Tag Archives: truth

Truth and One Application

Truth matters absolutely. The nature of truth requires that I value truth before my own preferences. Truths are true no matter that I ignore or disagree with them.

Here is a simple truth on a particular subject. Human life has intrinsic value and meaning. Its Creator and Designer has clearly expressed this truth, in both word and action. *

Here is a conclusion which I draw from that truth: if you are a supporter of legal abortion or Planned Parenthood, you are making a truth claim against the intrinsic value of all human beings.

You are claiming that human beings receive their value extrinsically; that we each are granted value from another party outside of ourselves. You are claiming that value is granted by an outside entity according its own standard.

You are a defender of the belief that some people are valuable, and that other people are not valuable. Which means that human lives are not valuable in themselves.

Indeed you are claiming that no human being is intrinsically valuable.

Not the unborn fetus, not you, not me, not anyone.

This won’t be news to those pro-abortion supporters who are honest or who rise above the virtue-signaling level of activism. They will say that  the unborn have no rights that we are bound to respect. Dred Scott meet Hillary Clinton.

And so, you and I are living in a world in which we each receive our value from something outside of ourselves. I have some limited power to assert that I matter; some people are better at convincing others of their value than other people are; some people have no power at all. Compare a charismatic sociopath to a disabled newborn–who wins?

One who negates the value given by the Creator of all things is in a difficult place when asked to justify human life in an objective way.

People who are thoughtful believers in Jesus Christ have a fundamental understanding that every single human being who was ever conceived has intrinsic and equal value. That value is not subjectively granted or acquired.

You who are pro-choice believe you’re virtuous because you care about the rights of women so much that you assert that they have an absolute right to societal approval and public funding of their abortions. Even while this right is exercised at the cost of many millions of human lives.

I believe it is virtuous to value the lives of all women and all unborn, that they all have intrinsic value, that they all have the right to life that has been given by their Creator; and that when we deprive any of that life, we violate an eternal law. We deny an eternal truth.

But let’s put aside the divine element for a second, as you would have it.

You pit one life against the other.  You must do that if you believe that value is conferred rather than already present. Whose rights win the contest? is your context. You believe in a zero-sum proposition: one has value or the other does, and we must choose. But what is your solution if both have equal value that we must honor?

And since there is no absolute or objective conferrer of value, who will we respect as worthy to grant worth to us? This is a question you cannot dismiss. Someone will come along and claim that right, and assert the power we’ve given him. We’ve seen that movie many times, and the results are always tragic, ugly, and anything but virtuous.

  • God stating that human beings have value:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13: 8-10

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127

“Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”  Deut 27:25

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139: 13

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:16

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2: 3-4

 

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Clouds Without Water

Beautiful poetry about something very ugly.

If you’re planning a day at the beach, clouds without water sounds like a good thing.  But this metaphor from Jude 1: 12-13 was spoken to herdsmen and farmers  in an ancient culture dependent on the understanding of weather. A cloud without water was not a scientific impossibility but a hopeless disappointment.

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved…

Where have you read a more damning condemnation?

Hidden reefs can wreck a vessel along with its passengers. The threat is not seen until the danger is immanent.

Shepherds who feed only themselves. The job description for shepherds includes guarding the sheep round the clock, placing their bodies as barriers between the defenseless sheep and predators, leading the sheep to nutritious grazing and clean water.  The helpless sheep will perish without their shepherd. A shepherd is meant to put the needs of the flock before his own, their lives before his own.

Clouds without water, carried along by winds promise refreshment and life, but deliver nothing. They appear to be made of life-giving water, but they pass by leaving one parched and disappointed.

Dead, uprooted autumn trees without fruit.  At harvest season, these are threes with dead branches and no potential for fruit. There’s no chance of future growth–the trees have no root.

Wild waves casting up foam which is shame. Picture turmoil, tumult, forceful waves assaulting the shore, spewing poison, depositing on the sand regret and bitter shame.

Wandering stars in black darkness  Stars wandering aimlessly in the vast emptiness of space, futile and purposeless.

Such are those described who preach without truth.

Why would someone preach who has nothing to say? This is a wise question at the heart of discernment.

The clouds without water from the book of Jude were false teachers within the church who represented themselves as teachers of God’s truth and sources of God’s wisdom but they spoke their own falsehoods, sold their own foolishness, lead their listeners astray, then abandoned them.

