Humanists such as Paul Kurtz try to sound as though a moral standard can be easily established in the absence of theism, but the attempt fails swiftly. We examined last week one of the heroines he selected as a model of responsible and ethical behavior, Margaret Sanger–only to find that of her it could truly be said that “anything goes” (Dallas Morning News, October 28th, p. 1G).
Nevertheless Kurtz argues (we suppose with a straight face) that: “We ought to tell the truth, keep promises, be honest, kind, dependable and compassionate; we ought to be just and tolerant and, whenever possible, negotiate our differences peacefully” (3G). He later adds, “A morally developed person understands that he ought not to lie…” (3G). Does Mr. Kurtz really mean that?
He certainly has heard of Joseph Fletcher, who was named “Humanist of the Year,” along with Mary Calderone, in 1974. Fletcher popularized “situation ethics” in two books he wrote back in the ’60’s. Fletcher attempts to show that it is permissible to lie if the circumstances call for it–to save someone’s life, for example. Now which is it: ought a man to lie, or oughtn’t he? Humanist Fletcher says, “Yes”; Humanist Kurtz says, “No.”
The Problem of ArbitrarinessOn what intelligent basis, therefore, can men decide what constitutes ethical behavior? Shall we conclude that we “ought” to tell the truth unless–? Yes, we ought to be honest unless a) it hurts someone else, b) it hurts us, c) it becomes inconvenient, d) I just don’t feel like telling the truth, e) all of these. Although choice d is just a tad facetious, the doorway to arbitrariness is already open when a or b is selected. Who defines what will hurt someone else or when Self is justified in lying to stave off dire consequences. After all, isn’t that why most people lie in the first place–to keep from getting into trouble?
“Johnny, did you break the vase?” The little tyke is no dummy. If he admits the truth, he knows a hearty spanking will grace his posterior. “No, I don’t know anything about it.” Or, if he’s Bart (or O.J.) Simpson, he might say, “I didn’t do it; nobody saw me do it; you can’t prove anything.” A parent might reason with a child, “It is better for you to tell the truth,” but all he’s thinking about is that it will definitely be painful to tell the truth. He doesn’t want to experience pain; so he lies.
Exactly how are adults any different? They don’t want to face the consequences of their actions, either. Most people don’t tell lies for capriciousness’ sake; they do it to cover their mistakes or other wrongs. By humanist philosophy no one can actually be accused of wrongdoing–because each person has his own standards. On the basis of non-biblical morality, mankind will never arrive at a system of law, justice, or socially acceptable behavior. Whenever we all do that which is right in our own eyes (that is, we are autonomous beings, a plank of Humanism), chaos results.
In David A. Noebel’s book, Understanding the Times , the author quotes Paul Kurtz as admitting: “I can find no ultimate basis for ‘ought'” (197). Despite everything else he says, he has given up his case. He finds no basis for “ought”; the theist does. The Christian knows that behind every “ought” stands a moral principle of God. Mankind “ought” to behave a certain way because God has decreed it. Morality emanates from His character. He is truth; man ought to speak the truth. When moral behavior is based on the Word of God, morality is objective; it originates outside of and from above man. But when man vainly attempts to eliminate God, he has no objective place to go to for acceptable behavior. All sources will be subjective; this morality arises within mankind. And since one man figures he’s as good as another, any one person’s systems of ethics is just as valid and right as any other person’s.
As brother Thomas B. Warren pointed out in The Warren-Flew Debate, his opponent knew that what Hitler did was wrong, but he could not explain what law the Germans violated. They did not transgress German law; they did transgress a higher law–God’s law. Kurtz and other humanists are stuck with an evershifting, always negotiable moral code–one that is built upon sand.
Attacking TheismAs is typical of humanists, they attack deeds performed by those claiming to be Christians but who have acted contrary to what the Bible teaches. Kurtz writes: “So many infamous deeds have been perpetrated in the name of God–the Crusades, the Inquisition, religious inspired terrorism in Palestine, the carnage going on among three religious ethnicities in Yugoslavia–that it is difficult to blithely maintain that belief in God guarantees morality. It is thus the height of intolerance to insist that only those who accept religious dogma are moral, and that those who do not are wicked” (1G, 3G).
At least he left out the crazed religious nut who says, “God told me when I woke up this morning to kill Yitzhak Rabin.” Paul Kurtz ought to know that what somebody does in the name of religion does not mean that religion authorized it to be done. The Crusades, for example, came as a result of obeying no New Testament teaching of either Jesus or the apostles. Name the verse or passage that authorizes Christians to fight with literal weapons as though the kingdom were a physical one (John18:36).
