finding truth matters

by Dr Andrew Corbett, 14th September 2015Printable Version of this Article

People of all ages have lingering questions that have occupied and troubled the greatest minds of each generation. Most of the challenging philosophical conundrums are usually the exclusive domain of philosophers – but not these three questions. Both the philosophically adept and the philosophically untrained have a right to feel a vested interest in how these questions might be answered. Indeed, how we answer them has an immediate and potentially fatal bearing on how we view ourselves and those around us. And it is here we begin to question.

1. Who Are We?

Who are we? Why is it that we intuitively know certain things about ourselves? Why is it that we have certain traits and capacities that make us unique among all living things? Our appreciation of beauty, our capacity for abstract concepts such as numbers and symbols, our propensity for creating music, our inescapable drive to worship, our regard for the life of others with whom we have no filial relationship, all serve as immediate examples of the uniqueness of human beings. The question of who are we is asked in different ways including-

(i) What makes humans different from all other species of life?
(ii) What on earth are we here for?
(iii) What makes something morally right?

What makes human being different from all other life forms?

Despite attempts to reduce the concept of humanness to being merely another animal species by those who reject that we are unique, it cannot be reasonably denied that human beings are not only biologically unique, but that we are also emotionally, socially, psychologically, and spiritually unique. When a peacock shows its colourful plumage to a peahen, it is not being artistic, it is being instinctive. But human beings beautify themselves, their surroundings, their environment, their possessions, their dwellings, and even their food. We uniquely value beauty.

Peahen and Peacock

No other creature is capable of symbolic concepts, such as numerals or mathematical symbols. Yet human beings traffic easily in symbols and are even capable of highly complex symbolic thought such as algebraic equations or philosophical paradigms.

When an animal sings its song it is not being musical in the sense of composing, creating, and performing as a human is when they sing the song that they have composed, created and performed. Music, in this sense, is a uniquely human art form.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of what it means to be human is our drive to worship. We long to connect in reverential awe with that which is greater and beyond us. It is universally and uniquely human to worship.

Christian Worship

And one of the most mysterious and uniquely human traits is our propensity for altruism – our inexplicable care, concern, and compassion for those we have no obligation toward. Strangers will dive into flood waters to rescue a distressed child at the risk of their own life. We give to charities which work to alleviate the suffering of people we have never, and probably will never, meet.

These are just some of the traits that distinguish human beings from all other creatures.

What on earth are we here for?

Other creatures don’t seem to be concerned with matters of purpose and meaning – but humans are. In fact, without a sense of purpose and a belief that life is meaningful, despair usually results. When despair grips a person, they lose hope and often the will to continue living. Being human doesn’t mean we settle these important questions of purpose and meaning subjectively – it’s a matter of how we objectively settle these issues that provides any hope of adequately resolving this uniquely human question.

What makes something morally good and right?

Human beings universally and intuitively acknowledge certain conduct and motives as either morally virtuous (“good” and “right” or “moral”) and other conduct as either morally depraved (“bad” and “wrong” or “immoral”). We often attribute these moral characteristics to animals or even the weather. But when a lion mauls a man to death or a hurricane destroys a family home full of people, neither are behaving immorally. In this instance, the lion is responding instinctively, and weather is constrained by the laws of physics. But when a human mauls another innocent human to death, it is an evil, immoral act. We intuitively know this. There is something about the universal moral code, or what University of Texas Academic, Professor J. Budziewski calls, The Natural Law, which he says we can’t not know.

These things combine to form the mystery of who we really are.

Atheism's answer to the question of human uniqueness

Time Magazine - Is God Dead?

Is it possible to answer this first question without invoking God? Yes and atheism does. The question is whether these answers are adequate. One of the highest profile promoters of atheism is Professor Richard Dawkins. He answers the question, Who Are We? with the answer that we are DNA machines, or what he calls, “Survival Machines”.

The Selfish Gene

We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment…”Unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop being true.”
— Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

The idea that human beings are simply DNA factories – no more, no less, is meant to answer the sub-questions of our identity as well: What makes us different from other species? What is the meaning of life and purpose in it? What determines whether something is morally good and right? For Professor Dawkins the answer is simply: our evolution. We evolved this way and these questions help us to survive.

But the idea of evolution doesn’t seem to adequately explain why we are fundamentally and constitutionally different from all other species. It doesn’t adequately explain universal morality and what makes something virtuous (morally good and right) even though it may jeopardise our own survival (the central idea of Darwinian Evolution) or our celebration of beauty which has no bearing on our survival. And neither does it explain our deepest and universal longing to connect in worship with the Supreme Being.

This leads us to the next immortal question of mankind. [Part 2 Why Is There Evil & Suffering]

© Dr. Andrew Corbett.
14th September 2015

Mankind’s 3 Greatest Unanswered Questions, Part 1 of 3 from Dr Andrew Corbett on Vimeo.

The Morality Of Hell

Heaven and Hell are commonly presented as either the benefit or the consequence of how a person responds to God. It’s as if people think that the whole point of religion is to get people into Heaven and to keep them out of Hell. From this “religious” perspective, Heaven is Ultimate Bliss, Paradise, Perfect Beauty – while Hell is Fire, Eternal Punishment, Anguish, Torment, and The Devil’s Domain.

