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.

Impossible Faith

Some people find faith in God to be impossible. These people have reasons for their impossible faith. Their objections may be intellectual, moral, or emotional. There are three well-known figures who each exemplify each of these objections to faith in God. Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy and Bob Hawke each respectively held these particular objections to Christianity.

The Reliability of The Bible and How Best To Interpret It

The Bible is the most influential book of all time. It’s contents have changed the course of history. It’s story has formed the pattern for all the great literary classics. It also makes the astounding claim that it is the uniquely authoritative revelation from God and therefore has the authority to command our moral behaviour. But if the Bible is not reliable, then its claims are indefensible and Christianity is without foundation! Yet despite this glaring vulnerability, the Bible has withstood rigorous scrutiny and repeated attempts to refute it. Here’s why it is indeed reliable.

What Is Heaven Like?

I honestly used to think that Christianity was all about having the assurance of going to Heaven. But as I learned more about the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth I became curious about the relative scarcity of references to Heaven in the Bible. Yet, while my understanding of the place of Heaven in my Gospel proclamation has been refined, some God-Channel evangelists have headed in the other direction and made Heaven central to their Gospel. Some of these evangelists now even claim to have the spiritual power to make repeated visits there!

Presumably God, the Supreme Being, has a supremely beautiful home, in a supremely magnificent neighbourhood. Amazingly, God invites mankind to move into His neighbourhood- for eternity! But what is Heaven like? Is it possible, as some are now claiming, that we can visit Heaven? While I am going to lead readers to conclude that Heaven is not the Gospel’s focus, if it is the only reason someone is motivated to convert to Christ, then we should rejoice!

The Tragedy of Suicide – And How We Can Help

Suicide hurts. It is motivated by pain, but causes much greater pain. For those affected by suicide the guilt and anguish it produces is almost unbearable. But since suicide is in the Bible, how can we know that it is wrong? How should we regard the sinfulness of suicide? Is it unforgiveable? How can we help avoid suicide? What should those affected by it know after its happened?

The funeral celebrant rang me to warn me. He was used to dealing with sensitive situations but this one had a few extra layers of complexity. He decided to get me involved. He outlined the story to me and then told me the purpose of his call. When a loved one dies there is often a measure of guilt for those left behind. But when the death is caused by suicide that guilt is compounded. Suicide hurts. The funeral celebrant told me that a young man with a diagnosed mental illness, who had professed Christianity, had taken his own life and his devout mother (who we will call “Betty”) was devastated. The celebrant told me that Betty would ring because her guilt was beyond his expertise due to her Biblical understanding of suicide.

True For You But Not True For Me

Have you ever heard someone say, “That may be true for you but it’s not true for me!” It’s the kind of sentiment which might be appropriately limited to our experiences and our emotional responses to them, but it can not be true about those issues which effect us all, known as universals. These include what we consider to be morally right or wrong, whether a fact is true or false,  or whether we should regard something as either good or bad. For example, one of the universal laws that is not subject to personal opinion is gravity. Someone may disagree with it, but their disagreement doesn’t change its reality.

The kind of judgment needed to distinguish right from wrong, true from false, or good from bad, must allow for those things which are universal and thus common to all. This kind of truth, what Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth’ is also not subject to context, circumstances, popularity, or fashion (Beckworth & Koukl 1998, 20). Neither is it restricted to a time or place. Thus, what can be known as true has generally been acknowledged as such down through the ages by various peoples located in different parts of the world. Philosophers refer to this kind of truth as…

How To Handle A Crisis

The definition of a crisis is a calamity or event which disrupts a person’s sense of well- being and lifestyle. It is generally short term and requires immediate action in order to restore balance and control in the person’s life.  The results of crisis are: anxiety, bewilderment, confusion, desperation, anger, helplessness and even apathy. There is an increased sense of dependency upon others, a sense of urgency, and decreased efficiency in decision making and performance. The account of Judah being sieged by the Assyrians in Second Chronicles 32, involves all the aspects of a crisis. The major distinctive is that it involves a nation of people rather than just one person. The “helper” in this instance was their leader – King Hezekiah.

