Right & Wrong and the stopping point

Is there set-in-stone right and wrong?

I got to hear a group of children talk about the story Jack and the Beanstalk.  When the question was asked, “Was it right for Jack to steal the hen from the giant because he was poor?” the answers leaned greatly on the side of yes.  The few who thought it was wrong thought so because the giant had almost caught Jack, not because they felt stealing was inherently wrong.

I’m reminded of a class I took in college–I’m really not sure what it was, psychology, I think, though philosophy would make more sense–where a series of deeply thought-out scenarios were posed to challenge the idea of set-in-stone right and wrong.  When they are invented, they feature highly improbable circumstances that pity the wrong choice and make the right choice seem like climbing Mount Everest.

I only remember one of them.  I believe I was told this one was true.

A man’s wife is dying of cancer.  He can’t afford the medicine for her treatment.  He double mortgages his home and still can’t pay for the expensive medicine.  He decides to break into the pharmacy to steal the drugs.  Is he wrong?

My question, I think, aggravated at least one person in the class as seeming Bambi-ish.  But Bambi-ish or not, I would still ask it: Why couldn’t he raise money?  If he explained to his friends, coworkers, and neighbors that his wife would die without these treatments, they wouldn’t give him a dime?

That could be true, but the story becomes even more improbable.  I went through a stage in my life where I didn’t have many close friends, and I would still like to think that, if tragedy had struck, many people would have chipped in to help me.  Maybe that is naive, but I hear about fundraisers that raise a great deal of money for different causes.

But let’s say there really isn’t anyone to give him money.  Should he break in the pharmacy?  Is the only other option to let his wife die?

I am not here to condemn a man for breaking into a pharmacy, if this really happened.  I don’t know what it feels like to have someone I love dying of cancer and be unable to pay for the treatments.  But I still think breaking into the pharmacy would be wrong, because God says that stealing is wrong.

There are an untold number of things that can go wrong when sin comes onto the scene.  What if the man is caught breaking in and is shot?  What if he is taken to jail, the medicine confiscated, and his wife dies without ever seeing him again?  What if someone else is blamed for the break-in and goes to jail?

But there’s more than just the untold number of things that can go wrong.  What is really happening is a total distrust in the love of God.  It goes something like this: God won’t do this for me, so I will sin to get this done.

Things like this never turn out the way we think they will.  They sure haven’t in my life.  Or Sarah’s.

Sarah had a great plan.  Abraham didn’t seem to be able to have any children through her.  Yet he’d been promised by God to have a child.  In came Sarah’s plan: Abraham would have a child by Sarah’s slave.

How did this turn out?  Sarah’s slave had the child, but God was good on His promise.  So Sarah had a child, too.  Sarah’s slave, Hagar, scorned Sarah, and Sarah mistreated her.  God intervened to protect Hagar from Sarah.  Then He intervened again to protect Sarah’s child from Haagar’s child.  All this was caused by Sarah’s “great plan”.

After my father died of ALS, a petition came around to sign for embryonic stem cell research.  Friends seemed to think I would be the first to sign.  But to sign such a thing would have been to spit on my father’s grave.  My father never wanted to live by the death of an unborn child.  I want a cure for ALS. But I can’t look for a cure in destroying the lives of others.

A friend of mine had a small son who was struggling with cancer at the time of the petition.  He’d missed a great deal of work as his son went through chemo after chemo.  The four-year-old boy had no idea why he was suffering so much.  My friend quietly refused to sign the petition for stem cell research.  He told me something like this: “I want my son healed.  But I won’t do it this way.”

I have come to see that all things come to us as they are either given or allowed by God.  As Kerrie Roberts sings,

Before a heartache ever touches my life

It has to go through Your hands.

I can’t invent bad ways to try to bring about good.  If something has come into my life that I can’t fix without doing something evil–then I shouldn’t try to fix it.  It isn’t diseases, disasters, criminals, war, or doctors who give or take away life.  It is only God.

