Save the People! Recovering Dignity in a Postmodern World

Salvo Magazine is a quarterly publication by St. James Fellowship (which also offers Touchstone) about life in the west. A clever tagline of theirs is “Recovering the only worldview that actually works.”  It regularly comments on science, ideologies, sexuality, art & entertainment – a host of things, really, all culturally relevant.  As always, there’s a link to their home page to right.

This week I was reading an article of theirs on Human Dignity.  It was called Yodelay Cuckoo!  And in a way only Salvo has thus far delivered, it dealt with the arguments and issues of human dignity, setting it in Switzerland where some of the undoubtedly craziest ideas on the subject don’t just originate, but are turned into law.

The article by Michael Cook gives a quick look at Switzerland’s policies extending dignity to anything and almost everything.  “In 2006, for instance, a researcher was forbidden to give thirsty monkeys a drink of water because a reward mechanism to get them to carry out a task was deemed harmful to their dignity.” And “the Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology, recently released a discussion paper about the dignity of plants.”  Apparently mowing the yard could soon be classified as a felony offense.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants are on their way.

With all that dignity being shelled out all over the place, you would think the lives of people would be of utmost importance.

But Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world where assisted suicide is legal.  Heck, its a business.

Its easy to look at the Swiss and these crazy laws and say “Wow, overboard.”

But the Swiss are not alone.  Baroness Mary Warnock, an influential medical ethics specialist has recently made the statement “If you’re demented, you’re wasting peoples’ lives.” She thinks you should be “put down.”

Growing up on a farm, I learned that when a cow was sick beyond the chances of recovery, it had to be put down.  Are humans on the same level of dignity as cows?

Cook goes on to blast American forms of the same idea.  Although it hasn’t been acted upon nearly to the same degree here in the states, the loss of human dignity is just as prevalent and just as extreme.  

And why not?  After all, thats where postmodernism leads.  If we forget all about objective truth, if we forget that we are made in the image of God, then where can human dignity come from.  This is where Michael Cook doesn’t go far enough.  Lets connect the dots.  If Darwin was right, if there is no God, if we, humans, are just one long string of cosmic accidents, where is dignity?  Think about it, if a particular bacteria, eons ago, had had a different mutation, we could have all ended up as bacteria!  If the dignity of the person, is built on an accidental gene mutation, then there’s no room for dignity at all.  

In fact, there’s no room for personhood.  If a person is only some random genetic mutations, then we are just like trees and frogs and fungi.  There’s no personhood there.  We see in our personhood that we are not random mutations.  And we see, in the Bible, what we really are – human beings, made in the image of God.  I’ve written about this before and described this dignity with Francis Scheaffer’s term “Manishness.”  Its at the bottom of who we are, at our core.

We should not forget this.  If we do we’ll be swayed by every wind of ideology that comes along.  We’ll give grass a place that should be reserved for men.  This darwinistic worldview is what these outlandish governments and “thinkers” have as their working base.  Its their way of understanding the world around them.  As Christians, we must not think this way.  We must learn to think in God’s way.  And he declared man and woman “very good.”  Let’s be the people who don’t forget who we are.  Let’s be the people who remember in whose image we were created.  And lets save the people from having their dignity thrown into the gutter so that grass can be dignified.

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Constructing a Christian Worldview: Created

Whats in a worldview?  Everything.  Abraham Kuyper wrote:

Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

For Kuyper, everything was under the domain of his Biblical Worldview.  For Kuyper, every single “square inch” of his life was brought under the supremacy of Christ.  That is a biblical worldview.

But how does one go about understanding life in this way.  It is not easy.  We live in a world where everything around us does not scream “Christ is everything!”  We live in a world where the religious aspect of life is relegated to the private and personal realm.  Religion becomes a collection of values.  And values are true only for the individual who upholds them.  They can’t be applied in the public realm.  Doing so would certainly offend someone.  Values are important, we are told, just not important enough to influence our lives in public.

Recently at school, a medical doctor spoke to the class about birth defects and abnormalities.  This particular doctor helps screen for such things.  And if defects are found, the pregnancy is commonly terminated.  The decision to terminate, he insisted, must not be influenced by our “values.”  Our “values” should not enter the conversation.  We should leave those at home.

I find it interesting that this is a part of his value system which he believes is OK to bring to work.  He is a post-modernist.  He doesn’t believe that there exists an objective truth or a right and wrong.  Right for one person may differ drastically than right for another person.  That’s his worldview.  And he brings it in to work everyday.  But he tells me I cannot bring mine.

Well, pardon me, but in the first place that is absurd.   No one makes an important decision after first eliminating everything they believe about life, about morality, about clean-cut issues such as murder.  No one.  And secondly, its impossible – as if any of us could really forget everything we believe, walk away to a completely neutral standpoint (as if that standpoint even exists) and make a decision from a fresh perspective.

What he told us to do was both absurd and impossible.  On top of that, he doesn’t do it.

We are faced with worldview questions everyday.  So the big question is: how do we construct this worldview.

As you may have noticed, the catchphrase of my blog (see above) is “Created, Fallen and Redeemed.”  That is a good place to start.  It applies to every person in a slightly different way.  I mean, a plumber is not really affected by the way a doctor views his life.  But at the same time, the Biblical answer to the big questions affects, on its own, every single person’s life.  So it may apply differently across the board, but it certainly doesn’t ever not apply.  (Pardon my grammar, or lack thereof.)

Created:  The place to begin is creation.  Now I don’t necessarily mean “creation” in the biblical context.  I just mean that every worldview must account for the origin of everything.  How did it all get here?  What were things orginially like before they were disordered?  Even the communist worldview answers these questions.  Communism says that once upon a time there was no land-ownership and no competition.  Everywhere there was a peaceful communal life where people thrived.

The Biblical Worldview is a little bit different.  The Bible holds that God created the world and put man in it.  Man was without sin and without problems, living in community with God.  There wasn’t sin in the original created order.  There weren’t natural disasters.  There wasn’t disease or crime or poverty.  “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Indeed.  It was.

God made man in his own image.  We had (and have) an innate dignity.  There is an importance, a value, a worth to us, just because we are “us.”  Just because we are made in the image of God.  This is huge.  People are important because God made us that way and told us we are important.

Then God gave man a job.  (And when I say “man,” I just mean people.  Come on.)  Man was to fill the earth and subdue it.  We were supposed to reign over the earth.  Under God, we were supposed to reign supreme.  And we were supposed to fill the earth.  We were supposed to fill it with Image Bearers.  We were supposed to build civilizations and develop cultures, all to give glory to God.

This is what Creation means.  This is what it is all about.  God made it and he proclaimed it to be very good.  This is the basis for the Christian Worldview.  This is the foundation.  The Worldview doesn’t end here.  But it cannot start anywhere else.

Coming soon:  Constructing a Christian Worldview:  Fallen.

Published in: on September 9, 2008 at 12:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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