|Sandusky. Photo Source.|
I believe the sad story of Jerry Sandusky presents a fairly compelling argument for the existence of God. Really.
Now, many people who hear about young boys being raped would have a kneejerk reaction in the opposite direction. After all, many reason, if God exists, how could he let this happen? The fact horrors like this befall children seems to be proof that God does not exist.
There’s a point in the process of dealing with pain, especially early on, when it’s natural to react like this. Because pain hurts! The case that follows is not written for people presently dealing with that kind of pain. Their open wounds need to be tended to and addressed at a deeper emotional level.
A brief recap (there’s a longer one here): Jerry Sandusky was a respected longtime assistant football coach under the legendary Joe Paterno at Penn State. He was a good coach and seemed to be a good guy. He started and ran a charity to help at-risk young people in the community and spent lots of time with these kids.
Last fall it emerged that he was doing more with those young boys. He was abusing, molesting, and raping them. Who knows how many victims there were over the years. The fallout of these allegations was intense.
On Friday night, a Centre County, Pennsylvania jury convicted Jerry Sandusky of 45 counts of various kinds of assault charges. He’ll rot in prison for the rest of his life, likely in solitary confinement (for his own protection).
The outrage is universal and pointed. Don’t believe me? Scroll through Twitter or skim through some of the sports columns out there that have written about Sandusky (like this one). It’s like people are trying to outdo one another in their degree of moral outrage.
Recall how Joe Paterno went from near-saintly status in the world of college athletics to the object of anger and derision because many felt like he was in a position to “out” Sandusky and put a stop to his horrible abuse of young boys.
And you know what? That’s as it should be. Jerry Sandusky was (is) a monster. What he did to young boys is disgusting and it’s wrong. And I’ll bet the house that you agree.
But let’s step back for a moment and ask why. Why are commentators and observers universal in their agreement (with you and I!) that molesting and raping young boys is wrong? Seriously. Why?
Let’s examine this through the lens of two worldviews:
The Naturalistic / Atheistic Worldview. God doesn’t exist and “nature” is all there is. We have evolved over eons from the primordial ooze in the wake of the Big Bang.
One of the real struggles for those who champion this worldview is to identify the source of morality. It must be arbitrary — which is to say it is not really based on any kind of higher or normative standard of right and wrong, because there is nothing higher on which to base something.
That is the root of moral relativism. If you’ve ever heard someone say that a certain belief or moral conviction is “true/right for you but not for me,” then you’ve heard a relativist. Moral relativism is the de facto moral position that is championed in most of Western culture.
It’s fair to say that cultures could, over time, develop their own sense of right and wrong – the old idea of the “social contract.” But, ultimately, these rules remain arbitrary. There’s no ultimate basis for saying that something is really right or wrong. How could there be? So there’s no real basis for someone to judge another culture — whatever a culture says are its rules are fine. This is cultural relativism, which is simply another version of moral relativism.
Would there be any real basis for anyone to judge the choices and behavior of someone else? Is there anything truly and inherently wrong with a man who enjoys molesting and raping boys? Sure it might not be right for you, but who are you to say it’s wrong for someone else?
You may not like Jerry Sandusky’s behavior. But what is your basis for condemning it? If you’re really a Naturalist, you don’t have one beyond your personal preference or your society’s collective preferences. (This is part of the reason that the only consistent Naturalists are the psychotic.)
The Christian Worldview. There is something outside the box that is the universe – a God who exists apart from and rules over the universe that he created. All order in the universe springs from the perfect, orderly mind of God.
Including moral order. The Christian worldview has no problem explaining morality. It springs from the nature of God and from his decrees. Morality is not arbitrary, and human beings are moral creatures who are accountable to him.
Because morality is rooted in something higher than and outside of humanity and human culture, it is universal. The moral order of the universe means that right and wrong are normative across every tribe and culture, and that what’s true for you is true for me too (whether I like it or not).
For example, it is always wrong in every situation and for everybody to molest young children. Rape is always wrong. Why? Not because of anyone’s preferences, but because of the moral law of the God who created the world and all who are in it.
And we all know it.
The Scriptures are clear about this too, telling us the moral law is written in the heart of every person. That’s part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Theologians sometimes refer to this as Natural Law. Within each human being there is something that inherently understands that some things are right and some things are wrong.
Our culture theoretically embraces relativism because that’s usually a pretty comfortable way to live. Nobody likes authority or accountability. But sometimes our culture betrays itself in its response to evil.
When seemingly everybody, regardless of background, creed, or preference, is bothered by what Jerry Sandusky did, it’s because we all know that it really is wrong.
When my laptop is low on batteries, I get a pop-up message telling me I’d better plug in before I lose power and the computer dies. Perhaps this inner sense of morality, this law upon our hearts that we’re describing, is something like a pre-programmed pop-up in our souls, reminding us that there is an external power source we must plug into, whether we realize it or not.
If you choose not to believe in God, you have no inherent right to condemn Jerry Sandusky’s actions. What does it really matter to you? What is the basis of your complaint? His behavioral preferences are different than yours, but by what basis to you claim to be right?