I do believe right and wrong are set in stone.  More than stone, really.  The nature of God is good, so goodness (or rightness or righteousness) are set by God’s very character.  Anything that goes against God’s character is bad (or wrong or evil).  I know this will make some furious, but it doesn’t change the Truth.

I’d like to leave with one more analogy.

Under the regime of Hitler, doctors experimented on Jews.  A great deal of research was done, scientific research.  After the war, what was done with the research?  Some scientists found it vile, reprehensible, and didn’t want to touch it.  Others have used it.

Professional modern medicine has had little difficulty condemning the Nazi doctors as evil men. But what is being said of the continued use of the Nazi doctors’ medical research? Many scholars are now discovering in reputable medical literature multiple references to Nazi experiments . . . [these references] frequently bear no disclaimer as to how the data was obtained. In recent years several scientists who have sought to use the Nazi research have attracted and stirred widespread soul-searching . . . (Baruch C. Cohen, “The Ethics of Using Medical Data from Nazi Experiments”)

The same article includes this quote from Dr. Howard Spiro (Yale University) about using this research:

[W]e make the Nazis our retroactive partners in the victims’ torture and death.

If our morality is not set in God’s character, we can use research that has been gotten by horrific means.  And once we use research that has been gotten by horrific means, we are only one step away from doing that research ourselves.

The man who tries to rescue his wife by breaking into the pharmacy . . where would he stop?  What if she needed chemotherapy he couldn’t afford?  Would he hold the clinic hostage at gunpoint?  What if she needed a kidney transplant, and there were no kidneys available?  Would he kill a stranger whose kidneys were compatible?  What if he thought a cure could be found if only there were cancer patients to experiment on?  Would he force strangers to be experimentation victims?

Once evil can be justified by its end, where is the stopping point?

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2, NIV)

The Ethics of Using Medical Data from Nazi Experiments, Baruch C. Cohen, Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/naziexp.html, accessed May 12, 2012

Why are we here?

“I believe we are put here to feel our best and to find our truth.”

I heard this statement last summer on a television program.

The great irony of statements like this is that they only work if there is an absolute Truth, yet this is the very thing trying to be sidestepped.

If there isn’t an absolute Truth, there is no way anyone could find truth.  Truth is, by nature, something that is not wrong (we call that right).  But nothing can be “right” if there is no wrong–unless everything is right.

Is everything right?  That’s easy to prove wrong.  Think of one thing that is evil or, to be politically correct, “undesirable”, and you’ve got wrong.  Whether you go for God’s Word and say “evil”, or p.c. and say “undesirable”, you still end up with wrong.

Wrong is a hard thing to deal with if you don’t believe in right.  Because, if you don’t believe there is right, you can’t believe there is wrong.  And if you can’t believe in wrong, there is nothing you can say when a kid who is much bigger than you steps on the back of your shoes all the way down the hallway to your next class.

But if you have wrong, you have to have right.  That is, unless everything is wrong.  And that’s easy to prove wrong, too.  Think of one thing that is good or, to be politically correct, “desirable”, and you’ve got right.  You can see where this is going.

There can’t be any truth if there isn’t any right.

If you have right, you have wrong.

If you have right and wrong, you open the door to the Ten Commandments.

This is exactly what people aren’t wanting when they say things to make truth seem ambiguous and mystical.

But we can’t get around it any more than we can build a house out of air.  No right = no truth.  I can claim to build a house out of air, but no one wants to live inside during a thunderstorm.

The same is true for finding “our truth” and “our best”.  This sounds good until someone thinks they’ve found their personal truth in killing college students or beating women.  Then the claim to find your own truth is yanked out and replaced with growls, yells, and clenched fists.

The very same people who genuinely think everyone can come to their own truth pull back on their own claim when someone violates what they secretly or unconsciously held as the truth.  Their very protestations give them away.

If anything bothers you at all, you are making a claim to truth.

