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.

Leadership Lessons From Shackleton

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going. In fact, success in life – no matter how you define it – can only be achieved with endurance. Surely one of the greatest examples of endurance (if not the greatest) is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship: The Endurance. While we ordinary mortals may never have a death defying adventure like Shackleton and his 28 men, we are already in the midst of our own great adventure called life!

Some people want to live their lives by seeking their maximum comfort and avoiding all risks. But this is not the Believer’s lot. We are called to follow Christ- who even though He is entirely consistent in character, is somewhat unpredictable in his plans for His followers. The New Testament calls this “walking by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). This is why for the Believer, Life is the Greatest Adventure.

When was the last time you did something for Christ that required “great faith” (Matthew 15:28)?

How Pagan Is Christianity? A response to Barna and Viola

It’s rare that a Publisher commences book with a disclaimer by virtually saying we are publishing this even though we don’t agree with it. This type of disclaimer is especially rare for a publisher such as Tyndale. After reading this book I understood why Tyndale were so apprehensive in publishing it. While this was puzzling, what I found most puzzling was that George Barna put his name to it! One can only wonder at the damage this book has done to his reputation.
A “Pagan” is someone who is either ignorant or has wilfully rejected the truth and as a result is an idolater (worships idols). This is the word that the authors have chosen to use to describe modern Christianity. It is, as they admit, an outrageous claim.

Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

This is an introduction to the theology that leads to political engagement by Christians. It explores the notion of the separation of Church and State, how this has been misapplied and re-thought of by significant Christian leaders in the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I conclude with a personal experience of what I consider positive political engagement looks like. 

They say art is the thermometer of culture. In this sense, politics might be seen as the barometer of culture. And we might add that Christians should be the thermostat of culture (not the thermometer of culture). By this we mean that art in its various forms – literature, music, visual art, movies, poetry, photography, and fashion, reflect what culture finds acceptable, disturbing, desirable, praiseworthy, and even beautiful. And politics is the popular affirmation (the essence of democracy) of a set of legislative policy agendas that give direction to a culture.

The Leadership Key of King David

Success often results from being able to get along with others. Real leadership success can only be achieved by working with others. And this type of spiritual leadership is prescribed in the Bible as “partnering” with others. This is why we regard Partnering as the ‘art of leadership’.

We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
First Corinthians 3:9

Churches need leaders. Jesus called His original disciples to “shepherd” (not “sheep-herd”) His sheep. In John 10 Christ labors this point that his servants will lead His people as ‘shepherds’. This is not the type of leadership that domineers and exploits for personal gain. This is called despotic leadership. Rather, the type of leadership that Jesus calls for is ‘God-Partnering’ leadership: the kind of leadership heart that God has toward His people. This is why First Corinthians 3:9 says that church leaders work together with God (“labourers together with God” KJV). As leaders with God we are to treat people as if they were God’s (“God’s field/building”). If you are called to lead people within a church, whether as a senior pastor or someone helping their pastor to lead, it is important to realise that we lead with God as well as for God, and that it is His Church.

What Do Christians Really Believe? (You might be surprised!)

What is the popular perception of what Christians believe? If we are to believe what the popular media reports, Christians are known far better for what they are against than what they actually believe. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most people think that Christians are essentially homophobic, misogynists, who seek to control people through the medieval superstitious beliefs. This new uninformed perception of Christianity is perpetuated by politicians who, while claiming to be Christians, actually espouse views and values antithetical to Christianity. This was seen dramatically in both the US Presidential elections of 2008/12 and the Australian Federal election of 2013. In both campaigns major candidates claimed to be adherents of Christianity yet they ridiculed the Bible and asserted that it endorsed their particular views on issues such as marriage and sexuality, and what constituted ‘Christian’ social justice. Most recently in Australia, the Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference, claimed to be a Christian yet asserted positions foreign to classic Christianity. So just what do Christians really believe?

Examining The Prosperity Gospel

“Give to my ministry” announced the Televangelist, “and Lord will cancel all your debts!” These and other claims by ‘Prosperity Preachers’ are also suspiciously linked to the size of the “seed” someone “sows” into their ministry. In more recent times this prosperity teaching has even been linked to the collapse in the sub-prime mortgage market and the eventual global economic melt-down! But if the Prosperity Gospel was only about money, we could perhaps tolerate it. But it encompasses much, much more dangerous dogma than that!

In a recent Time Magazine Online article, it questions the influence of Word of Faith preaching on the Sub-Prime Mortgage collapse. Before this article appeared though, many pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians were screaming from the roof-tops about some of the dangers of the “Prosperity Gospel”. But such roof-top screaming fades into a whimper compared to the massive media resources available to the super-preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. This “Gospel” not only baptises materialism and avarice but it denies some of the most essential Christian doctrines and replaces them with what can only be described as cultic teaching and practice. The Prosperity Gospel is also known as “Word of Faith” theology, or the “Health, Wealth, Happiness Gospel”. Its most public proponents are all televangelists who appeal to their audiences for donations- with promises of God’s miraculous financial blessing according to the amount donated. All of these preachers have testimonials from people who have given to their ministry and allegedly miraculously prospered as a result. There are some televangelists who are probably charlatans because they have discovered that Christians are gullible cash-cows. But many of these Prosperity Preachers are sincere, genuine, and nice people- its just that their theology is fatally flawed with dangerous errors!

Mordecai, The Model Dad

The Book of Esther is controversial Biblical book. Why is it in the Bible? There is not even a direct mention of “God” in it. This has led some to question whether it even belongs in the Bible. But what these critics have missed is one of the most profound messages from God in all of Scripture.

While the book of Esther is obviously about Esther, it is also rich in Biblical allegory about God and His relationship with His people. But what is not immediately obvious is that this book is very prophetic. It describes how God was to end His Old Covenant and establish a new one. All the while, the characters in this pivotal story unwittingly reveal some amazing truths about God, family, and the relationship between religion and politics.

True For You But Not True For Me

Have you even 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 objective truth.

Moral Naturalism

The Global Environmental Movement has undoubtedly done some great good. Visit cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, Shanghai, and you’ll soon realise that water and air pollution is a very serious matter. Anyone who has seen the devastation of massive unregenerated deforestation will readily acknowledge that managing trees in the ground is more critical than many must have realised. Yet, undergirding the Environmental Movement, and its ensuing social policies, is that: natural is best. Many people justly concerned about our ecology have started to notice a large wooden horse on wheels has been pushed into the town square by Environmentalists. And just like the fabled Trojan Horse, this neo-Trojan horse has smuggled something more powerful than an army into our culture: If It’s Natural – It’s Morally Right.

Introducing Jeremiah The Prophet

Jeremiah is the second of the ‘major’ Prophets after Isaiah. Like Isaiah, he prophesied events which were fulfilled within his lifetime and beyond. Most significantly, Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied about the coming Messiah and the new covenant this Messiah would usher in. From the opening three verses, which may have been written by Jeremiah, or may have been the result of Ezra’s later editing. These verses help us to date when Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry. His ministry would have begun when he was aged between 15 to 20. He would have begun around the time of the discovery of the Law during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign which was around 629BC. This helps us to reckon his birth year as sometime around 649BC or so. We know that the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem as Jeremiah had prophesied they would, in 586 BC. This means that Jeremiah ministered around 45 to 50 years. He is particular significant for several reasons…

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