They wanted a position of leadership but lacked any qualifications. Qualifications included belief in some truths, and the truths had to be the real ones. Firm convictions to base teaching upon; commitment to teach in the face of opposition, and willingness to suffer for their beliefs. A willingness to stand for The Truth, which they did not invent.

True leaders were possessors of a conviction that the standard of the truth was completely trustworthy. The author of that truth was a Person they knew, who had offered ample evidence that his truth is The Truth.

Though the teachers in Jude appear as guides to the lost, they only intend to help themselves. These teachers are dangerous; they will leave their students’ lives shipwrecked. These shepherds will lead their followers to a desolate place and abandon them. Like clouds without water, these teachers have no spiritual refreshment to offer. Their students will die of thirst.

They themselves are lifeless like dead branches; they are barren. How will their followers bear fruit? They are rootless with no foundation.

They are constantly pushing and spinning with activity, sound and fury, but to no purpose. They are not ashamed but their followers will be burdened with shame. The purpose of their aggressive work is self-aggrandizement so others are not helped. Their guidance leaves followers stranded in the empty darkness searching for home.

Today we have the same false teachers in any direction we look, who claim to speak with God’s voice.

But today there are also those who go about proselytizing for the faith of No Truth.  These preach without truth and sometimes express outrage because anyone claims to know.

We have more than one generation which has been unburdened with a concept of objective truth. They are not fighting for or against any truth; they have been taught that there is no truth.

Certainty is a trigger. Certainty  seems to produce outrage and incredulity. It is vain to suggest that we are all certain about something.  We are all certain of what we believe, or else we don’t believe it. No one believes nothing.

Without a certainty that some things are true, independent of subjective opinion, we always become the poor victims of those false teachers described in Jude. We live as those shipwrecked travelers or those lost sheep, exposed to predators and hunger…disappointed and parched, unable to gather or bear fruit…without good influence and unable to ourselves give hope…ashamed, wandering aimlessly, without purpose.

Beauty from Ashes?

Beauty from ashes. The hopeful thought that something good can emerge from trials, or that something ugly can be transformed into something beautiful.

The phrase belies itself. “Ashes” are kind of a pretty image. Picture a humble muted-green bowl on a homey wooden kitchen table neatly filled with a casual pile of gray ashes lit by the natural sunlight of a wooden window with garden flowers in bottles on the ledge which looks out on sprawling farmland.

We women have a tick, a habit, a default behavior. It is to turn every disagreeable thing into a pretty thing. We must make all ashes into beauty ASAP. Every ugly thing must be subjected to a makeover. If it’s beautiful we can live with it.

But ashes aren’t really ugly. There are much uglier and messier things than ashes. Everyday life presents us with the mundane forms of ugly: dirt, grime, disorder. Endless little urgent tasks which seem to add up to a pointless waste of time. Tending other people’s sicknesses. Tending other people’s felt needs til multitasking is an understatement. Futile wastes of our precious effort.

The woman who has suffered tragic loss knows that there are things that come into our lives without our permission which are irredeemably ugly. There is no reconciliation with the sudden death of someone you can’t live without. You cannot put a happy face over the long, slow suffering which ends relationship in death. As hard as we try, we cannot make it right.

But someone always tells us to try.

In book studies, ministry gatherings, and all sorts of supportive gatherings for our mutual womanhood, we are constantly asked to expose our pain, replay our disappointments and hurts for one another. I wonder about the wisdom of these exercises. But the next step is where it gets really puzzling.

Poetic language is used to pretty up the tragic. Generic but hokey prettiness papers over the truly ugly.  “Christ is transforming all….” we are told. We are clearly asked to live with the ugly by seeing something beautiful in it. Christ is changing ugliness into beauty? Scripture reference please?

Do we not realize that art can turn the evil into the picturesque? The snow-like ashes floating down from the smokestack of the concentration camp crematorium in the black-and white film. The twisted motorcycle on the ground and the shattered lens of the glasses. These images are symbols, substitutes for the horrible destruction because to see the real thing would make us gasp, shrink and scream.