It’s inescapable.

No truth, no right and wrong.

And if something isn’t right or wrong, then it doesn’t matter.  I can just as easily be kicked as hugged.  There is no difference in that world, other than sensations and possible retaliation.  But if you can tie me up and then kick me, there is no more reason for you to not kick me than for you to hug me.  It doesn’t matter whether it hurts me or not–it’s not right or wrong.  My feelings don’t have any more value than your feelings; you feel happy kicking me, I feel sad.  But nothing bad has been done.

Que sera sera.

I find this whole approach less appealing than an eating an onion inside an athlete’s tennis shoe.  And I don’t know anybody else who really thinks this way either, unless they have no conscience at all and are in a position of power.

(By the way . . if there really isn’t any truth . . there would be no logic, and no reason for me writing anything at all.  I could just as easily write oiap98wfsdvdsfaowi as I could a decipherable sentence, because nothing would be meaningful–and I couldn’t even make that claim, because there isn’t any truth.  It would be a world without reason, where gravity only works sometimes and math is always changing.)

What the person on TV who said, “I believe we were put here to feel our best and to find our truth” really meant was, “I believe we are put here to feel our best and to find any truth other than the truths I don’t like.”

I don’t think she meant to lie, but what she didn’t understand was that, by going on TV to claim a lifestyle, she was really saying that other lifestyles are wrong.  She was a vegan.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with vegans.  But she was inconsistent with her own lifestyle.  Suppose she heard of a person who went around killing off endangered species or poisoning people’s pets.  I am pretty sure she would not have accepted that this person had found truth or personal best.

But here’s the problem . . how could she know that?

If all truth is subjective, and just these little rivers flowing hither and thither and yither and nowither, then how can you ever know it is better to eat tofu than to hunt down endangered elephants?  If all rivers just lead to the same lake, how can you ever disagree with anything anybody does?  We’re all going to the same place, by that logic, and there’s no worries!  Whether you get there by eating fruits and vegetables or by eating tiger meat would logically be of no difference.

Anyone who tries to say truth is subjective & everyone finds or makes their own truth always has to end up saying “I want you to find/make any truth other than the truths I don’t like.”

If they really did believe everyone finds (or makes) their own truth, then there should be nothing whatsoever offensive in someone saying,

“I found Truth.  There is only one Truth.  Jesus is that Truth.  There is no other Truth.”

If I believe that truth changes for every person, then who am I to get angry if someone tells me I am wrong in my truth?  If I believe in subjective truth, then by its very nature I should allow anyone to believe anything, including if they believe in absolute truth and that I am wrong!

The contradictions in this are a mess and, as I am trying to write this, remind me of a big bowl of spaghetti flopped over on my head.  It would be something like me saying,

“Anything goes.  –But don’t kick me.”

The two statements can’t coexist.

And neither can,

“Everyone makes up their own truth.  But there is no absolute truth.”

Believing that everyone makes up their own truth is, if you follow it through consistently, to believe that absolute truth can be a truth.

And if absolute truth can be a truth, then it is the only truth.

This reminds me of Aaron’s staff, which had turned into a snake by the power of God, and ate up the other snakes, which Pharaoh’s magicians had turned into snakes by the power of their own making.

My prayer is that anyone who believes all paths lead to truth will find the real Truth.  But for that to happen, they will have to give up their own path.  As did I.

By knowing the Truth, I am not placing myself on some lofty throne above others.  I only know the Truth because Jesus told me.  I have no claim to arrogance or superiority.  I am like a prisoner who had a Visitor tell me the escape route.

I want you to be free, too.  But you can only be free if you know the Truth.

“As for you, if you hold fast to my teaching, then you are truly my disciples; and you shall know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free.” (John 8:31b-32, WNT)

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. (Exodus 7:8-12, NIV)

Longing for Narnia

I am longing for Narnia.

