Everett Piper Christian Blog and Commentary

Hunger is for food: Why do we want Justice if there is no God?

I was recently asked by a Facebook friend to help him evaluate a YouTube video Putting Faith in Its Place   This movie is essentially a rebuttal to the Judeo/Christian view of natural law, common sense, traditional morality and the knowability of God. The movie uses the analogy of a closed cube as an example of how we cannot know what is inside the unknowable.  Here are a couple of excerpts from my comments to my friend that you might also find helpful.

First, I would like to recommend a couple of books and authors who have made their own honest journey from atheism to faith.  Immerse yourself into as much of C.S. Lewis as you can.  Read Mere Christianity (several times :-)   Also, read The Great Divorce, Weight of Glory, and The Abolition of Man. You might also consider, Dinesh D'DSouza's What's So Great About Christianity.  Anything by Os Guinness, Ken Boa, or Francis Schaeffer is going to be excellent. Nancy Pearcy's Total Truth is likewise very good.  Chuck Colson's The Faith as well as How Now Shall We Live are seminal works in my opinion.  Harry Blamires' Christian Mind and his second book Post Christian Mind are exceptional. Finally, at the risk of being a shameless self promoter - my book The Wrong Side of the Door: Why Ideas Matter just came out this week. It has a bunch of quick 1,000 word essays that deal with epistemological nihilism versus objective truth as the context for the human assumptions of justice, joy, love and liberty, etc. 

There is one additional book of which I am fond.  It is a great new daily devotional with some truly sound material compiled by Kelly Monroe Kullberg (former Harvard chaplain) entitled A Faith and Culture Devotional.  Just this morning I was reading an essay in this book by John Mark Reynolds who is a professor of philosophy at Biola University.  The essay is entitled "Plato: Lover of Truth, Beauty, and the Good."  Dr. Reynolds'  basic argument here is this: Plato knew that the human heart yearns, hungers, wants, seeks, and longs for truth, justice and RIGHTNESS and it is these very desires - in and of themselves - that are evidence of some immutable RIGHT (Plato called it Love). Plato says in his book, Symposium, that there has to be a greater truth than personal opinions and populist propaganda.  There is a brief dialogue with his mentor Socrates in the center of Symposium that makes this point: 

      "Now tell me about love," [Socrates] said, "Is Love the love of nothing or of something?"

      "Of something, surely!" [Plato answers]. 
The point in this exchange between two of the greatest philosophers in recorded history is that human beings have a desire for ANSWERS, for JUSTICE and for LOVE - for a BIGGER SOMETHING - for the greater GOOD. As Reynolds says "The deep longing for justice, beauty and truth must have an end... Plato believed that there was more to the cosmos than empty desire and death." Hunger implies that there is food. Thirst assumes that there is water. Questions are meaningless without the possibility of answers. LOVE cannot exist without an ultimate object of its affection.

In a sense Putting Faith in Its Place is something akin to a documentary that highlights the existence of hunger to prove there is no such thing as food or one that features a draught to prove there is no such thing as water.  Does this make sense? As Pascal said - The vacuum at the center of every human soul bears the very image of the only THING that can fill this void.    
The concept of the closed cube as portrayed in the video is very thought provoking and - yes - it does remind us that we do "see through the glass darkly" but the very desire to know what is in "the box" - to see more clearly - proves not that the box is empty but, to the contrary, that something must be in the box as the object of our desire. And that "something" must be the ultimate ANSWER.  Otherwise why care?  Why bother? If everything is relative and if there is no such thing as a knowable transcendent truth then why spend ANY time trying to prove that your argument against my truth is true?  Why contend for the rightness of your argument if there is no standard of rightness to prove that I am wrong?  The entire presentation of the empty box is built upon the presupposition that the final answer is that there is no answer - A self-refuting claim if ever there was one. Bottom line: The unavoidable pretext for any argument is that someone is right and someone else is wrong and the producer of Putting Faith in Its Place takes 10 minutes to ironically prove this point by essentially saying (with noted pedantic flare) that he is right in condemning those who think they are right.    
Frankly, I think the video is quite well done. The writer/producer is very thoughtful and obviously quite bright, but at the end of the video we are left with this question: Which argument measures up? Which position comes closer to the mark? Which one (his, mine or yours) is more right (i.e. closer to truth) than the other? And - in asking all of these questions we MUST acknowledge a measuring rod outside of those things being measured or we can do no measuring (C.S. Lewis). The video's protest presupposes a jury - its appeal assumes the existence of a Judge. There can be no contest without some rules of engagement and there must be a referee to make the final call otherwise why would any of us want to play the game or even be spectators. It would be foolishness to go to a Cavs or Celtics game if there isn't some sort of "standard" and "judge" to make sense out of the exercise. 
In a nutshell my point is this - while doing an excellent job in trying to refute an Objective, Immutable, Unchangeable, Absolute, Reality (i.e. God) the producer of this video has actually proven the opposite. He has to assume there is a Logos for there to be logic. He has to assume that there is a Law for there to be lies. He has to assume that there is Righteousness if he is to justify his righteous indignation. He has to assume that he is right if he is to argue that I am wrong. He has to believe in truth for him to claim that someone else's beliefs are false. His words are simply a worthless expense of breath unless these standards of rightness and wrongness come from somewhere OUTSIDE of the temporal human mind (his or mine). His epistemological and ontological nihilism implodes upon itself. It is self-refuting. He would have no energy or desire to prove me wrong if he didn't believe he could PROVE that he is right and that fact may be the best PROOF that God is God and he is not.  

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