The Spanish Inquisition was a terrible tragedy that no one attempts to justify. What verse of Scripture would support the spreading of the gospel in this fashion? What passage grants authority to kill heretics? None. Dr. James Kennedy, in What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, quotes Herbert Lockyer as setting the figure at 30,000 for the total number killed throughout Europe during the Inquisition. These died in opposition to New Testament doctrine. In fact, authorities banned the Bible during this time (216).
But how did Hitler, who killed millions (instead of mere thousands), violate Humanist philosophy? He was drawing upon the philosophy of Nietzsche, the man who originally coined the phrase “God is dead” (212). Does it not seem as though Hitler concluded that if God was dead, all things were permitted? At least Nietzsche wasn’t given a “Humanist of the Year” Award–yet. Does Kurtz want to challenge Nietzche’s philosophy? Surely, he would disassociate himself from Hitler, but how can he legitimately do so? Why are they wrong; on what basis would Kurtz be correct in denouncing them? And even if he does, would other humanists join in to condemn Nietzsche? [No, they would not.]
According to Kurtz, humanists “affirm that life is worthwhile and that it can be a source of bountiful joy” (3G). Has the man never taken a philosophy or literature course at the graduate level? Has he never studied Nietzche, Camus, and other modern, humanist writers who champion the meaninglessness of life and vaunt suicide? Come, come, Mr. Kurtz. And with a name like his, he should read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The bottom line is that without God, everything is not optimistic and rosy. There is no rationality and no rationale for living; all is despair. How can meaningful life be defined in an accidental universe, devoid of any design or purpose? And why should people be moral when an account of their actions will never be required?
October 27’s Friday Religion section of the Denton Record-Chronicle led off with a front page article about the Harvest Metropolitan Community Church, located just south of Denton. As is usual for the news media, Jessica DeLeon’s story presented the group in a flattering, positive light. Just as typically, the usual bits of misinformation saturate this propaganda piece, beginning with the first paragraph.
“In 1985, a student at the University of North Texas from Abilene was looking for a way to connect with gay and lesbian Christians” (12A). In the first place, there is no such thing as a homosexual Christian, no more than there is a fornicating Christian, an idolatrous Christian, a Christian thief, or a Christian extortioner. Those are all sins that people give up when they become Christians (1 Cor. 6:9-11). [This is not to say that Christians never sin, but they cannot practice sin and be a child of God at the same time (1 John 3:8-9).]
Jesus does not save people in their sins; He saves people from their sins. We are to reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin (Rom. 6:11); we are instructed to prohibit sin from reigning in our mortal bodies (Rom. 6:12). The Harvest Metropolitan Community Church is not trying to help people leave the sin of homosexuality; they are telling members that it is all right to continue to walk in this abomination.
In fact, the absurdity of their position can be seen by a certain fact recorded in the article, of which they are apparently proud: “It is also one of the few churches in town which has a condom machine in the bathroom” (12A). Wouldn’t that be comparable to the First Metropolitan Burglary Church providing ski masks and manuals on overriding electronic circuitry? Why would the Bible teach sexual purity (1 Cor. 6:19-20, 1 Thess. 4:1-7, 2 Cor. 7:1, Col. 3, etc.) and self-control (Gal. 5:23, 2 Peter 1:6), if it were perfectly permissible to do whatever one’s heart desired to do?
Any church that would encourage its members in immorality instead of giving up sin is no true church of Christ. Rather, it is humanistic–based on the will of man, not on the teachings of God. In fact, this “church” supplying condoms is tantamount to suggesting that had they been available in the first century, Jesus would have gone about teaching sexual purity and self-control while the apostles passed out “protection” after His sermon. If such a scenario sounds blasphemous, then remember that it is a church purporting to be the body of Christ today who is in essence doing the very same thing. The church is His body, over which He is head. If the church is doing it, Christ is doing it (consider Acts 9:4).
God and Christianity MisrepresentedColleen Darraugh, the first “pastor” of this “church” for three years, praised Harvest for its loving atmosphere: “It’s a profound time of healing, especially when you’re told God doesn’t love you” (12A).
And who told her such a thing? The reporter let her get away with the usual false stereotype of Christianity and the Bible: God hates homosexuals; Christians hate homosexuals; Christians are all bigots and homophobes. Apparently, homosexual leaders and the news media think if they repeat these charges enough times, somebody (besides them) will believe it. Therefore, we shall refute it in bold letters–but without any hope that it will make one iota of difference to these people.
GOD DOES NOT HATE HOMOSEXUALS; GOD HATES SIN, WHICH HOMOSEXUALITY IS!
Just in case the above statement is not clear, a little more elaboration follows. God does not hate sinners. Notice: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus endured the crucifixion and poured out His soul unto death for sinners. Jesus did not die for some–but for all, even those who commit sins of perversion, even for people who act on their vile passions and do things that are against nature. BUT as with every other sin, in order to receive forgiveness, the homosexual must repent; he or she must give up the sin. Then the forgiveness of God can be experienced as one is baptized and born again (John 3:1-7). It is not God that hates homosexuals; homosexuals hate God because He tells them to give up that which most of them will not consider doing.
