We all watched them fall, over and over again. The vision was truly surreal, but more came crashing down on September 11, 2001, than two giant tower structures. Other than the thousands of people who lost their lives on this infamous day in history, victims included: the red hot American economy, westerner’s indifference to the threat of religious terrorism, and on a more ideological level, our unwavering faith in the ultimate goodness of technology.
Our affection for technology and its never-ending list of amenities had taken a stiff body blow during the fall of the dotcoms in the late nineties. Through the mutual fund industry, many ordinary people lost a lot of money on tech stocks during this time, but 911 was a far deeper wound. The terrorists found a way to use technology against us, and in an instant, the notion of security in our airline industry disappeared. The travel industry would take years to recover from this “loss of faith”, and a lack in venture capitol in the tech sector told the story of a long honeymoon that was now clearly over. Indeed, the total sense of security for western citizens was sent reeling back 40 years to the days of the cold war when there was an impending danger of a nuclear holocaust.
How quickly everything can change in this new post-modern era we live in. We aren’t particularly invested in any ideological bent, and so everything including objective truth itself is on the auctioning block.
When you reflect back on how the US responded to the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, you see a striking contrast. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida words, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant”, were quickly realized as the American industrial machine was quickly kicked into gear. By the end of the war, the USA had a larger standing navy than the rest of the world put together. The whole nation rallied together, committed themselves to a war on two major fronts, and then acted in a most benevolent way toward their aggressors once the battle was over.
Readers can build their own narrative that may or may not contrast people’s response to these two events in history. I believe we’ve changed!
Charles Colson, former legal aid to President Nixon, tells the story in his book, “Against the Night”, of a group of educators that met at Harvard University in 1988 to discuss educational reforms. Frank Rose, the president of Cornell University, stood up and said, "We may have come to the time in the education field where we had better pay real and sustained attention to the student's intellectual and moral well-being". The roof fell in. The auditorium filled with boos and sneers, and amidst the gasps in the audience, a student got up and shouted, "Who is going to do the instructing, and who's morality shall we follow?" The audience applauded thunderously and after a moment President Rose went and sat down in silence - nothing to say.
Unfortunately, these foundations that are responsible for creating the highest form of civilization the planet has ever seen are only scorned today. Some of the most respected universities in the world, like Harvard, Princeton and Cornell, were started and guided by Biblical principles.1 But now, these foundational rules of life are believed unscientific and the parents of a hateful society.
Changing of the Guard
Western culture is now firmly entrenched in a secularistic world view, abandoning Christianity as primitive and irrelevant. This “Changing of the Guard”, from theism to secularism, stemmed in part, from over 300 years of attack by so-called enlightened scholarship. Thinkers like Descartes and Hume directed the discipline of philosophy to uphold only those concepts that could not be challenged or contended, as worthy of belief. This premise of accepting only that which is unquestionable has been christened rationalism, and those who didn’t adhere to ridged scepticism were now labelled irrational.
Reinforcing the downfall of theism's intellectual credibility has been the misapplication of the empirical method of science. Persuasive communicators like Huxley and Russel have reduced science into an investigative tool that rejects any theological perspective as outside the jurisdiction of reason and contrary to the purpose of scientific inquiry. To them, science must synthesize answers other than God.
Completing the seeming execution of the theistic world view have been liberal theologians, who have gathered together with angry philosophers and scientists to burn the scriptures in the fires of rationalistic thought. Though archaeology and new scientific understanding have repeatedly confirmed the historicity and uniqueness of the Bible, liberal theologians have tirelessly attacked the authority of this book. Their rejection of the scriptures, as “Inspired by God”, seems so profound at times they appear to have faith that new problems will be found as old dilemmas are clearly resolved.
Many of the power brokers within our media & educational institutions bought into these three notions long ago and the rest of the populace have since followed on mass. The result today is a society that rejects any claim to truth, for as rationalism has contended, what thought or idea is provable beyond any trace of doubt? Our society is also filled with people who have placed all their faith in science to resolve every social dilemma, for as many scientists would have us believe, God cannot have anything to with the solution. And finally, our society has become a culture with no tenable foundations for moral conviction, for without any hope of God's moral revelation, moral certainty is nothing but subjective hearsay.
Unconscionable notions, justified as shock journalism, and moral relativism now rule the media airwaves, without even a whimper of contention from the political or educational arenas. Sky rocketing crime rates and the common dismantlement of the family unit are apathetically accepted as an unfortunate repercussion of progress. We run with reckless abandon toward a new world order, confident that utopia is just around the corner. Yet, our politicians and scholars are ether ignorant of history, or outright deny the fact that human attempts at forging a society autonomous of a transcendent moral code have always proven to be unmitigated disasters. Let me anchor this point with an illustration from contemporary history.
A World Without God
Never before has the requiem of enlightened scholarship's imagination death sentence of God sounded more joyfully or piercingly than through the work of the atheistic philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. With deep conviction and artistic genius, Nietzsche urged his readers to contemplate the logical conclusion of the world without God. Without God, he asserted, man would have to find his own way; cast away the fetters of traditional morality and determine his own values. Only those strong enough to assume control over their destiny and impose their newly created ethical system on others would see their values survive. In Nietzsche's mind's eye, a superman must be born that could triumph over his own weaknesses, and not tolerate weakness in others.
