Tag Archives: absolute truth

My Comfort Zone is a Good Place

There is a great deal of cultural pressure for people to step out of their comfort zones. When I first started hearing it, I tried to apply the recommendation, because I did not want to be accused if living in the past and clinging to outmoded habits.
It turns out, however, that this pressure to embrace discomfiting experiences is not about using a smartphone rather than a flip phone. The culture wants me to abandon moral and biblical teachings that I was taught in the past. I am being asked to step out of the comfort of knowing that when I need to know what is right, I can go to the Bible.
The culture, including many Christians in the culture, is convinced that
1) The Bible is not the only place to find moral truth,
2) The truth in the Bible is only clear to people who have knowledge of ancient cultures, and
3) No truth in the Bible or elsewhere is absolute, anyway.
I have long understood the Bible as the Word of God. Taking my cue from Jesus himself when he rejected Satan’s attempts to divert him from saving the world I consider the Bible to be my Bread, my sustenance, the only way to live and therefore, it is my comfort zone, my safe place when moral ambiguity threatens my peace. Therefore, I am very richly comforted to know that the Bible is the right place to go for moral truth.
Further, years of experience reading and studying the Bible have made it clear to me that the moral truths of the Bible are expressed in language that is clear and simple. Scholars can certainly find plenty of material for deep study in the Bible, but the fundamental truths about life are not expressed in some intellectual code. They are simple, clear and uncompromising.
Probably the real reason the culture wants to prod me out of my moral comfort zone is that the culture rejects the whole idea of absolute truth, while the Bible teaches that absolute truth exists, and the Bible speaks unaltered, eternal, absolute truth at all times. The biblical truth for Abraham is the same as the biblical truth for me. My generation has not outgrown the Bible. We have not learned that homosexuality actually is not a sin. We have not learned that God actually wants a union of two men to be considered a marriage. The culture says we are evolving, but the Bible says we are exactly like our sinful ancestors. Just like them, we need to repent of sin, ask forgiveness, and be cleansed by the blood of Christ.
I am happy in my comfort zone, where the Bible is truth for all people at all times. I pray never to step out of it.

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Thou Shalt Blend In

Is truth something we can discover or is truth something we agree on? All my education and all my life experience have taught me that my opinion has nothing to do with the truth. I have always known that truth is truth without regard to my feeling about it. I have always known that you and I can agree that green is purple, but our agreement does not make it so.

In today’s US culture, however, two people apparently can agree Continue reading Thou Shalt Blend In

Why Do You Feel Naked?

AdamandEve

The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 ESV

Background Genesis 3:1-20

Most people are familiar with the story of Eve and the serpent. She suffered from the same ego as any other human being, and when the serpent told her that eating the forbidden fruit would make her equal to God, she could not resist. Her husband could not resist, either, although by the time Eve offered him a taste, she had surely realized that the serpent had deceived her. They both liked the idea that they might be equal to God, but as soon as they heard his voice, the truth sank in. They were not equal to God, and besides that, they were naked!

They heard his voice calling out, the way a friend might call at your back door.

“Yoo hoo! All y’all in there?”

God called in the plural. A translation in Standard English hides that fact, because English does not inflect the second person pronoun to indicate number. That is why I used language that gives you some idea of the difference between singular and plural. Of course, I had to resort to the redneck dialect in which the plural of y’all is all y’all. It is probably the way it would look in a Cotton Patch Creation Story. (See The Cotton Patch Gospel if you wonder what I am talking about.) The important point is that God did not call out just to Adam. God called to both Adam and Eve. Instead of calling back, they hid themselves. They were naked!

Have you ever felt naked? Maybe you dreamed you were on your way to work, stepped out of the car, and discovered you were naked. It still feels embarrassing even after you wake up. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve did not simply recognize that they were not wearing any clothes. They had never seen clothes or heard of clothes. It wasn’t that God would see them without clothes, although they did rustle up some loincloths in a hurry. They felt naked because they realized that God could see through them. Loincloths would not cover up the self-worship that had led them to disobey him.

You probably felt this way as a child after you had sneaked into your mother’s closet at Christmas time and looked at the presents hidden there. You could not resist looking for them, but after you knew, you felt sure there must be a sign on your forehead that said, “I looked.” This is the way Adam and Eve felt when they heard God call. Each of them heard that call as an individual, because that call was plural—both of you. Each of them felt individually guilty, and hiding there in the bushes, each was going over what he or she had done.

