn’t wish to be happy?  But while this idea may sound reasonable and perfectly harmless at a glance, just a few minutes of thinking it over and following it to its logical conclusion exposes just how harmful this idea can really be.

What I find most disturbing is the number of people these days who have bought into this idea with such reckless abandon that in their insatiable thirst for happiness, they are apparently willing to overlook and even justify the most horrific examples of such faulty thinking.  For example, in three separate conversations that I had with three different students last year, I asked each of them this question, “When it comes to making decisions in your life about what is right or wrong, what do you base it on?”  They all predictably answered, “I base it on doing whatever makes me happy.”  I then asked each of them, “When you consider the events of the Holocaust and the fact that Hitler was exterminating millions of people and worked toward building a master race in the pursuit of his happiness, would you say that what Hitler did was right?”   In each conversation, the student looked at me and said without any hesitation, “Yes.  I guess it was right for him if it made him happy.”  In one of those conversations, I responded by saying, “I really do hope that you’re just being stubborn or that you’re just messing with me because if I thought for one moment that you were actually serious about your answer, I would have every reason to be afraid of you…..and so should everyone else.”

Recently when I was addressing a high school youth group regarding some cultural issues involving sexual promiscuity, I brought up the question of whether or not people should simply “do whatever makes them happy”.  Not wishing to risk using Hitler as my example again, I used the examples of  a student who steals from his classmates and a pedophile who molests children, both of which are examples of someone who is pursuing their own happiness.  One of the girls in the group raised an objection.  She pointed out to me that it really wasn’t fair for me to compare them, because in the case of the pedophile and the thief, they are both pursuing their happiness at the expense of someone else or doing harm to someone else, whereas in the matter of sexual promiscuity between two consenting people, this is not the case at all (although that is even debatable).

I responded to her by saying that I wasn’t trying to compare them, but rather, my intent was to point out some of the dangers of the “do whatever makes you happy” mentality.  I then asked her if she at least agreed with me that molesting children and stealing from someone is wrong.  She definitely agreed.  I further asked her if she agreed with me that we cannot and must not go around these days “throwing the door wide open”  by suggesting that “everyone has the right to do anything that makes them happy” -  that for us to make such broad, sweeping and open-ended statements would be both irresponsible and destructive.  Again, she agreed.  Next, I  asked her if it was reasonable to conclude from this that in the pursuit of one’s happiness, there has to be a limit.  She said, “Yes.”  I finally asked her, “When we say that there is a ‘limit’, aren’t we really saying that there must be a moral boundary line?” – She agreed.

This, of course, leaves us with the most important question of all: When it comes to drawing the boundary lines on ANY issue in life, who ultimately decides where those boundary lines are to be drawn?  Is it up to man, or is it up to God? If we make the mistake of leaving it up to man, I have no doubt that we will end up opening the door to a world that none of us will be able to endure.

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Posted in Ethics | 2 Comments »

Where Was God? – Part 3

Monday, March 8th, 2010

This post is Part 3 in the series “Where was God?”. Click here to start with Part 1.

In my last post, I ended by asking the question that is on the minds of so many people today.  “Why does God allow so much evil in our world?  Why doesn’t He remove all of the evil and suffering in our world, right here and now?”  In answering this question, the first thing that we must ask ourselves is what, exactly, would it take for God to remove evil entirely from our world?  What would God have to do in order to eradicate every trace of evil from our midst?  I believe that there are at least two things that we must take into consideration.

First of all, we have to consider the fact that when we suggest that God should remove evil from our world, we usually have in mind  a “wish list” of all of the evils in this world that we, personally, do not like or find offensive.  The problem, of course, is that this “wish list” is something that we’ve come up with, and it always conveniently draws the cut-off line right behind ourselves!  We always want to make sure that we “make the grade”.  So, as it turns out, we expect God to “get rid of all of those pimps, drug dealers, and mass murderers”, yet expect Him to overlook the evil in our own lives.  In other words, we expect God to eliminate all of the evil that we don’t like, but overlook the evil that we do like-  the evil that we personally enjoy, embrace, participate in, revel in, and even the evil that we personally cause.

That brings me to my next point.  If God is truly going to destroy all of the evil in this world, He must necessarily destroy that which is causing it.  So, who would that leave?  No one.  A God Who is perfectly holy and just is not going to use our own flawed, inferior standard to guide Him, but rather, it must be according to His standard.  Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason makes a great point about this.  He asks the question, “If God answered your request to remove all evil by midnight tonight, where would you be at 12:01?”

So, as it turns out, it is precisely because of God’s incredible grace and mercy that He withholds His judgment for now and chooses to temporarily allow evil to exist in our world.  Ultimately, God will destroy evil, but for now He has chosen to deal with evil in His own time and in His own way – through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the Cross.

This is, perhaps, the most important point that I will make since I began to address this topic.  In every instance of pain, suffering, sorrow, and tragedy, there is a temptation on our part to imagine that somehow God is distant, detached, uncaring, and unconcerned about human suffering.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Central to Christianity is the concept that God has not distanced Himself from us.  Instead, it tells us that the Creator of the universe committed the supreme act of humility by stepping out of His eternal Kingdom to enter into our broken world as a man, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This means that rather than distancing Himself from us, God chose to draw close to us by making Himself just as frail, just as weak, just as vulnerable, just as subject to pain, suffering, and sorrow as we are.  He experienced firsthand what is was like to live within the difficulties of family life, perhaps even being taunted as an “illegitimate son, being born out of wedlock”.  He knew what it was like to experience hunger, fatigue, and loneliness.  He was the victim of vicious rumors and He had His closest friends abandon Him when He needed them the most.  Eventually, He was falsely accused of trumped-up charges, underwent several trials unjustly, and was beat within an inch of His life with scourges at the hands of Roman soldiers.  Finally, He underwent the open shame and public humiliation of being crucified on a Cross, in a slow, horrifying, agonizing death.  Make no mistake, God was willing to play by the same rules that we play by.  In her book, “Creed or Chaos?”, Dorothy Sayers put the problem of evil in the proper perspective.  “For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine”.

As I said, there is coming a day when God will ultimately destroy evil once and for all.  In the meantime, He wants to use us as His ambassadors, as His hands and feet to this broken, suffering world.  We are to be His agents of mercy to go to Haiti, or to any other part of the world where He can use us to comfort those who are suffering, to bind up the broken-hearted, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and be a father to the fatherless.  In so doing, we will provide the answer, in a tangible way, to those who find themselves asking the question, “Where is God in my time of need?”.

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Posted in Evil | 2 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.