I almost lived on make believe as a child–or so I thought.  But I never could “play” Chronicles of Narnia.  I think I tried once.  It was like playing make-believe with the real!

Narnia was just about as factual for me as the Monday morning newspaper.  I knew it wasn’t real–well, I knew it wasn’t supposed to be real.  But it always was.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, I was mesmerized, like a sailor looking at an island too far away to visit, but too beautiful to let go, and I wanted the island to be “just so”.

Edmund, a forgiven traitor who became a king.  No one ever spoke of how little he deserved the honor.  But I knew Edmund always remembered.  Lucy is seen as the sweetheart of the series, but I’m telling you what, none of the children loved Aslan like Edmund.

Reepicheep, a big giant mouse.  I thought I’d marry a man just like Reepicheep someday.  He’d be courageous, epic, heroic.  He’d fight to the death for me, and he’d lay down everything for Aslan.  Reepicheep always remembered the song he’d heard from the cradle . . the song of Aslan, calling him home, and he wanted to be with Aslan more than anything else.

Aravis, a girl of stilted, worthless royalty in a godless gods-filled world.  Brave, wild, suicidal, untamable Aravis–whose heart was tamed by a lion she met one day.

Prince Rilian, caught under a spell, forced to forget the very one who he’d sworn to avenge, forced to love the very one who had murdered his mother.

Digory, the magician’s nephew.  Digory who opens the door into Narnia and discovers an apple and a witch.  I know I’ve been there before.

Mr. Tumnus, who changes sides and expects to keep it a secret.

Puddleglum, stooped in melodramatic gloom, who always seems to know a great deal more about love and joy than he lets on.  Puddleglum, who reaches into a fire and smashes his webbed hand against it to smother a serpent’s magic.

Eustace, spoiled, selfish, spoiled Eustace.  Eustace who plans to claim all the gold he’s found in the dragon’s cave for himself . . and ends up becoming the dragon.  Eustace who finds nothing undragonish within himself.  Eustace who cannot, for all his efforts, change himself back from dragon to boy.  Though he scrapes at the scales and peels his very skin away, he cannot escape the core dragon of who he has become.  Aslan, and only Aslan, must change him back.

Caspian, Aravis, Jill, Trumpkin, Shift & Puzzle, Susan, Bree, Polly, and the brave little squirrel who insists Father Christmas exists.  I could talk on and on about the characters who became so real to me, it was as if they’d always really been real and had just been waiting for someone to talk about them.

I started reading the series before I could read them.  I would jump on my mother’s bed after kindergarten, which was half days back then (boy, I am really old).  My mother would hold the gigantic blue book with the tiny print and read.  The blue book had a gold embossed lion on the front cover.  There were two volumes, one with the first books in it, and the other with the rest.

I read them back when The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was still rightful first (which never should have changed!).  My mother was an exquisite, extraordinary reader; I jumped up on her bed day after day to hear her read a chapter in the story.

She read them to me until we ended with The Last Battle in fourth or fifth grade.  It was devastating.  The book ended just as I would have wanted it to, if I’d had the imagination to want something so extravagant.  The problem was, I didn’t want the series to end.  I wanted to read more.  More about Aslan.

There are stories where children become wizards and knights, gods and warlords, creatures and psychics, pop stars and masterminds, but I don’t know of any other story where children stay children and yet become kings and queens.

They might become kings and queens with dryads and centaurs to hail them, or they might become kings and queens with no fanfare, as Eustace and Jill do.

It is the becoming, not the coronation, that is the most fascinating, intricate, marvelous heart of the stories.  The children are always recreated, reformed, and renewed into children–still children–of such character that no one can look down on them for being children anymore.

Listening to the opening song of the BBC Narnia series causes my soul to quiver.

There is a deep, deep longing in my soul to become a child.

But not to be a child here.  I want to go to Narnia.

I want to go to Narnia and I want to explore the worlds of mystery and beauty for myself.

I want to go on an adventure.