They must have looked very sheepish when God walked by and said, “Oh, there you are.” Worse than that, like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Adam burst out saying, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” Genesis 3:10 ESV. God looked right at the naked man and the naked woman, and they were truly naked. No doubt about it. What’s more important, however, He could see right through them. “Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. Silence. No answer. They were still processing their justifications for disobedience. Their minds had to stop spinning their answers as God looked into them and asked, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Genesis 3:11 ESV.

The guilty pair was still dealing with fact that God had not specified one of them. He was speaking in plural, but both were mentally wriggling, looking for a way out. Each experienced God’s words as a personal message, a personal question. Each of them knew that he or she was individually responsible for what had been done. Yet each of them looked for someone to share or simply shoulder the blame. They wanted a village.

Adam started first, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” Genesis 3:12 ESV. Adam blamed Eve, sure enough, but God had brought her into the picture, so he had to takes some of the blame, too. We both ate the fruit, Adam thought, but I would never have done it if she had not made it sound so good. Forget all that bone of my bone stuff. This woman made me do it.

God saw right through him.

Then it was Eve’s turn. She was mulling over what Adam had said. It really was not fair to blame everything on her. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She probably said these words while looking at the ground. She could not have looked God in the eye. He could see right through her! She was naked!

This story of Adam and Eve completely refutes the secular mantra that humans have evolved and are evolving into progressively better creatures. Secular teaching says that the ancient people, primitive and ignorant as they were, simply did not know the truths about morality that humans know today. The people who wrote the Bible were simply unaware of things that humans have discovered as they are evolving toward the ultimate human being. Because of that issue, secular thinkers say that if the Bible ever had any relevance in the past, humans have now outgrown it. However, reading the story of Adam and Eve, or any other story in the Bible, will make it obvious that human beings have not changed since the dawn of history. We still like to be our own gods, and we still like to make our own rules, but no matter what we do, the other truth is that God sees right through us. We are naked in his sight!

This is why we all need Jesus. One evening Jesus had a visitor who was slinking around for fear his friends would see him with Jesus. In today’s world, most Christians have friends who treat our faith with either dismissive humor or with skin-shriveling scorn. We can identify with Nicodemus. His friends completely rejected Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises, but Nicodemus was troubled. He needed more information. He came to Jesus with questions, and Jesus answered them. He explained to Nicodemus who he was and why he had come.

Jesus told this curious man, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” John 3:17 ESV. Jesus came to earth a long time after Adam and Eve, yet he said that the world was still a mess. Jesus had not seen any evidence of humans evolving into something higher. He did not, however, leave Nicodemus in despair. He gave Nicodemus a reason for hope. He said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 ESV.

We are all naked before God. He can see that we are too busy worshiping ourselves to pay any attention to what he says. He knows we are all lured by the idea that we can become our perfect selves by exercise of will and determination without needing a voice in our heads or an imaginary friend. He knows that we also rather like the idea that the Bible is outdated, and we can ignore it.

But we still wonder: if these things are true, why do we feel guilty without knowing exactly why? Each of us is just like Eve. Just like Adam. We try to hide from God, too, going so far on occasion as to deny his existence, just like the secular thinkers all around us.

God confronted Adam and Eve, and he punished them severely, but he held out hope for them and their children. He rebuked the Tempter and promised that evil would not triumph, because God would take action to set things right. God said,”I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” Genesis 3:15 ESV. This word of judgment was simultaneously a prophecy that evil’s apparent victory in the lives of Adam and Eve was an image limited to time and space. Viewed from God’s throne, the story would have a very different ending.

We need not stand naked before God, because we can sing with Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10 In Christ, we are, in the words of the hymn, “clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!”

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP / IWoman / CC BY-NC

Hymn credit: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, by Edward Mote The text is in the public domain. source: http://www.ccel.org/a/anonymous/luth_hymnal/tlh370.htm

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love, available on Kindle

Is truth absolute or relative?

Secular thinkers assert that truth is always relative. Is killing right or wrong? It depends. That is why we have major social arguments over abortion.

Is theft sometimes justified? A woman who was posting details about her daily life with her children praised her daughter for thinking that way. The daughter mentioned a fairytale in which a character stole something. Her brother said, “I would punch that fellow right in his eye!” The daughter said, “That’s not nice. You should ask him why he stole.” In other words, his theft might be justifiable, because theft is not an absolute moral wrong.

