By Pastor Stephen Feinstein
Hello everyone. I do apologize for not posting in quite some time. I became too busy to keep up with certain things, and this blog was among the expendable things I have put on my plate. Truly, I left you all hanging since my last post was about the dilemma of man. I pointed out what humanity’s problem is, but I gave no solution. As I have said previously, I am summarizing the works of Francis Schaeffer, an amazing Christian mind of the 20th Century. His work is so relevant for our day, and that is why I am doing this. Thus, after Schaeffer discussed the dilemma of man, he then moved onto God’s solution. So now I do the same. Before I begin, I would like to let people know that an atheist had a problem with the content in the last post, and it led to a somewhat lengthy exchange that is worth reading. If you are interested, you can simply go back to that post and read the comments.
Schaeffer begins this chapter by reminding us that moral absolutes exist. However, something that atheists seem to not get is that these absolutes are not a law that is behind God. As Schaeffer points out, “There is no law behind God, because the furthest thing back is God. The moral absolutes rest upon God’s character.” These absolutes are what they are because God is what He is. Thus, when He originally created the universe, it was in accordance with his nature and character. Hence, in Genesis 1:31 He declared everything to be “very good.” Men were created in God’s image to live by choice on the basis of what conforms itself to God’s image. The standards of morality that do not conform to God’s character are immoral, whereas the ones that do conform to His character are moral.
God can know everything that is both actualized (exists) and non-actualized (has the potential to exist). This is necessary since He is omniscient. Therefore, even before sin was actualized, God knew of it, and according to the purposes of His will, He allowed Adam and Eve to make the choice of sin that brought upon them true moral guilt. Such guilt is not subjective, meaning it is not something that we feel. No, instead moral guilt is something that we are. It is objective and absolute. Serial killer Jeffery Dahmer felt no guilt at all when he was declared guilty by a jury, but this does not change the fact that he was objectively guilty. Guilty is what he was, not something that he felt. If people have a stronger conscience than someone like Dahmer, then they often will have feelings that agree with the objective reality of their guilt. In this sense, they would feel guilty. But whether someone feels it or not is irrelevant as to whether or not they are guilty. So Adam and Eve were guilty, and they knew it. All of their descendents (that’s all of us), inherited this desire to break God’s moral laws, and therefore, we also have sinned and have become guilty. It matters not that we were born with a sin nature. We still volitionally choose to break God’s moral standards, and our own consciences bear witness against us.
Both modern and postmodern men have attempted to do away with this by denying the moral cause of man’s problem. As I said in the last post, they limit it to merely being a metaphysical problem. They claim that our problem is finitude, and therefore the world is as it always was, and man is as he always was. Thus, there is no moral law that binds us and no such thing as objective guilt that condemns us. For this reason, most unbelievers do not feel guilty, even though they are guilty. Interestingly enough, Dahmer credited the theory of evolution with his murderous rampage. In an interview with Stone Phillips on Dateline NBC on November 29,1994, Dahmer said:
If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as , that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…
Any theory that denies the existence of God, His absolute moral standard, and man’s culpability to that standard can lead to this kind of thinking if applied consistently. In the argument with the atheist in the last post, he refused to come to terms with this. If he were consistent with this thoughts, he would have to agree with Dahmer. Instead, he arbitrarily held to absolute standards that he could not justify. Schaeffer makes the cogent point that thinking like modern and postmodern man actually makes humanity less than it is. If wrong actions do not lead to moral guilt, then all actions (even Dahmer’s) become morally meaningless. Even the worst kinds of sins would have no moral meaning. Schaeffer says, “Ultimately, “good” and “bad” actions alike are zero. This is an important factor in modern man also being seen as zero.” In other words, if we are not made in the image of God, and if meaningful categories of good and evil do not exist, then even our existence (which would be accidental) is ultimately meaningless. It amounts to zero.
So the Christian answer for the dilemma of man begins by first reminding people that our problem is moral rather than metaphysical. There is a law in the universe that when broken makes man culpable to God. This view makes man morally significant rather than meaningless. I believe atheists miss this nuance. Guilty man is a significant man precisely because his guilty status shows that he is not meaningless. There is a God who created mankind for a purpose. We relate to that God by bearing His image and either living according to His standards, or rejecting His standards. This in and of itself shows us to have meaning, purpose, and significance. In contrast, if the universe is a self-existent accident, and all life is simply the product of random processes, then there is no meaning. Humanity is nothing more than randomly organized matter that happens to be sentient. Right and wrong would not exist, and ultimately humanity would be meaningless. Yet, all humanity acts as though absolutes do exist, they ascribe meaning to things in both a regular and an ultimate sense, and they live as though certain things are wrong and certain things are right. This simply proves that the biblical worldview is true, and mankind exists as guilty man living in God’s world. However, rather than submitting to the God in whom they owe allegiance, they rebel. One way they do this is by denying guilt, thereby denying humanity’s meaningfulness and significance. But then they live as though meaning and significance are still real. This simply proves that guilty man’s lies about himself do not allow him an escape from whom and what he really is.
Schaeffer points out that when guilty man removes the moral cause, he then removes a solution to the dilemma. But when we recognize our problem is moral as caused by the Fall, then a solution is possible. Since there is true guilt on our part before a personal God, perhaps since He is the offended party there is a solution that He offers to fix the problem. God is holy and God is love, and these two attributes make sense out of the solution. His holiness requires that the infinite sin debt be paid. If God simply pardoned our sin, then He would be unjust, unrighteous, and therefore unholy. If He condemned us all for our sin, then He would be just, righteous, and holy, but it could be argued that He is unloving toward us. So the only way that any solution could ever unfold would be if there were a way that God could be both the just and the justifier. But how can this happen since we are guilty of sin?
The answer was that God Himself became a man in real history so that He Himself could take the guilty burden of man upon Himself and bear it for our sake. God exists as one God, but three persons. The second person of the Trinity, added humanity to His divinity just over 2,000 years ago, and then lived a perfect life of obedience succeeding to meet God’s standards at every point. So now you had the perfect man. However, if He were only a man, He could not possibly endure the punishment. In order for a person to be saved, every sin would have to be paid for. For me to be saved, my sin debt needed to be paid by this perfect substitute. If my sin would lead to some level of torment for all eternity (which is just, since I sinned against the eternal God), then that exact amount of torment had to be condensed into that three hours on the cross when the sky went dark. And not just the amount of torment for me, but also for every single person who would ever be forgiven. All of our eternal punishments were concentrated into three hours of Hell where the Father poured out that wrath on the Son. Since Jesus was not just a perfect man, but the invincible God of the universe, He was able to endure on His human body and His human soul the full weight of the wrath of God for our sins.
If a person comes to Jesus Christ and repents of their sins, then their debt is wiped clean since it was paid in full. In turn, they receive credit for all of the righteous deeds that Jesus did during His earthly ministry. Thus, they stand before God justified. This is how God is the just and the justifier Romans 3:26). Truly, this is amazing grace. What a wonderful and gracious solution provided by God for our dilemma!