Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ferrari or Ox Cart Morality?

Recently in Bangladesh, I saw a cool red Ferrari tooling down the street. Really unexpected in a land where ox carts are more common. What a contrast. It’s like the contrast between modern morality and biblical morality. Some say biblical morality is outmoded ideas or Victorian “rules” that restrict human freedom. Some say it’s the blueprint of how to live life to the fullest.

Last night I watched George Clooney’s movie, “Up In The Air”. Comparing the modern morals of this film to the yardstick of biblical morality… is like comparing the latest Ferrari with an ox cart.

This depressing film with numerous heart-rending scenes of people being fired presents a sleek modern Ferrari of morality. Postmodern and post Christian morality; human “freedom”; The only rule in “Air” is that there are no rules. It’s the story of a high flying businessman (Clooney) whose job is firing people on behalf of bosses too afraid to do so. Eventually, Clooney, who has no attachments with anyone and for whom “home” is a DC-10, meets another high-flyer, Vera Farmiga. A steamy relationship ensues which consists of meshing their schedules and meeting in hotels in various cities.

In a sub-plot, Clooney is travelling with an ambitious young co-worker (Anna Kendrick). He is showing her the ropes of how to fire people. For Clooney it’s a job. He tells her, “We come along side them in their moment of despair and cut them adrift.” At this unlikely point, old-fashioned ox cart morality kicks in. Kendrick is deeply affected at seeing people’s lives shattered by termination. Nameless people become real to her. One terminated African American man, whose face twitches with emotion as he talks about his despair, is especially poignant. Eventually, after a woman commits suicide, Kendrick realizes she can’t work in a job that shatters lives. She quits. Her response is the biblical moral highlight. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” 1

The Ferrari parts include Clooney and Farmiga comparing stories of having sex on airplanes “in the day.” The casual nature of jumping into bed together, with no strings attached. Afterwards, their shock at the suggestion that they are dating. Any suggestion of commitment beyond raw sex is uncomfortable. One morning after another night in a hotel, Clooney and Farmiga admit to one another, “I like you.” Wow… how risqué!

Is this a Ferrari, or a cart in front of an ox?

My biggest beef with the sports car morality of “Up In the Air” is that it seems okay to hide real life in order to pursue personal desires. Toward the end, one character is exposed as having lived out a lie. What kind of a parent, spouse, or an executive could one be if leading a double life? Wasn’t that the issue with Tiger Woods? Am I being too Victorian? To its credit, the film does paint the coverup in a bad light. But it also pointedly does not introduce you to any person that Clooney or Farmiga would have commitments to. We don’t want to complicate the racy plot with any expectations or commitments of the ox cart variety.

“Up In The Air”… Sex with no strings attached… an uncaring corporate world… hopeless people without jobs. Predictably sad ending. Ferrari morality doesn’t work, even in fiction! Or was it fiction?

1 - Romans 12:15

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Ultimate Proof

I lay back looking up at the brilliant stars. No clouds obscured the view. There was Orion, 'the Hunter’, and to the left, the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, in the Canis Major constellation. Sirius is twice as massive as the sun and 25 times more luminous. I thought, “Ever since man has been on this planet, he has looked up at this same view. It has not changed.”

I often think about how God has made Himself known in nature. It’s there for all to see. General revelation. His Being, stamped on all that He made. It is so subtle, and yet it shouts at us. So easily ignored, yet so obvious. “… The skies display His craftsmanship… night after night they make him known… their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth…” 1

But the modern message, especially in academia, is that the skies don’t have a message. They just happened. There is no evidence of design or intelligent causation. This has been endlessly debated and will continue to be.

But one fact of God’s revelation stands above every silent signpost. It is His specific revelation. “But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman…”2 This was not inferring a Creator, as we might from the intelligent content in a strand of DNA. This was not merely the moon’s orbit insuring our climate stability. This was an exact representation of God in a human being. The One who made it all entered as one of us. Many years after the fact, John wrote excitedly, “We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands.” 3

Jesus Christ was a historical figure. It is beyond question that He lived in Palestine about 4 B.C. to 30 A.D. In addition to the four Gospel accounts of His life and activities He was mentioned by secular historians such as Josephus. That the movement He founded, and the people that believed Him to be God made a lasting impact on the Roman Empire is historical fact.

The accounts of His life written by contemporaries of Jesus and eyewitnesses cannot be discredited. From the 19th century onward painstaking efforts to do this were undertaken. The Bible has been maligned, criticized, and attacked more than any other book in history. Apologist Ravi Zacharias notes, “If a spiritual idea is eastern, it is granted critical immunity; if western, it is thoroughly criticized.”4 In spite of this our modern Bible versions are accurate to the best and oldest existing manuscripts. They have been meticulously translated. The Bible is not “full of mistakes” as so many erroneously say.

You may tell me that this planet, that appears to be custom-made by Someone for human beings, was not made for human beings. You may tell me that man’s appreciation of beauty in art is simply the result of billions of years of natural selection, and not a God-given capacity. But you cannot tell me that Jesus did not exist and did not do remarkable things, including claiming to be God and rising from the dead.

When I look at the night sky, it’s a general, unfocused revelation. But when I look at the Jesus of Scripture… the focus becomes sharp and clear.

1 - Psalms 19:1-4 (New Living Translation or NLT)
2 - Galatians 4:4 (NLT)
3 - 1 John 1:1 (NLT)
4 - Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers,2000) vii

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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