Is a crowd of people justified in looting and destroying property just because the crowd suspects that a cop murdered a black man as an act of racism? The investigation is in progress. Nobody can safely conclude the truth of the situation. The people who were there to see the facts have not testified. The autopsy which will reveal the way the victim died has not been completed. The question is, before anyone has any information on which to base a conclusion about the behavior of the policeman, is a crowd justified in threatening bystanders and destroying businesses because they think the action might have been racist. For that matter, if the evidence proved that the policeman shoot a black man solely because he hates black people, does that fact justify endangering bystanders and destroying property?

I am asking one question, and one question only. Is it always wrong for a crowd to destroy the property of someone just because they are angry about something not related to that individual or that property? Or is it always right? Or does it depend?

The Bible teaches us that there is absolute truth, and there is absolute morality, just as there is absolute gravity. With gravity, if you disregard the law, thinking it does not apply to you, you can walk off any ten-story building you like. However, the fact that you think the law does not apply has no bearing on your fate. You will fall. If you are very, very fortunate you will not die, but you will fall, no matter what you think. The Bible teaches us that truth is like that, morality is like that. You can disregard truth, and you can disregard God’s moral laws, and you can declare that they do not apply to you, but the fact remains that you will suffer the consequences of your disregard. If you say that a stove is not hot when it is very hot, and then lay your hand on the stove, it will burn you. If you say that murder and mayhem are not immoral, because you have a right to be angry with someone, and you commit murder, you will suffer the consequences. I’m not talking about arrest, conviction and execution. I am talking about what happens when human being kills another human being.

In Great Britain, during the era when many people were executed by the act of a single person designated to be the executioner, the process of execution included an act that might seem incongruous to contemporary secular thinkers. The person being executed was expected to forgive the executioner.

This action was not a trivial ceremonial act. It was serious business. At that time, the state religion of Great Britain was, as it is today, Christianity. The Church of England took human life and death seriously. It was not viewed as a trivial duty of government to execute convicted felons. To execute someone is to take from that person the life given to him by God at the moment of conception. The minute that person first came into being, the moment the sperm from the father penetrated the egg of the mother, a human life was created, and that human life was God’s to give and God’s to take away. It was regarded as the most extreme presumption for anyone to take the life of another, which is the reason that someone convicted of murder might be sentenced to be executed.

However, the Church of England respected even the life of a convicted murderer sufficiently to insist that when a murderer was about to be executed, he must forgive his executioner, in order that the executioner, acting as the agent of the God-given government, not incite revenge on behalf of the convict by acting as the agent of lawful government to kill another human being. The Church may have had unrealistic expectations of both the executioner and the convict, but nevertheless, the expectation expressed something important: human beings presume upon the prerogatives of God when they take human life.

That tiny expectation that the convict would forgive his executioner also expressed a recognition that even a foul murderer is not so completely depraved that he does not recognize the burden laid upon his executioner, if he, the murderer, is unable to forgive the agent of the state for doing his duty.

Today’s secular thinkers, the mainstay of government officialdom, do not recognize that absolute truth exists. For them, it always depends on something. Even instruments such as the Constitution and laws passed by Congress are not absolute; it always “depends.” This mindset has been applied to decisions not to enforce laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act and the whole suite of immigration law. It naturally follows that because they do not respect the absolute validity of human law, they certainly do not respect the absolute validity of God’s law. Truth. Integrity. Respect for life. Marriage. In their view it all “depends” on the perspective of the individual. This attitude can be summed up in a single concept: every human being is a law unto himself.

May God absolutely bring to their attention his absolute sovereignty and his absolute expectations in order that they may know and recognize what Christ did for them when he absolutely died on the cross and absolutely rose from the dead. On the cross, all the consequences for my sins and the sins of everyone in the world were absolutely laid on one sacrificial lamb, because truth is absolute and the consequences of ignoring God’s moral law are just as absolute as the consequences of ignoring gravity.

Truth

What is truth? he asked.
The truth is dangerous and frightening.
It is easier to deal with my own perceptions.
I really can’t handle God’s truth.

I really can’t handle God’s truth.
I don’t even want God’s truth.
I hate the lines it draws, confining.
I fear the light that glares, revealing.

I fear the light that glares, revealing.
It’s private, God knows, it’s private.
Leave me alone!
What are you staring at?

What are you staring at?
Nothing to see here.
Behold the Man, the Love, the Light, the Truth.
I have to ask, “What is truth?”

“Truth” © 2008 Katherine Harms