In an article in The Dallas Morning News (October 16, 1995), a homosexual son said to his father who was a minister: “If God made me this way, the Scriptures you are citing must be misinterpreted or misplaced” (2C). Truly, man considers himself the measure of all things. Notice that the son did not reason, “God condemns homosexual behavior; therefore, I must be wrong.” No, if I want to commit adultery or fornication or homosexuality, God is the one who must be wrong, not me.
The fact is that some want to hold on to their sin more than they want to love God and abide by His teachings. Furthermore, they want to practice their sin while imagining that God approves. And on top of that, they want Christians to accept them and validate their faulty perceptions. Sorry. Christians (those abiding by the Word of God) will never approve an action which God defines as sin and condemns. Like our Father and our Lord, we love those ensnared by sin; it is our prayer that they will give it up and overcome it. But like deity, we cannot accept as brethren those who stubbornly persist in their sins.
This past Monday and Tuesday (August 14th-15th) I attended the debate in San Antonio between Darrell Conley and Mike Luther, who is a member of Catholic Response, a “lay” Catholic organization. Brother Conley was affirming the following proposition: “The church of which I am a member is the one true church of Christ in which alone is to be found salvation (and which recognizes the Bible as the only authority in faith and practice).” Mike Luther (a distant relative of Martin) denied the statement.
Even though the two of us strongly disagree on spiritual matters, there were some things that I found refreshing about Mr. Luther. The first very noticeable attitude which he conveyed was that he believes in the use of logic (although he didn’t apply it properly). In his first speech he quoted from Isaiah 1:18–“Come now, and let us reason together.” Once upon a time, churches of Christ were known for their use of this passage. It was cited often in the days when debates were frequent.
Each time Mike made an argument, it was in the form of a syllogism. He did not put it up on a chart for the audience to see or use technical jargon, but it was in logical form, nevertheless. He also was not averse to pointing out things such as, “There are no other alternatives in this matter. If I am right, my opponent is wrong. If he is right, then my position is wrong.”
Why is this approach so refreshing? In the past few years in the Lord’s church we have had to learn to deal with brethren suffering from logophobia–“the fear of logic.” Many want to run as far away as they can from anything logical. One book I am currently reading by a brother in Christ has made the point more than once that people are not interested in logic. That may be, but rational explanations are what they need . There is too much “it-feels-right”-ism; the Bible says “prove all things,” not “it’s whatever you feel about it.” People were praised for “searching the Scriptures,” not checking their emotional responses and their personal satisfaction levels.
Along with the use of logic is the idea that truth also exists–and that we can know it. Too many people in today’s world either don’t know if truth can exist, or they don’t care. Here, at last, was a religious individual who was willing to acknowledge these concepts. Although his understanding of it was imperfect, he admitted that we can know the truth (John 8:31-32) and that truth is important (Pr. 23:23). Who knows? Maybe some of our own brethren may eventually rediscover its value.
A second admirable quality Mr. Luther possessed was that he was committed to his belief. He thinks he is right and that everyone who is not a Catholic is lost. When brother Conley asked him if in order to be saved, one had to be in subjection to the Roman pontiff, he answered, “Yes.” Obviously, Mr. Luther will never join hands with Max Lucado in a show of unity, as one priest did. He is not wishy-washy and full of compromise. He will not say, as did Rubel Shelly, “For all I know, I could be mistaken.” He knows what he believes. Furthermore, he would probably vehemently oppose a Catholic question-and-answer book published a few years ago which said that a person did not have to be a Catholic in order to be saved.
Mr. Luther actually went a little overboard in being committed to his cause. He suffered at times from being over-zealous. On the second night of the debate he read from a prepared text, failing to realize that brother Conley had already answered his argument in his first affirmative speech. This obtuseness developed into tunnel vision in that when his arguments had been successfully refuted, he appeared not to notice it. Finally, although he conducted himself honorably throughout the debate, the arrogance of the Roman Catholic Church shone through in his final speech when he stated to the audience words to this effect: “Jesus has spoken to you tonight about who has won this debate. Who is right and who is wrong He has made crystal clear to you. Those of you in the church of Christ should leave it and join the Catholic church.” That, too, appeared to be read from a statement prepared before the evening’s debate began. It sounded arrogant because he did not grant the audience the privilege to make up their own minds about the discussion but clearly indicated that Jesus had shown them he was right. Buzz!
The third admirable feature of Mr. Luther was that he was, in fact, willing to debate his beliefs. It’s more than unusual to find someone willing to defend what he believes in this age of religious indifference and “do-your-own-thing”-ism. Trying to persuade others to your viewpoint (or in our case, the truth) is all but taboo. “You have your opinion, and I have mine” is so prevalent that it is indeed rare to find someone who will defend what he believes (1 Peter 3:15).