Roman Catholicism Compared With Christianity

Any discussion about religious wars, clergy violations, or child abuse, and it won’t be long before the The Roman Catholic Church unfortunately features. But I want to have a different discussion. And unlike most of the ‘discussions’ of this nature, I’m not on a mission to attack, ridicule, or mock anyone. Rather, I want to look at what the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches and asserts and compare it with the Bible’s teaching.

I’ve been a denominational minister for over two decades, so I know that it is possible to be a part of an organisation with which you disagree on some points.  I understand that this is certainly the case with the Roman Catholic Church as there are many priests who do agree with all that their Church asserts. For the purposes of this discussion, I have chosen to take the official Catholic positions on the matters I am comparing with the Biblical data. It is my hope that my Roman Catholic audience will acknowledge that I have represented their views fairly – but it is also my hope that I can appropriately demonstrate how these core views compare with the Biblical prescriptions.

Soli Deo Gloria

The final statement in The Five Pillars of Biblical Christianity is Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone! The reason we are saved is so that we can glorify God. In one sense it is true that reason Christ died for us was to save us from our sins and the just wrath of God for our sin. But the main reason Christ died to redeem us was for the glory of God.

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
John 5:44

The glory that comes from God is when we give God glory. One of Christ’s last prayers was that His disciples would see His glory (John 17:24). Therefore God’s glory, His radiant magnificence, is visible and apprehendable. God’s glory is described several times in Scripture. In this sense, God’s glory is a visible reality (a noun). God’s glory is variously described as being like a cloud (Exodus 16:10), a devouring and consuming fire (Exodus 24:17), fire and smoke-like cloud (2Chronicles 7:1), and a brightly glowing cloud (Ezekiel 10:4).

Where Are The Dead?

Sitting across from me in my office was an older middle-aged man who had just read my draft commentary on the Book of Revelation. He had come from Queensland to visit friends in Tasmania and while in the neighbourhood, dropped in to see me to have chat and get a later edition of my book. He asked a lot of theoretical questions and we discussed the implications of what we discussed. Not until he returned to Queensland did I get an email regarding the chapter on the Resurrection. It was at this point that he confided in me that he was in the advanced stages of cancer and that his query was far more than theoretical.
The ancients believed that death was merely a change of location for the soul of a person. The place of the dead was called “Sheol”. When Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead: “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Gen. 37:35 ). When the judgment of God came upon Korah and his rebellion.

TULIP, The Essence of The Reformation

Jesus Christ taught that following Him was only possible through the miracle of conversion. He taught that for someone to authentically claim to be a Christian they needed a spiritual encounter that changed their heart and mind. Without such a miracle, known Biblically as ‘regeneration’, no one could merely decide to be a Christian.
It’s important to appreciate the geo-socio-politico conditions at the time of the Reformation. This was the time when John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and others dared to defend the Biblical revelation against a militant Papal Church which had previously executed similar voices (Wyclif, Tyndale, Savonarola, to name a few) for daring to defy the teaching of the Papacy. One of the central claims of the Papacy was “Universalism”, the doctrine which taught that Christ’s sacrificial death was repeated over and over through the celebration of the Mass and was effective in saving all those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church (thus, universal salvation was activated by works). Since Salvation was universal (everyone is automatically saved), the Papal Church was more concerned about administering this salvation through having people in communion with it, or alternatively, disfellowshipping (or, ex-communicating) those who it disliked. Calvin on the other hand saw that Scripture did not teach universalism, but conversely- that not everyone would be saved.

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- April 22, 2018, 12:04 pm

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- April 21, 2018, 11:57 am

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- April 20, 2018, 5:24 am

Christians claim that the Bible is divinely inspired and without error! But just reliable is the Bible really? Chec… https://t.co/yMSPikQMHD
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- April 19, 2018, 7:15 pm

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- April 18, 2018, 6:15 pm

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Dr. Andrew Corbett

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