If you’re like me you find that some days you need a break from the news. I often feel my blood pressure rising as I scan the headlines. Just this morning a perusal of several popular news sites including CNN, BBC, Fox and others revealed dozens of articles on issues like terrorism, racism, Trumpism, violence, bigotry, starvation, gay rights, sexism, illegal aliens, suicides, cyber attacks and floods. My, what a light, fun pick-me-up read first thing in the morning!
No matter what side you take on any of these issues we can all agree on one thing: something is wrong with the world. Even if we leave the TV off and avoid news websites—narrowing our focus from the global stage down to our own personal world—we’re still faced with a world where things are wrong; dysfunctional family members, disobedient children, dishonest coworkers, money issues, health issues, and so on.
The “wrongness” of the world is ubiquitous. If you were to ask anyone from any country at any time in history, “What do you think would make the world a better place?” you’d be certain to get a quick response. It doesn’t matter who you are—young or old, atheist or Jew, male or female, British or Japanese, gay or straight—we all recognize that we live in a less-than-perfect world.
This is more than personal preference. The “wrongness” of the world appears to be a universal, objective truth. While we may disagree about which things are wrong and what should be done to make them right, every human being has a sense of the way the world ought to be.
As we narrow our focus further from the personal world around us to the world inside us, the problem actually gets worse. Because, while we each have beliefs and convictions about the way the world should be, we often don’t live up to our own convictions. How many of us who believe that lying is wrong have ever uttered an untruth? How many of us have taken something that does not belong to us—money, property, credit for a job well done—despite our personal convictions that stealing is wrong?
In the early 1900’s the Times of London sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?”. One young author responded simply:
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
I think he had it right.
This leads us to two big questions. Why do human beings have an inherent set of standards to which they believe the world should adhere? And why are they themselves not able to live up to their own standards?
I believe some answers can be found in a common topic of discussion with my atheists friends; does morality—our concept of “right and wrong”—come from God or nature? I argue the former and atheists argue the latter, claiming that empathy, as a social construct is the source of human morality. They argue that things like stealing and killing are wrong because they work against mankind’s evolutionary success.
For the sake of argument let’s grant their point and agree that morality is, in fact, grounded in the survival of the human species. In this case, a thing is “wrong” if it reduces our chances of survival, and “right” if it increases them. This still leaves us with the bigger question; why are human beings unable to live up to this moral standard? Why do we lie, steal and kill? Why are humans endowed with an innate desire for a certain standard of “rightness” which they are unable to meet? How does this incongruence serve our evolutionary success?
It doesn’t. This is where both atheism and materialism break down, unable to offer any rational explanation for this phenomenon. This is because the explanation is not to be found within the boundaries of the physical universe (nature). It’s origin is immaterial; or in the classical sense supernatural.
Ultimate reality includes both material objects (matter, light, chemicals, etc.) and immaterial objects (information, propositions, minds, etc.) If one’s worldview is constrained to the physical universe their list of acceptable explanations is necessarily constrained to a subset of all possible logical explanations. If you’re looking for answers to the two big questions posed above, you’ll need to look to something above and outside the physical universe to get you there.
This is where I find Christianity unparalleled in it’s explanations of the deepest truths about reality and the human heart. If, like me, you’ve ever wondered, “Why do I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I despise?” you won’t find the answer in science textbooks. But you will find them in the sacred texts of the Bible. Specifically in the letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome. And even better, Christ Himself offers a way you can make your inner world a better place; thereby influencing the world around you to be more like it ought to be.
This is not slam on science, by the way. Science provides us with the very best explanations of the laws that govern the physical universe. If you want to know what the gravitational constant of the universe is, God’s written word won’t help. However, if you want to know why there is a gravitational constant in the first place you’ll find an explanation that begins with the first verse of the Bible. And if you want to know why human beings maintain an objective sense of oughtness, and if you want to understand whether or not the world will ever obtain it, you’ll find that explanation begins in God’s written word as well.