An old man with a cane is struggling to get his groceries out of the buggy and into his car. One bag drops to the ground, breaking most of the eggs inside. What should you do: Ignore him and walk on by? Stop, help him pick up the bag, and maybe give him your eggs? Push him down and take his wallet?
I’m willing to bet nobody chose option three.
The way we answer such questions tells us not only about our character, but what we believe about the existence of objective moral truths. No one believes option three is morally right, even the thugs who might take the money and run. It is testimony to the biblical idea that the requirements of the law are written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.
In other words, whether we admit it, or not, whether we want to believe it, or not, we do believe in objective moral truth every bit as much as we believe in scientific truth, like gravity.
The problem, the thing that creates so much confusion for so many of us as we try to sort through answers for today’s difficult questions on things like social justice, abortion, and same sex marriage, is that we are attempting to live with competing and conflicting worldviews. We wouldn’t take the old man’s wallet, but we can’t explain why someone else shouldn’t.
What’s a worldview? Your worldview is the grid through which you understand and interpret all of life. It answers four questions that are basic to everything else: Where did we come from? What’s wrong with us? How are the problems of life best addressed? Where is life headed in the end?
The reason we can’t offer anything more than an exasperated, “It’s just wrong!” to taking the old man’s wallet is that we are attempting to blend traditional morality with pluralism and post-modernism.
Traditional morality is based, more or less, on the biblical worldview (think: creation, fall, redemption, restoration) and agrees that there is such a thing as objective moral truth. Pluralism says that there are many possible worldviews and many possible truths, each with equal validity. Post-modernism says there is no such thing as truth, that meaning is completely subjective. A thing only means what the individual observer says it means. It’s like the old joke about the three umpires. The first one says, “I calls ‘em as they is.” The second says, “I call’s ‘em as I see’s ‘em.” And the third says, “They ain’t nothin’ till I calls ‘em.”
So here’s a three-part challenge for 2017:
First, what is your worldview? Is it consistently biblical? Pluralistic? Post-modern? Or some combination thereof?
Second, ask yourself if it actually fits observed reality. Is someone helping the old man with his eggs, or is someone robbing him, and if so, why?
Third, ask yourself which worldview your life is conforming to, the one you say you believe, or one of the others, or some amalgamation thereof?
My hope and conviction is that as we answer these questions the fog of confusion will clear and uncertainty will give way to confidence.