Certainly, those among the “new left” in the Lord’s church will not do it. Brethren who oppose the “old hermeneutics” and count themselves as “fresh breezes” not only refuse to debate–they don’t want to have discussions of any kind. Some of them don’t want “to puke with buzzards” (they should not assume that all are like them). Can you imagine our Lord refusing to teach the truth to those laboring under misconceptions? Can you imagine Paul not disputing? If the new hermeneutikers think the rest of us are in error, they should be willing to join with us in a public discussion.
Who would have ever thought that a Catholic would believe in truth, the use of logic, and the defense of his beliefs while some brethren have chosen to act cowardly?
From childhood until about the age of fifteen I attended a denomination. No, there was no choice in the matter, and I did not enjoy it–even though I had sung in the choir. Part of the reason I disliked the worship ordeal was that it was very formal, and I had to be quiet–and still, which is tough for youngsters. But even as I reasonably conquered the temptation of restlessness, the hour was no less enjoyable. As soon as I could get away with it, I quit attending.
Probably, it would have been difficult to explain what turned me off about it, being as yet unknowledgeable in the Scriptures. A general impression would have been all that could be cited rather than detailed specifics. The entire worship experience could be characterized as artificial, superficial, and formalistic–from the organ music which silenced everyone who entered into the “sanctuary” to the “responsive” readings (which required little thought), the entire hour was programmed.
Did I make any effort to learn about any other religious group? No, because I foolishly bought into the devil’s uninspired notion that “all churches are alike.” I became one of those creatures that believes in God but has no use for “church” connections or activities. None of that “goody-goody” stuff for me. Things remained that way for about three years when the cute little teenage girl who is now my wife invited me to attend worship with her.
My motive in agreeing to go with her was less than honorable. In fact, my mind was already made up that we would go through the perfunctory motions of worship, and then I would explain to her what was wrong with everything. She would probably be surprised at such hostility, but so be it. Ironically, I was the one who was surprised. Whoever said that all “churches were alike” had lied.
Instead of artificiality there was genuineness. Friendliness abounded rather than strict formalism. In place of a sophisticated speech was a sermon delivered with conviction. Instead of superficiality there was vitality. My presuppositions having been blown to smithereens, I grew interested in what was going on but remained cautiously skeptical (looking for opportunities to catch these people in some kind of hypocrisy–which never happened).
As time passed by, I came to understand what the differences were between the Lord’s church and denominations. For the first time I was taught the gospel and that I needed to obey it. Wonderful fellowship, meaningful religion, and encouragement to obey were excellent drawing cards, but the clincher was the emphasis upon truth.
The Truth Revealed in the Bible
Why it did, I don’t know, but truth mattered. Perhaps it was the fact that children were taught that telling the truth was right and lying was wrong that made truth seem important. In conjunction with that, I was fortunate enough to grow up in an age when respect for authority was still being taught (if not consistently practiced). Truth was authoritative, and all forms of authority must be respected.
If the Bible didn’t mention Christmas and Easter (and it doesn’t), then that settled the matter; they were not to be observed as religious holidays. If the Bible said, “Sing,” then that eliminated the use of instruments. If the Bible said, “Go ye,” then it was time to be evangelistic. If the Bible said there was but one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9), then all others were false. It was that simple.
It still is. Its importance has not changed. Proverbs 23:23 still says: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” The words of Jesus have not changed; it is still the case that all who continue in His word are His disciples indeed. They shall know the truth, and the truth will set them free (John 8:31-32).
Along with everything else we need to communicate to those outside of Christ is this fundamentally crucial attitude of seeking the truth. Ask people what they look for in a “church,” or ask them to select a word that would characterize the “church” they attend. They will think of several descriptions, but they will not describe themselves as “a people that exalts, searches for, and abides by truth.”
We ought to plant some seeds here. “Does your church emphasize truth?” “What is the authority in your church?” “What is more important than truth?” No matter what is given (spirituality, for example), it must be derived from the Scriptures. We must challenge people’s thinking with things that we used to say, “Will you study with me and show me from the Bible why you do what you do? I will be happy to do the same with you.” “Neither of us has anything to fear from truth. If our idea is right, fine. And if we learn that we were mistaken about something, so much the better. In either case, we have nothing to lose and everything to win”
One final word. There are those among us today who would remove the emphasis upon truth. Why? They say the emphasis on truth has led to division. So? People getting married has led to divorce. Shall we just commit fornication? Likewise, shall we just give up our distinctive stance for truth because some have had more zeal than accuracy? If God’s people shy away from the pursuit of truth, we will have nothing to offer those who are lost. We would be no different than any other religious group. If God’s people choose to walk in darkness, the world will not be made any brighter.