If you’re like me, some days you just need a break from the news. I often feel my blood pressure rising as I scan the headlines. Just this morning a perusal of several popular news sites including CNN, BBC, Fox, and others revealed dozens of articles on issues like terrorism, racism, Trumpism, violence, bigotry, starvation, gay rights, sexism, illegal aliens, suicides, cyber-attacks, and floods. My, what a light, pick-me-up read first thing in the morning!
No matter what side you take on these issues we can all agree on one thing: something is wrong with the world. Even if we leave the TV off and avoid news websites—narrowing our focus from the global stage down to our own personal space—we’re still faced with a world where things aren’t right; dysfunctional family members, disobedient children, dishonest coworkers, money issues, health issues, the list goes on.
This is more than a personal preference issue. The “wrongness” of the world appears to be a universal, objective truth. While we may disagree about which things are wrong and what should be done to make them right, every human being has a sense of the way the world ought to be and recognizes that the world isn’t right.
And if we narrow our focus further from the personal space around us to the world inside us, the problem only gets worse. Because, while we each have beliefs and convictions about the way one ought to think or behave, we don’t always live up to even our own moral standards. How many of us who believe that lying is wrong have uttered an untruth at some point? How many of us have taken something that does not belong to us—money, property, credit for a job well done—despite our personal convictions that stealing is wrong?
In the early 1900s, the Times of London sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?”. One young author responded simply:
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
Chesterton was on to something. And it leads us to two big questions. Why do we human beings have an inherent set of standards to which we believe the world should conform? And why are we not able to live up to our own standards? It’s understandable that no one can live up to God’s perfect standard. But we can’t even seem to live up to the standards we set for ourselves!
I believe some insight can be found in a common topic of discussion with my atheist friends; does morality—our concept of “right and wrong”—come from God or nature? I argue the former and atheists argue the latter, often claiming that empathy, as a social construct is the source of human morality. They argue that things like stealing and killing are wrong because they work against mankind’s evolutionary success.
For the sake of argument, suppose we grant their claim that morality is grounded in the survival of the human species. A thing is “wrong” if it reduces our chances of survival, and “right” if it increases them. Even if this were true, we’re still left with the bigger question; why are human beings unable to maintain this moral standard? Why are humans endowed with an innate desire for a certain standard of “rightness” which they are then unable to meet? Surely this incongruence does not serve our evolutionary success. This is where atheism comes up short, unable to offer any rational explanation for this phenomenon.
Ultimate reality includes both material objects (e.g. matter, light, chemicals) and immaterial objects (e.g. information, minds, abstract numbers). Because the materialistic worldview of atheism is necessarily constrained to the physical universe, their list of acceptable answers is necessarily constrained to physical explanations. But if we’re looking for answers to the two big questions posed above, we’ll need to look to something above and outside of the physical universe to get us there. This is where I find Jesus unparalleled in His explanation of the deepest truths about reality and the human heart.
If, like me, you’ve ever wondered things like, “Why is there so much wrong with the world?” or “Why is there so much wrong with me?” you won’t find the answer in science textbooks. That’s not a slam on science, by the way. Science is an incredible source of knowledge about the physical universe. If we want to know what the gravitational constant of the universe is, the Bible won’t help. However, if we want to know why there is gravity in the first place we’ll find an explanation that begins with the very first verse of Scripture (Gen 1:1). And more to the point, if we want to know what’s wrong with the world—why all human beings have an inherent set of moral standards that they are unable to maintain—God’s word has much to teach us, starting with Romans 7:14-25.