Friday, April 29, 2011

Argument from the Violence of Nature

We hold people to a different standard than we do animals. That’s a no-brainer, right? If a shark attacks a person, we say it is only doing what comes naturally. No personal guilt is attributed to the animal, though it may be destroyed to prevent future attacks. A tiger may be labeled a “man-eater,” and considered dangerous, but it is not considered anything other than being true to its nature. It is not seen as worse than any other tiger. This is the natural food chain.

But if a person attacks and kills his fellow man, we have an elaborate, expensive, and often fallible system to mete out “justice” to the offender. We say that person is wrong. This sense of what man ought to do is one of the human beings unique qualities. It illuminates something invisible that exists, - as CS Lewis would say, an “ought to.”

Manhattan Pastor Timothy Keller speaks of the argument for God from the violence of nature, in his excellent book, The Reason for God. Is nature violent? Isn’t that the core of survival of the fittest? Reality is a contest for survival according to Darwin.

Keller tells of writer Annie Dillard who spent years living by a creek in Virginia to “be inspired and refreshed” by the purity of nature. Evidently, Dillard came to the conclusion that nature is ruled by one overriding principle, “violence of the strong against the weak.”1 Dillard wrote, “There is not a person in the world that behaves as badly as praying mantises. But wait you say, there is no right or wrong in nature; right and wrong is a human concept! Precisely! We are moral creatures in an amoral world…”2

Man is judged by a different yardstick than animals. He is held to an invisible code of morality. A “homicidal” praying mantis is just being natural, but a Muammar Kaddafi is considered by right-thinking people to be a monster for his role in the Lockerbie mass murder.

So there is an unseen something, a code of conduct, of what ought to be, that permeates human existence. Something exists, something that we all recognize, beyond what is seen. It’s recognition is unique to man.

In the Bible, Paul says it this way of those who did not accept the Jewish law. “… the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”3

Yesterday I saw a video that talked of the trillions of stars in the known galaxy. Many are not visible, but no credible scientist would deny their existence. We accept this as fact on the word of scientists. Something invisible, but real.

The violence in nature also tips us to something that is invisible, and yet real.

1- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, (New York, Riverhead Books, 2008) 161
2- From Chapter Ten, “Fecundity,” in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (Harper-Collins, 1974)
3- Romans 2:15 (New International Version)

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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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