Pentecostal Apologetics – Defending The Gospel With Power

Why do some people believe? Every Christian has a story of conversion. For some Christians their story is a journey from atheism to belief in the God of the Bible because of the evidence. For others, like Abdu Murray, their conversion story from Islam to Christianity was based on the credibility of the Bible. Then for those like Sy Rogers, former homosexual and formerly a Gay Rights activist, his conversion to Christianity was based on the love and acceptance he experienced in a Christian community. Many people become Christians for reasons like these, but, by far, the most common reason, at least statisticaly, is some kind of Pentecostal encounter.

A Novel Conspiracy

Just over a hundred years ago, a group of Trinity College, Cambridge students formed a covert society called the “Midnight Society”. Many of the Society members became professors at Cambridge, while others became famous novelists, playwrights and authors. At a time when Christians generally considered fiction grossly inferior to non-fiction (and theologically devotional writings), the members of the Midnight Society were strategically using it. They understood that the values and the morals of a nation could be influenced by the fiction it consumed. And they had a radical agenda…

Mankind’s 3 Greatest Unanswered Questions, Part 2

People of all ages have lingering questions that have occupied and troubled the greatest minds of each generation. Most of the challenging philosophical conundrums are usually the exclusive domain of philosophers – but not these three questions. Both the philosophically adept and the philosophically untrained have a right to feel a vested interest in how these questions might be answered. Indeed, how we answer them has an immediate and potentially fatal bearing on how we view ourselves and those around us. And it is here we begin to question.

Mankind’s 3 Greatest Unanswered Questions

People of all ages have lingering questions that have occupied and troubled the greatest minds of each generation. Most of the challenging philosophical conundrums are usually the exclusive domain of philosophers – but not these three questions. Both the philosophically adept and the philosophically untrained have a right to feel a vested interest in how these questions might be answered. Indeed, how we answer them has an immediate and potentially fatal bearing on how we view ourselves and those around us. And it is here we begin to question.

Can Euthanasia Ever Be Dignified?

Those who advocate for legalised euthanasia (from a combination of Greek words, “eu”= ‘good’ + “athanatos”= ‘death’) argue that people experiencing “intolerable pain” should be helped to “die with dignity”. In an interview I conducted recently with a leading senior medical practitioner, I asked him about the concept of “intolerable pain”.

A Theology of Sexuality

Gender and Sexuality are uncontroversially linked. The contribution that a man and a woman made to sexuality had always been straight-forward. Yet, of late, a very odd controversy has arisen around the novel idea that people are born with a sexuality beyond the designation of either male or female. It is asserted that there are now at least seven gender options with corresponding varieties of sexuality.

Initially, those defending what the Bible teaches about sexuality were ridiculed as “out of date”, “out of touch”, “prudish”, or even “fundamentalist”. But lately, the criticisms toward those who still promote an understanding of Biblical sexuality are coming from those who identify themselves as ‘Christians’. I’m not the first one to point out that the discussion regarding sexuality from the Biblical perspective has thus often been an exchange of vitriolic name-calling. The adage, “Ridicule is not an argument” seems to be pertinent. There are people on both sides of this debate who seem more interested in shouting than listening – let alone giving reasoned cases. This article in no way seeks to vilify anyone and does not endorse any acts of hatred.

The 5 Pillars Of Christianity

Many Church denominations are generally waning in this “post-modern” era. Along with the rise of non-denominationally aligned churches has been a growing doctrinal vacuum as preachers become life-coaches and the emphasis is on making the Bible a “How to…” book. A casual reading of some of these churches doctrinal statements reveals some glaring departures with historic Christianity, which should cause us to wonder how or why they differ so much with the 5 Pillars of Biblical Christianity…

Is Tithing For Today?

The vast majority of Evangelical churches encourage the practise of “tithing” and claim to do so because the New Testament teaches it. But does it? What are the believer’s obligations when it comes to endorsing or challenging tithing? What are the local church’s obligations when it comes to teaching, receiving, or addressing tithing for today? How we answer these questions has a huge impact on how believers and churches function as stewards of both finance and God’s Word!

There seems to be a growing challenge to the teaching of “the New Testament tithe”. There are entire internet sites dedicated to the issue. There are chatrooms where believers can discuss it. There are new books being written about it. In our local regional newspaper someone obviously feels so strongly about it that they have taken out provocative advertisements in the Church Notices section condemning any church that endorses tithing as being “a part of the Harlot church of Babylon”. This has become a heated issue…

I Doubt, Part 2

We are divinely designed to doubt! Doubt should be a normal healthy human response to an unsubstantiated claim. Doubt says, I won’t believe this unless I have good reasons to. When it comes to belief in God, more and more people have moved from doubt to cynicism largely because they believe there are no reasons or evidences for the existence of the God of the Bible. All too often those who do believe in God promote the incorrect idea that belief in God is a solely a matter of faith – without any need for rational evidence. Little wonder then many doubters in God have become convinced there is no God. There are some good reasons to doubt God’s existence, but some even better reasons to doubt these doubts!

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