Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Highlight: Grand Central Question

Chapter 4:  Will the Real Humanism Please Stand Up?

Here we continue our highlighting of Abud Murray's book Grand Central Question. As Murray discusses in the previous chapter, under secular humanism humanity’s value and purpose is subjective. At the start of this chapter he points to the beginning of the universe (the beginning of all space, time, and matter) to infer God (a spaceless, timeless, immaterial entity) as its cause.  Additionally he points to the fine-tuning of the universe in its initial conditions which allow for life and to the complex specified information that is DNA to infer a designer.

From both of these positions, known as the kalam cosmological argument and the teleological argument, Murray contends that we can infer a God who created humanity for an objective purpose “not based on what we don’t know, but on what we do know. We know, from observations, that information specifically ordered to fit a given set of circumstances arises from intelligence, not from mindless chance” (page 94). He quotes physicist Paul Davies and biochemist Michael Denton to demonstrate the power of this inference:

Davies on the universe:  “If the world’s finest minds can unravel only with difficulty the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?” (page 95)     

Denton states that the complexity of DNA, “excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man” (page 102).

So what is that objective purpose for which humanity was created?  Murray quotes the Westminster shorter Catechism to sum it up:  “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Our purpose is to be in relationship with the Divine. However, we rebelled; we chose our own way; we decided to be the authority and thus committed moral crimes against a holy God and ruined our purpose. The solution to restore our relationship with our Maker is found in the cross of Christ. And in this act we see the grounding of the value of humanity. Murray writes:

How can we know that we are intrinsically valuable, and not just means to one of God’s ends?  Because at the cross God paid an infinite price to show our infinite value. As a triune being, he does not need relationship with us to have relationship. He has it within himself in the eternal community of the Trinity. And so relationship with him does not benefit him or satisfy some need he has. He offers us relationship through the cross, not for his sake, but for our sake. And in that, we are an end in and of ourselves.

The gospel shows us that true humanism has a Christian foundation. To even speak of the value of persons is to borrow from Jesus’ impact on the world through his cross. Bentley Hart says that we use the word person with “a splendidly indiscriminate generosity, applying it without hesitation to everyone, regardless of social station, race, or sex” in modern times because Christianity changed the fact that, in Jesus’ time, only a Roman citizen was considered a true person.  The point is that what seems self-evident to us is only that way because the West – in fact, the world – has been utterly changed to such a profound degree by the gospel that human value is a given. We have the gospel to thank for that.

God came to Earth in Jesus, forsaking the majesty of heaven, exchanging the form of God for the form of a slave, to achieve salvation for us…It is a poetic picture of what humanity’s preciousness is and of how much God values it. Secular humanism tries to provide us with intrinsic value and objective purpose, but without God. Because that is impossible, secular humanism is a contradiction in terms. The only true humanism – a worldview that truly affirms human existence and dignity – is Christian humanism. Those who seek a foundation for our value and purpose can find it in the gospel – specifically at the cross. (pages 112-113)

Jesus suffered and died on the cross. He experienced the forsakenness of God the Father on the cross; a pain that will be infinitely felt within the Trinity. This is the price that was paid for my rebellion; for your rebellion; for the rebellion of all mankind. And this transaction cleared when Christ was raised from the dead. Trust in and acceptance of this transaction results in the restoration of our relationship with our Maker. The gospel of Jesus Christ does indeed provide an answer to the Grand Central Question of humanity’s purpose and value that satisfies the mind and the heart.

Stand firm in Christ,

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