I want Aslan to breathe me off a cliff and carry me to the countries below.  I want to settle into the beaver’s lodge for a night.  I want to scale the giant’s bridge.  I want to sail to the land beyond the sea.  I want to rest beside the waters where Aslan turned a dragon into a boy.  And I want to touch the stone table with my own hands.

Most of all–yes, most of all–I want to see Aslan.

There is one thing, and only one, that you cannot do to the Chronicles of Narnia.

You can make fun of it, you can belittle it, you can ignore it, you can dismiss it, and you can grow out of it, but there is one thing you cannot do.

You cannot take Aslan away.

Every character, every battle, every quest, every victory topples without Aslan.

And because you cannot take Aslan away, you cannot take Christ away.

The Lion is not only in the story, he is not only at the center of the story; he is not only throughout the story,

he is the story.

I want to see the Lion face to face.

C.S. Lewis gets credit for writing the books, but he knew and I know that he got help from the Lion.  The only way Lewis could ever have written such a rare glimpse into the world of Heaven is if God had shown him.

Narnia is, at its best, a glimpse of Heaven.

Not all of Narnia, of course.  Not the witch, or the awful wolf, or the king who would kill his own brother to take the throne, or the ape who fools the donkey into masquerading as Aslan.  Not the Turkish delight or the ghastly scepter or the silver chair or the fisherman’s blows.  Those things go before Heaven and choose to have no part in it.

But, though Satan doesn’t mean for it to, the longings of sin always lead to the longing for something that is not sin, because sin always turns out to be utterly disappointing, totally false, and a wicked trick of the mind.

In The Last Battle there is a scene that draws my heart more than any but one other scene.  The children all fearfully ask when they will return to their home land and have to part with Narnia again.  The idea has become unbearable to them.

Aslan explains they will never have to.

And then this, my very favorite scene, in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  A lion laid out on a stone table, dying for a traitor.

I am that traitor.

Without that scene, there is no scene where the traitor returns to Narnia to live there forever.

And while I love the Last Battle, and I look forward to the endless adventures of Heaven, I will always look back on the Stone Table most, because there is no good in longing for Heaven if you can’t have it.

Because of the Stone Table, I can belong to Heaven.  I can be a Narnian!

I’m longing for Narnia.  Because one day, I will see Christ face to face.  And I will fall on my knees and worship the Lion who saved me.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

My soul

If at any point in my life I forget God, if at any point I abandon Him to throw my life to any other thing, I have lost not only my life (to be ripped to pieces by trivial things) . . but I have sold my eternal nature to the most alluring bidder.

In all sin, each one, I lose my soul–forever.

This is the fall.  It is not so far removed as ages past when the first woman reached out and picked the forbidden fruit off the tree.  It is right now, as my hand reaches for the same phantom delight that will bring me only Hell.

I thank God that I am not the safe-keeper of my soul.  I thank God that I have given my soul to Him.  For I do not trust that for a moment of my day I could last the temptation to hand away for all eternity that which would bring me a second of horrific satisfaction.

Thank God, for I have handed my soul to Him.

How I did it was oafish and sinful–until the moment my hands held up my soul.  Really, I had just begun to lift it, and, though I would have fallen on my face and broken my own soul in a million pieces were it by my own efforts or special words, in that instant, God reached down.  He took my soul from me in love that breathes life into dust.

And though I have asked many stupid things of God, I have never once asked Him to give me back my soul.

Keep my soul forever, Jesus.  What grace is in You to take it from me, worthless as it was, and pour the greatest of treasure of all on it, Your blood! 

Keep my soul forever, Jesus. What love You have to give Your breath–the breath of God–to resuscitate my soul–the soul of the worst sinner!

Keep my soul forever, Jesus.  What is the measure of Your forgiveness, that You have seen inside my soul and cleaned without a word to my enemies about its damning filth and without the shove of Your hands for me to leave Your Presence!

Keep my soul forever, Jesus.  I love you.

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1b, GW)