In the wake of Nietzsche's writing soon came his most infamous follower. Adolf Hitler was not only prepared to bring the "God is dead" movement to its ultimate supposition; he was invigorated to impose that horrific conclusion on the rest of the world. Nietzsche's superman seized control of his destiny and addressed the weak in the most logical fashion, extermination. The moral creed of Hitler's godless revolution was written in words and through the actions of those working in Auschwitz, a death camp where Adolf obliterated 12,000 human beings a day. A sign over the entrance of the camp is inscribed, "I freed Germany from stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality...we will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence, imperialise, relentless and cruel".2
The atheistic community would be disinclined to crown Hitler their champion. However, neither are they able to rationally deny the logical conclusion of a society devoid of any transcendent moral law of life. Regardless of their affirmation or disdain for Hitler's actions, the burden of evidence from the historical record has disclosed, invariably, that the atheistic experiment results in subjugation, terrene and bloodshed.
From the ceaseless dropping of the guillotine in the French revolution inspired by Roseau, to the Siberian work camps inaugurated by Stalin's interpretation of Marx, to Cambodia's fields of bones, strewn like fruit from Sartre's dogma on necessary violence, the empowerment of any atheistic world view has always ended in darkness, despair and death. Advocates of the secularist mind set so often remind us of the wars and conflicts fought in the name of, or for the sake of religion. Seldom do they balance their disdain for the mistakes made by those who demonstrate some kind of belief in God, with the treachery committed by those who believe there is no God.
I believe history demonstrates that social compassion and state administered justice stand with surpassing brilliance through times in which a culture affirms a transcendent moral code. Yet, like the student who refuted Frank Rose at Harvard, many deny such a code exists. Have we so soon forgotten the unquestioned assertion of the prosecutors in the Nuremberg trials? German judges who were being tried for crimes against humanity defended their actions by pointing out that they were only following the laws of the land. After this predictable assertion, the prosecutors rebutted with the question, "But is there not a law above our laws?"3
This question of the prosecutors stands in judgement of our society and points to the destructive path we are now choosing for our own children. Many, even among the atheists understand the ultimate impact of this problem and are seeking to have our society come to agreement on a universally accepted moral law of life. Often, they point accusing fingers at the major world religions for their lack of involvement or outright obstruction of this process, oblivious to the fact that the concordance they wish to arrive at would only reflect their world view. For, morality established in this way could only be utilitarian and void of any theological conviction. Obviously, few would buy it, because human beings need to be convinced that their moral convictions are based on truth. Not because some kind of a committee achieved consensus.
Where's the Answer?
Therefore, if the human race has demonstrated an inability to function as a just and tolerant society without recognizing a higher moral law - which rule of life should we follow? Other related questions would be: How can we know if God exists? Why are we here? Are their any differences in the various sacred scriptures of the world? Why are their so many different religions and ideologies? If the truth can be found, why doesn't everyone follow it? These are all questions that any belief system needs to answer with clarity and reason. But few can!
As a Christian I can address these issues with confidence because the Bible confronts them all effectively, and the Bible has demonstrated to me that it’s trustworthy. In fact, answering queries like these in the light of scriptural revelation is what "The Tree" is all about. Yet my confidence in the Christian scriptures may not carry a lot of weight with some of my readers, so I've made a cursory effort to evidence the viability of the Christian world-view in Appendix II.
At the Cross Road
The purpose of pointing out problems in our society, and providing evidence for belief in the Christian world view is not to prove anything to anyone. My motives are far more modest, as I do not believe this kind of information has the capacity to change a person’s heart. There are spiritual forces far more powerful than our own intellect that can keep people from thinking rationally. My goal is simply to provide some perspective.
All ideologies and religions require their adherents to believe that the conflicts and discrepancies, which malign their belief's credibility, will one day be resolved. Faith is an integral part of every human being, including the adherents of evolutionary theory. There are difficult questions in the Christian faith as well, and you need faith to patiently wait for some of these questions to be answered. But, I would argue, you need less faith than any other belief system requires! This is the balance and perspective I would like to bring with this introduction. So each reader can grant the message of cross an audience in the courtroom of their hearts and minds.
Each of us walks through life with ingrained perspectives about truth as a result of our family's convictions and the cultures we live in. Attitudes like, "Christianity is outdated and doesn't conform to the moral climate of our times", are sounded throughout our educational institutions like a Gregorian Chant. It's difficult for people not to be influenced by such seemingly authoritative repetition. But it's a lyric without substance! If God has indeed inspired the Bible, then its content is as eternal as He is, and cannot be negated by time or culture. If I have opened your mind to this possibility, ever so slightly, every word of this introduction is worthwhile.
This book is really about the cross of Jesus Christ, and what the Bible has to say about this significant event. In this message and through the medium of the scriptures resides power to change people's hearts and unite them into fellowship with the living God. This message of the cross is like a flower that keeps on blooming into an ever increasing glory. Each time we perceive its truth, we discover more of God and what He has done for us.
You will be fascinated by how the scriptures tie issues of history, psychology, sociology, science, and theology together to make a coherent and profoundly meaningful statement about this event. If you're a sceptic who never attached any intellectual credibility to the Christian faith, if you're a genuine seeker who wants to know more about Christianity, or simply a Christian who wants to know more about your own faith, there is no more profound topic you could dwell on. For in answering this question concerning the purpose of the cross of Christ, you will gain a deeper understanding of two issues that may change your life. God's wisdom and God's love!
Bruce Paul is a Christian business man, father of three, lay apologist, and freelance writer. He is a principle of Faith-Friends, a new portal concept to promote local Christian ministries and Christian business people in the marketplace, one community at a time. http://www.faith-friends.com/
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A well-written article on a desperately needed topic. We are indeed at a "punctuation point" in our history. I am anxious to read the next chapters. A technical comment - change your use of "their" in several places to the correct "there." Also, who is your audience? Although very well written generally, a large percent of the general populace would find it difficult material to read, therefore reducing the impact of your message on America.