But life is not art. We have to live with the real tragedy which nothing can redeem as beautiful. We have to look at the death, the cruelty, the crushing loss, usually without being able to comprehend the reasons. Some things are ugly and no mind game is going to change that. We must call ugly ugly, tragic tragic, and evil evil. We cannot confront them and resolve our attitude toward them if we fool ourselves about what they are.

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How does that prettifying advice sound to the Rwandan women who watched their neighbors go insane one day and pull out machetes to kill everyone in their neighborhood? To the victim of childhood abuse? To any woman in the third world whose life is eaten up simply getting enough food for her family to get through another day?

I’ll tell you how: silly, privileged. Even I don’t have time to sit and worry about whether things are pretty.

Alright, I’ll play. We’ll skip over the Scripture search and allow that Jesus can change something ugly (we won’t define what we mean by ugly here) into something beautiful (we won’t define that either). I’m sure He can. But maybe a better question would be: how does Christ change ugly into beautiful?

The question is asked: when did Christ see something as beautiful when everyone else saw a mess?  The answers are given: the woman at well, the woman about to be stoned. Everyone else saw an ugly sinner, but Jesus saw the real person and how valuable and beautiful she was. He affirmed her.

But that’s not what happened. He loved and valued her; that’s true. He loved her better than anyone ever had. He saw her infinitely intrinsic value, broken and marred. Her beauty flawed because of the choices she had embraced. It grieved him.

Then, because he loved her, He did the only loving thing. He saw her sin, and named it sin. In order for transformation to happen, the woman had to agree that she was ugly and sinful. She had to want to disown her sin. She had to humble herself under his judgment and accept His remedy. Then there could be forgiveness, reconciliation, transformation.  These women were told to leave their ugliness behind and sin no more. Then there was real beauty.

He did not dress ugly up and call it beautiful. He told her that He and sin could never be reconciled, and asked her to choose. He changed the truly ugly into something beautiful, as only He can. There is an important difference.

If there is beauty, we find it in spite of the ugliness. One doesn’t replace the other, or the distinction is lost.

The sloppy definition of “beauty” is a problem here. At first it means pretty, then it means popular or desirable. Then it means intrinsically valuable. Then it means righteous. Then it means an ugly thing in which I can somehow find some value anyway. Or something.

Should we value things on the basis of their beauty? We are called to something much better: discernment as to whether things are righteous, true, and holy; or evil, unrighteous and polluted. Discerning between the two poles, and all grades between, is absolutely essential. We are to answer the call to use the two weapons we have against deception: our critical thinking, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Then we are called to agree with God’s evaluation.

We are responsible to discern, prove, think. We are nowhere called to evaluate beauty. I’m afraid we are favoring the one over the other. Discernment requires us to apply intelligence, wisdom, and whether we honor God.  Evaluation of beauty makes our feelings of first importance.

So bring on the upbeat alternative Christian-ish music, but instead of  the sunlight dancing across the floor, the homey garden flowers on the breakfast table, the healthy people running up the picturesque hill, or the down-to-earth rock stars surfing, their hair wet, their eyes laughing; show me the very unpretty things we really do all our days.  Don’t show me the rarefied, or even the sadly poetic.

Because I’m listening to the music while I look down at my hands washing the 134th dish of the day. I’m reaching my hand into some slimy garbage so the water can go down the drain.  I’m cleaning up someone’s vomit who didn’t make the toilet.  I’m sitting in an office waiting way too long for an appointment. I’m taking an unexpected drive to pick someone up who still doesn’t understand that I can’t say no, no matter how much I need sleep. I’m reeling from a mutual failure of understanding between me and one of my kids, wiped out from another emotional clash.

I’m waking up at 4 a.m. and lying there thinking about what the relentless future is likely to accomplish upon my children. I’m besieged with the Things I Have Failed to Teach Them and wondering if I still have time, or whether they’ll still listen.

If the video makes sense to the devastated woman whose whole family has been murdered; to the young girl who’s been sold by her parents to spend her youth working at a loom, a defacto slave; or to anyone else whose life seems to have become nightmare, then it makes real sense.

If we claim to have Biblically-inspired advice to give, it must work for everyone everywhere, or it’s worthless. Worse yet, it’s a lie. If it’s only true when my problems aren’t so bad, but it’s silly when I meet tragedy, it doesn’t work at all. Because really awful things usually reveal what remains steadfast when the pretty pictures become ironic.