The moral argument for God’s existence is a powerful form of apologetics because it presses in upon us at a more emotional, visceral level. It pushes powerfully upon a pressure point that was built-in by our Creator to remind us that we are not independent arbiters of truth, but rather that we are accountable to Him.
That moral outrage directed at Jerry Sandusky is a little pop-up warning light to us, reminding us that God is there.
I like free stuff, don’t you?
Monergism Books is making a pretty cool Bible study resource available for free this month. You can pick up John Piper’s Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Part 1: Chapters 1-8) for free if you don’t mind reading it as an eBook. It is available in both Kindle and ePub formats.
I’m assuming this would be a useful tool for Bible study or a nice supplement if your church happens to be studying Romans.
While you’re there, if you scroll down you’ll see a bunch of other free e-books, mostly older works by guys like Calvin, Machen, and various Puritans.
Know of other useful resources at this kind of price point? Leave a comment below.
It’s a question that has vexed many a young man — including me — over the years. But I think I can answer that question for you right now:
That was easy.
What do we mean when we ask a question like that? Presumably this: Am I called to give my life to vocational ministry of some sort? I say for every believer the answer to that question is yes.
Every vocation (that is, every job or career) is to be a Christian vocation – pursued for the glory of God, fitting within a fully-orbed worldview, and as living as light in a dark world. These aren’t just platitudes — it’s the calling of every Christian.
What I can’t answer, of course, is what that looks like in your life. But I feel certain that every believer is called to be engaged in the ministry of the Gospel — growing in Christ, proclaiming Him, serving the Church, counseling and encouraging those who struggle, gently confronting sin, and that sort of thing.
As to the question of — “Am I called to full-time vocational/paid leadership in a church?” — I’d suggest that maybe it’s a little hard for a young man in his teens or twenties to really answer that question.
Can God call such people? Sure. But I wonder if there’s a better way to look at this whole concept.
My suggestion to young men asking this question is to go to school and major in something other than Bible. Pursue a profession or trade of some sort, start a career, and begin to build a life. Be involved in the leadership of your church where there’s a need and an interest. Serve humbly and well. Pursue mentors and read a lot.
Over time, if God is calling you into the full-time-ministry role, He’ll make that known — to you and to others. When the time is right, you can make that leap. But don’t assume the time will be right when you’re 22 or 32 or whatever. That’s not necessarily up to you. (I mean, after all, the term “elder” is not often applied to man in his 20s, right? It can be… but perhaps not as much as we think).
So I suggest that much of the hand-wringing and naval-gazing about this is overdone. We should also consider the role selfish ambition can play in this wrestling — or the faulty worldview that believes in the silly sacred/secular dichotomy (the pastor/laity nonsense). Or this idea that to really live out a Christian vocation in the world, you have to do it for a living.
There’s more to say but for now let’s leave it here:
Yes you’re called — but don’t get too bogged down in the details right now. The Caller will make everything clear at the right time, so just relax and live your life.
Someone’s picking another fight in the Southern Baptist Convention.
It seems innocuous enough — some pastors and denominational bigwigs decided to craft a theological statement on their view of salvation. There’s nothing really wrong with that on the face of it. This particular statement, however, seems more intent on drawing dividing lines than anything else.
|Behold the Bogeyman – John Calvin (who
did not invent the doctrines that bear his name)
Many of the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 19th century held to such a view. I suppose then they can’t be considered “Traditional” Southern Baptists. But it’s fair to say it became a minority position in the 20th century. Now the tide has shifted a bit and those who oppose such theology are really concerned.
The statement, called a “Traditional Baptist View,” has created quite a stir, as these things usually do. The blog wars in the SBC are nothing new. Many have cited some sloppy theologizing and the typical straw man argument (misrepresenting the views of those you oppose) – for example, the statement depicts Calvinists as believing that salvation can come without repentance or faith (cf article 3 and 5).
The statement has been dissected and debated by others.
Here are my 3 thoughts on the “Traditional Baptist View” statement:
3. I often wonder what it is about reformed theology that makes it so personally threatening to such men that they go to such great lengths to fight it and expunge it from their denomination. Seriously – it’s quite a fixation for some of them. Is it an affront to pride? Fear of something different? Or is this a sort of theological/SBC version of “Get off my lawn!”?
The whole idea of the Southern Baptist Convention, as I understand it, was to draw together a group of diverse baptist churches under one big tent in order to partner together in the missionary cause.
Apparently that tent is a bit too big for some people, which is too bad.
The Sheppards visited our small group a couple weeks ago and told us their story and about their vision to work with the Manya people in Liberia. The Manya are an unreached people group in the northwest part of the country. While 99% of them self-identify as Muslims, their version of Islam is heavily influenced by folk religion. Fortunately, theirs is a culture where people are generally very open and receptive to spiritual conversation. They told us stories of how they have already seen God begin to move among them.
John Mark actually grew up in Liberia as the child of missionaries who worked with Liberians in that country and in refugee camps nearby. The two first met while Sara was on a short-term mission trip, so I suppose one could say that missionary work is in their DNA. But the work will be challenging, and obviously it won’t be easy moving a young family to a rural part of Liberia (they’re reasonably confident they’ll have electricity!). So the Sheppards need partners — they covet your prayers and, quite frankly, need more financial backers as well.
You can learn more about them on their blog.